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.
Gathering once a month, save periods of fasting, the "League" meets in order to enjoy some manly-stuff such as sampling scotch, bourbon (etc.) that most of us would never be able to afford on our own, eating, and smoking some of the finest pipeweed available (in our price range). As a side we also solve all of the world's problems.
In a moment of severe levity I found myself insisting to my daughter Charissa that I was really just a kid. We argued heatedly over the matter - though she laughed often, and finally being wholly frustrated she announced that she was going to tattle on me.
"To Who?" I asked.
Thinking for a moment, she blurted out, "George Washington!"
"What?!?!" I asked in dismay.
"Yes," she said matter of factly, "George Washington is a leader and he is the boss."
Later as we were leaving the store, I asked if she had been learning about George Washington in school.
"No," she insisted, "I see him. He is high up in the sky and I see him there ALOT."
I was baffled, until we were loading the van and she pointed skyward and said: "SEE!"
First a big thanks to all of you who took the time to send me well wishes on my Name Day via email – even from some folks I hardly knew!
This Sunday we visited Nicholas’ and Charissa’s Godparent’s mission parish in Snohomish and it was a wonderful experience. We would have been a part of this effort had we not moved from Sultan - in fact we pushed for the mission and waited as long as we could stand it before finally giving in and moving closer to St. Paul’s…and THEN the mission really started moving along…sigh.
Anyway, on the way in we drove near our old Episcopal Parish and one of my kids recognized it. Kelsey immediately clarified and pointed out to her younger sibling that: “That’s not the REAL church we go to now.” I laughed with nowhere near the innocence in which her statement was made.
Fr. David from St. Andrew's in Arlington served the Liturgy and I was quite amazed to see how the snohomish missionaries had carved and framed a beautiful little chapel out of a seemingly bland little business park garage. Indeed, we can create Holy Space ANYWHERE!
Fr. David’s homily was outstanding…he sounded like many of my post-mod church planting friends who rail against “numbers and size.” He encouraged the missionaries (aka mission parishoners) to focus on the heart of Orthodoxy which is found not in numbers of people, or the elaborate décor of the chapel, but rather on healing through purification, illumination, and deification. I was encouraged and I must, admit upon leaving, a bit jealous that I could not play a bigger part in their work at this mission.
Speaking of Healing – the sermon reminded me of section 44 of St. Athanasios’ On the Incarnation, which we had just read in Men’s Group the day before. Really, if you wish to better understand the Orthodox belief in Salvation, read it! Here is an excerpt:
You must know, moreover, that the corruption which had set in was not external to the body but established within it. The need, therefore, was that life should cleave to it in corruption's place, so that, just as death was brought into being in the body, life also might be engendered in it. If death had been exterior to the body, life might fittingly have been the same. But if death was within the body, woven into its very substance and dominating it as though completely one with it, the need was for Life to be woven into it instead, so that the body by thus enduing itself with life might cast corruption off. Suppose the Word had come outside the body instead of in it, He would, of course, have defeated death, because death is powerless against the Life. But the corruption inherent in the body would have remained in it none the less. Naturally, therefore, the Savior assumed a body for Himself, in order that the body, being interwoven as it were with life, should no longer remain a mortal thing, in thrall to death, but as endued with immortality and risen from death, should thenceforth remain immortal. For once having put op corruption, it could not rise, unless it put on life instead; and besides this, death of its very nature could not appear otherwise than in a body. Therefore He put on a body, so that in the body He might find death and blot it out. And, indeed, how could the Lord have been proved to be the Life at all, had He not endued with life that which was subject to death? Take an illustration. Stubble is a substance naturally destructible by fire; and it still remains stubble, fearing the menace of fire which has the natural property of consuming it, even if fire is kept away from it, so that it is not actually burnt. But suppose that, instead of merely keeping the fire from it somebody soaks the stubble with a quantity of asbestos, the substance which is said to be the antidote to fire. Then the stubble no longer fears the fire, because it has put on that which fire cannot touch, and therefore it is safe. It is just the same with regard to the body and death. Had death been kept from it by a mere command, it would still have remained mortal and corruptible, according to its nature. To prevent this, it put on the incorporeal Word of God, and therefore fears neither death nor corruption any more, for it is clad with Life as with a garment and in it corruption is clean done away.
There are a number of soldier saints in the Orthodox Church, this young man might be the newest. Another article may be found here. And a third (which includes some images of his "icons") here.
I must, however, object to this line in the first article:
Church elders have frowned upon Yevgeny's grassroots canonisation.
PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The VAST majority of Orthodox Saints became so through what could be called a "grassroots canonisation." In fact, how else could it happen in the Orthodox Church? Either the reporter is blabbing and stating what he/she wants to believe or the "elders" have other reasons for objecting to the canonization.
As it turns out, this story is quite old - Yevgeny was martyred in 1996.
Prior to marrying my wife, I didn’t want kids at all. And when my future wife told me that she wanted to be a full-time mother, I was dumbfounded, perhaps even appalled. After all, only illiterate trailer-trash women from the backcountry hills of Appalachia actually aspire to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Women have a right (obligation) to have careers of their own that do not involve the duties of raising children and providing for the overall domestic well being of the family.
You see I had bought WHOLESALE into the lie that in order to be an intelligent and sophisticated woman, said woman MUST have a career outside of the home. Well, my beloved soon had me rethinking my indoctrinated little mind on this matter and so now I am forced to ask: What has changed our minds here in America to begin to dismiss the CAREER of motherhood? The very noble and “helluva lot harder job than I have” task of raising children? (It should be noted, that the job responsibilities of a full-time Mom do not end there either, do they?)
What are we about, as a people, demeaning full-time moms? And speaking deridingly of “soccer moms” and “mini-van moms”? I wonder if it is not the end of us as a civilization…really! Exactly whose hand IS rocking the cradle today when we live in society where one presidential candidates wife can say of the other: “I don’t know if she ever had a REAL job” and then later apologize because in fact she did have a “REAL” job. Ahem, ladies, are you not both mothers? It seems to me that the apology may have been misdirected – I am waiting for the phone call my wife is presently due.
And who is going to apologize (in the St. Justin Martyr sense of the word) for the SACRED job of motherhood? Careers, for men and women, should take a back seat to MANY things, not the least of which include: salvation and family. And when your career IS your family, well think about that! Is it not a holy thing?
Great literature is such often because it provides for us some profound lessons on life. For those who deny that such is the case for The Lord of the Rings, perhaps you may be convinced by an unusual audio commentary that was to be included on the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, but unfortuantely the US media (under the thumb of the military industrial complex) suppressed its inclusion in the original release.
I recall in my classes while studying Asian religions to generally try and avoid perceiving the Yin and the Yang as exclusively female and male respectively. None-the-less, it is difficult not to see the parallels, if from no other point of view – certainly in a sexual sense. The Yin is generally characterized by receptivity (the feminine power) and the Yang by assertiveness (the masculine power). The word "power" was not unintentionally used in my textbook, I think.
In this train of thought, I find myself thinking about how we are saved, and specifically how as Orthodox we affirm the existence of our role in the process and yet wholly believe that we cannot save ourselves and that ultimately it is God who saves us. It seems to me that being a recipient can certainly be an active thing.
We must make an effort (yea, even STRIVE) to be receptive to that salvific assertiveness – so wonderfully made manifest through the incarnation. It is leading me to ponder the idea of asceticism as being a form of submission and receptivity. I sense a certain truth there.
Do you suppose this may be part of the reason that we hold to the notion of God as Groom and his Church as Bride?
...in some parts of the world (in this case Belarus), you are faced with this:
It is difficult for me to imagine voting in a monastery...to face those faces on the wall. Holiness.
My mind is awash with political thoughts and I must be honest I am completely uncentered at the moment. Yesterday, during the Liturgy I found myself in a state of complete non-participation - my mind reeling with thoughts of politics. Not good.
I suspect seeing these Icons before stepping into the voting booth would be really hard to bear. How much responsibility is laid upon me to get this decision right? Can I be blamed for possibly bombing innocents under Bush? Can I be blamed for slaughtering innocents in the womb under Kerry? I do not pretend to know the answers.
I have reasons to go either direction on November 2nd, but I have at last made my decision (erring perhaps on the side of caution). And I will walk away from politics...washing my hands and trying to start looking more at the Icons on my wall and less at the "icons" on TV, in the newspapers, and on the radio.
Fearfully I watched as her little, inexperienced and inept hands lifted the bowl of hot tomato soup into the air. The color and texture of the bowl were anathema to her and she was adamant about having it replaced. Our willingness to oblige was suddenly stopped short as we saw the precariousness of situation represented by the uplifted bowl.
I tried to reason with her, not wishing to reach out and complicate the already dangerous alignment of gravitational and muscular forces. “Put the bowl down honey.”
Upon hindsight, I believe she took this to mean that I was not going to allow the request (demand) for bowl replacement. I saw her dissatisfied expression grow mores on a logarithmic scale. The bowl could not remain in its present elevated state for long.
“Please, put the bowl down,” I said emphatically, “you are going to drop it.”
She cried out in complaint, still misinterpreting my words as a denial of her initial request. And by the same token, I was not interpreting her situation properly either. In my mind she was simply disobeying me – purposefully denying MY initial request.
It was in slow motion that I watched the bowl of soup slip unsurprisingly out of her little hands and fall into the bowl of salad. I sunk into the “that figures” lamentations.
“I didn’t mean to,” she cried.
In hindsight - hindsight mind you - I can see that. God grant me foresight. Truly I must be thankful that He has perfect foresight and as I struggle to overcome my much more deliberately inept hands that He will not need to lament the bitterness of hindsight as I do so often.
Check out this story I have often heard Orthodox on e-lists debate the issue of celebrating Halloween and have been generally left with a very staunch position of indecision.
I had no idea that in some areas having Halloween fall on a Sunday was a real issue, although in my evangelical days we didn't really celebrate it at all. Some of the quotes from people in the article really left me biting my tongue and since I am in a particularly cynical mood I'll let them have it here.
"It's a day for the good Lord, not for the devil..."
"You just don't do it on Sunday...That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child."
Well that's all you get Lord...one day. We'll celebrate the devil on other days. Though I appreciate and applaud the keeping of the venerable Sunday tradition...even if perhaps some wouldn't like to call it a tradition...I am sure these folks might like to expound upon these quotes in hindsight (I hope.)
"Moving it [Halloween], that's like celebrating Christmas a week early"
As an Orthodox car should, it naturally harkens back to THE original (though perhaps dressed up a bit). I used to drive a '67 and a '70 myself - both of which I wrecked. Ahhhh...thankfully I imagine this baby moves abit faster than we Orthodox, but I will forgive it that error. Click the pic to read more about it.
[singing] Ohhhhh if I were a rich man...la da da da dee dee dee...[/singing]
From Bernard Lewis, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton in regards to American's first real exposure (Military advisors ala "The Last Samurai" and Missionaries) to the Middle east shortly after the American Civil War:
American Missionaries, though forbidden to proselytize Muslims, were able to turn some Orthodox Christians into Presbyterians...
I suspect this has not changed much in the last 150 years in many Middle Eastern countries. Well done, missionaries! It seems the military advisors had even less success.
Bojana Mitrovic (L) and Slobodan Petrovic (R) leave the 19th century St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox church after their wedding ceremony in Pristina October 10, 2004. Dozens of Serbs defied security fears on Sunday to attend the wedding in Kosovo's predominantly Albanian capital, held in the burn-out ruins of an Orthodox church targeted during mob riots in March. Picture taken October 10, 2004. REUTERS/Goran Sivacki.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you, these prophecies are coming true… - The Alarm
I do not wish to be an “Alarmist” (pun intended), but something I caught only portions of on TV last night really distrubed me because I think it was another subtle shot across the bow in an ongoing (and losing) battle of cultural ideologies.
Let’s be frank, Hollywood and the media in general has never been a friend to Christianity – or at least “o”rthodox Christianity. One is hard pressed to find an example of a conservative Christian on TV or in the movies who is not a serial murderer, rapitst, pedophile, or ____________ (fill in the blank with all manner of evil hidden sides). And so, I shouldn’t be surprised by what I saw last night.
The program “Without a Trace” had an episode in which we see a Christian terrorist blowing up Abortion clinics. Now, stop and think about the timing of this episode: an election year accompanied by lots of talk about terrorism. Hmmm…. and so the average Joe/Jane viewer sits in his/her Lazy boy and is shown the “fact” that we have our own breed of religious terrorists in America. Now of course, a discerning viewer might stop and ask: how many abortion clinics have been bombed? Lately? But likely the point the teleplay writer was trying to get across hit home: religious fundamentalism of ANY kind leads to extremism and violence. (You see, there is nothing inherent in any particular religion that might lead to violence moreso than any other particular religion – anyone buy that????)
Later in the episode we see the triumph of liberal and moderate religion. One of the victims of the bombing (face brutally burned and scarred with an arm missing) stands on a platform at what I assumed was the reopening of the clinic and offers words of forgiveness to the uncaught terrorist. “I am a religious person,” she says, “and my religion teaches me to forgive those who sin against me.” All of this while standing under a bright colored banner that proclaims “Keep abortion safe and legal.”
And so you see folks who is the hero and who is the villian? Ah yes! Good old heretic bishop Spong has said that unless Christianity changes it will die. Well, he is wrong. Actually, it is this: unless Christians change THEY will die. Perhaps not literally – at least for the moment it is harder to see that – but socially. I have said it before and I will say it again: the time is coming when if we maintain our traditional views on morality we will be labelled as extremists (oh wait that is already happening – I’ve seen the political ads on TV) and we will be lumped in with the likes of “white-seperatists.”
The coming great persecution…I am reminded of the sign in the bar down the street: “No homophobes et al. allowed” I guess I’d have to go in and take a quiz to see if I qualify. I suppose if I told them I did NOT support a woman’s “right to choose” that I’d be tossed out as well? Anyone else see the potential coming storm?
Want to talk about prophecy fullfilment? What did Jesus tell us about whether or not we could expect persecution? How about St. John? Could the “new” anti-christ be less of a person and more of a mob-like ideology? We Orthodox are not awaiting a rapture evacuation plan – be it pre, mid, or post. Rather we are to seek perfection such that we may endure.
Under the emperor Diocletion, all the Christians had to do was burn a pinch of incense in honor of the emperor to escape torture, maiming, or death. That is it…they could have done so with their fingers crossed and then run away smiling. But many didn’t and those that did were to face a good deal of grief (in fact the Church split over the issue of whether to receive them back into communion after repentance or not.) They took it very seriously, do we?
So, to whom are we being asked to burn a pinch of incense to today? Will we “make the stand”?
She continues to rumble and grow and the threat of something big is on again/off again. But one thing that has not been mentioned by anyone that I have seen is the fact that any large event could wreck havoc on the already fragile salmon runs in potentially affected watersheds in that area...stay tuned.
HR tells us about this latest version of God. Check it out yourself here.
It reminded me of some portions of Fr. Schmemann’s book on church history that I have been reading in regards to Christianity trying to maintain its identity and yet relating to the world around it. Theories abound about how compromise entered the Church early in her life, but if you think about it, these claims are next to impossible to prove and amount to little more than conjecture. Discussing politics now is impossible, imaging trying to do so with events over 1800 years ago. One would be tempted to simply throw their hands in the air with frustration and say that no one knows so why bother. Christianity can be and/or mean whatever you want, so it seems to be the case today.
Ahh...but we have the Church. And we have the testimony of those in it at the time. Fr. Schmemann:
The Church had first to protect itself from all attempts to reconcile Christianity too easily with the spirit of the times and reinterpret it smoothly in Hellenistic patterns. If the Church had remained only in Jewish molds it would not have conquered the world; but if it had simply adapted these molds to those of Hellenistic thought, the world would have conquered Christianity.
No doubt, this is a precarious situation the Church found/finds herself in. Who, or I should say what individual or particular group of individuals, could/can feel the authority to decide when we have have strayed too far to one side or the other? Gnosticism was the personification of a compromised and hellenized Christianity; today I think there are many more examples of compromised Christianity.
The answer might be found in the words of my family patron St. Irenaios of Lyon which I offer at the Paradosis library as well as in part here.. Fr. Schmemann comments on St. Irenaios’ approach:
...ultimately, Irenaeus opposed Gnosticism – the seduction of schism and partial interpretation of Christianity – not by another interpretation but by the very fact of the Church as a visible, palpable unity which alone preserves and transmits to its members the whole truth and fullness of the Gospel. The canon of the Scriptures, the succession of bishops, the interpretation of prophecies, are all only outward forms of this fundamental unity, aside from which they mean nothing. The most significant answer the Church gave to the temptations of the second century was its clear doctrine about itself, its “catholic self-consciousness.” Although this self-consciousness had become more precise as a result of conflict, the Church was victorious not by creating something new, nor by metamorphosis, but by realizing and strengthening what it had been from the very beginning.
While listening to an NPR special on "Religion in Politics" we were blessed (pun intended) to hear about how Kerry is strategically going after the moderate Christian vote - since he already has the liberals and Bush already has the conservatives. A coworker said to me that they were dumbfounded by it all because after all "religion is solely a private affair."
Well, no it is not. I would argue that NOTHING (yes, read it again: NOTHING) is a private affair. On the contrary, everything we do, think, say, and feel (even in the bedroom) somehow has wide reaching consequences that makes it so that even our religion has an effect that extends beyond ourselves. If it doesn't, then you ain't practicing it my brothers and sisters - my patron says as much and his letter made in into the canon!
Alas, we live in society in which relegating relgious belief to the proverbial bedroom (out of sight - out of mind, ain't nobody's business, do what feels good) has become quite vogue and as my own experience has born out, I believe will become a legal issue as well (especially for conservative "o"rthodox Christians who are well on their way to being labelled "extremist", "radicals" , and "bigots."
John sent me the an interesting article. While I am grieved to read about two Orthodox Christian senators who support abortion (even partial birth ones - geez...what must it be like to be a religious political candidate whose bishop cannot and will not recommend that people vote for you...or at least preach against your decisions?) it is none-the-less a tribute to the direction our world is headed. Yes, abortion is wrong...for me. Here is the article. Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse is a lot more optimistic than me...and likely a whole heckuva lot holier for it.
Can someone try and explain to me how exactly an Orthodox Christian politician can vote to support abortion "rights"? How do we reconcile that? I mean don't get me wrong: I am not trying to pretend to be self-righteous, hell any of you out there who know me can attest to the fact that I cannot seriously pretend to be self-righteous - but if I were called upon to publically cast a vote and be forced to defend my decision for or against partial birth abortion...well...man, I just don't get it.
Anyway, any readers from Maine or Maryland might wish to contact Olympia Snowe or Paul Sarbanes (respectively) to ask about their position...but in answer "how?" I think the article provides some insight.
In the end it is all about: "Shhhh...no one need know that I am a christian...let alone an extremist orthodox one."
Remember this classic (if I do say so myself) Paradosis post from March 3, 2003?
If you are a serious angler and you REALLY want to practice your apathia, try taking a 7 year old fishing. Furthermore, try having that same 7 year old, who must have snagged the anchor rope 800 times, outfish you. Humility indeed! Though in my defense, I had to neglect all of my fishing time by providing for her ability to fish via knot untangling and snag releasing. Ahhhh...the essence of parenting captured in a single days adventure. Worth it?
But, when I am left to practice my art without children?
Yeah well, who can avoid talking about politics after the "big" debate last night? But rather than tread that specific water, I want to mention a little commercial (which is kinda what the debate was, wasn't it?) by our senator Patty Murray that I saw last night.
In it, we are told that her opponent stands against "life-saving stem cell research." Now, please note, that it did NOT say "potential" or "possible" or even "likely" life-saving stem cell reasearch. I should like to have the senator (since she approved the ad) present ONE SINGLE PERSON WHOSE LIFE HAS BEEN SAVED BY STEM CELL RESEARCH. JUST ONE! It really irked me to hear that, because it is so misleading!
If we, as Christians, really believe that life begins at conception, should it even matter if the ad isn't technically misleading as I believe it is? Care to take a guess at how many people have DIED for stem cell research?
And then the commercial goes on to deride the pro-life stance of Murray's opponent.
Wow, she just happened to mention the two issue with which I side the most with her opponent...hmmm...I reckon they got the wrong demographic with me. That commercial had rather the opposite effect than it intent.
The other Documentary and the problem of Sola Scriptura in Islam
Run originally on The Discovery Channel, Thomas L. Friedman (a three time Pulwitzer Prize winning journalist – WOW just as many Pulwitzer’s as Kerry has purple hearts, a coincidence?) made a documentary of his journey through the Middle East last year in search of the "Roots of 9/11."
Initially I figured this would be a Michael Moore-esque slam on American foreign policy and would end with the blame falling square in the laps of your everyday Joe American whose affluence left the Arab world with no choice but terrorism. In reality, I was surprised at how fair and balanced this journalist’s reporting was, and in a number of his forums in the Middle East he even went so far as to defend America – astonishing!
In previous political-religious postings I have made on the topic of terrorism, I suggested that perhaps a lot of the hatred expressed toward America is indoctrinated into people, and I must say after seeing this film, I believe it even more. At one point Friedman shows the celebration in Arab streets after news of 9/11 breaks and he interviews people who talk about their joy in seeing Arabs giving Americans a “bloody nose.” But then, when interviewing school children or others who admit to the atrocity of the attack he finds that they all have heard and apparently believe the absurd story that Jews actually did the attack (we’ve all heard the story about how all the Jews in the buldings were told to stay home that day) and that Arabs were not at all involved. So, you see, we Americans cannot win – either we deserved it or if we didn’t deserve it we are blaming the wrong people. We are dupes of the Zionists.
One Egyptian scholar/playwrite was bold enough to offer the theory that America is in fact a scapegoat for a greater and more at-home cultural problem in the Middle East. It is always easier to blame others for the problems one faces, he says (my paraphrase), and thus these terrorists, who are indeed depserate and feeling very tiny and insignificant, feel compelled to lash out against whatever “tall towers” they can find. He is even frank enough to blame the leaders of the Arab world for their people's desperate circumstances, and for many people the misdirection of blame is both troubling and detrimental to assuaging the poor conditions.
Interesting, sidenote...the Discovery Channel website has a section in which someone (Jean AbiNader of the Arab American Institute) is answering questions about Islam. A number of quotes from the Koran are offered as proof that terrorism is wrong. Read them, along with all of the Q&A and see if you can hear Jesus in them or at least parallels in the words of Christ:
In avenging the injuries inflicted upon us, do not harm the non-belligerents in their homes; spare the weakness of women; do not injure infants at the breast, nor those who are sick. Do not destroy the houses of those who offer no resistance; and do not destroy their means of subsistence..." The Koran says: "Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.(2:190)
As regards those who do not fight against you because of your religion and do not drive you out of your homes, God does not forbid you to treat them with goodness and to be just to them.(60:8)
I know I am being a judgemental jerk here (right?), but I am guessing I can come up with at least a few quotes from our Lord that would better deter terrorism than this. Even some that not only doesn't forbid treating enemies with kindness, but that actually DEMAND it.