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.
Today also marks the REAL end of the Roman Empire. When the great city of Constantinople was overcome by the Ottoman jihad in 1453. The last day that the great Hagia Sophia was utilized as it was intended.
I find this one to be particularly compelling: When Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree on something over against Protestantism, Protestantism loses.
But I'd go back even further to older schisms that still exist today: Take the Coptic Orthodox, or the Armenian Orthodox? Where all four agree on issues, protestants ought to stand up and take notice. Iconography, Reverence of Mary, Scripture/Tradition, hierarchy are but a few.
Ahhh...but we will of course need to address our differences. Go ahead, but I think you'll find that most (perhaps even all) of the Protestant complaints laid against the Orthodox faith and practice can also be leveled against and bounce off ANY of the Ancient Churches that still exist today.
I spent the day with my daughter on a "Geology Adventure" digging for crystal deposits along the middle fork of the Snoqualmie river. On the way up I-90 we passed through Issaquah. Now I realize that it has been at least a couple of years since I have gone this route, but holy buckets batman!
I can recall my Kentucky relatives lamenting the use of "strip mining" because of how it laid waste to what had once been a beautiful hillside - literally turning it into a moonscape. I'm rather certain the hillside leading up to the exclusive Issaquah Plateau is comparable.
What used to be a very natural looking forest leading up to the unseen McMansions above, is now strip mined with what I took to be townhomes - duplexes of some sort. Hundred and hundreds of them....such that all that could be seen on the hillside was the drab shades of light brown and grey paint that the contractors probably picked up at a recyling station. It was unreal to see, they all looked identical like an army of mindless robot warriors marching accross the green countryside of Naboo.
Absolutely yardless...none...not a shred of green to be seen between the cookie cutter architecture. Indeed, I doubt there was hardly any space at all between them.
So there you have it. The exit to Front Street used to mark your eastbound introduction to the Cascades...not anymore. North Bend is clearly now the gateway that Issaquah used to be. What an eyesore that development is.
You will note that the very first Orthodox blogger link that I have is John Bell's Notes From a Hillside Farm. My early interest in John's blog stemmed from a number of things, not the least of which is good writing and good insights. But also because John is an Orthodox Christian, a lawyer and sheep farmer. I suppose his blog being my first official blog link might be seen as prophetic? My appreciation being perhaps an early indication of where I really wanted to be?
Anyway, this post was particularly interesting to me and I intend to check out Jeanne Marie Laskas' book. I reckon (see, I've used that term for ages, so I'm already "country!" Heck I can go back and visit my relatives in Kentucky for a few weeks and come back sounding like I ought to know how to flip a breached cow with my bare hands)...ummm, wait, where was I?
Oh yeah, as I reckon it there are quite a number of urban to rural transplants these days and I am sure Ms. Laskas isn't the only one to write a book about it. I don't think I'll write a book, but I do invite readers of Paradosis to stay tuned for our grand adventure.
Dairy Goats are on the agenda or potential inhabitants. (Pigs and Chickens are apparently a given...and I am going to push for trout farming. Anyway, I've already learned that part of the reason why you might have sensed a foul smell/taste in Goat's milk is because they may not have seperated the bucks from the does (that there is goat lingo, ya see?)
Shhh...and Rade and I plan on having a still in the barn.
Orthodox Christian Sensitivity Training in public schools
No surprise these days what the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does, but really, THIS from the court that wants "under God" removed from the pledge? I might suggest if this is being done in public schools in order to increase cultural awareness, that they do the same for eastern European, Greek, African and Middle Eastern immigrants who are Orthdoox. (Key in particularly on those who have more melanin, because...well...that will earn you some extra points.)
Here's my plan as compared to the current one in California:
California's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it's OK to put public-school kids through Muslim role-playing exercises, including:
And of course, afterwards we will be having Orthodox Christian Role Playing!
Reciting aloud Muslim prayers that begin with "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful . . . ."
Cool, and in our course they will recite prayers like: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. O heavenly King, the Comforter…”
Memorizing the Muslim profession of faith: "Allah is the only true God and Muhammad is his messenger."
Awesome, so in our course the kids will learn the Orthodox Symbol of Faith: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…”
Chanting "Praise be to Allah" in response to teacher prompts.
Yes! And in our course they will learn the various seasonal proclamations and responses, such as: “Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!”
Professing as "true" the Muslim belief that "The Holy Quran is God's word."
And in our course, the children will go through the renunciations and affirmations offered during Chrismantion...though we'll only actually Chrismate those who get a permission slip signed by their parent(s), or parent/partner.
Giving up candy and TV to demonstrate Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.
Say goodbye to meat and dairy in our course, kids!
Designing prayer rugs, taking an Arabic name and essentially "becoming a Muslim" for two full weeks.
Right on! In our course the kids will learn to make prayer ropes, take on some cool Orthodox names like “Seraphim(a)” or “Ephrem(ia)” and essentially becoming Orthodox for two full weeks. The last couple of days we will include an intense sensitivity training program in which some of the students will assume the role of either atheistic Communist government authorites or Islamic Turkish oppressors who will arrest/persecute/martyr the Orthodox Christians and turn their churches either into Mosques or Museums. We might also try hauling off the kids' pets to be indoctrinated and made killing machines in an enemy army.
Of course the 9th Circuit Court would see the term "Christian", and the ACLU lawyer could show up drunk and naked and still get it shot down.
So "elder(s)" Hatch and Gordon (both I am guessing were perhaps 18 or 19 years old) stopped by my house last saturday. We did not talk long, but they left me a "Book o' Mormon" and asked me to read a few select passages and then pray about it. Ok, sure. They are supposed to return to see if Joe Smith's "holy" spirit has enlightened with a burning in my buttocks...ahem...I mean busom. (Wow, I am in an onery mood today)
Anyway...I read the passages that were suggested (including the introduction) and then went on and read a bit more. Interesting is the 3 Nephi 12:22 verse in which Jesus is in the middle of reusing His Sermon on the Mount to the Nephite people here in America (who are said to have left Israel sometime around 600BC)...word for word.
Now the introduction states that Joseph found these gold plates and by the "gift and power of God" was able to translate them. Amazingly enough, much of the translation is a perfect copy of numerous KJV verses, and apparently Joe Smith admitted that when he came to sections of the BoM that mirrored the Bible that he just used the KJV he was familiar with. Huh...lazy translation work, indeed.
But in the Nephite account of Jesus' recycled Sermon on the Mount, our Lord apparently uses that Hebrew/Aramaic word "Raca" which the KJV (and numerous other versions, including the BoM) leave untranslated into English. Now, I'll not spend much time marveling about how the Nephites (seperated from their semitic brethren for 600 years and thousands of miles) would somehow be still familiar with this term, but take that for what its worth. The reason we often see it untranslated is because no one is entirely sure what it means or how it ought to be translated. You'd think that Joe Smith through the "gift and power of God" - even if Jesus did amazingly use the term - would have cleared the issue up for us.
My skills upon the six-string rather serve rather well as an analogy to my life as a self-proclaimed American thinker and philosopher. I guess I've never actually claimed this title...but I must confess to having such delusions of granduer from time to time.
Simple is a word I am contemplating lately, and it describes me in many ways - and in many ways it doesn't, though I find I rather prefer the simple things in me and that are around me. To the guitar playing: I can beat out a few chords and can generally maintain a consistant rhythm, but have never liked B's much (they hurt) and cannot go much beyond the staggering qualities needed to pound out a good round of campfire songs. Also I learned most of these "skills" on my own - which likely doesn't say much, but also fits well with the fact that there aren't a whole host of letters following my name to lend more sophistication to what I write and say.
Yes, I can make music, but I know that only those who know and like me to begin with really would appreciate it. And that is more than fine, for such is precisely the audience I would seek - those willing to join right in.
There is a certain peace in knowing better who you are and making no secret about it - most of all to yourself. While I would not offer any vast claims of self-knowledge (I know better than to do that...hmmm), I do believe that in my "old" age I am beginning to better see who I am and honestly like my guitar playing, "simple" is the only word I have right now. Which is not to say that I am some saintly person willing to live like the Amish...no, far from it (well maybe not terribly far from it, I dunno.) Anyway, I am also learning more about what these "revelations" mean for me in a variety of practical ways.
One of those ways is in regards to where I call home. I would not trade my proximity to my friends, family, or Parish for almost anything...but that emphasized "almost" has been evolving in my mind and heart as I have been pondering more deeply the simple man that I am for quite awhile now. There is a way of life, a stlye of life (I've not really got a name for it)that is calling me.
When I used to live in Sultan and people would marvel at me for choosing to make such a long commute (working in dowtown Seattle), I would cite my love for living "away from it all" and being close to the things I enjoy doing such as fishing and being amidst the wilderness. Of course, I didn't really live in the woods in Sultan, not at all...but it was a mere hop skip and a jump from where we were. No small truth in this matter was the fact that living that far away from "civilization" was neccesary for me to afford a house. Come to find out, civilization is overrated anyway.
I cannot help feeling claustrophobic today. I love the big trees that grace my tiny tiny backyard...well...the big trees that are near my tiny backyard anyway, but more and more I have been believing that the grass is greener further out where there are no McMansions. I want land, I want quiet, yes I still want nieghbors - but maybe a bit (lot) further away than being able to watch me sleep or use the restroom? Maybe a bit further away so that my kids may run and scream and play without my worrying about the old retired couple next door? Maybe enough land for my wife to dirty her hands and feed her family? Maybe enough land so that we may enter into that symbiotic relationship we have had with certain animals for longer than written history can tell us? Enough so that my wife can have her small farm and I can have my fishing cabin in the wilderness? Enough so that we may be a little more in touch and dependent on each other and the earth. Simple.
A dream...a fantasy...an escape? No doubt. It's simple...as I am simple. What "lifestyle" do I want? For my kids? What sounds do we want to wake up to? What voices do we wish to hear singing at night? What do we wish to see as we sit upon our porch sipping a fine Kentucky Bourbon? What would we give to be oblivious to the price of our favorite veggies or eggs these days? How wonderful it would be to step off that porch and FEEL these words:
Woods by Wendell Berry I part the out thrusting branches and come in beneath the blessed and the blessing trees. Though I am silent there is singing around me. Though I am dark there is vision around me. Though I am heavy there is flight around me.
Think not that I have not considered the pros and cons in all of this...I believe I know them well. I do not think I have the proper words to fully describe the momentum I feel pulling me (and us) out and away from the life of living in a residence (from the latin "to sit") and toward the life of making and working a home. No, I cannot devote all of my time to it and I do not anticipate that I will ever be able to work it full-time (but you never know). To put it as simply as I can: I have come to believe, with my wife, that who we are makes us best suited to adopt a life of country living.
My family, either as Slovak-Rusyn immigrants in Pennsylvania or as long time "hill folk" in Kentucky, have gained much of their sustenance from coal in one way or another. My Great Grandfather Sisak worked the coke ovens in south western Pennsylvania while my Grandfather Rowe was a miner in the hills of eastern Kentucky.
If you have followed the news over the last couple of years then you know well that miners (all over the world) seemed to have lately had a rough go of it. In reality, miners/coal workers have always had a rough life - whether it be from the harsh and dangerous environments they work in or the greed and abuses of the mining company. In the old days, the mining company all but owned you - in fact since they owned your land, your house, and the stores you could shop in you'd be hard pressed not to admit it was alomst akin to slavery. Apparently my Great Grandfather Sisak got himself beaten up more than once as he worked with a Union trying to better the lives of himself and his fellow coal workers.
Anyway, all of this to say that I offer heartfelt prayers for the miners who died last night and for their families in Eastern kentucky. They join a long list of men who work harder than most of us can imagine, in jobs that paid very little and ultimately demanded everything.
We're much too poor to escape The weight of the earth In tunnels and dust and fear We will measure our worth Here's our bones for the soil Our blood for the land Our souls for sweet Jesus Our bodies be damned
-Terry Taylor from the song "Rocky Mountain Mines"
(Reuters - Thu May 18, 9:45 PM ET) Father Sava Janjic stands inside the 14th century Decani Orthodox monastery, 100 km (70 miles) west of the Kosovo capital Pristina, May 15, 2006. The Serbian Orthodox monastery is under heavy NATO guard. More than 30 Orthodox religious sites were destroyed or damaged in Albanian riots in March 2004, and as the United Nations moves to decide the fate of Kosovo, the Serbian Orthodox Church is fighting for survival and international protection. Picture taken May 15, 2006.
I was waiting for it to happen, and sure enough it has. A movie critic with the New York Daily News slams "The Da Vinci Code" (as it seems most critics are) and then writes:
That won't stop the stampede to the box office. It's the must-see movie of the summer, if only because of the religious protests akin to the uproar over the Danish political cartoons. We're living in dangerous times when a merely okay summer movie can make everyone forget the golden rule: It's only a movie, folks.
"akin": Having a similar quality or character
Now, as far as I know, there have been no foreign embassies burned, no heads of state calling for criminal prosecution of Dan Brown or Ron Howard, no signs in the hands of protestors calling for beheadings, and - most shocking of all - no one has actually been killed. Once we do see that, then I suppose I'd feel better (though not really) about using the term "akin" but until then let's not allow the tyranny of the Zeitgeist of equivalence to continue overruling simple logic and reason.
So I'm not sure who the reviewer thinks has forgotten the golden rule and I am certain that making our dissent heard is NOT going to drive the masses to see this movie - Sony has plenty of money to do that and the popularity of the Book was certainly enough to create the expectation of funding for the movie makers to go forward. Furthermore, most everyone at my work had read the book without me having to utter a word against it.
However, education and not overly zealous vehemence is really how we need to focus our protests. The book's "fiction" is popularly perceived (if perceived at all - see the "poll") in the interpretation of history and not in the history as reported by Mr. Brown. The fact that the book's history is flawed and deceptively recorded by Brown is much less known and understood. Too much of what we hear is from evangelicals bitching about Jesus being protrayed as married, and not enough about the clear historical nonsense with regard to early church history - which of course isn't as dramatic, but it plays a huge role in Brown's overall theory of an erroneous and conspiratorial Christianity that so many ascribe to today.
I think I missed my calling as an historian. I love history and particularly Church History. I must admit to barely being able to control my frustrations when a coworker was telling me how the Bible was "picked by the Emperor at some council in 300 or something" and I was patenly unable to dissuade her of this notion - though I think I did later. At the time I'd never heard of this book and I was amazed at all the other wacky church history notions that the readers of the book were able to spout off. And they loved it because of their foundational desire to disbelieve Christianity and the Church. But there are also people who really do not know...I am related to many of them...who will not have any idea whether the history in the book is true or not and there IS - whether we like it or not - an ingrained notion that if a book cites an historical fact that the author would not do so if it were blatantly untrue. For instance: The vote at Nicea was close. Well, Dan wouldn't say that unless it was true, right? I mean it would be silly to outright lie about what seems to be an easily verifiable historic fact, right?
If I wrote a book in which I say that the south won the Civil War you would look to the cover of that book to try and see where it says "alternative history" (a genre I rather like actually) because everyone knows this isn't the case. Sadly, not everyone knows what happened at Nicea I, and not everyone can say with certainty that Jesus was proclaimed God prior to that council, and not everyone can say when or how the books of the New Testament were chosen...but Dan Brown takes the opportunity to informs us - falsely -in order to weave his conspiratorial story. But alas, nowhere on the cover of his book appear the words "alternative history."
One good thing about the movie: it might open up an opportunity for discussion. I would highly recommend Fr. Steve Tsichlis' sermon from over two years ago in which he straightens out Dan Brown's alternative history.
The captions just say "Russian Orthodox Protestors." In the second pic above, the man is said to be "showing his group's emblem" on his shirt. A very cool looking shirt (Anyone read it? I want one!)...anyway they sorta look like a Russian Biker Gang. I think Dan Brown should sit down and have a chat with them - perhaps over tea.
I have often contended that simply saying that Dan Brown's book and now movie is a work of fiction was not going to prevent it from preaching "truth" to the masses. This poll seems to indicate that despite the "work of fiction" a good number of people are buying in to the most outrageous "truth" claims in the book. The poll apparently doesn't even address some of the more pressing points Brown tries to make about Christianity, for example: Christians didn't believe Jesus was divine until the council of Nicea, that same council chose the canon of scripture,and that the vote at that council on Jesus divinity was close. All of these things are demonstrably false, but presented as historical fact...so when people put the Da Bonchi Code down after reading it and suddenly believe that Jesus had kids, I am guessing these blatant historical lies about Church history are also easily ingested as absolute fact.
I'm tempted to have T-shirts made...so much so, that I did:
Click the image to see the FULL line of Paradosis wear....watch out Amberbonchie!
You will recall in my previous post I quoted Pastor Drisoll as writing: Therefore, the Mary of Scripture greatly differs from the Mary of myth, legend, and folklore.
Something in this statement has been bothering me the last day and I could not initially put my finger on it. I believe it is a common misconception that hardcore "sola scriptura" protestants have with regard to Scripture and Tradition, setting up a false dichotomy between the two and labelling the latter as "myth, legend, and folklore."
How does one have SO MUCH faith in a collection of ancient writings and SO LITTLE faith in the Traditions of the Community that CHOSE those writings (while eschewing so many others) and called them Holy? I really don't understand how Driscoll and others can hang so much of their belief on this rag tag aggregation of early church writings without giving a nod to the authority that gives them authority to begin with.
How do Protestants KNOW Jesus Himself was not a gnostic? How do they know that the gnostic conspiracy theories aren't true? After all many of their arguments are true: The CHURCH picked out the New Testament and the very first list of the NT canon we see that matches ours today didn't appear until the late 4th century. Even around the time of Nicea in the early 4th century we see Eusebius in his "History" noting how some documents they were "unsure" about and that the Church was still very much hashing out what ought to be considered authoritative (which is to say: which books ought to be read in their services...an interesting detail, I think, because they were apparently not looking to create a document that would allow Christians 1500 years later to reinvent the Church.) So again, I wonder, how can you be sure that the Church GOT IT RIGHT? How do they know that Marcion's New Testament isn't the correct one? (After all, his came first!)
How do WE know that Jesus wasn't a gnostic? Well, we have faith in that which Jesus Himself established: the Church. We believe that Saint Irenaios "won the argument" way back in the 2nd century, and his points were rather different than the sripture-carpet-bombing that protestants wield upon one another (and us) - usually without affect.
"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? ...then I have pointed out the truth, and shown the preaching of the Church, which the prophets proclaimed, but which Christ brought to perfection, and the apostles have handed down, from whom the Church, receiving [these truths], and throughout all the world alone preserving them in their integrity, has transmitted them to her sons.
I think protestants have an obligation to explain their profound and deep faith in the New Testament, and I expect they will have opportunity to do so as a very popular book made into a movie is going to challenge them and their friends on this point. For them, the implications involved in the fact that "mere men" chose the books of the New Testament may be scandalous, but to us...well, it's a given. The New Testament is the most important part of our Holy Tradition, it is community property - never intended to reveal all manner of truth to Pastor-Prophet Bobby-Joe in the context of him and his wives sitting in their shack down the hollar. The CHURCH is the "pillar and ground of truth" and that is how we managed to pick the right books. Ironically, to have faith in the Bible means you have must also have faith in the Church (even the Church, post-Constantine!).
So, setting up this dichotomy between Scripture and Tradition is self-contradictory. Scripture IS Tradition. Are you really terribly suprised when unbelievers say the New Testament is made up of nothing but myth, legend, and folklore? How will you convince them (much less me) that a dichotomy exists?
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" - St. Elizabeth according an uncomfortable amount of honor to her much younger relative whom we call Theotokos.
Mark Driscoll from the hip mega-church "Mars Hill" give us Orthodox (and Roman Catholics) and our "improper emphasis of" Mary a good blogging.
First I'll note that I am surprised how "solo-scriptura" Mr. Driscoll's approach is. I was always under the impression that Mars Hill was in the pomo movement and thus had at least "re-examined" the reformer's foundation upon which later theologians would build a variety of mutually conflicitng biblical views on pretty much everything you can imagine.
There's little point in arguing point by point when you do not agree with the very basic assumption that Mr. Driscoll has with regard to authority:
The key to undoing all of the false teaching surrounding Mary is, of course, to simply look at what Scripture does say about her and add nothing to that.
Of course! Keeping this notion in mind and recollecting back to the controversies surrounding the Divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and of course the doctrine of the Trinity, this ought to sound familiar (it's the same argument made by those who denied these doctrines). And I will direct you to the words of Jaroslav Pelikan I noted a couple of posts ago:
For those who believe that you don't need tradition because you have the Bible the Christian Tradition has sought to say, 'You are not entitled to the beliefs you cherish about such things as the Holy Trinity without a sense of what you owe to those who worked this out for you.' To circumvent Saint Athanasius on the assumption that if you put me alone in a room with the New Testament, I will come up with the doctrine of the Trinity, is niave.
St. Athanasius, OF COURSE, cleared up our notions of the Holy Trinity over 100 years after St. Irenaios called Mary the "second Eve", which Mr. Driscoll calls the "foundation" of an "unbiblical view of mary." He would do well to recall that what he says of St. Irenaios with regard to Mary, is also said by some of St. Athanasios with regard to the Holy Trinity. And dare we note the issue of the Holy Spirit's divinity (the role of St. Basil) that would not be "hashed out" until the NEXT Ecumenical Council in 381AD?
Mr. Driscoll pays tribute to one of the councils: In the fifth century, the Council of Ephesus declared Mary the “mother of God,” which further encouraged devotion to Mary.
The implication he makes is that the declaration came first and devotion second. How does he know? This is "Da Vinci Code" logic.
Saint Athanasios did not invent the divinity of Jesus in the early fourth century. Saint Basil did not invent the divinity of the Holy Spirit in the mid-late fourth century. And St. Irenaios did not invent the notion that Mary plays an amazingly important role in our salvation in the second century. These things were a part of what we Orthodox still know to this day as Holy Tradition. The councils were not there to invent doctrine, but to clarify it. "That which is believed everywhere and by everyone" as St. Vincent of Lerins put in in the 5th century. Sometimes they had to invent words to describe what had been handed down ("Paradosis") and this caused a controversy in and of itself, not unlike the argument that Mr. Driscoll made. After all, the word "Consubstantial" describing Jesus' relationship with the Father is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. But it meshed perfectly well with Holy Tradition AND the Holy Scriptures (as they should since they are a part of Holy Tradition.)
There's little point is going through all of Mr. Driscoll's arguments, if for no other reason than that much of it is centered on Roman Catholic beliefs and teachings which differ somewhat than ours. At one point Mr. Driscoll claims to note our understanding that "she [Mary] participated in saving people along with Jesus" without any further argument - he simply assumes that we can all see that this is not true. Really? It is astounding to me how you can say it is NOT true. All of history and the people therein have participated in God's plan of salvation. Whether it be Moses taking the commandments or Isaiah prophesying about the "suffering servant", they all participate. And Mary, our Mother, gave flesh to God. Her DNA was in that body on the cross and in the tomb. Her obedience opened the doors...her willing participation united heaven and earth!
Mr. Driscoll claims his authority: Having been raised as a Catholic, I did pray to Mary as a young boy. Once I met Jesus at the age of nineteen, though, I was convicted that I had sinned against God by praying to anyone but Him.
To which I would simply reply: Having been a sola scriptura believing evangelical, I did believe that devotion to Mary was the source of many a catholic going straight to hell. Once I met Jesus and His Church, though, I was convinced that I had sinned in my judgmentalism and my belief that I could figure it all out on my own by simply reading the Bible.
In the end, our adoration of the Theotokos is no different that that offered by St. Elizabeth who likely would have offended most evangelicals via her greeting of Mary, in which she called her the "Mother of my Lord." (And really, how different is this from "Theotokos" which - I might add - says more about Jesus than Mary?) Keep in mind, St. Elizabeth was Mary's elder...seems like awfully honorifc wording here! Some evangelicals say they feel uncomfortable in Orthodox worship services because of the honor accorded to Mary, maybe they ought to try and insert themselves a bit more into the context of Luke 1.
Mr. Driscoll finishes up with this: Therefore, the Mary of Scripture greatly differs from the Mary of myth, legend, and folklore. The real Mary is a wonderful example for young women to love God and retain their virginity until marriage as a demonstration of their love for God. The real Mary is a wonderful example for mothers of a godly woman who is best known for the sons she raised, whom God used to change the world, thereby elevating the ministry of Christian motherhood. The real Mary is a wonderful example for all women of what it truly means to trust God in all things, obey God even when His call is difficult, worship God in faith that He is good for His promises, fellowship with God’s people in the church, and love God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Assuming that he means to imply that we Orthodox believers' understanding of Mary is based on "myth, legend, and folklore", I am going to go ahead and say that I fail to see how, based on what he writes here, his "Mary of Scripture greatly differs" from the Theotokos. Mr. Drisoll's Mary is the same Mary we call "blessed" - as the Scripture commands for "all generations", but lacking the fullness of paradosis, Mr. Driscoll is left to simply pour over data points, without looking to the Lab that generated them.
Opus Dei has asked Ron Howard (and Sony Pictures) to include a disclaimer in their Da Vinci Code movie to clearly state that the film is a work of fiction. Opie told Opus Dei to pack sand, "spy thrillers don't start off with disclaimers."
Besides the misleading history (which will ONLY be obvious to a minority of people and those of us who actually KNOW Church History will hopefully have some interesting water cooler conversations), I think what is also lacking here is an understanding that Opus Dei is a REAL organization within a REAL Church and is made up of REAL people. So what?
What do you think would happen if we were to do a little "switchero"?
Filmmaker Ron Howard has acknowledged the controversy renewed by his film of Dan Brown's best-selling novel, which depicts Opus Deithe NAACP as a shadowy sect at the heart of a murderous conspiracy to conceal dark secrets of the early Christian ChurchCivil Rights Movement.
Think there'd be a need for a disclaimer then? A bit more than that I would imagine...how about this one:
Filmmaker Ron Howard has acknowledged the controversy renewed by his film of Dan Brown's best-selling novel, which depicts Opus Deithe Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a shadowy sect at the heart of a murderous conspiracy to conceal dark secrets of the early Christian Churchspread of Islam.
I reckon I needn't say what we'd see in this case, eh? A Disclaimer wouldn't quite suffice.
I just received news that this influential man will likely not have more than a few weeks left in this life. Jaroslav Pelikan became an Orthodox Christian on March 25, 1998 and through his conversions he left a pathway of literary and scholarly work which I was blessed to have followed. (He's also Slovak!) In an interview (8 years before becoming Orthodox) he said:
"For those who believe that you don't need tradition because you have the Bible the Christian Tradition has sought to say, 'You are not entitled to the beliefs you cherish about such things as the Holy Trinity without a sense of what you owe to those who worked this out for you.' To circumvent Saint Athanasius on the assumption that if you put me alone in a room with the New Testament, I will come up with the doctrine of the Trinity, is niave.
As some may not know, he was diagnosed with lung cancer about 15 months ago and has been fighting the good fight since. He is as comfortable as possible. Hospice folks have come in. Both sons are remaining with Sylvia and Jary till death comes. He is mostly quiet, though not comatose; it is a chore for him to engage in conversation. As his son quoted him saying recently: "...since Christ is risen, nothing else matters and if Christ be not risen nothing else matters."
The real surprise in this story is that the boy isn't from America, he's from China! So you see, the notion of personal and parental responsibility is vanishing worldwide. This boy played the game for 36 HOURS straight! Hello...mom? Dad?
No doubt these games can be terribly addictive, becoming a "reality" in and of themselves - especially if we perceive our "real" reality as being worth avoiding to begin with. But to blame the game maker? Truly, this represents the pinnacle of the all misplaced blame lawsuits.
A boy is now dead, and we are missing the point entirely.
I spent a good deal of energy complaining that we staffers here in the lab are being asked not to use the freight elevators and instead to use the main clinic elevators. Inconvenient, time consuming...blah blah blah.
I just got off those elevators after getting my lunch and in the midst of that brief 30 second ride now find myself a different man. Yes, if you are a regular here then you've read it before...but so what. If you are like me, you need these lessons.
A young family were riding along with me. Mom carried a young boy who looked to be the age of my eldest son Nicholas...completely bald and looking terribly sick...clearly tired of the poisons we were giving him in our efforts to kill the cancer. As they left, I heard him softly say, "Momma, my leg hurts." It was heartbreaking, and I nearly lost it as I passed the next two floors.
I am guessing that the vast majority of us have NOTHING to complain about, NOTHING to be depressed about, and NOTHING we can fairly count as a real problem. Give me perspective Lord...and forgive me for complaining about something so assinine as a long elevator ride.
For that little boy:
O Holy Father, heavenly Physician of our souls and bodies, who hast sent thine Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to heal all our ailments and deliver us from death: do thou visit and heal thy servant, granting him release from pain and restoration to health and vigor, that he may give thanks unto thee and bless thy Holy Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
I can recall the first time that I read the “Chronicles of Narnia” to my oldest daughter and having to explain to her that “wood” sometimes meant “forest” and that the English particularly used the term as such. I suspected then, that the name of Winnie the Pooh’s stomping grounds now made a lot more sense to her – perhaps up until then Pooh spent his time meandering about upon an exceptionally long 2x4.
Now, the advertising industry’s notion (see previous post) that there is no reason to change reality (e.g. your beer recipe), only people’s perception of it (e.g. it really does taste good no matter what you think) came into my mind this morning as I passed by one of a million new housing developments in the greater Seattle area whose name is at least partly composed of the word “wood.”
Now, I am pretty sure that the term here does not refer to the “wood” that used to be on the ¼ acre-or-so parcel of land that has since been nuked and replaced with 75-or-so giant 3 story houses of four-or-so thousand square feet, each of which generously blessed with a spacious 1000 square foot beautifully manicured Astroturf (sometimes triangular) piece of land. A beautifully pretentious wooden sign bears the name of the new “wood” neighborhood filled with what are sometimes called “McMansions.” (Funny, as I sit here riding the bus in to work, I cannot recall this ones particular wood prefix. Regardless, in this case, my daughter would be correct to assume that the term wood refers to milled lumber.
Just a little ways down the road another new development is going in. I’d guess this parcel might stretch to ¾ acre-or-so, thus they ought to be able to crush a good 100-or-so houses in there. A good number of “wood” names have already been taken, so I thought I might offer some to make their lives easier.
Miller Brewing is repositioning the brand to woo sophisticated 20-somethings — a segment that's straying from domestic brews in favor of light beer, imports, spirits and wine.
What's missing? Can you say "MICROBREWS" or "SMALL BATCH CRAFT BREWS"?
Coors Brewing Co. is also changing the way it talks to consumers...New ads will focus on how the beer differs from others in the category, highlighting its use of water from the Rocky Mountains
NEWS FLASH: COORS BEER TASTES EXACTLY LIKE BUDWEISER AND MILLER REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU USE ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER OR TOILET WATER. THEY OUGHT TO MARKET IT ALL AS SNAIL BAIT.
"What we are finding in a category like domestic premium beer, is it's important to differentiate yourself from the other beers so that when a consumer sits down at a bar he or she understands why he wants to order your beer compared to other ones,"
You know, if your consumer needs to have YOU exaplin this to him, then there is a serious problem to begin with.
These drinkers care more about flavor than they do about calories
Brilliant! And the solution is: Don't change the recipe...spend millions on a new ad campaign in order to convince people that what they are drinking actually tastes better than overly diluted Metamucil.
The other evening my dear friend Rade handed me a book called Home Economics, which is a collection of essays written by one Wendell Berry, whom Rade described simply as an Agrarian.
I very much appreciate authors who can enlighten me to new and profound ideas and concepts...but especially so if they can accomplish this difficult task using simple and straight forward language, proving to me (as I've always believed) that one needn't baffle the simple masses with Ivy League phraseology in order to appear to be (and advertise yourself as) exceptionally complex, sophisticated, and so dad-burned smart.
I am currently reading his essay entitled "With Nature." In it he relates an encounter with a Hawk who was watching him while he was plowing a field (with horses, no less), and through that encounter he grew to a greater understanding of how we share and participate in all of nature. Thus made personally aware of the symbiotic relationship that even we humans in our human endeavors (often falsely called "unnatural") participate in with mice, horses, and Hawks, for instance. I loved the story he relates in which a group of people were removed in order to creat a "bird nature preserve" only to find that by so doing they had wiped out the livelihood of a host of species - the birds NEEDED the people.
He also notes the uniqueness of humanity (both good and bad) and writes the following:
In the hurry of technological progress, we have replaced some tools and methods that worked with some that do not work. But we also need culture-born instructions about who or what humans are and how and on what assumptions they should act. The Chain of Being, for instance - which gave humans a place between animals and angels in the order of Creation - is an old idea that has not been replaced by any adequate new on. It was simply rejected , and the lack of it leaves us without a definition.
Lacking that ancient definition, or any such definition, we do not know at what point to restrain or deny ourselves. We do not know how ambitious to be, what or how much we may safely desire, when or where to stop.
How very true, and I think more and more we are moving further and further away from any such definition. In fact, we have reached the point of not even believing that we need one anymore - and we deny the existance of there being any consequences.
I also connected this notion to theology and the rejection of the belief in the Church as an article of faith. The Church has become utterly invisible and theology has since gone utterly mad - in thousands of different and ever expanding directions with no end in sight: We do not know at what point to restrain or deny our theology (yes yes the Bible, you say...but consider how that "definition" has fared? More or less unity in the last 500 years?) We do not know how ambitious to be...we see either extremes of control by authorities or the complete lack of authority. What or how much we may safely desire...we have very many "christian" theologies that give blessings to all manner of what used to be called depravity and we also have all manner of "christian" theologies that despise the flesh thus restraining all manner of what ought to be called the "good life" as efficiently as any Marcionite Gnostic ever did. When or where to stop...yes when and where will it stop?
Yes I understand this was nothing near Mr. Berry's thinking - at least not specifically...but I think the overall concept is applicable and very likely even related historically and culturally.
As I set Home Economics back into my bookbag and disembarked off the bus to begin the long walk to my truck, something caught my eye. Perched majestically upon the pinnacle corner of the Levitz Home Furnishings department store in downtown Lynnwood, was a large and magnificent Bald Eagle. The contrast was stark...not a hint of green near the bird, just terribly bad 70's concrete architecture. People gathered to take photos (doomed to be ugly if they could not manage to get just the bird) and marvel while I - who commonly sees such wonderful birds on nearly every river drift - thought simply: "Hmmm...maybe he's trying to tell me something." I wonder...did I just hear that great big bird whisper: "We're waiting."
No, I am sure it was just me...but I couldn't help thinking about Wendell Berry's experience with his hawk as I hopped into my Trooper and drove past the now sad looking Eagle - both of us choking on concrete.
St. Alexis Toth, Defender and Confessor of Orthodoxy in America
On May 7th 1909, St. Alexis Toth reposed...almost exactly 6 years after my 18 year old Great Grandfather Janos stepped off the boat at Ellis Island. I have a number of "connections" with St. Alexis which I will briefly discuss herein. First he came over from Slovakia (Ja som Slovak!), a widowed Carpatho-Rusyn (Ja Rusyn byl, iesm i budu!) priest. Once in America he came to serve a Uniate Parish in Minneapolis (Ya, sure ya betcha...my wife's home turf). He was a "Greek Catholic", as were all of my family in Juskova Vola, Slovakia and - in about 15 years - also in the coal mines around Bradenville PA.)
He would (as you can read in detail via the two links provided above) end up leading many Uniates back into the unity of the Orthodox faith, thus illuminating a pathway that many in my family would take nearly 40 years after his repose. He is an American Saint who (it seems to me) gets "forgotten" behind the ranks of St. Herman of Alaska, St. John of San Francisco, and St. Raphael of Brooklyn...but that may be simply my limited perception from where I sit and call home.
In my little "book of Orthodoxy" he plays the lead role - though I never knew it. I like to think,that since St. Alexis is likely praying for seeking Uniates throughout the world and specifically in America, that he might also be praying for their offspring...and perhaps his prayers helped lead me and my family to where we are today?
Troparion (Tone 4) O righteous Father ALEXIS, Our heavenly intercessor and teacher, Divine adornment of the Church of Christ, Entreat the Master of All To strengthen the Orthodox Faith in America, To grant peace to the world And to our souls great mercy.
Kontakion (Tone 5) Let us the faithful praise the priest ALEXIS, A bright beacon of Orthodoxy in America, A model of patience and humility. A worthy shepherd of the flock of Christ, He called back the sheep who had been led astray And brought them by his preaching To the heavenly Kingdom.
Any long term readers of the blog will no doubt recall my talking about emotional experiences with patients in the elevator. Sometimes we'd talk and sometimes we wouldn't. Their mere presence was enough to educate and change me...even if just for a few moments.
People facing some of the most serious cancers known to medicine are to be found wandering the halls of this place, and for many they are searching for a miracle.
Yesterday a man who could not possibly have been older than me needed me to hold the elevator doors open until the alarm bells rang because he was unable to move himself and his walker fast enoough to get on in a "timely" manner. Completely winded by his 10 foot walk, he thanked me and apologized...I told him in no uncertain terms that no apology was neccesary. He looked terrible...emaciated, weak, unstable...suffering.
Never have I felt so strong a desire to lean over, put my arm around somone (in this case a total stranger) and say "Christ is Risen!" But who could have known how such a thing would be greeted? Oh, but how wonderful that message is (must be)in the face of suffering and death. I am sad for those who do not know it...for those who do not understand it. And I am sad for myself, for I clearly do not fully LIVE it.
How to share the joy and mystery of Pascha with someone dying who you happen to ride an elevator with? Prayer?
It's not hard to find cheap swipes being taken at Christianity here in the US...and I suspect in much of the western world. In fact, there is a vehicle oft parked at my work that has a bumper sticker that does just that. No biggie.
Catholic Archbishop Pell of Australia said/wrote this with regard to Islam.
Read the article...it is astonishing. I don't think real dialogue can happen unless the is real freedom of speech and religion. I wholly support right of the driver of that vehicle out in front of my work to insult and even vilify Christians. Were he ever to be in court in Victoria, he ought to be able to quote our Lord directly anytime he wished. Have at it.
This month marks the 4th year of this place. If nothing else, I expect it will be something my kids can read and ascertain the extent of my insanity when they seek to have me committed. And though I think I got the counter started more than a year into it, we none-the-less just surpassed the 100,000 mark.
I've changed a good deal over the last four years. For the better? Has trying to practice an Orthodox life had a positive effect on me? Am I a better husband? A better father? Am I a better human being? Have I purified my heart moreso? Can I see God therefore more clearly? Have I seen visions? Have I spoken in tongues? Have I healed the sick? Well...
I found this one in an old post:
Someone asked an old man, "How is it that some say, 'We see visions of angels'?" And he replied, "Blessed is he who always sees his sins."
That'll put me in my place, eh? And to be honest, I cannot very well answer the above questions, but I do believe I can see my sins more clearly...sometimes...usually.
Apparently a professor, in class, encouraged the act of vandalism as an expression of free speech. Curiously enough, the professor exhorted her students to do this while "teaching" her British Literature class.
Kentucky for all love!!! Not Berkley, not Princeton, not Yale! Kentucky! Someone given me a bourbon, please... you could probably learn more about British Lit from a good bottle of bourbon that professor Jacobsen's class.
Orthodox Church worried about Europe's future spiritual health
I found these two stories and they are quite short, so I will reprint them here:
Patriarch for cooperation of Orthodox Christians and Catholics 03.05.2006, 19.27 MOSCOW, May 3 (Itar-Tass) -- Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia called on Orthodox Christians and Catholics “to take a stand jointly in defence of the fundamental values of Christianity.” This call is contained in the message of Alexy II to the international conference “Give Soul to Europe. The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches” that opened in Vienna on Wednesday.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church believes that Christians should “remind to contemporaries that the Christian preachment of the love of God and of man as the image of God is the source of the noble aspirations which are to Europe’s credit – to care for one’s neighbor, to respect freedom of man and to be tolerant of the opinion of others.”
Orthodox Metropolitan warns Europe against abandoning Christian roots
VIENNA. May 3 (Interfax) - The Russian Orthodox Church believes that Europe's abandonment of its Christian roots could ultimately lead European society to shocks comparable to those that Russia experienced under the Bolsheviks, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad has said.
"Russia's history in the 20th century should serve as a warning for contemporary Europe: the abandonment of spiritual and cultural foundations on which this or that civilization is based could pose a serious threat to civilization itself," Father Kirill said at an international conference in Vienna on Wednesday.
"We worry that, by losing the link with Christianity, Europe might finally come to forms of pressure on or even suppression of an individual that have always been alien to it," he said.
Amen - especially with cooperation with our Catholic brethren. As a side, anyone wanna hasten to guess from whence the "pressure" and "supression" may come? Hmmmm...
I happened upon (as so often is the case) a "letter to the editor" in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer which objected to the newspaper giving time to the "Christian Myth" in their newspaper - specifically referencing the very same series of articles which I noted HERE.
Now, I usually do not make it a point to engage in theological debates with atheists. As a former atheist and hopefully someone who has a bit of maturity and perhaps even a tiny shred of experiential wisdom, I can say that such conversations/debates/arguments are rarely fruitful. However, I am one who works in the realm of science, seeking and generating cold hard facts day in and day out. And, oddly as it sounds, I believe in the Christian message despite what Mr. Templeton says with regard to our Paschal proclamation not having "the tiniest shred of evidence" for it actually being true.
As one interested in cold hard facts, I would offer a couple of points to Mr. Templeton with regard to some of his claims. Specifically with regard to this: there isn't the tiniest shred of evidence that anyone there at the time claimed he did. [rise from the dead]
Mr. Templeton asserts that the first claim of a resurrection of Jesus wasn't made until more than 20 years later by Paul of Tarsus I might ask how he knows that this is the "first" claim? It might be the earliest dated manuscript that makes this claim, but that is not at all the same as saying that it is the first claim - along with all that seems to imply about the early Christian faith.
Furthermore, I am perplexed by his next assertion: The Gospel accounts were written generations later by men who were probably not even born during the period they wrote about. They didn't even know what year Jesus died, and we still don't...we have no writings from Jesus or anyone who ever saw him
Now, I am confused...if they were written generations later (how does Templeton know this?), then why the second assertion that the authors were "probably not even born during the period they wrote about" [emphasis mine]. These two points seem mutually exclusive of each other, so which is it? Probably or Definately? Well, the fact is, Mr. Templeton does not know...neither do I.
To say with absolute certainty that the Gospels were written generations later or to even say that they were written by people who probably did not live during the time of the events described is as much a statement of faith as is the Christian Paschal proclamation - perhaps one takes more faith than the other, but they both lack clear and convincing evidence. I would contend that Mr. Templeton is unable to prove either of his seemingly contradictory points.
Furthermore, the Gospel writers DID date their manuscripts in the common method of the day, for example: "In the time of Herod king of Judea..." and "during the time of King Herod..." and "took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria." If the extant manuscripts we have today were to say "Jesus was born in 6 A.D." then Mr. Templeton would have a very good argument that they were written "generations later."
Now I am sure the PI will have received a number of letters whuch will try and argue with Mr. Templeton in the realm of textual criticism. They will no doubt cite the overall impressive number of manuscripts and fragments that make the New Testament among some of the best datable ancient works in the world and that most reputable scholars do not seriously doubt a 1st century authorship...but I've no interest or time in treading that road.
I cannot prove the Resurrection of Jesus Christ...at least not in a single letter to the editor of a local newspaper, nor even in a single conversation. There are somethings in this world that require more than words to fully express and fully appreciate them. I liken trying to argue about the existance of God with a stranger, to trying to argue with a potential spouse that you love him or her with a lengthy letter full of bullet points and graphs. In end love is something that must be experienced and lived.
A Saint of my Church by the name of Seraphim of Sarov once said: "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved." Which in my mind speaks volumes.
I've no wish to argue with Mr. Templeton, but merely to point out that sometimes atheist's need faith too and sometimes masquerade mythology as history.
A well manicured - in every scientific way physically possible - woman (who shall remain nameless on this blog), who is said to be "the most downloaded woman on the internet," also happens to be a mother of three and with recent news of her agreement to pose nude she is quoted in response to an older mom doing so: "Thank goodness for Desperate Housewives. You're not dead just because you are married and have children."
This attitude is amazing to me. Are things really THIS crazy in the world? Being a sex idol and a playboy bunny is the sort of criteria we need to have in order to ascertain that we are "not dead." Being married and having children, in the mind of the general populous IS a sign of being dead? I hate it when famous people spout off nonsense like this and aren't challenged. I am forced to wonder, whatever will this woman do in 20 years and no one cares to "download" her anymore? And even now, I think she fails the test of "an excellent wife" whom we are told "Strength and wisdom" knows.
A priest once told me that he likes to get up VERY VERY early in the morning and take a walk in order to experience the world before it starts to go crazy when the people begin waking up. Truly, I can see his point.
I've never seen "Desperate Housewives" and never really had a desire too - don't expect that opinion will change now...however, I will be watching Texas Ranch House. YeeHAW!
"Thank God for Pascha. You're not dead just because you watch Desperate Housewives."
One usually does not find a great deal of emotionalism in Orthodox Chruches - at least as compared to my experiences in an evangelical denomination where a "good" service was usually deemed as such by the amount of tears that were shed...a skewed emphasis in my opinion.
However, emotions are not inherently bad, and we certainly had our share of them both at home and in services during Holy Week. One parishoner struggled through the reading of that wonderful text in Job (one of my favorites) in which Job repents saying: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.Listen, please, and let me speak;You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.' I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.
And then a beloved Deacon stammered tearfully through his passion gospel reading on Thursday night as our Lord is beaten, spat upon, mocked, and rejected. In so doing, both of them brought me also to that same or at least similar emotional state...and I am thankful for it. As surely as the Homily of St. John Chrysostom and the Paschal Greeting should be proclaimed joyfully, there is certainly room for tears beforehand.
I believe it was on Holy Friday that my eldest daughter watched the trial and crucifixion scene in the film "Jesus of Nazareth" and while doing so she broke down into tears. The emotion of the moment struck her and she connected it to what was going on at the Church: God's funeral. We talked for quite sometime about what she was feeling and what it all meant. Throughout the service that afternoon she was especially clingy, but as I kept reminding her: we are looking toward Sunday. I pray she owns that emotion and that it may connect her to a deeper relationship with Christ...hopefully making God's Resurrection all the more powerful, glorious, and joyfull. She never saw the account of the Resurrection in the film, probably no need...I saw her smiling at me on Sunday morning particularly during the singing of "The Angel Cried" for as I gathered from our conversations previously that what especially broke her heart was Mary's weeping with Jesus in her arms. Now, the Angel tells her to Rejoice for her Son is Risen from His three days in the tomb!
You know, for all my complaints about my former religious tradition, I will say that in my experiences there I have walked away from many tearful events a changed person. Renewed and restored, ready to move on...BUT, and here is the catch: lacking in tools, lacking in guidance, and lacking in substance with which to more fully flourish. God help me to use the precious "tools" and traditions so wonderfully bestowed upon me now..for what have I gained in having such tools but lack emotional motivation to use them?
A bit of weeping can be good, as the psalmist said: "A sad face is good for the heart."