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.
I really don't know what she wants. But as I sat there listening to the men's group read and muse with one another, she was burning holes in the back of my head with her eyes. I really don't know if anyone noticed that I kept turning around to look at her, propped up neatly in her glass case along side hundreds of others like her, who seemed to care little for my presence - comparatively speaking. But my mind bounced back and forth between the topic of discussion and the fact that Saint Olga seemingly kept trying to get my attention for some reason.
It was the oddest thing and I still can't get it out of my head. I suppose I ought to buy the icon and start looking to learn more (lit. "just about anything") about Saint Olga.
By the way, having done some searches for Saint Olga, I found THIS interesting site.
I have, to a large extent removed myself from much political thought lately. That being said, no matter your political opinions I cannot imagine that anyone really wants the new Iraqi government to fail (if I am wrong on this assumption: shame on you!)
This sunday, you might say a few extra prayers for the people who are brave enough to risk suicide bombers, kidnappings, and beheadings just to have a chance to vote. I hear it said that the terrorists are saying that they will be looking for people with inked thumbs (the means by which people will be prevented from voting twice)in order to kill them.
Can you imagine? How brave they must be, and wouldn't it be amazing if we see turnout percentages greater than many places here in the United States? I don't know what percentage it would take to call these elections a success, but I will say this: each and every person who does risk their lives to cast their vote is a success in and of themselves.
I give Karl and Carrie joy for the birth of their new daughter!
And now you all can give me joy for I have been to the mountaintop and I have seen the promised land!!! Hallelujah! Yesterday my youngest son urinated in the toilet six times and had no accidents. I am moving toward that glorious place where milk and honey flows and the watse products thereof land safely in their proper recepticles.
Someday soon I will be able to say: Free at last, free at last...thank God Almighty I am free at last!
Admittedly there is a certain melancholy involved in this approaching milestone, but you will of course extend to me the grace not to concern myself much with it now...at least not until they are teenagers.
I'd seen this quote on bumper stickers here in the Seattle Area a number of times and was never really sure what was implied by it being on someone's car. Last night, however, as my daughter and I contiued on our literary journey through "The Fellowship of the Ring" (her for the first time, me for the first time in over 20 years - sigh) I was reminded that this is in fact a quote from Tolkien (unless he got it from somewhere else?) and is found in a poem that reveals the true identity of "Strider."
It reminds me of that story found in Bp KALLISTOS' book "The Orthodox Way" (I hope I recall correctly) in which a solitary nun who is sitting and apparently doing nothing, informs an inquiring pilgrim that despite all appearances she is actually embarked on a great journey. Someone once paraphrased the notion with this: "Don't just do something, sit there."
Indeed, not all who sit are doing nothing. I think in the mad rush of "modern" life, we could all use some time to just sit and be alone, I know we've heard much talk in Orthodox circles about people's (my) inability nowadays to face themselves (myself) in silence, with no external stimuli other than their (my) own heart and soul and the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps this is why many people I know, opt to take a vacation not in Vegas or Hawaii, but at a monastery. Perhaps much like the CEO's and other power brokers in my previous post who go to Athos, even without an Orthodox grounding or understanding, the human heart and soul seems to naturally know (sometimes) what is good for it.
It is a strange thing when silence is deafening, and wouldn't it be cool if we could somehow bill solitary silence and newest and hippest "extreme sport"? I can just see the Mountain Dew commercials now.
Clifton gave a little review of that 2004 movie King Arthur which purports to try and give the Arthurian legend more historicity. Well apparently, in doing so, they have him being a Pelagian, even at one point in a deleted scene, MEETING Pelagius!!!
Why? I mean, seriously, what does the average Joe or Jane moviegoer know about the Pelagian controversy? So why even bring it up? Well, I think it is a trend that is growing in popularity.
Awhile back there was a "horror" movie called Stigmata. It was pretty awful, but what struck me in this movie was the presence of the ongoing Hollywood habit of making "the Church" (nine times out of ten this is understood in the films as being the RC church) an antagonist...a representative of the power establishment. But, not content to simply leave it at that, they are beginning to chose a host of ancient heresies to resurrect as the historic "good" guys who valiantly fought and lost. In Stigmata it was the Gnostics and apparently in King Arthur it is the Pelagians.
The frightening thing that occurs to me, is that when they pick out a name like "Gnostics" or "Pelagians" for their protagonist force, they are lending historical credence to their story. AND, they are doing so either in ignorance or with malice. Either way, your average Joe and Jane moviegoer is not going to know the difference and so at the end of movies like Stigmata where they lay concluding text over the screen which states (my paraphrase) that the Roman Catholic Church still to this day is “supressing” documents like the Gospel of Thomas, the average viewers are literally given the impression that the Gnostics were right and the Church views the GOT as dangerous and is doing everything it can to destroy all copies of it, lest the truth of their empty authority be known. (Which of course, if this were true, the RCC is doing a terrible job since the text of the GOT is readily available just about ANYWHERE on the Internet)
And now, we are looking down the barrel of THE supreme Church history revisionist movie coming out in a year or so. Dan Brown’s books were wildly successful and while those of us who are educated in Church History might be tempted to laugh it all off, some of us (myself included) realize that a lot of poor ignorant (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) people who are going to see Tom Hanks in this flim and say: “hmmm…isn’t that interesting, I never knew that.” Worse yet, some of it will become engaged in that pschye of people…who knows, maybe our kids will someday be taught Dan Brown in their history classes – or at least some portion of his outrageous theories that seem to have some sense of historicity.
I have nightmares about coworkers who know NOTHING about the ecumencial councils trying to tell me what ACTUALLY happened at the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicea. (sigh). I guess I can perhaps try and be optimistic and see it as an opportunity to discuss the matter, but unfortunately for some reason Dan Brown wields more authority than I do…if only I could get published.
Now I admittedly do not know much about the WEF, but I will go out on a limb and say I have a great deal of reservations about the knowledge of the speaker who says that WEF in "Davos is the modern take on monastic endeavors or that "Vatopediou is the original WEF"
While I think it is a great to hear about all these "powerful" people visiting Athos, one does have to wonder about the notion of it becoming a "spiritual" retreat for the rich and famous...I mean, do you really gain anything by going to Athos and then returning to normal life with no residual yearning to continue in the life of the Orthodox Church. Don't mistake my point, I am not judging individuals, but if an apparently frequent visitor can say "Deciding on a monastery is a metaphysical management decision...the spirits, God, call it want you want, tell you what monastery to go to" I think it might perhaps be safe to say that they are not really "getting" Athos yet.
Romania has approximately 750 soldiers in Iraq, but no clergy. It seems though, that they have found themselves at least two of the 25 US Orthodox chaplains (not all of whom are in Iraq) to offer services for them. Herman noted in a comment to my last post, THIS article about the same priest who performed the Theophany services I referenced. Some pretty cool pictures there.
**DISCLAIMER** Look people, I'm a parent, not a theologian. So if a periodic post centering around PBS cartoon characters (and the like) is a little too silly or "childish" I suggest you try some seminarian's blog today.
Anyone else's kids sometimes watch the cartoon "Arthur"? Interesting enough they recently had an episode in which "Buster" (Arthur's rabbit friend) was visiting a new (live action, real honest to goodness human) friend in Brooklyn, NY. It was a sort of curious live action/cartoon mix episode.
Anyway, Buster's friend - James - is Arab, but much to Buster's surprise he is not Muslim but Christian. Turns out James goes to an Antiochian Orthodox Church and in this episode we get to watch James do his altar boy duties during part of the Divine Liturgy (we see the Great Entrance). After the litrugy we get to have a little conversation with James' priest.
It was very nice, and we all had a good time talking to our kids about things we recognized and how neat it was to see something so dear to our hearts (Orthodoxy, not Arab food) being shown (in a good light) on popular TV.
Of course, the makers of "Arthur" might be surprised to visit our Antiochian Orthodox Parish, where precious few of us grew up eating humus and kibbeh and none of our altar "boys" would admit to accurately representing angels.
Life truly will pass you by if you allow it...it shan't wait for you to recover, nor will it pause while you engage in whatever meaningless activity you might chose to engage in.
My wife has been pondering many a heavy domestic thought.
And now as I stare into the unknown and unpredictability of everyday life coming back to normal, I have only this to say:
My brothers, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to work...
After the Martin Luther King day celebrations began to wind down, which in our house entailed cleaning up vomit from a child who coughed herself into puking, and pouring liquid tons of medicine into children preparing for a hopeful night's rest, I settled down to read to my daughter.
My troubles had begun right after dinner when I was pleased to receive a massive headache, the intensity of which I was rather unfamiliar with. Then as I was reading, the pain changed. It seemed to focus in my upper chest, into my neck and jaw line. By the time I had scooted the sick child off to bed I was becoming deeply concerned. Shortly after that the pain was fully in my chest and my left shoulder as well, I became more and more convinced that I was having a heart attack.
So that evening and most of the next day I spent my time in the hospital undergoing tests I was not unfamiliar with: EKG's, echocardiograms, stress tests, cardiac enzyme blood tests, amongst others. In the end, it was determined that I apparently had a comeback of the virus that I had thought I had overcome, and this time it had taken refuge in the pericardium. They call it Pericarditis and I am here to tell you that despite the relief of not having heart disease, it is none-the-less a rather painful unhappy condition. Imagine the simple and minute change of heart labor involved in rolling over in bed causing sever pain.
I guess I've always figured that like Norm of "Cheers" I am destined to be a Heart Disease statistic, and when you develop an ailment that looks and feels a helluva lot like what you expect to die of, it tends to make you think more seriously about life.
Curiously enough as Basil was driving me to the hospital (yes I have been lectured by the hospital staff about not calling 911) my thoughts were heavily focused on the fact that I really do not have enough life insurance. Repentance and such would come later that night. Both are still on my mind today as I recover.
...but I have been as sick as I have ever been in years, but feeling somewhat better today I thought I might offer this little example of this parent learning something profound from their children.
Lying about in a zombie-like state of sinal bloating, my eldest boy spent a good part of this morning wrapping up some of his toys with towels, paper, or whatever he could find and then presenting them to me as gifts over and over and over again. And while this got rather old after awhile, it did give me pause to consider that some of the best gifts we could ever give to someone are the things that we possess already.
Tomorrow is one of those culture-clash kinda days for many Orthodox Christians. Theophany is one of the holiest days of the year and we have not yet capitulated to popular culture enough to switch the celebration of this day to the nearest Sunday.
Consequently, the kids will stay home, I will take off from work and we will gather at a nearby stream (perhaps even having to break through ice) and we'll bless the waters. Unfortunately I was unable to convince our priest to make the trek up to my favorite steelhead river for this festivity. Anyway, afterwards we will caravan through a number of local homes and splash some of the half-frozen holy water around our homes, upon our pets, and upon one another.
All the while - hopefully - contemplating the truth of this skirmish in the war of creation restoration. An interesting little article I read once made this simple point: we bless things in order to reclaim them for the Kingdom of God. Oh what a mighty victory it was (is? will be?) when Christ is Baptized in the Jordan.
By the way, click the image above to see more of Andriy Khomyk's Ukranian Artwork.
It may perhaps be an absurd question since I am unsure that I know how to make myself "Orthodox." That being said, I wonder if we converts might have a tendency to think too much of the superficial. If I were forced to define what I think it means to be Orthodox, I guess I would say that it means that we are moving ever toward loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves (For what else might we see Theosis as being but the perfecting of these things, by whose very nature is the deepest sense of perfect community). Of course, what distinctively makes us Orthodox as opposed to others who are seeking to do the same is the method by which we excercise the "muscles" that afford us the ability to do these things. How often did Jesus rebuke the Pharisees for focusing too much on the excercises and not on the REASON or the GOAL of the exercises? It reminds of those silly people who go to gyms in order to look good as opposed to actually becoming more healthy.
With this in mind I am pressed to ask myself what will help my kids be Orthodox. There are many people - I think especially converts - who believe that by simply showing our kids the exercises that they will naturally absorb it and desire it themselves. But, speaking as one who hates going to gyms and doing physical exercise, I think one certainly needs to do more than show overweight people (like myself) how to sweat and be sore the next morning in order to convince them (me) that I should also sweat and be sore.
Clearly we need to include education to explain to kids why we Orthodox do what we do - just as in my example above a person needs to be educated as to why excercise is beneficial. Lacking education you might as well toss the exercises in the garbage - they will resent it and run. But adding education might not be enough.
After liturgy the other day I saw a group of Orthodox teens gathered in a van in the parking lot listening to "eminem" blast out his vulgarities while the rest of the Parish celebrated their "coffee hour." Ah yes, an arguably superficial thing and I would not dare and indeed I do not dare to consider that the parents of these particular teens were in some way failing (What precarious ground would I be placing myself on by doing such a thing since I know that I myself fail in some many parental ways) but by the same token I might step out on a limb and ask about the potential for a parish wide failure of sorts. That, however, is an altogether different post. I am presently challenged to ponder my own children's impending approach toward teenhood and the extent to which my failings today will fuel their descent into doing things that would make listening to "eminem" look as dangerous as frolicing through a field of daisies.
In addition to being an example (see me doing the excercises?) and providing education (this is why I do the exercises) I think I need to start showing the FRUIT of these labors. My kids need to see honest to goodness love. And frankly, for my part, they need to see a helluva lot more of it.