Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Mass Tourism – Istanbul

Posted by universalis on 12 May 2006

Rather than editorialise, I thought that this time I'd just give you an extract from a travel journal from 1995:

Sunday 30 July

“We're sitting, Freddie and I, in the bar of the Pera Palace Hotel. We're the only people there. He is reading a book on Sufism and I've been looking through the guide-book and thinking that everything looks too much effort. Fortunately F. thinks so too: we had a very tiring day yesterday. Presently we'll wander out and get some lunch, and then we'll see. Paul (our art historian friend) was a bit fractious this morning and has gone off to the Archaeological Museum to refresh himself or do some work on an early fresco of St Francis or just get away from us. I actually feel a bit get-away-from-ish too, because I'm really quite tired.

“This morning's Mass was at St Antuan on Istiklal Caddesi (the main fashionable shopping street of Istanbul). We'd really come to find the Chaldean rite – ancient, parts of it in Aramaic, mostly attended by prehistoric people from south-eastern Anatolia – but we'd been given the wrong time when I rang, and the Mass was in English, with a lot of Filipinos and some Africans (perhaps Sudanese). I found it simple and quite moving, even things I'd normally hate such as the guitars and "Amazing Grace" during the offertory and some hymns in Tagalog after the consecration and after Communion. For the Creed and the hymns they had an overhead projector showing the words (which is how I know about the Tagalog) and a little bouncing ball moving from one word to the next to keep you in step.

“Paul, who is Russian Orthodox, found the whole thing rather shoddy and undignified, but I always feel put to shame when simple people praise God so un-self-consciously (there was also a rather splendid peasant woman near me, full of age and upright dignity, and rather a pretty choir).”

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