Sunday, November 30, 2008

Edvinas Minkstimas makes the world go away at the UN

Edvinas poses for his "paparazzi" during the reception

It was a rare treat to take MetroNorth to Grand Central on Friday to attend Edvinas' recital at the UN. After taking in the beauty of the Hudson and the industrial strength sights along the Harlem River, we left the terminal and headed toward the open sky over the East River. Once past the security check at the UN, a group of us were escorted on a labyrinthine path to the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, exactly like my seventh grade class outing. Below grade, the auditorium felt like a well-appointed cave. The audience was gracious and hushed before the concert began; many muted reunions and whispered "Labas" . My companion and I sat back row center, with a bird's eye view. I watched as acquaintances filed past without seeing us, like a child spying on an adult gala from the top of the stairs.

Once the program began, the world went away. It was boiled down to a young man, familiar yet distinguished by his talent, sitting at his instrument under the spotlight. He introduced each piece with some facts from its history and a brief remark about his connection to the work. He then sat down and paused, creating a moment of silence before stepping over the threshhold of each piece. I had a great view of his hands ranging along the keyboard like they had lives of their own. He played well and succeeded in building a bridge across time and space from the composers' hearts and minds to ours. I was pleased to hear Ciurlionis and Alkan for the first time, and I intend to seek out more of their works.

As Edvinas was taking his bows, this dapper and dignified young gentleman approached the stage and presented him with a bouquet of roses

After the performance I had the opportunity to greet people that I had met at Our Lady of Vilnius, but have not seen for some time. It was a pleasure.

Kudos to the U.S. - Baltic Foundation for sponsoring this event and the patrons and sponsors that helped make it a reality. It was a privilege to participate in this living demonstration of the power of art to transcend and unite at the United Nations.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Edvinas Minkstimas Recital At United Nations Today

An array of amazing people stuck, like iron filings, to the magnet of Our Lady of Vilnius. One of them was Edvinas Minkstimas. In our enchanted basement that time forgot, Edvinas played for weekly Mass, gave a recital and shared himself with us, as an artist and as a person.

Today he will play a wonderful program at the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium of the United Nations. I hope to be there to enjoy the music, chat with Edvinas and see some of the beloved faces that have recently become less familiar.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Second Al Fresco Feast

This crucifix was salvaged before the rectory was closed. It travels with us everywhere. Yesterday, on the feast of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, Mother of Mercy, we set it up on our front stoop "Altorius" in the center of the top step, in what would be in direct line with the altar and tabernacle, had they not been removed.

I went in close, trying to capture its broken beauty. The vertical beam, behind the corpus had snapped off. We regularly reassemble it, carefully dovetailing the splintered ends. We never lose any, and they lock together perfectly. We then add the horizontal beam, which is notched. We gently tie the corpus to the cross with a piece of elasticized string, then reinforce it with Scotch tape.

I was so fixed on the cross that, when I looked at the shot, I was shocked to see it looming so large in front of the church. In fact, it is not. It is standing in front of a faded, tattered poster depicting the church 2 years ago, before it had closed. I thanked the Holy Spirit for the perspective.

Like the church, its red doors fading and its broken cross, so was Jesus. He died on a cross, broken. All of us at Our Lady of Vilnius feel this brokenness and humility. We feel empathy for Our Lady's love for her son and her sorrow at His death. We also rejoice in His resurrection.

In front of the church yesterday, in Lithuanian and in English, we prayed in concert with those celebrating the feast in Vilnius, aligning ourselves with the intention of creating a more merciful civilization.

After our prayers, we enjoyed each other's company and Rita's excellent kugelis. We thanked God for this place that brought us together and continues to teach us, even though we now gather outside.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Feast of Mother Mary at the Gates of Dawn

We invite you to join us.

Dear all,

November is particularly symbolic to the Lithuanian faithful, in that it is the month of Our Lady of Vilnius veneration in Vilnius.

Just want to remind you that we are having a special gathering in front of St. Patrick's tomorrow at 10:30 am. Later, as usual at 12:45 pm, we will meet at Our Lady of Vilnius for a special prayer and sharing of refreshments.

This year's theme is "Mother Mary - Merciful Mother of God". General prayer intention “To be brave witnesses of faith in the contemporary world” has been intended for the indulgenced octave of Merciful Mother Mary at the Gates of Dawn in Vilnius. The indulgenced octave of the Protection of Merciful Mother of God at the Gates of Dawn is the most famous traditional celebration in Vilnius Archdiocese. The octave is centered around the feast of Merciful Mother of God on November 16, the tradition goes back to the XVIII century.

As you may know a ruling of the civil court of the city of New York regarding ownership of Our Lady of Vilnius property has not been made. Recently new appeal to Vatican was submitted by the committee of OLV. Pray with us if you can't come.

Yours truly,

The Faithful of Our Lady of Vilnius, Ausros Vartu Parapija

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jonas Mekas Opening at Maya Stendhal Gallery This Evening

Tonight through February 21, 2009, the Maya Stendhal Gallery will host "Jonas Mekas: New Work". Details of the exhibit can be seen at ArtSlant. The artist's latest 4-monitor video installation, "Lithuania and the Collapse of the USSR (2008) will be presented.

Mr. Mekas is quoted as saying:

"It can be viewed as a classic Greek drama in which the destinies of nations are changed drastically by the unbending, irrational will of one single man (Vytautas Landsbergis), one small nation determined to regain its freedom, backed by its fight against the Might & Power, against the Impossible."

Inspiring words. Words that encourage my unbending, bordering on irrational, will.

Mr. Mekas' biography and catalog of works can be read at Wikipedia.

I look forward to meeting this man tonight at the opening. I am trying to stave off an attack of the "I am not worthy"s.