An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Sue's Mom is in town and she brought with her a close friend named Linda, who experienced her first Orthodox Divine Liturgy the night before last. She said she had felt like she had stepped back into time some 1000 years. Indeed, I feel the same thing - though to be fair it would be abit more than just a thousand years. One of the Vesperal Hymns, in the 4th century was referred to as being so old that noone at the time knew when the Church began to use it, no doubt many hymns in the Liturgy share a similar historicity.
It's a strange thing to spend my work day in a molecular virology lab using the very newest and advanced technologies, and then hopping into a car and driving down a massive freeway to attend a 1500+ year old Liturgy full of mystic and ancient rites. The noise and stress of the day is seemingly left behind me at the doors of the Nave, which is itself a passageway to the past, to peace, and to Life.
Orthodox Web Page
I have uploaded a large section of my Orthodox web page...it is my hope that it will in some way help people to understand why I became Orthodox. Admittedly, it still has a lot more to go before it is finished - assuming it will ever be finished. Enjoy none-the-less and comments are always welcomed. Look up...the Link is there.
Oh, you can be sure I was horrified at the thought of going to my first confession - if for no other reason than I had determined to be as honest as I could. (And if you knew me as well as I know myself, you'd be scared for me as well.) But having experienced the Grace communicated through the Holy Sacrament, I found my second confession to be something I actually looked forward to - even though it was abit painful. Critical self-examination is not something we typically enjoy, especially since we've all grown up in the "I'm okay, you're okay" culture.
Last night I went to confession and received some wonderful and insightful guidance from my spiritual Father. A few years ago, I would have considered the practice "heretical" at worse and uneccesary at best. Those verses about binding and loosing and forgiving of sins were just for the Apostles! I didn't need any help in my Christian life, I could figure things out on my own - afterall I had the Bible and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, what more could I possibly need.
Humility for starters.
And then Understanding.
Confession has been with the Church since the beginning and in fact in the earliest Church the believers apparently confessed their sins before the ENTIRE congregation! As the Church grew this apparently became quite impractical and the present day Sacramental practice became common. It is a shame that even in those groups who still affirm a sacramental theology that Confession has all but dissappeared.
For me, it is life-giving. As I knelt with my priest's Stole draped over my head, I had a moment to pause and intensely reflect on my surroundings. Before me was a small table on which the Gospel Book and the Blessing Cross were sitting - at the beginning and the end I would press my lips against them both - giving them their due honor and reverence. A large of Icon of Christ gazed lovingly at me, and I am, not oddly enough, reminded of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. There is also an Icon of "The Agony of Christ" which further beckons me toward repentence. At last I note the Icon of "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" (see Above) which reminds me to "finish the race" and ""not be disqualified" as St. Paul himself tells us.
Afterwards, Holy Communion at Liturgy.
"O Strange wonder, I who am grass partake of fire...and am not consumed."
My first day back at work and in the course of a casual conversation, one of the students in our lab asked me: "What do you think is a true sign of maturity?"
I gave it some thought and have come up with what I think is a plausible answer:
Coming to the realization that you are NOT cool...and not caring.
It has been a dream we have had for quite sometime: to develope and build an intentional community. We have actually thought about it prior to becoming Orthodox, but now we yearn for it more because the concept seems to fit so well with Orthodoxy. I really think the Amish are on to something, but only because our society has lost touch with its past. Pluralism is the unifying rallying cry today, and I am not at all sure it works very well because it neccesitates a denial of absolute truth and I TRULY TRULY TRULY believe this wreaks havoc on our children's moral compass.
We have a Parishoner who owns about 30 acres of property and those of us families involved would sell our homes, pool our funds, and begin building homes on the new land. Imagine the joy of coming together as a community and building each others homes and filling each others needs. We'd work together and we'd celebrate together - sharing in the great liturgical dance. We'd grow as much of our own food as we could and no doubt many of us would have to find work outside of the community in order to provide resources.
We have a long way to go and this is mostly just my dreaming at this point...but wouldn't it be wonderful?
Yep...I mean it and I'm not taking it back (sticking out my proverbial tongue at western rationalistic christianity). We have been having this discussion on our Orthodox Convert Group "Metanoia" with a self-proclaimed Calvinist which seems to keep getting redirected toward the concept of God being perfectly reasonable and logical.
This has made me think alot, because a few years ago I would have been right there with the Calvinist slamming my fist on a stack of logic books and insisting that the biblical proclamation that "God is Love" might just as well also say that "God is Logic".
What is Logic and Reason? We seem to really rely on it alot and sometimes the way we talk we almost have to say "God is Logic" because otherwise we subject the Almighty to something outside Himself. We expect God NOT to act outside the realm of logic and reason...oh uh, to me now this sounds dangerous. Ask Job.
Then, trying to maintain the solidity of western rationalism and our Theism together, we invent new words like "supralogic." Saying that God's miracles, mysteries, and paradoxes are not illogical but rather just exist above or beyond our logic. What the hell does that mean? There is a logic that appears illogical but is simply on a higher plane of logic? I think we are just using doubletalk because we - like the world - have come to accept that illogical=false and untrue.
Everyday, doctors (both mental and physical) tell us what is and is not normal. But, we ought to consider the study subjects: US; you and me - fallen humanity. They have even gone so far as to tell us that death is NORMAL! Furthermore, consider the environment - also fallen.
And so we hold up logic and reason as scales by which to judge reality and normalcy. But logic and reason arise from where? God? I don't think so...it arises from US; you and me - fallen humanity. And it is based on the observations of an environment we know to be fallen and unredeemed. What are we to make of this?
I suspect and assert that logic and reason are ways we are able to keep God in a box, like a pet. We manage Him from the seat of logic thereby assuming what God can and cannot do...from this perspective and relationship we are able to deal with God. We can even secure our salvation by signing on the dotted line. Neat and clean like a perfectly logical business transaction.
Nothing is inherently wrong with Logic, I just think we cannot expect God to abide by what WE perceive to be real when most of us have not yet awakened to the reality of our own existance. Revelation ought to shock and astound, perhaps even perplex. Wonderment!
Is God illogical? You bet...but I'd want it no other way.
Today was my first day back at Liturgy since I became sick, and it was wonderful to once again enter into the warm embrace of Orthodox worship. I did, however, refrain from taking Communion because I was not properly prepared. Now, how many churches out there today have the biblical warning label on their communion? “Warning! Taking this Eucharist in an unworthy manner can be hazardous to your health.” I suppose, however, if your communion is little more than a memorial meal, this warning doesn’t make much sense – sorta like tobacco-free cigarettes.
As you can see I have changed our Icon in keeping with the upcoming remembrance of St. John the Forerunner’s beheading on Thursday. Interesting that in the East we know him more as “forerunner” rather than “baptist”, and that many icons portray him with wings, like an Angel. (Angel=messenger). It is a day of strict fasting, and for my wife and I it will be a day in which we will offer our confession before attending Liturgy that evening to take the Holy Eucharist for the first time in over a month.
Something occurs to me: Jesus said that St. John was the greatest man to walk the Earth, and yet the Bible says very little about him. Now what can we learn from this? Many of my protestant friends tell me that Mary isn’t very important because the Bible says very little about her. Hmmmm.
What’s in a name?
There’s a New Church in town! I saw their “A” frame sign on the side of the road as I drove to Liturgy this morning. It is called: “Changing Times Community Fellowship.” I think I’d feel weird about having a form of the word “change” in the name of my church, but then again I AM a recovering Episcopalian.
People say change is good, but in my old age, I have come to have my doubts. Cultural winds blow fiercely and erratically nowadays and I want to cling to a ROCK, not an aloft dandelion seed.
It seemed as if my last commenting script provider was having some real problems so I have switched. Hopefully it will prove to be a bit more reliable...but then again, all of this is free - so what can we expect?
Forgive me for a bit of babbling.
I am quite dehydrated. My skin is dry, wrinkly, and chapped. My mouth becomes tacky within moments of not having some fluid therein. My surgery has made it so that I must slowly sip my water, lest I end up being quite nauseated. In the past few days I got sick and my water intake dropped dramatically.
Now, I fantasize about water…feeling trapped by my limitation which prohibits me from throwing down a tall cool 16 oz glass of clean water in a few seconds. Instead, I sit here and sip, sip, sip. But, while I do, I dream.
There are so many places along the Skykomish river valley here in which pristine flows of crystal clear water cascade over smooth rocks into gorgeous blue-green pools, that my memory of them allows for me to be mystically transported there - swimming in the pools and allowing the cool refreshing and DELICIOUS waterfall to anoint and fill me. Daily, I find myself turning the water of my showers to as cold as I can stand and then drifting away to my river fantasy. My wife wonders why my showers have become so lengthy.
Recently we went to visit the local Salmon Hatchery and I spent a good deal of time overlooking the smolt rearing pools in which a large 8” in diameter hose delivered a FULL flow of crystal clear water into the fish crowded containers. I longed to be under that stream of water, which would have certainly driven me to the ground…but it looked sooooo good.
So, as you can see, I have given a lot of thought to water lately. I began to consider all of the Biblical allusions to water and as I did, their significance seemed to come more alive to me. You see, we here in America have never truly thirsted, have we? But 2000 plus years ago in an arid environment, you can bet that those people knew thirst. No doubt many died from it. Though my minor “thirst-problem” is relatively insignificant, it has made me think about the big picture involving water.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.
O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it.
And of course:
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, "Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."
Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
When Joseph, my new son, is thrice dipped into the waters of Holy Baptism, I really wish I could go with him. I really, really, really do. I think I am beginning to understand…if only the physical thirst I have which leads to fantasy could be as powerful as the thirst I have for God.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:14 PM [+] +++
Friday, August 16, 2002
Equality, Political philosophy and the Most Holy Theotokos
There's something about Mary.
The liturgical dance of the Orthodox calender has wound down from the Dormition fast (a fast which because of my surgery I was unable to participate much in). Yesterday we remembered the death of the Mother of God. Now, when I was an evangelical we figured that Mary was just like me, you, or anyone else. Nothing special about her at all. Even though the Angel proclaimed her to be "highly favored" and even though she herself prophesied (by the Holy Spirit the Scriptures say) that "every generation shall call me blessed." We all just figured it was like she had won the lottery and that these proclamations were synonymous with "lucky."
Now in part this evangelical belief was reactionary againt Roman Catholic beliefs regarding Mary. However, if modern evangelicals were to read what the early reformers (such as Calvin and Luther) wrote about Mary they would be seriously scandalized. Regardless, if you will indulge me for a moment I think I understand another facet of the evangelical mindset regarding Mary.
The Reformation, and those reformations that followed were born in a time in which religious and political philosophies were changing radically. "Saved by faith alone" and "all men being created equal" somehow seem to mesh well with one another - and I think I see today an attitude which says that not only are all people created equal but that they also always remain equal - no matter what they do. And though I would not argue this point in the eyes of the law, I would contend that it is untrue ontologically. But from this underlying suppostition I think we evangelicals got our hesitance to ascribe anything special to Mary. But, alas, the ancient Church believed otherwise America.
Orthodox theology, being so firmly Incarnational, sees a great deal of importance in the person of Mary who gave Christ His humanity. Saint Irenaios (among other early Church fathers) referred to her as the second Eve and he wrote: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by Mary's obedience." Her accepting words in response to the annunciating angel was in fact given on behalf of us all. The Troparian of the Annunciation chants:
Today is the beginning of our salvation
and the manifestation of the mystery which is from eternity.
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,
and Gabriel announces grace.
So with him let us also cry to the Mother of God:
Rejoice, thou who art full of grace!
The Lord is with thee.
We tend to ignore the intense experience (no doubt because it is not recorded in the NT) of Mary nursing and holding in her arms the One who holds the world in His. It baffles the mind, and the experience is not lost to the heart and memory of the Church. The Theotokos ("God bearer") is apart of the that great cloud of witnesses who interecede on our behalf still today. No such thing as a dead Christian, and Mary was the first.
More honorable than the Cherubim
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim
without defilement you gave birth to God the Word,
True Theotokos we magnify thee.
Understanding of salvation from the Orthodox perspective is not for lawyers and scientists, but rather, it seems to me for children, poets, and lovers. (Try and not be offended - I am myself a sort of scientist.) My friend Steven-Paul wrote this and it really struck me. It is long, but worthy of your time - IMHO.
I praise Thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst
these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them
"When I was a child...
Let me begin again.
When I was younger, I had a set of children's books I loved. My
favorite volume was "folk and fairy tales". I put away my childish
things when I began growing up . . . let me restate that, I put a way
the things of my childhood as I got older and pursued childish things:
Owning lots of things. Owning few things (it was a stage i went
through). Impressing people. Seeking spirituality in grown up places and
grown up words. Knowing lots and lots of stuff. So now I've owned
some things, impressed a few people, and know some stuff. In the
process I learned the gospel. At first I thought it was a fairy
tale. Then I thought it was a way to escape reality. Now I think
it IS reality. It is the same reality I learned from the Brothers Grimm
and Hans Christian Andersen in my first childhood.
You see, in the process of becoming grown ups we join the ranks
of the king and his court who, because they were too proud to
admit they were fools would not speak the truth that the emporer
in his new clothes was parading stark-buck naked and all were
greater fools in the end for it.
But growing up I still knew deep within, like the king and
everyone else, what the truth really is. The truth, spoken by The
Child admonished me to become a child again. In Him I understood
that reality is as profound as the the fairy tales I lived in all
those years of rainy days and bedtime stories.
I knew the truth that we all got to go to the grand ball by grace
and there found our true love. i knew too we disobeyed the
command and we ran in terror and shame as our garments of silk
and splendid coaches and prancing white horses turned to rags,
pumkins and rats. But our prince sought us and found us again, in
our rags, amidst our rats, living in squalor and took us home
with him and married us anyway.
I knew the truth that the steadfast tin soldier endured great
misfortunes for the love of the paper dancer. He was cast into
the flames because he was rejected and deemed unworthy to be
counted among the whole and pretty toys. In the end his love drew
the dancer to him in his fiery death, and perishing together they
were resurrected as a tin heart that declared to all their
everlasting love that fires could not overcome, that many waters
could not quench, a love that was stronger than death.
I knew the truth that the Magic Fish granted all the things the
fisherman's wife desired to make her happy, but when she desired
to be like God she lost it all.
I knew that we lost our precious Rapunzel because we desired and
ate what was forbidden. I knew too that evil seemed to triumph
over the prince who came to rescue the one he loved, the one held
hostage by the evil one. But no matter how the evil witch tried
to keep them apart their love drew them together and through
tears of sorrow over his wounds endured for the sake of his love
a miracle occurred and the two were united forever.
I knew the truth that no matter how ugly a duck we believe we
misfit, how rejected and outcast we think we may be, we are
created swans, in the image of The Swan, one so graceful and
wonderously beautiful. And that image will someday be manifested
both to ourselves and the world, not because we are able to make
ouselves into acceptable ducks, but simply because of the Swan
whose graceful image we bear.
And my favorite truth: that love, true love, unconditional love,
graceful love will tranform the ugliest of beasts into a prince.
These truths struggle for their place against our grown up
notions of reality: that you get what you pay for, you earn your own
you do yor best, work hard and you'll succeed, if you ar
competent, impress the right people, meet the qualifications and
stay on top of things you'll be rewarded, and there's no such
thing as a free lunch. these grown up truths claim the right to
replace my childish notions that there is mystery at work in the
world, a profound order we can speak of only in images: that
speaking truth is best, evil gets it in the end, love conquers
all, death is only sleep when the One who is willing to die for
love comes along and kisses us, and that Someone loves me in my
ugly beastness and through that love I will someday be fully,
perfectly human. Given the choice, i will take my fairy tales
over my dull, bookkeepping adult world, thank you.
The gospel is the most marvelous of all fairy tales. But it is
not a tale of imaginary elves and dragons. The gospel is reality,
truth, the fulfillment of all human hopes and desires to be saved
from the world and even from ourselves by some benevolent fairy
god mother, some prince, some princess, someone whose love is
pure, whose invincible goodness is stronger than the evil of the
wicked witch. We know within the child in us all that without
that fairy tale hope we don't have a hope in the world.
The gospel is the mystery of God, told in a foolish tale as real
as death, lies, envy, pride, ressurrection, hope, love, grace and
truth: a mystery only a child would believe. Or an adult who is
not ashamed to admit the truth about the emperor's new clothes
BEING American Heritage 1. To exist in actuality; have life or reality.
Do I, as a human BEING, live up to my title? Do I exist in actuality, or do I chose to exist in unreality - where it is so much more comfortable?
For some reason it also makes me think of protestant ecclesiology. Does the Church exist in actuality?
Thou wast transfigured on the mount, O Christ God,
revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners
through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee.
Although the name of the event would seem to imply otherwise, from what I understand, our Lord was not so much changed as the eyes of the witnesses were opened in order to see reality. I suspect that if we all lived within the enlightened realm of truth and reality that we would see ourselves living a radically different life. As it is, we revel in deception and call it reality. Sometimes we even mold our Christianity to fit what the world calls: real. Now, I ask, how in the world would the world know what is truly REAL?
The world says: "we do not understand?" Well, how often did the disciples offer the same response to something Jesus said or did? Can we expect the world to understand? Their eyes, as do mine, need to be opened.