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.
Zoe for Life Tomorrow we remember the Holy Innocents. According to tradition, Herod slaughtered 14,000 children in his mad quest to kill Christ...I think this memorial is particularly stinging today as we see so many horrific scenes coming from Asia: far too many mothers weeping for far too many of their lost children. Christ have mercy. The IOCC (link in the menu to the left) is apparently organizing some aid.
Zoe for Life is a crisis pregnancy pro-life Orthodox charity that my wife is planning to work with and that we have decided to support (in a most humble yet heartfelt way). I encourage you to consider doing the same. The icon above is from Come and See Icons and was apparently written for Zoe for Life.
As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers,
as divine firstfruits and newborn lambs,
you were offered to Christ who was born as a Child, O most pure children.
You mocked Herod's wickedness: now we beseech you, unceasingly pray for our souls.
Christmas is here, and no matter what the renewed traffic, "after-holiday sales", television commercials, resumption of regular radio broadcasting might seem to imply the FEAST has only just begun!!!! This FACT sits well with us, because Christmas was so hectic that we welcome the next 12 days of relaxing and celebrating. There is still plenty of Abunadh left, so feel free to stop by.
One of the most kick-butt aspects of the Orthodox faith is the richness of her services. One could literally sit down with a service book and become overwhelmed with Orthodox theology. Some selections from Christmas Matins that I found particularly moving and intriguing:
How can a womb contain Him whom nothing can contain?
How can He remain in His Father's bosum, yet rest in His mother's arms?
It is His good pleasure to accomplish this!
Having no flesh, He purposely assumes it for our sake.
He who is becomes what He never was.
He shares our substance without forsaking His own nature.
Desiring to make us citizens of the world in high,
Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, is born on earth as a man.
Heaven brought the first fruits of the Gentiles as a gift for You;
A star summoned the wise men to the babe in the manger.
They were amazed to see neither throne nor scepter,
But only abject poverty.
What is more humble than a cave?
What is more lowly than swaddling clothes?
Yet the riches of Your divinity shone through all these.
O Lord, glory to You!
...though we were formed from dust, by this communion we are made divine!
Babylon plundered Zion, and captured all her royal wealth.
But now, with a guiding star,
Christ lures her treasure-laden wise men back to Zion
When it was time for Your coming on earth,
The first imperial taxation was held,
But You also tokk a census, O Lord,
Recording the names of all men who believe in Your birth.
You used the decree of Caesar for Your own end:
To make manifest Your timeless and eternal Kingdom!
Therefore we pay You our taxes, not with golden coind,
But with the riches of Orthodox theology...
Jared, me esteemed coworker, Godson, and fellow parishoner, found a little flyer for a "Bible Study" to be held in the Sanctuary of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where we work.
All noble intentions aside (naturally it is me writing, ya know!), one section of the flyer really threw me into an ECUSA flashback:
"We will begin each session with a time of quiet, of centering ourselves, of preparing us to hear the words of scripture openly and in a new way. The last point is very important. We are not coming together to necessarily share insights we have been taught by others but to be open to what we can hear today...we come to learn from each other, including those who may hear a different message from the scripture."
The importance ascribed to denying any form of traditional interpretation is not unexpected. But it does, to a large degree, exclude my ability to participate in this Bible Study. From my perspective, if I were to rely on what I "hear today" as opposed to what "has always been heard by everyone, everywhere" well then I should be content to remain right where I am - clearly affirmed in the rightness of my wallowing in the mud.
In the comments associated with this post I noted that it would be interesting to see if anyone actually reads the thousands of quizzes that had to be turned in by employees after suffering through "diversity training."
Well, amazingly enough, someone is in fact paid to "grade" the quizzes. They didn't like mine and sent it back to me with a little note to my boss:
"Obviously this is a joke to James. His answers were flippant and offensive. This just shows the need for diversity training."
I am so excited that my answers were considered "offensive!" The word offensive is soooo interesting to me, in fact I was just telling my esteemed coworker Jared this morning how much I LOVE that word and its over use in today's PC culture. I am also glad that my answers justify the test designers'/graders' employment with the University - you're welcome folks! Now, can I get back celebrating homogeny and being generally intolerant?
In the end, I was clapped in irons and at eight bells was escorted out with the rest of the PC defaulters to be flogged. Afterwards we shared some good laughs at my answers over some grog.
If you are like me you have in the back of your mind a vision of the "perfect" Christmas. Mine usually involves a gathering of close friends and family, retreating together into a large log cabin nestled amidst white dressed conifers in the snowy cascade mountains. Heavy Flannel and thick colorful wool sweaters abound as we huddle around a large fireplace drinking egg nog, hot cocoa, or scotch while singing Christmas carols and retelling old well worn stories.
Notably absent are screaming children, dirty diapers, tipped over Christmas trees, special presents left by the dog, leaking tree stands, battery-less electronic toys and associated angry child, a huge credit card bill, ill feelings about not having enough money to buy really cool gifts, arguments, burnt food, fender benders, and general everyday dysfunctional family strife.
Come to think of it, I've never really had a "perfect" Christmas. And despite the television commercials, the Hallmark TV specials, and my own imagination...one wonders if such a thing even really exists.
Today, I know many people who are suffering in many different ways this Christmas: some are away serving their country, some are living amidst the chaos of war and terrorism, some are enduring a first Christmas without a loved one, some are mourning the loss a cherished unborn child, and some are looking toward a bleak future with a loved one stricken by cancer or some other terminal ailment Indeed for these, this Christmas will be much further from "perfection" than mine.
As is my relatively new custom (since becoming Orthodox) I intend to see my family to bed on Christmas Eve and then retire into the living room, burn some incense, light some candles and ponder the wonders of the Incarnation. The icon of the Nativity will be staring down at me and now, as I consider this future event, I am reminded of one of the scenes in that icon where we see the infant Christ being bathed (usually in the right hand bottom corner.) It is a curious thing...the need to be washed implies the decidedly imperfect need of removing dirt. This says something, I think, that is very important - particularly in regard to my notions of a perfect Christmas.
Christ did not enter into the scene of a "perfect" Christmas, quite the contrary: He entered a world that is dirtied and full of imperfection. His condescension was to make perfect that which is not perfect and so in a way my vision of a "perfect" Christmas is really a terrible distraction if you think about it. The perfection of Christmas is found precisely in its imperfection...does that make sense? We may take comfort in knowing that in The Feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord, and God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ we do see perfection that transcends any heart warming television special or any visions of log cabin Christmas'.
May Christ be especially with those who have very good reason to envision a more perfect Christmas.
Not exactly one of the beatitudes or the fruits of the Spirit, none-the-less it is next month's "virtue of the month" at my daughter's elementary school. It still gives me pause to hear about a government school that is supposed (so say the "seperation of Church and State" crowd) to be completely agnostic, teaching "virtues." I suppose it is a neccesary thing in our "post-christian" era. Sad, really.
But what exactly is going to be said about tolerance? I am truly curious. The dictionary definition says this: The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.
Okay, fair enough...but what does it mean to "respect the beliefs and practices of others."? Does that mean I cannot or ought not to criticize Mormon theology? Does that mean that I cannot critique the practices of the ECUSA when they bring Wiccan ceremony's into their liturgy? Am I being intolerant when I say that the Pope does not hold universal authority over the Church? (Actually the "toters of tolerance" would likely be okay with this sort of intolerance...funny how sometimes tolerance is only allowed to go so far.)
Was Saint Nicholas being intolerant when he gave Arius a smack in the face? Or perhaps Christ and the Theotokos were being intolerant or insensitive to Arians when they mystically reinstated Saint Nicholas after the council had deposed him?
So how exactly do we overcome this popular stigma of intolerance and yet retain our right (and duty?) to publically disagree? I am still deciding on how to compliment (read: overcome) the indoctrination Kelsey will be receiving next month, to some extent I guess I will have to wait and see what is actually being taught, but regardless in some way or another my daughter will learn that being tolerant does NOT mean agreeing.
...for my friend and his wife who have just lost their unborn baby. They had been trying for so long and this sad news has fallen and crushed what had been a joyous miracle in a joyous time of the year. (To clear up confusion, this couple are not parishoners at St. Paul's)
I behold a strange but very glorious mystery:
Heaven - the cave;
The throne of the Cherubim - the Virgin.
The manger - the receptacle in which Christ our God,
Whom nothing can contain, is lying
Do any of you recall the Altar Boys? They once had a Christmas song ("Silent Night") that I had pretty much all but forgotten about. Oddly enough, the Orthodox hymnology of Nativity a couple of years back somehow caused some long since shorted-out synapse to fire and I have found myself listening to this song again. It is wonderful.
Way across the fields where the starlight falls
On the road to this little town
If the stars could tell a story
Which way would it end?
Who would lose, and who would win?
And it looks like the whole world is waiting
Far off in the land of kings
The humble man misused
Army come, set his house on fire
Terrorized and broken, the humble hide and pray
"Show us a sign, or take us away."
And it looks like the whole world is waiting
This is the moment we've waited for
Some men gave their lives writing out the ancient books
About the place where the kingdom come
A king to walk among us
One to call our own
Finally come to make this His home
And it looks like the whole world is waiting
Silent hearts, silent night
One voice to be heard
From the stables
There, a baby cries
The voice of God calling to a silent world.
Riding by the light of an unknown star
In the night full of heaven's hope
Hearing the news of angels
The hubmle make their way
coming to town to look for the King
And it look like the whole world is waiting
Silent hearts, silent night
All creation waits for this moment
Now the kingdom comes
To a world crying out
Silent hearts, silent night
One voice to be heard
From the stables
There, a baby cries
The voice of God calling to a silent world
I think I have done rather well in keeping the letter of the fast - at least as much as I intended to - however, the extent to which I have kept the spirit of the fast is somewhat less clear. But, the profound mystery of Advent and Nativity is beginning to materialize out of the smoke of everyday life in the busy Ferrenberg abode. I think I will put the Nativity Icon out next week. We try and make such iconographic changes a big deal in the house - parading it about the home initially in a funny procession full of smokey incense and chanting. The kids love it.
The song on the radio proclaims that "it's the most wonderful time of the year" and indeed I have to agree. While Orthodoxy in my life has shifted a greater importance (if I dare to quantitate such things) to Pascha...well I guess I should just say that it has raised the importance of Easter to a level at least equaling Christmas regarding the extent to which we celebrate it. All things in Christ's life are for our salvation...but of course Resurrection...Glory to that grand crescendo!
But Incarnation...what a mystery. Pay close attention to the hymns in the next week (if you are lucky enough to have a Parish that has the Vesper of Preparation) and on Christmas Eve/Morning because they are some of the most thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, and generally "wow"-ified words you will hear. I have made it a real habit to try and experience Nativity from the perspective of the Theotokos...and a number of the hymns sing with her voice and they rock the foundations of the world.
Last night my wife and I were engaged in a rather deep conversation - mostly revolving around some of the crazy things that people (read: me) do. I am the type of person who can easily get obsessed with something: a computer game, a hobby, a sport, a TV show, a movie, you name it. Computer games probably top the list and in a rare moment of honesty here on Paradosis I can say that on more than one occasion I have gotten so obsessed that I began to allow my gameplay to interfere with everyday life. Staying up to all hours of the night and then being grumpy with my family the next day because of my lack of sleep. Neglecting social opportunities with friends in lieu of some good game time! Sometimes even calling in sick because of being too tired and for craving the opportunity to play the game. Almost like a drug. Hopefully I am not alone in this sort of behavior...perhaps I have an addictive personality?
But the main point I made last night is that sometimes I can get to the point where I know that what I am doing is nuts, I know that I am neglecting my responsibilities, and I know that what I am doing is self-destructive...and yet I continue. More than that, anyone (but particularly those who are close to me and might realize that I am "off the wagon") who happens to make even the most vague, benign, or innocent comment (e.g. "Gee, you look tired?") can suddenly become the victim of my own self-anger. Pretty much anything that reminds me of the fact that I have allowed myself to become a slacker is looked upon with disdain. It's kinda like the whole "Nobody but me can pick on my little sister" syndrome. It's fine for me to recognize the hole I've dug myself into, but damn anyone else who reminds me of this fact - whether they intended to or not. I can recall one time when my wife and kids took a trip to Minnesota and I had to stay home, I was literally and frequently forgetting to eat because I had become so enraptured by a game called "Medal of Honor." And on one occasion when my wife called me she asked simply what I had had for dinner and it pissed me off, no doubt much to her dismay.
It is really sad how such stupid things can screw up such important things.
As I finished my little bit of confession, my wife said, "You know, you really are a wise person."
"Sure," I laughed, "I am a bastion of wisdom...unapplied."
Trying not to feel proud of my wife's comment, but tacking on a dose of humility probably just makes me feel more proud...ah hell...who can escape THAT vicious circle. Just get to bed.
What a wonderful Christmas gift - assuming I can actually get it shipped to Washington. Still waiting to find out if I will be able to receive it.
Click the pic to find out more about Aberlour's A'Bunadh. As a side, one can find a number of potential pronunciations, but the most common by far has it pronounced "a-boon-arh" and it means "the origin."
If you check the links at the end of the article you can see what the notorius "Infidel.org" folks have to say about it all. (see the 2004 article here). What strikes me as being funny is the sense of relief these people express in that at least he isn't a Christian!
I have bad news for the atheists...getting to theism is the BIG step. Hopefully Flew will be exposed to some solid Christians who can clear up his bias that sees the Christians god as a sort of "cosmic Saddam Hussein."
Yeah, I know. I used to be just like you. The thought of Country Music put into my head the whiny twang of a steel guitar along with an equally twangy red state southerner singing about Ford Pickup trucks, hound dogs, honky-tonks, and Confederate flags.
But, thanks to my wife – and no doubt thanks also to my continued procession toward being elderly – I have come to a different conclusion, such that I will be the first to stand up and defend this musical genre when the cultural and artistic elitists that surround me insult it.
Let me put it to you bluntly: Country Music is the only genre of music that has a huge proportion of its participants unashamedly advocate values that I personally hold dear. Ahhh, yes, that dreaded and overly politicized term: Family Values. Join me on a brief tangent as I heap shame upon those of you who have demonized this venerable phrase: SHAME ON YOU!
How about songs that celebrate LIFELONG devotion and love between one man and one woman?
How about songs that extol parenthood and uplift the love between parent and child?
How about songs that discourage materialism and praise simple living?
How about songs that encourage giving and selflessness?
How about songs that encourage one to stop focusing on financial or other everyday hardships and trials and instead delight in the simple joys of family life?
How about songs that reminds us of the wisdom to be found in our elderly?
How about songs that dare to speak positively about patriotism?
How about songs that are played on “secular” airwaves and yet have no fear in speaking about the importance of faith – even going so far as to mention Jesus by name?
How about songs that celebrate commitment rather than sex?
How about songs that encourage us to hope for everyday miracles?
How about songs that speak about the joy of watching your children grow up?
How about songs that so move you that you must pull off to the side of the road in order to finish crying?
How about songs that cause you to turn off the radio and spend the rest of the commute thinking about ways that you can be a better parent and husband?
How about songs that make you want to rush home and lavish love, attention, and devotion upon your family?
On and on I can go…each example above coming from a specific and often different song that I had in mind. You artistic elitists can say what you like about country music, but I insist that you at least show it some respect for the fact that it stands above all other genres in its willingness to express FAMILY VALUES. Think it overly simple, lacking in artistic affluence…but I’ll tell you what, if the country music I am hearing is representative of the typical “NASCAR” mindeset, well maybe you’ll see a halo capped number “3” next to my IPA sticker on my truck in the near future.
You know all the best posts - those that would no doubt change the world - end up lost in the world of crashed browsers. Once again...for the millionth time: cut and paste...never blog directly in blogger.
When someone is free, he has rights and responsibilities. When he marries, he has few rights and very many responsibilities. When, however, he has children, he doesn't have any rights at all, but only responsibilities.
My dog really likes my hands - and most specifically my right hand. It's a funny thing to witness, because it almost seems that he interacts with my hand in the same way that my human loved ones interact with my face. He watches my hand, he nudges my hand, he licks my hand, etc. (okay, okay, my human loved one's don't usually do all this to my face - but you get the point!) If you think about it, it makes sense. Nearly every sort of "contact" he and I share involves my hand - whether that be petting, rough housing, or discipline. To him, my hands are the center of my being.
Not wholly untrue, I think. In some sense I am what I do. Or perhaps more accurately, I do what I am.
As I very weakly recall, in the movie "Witness" there is a scene where an Amish elder (a grandfather perhaps?) is speaking to the little boy who witnessed the murder. The old man is concerned about how the boy might have been affected by what he saw. At one point in the conversation the man askes the boy if he could ever kill someone. The boy responds that he could only ever kill a bad man. The elder then asks how the boy could ever know if a man is bad or not. Could he see into the depths of the man's heart? And the boy replies (my paraphrase): "No, but I can see what he does."
How long can you hide evil in your heart? I find, in my own life, that the evil bubbles out quite freely but that I do have a sort of choke valve that can stifle the flow in certain circumstances. But stick around me long enough and you will be able to see that I am unable to keep that valve closed all the time. I further find that the more I fill my heart with garbage, the harder it is to keep the valve closed. It becomes like a dam whose resevoir is overfilled. The goal, here though, is not to release the water and flood the valley, but rather to allow the prescriptions of the Church to evaporate it.
And my dog reminds me, that while I do not know sign language, my hands can none-the-less speak volumes.