Christos Anesti! I am just home from a weekend of Paschal services and celebrations at the St Matthew the Evangelist Orthodox Mission in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a trip my family has made the last three years, and I pray the recovery from the joy and glad tidings experienced there takes, well, forever. I hope that your holiday weekend was equally edifying and enriching.
I was offline for the duration and had eight hours of driving to think each way. One of the things I thought to post here is an update to something I wrote in 2012 about a part of Orthodox Christian celebration of Pascha (‘Easter’ in the West) and ring composition or chiasmus. I thought of it, not only because of my current research but because of a conversation I had with a monk after Agape Vespers yesterday about how stories ‘work’ and how story-tellers remember epic poetry.
The work I’m doing on my PhD thesis is in large part about ‘Ring Composition’ which is the fictional shadow of Biblical and Patristic chiasmus. Mary Douglas, the noted anthropologist, wrote a book on this, Thinking in Circles, which, with Fr John Breck’s The Shape of Biblical Language: Chiasmus in the Scriptures and Beyond, Lund’s book on chiasmus in the New Testament and Welch’s books on chiasmus in antiquity, has been my introduction and guide on the subject. As we’ve been exploring here for some time, it seems the science fiction fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams may be ‘rings’ of parallel analogies as are the most recent blockbusters Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games.
Once a reader puts on these glasses and learns to recognize chiasmus, of course, it’s hard not to imagine it everywhere. The seven days after Pascha are known as Bright Week and traditional Christians celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection by chanting the Paschal Hours through that time. One of the prayers sung again and again is ‘The Hymn of the Resurrection’ that is first chanted during the services for Pascha and then throughout Paschaltide. I believe it to be a Ring or chiasmus composition, and, below, I chart it for your review with some notes on the ring nature of Christian soteriology and some brief thoughts, guesses really, about why this is so.
I think it has a great deal to do with why this story scaffolding has the power it does, why, as Douglas argues, it is the universal story form. It is, of course, an explicitly Christian argument and not directly related to discussion of popular fiction, so I urge those not interested in that sort of discussion to not enter into it. We’ll return to our regular programming tomorrow with some thoughts on the Cursed Child Olivier Awards sweep in London and the question of the evident ability of Potter Mania to leap cross-media, page to screen to stage! [Read more…]