Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Talking Prayer Book

Anastasia Titov's niece recently gave us some of Anastasia Titov's icons and books, and included among them was her Russian prayer book. I had seen her whip this prayer book out many times over the years so that the choir could sing some hymn that was needed, but until now I had never looked at it any more closely than to follow whatever hymn she happened to be pointing to.

Her prayer book is a 1976 edition, Jordanville Prayer Book. The outer spine is now hanging by a thread. The pages of the first half of the Prayer Book (which contains the morning and evening prayers, selections from the Vigil, and the Divine Liturgy) are so worn that the pages are falling out. On the inside of the front cover, she hand wrote an index so that she could more easily find certain hymns or prayers... most of which are used during the services at one time or another. Throughout the Prayer Book you find hymns marked and slashed so that they could be sung more easily. At the back of the Prayer Book she pasted a typed and slashed text of the Kontakion of her patron saint, Great-Martyr Anastasia. Stuck into the middle of the Prayer Book are a photo of her beloved St. John of Shanghai, a Russian news clipping about the celebration of his feast day in San Francisco, a hand written page with the prokimenon and Alleluia verses of the New Martyrs of Russia, a copy of an obituary for her late husband Paul Titov, a clipped article in Russian that (as best as I can tell from my limited Russian) is about the making of the Sign of the Cross, and a photo of a plaque, which looks like it is on the wall of a Church, with the text of the "Our Father" in Slavonic.

This Prayer Book is like a holy relic, and it has much to say about its former owner. Primarily, it tells me again what I already knew from 15 years of knowing her... which is that she was a woman of prayer, who had a deep love for God and a love for the services of the Church.

Someday, someone will be cleaning out our books as well. We should ponder what they will say about us. Hopefully, the prayer books, Bibles, and writings of the Saints that we own will not tell everyone how much we neglected them.