Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saint Nick's Day in Riverwest

Ruth and I had our new apartment blessed Sunday night, and hosted a little Saint Nick's Day Party to make it a two in one deal. Just a small affair; can't really fit a lot of people in our place anyway. But it was an enjoyable way to sort of officially kick off our life in the new domicile.

The new apartment is just a few blocks from the old one. It is in the middle of Riverwest, one of my favorite parts of Milwaukee. As Tom Tolan says in his book, Riverwest: A Community History, Riverwest is the most diverse neighborhood in the state, and this becomes quite obvious as you walk down the street, or visit the coffeehouses and bars and stores. It is also a very artistic neighborhood, which is evident not only in some of the shops, but also on some of the sidewalks. It's a place where you can step into a coffeehouse and at once find students working on laptops, artists reading, philosophers holding forth, policemen getting a coffee before they go back to working their beat, musicians sharing ideas about how best to work their beat, so to speak, or the homeless getting warm. We all have our favorite coffeehouse. Father Wiest used to read Moses in Hebrew and Homer in Greek at the Fuel Cafe on Center Street. I have enjoyed virtually all of them, but over all, my favorite would probably be the Alterra on Humboldt. The coffee is always fresh, strong ("Aqui servimos cafe fuerte"), and delicious, and the people on both sides of the counter are always friendly.

Our apartment is a classic Milwaukee duplex, with hardwood floors, and exposed cream city brick chimney stack in the kitchen. It's really a triplex, since the landlord has turned the attic into a beautiful loft apartment, where he himself resides. This place is just right for us. I always thought that our ideal home would have three bedrooms, since I need one for my study and I'd like ideally to have one for guests. This place, like our last one, only has two, but we can always use our living room, and when necessary, the study, for guests. We love having guests. I want people to say, in the words of the Douay-Rheims version of Isaiah 10, "Gaba is our lodging."

Regarding the house blessing, in the midst of the move, I did not have time to dig out some of my more traditional texts, so instead I took a close look at the house blessing in the Lutheran Service Book Agenda, and adapted it. I adapted it in a couple ways. First, I modified it in ways that simply make it more fitting and acceptable from a liturgical point of view. Second, I modified it in ways that are not necessary for a house blessing, and which I would not argue anyone else should necessarily do, but which I thought were nice touches. So in the first category, for example, I converted the language to a traditional form of English. Needless to say, those parts from the Psalms were converted to the Coverdale, and other scripture to the King James. What is with the "And also with you"? No. That wouldn't do. I left out the doxology to the Our Father. You know, the typical traditionalist things. Also, for the Magnificat, instead of the Epiphany antiphon found in the LSB Agenda, I used the antiphon for the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Under the second category, I added the prayer of Saint Francis, "Lord, make me an instrument" etc.

You can tell this Agenda was prepared by and for middle to upper class suburban Lutherans, because in my world a home tends to have a living room, which itself is where a family gathers, rather than a living room and a family room. So certain modifications became necessary. Another change I made that comes to mind involves the blessing in the Bedroom. The Agenda has the pastor pray a prayer composed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth century Transcendendalist, and doesn't even preserve Emerson's use of the second person pronoun. In place of this prayer, I used the traditional antiphon for the Nunc Dimitis from Compline. Also after the initial greeting, I had the rite begin with the traditional collect for Compline. We did not use holy water, because we were bereft of an aspergilium. Also, although this rite was prepared for a Pastor and an Assistant, I set it up for Pastor, Assistant Priest, and Deacon. (I tried to paste here the rite as we used it, but it did not transfer very well.)

After the house blessing, I gave a brief talk about Saint Nicholas, holding our icon of the Saint as I spoke (so that people could have something attractive upon which to focus, instead of a cassocked Albanian). If I felt I had more time, I might hold forth a bit on Saint Nicholas here, but you have probably either heard from your pastor and/or read in the blog world information more worthy than what you'd get from me. Suffice to say that in my view Saint Nicholas can teach us many things, what it is to be a faithful and holy bishop, a confessor of Christ, and a loving Christian. In him we have an icon of Christ, and an example for our own lives. Let our children be taught, by word and example, Nicholas' example and our own, to be generous givers, loving givers, even anonymous givers, and always to look to Christ, the One Who set aside the true dignity of His own Divine identity, and gave Himself freely for us.

Here, finally, are some pictures of the evening.

As a not unimportant postscript, worthy of mention are some of the food and drinks we enjoyed. (I might forget something, so forgive me if I do.) Ruth made her delicious Bishop's Cake, and a cheese ball worthy of a December party in Wisconsin. My sister Fatime prepared a fresh veggie platter, and my brother Daut provided some bakery from the Metro Market. He also provided some orange flavored Sanpellegrino, and some good wine, one of which was a bottle of Dr. Karl Fabrizius' own Italian Trebbiano, which was bottled on December 15th, 2007. An excellent wine, and an honor it was for my brother to open it at our party. Of course I was also sure to have on hand some Sprecher products, such as the Black Bavarian Lager and Special Amber, and for the soda drinkers we had Sprecher's Puma Cola and the Orange Dream soda. Also, what would a gathering at the Gaba house be without some Jones Gaba.


Father Hollywood said...

Thanks for leading me into sin, Br. Latif. I'm filled with coveting to have been there. Can covetousness be retroactive? Now there is a deep theological question.

And three Polycarpians in one place!

Peace to your new abode and to all who dwell therein.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Thanks for your blessing, Father. I can only respond with Amen. By the way, our icon of the Mother of God now hangs in the new kitchen, above the back door, and the new icon of St. Nicholas hangs in the living room. The place still has much work to be done. I'm trying to figure out how to install a new shower fixture, for example, and we need rugs, since all the floors are hard wood. All in good time.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Father Hollywood observes: "And three Polycarpians in one place!"

Indeed, it was a veritable conventicle. What is Milwaukee, or the Missouri synod, coming to?

Rev. Shane R. Cota said...

I mightily wish I had been there. I would love to live in a city with other traditionalist Lutherans. I noticed your Advent wreath in the background of your picture where you are holding the icon of St. Nicholas. How much rent per month does such an apartment run around there?

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Shane:
You're welcome any time. If you go to the Ft. Wayne symposia this time around, maybe you could stop on your way; we'd be glad to feed you.

Tim said...

What a beautiful house blessing.

My family just moved, and are staying with relatives at the moment. I am considering (and am encouraged by this example) talking it over with my family to ask our Pastor to conduct a house blessing (when we get our own place).

I must say- your icon of St. Nicholas is gorgeous. Wherever do you buy your icons??

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Dear Tim:

You can find the actual form of the blessing we used posted at the Society of Saint Polycarp blog:


I got the icon from Saint Isaac of Syria Skete, in Wisconsin, via a local Catholic goods shop in Milwaukee, Stempers.

Tim said...

Deacon Gaba-

Thank you for that information.

I'll have to look up that shop on the net. I have been trying for a while to find a place where one can buy dignified religious art at a low cost (because I'm on a very strict budget).

Since you mentioned the Society of St. Polycarp- I must say, I eagerly await the next issue of the Polycarpian :)

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

You can find the Stempers web site at www.stempers.com. And I must say your interest in The Polycarpian is surprising and encouraging. Thank you! I have an issue that I must get out. Thanks again.

Tim said...

Thanks again for the info,

"And I must say your interest in The Polycarpian is surprising and encouraging."

What can I say? I have a thing for obscure theological journals :)