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[The Creation of the Chicken]

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.
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Saturday, June 29, 2002

Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
We had a great day of celebration! It is always a blessing to see a full church with lots of folks from all around western Washington coming to join us for our Parish Feast Day. I am tired...and the dance continues tomorrow. After Liturgy we will celebrate my birthday with family (where I hope to receive as a gift, the second part of the New Testament translated by the Holy Apostles Convent which is outstanding. Though sometimes clumsy in its English (mainly because it tries to really communicate the Greek), it is as good as they come. I have a real bone to pick with most translations we are familiar with, but I shall save that for another entry when I am not so tired. Suffice to say, the hermeneutic problem is why PARADOSIS is so important. (Not to mention the NIV cannot make up it's mind on how to translate PARADOSIS - oh shut up and go to bed james) Good night.

I have changed our Icon to keep pace with the liturgical dance of the ecclesiatical calender.


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:04 PM [+]
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Friday, June 28, 2002

What is Mercy?

O First enthroned of the Apostles
Teachers of the whole world
entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world
and great mercy to our souls.


English, once again poses a big problem for our understanding of what mercy is. Think about what comes to mind when you consider the meaning of the word. If you are like me, you see mercy in legal terms: someone is wronged and yet does not seek vengence or for that matter, justice - offering instead forgiveness. We "throw ourselves on the mercy of the court."

Mercy comes from the Greek word eleison which is of the same root as elaion which means olive and olive oil. In the Middles East (both today and in ancient times) Olive Oil is used in many ways as a healing oinment. It is a sort of herbal medicine. And when we bring this to the term Mercy we see that it holds within itself a medicinal and healing aspect, which is quite contrary to our legal understanding of the word. And so, when we pray (as we often do in the Orthodox tradition), "Lord have Mercy", we are beseeching God to bring healing to our souls - literally to have "healing oil" on us. Imagine for a moment how this fits with the sacramental practice of annointing with oil and the Eastern understanding of sin and salvation.

The original sinner's prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me, a sinner.





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:57 AM [+]
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Thursday, June 27, 2002

Autonomy Granted by Antiochian Patriarch

Many cynical (and some not so cynical) people believed that our petition to receive autonomy from the Patriarch would fall on deaf ears. Indeed a "normal" power and wealth hungry man would not wish to release any portion of what is his. But Patriarch IGNATIUS IV has shown himself to be above such accusations and I could not be happier! Indeed I am proud (God forgive me) to be apart of a Church in which such leaders exist!

from the synodal decision:
Patriarch Ignatius IV and the Holy Synod blesses the wish of its children in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, and recognizes their Archdiocese as autonomous. This will render their witness more powerful and more effective, as they identify with the civilization of North America.

Some of my non-Orthodox friends may not be too keen on the idea of being referred to as "children," but given the actions of our Patriarch (actions which I cannot say I would be able to do, were I in his shoes) my willingness to refer to him as my Father in Christ is fortified all the more, in the same context as St. Paul calling Timothy his spiritual child.

This Saturday is the Feast Day of St. Peter and Paul - the patron of my Parish: St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church and I expect it will be a real hum-dinger of a celebration this year!




...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:18 PM [+]
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Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Arizona Time Correction
If any of you tried to listen to Steven-Paul's radio webcast at 3pm Pacific, you heard RC Sproul instead (who is decidedly not Eastern Orthodox). I am afriad I did not understand the complexity of Arizona's time and posted the time incorrectly. The times listed reflect non-Daylight Savings time (Fall and Winter). During Daylight Savings (Spring and Summer), the show airs at 4pm Pacific. Sorry for the error.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:56 AM [+]
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Is Orthodoxy becoming vogue? A short and interesting - albeit old - news article.




...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:48 AM [+]
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Sunday, June 23, 2002

Pentecost

Today is the great feast of Pentecost for the Eastern Churches and we had a wonderful participating in Liturgy today. After some praiseworthy feasting, we retired to home with some beloved fellow parishoners and there relaxed while enjoying a few pints of Guinness.

I have changed our icon above to reflect the Feast of Pentecost. Much of what is depicted in the Icon is relatively self-explanatory, however one question that is often asked: "Who is the king at the bottom....God?" Not at all. He is usually known as "Cosmos" and as the Greek implies he represents the world. Shut up in darkness and ruled (thus the crown) by sin, while the Apostles are in the light of Christ and are receiving the Holy Spirit. "Cosmos" also holds a white piece of cloth which contains 12 scrolls representing the words of the Apostles thus showing that "Cosmos" is about to be enlightened!

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit; through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of man, glory to Thee!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:02 PM [+]
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Friday, June 21, 2002

Orthodox Radio

A good way to find out more about the Orthodox Faith is to listen to my friend Steven-Paul's radio program For the Life of the World. A live web cast is available on Sunday's at 4pm Arizona time which is the same as Pacific Time during Daylight Savings (the srping and summer), and is 3pm Pacific otherwise. Hmmm....alright S-P, what are you Arizonans doing to the time zones down there?


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:27 PM [+]
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More New Quotes

Someone asked an old man, "How is it that some say, 'We see visions
of angels'?" And he replied, "Blessed is he who always sees his sins."


Abba Xanthios said, "A dog is better than I am, for he has
love and he does not judge."



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 6:58 PM [+]
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Thursday, June 20, 2002

A New Quote Posted
A small and persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling
persistently hollows out hard rock.

St. Isaac of Syria

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:57 AM [+]
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What God wants

We evangelicals really made a big deal about God "working" in our lives. We exert great amounts of energy in trying to find His will and direction in our lives. We constantly ask one another: "What is God doing in your life?" or "Where is God leading you?" Is THIS really the focus of our Christian Faith? Is God's will so amazingly specific for each and every person on this planet? Is it something we must strive to discover?

I wonder.

Or is there something more simple that we are missing? Maybe we are missing the mark by shooting at the wrong target? Are we, perhaps asking the wrong questions? Is our "walk" with God (whatever that means) simply a day by day process of discerning whether God wants us to contact a particular person or even on a larger scale: to understand what ministry God wants us to engage in? I am beginning to wonder if it is.

I think I know what God's will is for my life today: To TRULY love Him (I don't), to TRULY love my neighbor (I don't), to be patient with my children (I am not), to do justice (I don't), to love mercy (I do, but mainly only when it is applied to me), to be selfless (you know the routine by now), and on and on it goes.

Besides these, the rest of life's issues are minor details, and in the mind of the Eastern Fathers, they tend to work themselves out. For as we learn to be "partakers of the Divine Nature" we will have no need to SEEK God's will in these details. At such a place and a time we will have learned to fully conform our will to God's.

Theosis.





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:50 AM [+]
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Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Pride and Patience

Pride is the father of all sins, so say the Fathers. This is most abundantly clear to me since I fully exemplify such in my life.
I grow impatient because I think so highly of myself and my needs, that what others may want or need are entirely secondary. Furthermore, even the laws of physics ought to bow down to my desires! How dare gravity pull that pint of ale out of my hands and shatter it upon the ground!

Knowing this to be the case is no cure. Healing takes time and WORK. Sin is sickness and I am running a VERY high fever.

Asceticism: Patiently and peacefully holding a screaming baby who will not be comforted.





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:29 PM [+]
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Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Breath of God

If you see me reading an Orthodox book for children, don’t laugh. In my limited experience, the foundational differences between western and eastern Christianity are on such a scale that even simple theology meant for preschoolers can sometimes be for me a great theophany.

Though intended for slightly older children, a question and answer article in one Orthodox publication addressing the following query: “Do pets go to heaven?” The answer, offered by Bishop BASIL begins by better defining what is meant by “going to heaven,” which he describes as sharing in God’s immortal life within the Kingdom. He then refers to something in Genesis, which I’d never really discerned as being potentially significant.

All of creation was spoken into existence….except humankind. “God spoke the word and these things instantaneously came to be. On the sixth day however, God didn’t say, ‘Let there be,’ but rather ‘Let us make.’ God himself bent down and with His own hands lovingly fashioned Man in His own image and likeness, and enlivened him with His very own breath.”

Bishop BASIL then quotes the Blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast, who is said to have often reminded children: “Don’t you know that you are the very Breath of God?”


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:33 PM [+]
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Sunday, June 16, 2002

Bishop Nicholas kicks ass at Nicea

Today is the feastday in which we remember the first great Ecumenical Council of Nicea.

The problem begins with a priest in Alexandria named Arius who disobeys his Bishop (St. Athanasios) and continues preaching his belief that Jesus was a created being - the first and greatest of all God's creation. He has a host of proof-texts from Scripture with which to back his claim and before long has made for himself quite a following. Not at all unlike a preacher on TBN.

Saint Athanasios soon finds himself overthrown by the rebellious lot and is shortly thereafter exiled. The Church is in utter turmoil as Arianism spreads throughout the Christian world.

Now, recall that Christianity had just been made a legal religion (as proclaimed by the Edict of Milan), and so for the first time ever the Church was able to gather en mass for a council to settle the Arian controversy. Three hundred bishops and numerous others would attend, many of them still bearing the scars and maimings of the torturous persecution headed up by the former emperor Diocletian.

Once all of the debates and arguments were finished, the council denounced Arius' heresey and proclaimed the great "Symbol of Faith" known as the Nicene Creed, in which the divinity of Christ is upheld and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is protected.

In attedance at the council was one Bishop named Nicholas from Myra, who it is said that upon being able to no longer stand hearing the heretical words of Arius referring to Christ as created, arose and promptly struck Arius in the face. The act would nearly cost Nicholas his bishopric, but in the end Bishop Nicholas' careless loss of temper at Nicea would be overshadowed by his extreme life of selflessness, strong leadership, and miracles. He would become known as Saint Nicholas.

Today we have turned him into Santa Claus, and few of us have ever taken the time to find out who the real St. Nicholas is.

Holy Father Nicholas and all the saints of Nicea, please pray unto God for us!





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:30 PM [+]
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Saturday, June 15, 2002

"Canned" Prayer

I've always pretty much sucked at praying. Now that is not to say that I couldn't come up with some real humdingers - indeed at the pentecostal bible college I used to attend I learned (primarily outside the classroom) how to really fill a group prayer with some serious emotional hype. We'd call it the moving of the Holy Spirit, and though we'd never admit it, this emotional hype became the criterion by which we determined whether our personal or corporate prayer could be properly called a "good" experience.

My "good" prayer experiences were few and far between and the blame for this rested solely on my shoulders - after all everyone else was having intense esctatic (read "good") prayer times with God, right? I also was never able to maintain a consistent rule of prayer. How many times did I find myself going to the dorm room chapel, kneeling, and not having a clue what I should say or worse yet what to ask for? My prayers were often the same from day to day, as if I could almost recite what was on my heart. Sometimes I'd literally say to God: "What can I tell you today, God, that I didn't tell you yesterday?" Numerous times I'd fall asleep and wake up in time for lunch - having missed most of my classes. I got to the point that if I found myself drifting into "evango" (i.e. "Lord I just pray...."etc etc) I wanted to puke. So, why was I having so much trouble with prayer? Maybe I didn't have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ"? Maybe I wasn't "saved"? More "evango"....plugh! Perhaps a trip to the local Christian Bookstore for the newest offering on prayer? Oh, if only the Prayer of Jabez had existed while I was an evangelical I wouldn't be Orthodox today? (please note my tone of voice which reveals cynical intent)

In the movie Shadowlands (which I highly recommend) based on the life of C.S. Lewis, they have Lewis proclaim the following: "Prayer doesn't change God. It changes me." I have no idea if Lewis ever actually said this, but none-the-less it moved me profoundly.

Recently a friend joined me and my family for dinner and we offered the traditional Orthodox prayer and blessing over the meal. He was not very impressed and engaged me in a discussion over the dangers of "canned" prayers. I don't think he knew that I'd seen both sides of the fence, and was abit suprised when I agreed with him. And if I agreed, why do I use "canned" prayers?

Well, I woke up this morning and had no desire to pray - none at all. No doubt none of you reading this has experienced this. But as I stagger out into our living room, Christ the Pantocrater, the Theotokos, and all the other Saints stare at me from our Icon corner. They all seem to beckon me, calling me to escape the clock and join myself to the past, present, and future. I approach and offer my reverent salutations. I know the morning prayers and I bring them to recollection in my heart...pondering them with great intention as they flow slowly and deliberately from my lips. In this way, I make these tried and true ancient words my own, and I find that I am being changed.

Sometimes (perhaps often times in my case), what comes out of cans is medicine for the soul.



...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:30 AM [+]
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Thursday, June 13, 2002

St. Peter of Damaskos
"The truly humble man never ceases to reproach himself, even when the whole
world attacks and insults him. He acts in this way, not simply in order to
attain salvation as if it were passively by enduring with patience whatever
befalls him, but in order to press forward actively and deliberately to
embrace the sufferings of Christ. From these sufferings he learns the
greatest of all the virtues, humility: the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit,
the gateway to the kingdom of heaven, that is to say to dispassion. He who
passes through this gateway comes to God; but without humility his road is
full of pain and his effort useless."


Ever notice when our pride is injured we are moved directly to painful anger, but when we seek humility in such circumstances we achieve inner stillness?

St. Peter of Damaskos, please pray unto God for us!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 6:45 PM [+]
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Everybody's going fishing today except me

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here in the Northwest. The sun is shining and Mt. Rainier towers in the distance - sometimes she appears menacing when we recollect her sister's fury in the 80's, but today she seems quite majestic and solemn. The River is flowing high as the unseasonably warm temperatures furiously melt the massive snow packs in the Cascades, and the water runs a deep and rich jade color. The summer steelhead are running and as I pass over the Sultan Bridge I can see a large collection of boats preparing to launch for what promises to be a wonderful day of steelheading. Rumor has it the Chinook counts are up this year and the Wildlife department had decided to allow us to keep 1 Chinook a day - the first time since I began salmon and steelhead fishing. But alas, today I am going to work. (sigh)

Today is a feastday...the Ascension of our Lord - 40 days after Pascha. And therefore I have changed our Icon.

Troparion of the Ascension

Thou hast ascended in glory, O Christ our God, and gladdened Thy disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit; and they were assured the blessing, that Thou art the Son of God and Redeemer of the World.

Kontakion of the Ascension

When Thou hadst fulfilled Thy dispensation for our sakes, uniting things on earth with the heavens, Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, departing not hence, but remaining inseperable from us, and crying out to them that love Thee: I am with you and no one can be against you.





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:44 AM [+]
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The Stealth of Vanity
Once in a saintly passion,
I cried to God in grief.
"O Lord, my heart is full of guile,
Of sinners I am chief."
and then my guardian angel
touched me from behind
"Vanity, my little man,
you're nothing of the kind!"


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 6:47 AM [+]
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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Sundown ends the Paschal season
Tomorrow is the day of Ascension - the leavetaking of Great and Holy Pascha. The living dance of the church calender engages us all into a new, and yet ancient movement. In keeping with our ancient Jewish roots, the Church identifies sundown as the beginning of the following day. Therefore as I watch the sun moving toward the horizon I find myself reflecting on what the Paschal dance has taught me this year.

We learn very little through self-determination, yet gain tremendous insight into LIFE through self-denial.

Love and laziness cannot co-exist.


And so, for the last time this year: "Christ is Risen!"

At sundown:
"Christ is in our Midst!"
"He is, and ever shall be!"





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:17 PM [+]
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I'm back

Whew...what a busy weekend/week. Funny thing is, I really can't put my finger on what all I did. I did finally get our pool set up (it's a small above ground system, about 2.5 feet deep - but man does it feel good on a hot day!). Spent a good portion of one day shoveling and hauling river rock to put all around the pool and have ever since spent each waking hour trying to convince Nicholas that tossing those stones into the pool and laughing at the funny "kerplunk" sound is NOT cool! Oh well.

Also spent most of my computer time writing a rediculously long email to a friend of mine concenring Wolfgang Simson's 15 Theses'. We were discussing it and I mentioned that I thought Mr. Simson's history was abit "sketchy." Later my friend made the mistake of asking for details. I managed to limit myself to a 15 page word document in doing so - poor guy. So, suffice to say this chewed up a big chunk of my free time. If anyone else is interested in reading it, let me know and I'll gladly email the document to you.

I just found out that an old friend of mine from my So. Cal. days is coming up here for a visit next month - I am very excited because his fiance' is coming as well. Coincidently (or perhaps not), they both have recently decided to become Orthodox and are planning to have an Orthodox wedding! I told them I'd beg, borrow, and steal to be able to get the cash for a trip down there for their wedding - soemtime next year. Orthodox weddings are way cool - as you should expect they are quite different. They include crowns, a liturgical "dance", and there are no vows.

What! No vows? Oh how contrary to our legal and rational loving minds! Well, if the East doesn't view our union with God in a legal sense, why would they be expected to view our marriages in such a light? Sacrament, sacrament, mystery, mystery, paradox, paradox.....relationship.

Is that clear?

No?

Good.

Christos Anesti!


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:29 AM [+]
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Friday, June 07, 2002

From Lossky's The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church."

"The eastern tradition has never made a sharp distinction between mysticism and theology; between personal experience of the divine mysteries and the dogma affirmed by the Church. The following words spoken a century ago by a great Orthodox theologian, the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, express this attitude perfectly: 'none of the mysteries of the most secret wisdom of God ought to appear alien or altogether transcendent to us, but in all humility we must apply our spirit to the contemplation of divine things'.1 To put it in another way, we must live the dogma expressing a revealed truth, which appears to us as an unfathomable mystery, in such a fashion that instead of assimilating the mystery to our mode of understanding, we should, on the contrary, look for a profound change, an inner transformation of spirit, enabling us to experience it mystically. Far from being mutually opposed, theology and mysticism support and complete each other. One is impossible without the other. If the mystical experience is a personal working out of the content of the common faith, theology is an expression, for the profit of all, of that which can be experienced by everyone. Outside the truth kept by the whole Church personal experience would be deprived of all certainty, of all objectivity. It would be a mingling of truth and of falsehood, of reality and of illusion: 'mysticism' in the bad sense of the word. On the other hand, the teaching of the Church would have no hold on souls if it did not in some degree express an inner experience of truth, granted in different measure to each one of the faithful. There is, therefore, no Christian mysticism without theology; but, above all, there is no theology without mysticism. It is not by chance that the tradition of the Eastern Church has reserved the name of 'theologian' peculiarly for three sacred writers of whom the first is St. John, most 'mystical' of the four Evangelists; the second St. Gregory Nazianzen, writer of contemplative poetry; and the third St. Symeon, called 'the New Theologian', the singer of union with God. Mysticism is accordingly treated in the present work as the perfecting and crown of all theology: as theology par excellence."


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:06 AM [+]
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Thursday, June 06, 2002

Why do the Fathers and Mothers keep doing this to me?
I believe the following is from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Paphnutius said: When I was walking along the road, I happened to lose
my way and found myself near a village and I saw some people who were talking
about evil things. So I stood still, praying for my sins. Then, behold, an
angel came, holding a sword and he said to me, "Paphnutius, all those who
judge their brothers perish by this sword, but because you have not judged,
but have humbled yourself before God,
saying that you have sinned, your name is written in the book of the living!"



Wow. Time and time again the Fathers and Mothers nail my ass to the floor and won't let me up until I repent. The Holy Spirit moves in these Holy people and it is truly a severely self inflicted wound that we evangelicals create (or former evangelicals as the case may be) by having so long neglected them.




...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:11 AM [+]
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Wednesday, June 05, 2002

I am grieved to the point of tears by a news story I just read about a 4 year old little boy being randomly taken hostage by a knife wielding man at a bus stop. As police negotiations failed, the man began stabbing the boy and the boy died. A picture, included in the article and taken prior to the stabbing, showed absolute evil on the face of the man and terror on the face of the little boy. I am distraught and feel terribly for this little child and his family. O why is there such evil in the world? What role do I play in perpetuating it with my own daily selfishness and hatred? Do the collective sins of the world grow and build until at last they seemingly focus on one person who by demonioc possession or whatever yields themselves and commits such an atrocity? I don't know. Odd that this event should in some way direct me to my own sins? The Father's sometimes say that when we sin against our brothers or sisters, we effectively kill them.


Lord Have mercy...

A Prayer for the Departed

"O Master, Lord our God,
Who in Thy wisdom hast created man,
and didst honor him with Thy Divine image,
and place in him the spirit of life,
and lead him into this world,
bestowing on him the hope of resurrection and life everlasting;
and after he had violated Thy commandments,
Thou O Gracious lover of mankind,
didst descend to the earth that Thou mightest renew again the creation of Thy hands.
Therefore we pray Thee, O All-Holy Master
give rest to the soul of Thy servant, Dexter Balala, in a place of brightness,
a place of green pasture, a place of repose,
and, in that they have sinned in word, or deed or thought forgive them:
For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind
and unto Thee do we ascribe Glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting
and Thine All-Holy and good, and ever giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Amen."





...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:46 PM [+]
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Tuesday, June 04, 2002

The Seed of Baptism

And so the connectivity of the blogging world becomes wonderfully apparent as Randy Buist from water’s edge finds his way to my blog via our mutual friend Jason Evans’ blog and then takes the time to strike up a conversation. Technology can be a wonderful thing! Thanks Randy! (I owe you an email…coming soon!) The traditional (paradosis) Orthodox-greeting response was greatly appreciated, and I only regret that it could not be accompanied with the equally traditional robust kiss on each cheek!

Randy posted (see water’s edge link above) about the baptized life and it amazingly coincided with a quote from one of the Father’s I received via email last night:

“The gift which we have received from Jesus Christ in holy baptism is not
destroyed, but is only buried as a treasure in the ground. Both common
sense and gratitude demand that we should take good care to unearth this
treasure and bring it to light. This can be done in two ways. The gift
of baptism is revealed first of all by a painstaking fulfillment of the
commandments; the more we carry these out, the more clearly the gift
shines upon us in its true splendor and brilliance. Secondly, it come
to light and is revealed through the continual invocation of the Lord
Jesus, or by unceasing remembrance of God, which is one and the same
thing. The first method is powerful but the second is more so; so much
so that even fidelity to the commandments receives its full strength
from prayer. For this reason, if we truly desire to bring to flower the
seed of grace that is hidden within us, we should hasten to acquire the
habit of this exercise of the heart, and always practice this prayer
within it, without any image or form, until it warms our mind and
enflames our soul with an inexpressible love towards God and men.”

St. Gregory of Sinai


...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:29 AM [+]
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Monday, June 03, 2002

The Icon of Extreme Humility
As pictured above, this icon is usually associated with the Lenten period, which I suppose makes it a little untimely. I'll change it periodically and will perhaps get better coordinated with the ecclesiastical calender. Obviously the icon's emphasis is on humility and specifically the humility of Christ as He allowed Himself to suffer and die upon the cross. We see Him partially entombed, but look deeper for it is not only a tomb. He is also boxed in, which is the Extreme Humility of God condescending to become flesh and blood within time and space. Indeed, Theology in color!

Christos Anesti!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 5:48 PM [+]
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Sunday, June 02, 2002

I was thinking today after Liturgy about what I have often said: "We must strive to make our faith apart of our everyday lives." And in thinking about this, I have decided not to say it anymore. I do not believe it to be so. Rather I think we ought to strive to make our everyday lives apart of the Faith. A big difference I think.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:00 PM [+]
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Saturday, June 01, 2002

The Ascetic Dance

It is Saturday night and the rest of the family have retired as I know I must also do shortly, for my pious wife will have me out of bed early for our pre-communion prayers. (I am so blessed to have her in my life). But I felt I ought to type a few words as we have spent the evening watching the videotape of a lecture we attended last year with Hieromonk Jonah speaking on Asceticism.

Fr. Jonah reminded us that the most amazing example of asceticism in its MOST profound form is the engaging of everyday life with acceptance of all we face and with selfless love despite our challenges, no matter how severe they might be. To truly learn to love God and others is the goal of Christian asceticism. (And anyone who perceives this task to be easy, have no idea what it means!) The Church prescribed forms of asceticism such as fasting are merely tools of self-discipline that teach us a most amazing thing: INNER WATCHFULNESS.

I realized as Father Jonah spoke of the ascetic art of parenting, that I have such a long way to go. I am so easily led by my passions as my children try my admittedly short patience, and today was a particularly bad day as I was trying to work in the backyard and my kids seemed particularly able to get in my way. But it is Saturday and the Eucharist awaits me tomorrow…the Traditions (paradosis) of the Church call me to self-examination before communion and I find myself lacking again. The pre-communion prayers point to our unworthiness, while reminding us of our inability to “surpass the great patience of our God” and of God’s “extreme love for men.”

The Church invites me to dance with her. Two thousand years (and more) of collective experience and wisdom play the music. The steps of the dance are found within her Traditions (paradosis) and mesh seamlessly with the music. The dance teaches me, it inspires me, and it often convicts me. The dance never stops and as on days like today it calls me back into the ballroom of communal and Eucharistic life. The Dance is nothing less than the Life of the Holy Spirit.

Now I sleep, in the morning we dance.

Christos Anesti!

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:53 PM [+]
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"Let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole lives to Christ, our God."
-from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chyrsostom

As Orthodox, we frequently end our Liturgical prayers with this statement, and I have given a great deal of thought as to how we can commit not only ourselves, but also one another! We are all intimately connected, so say the Fathers. The analogy of the Church being the Body of Christ, or the Vine and its Branches possessed an ontological reality for the ancient Church, and I am afraid we here in the west have turned it into another meaningless symbolism because we have a hard time understanding it. (Why do we do that crap all the time!)

Our deeds and even our thoughts are like pebbles tossed into the pond of our collective communion with one another and the concentric waves that result will in some way touch us all. So that what we do in the privacy of our own homes will indeed affect those who come into contact with us for good or for evil.

Another way to look at it: In the Orthodox Tradition (paradosis), sin is viewed as a disease rather than a legality. And what is a very common feature of diseases? Communicability. Sin is infectious. On the flip side, so also is Holiness!

And so perhaps in committing ourselves to Christ, by default we are committing one another?

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 9:27 AM [+]
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