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 must admit, I adore a good ghost story - especially those purported to be true. There is something about the numinous that tends to naturally send chills down our spine...and I find it to be a curious thing given the extent to which we pride ourselves on being such "enlightened" people.
I know of a devout practicing atheist who was seemingly scarred for life by watching "The Exorcist" when it first came out. And to this day he still patently refuses to watch supernatual films - not only because he finds them silly, but also because in their silliness they somehow scare the hell out of him. Why would that be?
Secularists tend to interpret such fears as being sort of genetic "leftovers" from the time when our ancestors would perhaps have to always be on the lookout for that nocturnal predator waiting to snatch us away in the night. And/or there is the related fear of the unknown: like one might imagine the edge-of-panick fear a rabbit might have if it were in unfamiliar territory and ignorant of where the nearest safe-hole might be. But I sense that there is more to it than that.
Fear of death is at work here. Yes, now THAT is a great unknown, isn't it? We have never heard of a neighbor or friend being devoured by a ghost, but no less are we "freaked out" by the eerie story of a loved one's mysterious post-mortem visit (only to be discovered as such later). There is no "natural" danger in such things, why should they inspire the ancient fight or flight reaction in us?
I wonder, could it also be a misplaced fear of God? Is He not the Supreme unknown? The pinnacle of all things numinous? He has indeed paid us the most awe inspiring post-mortem visit and we are told that we shall meet Him in our own post-mortem state. And in His presence there is no safe-hole to escape into. Of course, with the primal fear of God there is a difference. For instead of fight or flight, we may choose a third, often unmentioned, response: surrender.
Perhaps in this small way we may rebaptize Halloween?
Someone recently asked for my opinion about a...how shall I say...controversial... Orthodox priest/author/monk. For having read two amazingly contrasting reviews for this author's book would no doubt tend to give a new convert pause to wonder.
I fear there is a tendency - perhaps especially among converts - to ascribe a bit too much faith in anyone who happens to wear a cassock, or be a monk, or be a nun etc. As if every man or woman in black were a staretz. Sad news is, we have just as many wackos in our parishes and monasteries as the evangelicals do in their respective organizations. The only difference being is that we have the foundation of the Church and that the "wackos" (or as the case may be: the ocassional wacko belief of an otherwise spot on thinker, teacher, priest, monk, nun etc.) will not long remain apart of the House being built (Hopefullly). Or,at the very least as the House continues to age, future remodelers will smile at the silliness of the previous owners design and fix the problem - however minor it may have been. The House has been built this way since the beginning: consider the first big design planning commission in Jerusalem and then the seven others to follow.
The solid ground upon which the House is built is Christ Himself. The foundation poured by the Holy Spirit is composed of the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of the Apostles, and Holy Tradition which of course encompasses all of these things. The bishops, the priests, the nuns, the monks, even you and I make up the rest of the structure. And while yes, some of us (like myself) are little more than spackle...others are perhaps framing 2x4's that form walls that may or may not be loadbearing.
But just because someone may LOOK like a structural plank of wood claiming to mesh perfectly with and rest upon the Foundation, look carefully and always consider the House as a whole...that plank of wood may have termites. The House, St. Paul, tells us is the pillar and ground of Truth and no single 2x4 alone speaks for the House.
As a secondary note...those living outside of this House may examine the foundation and then set out to work on building their own house. We may of course pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for being in the first House, the True House (and really I understand the problem - you end up with the equivalent of suburban sprawl and a million houses that all look different), but we ought to be more interested in maintaining our own House rather than worrying so much about what others are building.
Remember, God can have rocks engage in Orthodoxy (right worship) as surely as you and me.
Well it appears as though I am being sent to a virology conference in Paris France. So, let me be up front, I suspect that Paris (and France) are for the most part wasted on a guy like me and it would not be my prime choice for places to visit on my first ever trip to Europe - but what the heck, it's free! That being said, there are a few places I want to check out in what little free time I will have, but I thought I might solicit some suggestions from the blogosphere. Where should I go? And please, no one had better suggest the "Da Vinci Code Tour."
Despite the coolness of a free trip to Paris, it shall not be an overly joyfull trip...rather lonely I should expect since I will not be able to bring my wife along with me. Life experiences unshared seem rather lack-luster to me. I'll miss my family greatly. Yes, all alone and pretty much measuring up to all of France's american stereotypes, it should be a real hoot.
I'll make sure to wear this shirt and ask for beer at every resteraunt (poo-pooing their silly wine) and asking for insights into what went wrong at Trafalgar.
Yesterday was my patronal feastday, for St. James the Brother of God and first bishop of Jerusalem. If you take a look at the icon above of the flight to Egpyt, you will see an affirmation of the tradition that St. James was the son of Joseph from his previous wife who had passed away. Leading the way "with provisions" (as one description offers) is St. James.
He is also credited with writing the epistle that bears his name and which so vexed Martin Luther.
Our Coptic Orthodox brethren need our prayers and support. They have always had a rough go of it in Egypt, but there seems to be a growing trend towards and even rougher ride.
A play performed a couple of years ago by an Alexandrian church is now being widely distributed and it sparked a riot in which began with a Muslim student stabbing a Coptic nun as a crowd of at least 5,000 violent protestors attempted to storm the Church.
As this article states, the copts have "long complained of systematic marginalisation" and there can be little doubt about this: It's called being a dhimmi. And what you get when you dare to raise you head a bit too high is a nice hard BONK upon it.
So what was in this play that was so horrific? Well, all I could find is this quote from a CNN story: "The play, 'I Was Blind But Now I Can See,' tells the story of a young Christian who converts to Islam and becomes disillusioned." It don't take much folks...one wonders how many people would have died if Scorses had made a film alternatively called "The Last Temptation of Muhammed"?
Anyway, we need to remember those who are persecuted, like the Copts...we really don't know how easy we have it: not having to be afraid of taking your family to Church on Sunday mornings, which is a luxury we often fail to see as such.
UPDATE: Apparently, in Egpytian Newspapers, threats against the life of Pope Shenouda III are being made. I found this intriguing Coptic Blog, which is worth going to its first archived page and reading from there - though much appears to be in Arabic, there are portions in English.
Susan, my beloved wife, and I struggle with our decision to put the kids in public school...but by the same token we also struggle with the intense responsibility of Home Schooling - sadly private schooling simply isn't fiscally feasible.
Anyway, Susan is soliciting insights from others who might have struggled over this, please pay her a visit - tell her Happy Birthday too!
And with a brand new label design...ahhh winter, sweet winter...rich, full-bodied winter...deep mahogany winter...anyone else thirsty? It also seems the Pyramid has changed the label design for their IPA and have even given it a name: "Thunderhead"
A silly name, but a good staple IPA which I regularly stock.
Once someone overheard me discussing the "old days" of being in a pentecostal church where drinking was an aboslute "no-no"...even to such an extent that they would try and convince people that the wine in the Bible was actually grape juice...and when this someone heard us referencing the Vesperal Psalm which notes the gladdening of hearts, they felt it neccesary to remind us that the Scripture has many more warnings about alcohol than celebrations of alcohol. No argument.
But, the same goes with money and...ahem...those activities usually resevred for marriage...and I've not been convinced to give up either of them yet. Either way, it is always nice to see this old acquaintance back on the shelf.
As I was driving past a local assisted living center recently, I saw an elderly woman being helped out of her wheelchair and into the back of a car. Perhaps not something you would normally take great notice of, but something struck me as I looked at the woman's face. She was "made-up", particularly wearing a blush that stood out far too much and it got me thinking about the elderly of tomorrow (assuming there are any - I wonder sometimes because as we find more and more that corralling them into "centers" is expensive and is a constant source of guilt, if we might find the moral reasoning to just kill them off...or maybe somehow convince them to do themselves in...afterall what have they got to live for? You know, "quality of life" and all that. The eldery can be as inconvenient as fetuses and as laborious as small children.)
Wow...that went spinning off now didn't it?
A simple flipping through a magazine and a brief glimpse of TV will show you the extent to which we worship youth and beauty. I suppose this is not a terribly new thing, but I believe that the logarithmic jump in technology (that tends to leave the elderly in the dust) and the extremely volumous quantity of media bombardment slamming our minds with youth and beauty is driving us further and further toward a dark and sad future for the elderly.
Think about it...can you name a popular television show that includes an elderly person as a prime character? Maybe "Frasier's" Dad? But compare and contrast with when "The Waltons" were on TV? Hmmmm...ever see an elderly person being used as a model for...well....ummm...ANYTHING that might appear outside of an AARP? Yes yes, I know we cannot blame the advertisers, they are simply doing what they hope will best sell thier products...but regardless this WILL influence our impressions. We are, as a society fast becoming like the spoiled and stupid Junior High Age girls who I can recall once saying "ewwwwwww grosss!" at the sight of an elderly woman. (Ah...where is the ghost of Christmas future when you need it?)
Given all that we are being indoctrinated with now, how will we handle being the elderly of the future? When surgery can do no more, and our agility and mental swiftness will have abandoned us to a degree that forbids us from being able to use the future "I-Pod extreme NANO." What then? When we are hauled off to our daycare centers because society is just too busy to bother with us...what then? When people laugh at us for watching 30 year old reruns of "Seinfeld" (like you did to your Grandparents in regards to Lawrence Welk) what then? When people stop reading your blog because they know you are just a crotchity gray haired grumpy old man and you really have nothing to write that's worth reading..."after all, he doesn't even know how to use the I-Pod extreme NANO"...what then?
I suspect there is a good deal of Grace to be found in this...like illness and other forms of suffering...they can be redemptive if we let them be. Can we argue that being "left behind" by soceity is neccesarily a bad thing? Of course not...to a great extent we are commanded to let it. Problem is...I wonder if most of my generation will be able to handle it. I'm not a terribly graceful person now, and thus I suspect I won't be as an old man...but one thing's for sure: I'll still be blowing hot air to anyone who'll listen...even if it's the annoyed nurses at an assisted living center.
Precious few are involved in a "Way of Life" that uses the title "elder" in a respectful and venerable sense. Talk about a contrast...talk about counter-cultural! Gray hair used to a sign of a potential wisdom source...now it is a sign of weakness and societal burden.
Sigh...I felt bad by the time I arrived home after seeing the woman. I was somewhat judgemental...but overall I was sad that she felt compelled to try and beautify herself with a quantity of blush that was...well...to be honest: extreme. What a sad world she lives in. I hope she has someone who would be willing to just sit down and soak up her life experiences, which is something we desperately need these days.
Find and old person and listen to him or her. Reject this culture that worship inexperince and pretentious youth. As for me, I am going to call my Great Uncle Pete and have him tell me about his experiences in WW2...experiences that lose so much when you can only find them in books.
greek porn For as long as I have been getting hit with this search, I still wonder about what makes the greek kind so much more interesting than the others. For those of you on this quest: welcome back! Now, what would your poor greek mama think of these searches!
child eats feces Yes, well they do sometimes…but they’ll survive. Might need deworming though.
What happened in ancient Rome of 107AD As opposed to modern Rome? Seriously though, that’s round about the time that St. Ignatios of Antioch was martyred…you know, the BISHOP who wrote all those letters that show how much the church of around 100AD was organized (gasp!), believed, and worshipped like the Orthodox.
BUSHMILLS OR JAMESON PROTESTANT CATHOLIC Jameson=Catholic, Bushmills=Protestant. Scotch and Bourbon is better.
Critique of Wolfgang Simson You know….he never answered my last email!
Corky Merwin This one had me confused until I replicated the search. The is a member of the Fremont City council…you know that one where they have the statue of Lenin. Maybe someone should call her and let her know that Lenin’s body might be available.
Having two different PBS stations I was bouncing back and forth between two different episodes of the same show last night: Secrets of the Dead.
One episode was about an archeologist who was looking into the possible historical origin of the Amazon women legend. Apparently they found the grave of a "warrior princess" which might make the connection they were looking for. While it was interesting and I do not doubt any of their findings, what I did find interesting was the extent to which I believe the archeologist was really engagin in bad science. It seemed to me that she was far too emotionally attached to determining that the particular grave being exhumed would demonstrate a female warrior...she seemed positively giddy about proving it and with each arrival of more evidence to support her most desirous hypothesis I thought she might bust a seem. Folks, one ought not to be so emotionally attached to a hypothesis, and I think this is illustrative of the sometime hokiness of some branches of science (i.e. archeology and anthropology). Did I ever tell you about my art history class? Geesh, the ancient section was laughable in that they were absolutely convinced as to why those paintings were on the cave wall and also what the statue of the nude obese woman was all about. Sure.
The other episode was actually on the Shroud of Turin, and it was fascinating. Rather than ending the debate with the carbon dating results, they went much further even letting some scientists come on and explain why the dating may be wrong. I did not realize that there was real AB blood on the shroud (fairly rare for Europeans, less rare for Jews). Furthermore, there may be conncections between the shroud and something I'd never heard of: the Sudarium. A sort of face cloth that would have been put on Christ as he was being taken down and brought to his tomb - it is a rather plain looking piece of cloth with nothing at all dramatic about it - at least compared to the shroud (thus perhaps lending a certain amount of potential authenticity?) But it is covered in blood (again type AB) and other bodily fluids, but most importantly it has a much better documented history that takes it back to at least the early 7th century in Jerusalem (much older than the carbon dating on the shroud). Furthermore it appears that there is some coincidal staining that matches the shroud.
Intriguing. Though age would be a possible detriment, I do not believe it would be impossible to do some DNA testing on the blood from the shroud and the Sudarium to see the liklihood that we are dealing with the same individual here.
Touting their "niceness" and "tolerance" someone I know had been attending a Unitarian Universalist group. At least until the "preacher" proclaimed the "truth" that Jesus was just a man and that his later followers turned him into a "god." (gee...now what popular and best-selling work of fiction does that remind us of?)
Rightly so, this person recognized the extent of UU tolerance and that is not extended to those who believe Jesus is God incarnate, and cheers to them for deciding they could no longer attend.
Tolerance is a curious thing. What exactly does it mean? Does it mean we must abandon the notion of truth?
The Episcopals have certainly done so in order to maintain a spirit of tolerance, for you see you may remain in communion with them and believe that Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, but rather He ascended into godness or some such nonsense. A quick and easy way to appease those who have a difficult time believing that dead people can be made alive again after a few days - and thus they too can come for a sip of wine, a crumb of bread, and coffee hour!
Tolerance might also mean that we reduce truth to the lowest common denominator and then label that truth as being the most important thing. This could be the name "Jesus", regardless of whether said name referred to a prophet of God, a wise man, a God-filled human being (as the UU website claims), or God enfleshed.
Tolerance is quick becoming a civil god - especially as defined above. But, what stagnation will arise in such an environment of "agree to disagree and pass the coffee." Where is the free exchange of ideas...even conservative ideas? Where is the spirit of discussion and debate? Why is diversity seen as a default virtue, while unity and being in one accord is scoffed at?
In my mind, tolerance means that we all have the right to believe what we want to believe and one person cannot seek to pass laws to prevent another from doing so. And no one will seek to have another's views suppressed. But, none of this means that I am not allowed to say: YOU ARE WRONG. Just as anyone else is allowed to tell me: YOU ARE WRONG. Let us cast off the fog of stupidity (the god of tolerance) and tolerate and respect one another by DISCUSSING it, arguing it, debating it, wrestling over it. STOP PRETENDING WE ALL AGREE!
Ahhh...but that will offend people. Well, as that person I know opted, you needn't remain at the Unitarian Universalist gatherings if you decide that Jesus is in fact God. But maybe someone should tell the UU's that they are being terribly intolerant of traditional Christians...so how does that make them any better than the traditional Christianity THEY are so quick to label as intolerant? Well, reflect on my understanding of tolerance and I think we can see who is REALLY be intolerant.
I noticed a young woman sitting across from me on the bus this morning cross herself in the RC style. Naturally this grabbed my attention and I further noticed that she was praying her Rosary.
I nodded and smiled, pointing to my baptismal cross as I left and she smiled in return, I hope she knew the little peace, joy, and encouragement her prayers gave to me this morning. Perhaps I'll see her again when we have time to talk, but even if not, it is still very nice to see such a traditional expression of Christian faith in such an everyday circumstance.
My youngest daughter was recently diagnosed with what is called amblyopia, or "lazy eye." It is a condition in which one eye - usually from birth - is markedly more blurring than the other eye and as development occurs the child's brain begins to negate or ignore the information being sent to it from the bad eye and eventually the poor kid looses bifocal ability (and consequently depth perception). If no action is taken it will result in virtual blindness in the bad eye that cannot ever be recovered and had we not found out about this for a couple more years, this might have been the case for Charissa. As it is, she stands a good chance of training herself to "see" with that eye again.
Undiagnosed, the problem is a real struggle for kids as I am sure it has been from my daughter. Sensing that something is "wrong" or that they are unusually clumsy (something I never really noticed - excep that now I find myself regretting terribly every instance in which I grew angry at spilled milk) may lead to a great deal of frustration and self-condemnation (something I DID notice.)
My daughter is an exceptionally sensitive and emotional person - likely a product of her troubles with her vision because she has certainly stood out from my other kids in this way - but more importantly (and here is why I bring this issue here) is that the treatment will probably NOT be easy for her. The goal of said treatment is to inhibit the vision in the good eye in order to train her brain to "see" with the bad eye. Sometimes this is actually accomplished by patching the good eye, but it seems we will be using some sort of glasses that will accomplish this without (I think) completely blinding her good eye). I expect that this will not be comfortable at all - certainly I would not enjoy it and so I worry that she will have a difficult time because she is so sensitive.
So, I beseech your prayers for Charissa, she's had a hard time of it and it's going to be tougher yet for awhile.
I'm much more interested in the overarching - philosophical, if you will - issues related to the recent supreme court nominees/confirmations, than in the actual trench level politics of it. The profound and evident fear of both candidates' church affiliation is fascinating to me.
Consider if some nominee had NO religious affiliation, why would THIS ITSELF not be an issue of concern? Have not non-religious persons certain fundamental worldview biases that cause them to be colored in a certain way on certain issues? Speaking as one who knows MANY people who have no religious affiliation I can answer this: YES, of course they do.
Frankly, I am FAR more concerned about the biases and coloring of individuals who are their own gods than I am of people who look to an external authority on issues of morality and ethics. Aye, I do understand that Supreme Court Judges are supposed to look to the Constitution alone (that's their job, right? To interpret that document?), but let's be honest...extrapolation and judgements far outside the context of that document are neccesary to get the Rove v. Wade decision. I'm drifting....hold on while I adjust course...
So, how is that we are so afraid of relgious people's views distorting their interpretation of the Constitution, but not so with regard to non-religious people? The non-religious worldview seems to be - more and more - the default "system" by which we believe a pluralistic society needs to function and therefore if you are in any way pursuaded by a religious tenet in regards to some issue of public life, your opinion is tainted...not allowed...inadmittable...obsolete...fundamentally erroneous or inapplicable.
And this is becoming more and more the case in everday life...not only for Supreme Court Justices, but for all of us. The default is always secular. Anything else is...well see above.
I became a theist because of the weight of the argument from morality. As an atheist I had a certain set of moral beliefs that simply did not fit with my godless worldview and it became a terrible intellectual crisis...my heartfelt belief in right and wrong simply were rendered "stupid" and "fundamentally erroneous" by my atheism. You've heard the old adage that without God everything is permissible, well its true. Atheism and society may "evolve" a moral code, but in the end it is always foundationally utilitarian and optional depending on who is in charge or who has what particular need at a particular time. It is a morality subjected to the well know failings of men, who desire power above all things, and so the Ring came to Isildur...ahem, sorry....hard aport!
So, suffice to say, I think we ought to be JUST as concerned and obsessed (if not MORE) about what the non-religious Supreme Court nominee does on Sunday mornings as we seem to be with the current ones who choose to be in Church. We are all colored by something.
Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. Life has gotten busy and intense (which I will describe to some extent shortly), but most of my opinion blabbing has been going on via the League of Ordinary Gentlemen Group and in regards to the deposition of Saddam Hussein and the defense of democracy in the new Iraq. I think that makes my position clear, eh? If you'd like to discuss it...join the LOG group and go for it, please don't bring it here though - this is a place of rest for me where I can argue about other less contentious things like how all protestants are going to hell...jk
Someone I know well is going through a divorce. And while I can well imagine how difficult it is for that person (and the kids), it is also not an easy thing to watch from a relatively "safe" distance. The dissolution of a family is - no matter the situation - a tragic thing, for even if you can see it as the best outcome of a particularly bad circumstance, we must agree that the divorce is a sort of the crowning ceremony, or culmination, of an ongoing tragedy.
I do not wish to pander at all to the wrangling over who is to blame for any given divorce...because in the end, we are ALL to blame. We have all created this environment which makes it so difficult for marriages to succeed.
There has also been something particularly enlightening to me in watching a unity collapse into disunity, love degrading into legal documents. It seems that divorce is a sort of archetype of our fall from grace...from unity.
My "novel" (I put it in quotes, because it just seems so pretentious to me...I dunno) deals a lot with this issue: allegorizing sin as the dissolution of unity. But, in fact, it is not an allegory to say this at all. Sin IS the dissolution of unity. It is the breaking of the bonds that tie us to one another and tie us to God: our TRIUNE God.
Everyday we ought to live in a spirit of repentence and remorse, for we have ALL divorced ourselves from God, from our spouses, from our children, from our parents, from our friends, from our neighbors...heal us Lord, teach us to love one another.
Those experiencing - suffering - through a legal divorce deserve our compassion, our support, and our prayers: they are facing a reality that most of us turn a blind eye to in our own lives. Consider for a moment, who you may be divorcing right now.