Square Zero

Clean Week

Posted by Eric (March 3, 2006 at 12:21 am)

Original image by Davide GuglielmoThe first week of the Great Fast is traditionally known as “Clean Week,” which is a euphemistic way of saying “Severe Gastro-Intestinal Disquietude Week,” as the body adapts to a diet free of animal products. I’ve got some friends who have decided to do a bread and water fast for the entire period of Lent. I can only image what they’re going through.

I’d love to say more about fasting right now, but I’ve got a pretty nasty cold on top of the rigors of Clean Week and I’ve already stayed up too late trying to learn the Lamplighting Psalm in Romanian Tone 8, a doozy. Tone 5 is even worse—like, say, a vegan fast compared to a bread and water fast.

The Latin Riter in me wants to speculate on what kind of indulgences might be available to those who master Tone 5. But the Byzantine in me just wants to get his head—and heart—and soul—around these tones through which we offer God our praises. There is something fitting about these difficult tones—the sublime beauty amidst complexity which perhaps points to the transcendence of God.

There are of course simpler tones—Romanian Tones 2 and 4 aren’t bad at all. None of the Ruthenian Tones is particularly difficult, but there seem to be more of them, since the Ruthenian Church was not driven undeground during decades of persecution under the most brutal of the Eastern bloc communist regimes, and so was better able to preserve her liturgical heritage.

But I should know better than to get going on the whole issue of The Tones when it’s already late. They don’t tell you right away how many tones there actually are; it’s not just eight. There are eight of this sort and eight of that sort. The Kontakion Tones aren’t the same as the Troparion Tones—except that sometimes they are.

It’s hard to get a straight answer about them. I am reminded of the prayer we utter at Divine Liturgy, wherein we promise to Our Lord, “I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies.” Seems Byzantines are reluctant to reveal any mysteries even to their friends, just to be on the safe side.

But I will not be detered. I’m already pretty comfortable with the Ruthenian Tones, and I’m going to get these Romanian Tones down, even in the throes of protetin deprivation. Clean Week will end, my body and brain will be better adjusted to the fasting diet, and Tone One will be mine.

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10 Responses to “Clean Week”

  1. Karl says:

    I myself have tried to discern a pattern in the eight tones, both samohlasen and the other sort (whose name I can’t remember). I’ve failed. Perhaps the reason no one can explain the mystery to you is that no one knows why it is that the tones are as they are.

    Just remember: there’s a reason “Byzantine” means complicated.

    Comment posted March 5th, 2006 at 3:58 pm
  2. Eric says:

    Just remember: there’s a reason “Byzantine” means complicated.

    How could anyone ever forget it?

    Comment posted March 8th, 2006 at 9:54 am
  3. Bernard Brandt says:

    Welcome, Pardner, to the Eastern Church (Or in other words: “I’m not a member of an organized religion. . .”).

    Concerning CarpathoRusyn music, may I recommend http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org? It has a wealth of the Ruthenian music, in translations and settings that do not suck, er, are more faithful to the original texts and melodies than much of what I’ve been among the Byzantines.

    Concerning learning the tones, may I also suggest this web address: http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org/RecordedMusic.html
    It has recordings of all the tones, and a substantial amount of other stuff. It’s in slavonic, but I find it is much easier to learn a melody from a recording than from reading (although I can read music fairly competently).

    And when you have learned the carpatho music (which is admittedly, quite lovely) and you are ready to fly with the eagles, may I suggest the original znamenny chant (which was the original from which the carpatho-rusyn developed), and the even older Byzantine Chant (from which znamenny developed)? You can find a lot of the more original texts together with stuff in English, and lots of sound clips, here:


    As regards fasting, may I make several suggestions:

    1. If you are a newcomer, get into it gradually. Fasting is a discipline, which involves learning. I’ve found that learning, particularly of new habits, takes time. One way of getting into it gradually is to start with the Wednesday and Friday fasts. Start by putting aside meat for those days. When you are comfortable with that, start putting aside milk and milk products. Then do the same with eggs. If you want to be what my brother-in-law Charlie calls “full-metal Orthodox”, then try going without wine and olive oil (or more generally, all alcohol and cooking oil). Similarly, for the more extended periods of fasting (like Great Lent or the Nativity Fast), for the first year start with meat, etc. This ain’t called “the lenten journey” for nothing. Take your time. You’ll get there. Don’t hurt yourself on the way.

    2. Realize that Orthodox and Byzantine practice regarding fasting does not so much involve a “giving up”, as a “putting aside”. We abstain from meat, milk, etc. not to do ourselves a mischief, but to remember and to be with our ancestors before the Flood who ate only grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, with some occasional use of wine and oil. I recommend that you read Kallistos Ware’s The Lenten Triodion, and especially the prefatory essays, in which (among many other things) he explains a lot about Orthodox fasting.

    3. If while fasting you are suffering protein withdrawal and lower abdominal distress, then to quote the words of Hermione Granger, “you’re doing it wrong.” If you do intelligent protein mixing (as I seem to find in all traditional slavic, greek and arabic lenten recipes), you should get sufficient protein. May I recommend Diet for and Recipes for a Small Planet, which gives plenty of helpful advice about mixing grains and beans, and other ways of getting complete proteins. Finally, I do not find that Beano is prohibited by any Orthodox or Byzantine fasting regimen. Take some.

    All that said, welcome to the Eastern Churches, and welcome to Great and Holy Lent. As them highfalutin’ Greeks say: kalo taxidhi Paschamay you have a good journey to Pascha.

    Comment posted March 11th, 2006 at 3:51 pm
  4. Bernard Brandt says:

    Sheeh! I leave a comment with all that information a day ago, and it is still “awaiting moderation”! What’s a guy to do?

    What I am going to do is to give you one more website, which will give you an enormous amount of information as regards carpatho-rusyn chant, and how to sing it:


    The main website has midi files and scores for the melodies for all of the tones, and a good number of the special melodies (or podobni for carpatho-rusyn chant.

    But wait, there’s more! The website has just about all of the musical scores (in pdf) of the original musical scores which have preserved all of the carpatho-rusyn chant in slavonic.

    First is the rosetta stone: The Brown and Blue books of Fr. Andrew Sokol. Between them, they have most of the chant melodies, with the slavonic in latin script. One of the two books has a pronunciation guide, so that you can figure out how to pronounce anything in carpatho-rusyn or slavonic in latin script.

    Then there is the primary text: the Tserkovnoye Prostopiniye of Bokshai and Malinich. This has just about everything of carpatho-rusyn chant, in slavonic, and in old cyrilic script. Fortunately, there is also an index which compares the chant described by Fr. Sokol with that of Bokshai. With a cyrillic guide and Sokol, you can decypher the slavonic in the Prostopinije.

    Finally, there is Papp’s Irmologion, which is an alternate presentation of all the carpatho-rusyn chant. It is in latin script, and has some variants from Sokol and Bokshai.

    I will note that just about all of the music in these texts can be found recorded in the website that I described in my previous entry. My print copies of all these set me back a couple of hundred dollars, and nearly two decades to find. You get them for free, and now

    Oh, and if you want to learn stuff about slavonic (grammars, dictionaries, pronunciation and reading guides, etc.), try this:


    When I was starting out with eastern liturgy, music and theology, nearly twenty years ago, I too was frustrated with the fact that the “natives” seemed to be either unable or unwilling to give any information as regards their music. Since I’ve been around long enough to earn my “secret Orthodox decoder ring”, I would be more than happy to share what little knowledge that I’ve garnered over the years.

    Good luck.

    Comment posted March 12th, 2006 at 7:01 pm
  5. Eric says:

    Bernard—Thanks a million for the links, and sorry about the moderation; without that, this blog would be awash in casino and viargra spam (all posts with more than two URLs are moderated). I love the “organized religion” line too—I’m going to steal that one.

    I should confess that I was being a bit glib when I used the phrase “severe gastroinstinal distress week.” It’s not as bad as all that, though the body certainly does go through a transition withdrawing from animal products. My only real trouble in the first week was the fact that my anniversary fell on Tuesday, and so I did not fast during dinner with my wife—the meat and ice cream were rather shocking to my system!

    This is my second year doing the meat and dairy fast during Lent, modified from time to time when necessary (for example, last Great and Holy Week I got a bad cold and had to eat eggs to keep up strength). I’ve also done the other fasting periods, though much more modestly (for example, during Philip’s Fast, I fasted from meat Monday through Friday and also from dairy Monday, Wednesday and Friday—this broken up by the several Feasts during that season).

    So I’m not a complete novice, but I do have a great deal to learn, so I appreciate your comments and the recommendation of the Kallistos Ware book, which I will hunt down. Have you read Schmemann’s book, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha? I made reference to it in my recent post on fasting.

    On chant, last week I discovered an amazing CD from a the St. Romanos the Melodist Choir at the Byzantine Catholic seminary in Slovakia, Pane . My understanding is that it is not yet available in the U.S., but you can hear some clips of that choir here.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Comment posted March 13th, 2006 at 9:56 am
  6. Bernard Brandt says:

    Glad to see that you are taking the lenten journey seriously, and cautiously. I think Schememann’s book is wonderful, in that it gives the Orthodox view of lent as both a journey and a “bright sorrow” Glad to see that you are using it.

    If I may make a suggestion, you may want to look at http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org and get their copy of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. That is a beautiful Lenten devotion, and the carpatho-rusyn chants used in it are wonderful. If you can also get the CD, that would be marvelous.

    The sound clips of St. Romanos the Melodist Choir are great, and I am in the process of transcribing the melody for “Let all mortal flesh keep silent” into English. Hopefully it will be ready for Great and Holy Saturday.

    Great weblog, by the bye. May I have your permission to link my weblog to it?

    Comment posted March 13th, 2006 at 5:37 pm
  7. Eric says:

    Bernard—I just downloaded the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete—101 pages! I’ll browse through it and print out the pages that don’t have already familiar tones. I was very disappointed to have to miss that liturgy last year and I’m determined to make it this year.

    Yes, feel free to link to Square Zero; I’d like to link back to Pauca Lux ex Oriente, too, if that’s all right.

    Comment posted March 14th, 2006 at 12:08 am
  8. Bernard Brandt says:

    I would be honored if you were to link to my weblog. Enjoy the Canon; it is beautiful.

    Comment posted March 14th, 2006 at 8:47 am
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