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.
Tour guides in Paris are apparently having to field more and more questions that come from tourists who have read Dan Brown's fictional novel The Da Vinci Code. Naturally, the tour companies are seeing a new opportunity.
"We're extremely sensitive to preserving the pleasure of the book," she [tour guide Ellen McBreen] said, contemplating a wall of Leonardo masterpieces.
"Although our goal is to help people separate fact from fiction, we realize that simply correcting Brown's ideas by trotting out the traditional scholarship would be dull and horribly pretentious," McBreen added.
"The tour is intended to be an interactive discovery, a conversation."
So we are extremely sensitive to the book, she says while showing a profound insensitivity to the reality of the Leonardo masterpieces behind her. Read the whole article here and tell me if you also see that this is all simply going to reinforce the historical falsehoods Brown proposes.
These people MUST be way holier than I am. How could you possibly "study" the Bible with blaring rock music and scantily clad waitresses wandering about? I suppose once they are really "in tune" with Jesus they can move on to strip clubs. I am astonished...really I am. No way this would work for me, kudos to those that can focus on the bible in such places.
Thanks to Clifton for this story. Truly a breath of fresh air in that he has the guts to say:
"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal."
Working as an affiliate of the University of Washington frequently forces me to have to do stupid stupid stupid things. A recent example of which is diversity training entitled "Respect through Understanding." After the training we had the pleasure of taking a quiz...to assure everyone that we knew how to "respect through understanding." Here are my answers to the quiz:
1. What is diversity?
A heavily loaded political term. But basically it means: numerous things that are different.
2. What are 3 ways each one of us can be more culturally aware?
-Go and live amongst different cultures.
-Eat at exotic resteraunts
-Disguise yourself as a different race and then "blend in"
3. List 4 of the most frequent spoken languages at UWMC.
(please note, I don't work at the medical center and am in fact nbot even on campus!)
4. List 3 ways to ensure success when working with an interpreter.
-Let them do the talking
-Pay them well
-Make sure they speak the correct language.
5. List 3 cultural tools or resources to help staff provide care to customers from diverse cultures.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:35 PM [+] +++
Last night after we had our prayers I noticed that the coal I was using to burn the incense was still quite viable. And so as the kids were being ushered off to bed I put a couple of extra nuggets of "Rose" on the coal. As I did, my eldest daughter was watching and asked what I was doing - why was I still bruning incense after we'd finished prayers?
Well, for one, I love the smell...but more than that, it does something to me. The smell of the incense is very distinct and the very hint of it as we step into the Narthex of the Church is a sure sign of where we are going and what we are going to do. The same is true of home...the lingering scent of incense is a real comfort and encouragement to me...it, in and of itself, centers me in a way.
In the minds of my children they recognize that the rising incense is a symbol (in the eastern sense - right Seraphim?) of our prayers and so I told her that keeping a bit of incense going afterwards is sort of like the echo of our prayers. By her smile, I could tell that she seemed to appreciate and understand my answer.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:22 PM [+] +++
THIS is one of the funniest news stories I've read in a long time.
Though frankly both beers are fairly lame (in my book). Had the bear touched any of my LaConner IPA, I would have killed him and ate him. I wonder if bear and beer go well together?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:52 AM [+] +++
I really cannot escape Darwinian Genetic Determinism, or at least so I am told. I have argued round in circles with my "beloved atheist" in favor of freewill, but they cannot fathom how such a thing exists unless they grant the existance of a soul or spirit. The argument denies "selflessness" and says in essence that I am genetically and environmentally predisposed to be a religious person and therefore anything I do that "appears" to be selfless actually has some benefit or “pay-off” (perhaps even subconscious). Not that I am a great worker of selfless deeds…ahhh, thank God for determinism!
And so Mother Theresa did what she did because she derived some pleasure from it. And so those of us who would derive NO pleasure from working in leprous slums can sleep better at night, I suppose, knowing that we “just don’t have it within us.”
In any event, I cannot win this argument. No matter where I go with it I am always trumped by some higher form of pleasure a person would derive from the act supposed to be “selfless.” But, I do not grant that the argument is therefore true because it seems its very nature is slippery and fluid, adapting in true Darwinian form to fit just about any given mold. It cannot be proven…but seems to arise from a cynical set of presuppositions.
Presuppostions that I have always argued simply CANNOT be accepted and lived in real life. Indeed, we humans (deluded as we might be) wrestle everyday with decisions and we live our lives under the illusion of freewill. We as a society design our laws also with the illusion of freewill. We hold people responsible…as if they really could have chosen NOT to molest the little boy, NOT to have “sex” with the intern, NOT to steal the candy bar, and NOT to have yelled at their children for a minor offense.
A discussion last night with my wife and with Basil revealed a deep truth I think. A truth that arose when I talked about a duty I fulfill with seemingly NO “pay-off.” An example being this: As I type here, one of my kids begins asking me for a drink. I tell them to wait until I am done. They come back and ask again and I lose my train of thought and again I tell them to wait until I am done (getting a bit perturbed). AGAIN they return and ask again, whining now. Angrily I say “NO!” Tears and screaming and they haul off and head down to the playroom and begin to take out their frustrations on a brother or sister. I am forced to get up and act…and quite pissed off about it. Having handled the situation I feel much beeter, right? Heck no…I’m still mad and even now don’t feel all that great about having to do that sort of thing – about having to have my (MY!) life interrupted by the needs of these children all the time. But what if I CHOOSE to feel good about it?
What if we actually had the freewill to choose to find joy in labors that we’d normally be grunting and moaning about? Is that even possible? Can one clean dog crap out of a child’s shoe for the thousandth time after having told them to watch where they step while singing and whistling happily? Can you truly choose happiness? Am I able to change my attitude based on certain beliefs about goodness, rightness, and beauty? Can I choose based on the outdated concepts of virtue and vice?
It seems to me that genetic and environmental determinism robs the world of real beauty. Sacrifice, duty, honor, and selflessness become empty because ultimately only those who derive some form of pleasure from them accomplish these things. But can we CHOOSE to derive pleasure from these things? Herein lies the crux of the matter…such that I can say YES I do derive pleasure from certain actions and for those actions that I don’t, I can CHOOSE to. I believe it is here that we are able to see the paradox of joy and selflessness, the denying of oneself and carrying a cross along with the peace, which passes all understanding.
"Yes, honey, I will get you a drink…right now. Oh look, how cute someone painted the rug with their peanut butter sandwhich...oh hehehehe...isn’t life joyous!"
Some of you may recall a comment recently made by Imran in which he asks:
What do you think about the Catholic bishop/philosopher who proudly declared himself a hedonist, because the spiritual life is the most pleasurable? (Even if it has its challenges, it is a life to be preferred, and will certainly "pay off" when you attain the beatific vision.)
It is a valid question and one which has in different forms constantly plagued my discussions with my "beloved Atheist"
I have given a good deal of thought to the expression of the bishop that Imran mentions (no idea who he the bishop is), but I can certainly understand the perspective. For many Christians there is no need even to struggle toward any sort of beautific vision, rather Jesus is here and now making their lives WONDERFUL! For them, Christianity is perhaps a sort of hedonism.
Neither perspective (hedonism realized now or in the future) seems to mesh well with the Christianity I am given. Repentence and struggle, repentence and struggle seems to be the name of the game. Think about all the times that someone approaches Jesus expecting to be sold something - He doesn't dress it up and make it pretty for them, he doesn't change the message to make it more attractive and very often we see people walking away from Him, unable to bear the cross He tries to lay on their shoulders.
There are times when I wonder if I am able to bear the cross, and even more times when I wonder: "Now where did I leave that cross at?"
I do not deny that the struggle is all for a return to normalcy which some like to imagine as a sort of eternal ecstacy. But, paradoxically, a return to normalcy insists upon a complete denial of self, and folks that ain't all that fun, even when it is particpated in at the puny level that I am presently playing.
Lots of news about the gay N.J. governor. In the linked article much ado is made about his gayness and EVERYONE seems to believe that he is quitting because he is gay...and NOT because he obviously has some serious "issues" as a "gay" man who has married twice and biologically fathered (how do gay men manage that????) two children and then had an affair with a man who he also appointed to a high paying position on his staff. (Not to mention the variety of other ethical question marks that have surfaced)
People are quick to show compassion for the poor man, being the martyr that he is for the gay cause. A couple of constituents in N.J. say his sexual orientation shouldn't matter, gay rights groups mourn that he is a victim of homophobia, the former N.J. governor says "he made a courageous decision", etc etc etc...
But what it comes down to is this: a lot of the scandals were apparently being looked into (e.g. Who is this Israeli poet who has been named "homeland security adviser" by the governor?) And then the Israeli poet/lover was apparently threatening a sexual harassment lawsuit unless the good governor paid him off.
Yes, yes, a VERY courageous decision to announce that a house of cards was going to collapse. And to do so in such a way to elicit sympathy for the architect. Well done governor! Look for his "icon" at your local gay pride parade.
On my way between my bus stop and my work I pass two interesting buildings. One is St. Spiridon's Orthodox Cathedral and the other is a Bar that references a coyote I think. Anyway, in the window of the bar I noticed a sign that reads something like this:
If you want to be a bigot, go somewhere else
It made me wonder if I would be welcome in that bar. While I am not a racist by anyone's definition (I think), people's various and lose definitions of "sexist" and especially "homophobe" are certainly broad enough to potentially prevent me from utilizing the establishment's services. Hmmmm...kinda makes me wonder about the future.
I really do not think the world needs to worry much about religious fundamentalists. But we who are branded as such might want to consider "worrying" about those who have labelled us.
Anyway, the bar smells weird (even from the outside) and their selection of beer seemed weak...so no love is lost between us.
It is fast (no pun intended) approaching. The new icon being diplayed - perhaps prematurely - is one of my personal favorites (and coincidently one that I do not actually own...hmmmm). The striking reversal of roles as we see a glorified Christ holding an infant Theotokos in swaddling clothes is frankly too intense for me to really comment on at the moment - the complex relationship of mother and child (back and forth and vice versa: who is parent? who is child?) is mind bending.
Thus it is evident that throughout the whole course of the ages, she shall never cease from benefacting all creation, and I mean not only created nature seen round about us, but also the very supreme commanders of the heavenly hosts, whose nature is immaterial and transcendent. Isaiah shows us clearly that it is only through her that they together with us both partake of and touch God, that Nature which defies touch, for he did not see the seraphim take the coal from the altar without mediation, but with tongs, by means of which the coal touched the prophetic lips and purified them (cf. Isaiah 6:6-7). Moses beheld the tongs of that great vision of Isaiah when he saw the bush aflame with fire, yet unconsumed. And who does not know that the Virgin Mother is that very bush and those very tongs, she who herself (though an archangel also assisted at the conception) conceived the Divine Fire without being consumed, Him that taketh away the sins of the world, Who through her touched mankind and by that ineffable touch and union cleansed us entirely. Therefore, she only is the frontier between created and uncreated nature, and there is no man that shall come to God except he be truly illumined through her, that Lamp truly radiant with divinity, even as the Prophet says, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be shaken'(Ps. 45:5).
-St. Gregory Palamas' Dormition sermon
(can be read entirely HERE.)
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:19 AM [+] +++
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
This is a Test
Hey everyone...I am finally getting the blogger commenting system working. No more Haloscan because I was tired of their ads and I pay blogger a modest sum to not have any ads, therefore why not use their free commenting?
PLUS...no length limit so feel free to ramble on and on as much as I do.
I will integrate the most recent comments into their respective posts...they are not lost, just misplaced for them moment.
You may post anonymously if you do not have a blogger account (see the "post anonymously" link underneath the log in...just be sure to sign your name at the end of the comment so I know who you are!
Well here is the link obnoxiously made available sometimes at the bottom of my Haloscan commenting feature...I'm gonna have to figure out how to get Blogger's commenting to work on my page.
Anyway, its all very cute and "scary" but really nothing terribly exciting. Jesus never existed...ooooohhh....what a revelation! These folks are brilliant! You can go to their forums and read all about the great conspiracies of how the church picked the books of the Bible, how the gospels were written decades after Jesus is supposed to have died, how there were other gospels that were rejected, and that we don't have the ORIGINAL manuscripts! Absolutely stunning! My faith is collapsing as we speak! I never knew these things....oh wait a minute...a lot of these facts are what lead me to become Orthodox!
Actually the sad thing is that these people feel the need to take their time and energy to do this film.
I’ve often sung its praises and have even considered bringing into existence. But the thought occurred to me last night that for all intents and purposes we already have it. Sure we don’t sleep under the same roof – at least not very often – but when I consider the amount of time we DO spend together and the circumstances which brought us into closer proximity to one another, how can we see it as anything but “intentional”?
My family and I moved from Sultan to be closer to Church…and that meaning more so the people as opposed to the building (though that too!) Since moving we have in essence opened our little home and it’s backyard to fairly regular dinners where we eat, talk, drink, pray and just BE together. Including ours, we have three families who regularly gather and live within walking distance of one another…and fourth and fifth regularly attending families live further away but are none-the-less ever present at our gatherings as well. I suspect it is the graciousness of my friends that typically brings them to my house as opposed to theirs, kindly recognizing my family as having the most and the youngest kids…but we all recognize the extent to which our houses are wholly open to one another and we have all offered some form of labor to one another in their upkeep and improvements. Anyway, at our little house, these gathering make for quite a crowded scene, but it is a scene, which in at least a small way reveals the strong sense of community so lacking in our “diverse” culture today.
We fast together (as best we can!) and we feast together and I have been particularly reminded of this during this Dormition Fast. Friday was Transfiguration and yesterday was St. Herman’s feast and on both occasions our little community within the bigger community gathered together at my house. I cannot begin to communicate the welcome-ness I feel for them all…it has reached the point to where my children EXPECT these gatherings…and come to think of it, so do I.
It is an altogether natural thing…truly, the best of both worlds! The simplicity and intimacy that the "home chuches" claim, I think, integrates perfectly with what I perceive to be the solid foundation of an ancient “institutional” church. I would have it no other way. At such times, I think my home feels even more like home ought to feel.
I really only have one to share. Apparently if you do an MSN search for the phrase "what if my child eats fecies", Paradosis comes up second. I shall have to endeavor to shoot for 1st...and I suppose I just did.
Sadly I have no certain answer...if it is dog feces then your doctor may ask for stool samples to rule out worms. But fret not, in my experience, toddlers rarely go back for seconds with such treats. Dogs themselves on the other hand...
For those of you who were following the comment thread, I am beginning the discussion anew here with my answer to what I meant by "So what" in regards to the mystery "god-man" resurrection myths and the undertsanding that Christianity appears to be a blenderized version of Judaic and Hellenistic religious beliefs.
The conclusion is yours to draw.
The presumed conclusion as is typically offered to Christians is that because we perceive a mish-mash of hellenistic and hebraic religions AND that we have seen resurrecting "god-man" myths before that we ought to conclude that Christianity is therefore untrue. Or more specifically that the person of Jesus Christ had become something He Himself never actually was. Frankly I do not see how this neccesarily follows...unless one brings with them certain presuppositions (which can steer us either way - a tendency toward disbelief or a tendency toward belief.)
And so when someone says stuff like Christianity is merely a rehatched "god -man" myth, or some bizarre syncretism of hellenism and whatever, I ask: so what.
If the person of Christ (as God in the flesh) is the cornerpiece of human history, if He is the person that we Orthodox say He is - then we should expect nothing less than to see mythological fingers pointing toward him. Is this an apologetic? Well, only in answer to the argument for which I ask: "So what?"
I do not pretend to have the answers that will "ultimately and logically lead a person" to faith in Christ. I've long since given up on the "scientifc" attempts of "proving" the Bible or the philosophical "proofs" for the existance of God. A friend sends me occassional emails in which he shows some new scientific proof that the creation story is true...I just shrug. By the same token, the study of history has lead me to certain conclusions about Christianity and about the Orthodox Church - leading me away first from evangelical fundamentalism and then from the theological relativism often found in the ECUSA.
There is something about the Orthodox understanding of the beatitude which says: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." While I do not pretend to have a pure heart - far from it...but I do believe that it is in THIS realm (not so much the mind) that we ought to begin the search for God.
Yesterday at a protestant friends house we were sitting down (sitting down?) to pray for dinner and my son nudged me: "Where's the pray thingys?" I didn't quite hear him and asked him what he meant. "The icons?" he said. Well I belayed his question telling him that I'd try and explain later. But it reminded me of the truth I see in the Icons and in the life of the Church. Looking at the fruit of the Church (meaning the lives of her saints) speaks volumes of truth to me that transcend the things of science, textual criticism, and yes - even logic.
The words of Christ (as expressed in the Gospels) rings of profound truth...but more than that..He Himself rings of truth "I am the Truth" He says, and the words in the halo of His icon remind me of this everyday.
Am I decieved? I wrestled with that question a long time ago and at times when I begin to doubt again I find that more often than not (for me, and perhaps me alone) that I do not do so for purely intellectual reasons - but for other more heart-related reasons. The "intellectual" reasons simply offer superficial support to the doubt I grow in my heart. If I am right, that the realm of discovering God is in the heart and not the head, then surely this must be the case?
Of course, none of this precludes the further discussion or historical and philosophical arguments/theories on the existance of God or the truth that I supposed is to be found in the Orthodox Church...rather I hope it gives such discussion some greater context and understanding.
An esteemed coworker has left me with a tract! I thought I might share it with you all for your friday amusement (or terror).
THE SHOCKING TRUTH is its title and it has a large cartoon character on the front cover looking quite "shocked." The first line divulges the “shocking truth”: Jesus Christ will not save you (Uh-oh…cue the shocking truth music) UNLESS (Whew!) you realize the following facts: Awesome….I’ll I have to do is realize some facts, how easy it that! And here are those facts (I’ll spare you the proverbial prooftexts):
1.You are seperated from God. (Okay) 2.You are condemned by God at this moment. (Damn! Literally) 3.Your punishment is certain. (Ditto)
Things are looking rather bleak…wow, does God hate me or what?
1.Jesus Christ died for you.
2.Jesus Christ is the only way.
3.Jesus Christ saves without your help. (Sweet…no further need to read this tract then!)
So that whole bit about realizing these facts wasn’t quite true now was it? I mean, if Jesus can save me without my help, why would he need my “realization”? Here’s the later bit that irked me:
You cannot help save yourself by baptism, church attendance, prayers, sacraments, giving money, or trying to lead a good life, you must completely trust Jesus Christ and His power to save you.
Well folks, let’s close up shop and head home. We bought the product and are good to go. Can anyone else smell the scent of gnosticism in all this?
Do you suppose it is a coincidence, or that we might learn something from the fact, that the very first attempt at establishing a New Testament canon was made by gnostic heretics?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:21 PM [+] +++
Monday, August 02, 2004
Nothing terribly coherant to say today...trying to adjust to this Dormition Fast...thinking alot about the Theotokos. Committing to praying more and working more on my story which will have much to say in regards to a major character whose archetype is in many ways our Mother. Perhaps a sort of Dormition discipline? I really want to try and capture the beauty I behold in this person - so important to our salvation.
Karl has a post which has gained a good deal of commenting on the topic of the "Queen Mother" - well worth reading and participating in.
A Roman Catholic friend of mine once told me about an old monk that told him the way to identify Christian "o"rthodoxy was to look at how any given group viewed the Mother of God - in other words a proper understanding of Jesus necessarily elicits a certain understanding of His Mother. I think there is truth in that. I can recall a friend telling me just priuor to my reception into the Church that "Mary isn't all that important...she doesn't save us, Jesus does." My response today would likely be: "Of course she saves us...in fact she saved us in being who she is, which thus allowed her to say Yes and to bear within her womb the Almighty incarnate. Her 'YES' to God saves you as surely as your own 'YES' to God saves you."
God is glorious in His saints. We are not along in the world...salvation isn't a "me and God thing"...it is an "US and God thing." If I hear one more person say "make a personal decision for Christ" I'm gonna puke. (Is there REALLY such thing as a "personal" decision? - a blog on this is forthcoming I think) Why should we wish to play the game alone?
One more thing...to my friends at St. Barnabas Parish in Costa Mesa: enjoyed hijacking your Deacon George this week...thanks! He returns with our love and warm wishes.