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.
Admittedly, I sometimes feel guilty for the time I waste in entering fictitious role playing maritime worlds in order to brutally rake the stern of some poor French or American privateer - but hey, there are worse things I could be doing, right? Anyway, the HMS Saint Brigid (28) can be found patroling the waters of the Royal Navy - American Station over at Sea Lords via the games Age of Sail II and/or Age of Sail II : Privateer's Bounty.
One thing, on a more serious (or at least interesting) point that I have noticed via these games: ship names might speak volumes. The games contain a HUGE database of ships with a wide variety of historical nationalities to choose from. All of the ships listed are real ships from their respective Navies (though one ought to note that ships tended to trade hands alot - though not so much by way of desk dealings). One quickly sees that the names of vessels sailing under the blue and white of the Imperial Russian Navy frequently referenced, in some way, Christianity. Many Saints (and even "not-yet" Saints), and other religious terms (i.e. "Resurrection" and "Nazareth") are clearly present.
Contrastingly, the ships of the USA are utterly devoid of any religious connotations. This, during the time when we are being told by some that the United States was very much a "christian" nation - but they saw fit to give their ships some amazingly secular names. Perhaps this really doesn't say much at all...but the contrast was striking to me.
Now, don't go getting your panties in a wad people, I'm not trying to tout the glories of Holy Russia...but what I am saying is this: what we name(d) our ships might say something don't you think?
As a side, the HMS Saint Brigid is purely fictitious. While I tried to join the Imperial Russia Navy, it was decided because all of those presently in the IRN are actually Russian that my lingual disability might prove to be a hinderance during fleet actions. So I was assigned to my second choice, the Royal Navy - which does have a history of naming a few of his majesty's ships after saints and so as I move up the ranks toward a 1st rate Ship of the Line, my crew and I will be beseeching patron saints of the British Isles for our protection and victory.
Vespers at four bells, lads...ummm and you may leave the BOCP behind, please.
They say that we always dream, it's just that most of the times we do not remember them.
How often have I laid in bed waiting (usually very briefly) to fall asleep when the ever hopeful planning synapses of my brain begin to sputter to life. Sometimes, like dreams, they take on a life of their own and seem rather to speak to me as opposed to being spoken by me - maybe I am crazy. The words vary from time to time, but they always follow a rather consistent theme: tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I will reduce my caloric intake to lose the rest of the wight I need to lose.
Tomorrow, I will begin to exercise - walk more or perhaps get the tire fixed on that bike.
Tomorrow, I will be more cautious with my spending and will be more fiscally responsible.
Tomorrow, I will pray more and will go to church more.
Tomorrow, I will play more with my children and I will demonstrate perfect patience.
Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I will be the ideal father - ala Micheal Landon from Little House.
Tomorrow, I will make a more conscious effort to show my wife how much I love and appreciate her.
Tomorrow, I will finish my remodeling projects.
Tomorrow, I will....
Certainly my "sleeping dreams" aren't the only ones to be forgotten come morning.
For the most part, I hate kids. No really I do. I never wanted them and it was a serious issue as I recall my wife and I's premarital counseling. (Obviously my wife won that sticking point!)
Anyway something Rick said in his comments to my last post really solidifed my thinking on this topic of not being able to stand children. As John notes, we likely know some people who just do not like children. Well, Hi, my name is James and I am one of those people. In contrast, however, to what Rick said I do not dislike children because they interfere with my lofty sense of being really spiritual (yeah right!), but rather because they interfere with me period. And here is the crux of the matter:
I am learning to like kids...and believe me, being a father is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but I have to admit my capacity to love is hindered a good deal by my selfishness. I used to be one of those people who would say with absolute conviction that I would never have kids, I just couldn't stand to be around them. But now, I say rather that my kids are the very best thing that has ever happened to me...because I am learning and changing - growing into the fullness of personhood and this means that I must get past myself.
While I used to try and claim that my distaste of children was simply that: a matter of taste. People are different and some people like kids and some people don't. Well that, in my ever so humble opinion is a perfect and full load of steaming fecal matter. Why didn't I like kids? Foundationally, kids do nothing but take and take and take - there is very rarely any reciprocity in the relationships we have with children: they cannot engage me in intriguing theological conversations (at least not very often) and instead make me clean up their inumerable messes, they do not offer to wash my car or effectively help me level my shelter posts while setting them and instead tend to destroy or mutilate such things, they do not offer me praise and thanks (very often), they do not sit down and have a smoke or a fine scotch with me, they don't like my type of movies and their movies are silly, they are constantly losing or breaking things I idolize, they are noisy when I want quiet, they are rambuncious when I want to rest, and on and on it goes. What it comes down to is this: children, by their very existence, force us to practice an unselfish love. And that is hard.
Yes yes, when one of them wraps their little arms around you and says "Daddy I wuv you" it's easy...but when they decide that Daddy's new DVD makes for a great frisbee?
Anyway when I hear someone say "I'm not a kid person" or "I really don't like kids" or when I see someone at Church frowning because one of my kids is getting a tad out of hand I have to wonder if they are perhaps not all that different from me.
When Jesus said "Suffer the little children to come unto me" He really said a lot. And as I journey slowly past myself, I am learning that there is a good deal more reciprocity in my relationship with my kids than I ever imagined. And more than that, they are literally saving me.
Driving in to work this morning I was listening to NPR cover the story of the big "Women's rights" march this weekend. Sometimes NPR really pisses me off, because while covering the story they felt the need to make mention of someone from the opposing side of the issue and who did they choose? Some wack job who refused to give any other name other that "George Bush" and was shouting personally derogatory comments - often of a religious nature - to the marchers through a megaphone. It was absurd, it was sadly comical, and it was perturbing. For this is how pro-life supporters are being portrayed!
Maybe we are not doing a good enough job? Do we really believe that abortion is murder? Are we leaving the hard work to the fringe wackos? For my own part I am guilty because I despair over the situation...I have no hope for our hedonistic society to ever see abortion as more than a convenient medical procedure that soley effects body of a mother...and thus I do next to nothing.
I have held aborted fetuses in the palm of my hand and have seen the horror of it. The pictures often held up to disgust and shock people are not faked - or if they are, the ones I have seen are pretty darned good fakes. Regardless we are NOT dealing with a mere tissue blob, and believe me I was shocked and profoundly moved to see those tiny little human bodies torn to shreds...five fingers and five toes clearly visible on all of the severed limbs. As someone who was wavering on the issue (as he was with his Christianity at the time), my resolve against abortion was solidified.
Anyway...HEY NPR...how about getting an intelligent pro-lifer on there to give our side of the argument? Feel free to contact them....we might suggest Frederica Matthews-Green.
UPDATE: Just read the article referenced by SF Danckaert in which this exchange is noted:
"Look at the pictures, look at the pictures," shouted abortion opponents, holding up big posters showing a fetus at eight weeks.
"Lies, lies," marchers shouted back.
No greater example of people trying to remain blissfully ignorant.
Sad to hear about the rail disaster in North Korea. Much ado is being made about the lack of freedom of the press in that country and how details are being withheld such that no one is at all sure what exactly has happened. No pictures are being allowed. Man, I am so glad those sort of restrictions don't take place in any form here in the United States!
Have you been following my discussion with Felix over at his blog?
We've been kinda going round in circles about individual sin and societal sin and where to start looking at blame and solutions and what not. You'll need to go and read all of our comments to get a feel for where I am going with this. I felt as though Felix was overemphasizing societal sin at the expense of personal sin...no doubt he would say I was doing the opposite. In the end, I don't think that we are really disagreeing all that much...but rather are seeing different emphases.
We are all quick to judge the sins of society, aren't we? It's certainly easier to look at us all and see where our culture or our corporate doings are ridden with sin. For one, it is harder to offend soceity than it is an individual! But, if we are commanded to not judge our "brother" why do we safely assume that it is perfectly fine to judge our brothers corporately?
At Felix's I mention this passage:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Now, certainly this implies that we need to set things aright in our own lives before we start trying to "fix" our brothers...but does it say the same in regards to our attempts to fix society? Can we fix society without first fixing ourselves and our brothers? What do you all think?
An intriguing conversation with an old friend led to his pronouncement that while he appreciated my ?new found? religious heritage , he volunteered that he didn?t really think it necessary to ?join? the Orthodox Church in order to be Orthodox. And by this he did not mean ?o?rthodox , and neither did he intentionally mean that you could pick and choose a few traditions from Orthodoxy and incorporate them into your customized Christian routine.
What he was intending to say was that I could fully practice Orthodoxy without that troublesome "submission of joining the Church itself" (herself).
Oh dear, how to put this delicately and precisely? It seems simple enough to those of us who have embraced the Church already, but to the outsider (surely you non-cradle Orthodox can recall being outside, right?) it just doesn?t make sense. Yes, it is a different understanding of ecclesiology?but more than that. There is a spirit in Orthodox that insists on or at least encourages submission?. Lord how we hate that word ? especially in the West?we immediately equate it with abuse. How sad.
I hope I can communicate that how we approach the Church is not dissimilar to how we ought to approach God ? with humility. (Surely this is obvious if we accept Orthodox ecclesiology, right?) We recognize that it ain?t all about me and Jesus anymore, but it is about the Church and Jesus (a very big difference!) My deep (YEAH RIGHT!) intellectual understanding of certain biblical passages take an immediate backseat to what the Church teaches?we begin to recognize that the doctorate in Biblical Hermeneutics can be instantly ranked by some humble hermit monk on Mt. Athos.
Much more can and could be talked about here?but by the time we had said our goodbyes I am relatively certain that my friend had some new ideas to mull over. The jist of which was: the Church herself is an integral part of Orthodoxy and you cannot practice Orthodoxy outside of the Church ? ?twould be akin to practicing surgery in a public bathroom. Accepting the Church is really the first (and often biggest step) toward becoming Orthodox, because only therein do we see the intertwining and connectedness of all the things we do...and we realized that taking all things Orthodox but leaving behind the Church is indeed "picking and choosing" based on our own personal and lofty understandings of what Christianity really is.
I'm back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the long-horn cattle feed
On the lowly jimson weed
I'm back in the saddle again.
Ridin' the range once more
Totin' my old forty-four
Where you sleep out every night
Where the only law is right
I'm back in the saddle again.
Rockin' to and fro
Back in the saddle again
I go my own way
Back in the saddle again.
Remember Afterglow's? I guess we are in the afterglow of Pascha...sorta...though I don't recall my old afterglow's involving quite so much beer, scotch, whiskey, and tobacco! Of course it was not all about these little additives, the foundation of the main course was of course the joy of Pascha remaining with us - even now after Bright Week. Yes, yes I know some of you will say: "The Joy of Jesus should be with us all the time!" Okay...cool by me.
What a fantastic feast we had all of last week. And to cap it off, beloved persons from our Parish graciously took segmented portions of my family into their homes so that my wife and I could enjoy some time alone for our anniversary. Bless them for it! It was relaxing and refreshing.
Hate to go back to work...it just seems so unimportant and trivial compared to what we experienced during Holy and Bright Weeks. I mean, what the heck am I going to do here today (besides blog)? Advance Knowledge and Save lives? Uh-huh, sure.
Many thoughts rambling in my head...starting with a great joke (from Prarie Home Companion) which pokes fun at Unitarians - and at the current rate of "progress" may be applicable to many "Christian" sects in the near future.
How do you drive a Unitarian family out of town?
Burn a Question Mark in their lawn
Also, on a more serious note, do you know what the DSM-IV is? It is a large book fully entitled: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is often used by clinicians to assist them in diagnosing mental illness. Also it can be used by anyone by picking it up along with innumerbable reference guides, "commentaries", and "made easy" versions from Amazon.com. Thereby you can diagnose yourself and your friends!
So in what ways can we see similarities between the DSM-IV and the Bible? Hmmmm....
...for the next few days. I shall be utterly exiled from the world of the internet as my wife and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary which actually took place during Holy Week. We went ahead (wacky Ortho converts that we are) and gave the 2000 year old Church dating system of Holy Week and Pascha precedence and so put our escape on hold until the more appropriate time of Bright Week.
I'll tell you the same thing I shall tell my kids: be good!
I am contemplating more hymns from Pascha. Felix has written his anabaptist tome on atonement and it is worth reading. Short on time, I will let the hymns of the church speak for now on the centrality of Pascha and how we are saved through it. The Church, collectively, knows better than me and my meager series of proclamations of "I think" and "I believe" aren't worth a whole helluva lot.
The Church speaks:
Thou didst descend, O Christ to the depths of the earth.
Thou didst break the everlasting bars which had held death's captives,
and like Jonah from the whale on the third day,
Thou didst arise from the grave.
Christ is risen from the dead!
He who saved the three young men in the furnace
became incarnate and suffered as a mortal man.
Through His sufferings He clothed what is mortal in the robe of immortality.
He alone is blessed and most glorious: the God of our fathers.
Christ is risen from the dead!
This is the chosen and holy day,
first of sabbaths, king and lord of days,
the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days.
On this day we bless Christ forevermore.
Christ is risen from the dead!
The angel cried to the Lady full of grace: Rejoice, O pure Virgin.
Again I say: Rejoice. Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, rejoice all ye people.
Shine! Shine! O new Jerusalem! The glory of the Lord has shone on you.
Exult now and be glad, O Zion.
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, in the resurrection,
the resurrection of your Son.
Christ is risen from the dead!
Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us,
A new and holy Pascha,
A mystical Pascha,
A Pascha worthy of veneration,
A Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer,
A blameless Pascha,
A great Pascha,
A Pascha of the faithful,
A Pascha which has opened for us the gates of Paradise,
A Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.
...of the dissonance we Orthodox sometimes feel in relation to our Protestant brethren who uphold Sola Scriptura. While I recognize not all Protestants could affirm the following statement of faith taken from the so-called Prayer Foundation (where you too can become a REAL Biblical Protestant monk as opposed to those erroneous Orthodox and Catholic ones), but I found this one and just had to say something about it here.
The Bible is our Sole Authority for Faith and Life. The Bible does not contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, infinite in scope, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, inspired in totality.
Now, it seems to me that ALL of these attributes do indeed belong to the WORD of God: Jesus.
'Tis, or ought I to say, 'twas the season for the reception of catechumens into the Church. Truly it warms my heart to see people discover the treasures of Orthodoxy, then grow into a profound longing to enter fully into the richness of those treasures, and then at last like a wonderful wedding ceremony they "get hitched." You will notice I moved some folks out of the "Catechumen/Inquirer" section: Welcome Home Jim and Laura! (and to their family too!)
And for the bloggless, I offer the same to Matt and Jeff...and to any others out there I do not know who may be reading this!
The songs of the Paschal canon are amazing. The timing of the service is such that my children typically afford me the opportunity to actually hear them! They are worthy of a second look not only because of the joy they express, but also because they provide insight into our understanding of what exactly has happened in Christ's Holy Resurrection. It becomes clear very quickly to any casual observer that the Orthodox reject the notion that the Resurrection was merely some means of proving Christ's divinity or, worse yet, that it represents God "giving a nod" to Christ's exemplary life.
Here are a few excerpts…
This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined, O people.
Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord.
For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us,
as we sing the song of victory
Christ is risen from the dead!
Come, let us drink, not miraculous water drawn forth from a barren stone,
but a new vintage from the fount of incorruption,
springing from the tomb of Christ.
In Him we are established.
Christ is risen from the dead!
The inspired prophet Habakkuk now stands with us in holy vigil.
He is like a shining angel who cries with a piercing voice:
Today salvation has come to the world,
for Christ is risen as all-powerful!
Thou didst descend into the tomb, O Immortal,
Thou didst destroy the power of death.
In victory didst Thou arise, O Christ God,
proclaiming "Rejoice" to the myrrhbearing women, granting peace
to Thy apostles, and bestowing resurrection on the fallen.
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs
My brothers and sisters, enjoy the feast and this coming Bright Week! Let us praise God for his rescuing of us from the bonds of death and sin! Take it away Saint John:
"Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
As we enter the Nave of the Church on Holy Friday afternoon, we can prominantly see Jesus still hanging on the cross in front of the Iconostasis. We prostrate ourselves before this ominous scene. In short order, whatever Nietzsche might have meant by his famed quote, is now at least literally true.
From where we stand, I crouch down to my eldest son Nicholas and point to the cross, "Jesus is dead."
He ponders this thought for a moment and I notice that his eyes are drawn to the icon of the Theotokos behind and to the left of Jesus' body. "Oh, Mary will be sad!"
"Yes, I am sure she is. Now we will take Jesus down and bury him."
The clergy move solemnly out of the sanctuary and pull the nails from him and wrap him in a fine linen cloth - just as the Noble Joseph did...and in a sense does. They take the shrouded body and lay Him upon the altar, truly the passover lamb slain for us...and we sing:
Joseph together with Nicodemus took Thee down from the tree,
who clothest Thyself with light as with a garment.
He gazed on Thy Body - dead, naked and unburied?
and in grief and tender compassion he lamented:
Woe is me, my sweetest Jesus!
A short while ago, the sun beheld Thee hanging on the cross,
and it hid itself in darkness.
The earth quaked with fear at the sight.
The veil of the temple was torn in two.
Lo, now I see Thee willingly submit to death for my sake.
How shall I bury Thee, O my God?
How can I wrap Thee in a shroud?
How can I touch Thy most pure Body with my hands?
What songs can I sing for Thy Exodus, O Compassionate One?
I magnify Thy Passion.
I glorify Thy burial
and Thy holy Resurrection, crying: O Lord, glory to Thee!
Yes, the Resurrection looms over our bereavment, and I reassure my son who seems mesmerized by the sight of the clergy symbolically carrying Christ's body (now in the form of a large tapestry depicting Him being taken down from the cross) to the beautifully flowered tomb in the center of the church. I tell him that everything will be okay - that grand fib that all parents tell their children. I tell him that Pascha is coming, the reality of which is the only thing that makes my reassurance (or any reassurance) not be a fib.
And so we lay God in His tomb.
Much later that night we begin the lamentation vigil in which throughout the entire night someone will be present at the tomb chanting or reading the Psalms. The entire Church is virtually devoid of light save for the few candles lit to assist the reader in reading. My wife and I must have gone through about 30 psalms during our hour and it was an experience that I have a hard time formulating into words at the moment...I was reminded of my gramdmother's funeral a few months ago. I was reminded of Death and a number of the Psalms warned me that "man is a vapor."
Death reigns for the moment...but I can already hear the stirrings of Holy Saturday
One curious aspect to all the Holy Week serivces that I have noticed is the sort of juxtapostion we get between Judas and the Good Thief. I suppose it ought not to suprise us for we sing the hymn (or say the prayer) at every Liturgy in which we say "neither will I give Thee a kiss as did Judas, but like the thief will I confess Thee..."
Little grace or explanation is bestowed to Judas, which is odd...in our modern times we have a tendency to sympathize with him (did Andrew Lloyd Weber innovate this? I dunno) or at least to explain why he did what he did: he thought he was expediating the Messiah's liberation of Israel by instigating a confrontation with the authorities. Do we discern this from the Gospels? Anyway, these ancient hymns of the Church paint a different picture: love of money. On more than one occassion the betrayal is connected to Judas' complaint that money was wasted in the expensive oil used for anointing Jesus at Bethany. Recall Judas thinks that the money could have been better spent on the poor? Who of us has not said something similar or could not imagine us saying something like this?
I definately felt the gentle lecture inherent in many of the songs and prayers telling me to NOT be like Judas, but to be like the thief. We know so little about the thief...he was a guilty man, he was a dying man, and he was a man pleading for God's mercy. I guess I can relate...but I still am rather fond of money. I need to recognize that I am on that cross next to Jesus, what need did the thief have for such a thing as money?
Throughout Holy Week, I have found myself thinking more and more about salvation in the context of the discussions we have been having over at Felix’s place and other locales as well. One of the things that I have learned to do as an Orthodox Christian is to consider my opinions less and attempt to submit myself to the opinions of the Church. It is a difficult enterprise to get past the whole "I think it means..." thing. But, anyway, the mind of the Church can be found in a variety of sources (since we Orthodox do not have a defined or “official” catechism to appeal to), one of which is our hymns. And those, which are being sung presently, have in a sense enlightened me.
Felix is right, Christ is our salvation, and I fear I may have misspoken or spoken too hastily (if not at Felix's then certainly elsewhere) in saying things like: “the cross doesn’t save anyone!” Hymns I fumbled through last night while we crucified God explicitly contradicted such a statement. And yet, obviously Pascha as celebrated by the Church is a pivotal and crucial happening in the accomplishment of our salvation…as I said at Felix’s blog, it is the crescendo of a grand piece of music.
But this morning as I switched our family’s main icon to that of the crucifixion, lit some candles, burned some incense, and said my prayers, I found myself thinking about birthing pains. Pregnancy is, I believe, a better analogy. From the annunciation on, Christ’s life (as our salvation) is like a pregnancy…ever growing and maturing and culminating in the birth pains we experience now as the passion of our God. Like real birth pains, it is a time of redemptive suffering that leads to an indescribable brightness, without which the pregnancy is a bitter and pointless thing. A stillborn savior simply will not do, and neither would a magically appearing savior for whom there was no analogous pregnancy. The pregnacy is a neccesary portion of bringing life into the world and clearly it saves us too!
There is a tremendous sense of anticipation in the air and I am very much reminded of those four times when my wife and I were preparing for the trip down to the local hospital. We are preparing and we are enduring…waiting for that blessed brightness. The Resurrection (birth) of our God.
Oh yes, ramblings about Holy Thursday...though now - liturgically speaking - it is Holy Friday (I just got back from crucifying God). Well to begin: Wednesday night was a particularly sleepness night for a couple of the youngens and thus by default for said youngens parents. It is a fascinating thing - in hindsight of course - how sometimes a child can think that waking at 3 or 4 am has afforded them all the sleep they need.
With that apology (in the classical sense) offered I can now make mention of how I was looking out the front window of my house at 7am with coffee securely in hand instead of being at church for Matins. I was simply watching the weather, the birds, and the local stray cat doing his business in my front lawn when I began to see that grand spectacle of my neighbors starting their litrugical-like commute to work...strange...I think: why the heck am I home? I'm not going fishing! I'm not sick! I'm not going on some cool vacation somewhere! I feel for a moment that I am experiencing a holi(y)day which no one else in the world seems to know about. Of course, not everyone can take time off from work during Holy Week, but to the Orthodox it is not at all an odd thing requiring an explanation. However, I have faced many a dumb, yet polite, stare from people who ask me what I am planning to do for my vacation and I say: Go to Church, be with my family, and contemplate my own mortality in light of God's Passion. (Okay, so these were not my exact words...but anything other than "go to vegas" or "hawaii" is seen as wierd....taking time off for a religious thing is no doubt branding me in their minds as someone who'll drink the deadly spiked cool-aid in the near future.)
Of course, no day is sacred enough to close down grocery stores now, but at least on Christmas day I can say with complete understanding from the employee, whom I am sardonically giving a reason to be at work, that it sucks for them to be at work. I feel like I should be able to do that as I visit the local store. Speaking of shopping, my wife did some grocery shopping yesterday (Tuesday) and asked me to unload her quarry from the truck when she triumphantly arrived home. Opening the truck to a grand scene, I was reminded of a great line from the movie version of "The Fellowship of the Ring" : "Looks like Meat's back on the menu boys!" I shout the words loud and clear and my neighbors are no doubt further convinced that I am insane.
Holy Week...no visions of the uncreated light yet...no grand revelations about the nature of God or His plan for our salvation...just living life in the context of the Church and her traditions, while trying to work out my salvation and perhaps helping a bit to do the same for my family. It is a grand thing...and yet it is an ordinary thing and I am ever thankful that I am where I am today.
Tomorrow we will bury God and I will say abit more about how we killed Him tonight.
I was just writing a beautiful piece about my experience with Holy Week thus far...really heartfelt and full of self-revelation. Nicholas decided to help by wandering up and pressing the ESC key. You should try it sometime, it deletes everything here in the blogging field. Cool.
Am I angry? Of course. Welcome to Holy Thursday in the Ferrenberg home. Talk about self-revelation.
Much ado about atonement lately. Simon has some interesting things to add and one particular comment he made while contemplating the idea that sin is like a sickness really got me thinking: We talk about Jesus taking our sin – but sickness is not transferable.
Perhaps not…but need it be? Many of the patients I work with have undergone some sort of transplant – typically bone marrow. BM transplants are rather unique in that they can be done in hopes of remedying a variety of disorders. For those who do not know: all of your blood cells are “grown” and differentiated in your BM and from there they proceed to function in their natural capacities, whether that be to carry oxygen or to fight disease. In a BM transplant, a patient’s diseased Bone Marrow is destroyed (usually via radiation) and a portion of a donor’s BM is transplanted into the patient with the intent of it thriving and growing therein and thus eventually utterly replacing the patient’s blood cells (along with ALL their various functions) with the donor’s. Dangers lie everywhere, such as the fact that any diseases the donor might have had will now become the patient's! It is a complex and risky proposition and the patients will spend the rest of their lives taking various drugs and undergoing many therapies in order to prevent relapse (sometimes the old diseased bone marrow will take over - a potential problem I believe that is eventually lost) and/or rejection, but despite the dangers it is very often the only hope some people have and it has proven to save many lives.
Much the same, the Christian life begins with Baptism…in which we die with Christ, the old man is crucified (like irradiated BM), and we have transplanted into us (through the Eucharist and all the sacraments) new life via Christ our Perfect, Holy, and Divine donor. His divine life is imbued in us and as we strive to abide in Him, we will be healed of the disease that has afflicted us.
"Abide in Me...I am the vine, you are the branches…
I recognize that I am man beset by pride. Hell, I am beset by many passions...but I am thinking about pride at the moment. I had confession on Lazarus saturday and while it was a good experience, I think I experienced more repentence the night before during the Pre-sanctified Liturgy during which God made me acutely aware of my hidden pride. Confession then became a confirmation of this and a final cleansing...well final, in a temporary sense. My priest reminded me that confession is a powerful exercise in humility...yes, yes it truly is. Sometimes I hate it - which is usally a good indicator of something that is exceptionally good for me.
Do you think that worrying too much about what other people think about you is a form of pride? I do now...perhaps some of you are amazed that I am only just now realizing this? You've not read my blog long enough.
I sometimes find myself feeling as though other people are judging me...in many regards, not the least of which is my children's behavior in Church. As I look into my heart I can see that I am too often less interested in raising my children into people who will LOVE Liturgy, and much more vainly interested in NOT being embarrassed by their behavior. Well...no more of that fecal matter...I reject it! And I reject the judgements of those who may or may not be judging me.
I suppose a truly humble and holy person would not have any notion at all of what others thought of him or her...rather they would ever be responding to God's love and a desire to express it to others. Well, therein is perfection...the target to aim for. Doing what is right, not because it appears right to others, but because it is quite simply the right thing to do.
It's all about attitude, right? Well, yes, for the most part. So how do I know that what I am doing is being done with the proper attitude?
Well, the easiest way for me to identify a wrong attitude is simply by observing whether or not I get angry. For instance when one of my children begins to slash at the air with his blessed Palm branch during the Liturgy; do I react with anger, fearing that some ninny back in the back will be scandalized (remember: evangelicals are offended, Orthodox are scandalized) by such treatment of a blessed object...or do I calmly stop him and explain to him the importance of what he is holding...ever realizing that no human being can reasonably expect to shove any long semi-rigid object into the hand of a 3 year old boy and expect him not to imagine wielding a sword during a boarding action. Heck, I was half tempted to imagine such!
Anyway, rambling thoughts on the journey toward illumination, purification, and deificiation...all amidst Holy Week.
Today we experienced the precursor of Pascha...the Resurrection of Lazarus which points to Christ's Resurrection and ultimately to our own. It is the tell tale sign that Lent is done and Holy Week beginning. Whilst many are opting to stop blogging this week, I have decided to carry on with the understanding that I find this time of theological speculation and contemplation beneficial to my salvation (at least most of the time)...if nothing else it causes me to consider those things which are most important and to set aside other less profitable things I could be doing on this computer.
Yes, yes, I could recede into a monastic-like state of being for the next 7 days (and no doubt this would be profoundly beneficial), but come on...I have four kids who are screaming and running about the house at this very moment. I am going to join them as they relish LIFE, and we'll pray later...and later still I may blog some more.
LIFE...brought to you by God. Ask Lazarus.
In confirming the common Resurrection, O Christ God,
Thou didst raise up Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion.
Wherefore we also, like the children, bearing the symbols of victory,
cry to Thee, the Vanquisher of death:
Hosanna in the highest; blessed in He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Please forgive the length of this post - if any of you should actually choose to read it all - it has been brewing in me for sometime and when that is the case, things tend to ferment, metabolize, and grow.
It is not uncommon for me during this time of year, as hints of summer begin to appear, that I set my mind and its thoughts toward the local rivers. I have always loved rivers, though I am not entirely sure why. I have vivid and sometimes scary memories of canoeing the Little Ohio River and fishing Beaver Creek back in Ohio as a young kid – ah yes, when a 4-inch minnow was consider a monstrous catch! Moving to Southern California put an end to much of my river and stream fascinations for a time, for as much as those who live their try and deny it (with sprinklers and vast irrigation systems), that land is a parched desert. Rivers would make only an occasional appearances during those rare times when the blue canopy turned to grey and the vast concrete channels would fill, but the land’s brownness would remain.
When I moved to Washington to go to College, I can still my remember my amazement at how green everything was…I had never seen so much green…and it was late summer! Rain, rain, rain…indeed the polar opposite of my experience just north of Mexico. But the snow pack keeps the rivers full as they meander their way down to Puget Sound from the scenic Cascades…and they are full of salmon and steelhead.
The renewing of my love affair with rivers would begin with Whitewater Rafting, a sport which, here in the Northwest with its hundreds of rapid waterways, seems to have a ceaseless supply of new adventures. The advent of children slowed this adventuring spirit, and when my wife and I decided to buy a house we knew we had precious little money and so opted for a region we could afford; we found ourselves along the Skykomish River in the small town of Sultan. In that same time period of my life, I began to recover from my temporary religious furlough and while settling into our new home I found myself spending more and more time along the banks of that beautiful river. At first just exploring, watching, perhaps praying…but soon I would take a rod and reel in hand to try and experience the wonder of the quarry that lies beneath those often deep green waters.
Thankfully, I would find a father to guide me. Like the spiritual life, he showed me the way and I began to see fruit. Many a warm, wet summer day and a cold wetter still winter day would be spent drifting upon those waters…and I learned to recognize by popular name each and every hole, each and every rapid, each and every bend; where to stop and fish and where to keep on drifting along. But no matter what, the beauty of it all is inspiring and even as I sit here typing I can hear and feel the gentle sounds of the water trickling underneath my anchored driftboat. I can picture the pre-sunrise mornings when the water temperature is slightly greater than the air and the river oozes clouds, while unseen salmonids teasingly leap and slap the water all around me. I can feel the strength of the great fish…that initial heartbeat skipping lurch of the fishing rod…fish or no: this is paradise. But I can also hear the booming roar of her rapids, a warning that demands my sobriety and attention.
You see the river is not mine. As much as I might call her so, I know better. She is so much bigger than me, so much older than me and she could kill me in a moment if she should find herself so inclined. She is beautiful…but powerful beyond belief. I have watched her rip and carry away entire trees in her flooded wrath. And I have also watched the rescue helicopters search her lengths, trying desperately and futilely to find the imprudent individual who tempted her and rode her with a $4.00 grocery store bought raft and a case of beer towed behind in an inner tube. Sometimes she would permit such a blasphemy, but not always. She is not a tame river, and approaching her ought to be not unlike how we approach prayer…with a certain understanding of the dangers we put ourselves in. In this vein of thinking I am reminded of the traditions of the Church and how they prepare us – just like the wisdom of the old men who have ridden these rivers for decades and whose fathers before them did the same are able to provide us newbies with the necessary cautions and techniques to safely push off from shore.
I long for the season to begin…fish or no: I want to hear and feel her.