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.
So says Bjorn Atldax, designer of "Cheap Monday" jeans, who claims his product is an "active statement against Christianity." Ah, yes, and a brilliant argument he makes with his inexpensive jeans - very ummm..."active" statement.
Nothing rubs me the wrong way like a cheap pair of jeans except that cute toy statement about organized religion. Ah yes, disorganized religion is a beautiful thing, isn't it? People like this usually, I think, are just throwing up a strawman (because let's face it, the world these days - even amongst many christians - have been brainwashed to be distrustful of "organized" Christian denominations) and so it is a socially easy target. But when you get past the fashion philosophy you find that they usually have disdain for the Christian faith - however skewed (or not) that they understand it.
I actually had to look hard to find the anti-Christian message (note the upside down cross on the skull), because once you've been Orthodox for awhile you get rather used to seeing skulls - protrayed in icons, or as real relics, or simply stacked neatly in monasteries.
Come on Bjorn, you are going to have to do better than a skull on a pair of jeans! We Orthodox are supposed to LIKE being reminded of death.
While as of late my children have been able to handle a standard vespers within an hour or so of bedtime, the much longer Vespers on Nativity Eve was, shall I say, a bit more adventurous.
THY Nativity, O Christ our God, Child #1 (holding service book): "Dad, where the heck are we?!?!?!" hath shined upon the world Child #2 (doing a little jig): "Daddy, I have to go potty!" the light of knowledge; Child #3: "Daddy, my shoes fell off by themselves." for thereby, they that worshipped the stars Child #? (Dad gagging and holding nose): "Blech! Who did that?!?!" were taught by a star to worship Thee Child #4 (Child #3 is dogpiling him): "Ahhhh....leave me alone STUPID!" Child #3 (being dragged off child #4): "I didn't do anything!" the Sun of Righteousness Child #2: "Daddy! I have to go potty again!" Child #3: "Daddy, my shoes fell off again." Child #4 (crying): "I want soy milk and bread!" and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high Child #1: "When is it over, dad?" Child #? (dad gagging and holding nose): "Okay, who needs to go potty now?" Child #4 : "Nicho did it." Child #3 (loudly): "I didn't fart!" Child #2 vanishes and cannot be found. O Lord, glory be to Thee.
All of this in the course of a single Troparion. What a night...but no less is Christ Born! Hope you all are having a joyous feast!
Saw a guy preching on the so-called "word" channel last night and he was blabbing on and on about the power of faith and then he went on to enlighten us about Jesus saying that Jesus did not "cheat" while on earth, but rather operated as a man who used His faith just as we are able to do in order to work miracles. I really believe that much of "modern" Christianity (post or otherwise) has lost touch with the mystery AND understanding of the Incarnation.
Tonight Mother Mary nurses her Creator.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
May the Incarnate God be with you on this nativity!
While I’d rather like to think that I am devoid of this vice, I hope I know b better. Pride can be exceptionally well hidden – like a tick on a dog (an analogy I derive from my Kentucky heritage)
Perhaps you have heard this story of St. Marcarius the Great. A couple months ago, either from our matins “story time” or perhaps a sermon, it was the frist time I had heard it. While I will no doubt forget some of the details, the jist of it I believe I can relate to you here now.
The renowned Abba lived outside a village, and the people would often go to him for advice and spiritual guidance. One day a young lady from the village became pregnant and because she was greatly afraid of getting her boyfriend in trouble, she lied and claimed that the Marcarius was the father.
The village citizens were enraged and grabbed the poor monk and dragged him through the town. They hurled insults, fists, garbage and rocks at him – and laid upon him complete and utter humiliation. All of which he bore without offering a word in his defense. As I recall, they also made him work to support the child who would soon come. And again, the man made no defense for himself.
After sometime, the girl was in the midst of a difficult delivery and she blurted the truth out. The people of the village were of course terribly regretful of what they had done and were astonished to recall that the monk never defended himself, but relied rather on God to be his defender. And so they people planned to make it up to the poor man as best they could. They set out to go to Abba Marcarius.
At this point, I was thinking to myself: wow, what an amazing man. What an incredible trial to go through – and not to defend yourself against such horrible charges! This coming moment of triumph and restoration of prestige would make a wonderful crescendo to a movie!
St. Marcarius, however, had heard of the blossoming events in the village, and when the delegation arrived they found that the monk had fled rather than face the dangers of his triumph and renewed prestige.
Even when we are absolutely justified, right, and perhaps even falsely accused...pride can kill us and ought to be avoided. Now that's a tough check to cash at the bank...see if you can't find some place in your life where you'd rather not apply this lesson. Orthodoxy hurts when you let it get beyond the intellectual exercise thereof.
I still find myself reflecting upon the experience, which is, I suppose, a very good thing. As a less important side to the program I should also note my surprise at how evangelical the event was...decidedly not what I would have expected from the Roman Catholics in a world renowned ancient church ridden with tourists. I applaud them for it...the presentation ended with an exhortation to explore and learn more about Jesus Christ by taking the time to read the Bible this Nativity season.
Light from light, True God of True God
May the majesty and mystery of the Incarnation flood us...overwhelm us...drown us...break us...rebuild us. I have been listening to Handel's Messiah a good deal this Advent and have greatly been blessed by it. I am particularly fond of the Isaiah 9:6 chorus, wherein during the naming portion of the song the strings just go volumetrically nuts (note: I am not a professional music reviewer, just in case you were wondering) and it really lifts your spirits.
No matter what, the feasts and fasts of the Church are supposed to change and grow us. In a real sense: to save us. Dive in...and like St. John's Chrysostom says in his Paschal homily, it is never too late to do so. We MAKE the Christmas "spirit" happen by pariticpating in it.
I finished the last volume of Runciman's Crusades history a while ago and have since finished his spectacular work on "The Fall of Constantinople." It is a wonderful read...sad and bitter, but so well written as to almost read like a novel. I always knew that I was generally ignorant about the Crusades (perhaps not as much as the average joe on the streets), but I didn't really know HOW ignorant I was. reading these works has really fit MANY pieces into the puzzle of how we have gotten here from there - which I find to be one of the more rewarding things about studying history.
I want to share a brief excerpt about what was going on on the last day of the Roman Empire when the Christians (outnumbered almost 10:1) prepared to make their last stand - as it were. Byzantium had been dying a slow death, accelerated by the horrific events of 1204. Attempts at ecclesial union (e.g. Council of Florence) were really politically motivated attempts by Byzantine Emperors to try and garner aid from the west because they knew their days were numbered otherwise. The people would generally have none of it, having already driven out the Latins once some fifty years after they'd taken over in 1204. But on May 28th 1453, there was a disputed and weakly enforced union in place. To start the Emperor is telling his friends and council that the final Turkish assualt was about to begin.
All that were present rose to assure the Emperor that they were ready to sacrifice their lives and their homes for him. He then walked slowly round the chamber, asking each one of them to forgive him if ever he had caused offence. They followed his example, embracing one another, as men do who expect to die.
A sort of Forgiveness Vespers I imagine. Runciman's last sentence here is particularly interesting, I shall try to remember it at the beginning of next Lent.
The day was nearly over. Already crowds were moving towards the great Church of Holy Wisdom.For the past five months no pious Greek had stepped through its portals to hear the Sacred Litrugy defiled by Latins and by renegades. But on that evening the bitterness had ended. Barely a citizen, except for the soldiers on the walls, stayed away from this desperate service of intercession. Priests who held union with Rome to be a mortal sin now came to the altar to serve with their Unionist brothers. The Cardinal was there, and beside him bishops who would never acknowledge his authority; and all the people came to make confession and take communion, not caring whether Orthodox or catholic administered it. There were Italians and Catalans along with the Greeks. The golden mosaics, studded with the images of Christ and His Saints and the Emperors and Empresses of Byzantium, glimmered in the light of a thousand lamps and candles; and beneath them for the last time the priests in their splendid vestments moved in the solemn rhythm of the Liturgy. At this moment there was union in the Church of Constantinople.
I marvel at what extraordinary and terrifying circumstances can accomplish to make people open up to grander things. Who compromised what at this Liturgy? Were the papal claims to supremecy relaxed? Was the filioque left out? Or perhaps it was left in and the Greeks cared not? Does it matter?
Runciman relates a story that claims that when the Turks stormed the Hagia Sophia that the priests present - still serving at the altar - stepped back and while still carrying the sacred elements were "swallowed" up by the walls of the Chruch. Tradition has it that they will reappear when the Church is once again santified to host the Divine Liturgy.
...is insane. While funny...who can deny that we really would not be surprised to see THIS story actually be true? Store employees shall soon be forced to say little more than "Happy Winter" because afterall, what holiday are Atheists celebrating in late December? Jewish comedian Jackie Mason, a cofounder of "Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation" is spending time driving around in front of stores that have forbidden the use of the offensive phrase in a limo with big signs that read: "It's okay to say Merry Christmas!" All over America, Nativity scenes go up and down - as the lawsuits so dictate. Christmas trees are stupidly transformed into "holiday" trees...wink wink nudge nudge know-what-I-mean, say no more. Even the "Young Men's CHRISTIAN Association" cannot celebrate CHRISTmas.
Where are we headed? We complain about America having no real culture...well duh...how could we?
To top it off, I happened to turn on the radio in the car and heard that protestant song "Mary did you know?" (A pretty and reverant song, but please...MARY KNEW!) and then right afterwards, in styark contrast we were treated with "Tequila makes her clothes fall off."
We must be super-conservative in preserving the Orthodox faith, but super-modern in propagating it.
I'm not fond of how this translation sounds (I think hyper as opposed to super would have been cooler...but this opinionated attitude is, I think, indicative of why Orthodox converts like myself have a hard time accomplishing much in "one accord") There is a sort of underlying NEED for us Orthodox to be different....just different. For instance, we LOVE not having pews (because its different and only later do we learn to appreciate it for its practical attributes) and even go on to chastise those parishes that have pews for not being TRULY Orthodox...a label which is of course never directed toward us - the pewless - by ruddered "super"-cosnervative TRUE Orthodox Churches.
Anyone else notice how we converts (especially) tend to feel a deep seated need to NOT be like the Protestants...no matter what. All practicality and positive results aside, we dare not model ANYTHING we do to look ANYTHING like Protestants have or are doing...because we are different.
The newest edition of "The Handmaiden" contains an article about Contemporary Christian (Orthodox)Music which I really appreciated. Christian Music played a big and beneficial role in my early years as a convert to Christianity...and we really ought to encourage talented Orthdoox Christians who wish to express themselves in this artform. I particularly liked this quote from Orthodox Musician Justin Mathews: "The reality is our 13- to 40-year-olds are not getting up in the morning and listening to chant all day long."
Yep, it's true, I've heard what the teens of my Parish are listening to in their cars in the Church parking lot. A dose of intelligent music from an Orthodox artist is something we as Orthodox Christians ought not to reject - especially as a kneejerk simply because Protestants do it and by jove we are different! Or equally pretentious: because we are "cool" enough to listen to all sorts of garbage and don't need it. I'm totally hip to my kids listening to "The Lost Dogs" and if I can find Orthodox artists of the same caliber (and yes, there are) then expect to find it playing in my house and hopefully in my kids' cars in the church parking lot.
I remember how rock music with a Christian message worked so positively in my life.
...dating all the way back to his "Electric Company" days. I hope he doesn't egt too much flak for this. I agree with him, even though I heartily subscribe to the belief that most stars can be trusted to know about as much or less about politics, culture, and religion as...well ME!
In a similar vein, my daughter has been learning about "Kwanzaa" in school. Okay fine, though I get the general impression that Kwanzaa is a reinvented holiday (c, 1966...correct me if I'm wrong) in the same sense that Wicca is a reinvented religion. I am forced to wonder: are they studying the way things are, or are we witnessing cultural engineering?
One thing that struck me as odd is that my daughter came home with a little booklet she wrote that tells all about Kwanzaa. The introduction says that "Kwanzaa is celebrated each year by African Americans."
Ok...well...I've known a fair number of African Americans in my lifetime, but I've never met ONE that celebrated Kwanzaa. So I asked my daughter; "Do all African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa?" Knowing her Dad, she paused trying to discern the trick in my question, but she eventually gave up and said, "yeah...I guess."
So, how to correct this misconception, tactfully? Umm...anybody doubt that the VAST majority of African Americans are celebrating Christmas rather than Kwanzaa? And if African Americans feel they are uprooted from African culture (as the official Kwanzaa website suggests), I might suggest instead of visiting THIS website, they try THIS one.
Don't tell me or THEM that Christianity is anymore foriegn to Africa than it is to western Europe.
In case you missed it, in the Dawkin's post Aaron asks:
I have a question related to theistic-evolution that a priest/friend brought up and it has really had me thinking...since evolution relies on death as a central element of it's process, can it be something we attribute to God?
This, I find to be an excellent question...think about it: Natural selection - in order to be natural selection - requires that unique attributes of a particular organism give to it a certain (however slight) advantage such that its more favorable genes are more readily passed on to future generations, while those lacking the advantage tend to die before propegating themselves in the same quantities as the organism with the advantage. So, Aaron and his friend are correct: death is required of natural selection.
Now, God has certainly made use of ugly circumstances (unattributable to Him - I think) to bring about good. One example that comes to my Islamophobic mind is the early conquests of Islam that ultimately protected St. Isaac from a heretical Byzantine Emperor. BUT, the problem that I see here is that no matter how you take the Genesis account of Creation, you must agree that theologically and historically death did not enter into the world until AFTER the Fall, no? At which time, presumably, Homo Sapiens would have already been fully evolved?
Love, Parenthood, Sin, and and Advent of Investment
Tall order, huh? Let me try to be brief.
I've never been a very good parent, but I am working on it. I realize that nothing is going to assist me in becoming more Christ-like than being a better parent than I have been. Selfishness is the key ingredient that initially led me to NEVER want children and has in the last decade or so fueled my poor parenting. Kids are all different and mine have certainly dealt with my failings in different ways, and my youngest daughter (who perpetuates the red-headed temper "myth") has had the roughest go of it. She is, what some term an exceptionally strong-willed child. (Often "diagnosed" rightly or wrongly as ADD or ADHD)
The challeneges of family life lately has had Advent become for my wife and I, a time of serious reflection and struggle to change our parenting. For my part, I am endeavoring to start by becoming more invested as a person in the lives of my kids. In my experience in Youth Ministry we would often chant this mantra: "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."
It's true. The Strong-Willed child needs to be made very much aware of how invested his or her parents are in their life. They need to know how much they are cared for, appreciated, and loved. Alas, in my children's cases, I can see that the majority of the attention they have received from me has been negative (stop that, don't do that, why did you do that etc) and I intend to make this an integral part of my Advent confession. It was profoundly wrong of me...sinful...a glaring example of my selfishness.
Why must children be so aware of their parent's investment? Well besides the obvious "rightness" of such a thing, more than anything - and this is particularly true of Strong-Willed Children - they will respond most postively to the disturbance of the invested relationship that occurs via disobedience and other negative behavior, than to ANY sort of punishment that could ever be leveled against them. Strong-Willed children will stand robust in the face of punishment often without emotionally flinching if they do not see that the suspect behavior has tweaked the invested and loving relationship between them and the parent. Caution is warranted though, because the child must never come to think that the investment, the love, the commitment is lost...quite the contrary. The bond, the union, the investment is that ground where behavior can be and ought to be beautifully regulated and trained.
Of course, I cannot allow to escape the analogy of all of this to God's investment in us, and our motivations for repentance being made on that same ground of untroubling the bond of love, commitment, and unity. We humans all seem to be strong-willed, and as such we must not ever forget that God's investment in us is never lost. Disturbed though it may be, it is always waiting to be soothed...healed...fully restored. How much more healthy will we be if we retain the understanding that sin is so much more than breaking a rule?
Nativity is such a profound and real example of God's investment in us. It ought to stagger us. May a microscopic fraction of that spirit of loving investment find its way into all of our hearts this Advent...to make Christmas with our families all the more INVESTED.
And what is the expected return of such investment? Don't you know?
Through my dealings with my beloved atheist I have had many an encounter with Richard Dawkins' work. And while he is an very interesting read, what he fails to notice is the mirror he is looking at when he levels claims of bias and contradiction against religious people.
Here is an interview I stumbled upon at Beliefnet.
Dawkins has as big an agenda and bias as ANY Christian writer I have EVER read, and yet he continually tosses about such accusations to discredit anyone who might challenge ANY aspects of evolutionary theory...and more than that he outright dismisses the notion of God as being an asinine theory precisely because it cannot be proven by science. And yet when pressed on the issue admits: " Obviously, there are other things having nothing to do with science—music, poetry, sex, love. These are all things that make life, to me, extremely worth living."
Note the omission of God or religion in his list? How is it that music, poetry, love and EVEN sex (how many scientists would shoot him down on THAT one?) all make the list of things that have nothing to do with science and make "life...worth living", but not religion? These things may escape the all knowing entity of science, but not God? Why?
When asked what he would think if his daughter became religious, he answers: "I think she’s much too intelligent to do that..." Wow...now that's some serious arrogance.
As always, the search for something bigger than ourselves is present, even in Dawkins who says : "I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought....My book, 'Unweaving the Rainbow,' is an attempt to elevate science to the level of poetry and to show how one can be—in a funny sort of way—rather spiritual about science. Not in a supernatural sense, but there are uplifting mysteries to be solved. The contemplation of the size and scale of the universe, of the depth of geological time, of the complexity of life--these all, to me, have an inspirational quality. It makes my life worthwhile to study them."
Furthermore, Dawkins sheds light on the issue that finally sent me looking for something deeper than outright materialism and "darwinism" within that context. In this article, he discusses the fact that materialism and natural selection preach certain guiding principals which people can and should reject. Absolute and highly intelligent hedonism IS that guiding principal. Dawkins writes:
I prefer to agree that natural selection is the dominant force in biological evolution, admit its unpleasantness, and fight against it as a human being. I hear the bleak sermon of the Devil's Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. I have always held true to the closing words of my first book, 'We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.'
Hmmm...further on he writes:
the historic process that caused you to exist is wasteful, cruel and low. But exult in your existence, because that very process has blundered unwittingly on its own negation. Only a small, local negation, to be sure: only one species, and only a minority of the members of that species; but there lies hope.
And my question: hope for what? And more importantly (maybe he tries to address this in his book on which this article is derived), why should I give a damn? You see this is what ruined my atheism, for I could not reconcile these two questions with the hedonism I at once yearned for and despised. If the materialism preached by Dawkins is correct, then I would be stupid to live any sort of life that does anything more than bring me profound pleasure and comfort - and THAT would be growing up and facing reality - not denying God and yet still clinging to the better angels of our nature.
So while I applaud Dawkins for recognizing the need for and indeed the general inclination of people to not be guided by the principals of materialism, I cannot get past his arrogance when he labels people who question evolution as "ignorant, stupid or insane...or wicked." (Did he say wicked?) Perhaps arrogance is a battle he might consider fighting in his rebellion against his own selfish genes?
I was particularly fond of reading the UC admission director reject a course entitled "American Literature: Classics for Christians" saying in part: "Unfortunately, this course, while it has an interesting reading list, does not offer a nonbiased approach to the subject matter."
Yeah, right, only Christians schools and texts demonstrate a bias. I mean, how amazingly niave the secular world is...do they honestly believe that they champion a non-biased approach? Do they honestly believe that professors in academia refrain from regurgitating their political, social, and (non) religious dogmas on their students?
I also found this interesting:
In their suit, the schools argue that UC has accepted courses in "The Jewish Experience" and Islam, and also allowed courses in "Military History and Philosophy," "Gender, Sexuality and Identity in Literature" and "Children's Literature." These acceptances, they claimed, undercut the university's rationale in rejecting Calvary's history course as "too narrow/too specialized."
If you homeschool or send your kids to a private Christian school, does such scrutiny on the coursework potentially posing problems for your kids' academic career, regardless of their test scores, concern you?
This is just another sign of the ongoing culture clash here in America (and around the world)...it is going to get worse I am sure.
Long overdue...make sure your pay Arielle a visit who claims "she could never be a saint, but..." To which I would simply offer that anyone who has babysat my children and lived to tell the tale, well don't tell me he or she could never be a saint.
And to show that I am a modern, sensitive man, I threw caution to the wind and took the "What historic woman are you" quiz.
Deborah Sampson This woman is amazing. During the American Revolution, she disguised herself as a male soldier and ran off to fight against the British. After she was found out by the great General Henry Knox, she was given an honorable discharge and a pension from the military for her brave work. You are strong, loyal, and always fight for what you believe in. Go you. Learn more about Deborah!
Honestly, the only question I felt totally confident in answering was the one in which I laid claim to "Ale and Meat." So hopefully Deborah was hip to that, as a disguised soldier one would expect she could at least fake it on this point.
1. "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," $67.1 million.
2. "Syriana," $12 million.
3. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," $10.3 million.
Have you all read some of the reviews for Narnia? Notice the anti-Christian bias, even in positive reviews: "Despite it's overarching Christian themes..."
I hope this movie rakes in the cash...if for no other reason than to annoy reviewers who will be forced to see more and more family friendly films that might even have Christian themes. Heck I'd go see it a couple times for that reason alone...but then...I am an extremist.
In contrast, "Brokeback Mountain" which is bound and determined to render every hunting/fishing trip suspect (yeah, we really needed to encourage "the manly man is really a repressed homosexual" sterotype Hollywood, thanks), is receiving rave reviews, "despite nothing."
What will be the undoing of America, and the west, will be the fact that all we ever think about is our "rights" and we say precious little anymore about our duties. Nobody talks about duties...duties that might even go hand in hand (God forbid) with our rights.
And sometimes, a right becomes somewhat laborious and we begin to see it more as a duty to be neglected. Oddly enough, in the last trip to the ballot box, a greater percentage of Iraqis (at risk to their lives amidst the supposed "chaos") voted than Americans did in their last presidential election (over 6% points more). What exactly does that say about us? What does it say about them?
Well, we Americans are lazy, clearly - much more interested in pleasurable rights than duties. And the Iraqis...well either the danger isn't as great as we are led to believe, or they know very well the connection between rights and duties. I imagine both to be true.
It was also through Terry's blog that I discovered a familiar "face" of Steven Robinson whose blog can be found here: Pithless Thoughts. I met Steven at the Orthodox Convert list years ago and he was a big help in answering my questions about Orthodoxy. He is a part of an Orthodox Radio program which can be found and listened (mp3 format) to here.
Part of what sealed the BIG schism's fate was the ongoing growth in different directions...or some would argue the movement of one and the abiding of the other. And by this I do not mean theology alone, but also the community experience in general.
But I had not thought that this odd issue would remind me of the growing schism.
I had not considered that Christmas falling on a Sunday would present a dilemma to anyone...rather I perceived it to be a profound convenience! Like killing two birds with one stone! (Yes, I am a sloth!) But think about the difference of mindsets that sees either logic or incongruity in this expression: Christmas is a time for family and not for church?
It is telling that these megachurches have such a hard time having services because their productions are such...productions.
I suppose if my po-mo friends kept with the ancient tradition of meeting on sundays that they would have much less of a problem in this regard...but from the my perspective, there really isn't a clear and distinct separation of Church and Family.
One of the most profound experiences of the Christian faith, seemingly demands that we gather together to experience and TASTE the culmination of that mystery. And on a SUNDAY even: kaching!
Surrounded by over 700 years worth of prayers and worship, I watch in darkness as images blend and flow across a semi-transparent screen stretched taut and bisecting the nave of Notre Dame. All the while traditional music from the cathedrals choir announces the glories of the incarnation.
I was overwhelmed and wept like I've not wept in a very long time. The love, the glory, and wisdom of God as manifested in the incarnation - more than that - the mystery and wonder of it touched my heart.
The profundity of the experience wasn't authored just by the film or the music, for I am rather certain that had I seen it anywhere else it would not have had nearly the same impact. I theorize that the combination of the experience, the ancient setting, and the fact that I had spent the last few day essentially alone in a foreign country had left me teetering toward being vulnerable. How to recreate such vulnerability, which I believe can so easily lead us to repentance and greater community with God?
When the Nativity Proclamation is made this year, I believe it will mean a little more to me than it did last year, because of this wonderful way in which I spent my last night in Paris. God grant that we may continually move deeper and deeper into His mysteries.
...will, for the 40th time, shine out tonight. A Charlie Brown Christmas will once again trample political correctness and have Linus answer Charlie Brown's question if anyone can explain what Christmas is all about with a quote from St. Luke's gospel.
Apparently, even in 1965, TV big wigs didn't think they could get away with qouting the Bible on network television. Well, 40 years later...do you think they might get a clue? With the Success of The Passion and the inevitable success of Narnia?
Now, if they'd only be brave enough to GET THE MESSAGE and air it WITHOUT commercial interruption.
Most everyone knows what happened in 1054 at Constantinople, and it is usually cited as being the date of the "official" splitting of Eastern and Western Christianity. However, more educated amatuer historians know that there is a great deal of history that led up to this single event. More than that though, even after 1054, the perpetualty of the schism was not a foregone conclusion. Many say that the sacking of Constantinople by Latin Crusaders sealed the schism...but in may have actually occurred prior to 1204.
The diversion of the Crusaders to Constantinople in 1204 has always been a bit of a mystery to me. But, as you know I have been reading Runciman's History of the Crusades and he has done a fantastic job of clarifying the issue. Essentially, the first Crusade was welcomed and sought after by the Byzantine Empire as Islamic forces continued to expand and conquer more and more Byzantine territory.
However, as huge Crusader armies marched through the eastern empire, it became apparent that it could become problematic. Such armies needed vast hordes of food and they often got into deadly mischief which required the emperor to police them with his own troops since the leaders of the crusades had variable abilities to control their men. The Emperor was particularly concerned about recovering Asia Minor and so he had the Crusade leaders pledge to return such lands to the Empire, and sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't. There was varying degrees of distrust and competition between Constantinople and the Crusaders, and this would lead later in the face of failures to the dreaded blame game. Crusaders began to suspect the Byzantine Empire of treachery, while the Emperor began to realize that the Crusaders were as much or more interested in reaping their own personal benefits as they were in liberating formerly Christian lands from Muslim aggressors.
By the time the second Crusade got under way, the Byzantine Empire had grown apprehensive about the coming armies sweeping over their lands again. And in turn, the Crusaders were more and more suspicious of Constantinople.
In 1104 Bohemond, a Crusade leader, returned to the west to sway the Pope into seeing that Constantinople was as much an enemy of Christendom as the infidel Muslim. He was successful and Pope Paschal changed the theme of the Crusades, such that Bohemond would lead (unsuccesfully) a Crusader Army against the Byzantines. Runciman writes: "This unhappy agreement between Bohemond and Pope Paschal did far more than all the controversy between Cardinal Humbert and Michael Cerularius to ensure the separation between the eastern and western Churches."
I still have some most posts I wrote while in Paris, I'll get them up shortly along with some more pictures.
Notre Dame has numerous amazing relics. Probably the most well know is the Crown of Thorns which has a rich history being first noted in the early 5th century in Jerusalem and then being transferred to Constantinople in 1063. After the Latin West sacked and conquered Constantinople, the ruling latin emperor in Byzantium sold the relic to Louis IX of France who kept it in his Sainte-Chapelle church which he built for that purpose in 1248.
It remained there until the French Revolution. My history is fuzzy with regard to the French Revolution and I did not realize how much it had parellels with the Russian Revolution 100 some years later - with regard to it having a strong anti-religious bias.
Notre Dame was pillaged and turned into a cathedral devoted to the "cult of reason." The Crown of Thorns found relative safety in a museum of some sort when we may assume St. Chapelle suffered a similar fate. It would be Napolean who returned the relic to the Church and it was at this time that it ends up at Notre Dame.
As we all know, MANY relics ended up in the west that were looted from the east during the Crusades. As I continue to read Runciman, the reasoning as to why this all happened (re: the 4th crusade) at least has some semblance of sense - albeit it none-the-less sad and bitter. I did not hesitate to venerate numerous of these relics which were displayed (i.e. one of the nails), but alas the crown is not displayed in the Treasury, but kept more securely (in the altar perhaps?)and brought out on special occassions such as fridays during Lent.
No mention is made in any of the literature that I read there to indicate the emperor from whom Louis IX purchased the relic was a Latin usurper.
I wrote the following on a greeting card while inside Notre Dame...
I have often lamented people coming to Orthodox Parishes in the spirit of learning how they "used to worship." In a sense treating a living parish as a museum: an experience one is able to stand outside of and interpret by the power of one's own grand wisdom. I am determined not to allow this attitude to taint my experience this place (even my sometimes superior - and often sinful - sense of being Orthodox as opposed to being 'western')...but really I must be honest, it is terribly difficult to stand feeling in any way superior in this place.
Notre Dame is massive, almost ominous. I dare not (and neither should the rest of you other cynics out there) judge the extent to which it's claim to be a living parish is really true. The ambience certainly suffers from the constant flow of museum-minded tourists, who are constantly reminded by signs to be quiet and respectful because "this is a Holy Place."
Sitting here in the dim light from a cloudy Parisian day, under the seemingly endless arches and squinting at the Pieta [see this poem I stumbled upon and was a bit captured by] so far far away, the holiness of this place cannot escape me. Oh how marvelous it would be to hear the ancient chants echoing along the vast surfaces of these stones and colored glass.
How many souls through the centuries have sought and found God here? Souls, who in the shallow eyes of men are both great and small? Nothing remotely this old exists in my normal realm of experience, and so surely I have never been inside a place so haunted with memories. With new memories being made - thank God.
The wonder of it, the magnificence of it does not in my mind overshadow the simple fact that the lives of everyday individuals passed through this place. People fed on Christ here - and I took that rather odd picture of me touching an otherwise indistinct column among many in order to remind me: We don't just touch history here, we touch God.
Huge books near the altar of the church asked that we write down our private petitions which would be added to the prayers of the cathedral (how exactly they do this I cannot guess), but I asked simply for the healing of the divisions between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics.
As I finished writing this petition I began to smell the very familiar perfume of incense, the origin of which I was never able to discern, but wherever it came from it definately made me feel at home.
As most of you know I came to Paris in order to attend an International HIV/HSV-2 workshop which focused on ongoing studies in Africa which are trying to better understand the evident relationship between HSV-2 and transmission of HIV. More and more, the data show that there is a very clear almost circular relationship and the theory being examined asks that if we treat with acyclovir (or some other similar anti-HSV shedding drug)if we can significantly reduce the amount of HIV transmission.
I can't help but feel that the rage described is largely misdirected. This is not to say that more cannot be done, but once again I feel that we as a world society are ignoring the aspect of personal responsibility. It is very refreshing to read this: "Along with the call for quicker and cheaper access to ARVs, many Africans urged a sense of personal responsibility"
We must remember that AIDS is a completely preventable disease. But it will take much more than this sort of stupidity. We have to also confront the attitude expressed by one HIV+ man on a CNN special who patently refuses to use a condom or refrain from extensive promiscuous behavior. He says in essence: "I am dying...why should I care...I just want to have as much fun as I can before I die."
Apathy in the face of death...no notion of the possibility or goodness of dying a noble death in the face of a horrific disease...literally a deadly hedonism. This is of course overtly cruel, but less overt is the cruelty which enslaves humankind to the sexual behavior and responsibility of a rabbit.
We are better than this damnable disease...and we must teach this as well.