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 feel so “lucky” to be where I am today…even though I suppose luck has little to do with it. God’s providence and what ever stupid role my freewill played into it (perhaps the latter is where luck may be aptly fit.)
Pascha/Easter will, for the rest of my life, be as it was this year and in the years previous: glorious and a living part of our family paradosis. My children will grown up loving Lent and the Paschal season. Memories of Mom and Dad rushing around cleaning and cooking, praying, burning crosses into doorjambs, cooking, singing, worshipping, busy busy busy...there is no doubt, our home is ALIVE! I have no similar experience in my own childhood, at least nothing that is remotely comparable. The everyday mundane is vanquished and something IMPORTANT is being prepared for...hurry, it's coming!
There is also the connection with our fellow parishoners and neighbors as they prepare with us and then also celebrate with us. It is a time when that great liturgical dance that I often speak about reaches its dramatic climax, though not to be confused with a grand finale (that is still coming).
I love the fact that the Orthodox Church has not just made me feel differently or think differently...she has changed most everything about me. She has added richness and texture to not only my life but also to the life of my family. She has united us, she has changed us, she continues to challenge us, she brings us joy and sadness, she shatters us, she rebuilds us, she leads us and we as a community (not as individuals with preferences) whose hearts are bent to the Holy Spirit lead her, she connects us to the past and shows us the “ancient landmarks” left for us, she unites heaven to earth in a very real way. She puts Christ on us in her Holy Baptism. McLaren speaks of a "Generous Orthodoxy"...indeed, with all due respect - I know something MORE generous. Too generous...painfully generous...gloriously generous...beyond imagination generous...radically generous, while remaining traditionally generous. Sometimes sinking, I am forced to tread water in the midst of this Generous Orthodoxy.
I really do not have the words…even as I look back to what I have written here I can see clearly that it does no justice to the wonder and thankfulness I feel. While I might be tempted to feel a bit of remorse for not having this wonder delivered to me long ago in my youth, I really do not. For the joy of this truly radiant feast overshadows that notion and the indescribably magnificent words of St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily ring in my ears (Go ahead, read it aloud! Shout the ending as it seems so appropriate! Smile throughout!):
If any man be devout and loveth God, Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant, Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting, Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, Let him have no misgivings; Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last, And careth for the first; And to the one He giveth, And upon the other He bestoweth gifts. And He both accepteth the deeds, And welcometh the intention, And honoureth the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; Receive your reward, Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one bewail his poverty, For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered When it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion Unto ages of ages. Amen.
A Pascha worthy of all honor has dawned for us. Pascha! Let us embrace each other joyously!...This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call "Brother" even those who hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! And unto us He has given eternal life. Let us worship His resurrection on the third day!
So much to say...so much to marvel at...too tired. Absolutely worn out and it is a good feeling. The last week and more has had our house and our Parish in a constant state of preparation - truly both a family and community event. Richer than anything I have ever know - Orthodox Easter makes every other religious celebration I have ever been a part of in my life seem positively bland. For you converts, can you recall when Easter was not Pascha? You know what I mean. More to say later...after I have slept.
Christ is Risen...feast deeply, my brothers and sisters.
KOMO weather also reminded me that the previous five weekends in a row have been rain soaked - which of course includes western easter. Someone (you know who you are) recently suggested to me that a study that looked at weather here in WA on Easter as compared to Pascha would show that God favors the Orthodox. ;)
Okay, so the attachment of George Takei to this news actually diminishes the more pressing issue. Here you have gay activists going to private Christian colleges (mostly) to protest their policies. Billed as a sort of civil rights tour (see thier Bus with Ghandi and MLK), the organizer says that the institutions they are confronting equate homosexuality with sickness and sin. It's time to have a conversation instead of defaming our humanity.
Yes, let us have conversation. Shall we begin with what does it mean to be human? To what degree does our sexuality define us as human beings? I think the colleges (or churches) are wrong in banning "LGBT" people from attending, but by the same token they ought not to compromise their values or the teachings of historic Christianity. Our example is Christ, who loved and accepted...but who also said to "go and sin no more."
The ongoing confrontation over this issue is going to steadily increase. Legal issues already abound and they will also continue to arise. As more and more homosexuality is made into an issue of civil and human rights, we as the Church need to be prepared to address it with love, kindness, compassion, eloquence and without compromise. For we are constantly going to be facing it whether a tour bus arrives or not. In the end, I fear, we will still be labelled bigots because at the foundational level we disagree over what it means to be human. And once that label is set these days, it is as destructive of dialogue as "faggot" is.
I happened across a copy of the Easter Sunday edition of the Seattle PI this morning. The name of our Lord God and Savior “Jesus” caught my eye and I decided to give the “Focus” section a read on the bus.
The “Social Justice Gospel” abounds, and it was present in at two of the several Easter related OpEds that I read. One was from a United Church of Christ Pastor and was entitled “Easter is about life here and now” to which I would offer a hearty amen...but the article further explains.
The Resurrection – according to the pastor – is about life, here and now because it demonstrates that God’s peace, justice, and righteousness prevails against “callous…unjust…and tyrannical powers” Why, yes, indeed it does…but I wonder if he and I are thinking about the same callous, unjust, tyrannical powers? The author never says specifically who or what he is writing about, saying only that such powers were responsible for killing Jesus. In one poignant sentence he refers to these powers as a “system” and also references this connection with the hope we have against “death systems at work in our own world.”
He also sets up a dichotomy between two things to be found in the Resurrection: immortality and justice and he claims that we need to have both and that indeed there is room for both. But, he states that an Easter without the notion of justice is an Easter that has been “domesticated” and has lost its “subversive memory.” (subversive???? You wanna see subversive? Go to your local Orthodox Church this saturday and watch and listen...the greatest subversive act in all history will be shown to you - and it doesn't involve bombs or protests!) The author says: Immortality is about heaven, justice is about earth – the here and now. This is a completely false dichotomy, for the Orthodox heaven is brought to earth and the Kingdom is here and now – just as Jesus said: it is within you, not outside of you.
The callous, unjust, and tyrannical powers that killed Jesus Christ is indeed a death system and is indeed at work in our world today, but it is NOT the Roman or American Empire, it is NOT capitalism, it is NOT communism, it is NOT Islamic Jihad, it is NOT the military industrial complex, and it is NOT corporate America. It is sin.
And herein is the problem with the social justice gospel: Jesus never preached it – at least not in the way that it is being preached today. How many times have I written this before: Jesus never once had a critical thing to say about the oppressive and imperialistic slave trading Roman Empire…not a single thing! Roman soldiers would come to Him and he would not launch into a tirade about social justice and “death systems”…instead He simply told them to be good in their work. And after Jesus gave his rousing “Beatitude” speech, the thousands or so who were present did not march off to protest the unjustices of the Roman Empire. Jesus was not a politician, and He was not an “activist” and the liberation He taught was not one that involved revolutions.
We will never find and fix the “death system” by looking at governments or corporations, because the most callous, unjust, tyrannical, and powerful death system is found right here in my heart and I suspect if you look hard enough it is in your heart too. This is the danger of the social gospel – we are looking for and protesting so hard against external systems, that we may neglect the means by which Jesus brought change to the world: He examined individual hearts and opened them to His sometimes painful love. No, an external social “system” did not crucify Jesus – we did. But Glory to God, He has trampled down death by death and THAT is what makes Pascha about “here and now” and unto ages of ages, amen.
Sometimes I think this is one of the most significant single sentences in the entire New Testament...and clearly one of the most profound events ever to take place. In my past understandings, I have often taken these tears to be primarily representative of Christ’s humanity, but in the liturgical experience of the Church with regard to Lazarus Saturday, it has been made clear to me that much more was going on here. Jesus was doing more than weeping for his friend, he was weeping for us all.
It is an amazing thing to contemplate God weeping over death. The Author of Life, He who knows his power of death and was well on His way to demonstrating it…none-the-less weeps.
It ought to give us great pause whenever we see Christians “celebrate” death as a great release and a freeing of the spirit. No, the REAL release and freeing will begin on Holy Saturday. This last Saturday was a glorious teaser.
For any who might be interested, THIS is a PDF document which contains a list of ALL Orthodox clergy serving in the United States Military (along with some cool pics). I have sent an email to all of those who had email addresses listed, thanking them for their service to our men and women in the military.
I find it to be a positive means of getting my frustrations out...letting them know that most of us do not believe our soldiers are terrorists.
...doing THIS and waiting for the NEXT kid to start puking, then you too might be celebrating 12 years of marital bliss with four screaming kids, a barking dog, two destrcutive cats, a host of fish in a dirty tank, a frozen rat eating corn snake named Cora, a stack of bills, and long about a million promised things to fix.
Just another day in Paradise, Susan, and there's no place that I'd rather be!
The kids screaming, phone ringing Dog barking at the mailman bringing That stack of bills - overdue Good morning baby, how are you? Got a half hour, quick shower Take a drink of milk but the milk's gone sour My funny face makes you laugh Twist the top on and I put it back
There goes the washing machine Baby, don't kick it. I promise I'll fix it Long about a million other things
Well, it's ok. It's so nice It's just another day in paradise Well, there's no place that I'd rather be Well, it's two hearts And one dream I wouldn't trade it for anything And I ask the lord every night For just another day in paradise
Friday, you're late Guess we'll never make our dinner date At the restaurant you start to cry Baby, we'll just improvise Well, plan B looks like Dominoes' pizza in the candle light Then we'll tippy toe to our room Make a little love that's overdue But somebody had a bad dream Mama and daddy Can me and my teddy Come in to sleep in between?
Yeah it's ok. It's so nice. It's just another day in paradise. Well, there's no place that I'd rather be Well, it's two hearts And one dream I wouldn't trade it for anything And I ask the lord every night For just another day in paradise
Well, it's ok. It's so nice. It's just another day in paradise. Well, there's no place that I'd rather be Two hearts And one dream I wouldn't trade it for anything And I ask the lord every night For just another day in paradise
In a Time Magazine series entitled "The Lost Tribes of Europe", the Rusyns of Slovakia made the list. Naturally, the man who is easily the most famous Rusyn, Andy Warhol, is noted prominantly...and you might be surprised to learn about Andy's religious side. See also HERE
I would contend that not ALL Rusyns were Greek Catholic, though clearly the vast majority were. My family was, but whereas they were able to peacefully remain faithful to their more Orthodox traditions in Slovakia, the differences became more personally apparent amidst the coal towns of eastern Pennsylvania.
It is interesting to note the change of self-identification between 1910 and 2001. The 1910 data is based on a census I am familiar with via my genealogical research. At the time, my Great Grandparents village called Juskova Vola was listed as "Rusyn" by which we mean to say that greater than half the respondants claimed to be Rusyn, but today when I ask the mayor of the village (yes, believe it or not, I have semi-regular dialogues with the mayor of a tiny Slovakian Village with about 300 inhabitants) about the town's Rusyn past he says he doesn't think anyone there would consider themselves Rusyn...rather they are Slovaks.
As the Time article illustrates (and by the way, the Rusyns aren't ONLY in Slovakia, they are in a variety of other countries as well), Rusyns have been assimilated over the past century or so and only in recently times has there been a resurgance of interest in preserving their unique culture.
...take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility
Generally, I've no business trying to explain any notions of humility that I have, except to say that I lack it. I will instead offer my sense that humility is a dangerous thing because the pursuit of it can sway one towards self-loathing (a form of pride)...The Orthodox Church (those of you within her know so already) really places a lot of emphasis on humility, but it does so in the same spirit of a properly trimmed wick in a vigil lamp as opposed to an out of control consuming fire. This is the benefit of our beloved Church, the keeper and protector of sayings like THESE.
I've been getting a lot of emails and comments about my family background, so I thought I might offer some clarification.
I was raised in a predominantly secular home with absolutely no religious education, except what I happened to glean from neighbors and friends. My father is an agnostic/athiest who usually had little positive to say about religion, and my mother - though posessing a general belief in God would likely not characterize herself as being devout. We never went to Church (except for a brief series of ventures shortly after my parents' divorce) and religion certainly played little role in our lives. When I was in the third grade we moved from Ohio to the smoggy, brown, and congested paradise of southern California, which effectively ended all opportunity for me to have much contact with some of my more distant relatives - most of whom lived in Pennsylvania.
Following my father's example I became a bratty champion for the athiest cause - making it my business to correct the wrong-headed thinking of religious people everywhere. However, after a series of what I call philosophical-ethical-emotional crises, I came to acknowledge the neccesity of their being a God of somesort. Later I would "give my life to Christ" in the context of a pentecostal evangelical church. (Clearly I am skipping out many details, but I'll leave that for another time).
Years later I would face a new crisis that hinged upon history, authority, revelation, tradition etc etc etc. In short, I came to believe that the protestant hermeneutic was erroneous and that protestantism just didn't seem to match with what I was seeing in the writings of the Church Fathers. In the end, I would "give my life to Christ's Church" in the context of Orthodoxy.
One time while my father was visiting, I happened to be listening to a Slavonic Liturgy and he recognized the Trisagion and was even able to recite part ot it for me - though with some stumbling. I was astounded! He said, "Yeah we used to be Orthodox...I'm sure some of my family in Pennsylvania still are."
Sure enough. My family on that side immigrated from the hills of eastern Slovakia around the turn of the 20th century. When they came, they came as "Greek Catholics" but as problems arose between the Roman hierarchs and the newly arriving Byzantines, they and their entire parish left Rome and became a part of the Carpatho-Russian archdiocese.
Last summer I attended a family reunion and it was an amazing experience getting to meet all of these long lost cousins and such, many of whom go to either to an ACROD or OCA parish. Many of them expressed wonder as I related to them how it was that I became Orthodox in a way very dissimilar to how they became Orthodox.
So, you could say that yes, I am an ethnic Orthodox, but I am not a cradle Orthodox. Since discovering all of this I have been furiously doing family research and trying to learn as much as I can. In the end, I am an American Orthodox and so I have no grand desire to become a Slovak-Rusyn, but I do intend to learn more and perhaps integrate a few practices back into my family life which by my reckoning should have been there to begin with.
I grew up in a secular home, but none-the-less, we had Easter Baskets filled with candies and gifts on Easter morning. Now, my Dad's side of the family, being from eastern Europe and being either Orthodox or Greek Catholic I can see how we might still have residual baskets in our home.
But Easter baskets are EVERYWHERE here in America! Is there any sort of western tradition of Easter Baskets? Traditionally, Orthodox Christians prepare a feast full of fast-breaking foods and placed into a large basket which is brought to church and blessed along with everyone elses' baskets. I wonder, do the French (for example) have Easter baskets? Or the English? Do or did Roman Catholics ever have a tradition like this (I've never heard of it, if so)? perhaps they used to and do not do it anymore?
I ask, because it makes me wonder if perhaps here in America the Easter Basket craze was actually adapted from our Orthodox immigrants over the last century or so? Anyone know?
The story is all over, but here is one from Reuters. I particularly liked this article because it rightly notes that there is nothing new to this discovery - except that we get to see it, for St. Ireanios long ago condemned the work - rightly so.
"He's the good guy in this portrayal," said Bart Ehrman, a religion professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "He's the only apostle who understands Jesus."
The Judas gospel's introduction says it is "the secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot." Later, it quotes Jesus as saying to Judas, "You will exceed all of them (the other disciples) for you will sacrifice the man who clothes me."
"The idea in this gospel is that Jesus, like all of us, is a trapped spirit, who is trapped in a material body," Ehrman said. "And salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existence, and Judas is the one who makes it possible for him to escape by allowing for his body to be killed."
HELLO!!! Can you say heretic! Folks anytime a doc starts out with the phrase "the secret account" you ought to start laughing your arse off. I believe St. Irenaios sure did. Furthermore, Jesus is a "trapped spirit"???? I think I am going to porjectile vomit. "Salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existance"? Arghhhh...Mr. Ehrman, you are a gnostic. Gee, and to think that nearly 2000 years of Orthodox Christianity has mistakenly taught that salvation had something specific to do with the Resurrection and Restoration of the the very same physical body that is hammering away at this keyboard. Salvation is death? Can you see the demonic in this teaching? That salvation is the seperation of soul and body?!? I shiver at the thought...this insidious and dangerous teaching. Salvation is not Death, but on the contrary it is the DESTRUCTION of death, the CONQUERING of death, the SMASHING of Death's doors, the BODILY RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ!
Rev. Donald Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said the document revealed the diversity and vitality in early Christianity.
What ARE they teaching at CTU these days???? It does no such thing Rev. Senior, it points to the fact that the early Church struggled with false teaching just like we do today (reference Mr. Ehrman's gnostic, anti-material theology).
Ehrman, Senior and other experts on Christianity...
Yes, clearly these two are "experts" on Christianity.
Perhaps National Geographic ought to do a special on THIS ancient text.
St. Irenaios says: They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.
The "gospel" of Judas has a great deal of historic significance and indeed it will be interesting to read further details about what these particular gnostics believed (for as you know, the keepers of secret eternal truths often contradict one another), but let us stand against this same false teaching as presented today by the likes of Ehrman. Just as our father did, Saint Irenaios - the hammer of the gnostics.
ADDENDUM: In the commenting herein it was brought to my attention that I completely misinterpretted Ehrman's remarks as expressing his opinion, when in actuality he is simply expressing the opinion of the author of the text in question. I am assured that he is by no means a gnostic. I offer no defense for my stupidity, nor will I change the post to hide it...as if I needed to.
And the Reuters caption: An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man prays as workers remove notes from cracks in the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in the Old City of Jerusalem April 6, 2006. As the Jewish holiday of Passover draws near, workers cleaned out the cracks and made room for more paper notes that Jews believe are notes to God.
Hey, I believe they are notes to God as well...and in fact, mine is on its way!
Here an Orthodox priest is blessing a newly opened musuem in Babchin Belarus, built in memory of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which took place twenty years ago.
Families of the LOGgers are sponsoring a young lady Belarus to come and spend the summer with Basil and his family so that she might escape exposure for a period of time, which apparently is a tremendous benefit to the children who may suffering of variety of ailments related to radiation exposure.
Doron Nof, a professor of oceanography, said a rare combination of water and atmospheric conditions in the Sea of Galilee 2000 years ago may offer a scientific explanation for one of the miracles recounted in the Bible.
Yes, and Jesus, a charlatan and master of deception seeing the patch of floating ice saw his opportunity and simply allowed his disciples to be completely deceived by the non-miraculous miracle. And St. Peter, someone who we may presume knows a little something about water and specifically the Sea of Galilee (a little like I might be accused of knowing something about the Skykomish River) was too stupid to realize he was only stepping out of the boat onto a piece of unstable ice? The alternative is that he knew he was but was playing along with the deception?
How strange is this need to find natural explanations for miracles like these? For instance: Why try and say that those who came to Jesus as demon possessed were actually suffering from some illness? Were they not healed by his words? And if so would this not be just as miraculous and amazing as claiming that an evil spirit possessed them?
Wouldn't it be A LOT easier (and nicer) just to say that these things simply didn't happen to begin with than to insinuate that our Lord and his disciples were pulling fast ones on the people? Seems to me that most con artists would give up their con when it came to being tortured and killed for it.
The good professor Nof is said to be concerned about his hate mail...good thing he didn't say anything about a certain "prophet" from the Arabian pennisula.
...take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity
Now of course we almost always assume that the meaning of chastity revolves around sexuality, but it doesn't. The definition has simply to do with purity - purity of mind, heart, soul, and body. One needn't use too many of their mental faculties to generate a rather long list of impurities that we may opt to partake of or engage in.
I suspect that the essence of purity is a certain lack of self-awareness, or perhaps better: a proper understanding of self. Our Lord told us that all of the Law was summed up with simply loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God. Simple as this may seem, it is clearly complex in its day to day application...at least it is so in my life. Loving someone other than yourself as you do yourself is profound...very profound, for I see in my own life that I have only begun to plum to depths of my self-love. There is little doubt, I am terribly fond of myself and would likely be arrested for stalking or worse if I were to love my nieghbor as much as I love myself...now I'm really off track.
Once in a great while I may get a hint of what it means to love others...those fleeting and strange moments when I really do think more about the needs or wants of others without considering what my needs and wants are. That is a moment of purity...a moment of chastity.
But we ought not to forget about the "pop" understanding of the term. It is also a moment of chastity when I chose not to take a further look at the revealing dress a woman at the bus stop has opted to wear, or when I do NOT click on that link that will take me to the html red light disctrict.
Since I have published a few scientific studies in peer reviewed journals myself, I am obliged (willingly) to recognize their value. However, there are some studies that you just have to stop and say: "DUH!"
I was taken aback by the high level of teen pregnancy rates in the US as compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Of course, the solution is to hand out condoms right? Talk about treating the symptoms (sometimes neccesary - especially when you are unsure of the cause) and ignoring the cause (stupid when you know the cause and can do something about it).
Clearly parental filtering of media will help. Combined with other good parenting skills, prayer, a strong peer base in the religious community, and an active life within a devout community (especially one that is so integrated in everyday life - e.g. Orthodoxy), and I think we need not worry too awfully much.
However, to what extent ought we to worry about the future generation which lacks these things?
It's not uncommon for us Orthodox to get some news coverage during Lent and also during other calendric events of importance. Usually we land in the "huh...I didn't know that...how quaint" portion of the back of the local or religion sections. Here's some I've found: