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.
As many of you might have heard, the author of "The DaVinci Code" is being sued by an author of a previous book that espouses many of the same conspiracy theories that Dan Brown capitalized upon.
But, if we are to believe that these things are historical facts, how in the world can they be covered under copyright laws? Except for outright plagerism, what gives with regard to this case? Unless of course, these conspiracy theories are in fact simply cleverly invented fictions...GASP!
Otherwise, I shall await the lawsuit that comes from my saying this: Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. (Surely someone said this before me, no?)
At any rate, the man who wrote the first book "Holy Blood Holy Grail" fancies himself a theologian as can be seen in this interview.
I think he's a great example of a hit and miss historical theologian. For instance he'll quote the gospels as an historic texts when it suits him, but deny their validity when he rubs him the wrong way (e.g. that Jesus DIED on the cross, or that Jesus opted ONLY to chose men for his disciple - he claims Christianity USED to be "feminine")
He tries to "scare" us with the amazing revelation that the council of Nicea officially proclaimed Jesus as God (at least he doesn't lie like Brown - I assume - and claim the vote was close) and that the NT Scriptures weren't determined until the late 4th century. And all we Orthodox say: so what?
He makes dubious reference to "other" writings as expressing the more "wide" beliefs of early Christians, but there are no specifics? No means by which to argue the validity and authenticity he claims they have. Why trust Michael Baigent as opposed to those who lived in the time period and decided THEN what was authentic and what was spurious?
And then this: The sacred is very important to me. It's crucial. I think that we need a relationship with the sacred which gives our lives meaning in the same way as we need food, air and water. It is that important and for that reason we need to approach it for ourselves. It is too important to allow someone else to tell us how to think or what to believe. We need to ask our own questions and demand our own answers.
Let me get this straight...the sacred is sooo important that I need to figure it out for myself? And I can too, by the way...I am so stinking brilliant!
Why is it that it always turns into some form of tyranny as opposed to what it actually is: the revelation to a community? Hmmmm? Individualism gone mad. The sacred is SOOOOO important, you better NOT be relying on yourself, in so doing you demonstrate the epitomy of arrogance, pride and recklessly absurd self-trust. Like an explorer who refuses to seek the counsel of those who went before him. Hope you make it back!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:25 PM [+] +++
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Continuing on with Idle Talk
It's always the default answer isn't it? To assume that "religious images" and "traditions" are probably wrong. This aside, where's the beef in this article?
So, the Romans used numerous methods of Crucifixion, and in fact I believe it is the Mormons who believe Jesus was nailed to a pole. (but wait a minute...doesn't the latin of that term "crucifixion" IMPLY something with regard to two things crossing one another?)
But, the study says, these efforts have all been prejudiced by the automatic assumption, derived from religious images, that Jesus was crucified head-up.
Given the uncertainty as to exactly how he was crucified, the answer may only ever come if some new archaeological evidence or piece of writing emerges from the shadows of the past, it says.
Yes, by all means give no creedance to tradition handed down from those who witnessed the crucifixion or even the existance from the very earliest of Christian times of the symbol as we popularly know it today. What trite nonsense.
...take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk
(sigh) I expect many of you will be happy to see me squirm on this point. Take comfort in knowing that I do indeed find myself squirming as this one slips past my lips each day.
I could try and squirm free by narrowing down in self-complimentary fashion what exactly "IDLE" talk (or typing)is. No doubt a post feigning a presidential run for Jack Bauer is exceptionally idle typing.
Conrtol of the toungue (or fingers in the modern sense) seems to be the main point of reference when the fathers speak of speech. I think we can all recall times when we have said things that we deeply regret..sadly sometimes only after someone finally told us how deeply those words cut them. It might seem astounding upon initial reflection that the two organs of the human body that are most often perceived as being critically important in the life of a Christian are the stomach and the tongue.
What we say matters...it very often speaks what is in our hearts. How's that for self-condemnation? I know many Orthodox bloggers go "dark" during Lent...I commend them for it and offer no excuse for my own ongoing rambling.
If this Church (make sure to watch the amazing video) wanted to start using iconography in their worship, they could have consulted us. We have extensive experience with wonderworking icons...and just between you and me, ours look...umm...better.
...take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power...
If you haven't noticed, I've taken some time to reflect on each passion and virtue of the great prayer of St. Ephrem which we Orthodox are exhorted - whether we like it or not - to pray often throughout Lent. I figured that I ought to do so so that as I do pray this prayer, be it in the mornings with my wife or in the occassional afternoons of the SCCA "sanctuary" with Jared or with the formal gathering of the Body, that I might better refrain from rushing over the terms too quickly.
Now, with "lust of power" I must admit to having to do a bit more thinking. I certainly have no grand lust for "power" in the realm of my career - money, yes - but power...no thanks. But at home? I can be a bloody tyrant! Not pontificating and such, but certainly becoming exceedingly grumping if I don't get my way.
Another facet by which to see "lust of power" is to flip it around and consider how I respond to being the "subject of someone else's power." Hmmm...not so good either. In a very real way, the foundation of sin is "lust of power"...to be in charge and to be subject to no one.
It can be a challenge, but if we spend a little time I'll bet we can find innumerable ways that we have "lust of power." Humility is the predominant opposing virtue here, I think, but we are not there yet.
By the way, the first early sermon in the book I am reading is by the Archbishop of Thessalonica John which is dated to around the early 7th century. In it he recounts what he perceives to be an accurate account of the Theotokos' dormition. I was particularly moved by this portion:
"Who am I, lowly one, that I have been accounted worthy of such glory?" And having said this, she brought the course of her life to its fulfillment, her face turned smilingly towards the Lord. And the Lord took her soul and placed it in the hands of Michael, after wrapping it in veils of some kind, whose splendor it is impossible to describe.
Picture the forearm balanced like a seesaw on the back of the sofa. One kid, the owner of said forearm is on the backside of the sofa, while the other being exhorted to pull while holding the wrist of the other is on the front. When the owner of the leveraged forearm (my eldest son of 5 years) let loose his entire weight (massive though it is not) something "gave way."
I've never seen my boy in so much pain. He would not stop crying, he refused to be moved or touched, the arm especially could not be moved. He began sucking his thumb - something he NEVER does, then shivering and yawning...inconsolable. And though there did not appear to be any swelling, there was also very little swelling (initially) when my daughter broke her wrist.
Anyway, off he went to the ER. X-Rays showed no break, and thus - despite being unusual in his age, they suggested nursemaid's elbow...sure enough. Within a few minutes you would never know any of it happened - despite the obvious trauma of it for the boy.
Amazingly, my wife related to me that during the X-Ray, the boy claimed he could hear his Guardian Angel singing. When I asked him what the angel sounded like, he said it sounded like "Mama."
It is comforting to know, that Moms and Dads aren't the only ones looking out for our children.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:44 PM [+] +++
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
While perhaps not "in season", I am reading a collection of early patristic homilies on the Theotokos - particularly in relation to her Dormition. I've only just begun, but am already awe struck by some of what I am reading. How much my protestant brothers and sisters rob themselves by negating our Mother's role in the great restoration.
St. Proclus preached a riveting (and perhaps dangerous) sermon around the season of Nativity in Constantinople while the heretic Patriarch Nestorius listened. In it, St. Proclus is quoted as saying the following:
The celebration in honor of the virgin, my brother and sisters, calls our tongue to speak well today. This present festival is a harbinger of future well-being for all who have met together here – and rightly so! For it shows us the reason for purity, and offers us womanhood’s most exalted boast. Holy Mary has called us together, the imaculate treasure of virginity, the spiritual paradise of the second Adam, the workshop where natures were united; the festival of our saving covenant, the chamber in which the Word made flesh his bride; the living thornbush of our nature, which the fire of a divine childbirth did not burn up; the truly radiant cloud, which bore in a body Him who thrones above the Cherubim; the fleece made pure by heavenly dew, in which the Shepherd dresses as the sheep; servant and mother, virgin and heaven, only bridge between God and the human race; awe-inspiring loom of God’ saving plan, on which the garment of unity was indescribably woven, whose weaver is the Holy Spirit, and whose spinner is the overshadowing power from on high, whose wool is the old sheepskin of Adam; the warp is the immaculate flesh of the Virgin, the shuttle the measureless grace of her who bore Him, and the designer is the Word, who entered her by hearing.
Also, in doing a little web searching last night I found this link. It is a vast collection (from a Roman Catholic source I believe) of Scriptures and Patristic quotes regarding the Theotokos - worth checking out.
Now I know this has happened before and reading this with an understanding that "medical care" and "services" takes on a rather ominous feel, but take a look at what the law suit claims:
This [the birth] was caused by the fault and negligence of the medical staff.
Someone help me out here...I always thought that baby's being born were CAUSED by...umm...well...something else. Once again, we have rejected the concept of personal responsibility even such that we have blinded ourselves to the simply reality of cause and effect.
"But for these failures, she would not have suffered the loss, injury and damage she has."
Well there ya go Baby Jayde, according to official documents you are to your mom a source of "loss, injury, and damage."
I know some of you will tell me that I ought to not be surprised, but seeing signposts such as this, showing where we are going...it's disheartening and frightening to think that such words could be put to paper. God preserve Jade from ever delving through court records.
...that THIS "artist", whose stunts...ahem...sorry...art is splashed all over the media, might just be an extremely self-satisfied perv? I mean think about it, for more than a decade he has been getting people to voluntarily pose naked for him...hmmm...it's a peeping tom's dream come true. Can you imagine him snickering after the photoshoot: "I can't believe how many showed up!"
To boot, I expect he sells the pictures at an unbelievable price.
It is one thing to debate about feminizing the name or titles of God, but it is quite another to adopt what I saw as paganism into your worship and beliefs. Yeah, I'm a judgemental prig, but it just felt spooky wrong.
One word comes to mind: balance (as in, the utter lack thereof). Feminism gone wild.
I enjoy talking to my Jewish coworker on a variety of topics, and today I mentioned that my kids have taken to singing a song, part of which, is in Hebrew. She laughed, expecting a joke I suspect (since she knows me too well), and then I explained that it is a portion of a song from the Soundtrack of “Prince of Egypt.”
As best I could, I tried to blabber out the words as I recalled them and she smiled, seemingly understanding me until I reached the phrase “Adonai” at which point she looked at me as if I’d run my nails across a chalkboard.
Now we’d talked before about the comparative ease with which “christians” speak the names of God, sometimes to the point of being blatantly offensive. I pointed out that indeed the using of Jesus'/God’s name outisde of a context in which He is actually being discussed or referenced is indeed considered blasphemyfor most Christians, but that westerners are so secularized these days that many who often use our Lord’s name in “unusual” circumstances, actually know nothing about Him- they don't even understand what they are saying. A devout Christian certainly knows better.
Now, I had always known that the tetragrammaton was never uttered, but apparently even names such as “Adonai” are not to ever be said outside of prayer. In its place, I am told, they use the phrase “Ha Shem” which is directly translated as “the name.” And it was so odd discussing this issue with her because she avoided terms like "Adonai", saying instead: “What you said earlier” or “What you just said.” It was charming...I feel blessed to have her her and be educated by her.
And the issue of names gave me pause to think: What effect would it have on our prayers if we reserved the use of the name Jesus (or even God for that matter) to only those times when we are directly addressing Him? Think about it...I expect there would be a certain empowerment in that, wouldn’t there? Now clearly this is not a part of our tradition – by that I mean we do not have any prohibitions about using the name Jesus when we are engaged in discussions about Him, but we do, by the same token believe that there IS a certain power and authority in His name, no?
For my own part, I think I need to consider attaching more sacredness to the names of our God. And I really do wonder how it would affect our worship and prayer if we were to converse day to day about “Ha Shem” and then only name Him when we are directly speaking to Him. We certainly have no shortage of the “best buddy” syndrome in western theology, rather we could use a greater dose of “otherness”, “holiness”, and “mystery.”
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:49 PM [+] +++
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
O Lord and Master of my life...
Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair
Generally, I tend to think that I do not really struggle with despair, but upon closer and more honest examination I can certainly see instances in which I have allowed despair to rule in my heart. Thankfully, it is usually short-lived, but no less destructive I think. My heart truly goes out to those who wrestle more particularly with this than I do...it is a dark place to be in, so dark that you cannot - for a time - see your way out.
My despair often comes, upon hindsight, in the most asinine and silly situations. I utterly lose the ability to see context, the bigger picture. Money, kids, my own failings and SPECIFICALLY its relationship with the former two are all culprits. Ahhh, somewhere out there is a holiness that allows you to face all of your challenges with hope, love, and peace...even those challenges that really are not challenges. Lord have mercy on those with REAL challenges!
One particular moment of despair came when I knew that I did not have the money or the expertise to fix my own rotted out bathroom floor. I vividly recall sitting in our living room and feeling the wieght of the world on my shoulders...utterly despondant, angry, unwilling to listen to reason, unwilling to be comforted, seemingly desirious for the situation to be as bad as or worse than it possibly could be seen. It is an ugly place, a selfish place, a faithless place....a sinful place.
Once sanity returns, often with the prevailing problem solved or on its way to being solved, we see how absurd that state of being was. God preserve us from it...and God grant that we remain awake to it's impending arrival, to our defense against it, our treading water through it, and ultimately our escape from it.
The man who creates the voice for "Chef" in the obnoxious TV show "South Park" has quit citing the show's irreverance toward religion. But, after years of slamming Christianity - sometimes in ways that even I deemed offensive - it would take "South Park" hitting upon his own scientology to convince the actor that "Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."
One of the show's creators poignantly noted the hypocrisy: "This is 100% having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."
I would simply say to the show's creators: C'mon boys, let's not think too highly of yourselves as slick equal opportunity offenders, not today anyway. Insulting Christians and Christian beliefs are so passe'...I mean please who has NOT done that? Let's stop pretending to be so "cutting edge" or "hard hitting" or "provocative." Surely you must be bored with the absolute lack of GOOD provocation you are seeing by insulting the Virgin Mary etc, no? Try something new, boys. For you see, to earn such "badges of free speech honor" these days, you have to insult Islam! Go for it...just make sure you get PLENTY of worldwide PR.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:32 PM [+] +++
Friday, March 10, 2006
You've read me before claim that I am very fond of film soundtracks - and lately I've been giving more attention to the soundtrack to "The Passion of the Christ" which, like the film, is multi-lingual in the few haunting lyrics it has. I was curious, and so found the composers website along with the lyrics and the translations.
From "Jesus is carried down": Syriac (Late Aramiac) Ze'eyri, Ze'eyri, Adonay Ayit eeu wit, Ayit eeu wit Hhoba allah haya haya Ze'eyri, Ze'eyri
My child, My child, Lord Your soul, your soul is divine love My child
And from "The Resurrection" Aramaic Yeshua, Yeshua, hey bel livivi al shmay ya Y'khanseyn li shlam ka Qadish sha tith sha be'akh Khed wah min kul di le he weh Hosanna Yeshua
Jesu, Jesu, lift my heart to heaven Thy peace enfold me Holy one all praise to thee, all life rejoices! Hosanna, Jesu.
So, I'm just sitting here waiting...waiting for that spirit to fly away...
...waiting...sitting...waiting...havin that spirit taken it away...
...ummm...still waiting...ummm, it doesn't mean I actually have to get off my butt and do something does it?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:33 AM [+] +++
What do you know about the occupation of Cyprus?
Curiously not nearly as much as you likely know about Israel's occupation of lands after the Arab-Israeli war. Around the United States, no war protest is complete without reference - sometimes extensive - to the Israeli "occupation of Palestine." But nothing about Cyprus....now I understand, the situation in the Middle East is more volatile on a world-wide scale - but is peace and justice limited to such definitions? All over the world, people are "under occupation." And as one amongst at least two plays about the life of the "peace martyr" Rachel Corrie are being offered here in Seattle, there are still no "peace martyr" wannabes standing in front of Turkish efforts to continue turning richly historic christian churches and monasteries into mosques or worse yet, rubble. Where are the peace activists from Evergreen State College raising money to travel to Cyprus? Heck, the Taliban got more flak for destroying those Buddhist statues, when arguably there were no Buddhists left in Afghanistan at all (hmm...why would that be I wonder.)
Fact is, the world really has a double standard with not only criticizing religions (bash Christians, silk glove Muslims...did you see the recent series - once making frontpage even - in the NYT about the Imam...anyone wonder if the story had been about a Christian pastor if the series would have been a little less glowing an endoresment? See Diane West's OpEd), but also with regard to real suffering and oppression.
Some non-denom mega church advertises on numerous local radio stations with a hip commercial that notes that they offer features that "fit your life and lifestyle" and an overall ability to "empower people to succeed in every sphere of life."
Whenever I am blessed to hear this ad I can't help cringing a little. Now I understand the need to have your church "appeal" to you, and I'd be dishonest in denying that ultimately the Orthodox Church had a huge amount of appeal to me, but I could not honestly say that Orthodoxy "fits my life and lifestyle." Rather the opposite I would say...ask me again in a few weeks when I'll likely find it even less fitting with my normally meat ridden lifestyle.
Isn't it backwards, in a way? I mean, isn't the Church supposed to CHANGE our life and lifestyle? This was always my complaint during my brief circuit in a similar church: not a lot of change, just a lot of feeling good about ourselves. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but the last thing we need - I think - is to feel "empowered to succeed in every sphere of life." It begs the question: What does it mean to succeed?
When I heard such sermons and exhortations in my past, I kept thinking about all the apostles and early church fathers who I was just beginning to read about: most of them died horrible deaths and is that what we mean by success? Isn't it the job of the church to REDEFINE what we popularly understand "success" to be?
Now before this begins to seem overly critical of my non-Orthodox friends, stop and think, my Orthodox brothers and sisters: Are you seeing your life and lifestyle changed? Do you feel that your understanding of success is conformed to the image of Christ? Are you allowing yourself to be empowered for that success?
Me? Not as I should. Thus, instead of cringing at the error I hear in the spirit of that commercial, I shall cringe at my generally ignoring the treausre of tools sitting dusty beside me.
Anyone else have the sneaky suspicion that when the scientists and doctors leave, this family bursts out into uncontrollable and sustained laughter?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:01 AM [+] +++
Monday, March 06, 2006
I enjoy reading church reader boards, call it a hobby if you like. There are two churches I pass directly by while enroute to my local Orthodox parish and presently one of them is advertising “Atomic Worship” and the other offers this message (my paraphrase): “Lent isn’t about what you give up, it’s about Him who gave up everything for you.”
Now this particular church is, I believe, a non-denom evangelical church and I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they actually DO practice Lent, for indeed it would be the pinnacle of silliness to be offering Lenten advice when you yourself do not really participate in Lent? Right? I refrain from imagining that a non-Lent participating church would be trying to give lessons to commincants of Lent participating churches who just happen to be driving by!
Why does Lent HAVE to be about one thing? It seems everytime evangelicals look at a practice done by non-evangelical churches, they always seem to find someway of claiming that we (i.e. non-evangelicals) are missing the most important thing. I tend to imagine an analogy of someone watching, from the outside, as others participate in an elaborate, festive, and beautiful meal while complaining that they are neglecting the simple fact that all the human body really needs is basic caloric intake.
While perhaps true, there is more to a meal than caloric intake. What makes a feast a feast as opposed to a nutritional occurance? Certainly more than quantity, right? I think so.
Have we in the west really turned Christianity into such a bare boned, base price equipped, one dimensional, product? We sit upon the riches of thousands of years of tradition and we say none of it really matters? We must qualify everything with: but what really matters is Jesus! Well, of course! What good is fasting, we say, unless we keep Jesus in mind? Well of course! Why is it always an either/or?
Fasting, while I was an evangelical, was a personal choice – something we rarely did (if ever at all – speaking for myself here) when we felt “led.” Ever trustful of our ability to follow and our ability to know with certainty who or what was doing the leading, we lived most of our spitirual lives being “led.” Confident that we were exemplifying what _________ (fill in the blank) was all about – as opposed to those who needed a good reader board reminder.
But trusting yourself (okay, Myself) is a dangerous business, especially if you are a sinner, like me. Picture a drug addict trying to get sober all by themelves – armed with the best of intentions, the “big” book, and the twelve steps. But motivated by the power of feeling led. How many of us who have tried to offer counsel as an evangelical "leader" only to be told that
In this same image, Lent is a Church prescribed intervention, and as anyone will tell you who has experienced an intervention: it has little to do with how you are feeling led.
Yes, Lent has everything to do with our Lord who did not say "If you fast..." or "When you feel led to fast...", but simply: "When you fast..."
The megachurches simply wanted individuals to feel good about themselves, he said.
I would contend that this is NOT a problem found only in Megachurches. Micro/Home churches have the exact same issue and more than that, I think, tend to function in the same capacity as Microbrews. I drink Microbrews, not because they are neccesarily better for me (calorically they are decidely NOT), but because I think they taste better. Plus, by golly, its just plain cooler and I feel hip drinking a microbrew and turning my nose up to Miller and Budweiser. Megabrewers suck, dude.
And of course we Orthdoox are not immune from developing a tasty stagnation. Neglecting the life of the church (because we don't like the taste) or just sitting around and complaining about how the new priest does it wrong or the newest version of the Triasagion isn't quite to our liking.
But as the article states: MegaChurches remain successful - because they APPEAL to people. But so what? Good question..is the church supposed to appeal to people? If not, they why the constant and ongoing redesign?
Christianity is pretty lame here in the west - particularly in America - and I say this to all of us: whether you look like Tammy Faye or Bono. Utlimately you are so full of yourself (certainly ALMOST as much as I am of MYSELF), that it would be wise to ask ourselves what the heck good are we doing by building a church in OUR image?
The Church and Beer, sad that we choose or invent them by generally the same criteria. By that same token, people that come to Orthodoxy because it tastes good, will eventually be in for a surprise.