Sunday, December 21, 2008

...and a Marriage

The church in Nemsa had been damaged by a storm that had left most of the roof in a field some way away.
This is the Romanian Orthodox Church as opposed to the Lutheran Church that the Saxons used to use and now completely unused, or the Catholic Church - similarly unused.
Today was the re-dedication and naming of the Church, and the marriage referred to is that between a priest and his church.
We were bidden for 8am, only to be told that it would be 9am - or later. I should know by now never to turn up on time as whatever it is is always late.
Anyway, sharp at sometime after 9 two horses cantered up the road, one with a Romanian flag and one with the diocesan flag of Sibiu. This was followed by a string of black Mercedes and Audis, the Mayor's battered Daewoo and Erne bringing up the rear in the police car on which only the blue light flashes.
I had not realised quite how big a deal today was. The Church itself only holds about 50 people, and, rightly, the Bishop of Sibiu decreed that locals were to be allowed in and others were to remain outside. In the event some people had come from 4 or 5 hours away, and stood outside in the lightly falling snow - even Bucharest bigwigs.
I counted as a local, so the Mayor, the School Principal, Alin and I got to stand immediately in front of the screen that separates the altar from the congregation. The reason for all the smart cars was because there were no fewer than 12 priests present, including the number 2 in the Romanian Orthodox Church, sent by the Patriarch as his personal representative. We started by all walking around the Church and having it renamed St. Nicholas's
The service was beautiful, including much incense, bowing,crossing, prayers and singing all the time. The village priest, more than somewhat overawed by his superiors turning out in such big numbers, prostrated himself three times, then received his badge of office - a newly made crucifix.
As at all weddings there were tears - in this case the local priest overcome with emotion, and the Archbishop of Sibiu & Transylvania with fellow-feeling, remembering when he had received his crucifix. Then came the sermons, which, although I could understand little, and Alin could not translate because of the hush, had a marvellous cadence and power. I understand a little now, and one of the sentences was that "This Church is one of the Pearls in the crown that is the Romanian Church - as you can see by looking around. Christ will always be waiting for you here."God's power clearly shone from the Archbishop's face as he blessed us all.
The service lasted a little under three hours in total, but didn't seem so long. The newly roofed Church was beautiful with its bright blue and gold-starred ceiling, paintings and frescoes of the nativity, of Christ's crucifixion and rising again from the dead. After it was over, all the priests greeted us individually and wished us a happy Christmas.
Naturally there was a meal, carols and some speeches, but the presence of so much religion didn't seem to bother the locals, who behaved as they always do when food and drink is laid on.
During the lunch ( quite early, only about 2:30) many people came to speak to the Mayor and also to me. In that immediate area, we are now the largest individual landowner after the City Hall, and with next year's agrarian cycle beginning to be thought about, there is much to be decided.
The people speaking to the Mayor were mostly from Bucharest and Brasov asking for favours. This was the reason they had come today to this ceremony, because it was open to all, unlike the local events. The priests of course also had requests - that was why there were so many and of such power in the Church hierarchy.
The Mayor's most recent particular power is because the next Minister of Labour got there because of his endorsement. They have been friends for more than twenty years, but the Mayor is very happy in his village and has no wish to live in Bucharest. His protege wanted the bright lights and the Mayor made sure he got them. Think of the occasion as a cross between Mayor Daley of Chicago and Marlon Brando in "The Godfather" on his daughter's wedding day. Being Romania, it works both ways - there is a quid for every quo.
Soon enough it was time for the priests to leave. They disappeared into the falling snow, leaving a new Church, a newly elevated priest, and a new hope.
Behind them, too, were the sounds of Christmas merrymaking in the village.

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