I thought the outdoor gathering was a bit crazed at first, but as long as the sun was on us, sitting there wasn't too bad at all, although I noticed that the conversation drifted toward stories of Andrei's service in the Soviet Army and other Russian themes, so there might be some connection there.... When the sun got behind the garage, though, and left us in shadow, we all packed up the hors d'oeuvres all at once and moved into the kitchen. The standard two-shift evening commenced, of the kids eating and getting put down before the adults gathered around the table for our own feast, with lamb and a marinaded chicken, a yummy rice dish whose name I disremember, broccoli and much wine with a new bottle of sherry afterwards, as well as raiding the candy dish.
Andrei shared a far more detailed version of the story of how, after his time in the Soviet army, he had been reading religion in the bowels of Moscow University and had ended up heading off to Soviet Mongolia to join a Tibetan monastery there, and that it was in his time there, observing their practices and sinking into their beliefs that he really discovered and embraced Russian Orthodoxy. We also celebrated the news that he had been asked to write the Hermeneia commentary on 2 Enoch, which will be an important feather in his cap as he's already applying for early tenure. There was other shop talk, like about the concept of "fittingness" in Anselm's Why Did God Become Human?, which both Dan and I are teaching this semester, and talk of politics, like hashing out the merits of Obama's speech last week and my contention that the biggest thing about it, which hasn't been commented upon at all, as far as I could see, is that it actually marks a break with the stance on racism that the New Left took in 1968 after leaving King behind and which has been more-or-less the Democratic orthodoxy ever since. There was also some talk about the significance of Buckley and explanation of his role in American political history and culture for Andrei, and just the fun verbal play among everyone. The best of times: intimate friendship, thoughtful conversation with a great variety of perspectives, and good food and drink.
Ten years ago, on the 12th of April, Easter was celebrated on a balcony of the four-star Abou Nawas Sfax Hotel (now called the Mercure Sfax), quarters our host Muhammad was graciously providing for us, in downtown Sfax in Tunisia, overlooking the harbour and the Mediterranean. This Easter saw Erik, Hugh and I perhaps being the only Christians, for all we knew, in what used to be the Christian stronghold of Roman Africa. Following African Christian tradition dating from the ancient Church, Erik and I elected Hugh to be Bishop of Sfax by acclamation (subject to Vatican approval, of course, which we had no time to apply for), and had a service on the balcony with my prayer book and some bread and wine ordered up from room service. We sang, prayed, read lessons, and remembered Christ in bread and wine. It was one of the more memorable Easter services ever, and to his death I always hailed Hugh as Bishop of Sfax.