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 read Clifton's blog regularly and have found myself particularly touched by his recent dealings with a major door seemingly being closed in his life. We've all had doors closed, some more significant and heart wrenching than others and I am sure we have all dealt with them in different ways. By Benedict Seraphim's pondering of the fact that both of his patrons walked away from academia and how this might apply to his door closing has gotten me thinking more directly about my own life and about my dreams that were "shut out" and how those dreams have since changed.
What's life really all about, anyway? Where do we focus our energies and what do we hope to accomplish? I've had my share of vocational dreams such as being a youth pastor, a preacher, a theologian, a priest, a professor, an astronomer, an author and a farmer. In reality, of course, I will never be any of these...not fully anyway. My time to make great career advances /changes is pretty much over and I watch the up and coming students run through our lab and move on to medical school with bright eyes and bushy tails ready to make a difference, whether it be in the lives of others or in their pocket books, while I remain in the lab doing what I've generally done for a decade now. Not to say I don't see promotions or anything, but I recognize that in a scientific career from my vantage point the natural and only way to really advance yourself is to advance your degree. Well, it's not going to happen and I'm not really sure I want it to happen anymore.
I could, I suppose, find some way to go to graduate school and get some upper level theology or biology degree and become a really lofty thinking professor or scientist...or perhaps even become a priest! But...I just don't have it in me anymore. I turn 40 years old next year and my future path seems pretty well set for me. Though, one never knows...the farmer dream is likely the most open door for me to pass through at this point, but we'll see. It may close, it may remain open...in the grand scheme, it too doesn't matter. I am content with my little 2.5 acres and the work I am doing there. Being content is a holy thing, I think...even if one can only find it in regards to specific issues. One step at a time.
As I was saying, I've reached a point in my life where I realize that certain doors are closed to me because, really, there isn't enough time. There simply isn't enough time. It really is a serious turning point in my life to realize that any number of things I've considered doing in my life simply isn't going to happen.
Clifton notes that his patron saints left the world of academia and became monks. Clearly neither of us are going to be doing THAT anytime soon and so he asks: "what can I take of their examples for my struggle for salvation?"
Well Benedict-Seraphim (aka Clifton) is a great deal smarter than I and he has some pretty insightful thoughts into how he might answer the question. Perhaps his academic door is not completely shut, but for me it surely is and I am wholly reconciled to this fact and here is the rationale of that reconciliation:
My "monastic" escape from the closed doors of the world is found in my heart, in my home/farm/family, and in my Parish. As I noted, there is so little time left to us and I have so very much left to do...to purify my own heart and in so doing purifying the relationships I have with my children and my wife, and in serving as best as I am able the people of my faith community.
While I may not be a highly credentialed professor: there are four eager students waiting for me to come home each and every night. Who not only need my knowledge, but also my devotion, my love, my dedication, and my LIFE. I cannot count the ways I have failed them - not because I'm a crazed workaholic, but because I'm a selfish jerk. I have work to do...THE MOST IMPORTANT work.
While I may never pray the Anaphora prayers at Liturgy, I am the priest of the parish in my home. I need not detail the sacred duties this entails and neither will I bore you poor readers with another admission of my failures in this regard. I will however remind myself that time is short.
Furthermore, I may not hear confessions and I may not minister to people in a priestly role. But I can commit my talents to the Church as they are. I can strive to serve in any and every capacity that I am able: whether that be cleaning the bathrooms or chanting the epistle. It matters not...it's about service. It is a sacred thing.
I guess, when I look at all I could have been and then look at what I am, I can no longer see that the former would be better or more important than the latter. On the contrary actually. We ALREADY hold in our hands the greatest vocations there are: father, husband, teacher, mentor, priest, doctor, vet, pirate, farmer, soldier, theologian, barbarian, Royal Navy Captain, friend, brother, son, carpenter, author/storyteller, plumber, electrician, astronomer, meteorologist, and on and on the list goes. In the noisy home filled with children, there is no end to our vocational duties. We should take them all with as much seriousness as they are sometimes silly.
In the end, I do not want to be on my deathbed and be surrounded by people who were impressed by my speeches, my books, my lectures, or my witty homilies. Good as all these things are, I should be most content to be surrounded by people who genuinely love me and believe very surely that they are better for having done so. And THIS dream, is going to take real work. Time is short.
I have come to believe that my closed doors are God's way of directing me to abandon the world for the sake of being wholly devoted to the salvific life of marriage and family. All else that I do is going to be burned up in the end.
Raymond Ibrahim has an insightful little article about, in part, the new animated film Beowulf. In it he finds the all too typical Hollywood stereotypes: pagans are "Medieval counterparts to the modern, secular, liberal" while Christianity is the great wet blanket of the ages. It's as if before Christianity came along the world was portrayed as a hippy utopia.
Never mind the facts, such as the little one about how the peaceful Christians were brutally persecuted, tortured, and murdered in all manner of horrific ways for centuries by these hippie pagans. Aye, some Christians would later return the favor so I do not wholly agree with everything Ibrahim says here...or at least not with the same conviction.
He is absolutely right, though, that many of the western values and freedoms we cherish are directly attributable to the rise of Christianity and it's teachings. And he's also right that Hollywood LOVES to show Christianity in the poorest light available while holding "the other" in an impossibly best light, which is in reality a very poor light. You get my point.
Ibrahim closes his article brilliantly. Touché!
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:06 AM [+] +++
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Honesty is an internal battle
This story actually hits very close to home because I personally know numerous people who were involved. It's actually very old news that has just come to light for reasons explained in the article.
One thing that struck me though is found int he last few paragraphs in which an attempt is made to answer the question: Why did he do it?
Publish or perish is rightly noted, but blaming recent cutbacks is a little strange, particularly given the fact that the dishonesty dated back to more than 10 years ago. It almost sounds as if he is preparing us to learn about more falsified data and that we should expect it because of the environment created by cutbacks. I suppose there is some political issues at play here, but in the end honesty is always an internal issue and no one and no situation can force you to lie. Hello? Freewill? Fund everyone and we've no need to worry about people falsifying data?
The temptation to dress up data is ALWAYS present, as is - for some - the temptation to outright falsify data. Dishonesty is not the result of a system failure, it is always a personal failure. ALWAYS.
I have told lies in my life, often to escape something (e.g. blame, people thinking poorly of me, responsibility, doing something I didn't want to do but did not feel comfortable saying so) and I could run in circles forever trying to show how I was "obliged" to speak an untruth; compelled by cultural or political forces beyond my control to obtain that to which I had a right.
Nowadays we seem to always want to solve problems of the soul by reforming or creating institutions. We live with the expectation of personal moral failure and seek to fix it by creating an environment in which we no longer need to do things like lie, cheat, or steal. It will never happen and we'll go on letting our souls rot.
This article talks about Miss Navajo documents (nevermind that they quote Michael Moore, this is probably actually a real documentary and not an article of political propaganda) a very unique "beauty" pageant "where tradition reigns, contestants are required to speak their native language, make fry bread and butcher a sheep."
Now, I don't know why PBS (who aired it recently) is loving this...well...I do...but what traditional culture would not LOVE such a thing? C'mon...who could not envision a Slav beauty pageant in which the contestants must be able to say an Akathist or two in Slavonic, bake Prosphora, and slaughter a lamb?
Butcher a sheep! Now THAT'S a quality to be appreciated in a woman! Tradition reigns....LOVE IT.
Why "The Golden Compass" will NOT find its way to either my DVD or book Shelf
The topic has been amidst conversation lately in every sphere of my life, and so:
Yes, as we know, Pullman is an outspoken apologist for atheism. His books are allegorical expressions of that atheism. The film, apparently needing to be marketed to an audience of which 85+% are theists to some degree, has had its atheism toned down. Ahhh...art sacrificed to the god of finance.
As I said before I too used to be an outspoken apologist for atheism, and while they may come in different shapes, sizes, and temperaments my experience tends to bear out that they all (outspoken apologists, NOT all atheists) are carrying upon their shoulders a burden to enlighten ignorant theists. Not for love - oh banish the thought, after all, what is love? - but in order to save the world from the tyranny and ignorance of religious belief.
Given interviews and writings I have read from Mr. Pullman, I see in him a more professionally educated and better writing mirror image of myself some 20 years or so ago. I read my old thoughts in his words and I hear my old voice in his tone. A Christian could not be in my presence (and me know them to be so) without my attempting to continually steer the conversation in the direction of their being educated by my superior material intellect. A player knows a player. And a player would definitely write a book to enlighten children...oh yes, a dream come true to my old atheist evangelistic machismo. A legacy of materialism.
Pullman is an absolute materialist. And reading his books would be torture for me...like being hammered by arguments to which you cannot respond - not because you are unable to, but because the book cannot hear you! Like the "world" doesn't try and hit us with enough atheistic arguments already that we should pay to have them wrapped up nicely with pretty wrapping paper and a bow to be presented to our children? No thanks.
"But James," you may say, "it is wonderfully written...the characters are so rich and vibrant." I don't care how pretty you dress up an ugly dog, it is still a dressed up ugly dog. Beauty is skin deep as we all know, and real beauty is found in what is being communicated...what is coming out from the heart of the author. I understand for some it's not so, they can appreciate it for the face value art that it is. Not me. For as long as I have been alive I have NEVER liked a song (for example) because of its "beat" or "style" as long as its message was an attack - however misguided - against something precious to me.
"C'mon James," you may also say, "Pullman's atheism is directed toward a god and a church unfamiliar to Orthodox Christianity." All the more reason to avoid it. Why should I wish to pay to hear lies about God and the Church - particularly if the presuppositions of the lies are lies? What a convoluted mess! I can turn on TBN for free for that. Now, it would be one thing to TALK to Mr. Pullman, to engage in a discussion and perhaps try and enlighten him a little about who God really is...but it is quite another to pay him to lecture me for hours on end (with no hope for a QnA session)...even if he lectures well.
"But James," you may further try and convince me, "the movie is free of all Pullman's atheistic lessons....what's the big deal." Well, look, its simple really I do not wish to support the man's artistic endeavors in any way, shape, or form. I'm not afraid of it, I don't even think its dangerous...I just don't think its worth paying for, especially when there is plenty of atheism to be had from the potluck of worldly intellectual dishes our kids and us have to eat from daily.
Now, I should also say that I am not being critical of those who will see it and will read the books. I'm simply offering my reasonings for "banning it" from my home (scary words, I know, but it just means we won't be sending Mr. Pullman our money...though he's welcome to come sit down with me and have a Snow Cap while paying his dues to my Orthodox evangelistic machismo).
And one last reason: Is it worth what little time I have in life? True, many things in my life could be answered in the negative, but very few of them I think would presently find their way on a list below Pullman's work.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:50 PM [+] +++
As many of you know I have spent sometime over the last few years gaining knowledge about my Slovak-Rusyn family roots. I have really come to appreciate the importance of knowing our ancestors as best we can and lament the degree to which we tend not to value familial paradosis.
My particular friend Basil and his family are blessed to have still with them their 100 year old (great) grandmother. More than that, she has further blessed them (and us) with the writing of her remarkable memoirs. I encourage you all to purchase a copy.
A really cool article which includes Fr. Steve Tsichlis who many of you (here in the Northwest and down in So. Cal.) likely know.
Make sure to watch the video attached to the article. Of course the reporter is wrong about there being no set dietary restrictions...perhaps he's confusing us with last year's interview with the local Catholic or Episcopal Church.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:43 AM [+] +++
You want to know what has made our country great?
Men like Parker Sampson. Now, I'll warn you, this story is NOT pretty and I would not have brought it here if the man's attitude had not so struck me. The man severs his own arm off with a pocket knife, is severely burned, and in noting his natural and obvious intent to "carry on" says:
"(I) came down here, had a prayer with God and the corn picker and me. Made it easier. Made peace with it."
I reckon most folks would be suing the machine's manufacturer, John Deer for not making their knife sharp enough, and they would be seeking disability payments from their company and the federal government and most certainly not be doing anymore desk work, let alone farming.
One can almost hear him then telling the reporter to leave him alone so he can get back to work.
I'm trying really hard NOT to laugh myself into an personally embarrassing moment, but a major newspaper publishing a correction because they believe they mistakenly identified Islam and Judaism as different religions is...well...it is...retarded. Oh...I'm sorry...you should not call retarded people retarded, you call your friends retarded when they act retarded.
By what authority has the New York Times determined that Jews and Muslims worship the same God? Who broke this news? What source gave them this tidbit of theological wisdom?
Well, Glory to Jehovallah! This is GREAT news. HAMAS can now stop lobbing rockets into the "Zionist Entity", because they are not a "Zionist Entity" they are in actuality an "Islamist Entity." Oh dear...wait...maybe Jews are Shia Muslims? Okay, Okay....Hezbollah can now stop lobbing rockets...
And of course, this leads me to wonder whether or not I too can hook up with 72 Virginians if I "martyr" myself. Wait a minute...how do we define martyrdom again? Oh dear, I'm confused now.
Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, here's a little something to brighten the season.
Clifton references this article about people abstaining from having (and killing) their children in order to save the planet. Nope, it's not a joke.
Straight from the horses "mouth": "In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child. "That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth. "Sarah and I don't need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet."
Tell me, am I the only one who reads this quote and hears "The Twilight Zone" theme playing in the background crescendoing at the "precious planet" part?
Yes, alas, as we respire we humans produce CO2. Furthermore, and again unfortunately, we require resources of some sort to go on living. Bad humans! Bad! Morally wrong! (As a side, the fact is: Burning 1 gallon of gasoline produces 10x more CO2 than the average human exhales in 24 hours. Though I do like to tease my "green" coworkers that their riding bikes to work causes them to respire more so they should consider walking VERY slowly.)
Of course, Western Europe ALREADY has a negative birth rate and has for sometime.
But what is the lesson? Killing babies to save the planet is not just morally right...it is a moral imperative.
I think one of the people's comments on the article has it right: "I really think it's great - less nuts about to breed and spread their lunacy to children."
Except that these nuts are likely teaching our kids in our schools and running for office. I reckon they'd WIN office here in Washington. How long before we see such insanity written into laws? Maybe tax credits for getting abortions? Free abortion clinics and with each abortion you get a free DVD of "An Inconvenient Truth"? AND if you abort twins you get an extra copy to send to your disbelieving friends like me.
Okay, maybe I'm being a little silly. But, either it's a sign of me getting old or it really is happening that each morning I wake up and the news gets crazier and crazier. I never know what to expect.
...all mixed up. I often hear scientists giving a certain degree of lip service to the notion that science is merely a tool and clearly ought to be guided and overseen by the ethics derived from other sources. You've heard me, numerous times, express my concern that science has grown to be far more than a tool, but has in a very real way become a religion. School Science textbooks frequently make statements that are decidedly philosophical in origin as opposed to being something derived from the good old fashioned scientific method. (Evolutionary theory being a prime example in which students are often treated to overt notions of the universe being "random" and utterly "without design" and that humans are no different/better than animals.)
Anyone who reads "Discover" or "Scientific American" will note that they have utilized a great deal of text over the last 7 years in being profoundly critical of the current administration's scientific policies - particularly with regard to Embryonic Stem Cell research. And indeed they have been actively lobbying for extensive rights to create and kill embryos. Personally, I count it as a clear evidence that science - as today's religion - has no interest in being dictated to by "false religions."
Funny that policies prohibiting the killing of babies encourages research that brings us exciting news like THIS. For the time being we are still able to control science like the tool it is...but believe me when I say that it is fast becoming the great religious hierarchy of our time and its message is blatant materialism and its realm is ever-expanding.
The World's Largest BBQ French chef Christian Falco has prepared the world's largest barbecue -- spit-roasting a 550-kilo (1,213-pound) camel for 15 hours at a seaside Moroccan town south of Rabat.(AFP/Abdelhak Senna)
They had me salivating until they said "camel." Camel?!?! Well, I'd try it.
Clearly they have no concept of the extent to which the last sentence and the first clash with one another.
The path to the reunification of the Christians from the West and East of Europe seems open...Even if the historical primacy of the Pope is recognized, it remains to establish exactly his concrete prerogatives, say the theologians from the two camps.
Good News The media covers and feeds off of far too much violence and bloodshed, perhaps (duh) we should turn it off in protest. The world of the internet, however, has become a terrific source for finding better news, sometimes REALLY good news such as THIS story brought to us by Michael Yon who has been in Iraq seemingly forever.
Not seeing as much bloodshed in Iraq now you'd think the major outlets would have time to print good news like this...but alas...they will wait and hope for blood, seeking it out like vampires.
So, one more example amongst thousands of science pontificating to us. Yes, the new all powerful church speaks ex-cathedra to us this time about Hypocrisy and Morals. What? Have you forgotten that science has the corner on the truth of ALL THINGS. It even claims to know why you love your spouse and why you have a tendency to believe in God.
What strikes me as stupid and scary in the article is the general implication that people with high morals have a greater tendency to by hypocrites. However, no where does the article differentiate between people who believe THEY are highly moral and people who believe in the need for aspiring toward higher morals while not particularly recognizing themselves as possessing them. The difference between the two is absolutely critical and demonstrates a profound flaw in their study. Of course few people will catch the flaw and so:
Tomorrow you can expect people around the water cooler slapping each other on the back for now finally having scientific evidence for what they always knew to be the case: Christians are hypocrites.
Ironically, science has this time proven that the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Orthodox Church are absolutely right. If you think too highly of yourself, odds are you are profoundly deceived. The Publican and the Pharisee, DUH.
The Seattle School District is passing out a list of myths that they apparently fear are being taught as historic truth in the folklore of the "First Thanksgiving." Puhlease...do they really think students today - particularly in Seattle - are being taught anything OTHER than an "inclusive history"?
In fact I'd argue they've gone too far in the other direction and this list of myths is absurd, painting the Native Americans as peace loving innocents and the Puritans as religious maniacs bent on backstabbing the Native Americans at every opportunity. Can we give it a rest please? I mean what are we as Americans supposed to do? Go back to Europe? And then are the Native Americans supposed to march back north and over to Asia? All of history is a story of one people displacing another and you can bet that just about anywhere you find people there is another set of people who were there first and were displaced. Ours, however, is the first race of people to hate ourselves for what we personally had nothing to do with - more than that we are actively educating our children to further hate ourselves for supposed crimes committed generations ago. How about some sobriety? We've no more need for further myths of the "noble savage" than we do of the "noble pilgrim."
And speaking of historical accuracy, Thanksgiving has NOTHING to do with Pilgrims ANYWAY. The "First Thanksgiving" took place in 1863 following the Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln in which he commended his fellow Americans to thank God in the midst of a civil war of "unequaled magnitude." But not just giving thanks, but also a day of penitence. Hmmmm...I wonder if the Seattle School District would dare to provide its students with a copy of the Proclamation? Speaking of offending people, I don't think they could legally do so and thus I reckon sticking with Turkey's and Pilgrims and back-stabbed Indians is easier than the REAL history of Thanksgiving - even though an integral part of Thanksgiving (per President Lincoln) involves us praying for God to heal our nation's wounds (AH! Now there's something everyone could get behind, eh? Except for that troublesome notion of prayer and God.) Sigh.
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the way, given the history and the supposed reality of wounds needing to be healed...why do you suppose southerners celebrate Thanksgiving?
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:24 AM [+] +++
The Primacy of the Pope
Much ado about nothing. The devil appears to be in the details and it seems to me - based on this story - that nothing has changed at all. The primacy of the Patriarch of Rome has ALWAYS been recognized, even in ecumenical council, but what exactly that means is the rub of the matter. Still is, apparently.
So headlines that read "Vatican-Orthodox agree pope has primacy" represents breaking news that is like 1,900 years old.
Waiting for hours, but not for Hannah Montana tickets.
An unidentified girl kisses the skull of St John Chrysostom in a Greek Orthodox church dedicated to the saint in Lakatamia, a suburb of Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007. Thousands of Cypriots queued for hours to touch the revered Christian relic, credited with two miraculous cures in the past three days. The silver-encased skull, on a rare exit from its home in a northern Greek monastery, will remain in Cyprus until Nov. 20. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Of course we recognize that the Eucharist isn't merely an act of symbolism, but by the same token Icons are more than symbols as well. With this in mind, I have been contemplating the following.
The Greek word Anaphora literally means "offering up" OR (interestingly) "carrying back." The Holy Anaphora is of course, as most of you know, that portion of the service when we offer up the gifts of Bread and Wine and God receives them and returns them to us as His Body and Blood in the Cup of Salvation.
Naturally a prominent theme is giving Thanks and the initial prayer relates the fact that God is the author of all that is, including our salvation. Without Him and His reaching out to save us we would have and be nothing and we would not have a Eucharist to Celebrate:
It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was who brought us from nonexistence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven, and hadst endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son, and to Thy Holy Spirit, for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen, and we thank Thee for this Liturgy which Thou hast deigned to accept at our hands...
And of course we note the timelessness of the accomplished and yet ongoing work: Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious Coming....
It is always fascinating to hear the second coming referred to in the past tense. Is it any wonder we struggle to say without further explanation in order to please our Protestant friends or family that "we are saved." Salvation, not being a legal contract, is ongoing. It is perhaps very much like a future event referred to in the past tense, maybe that would comfort our family who worry for our potentially lost souls.
Anyway, though all of this is the work of God who is the progenitor of all things, WE are the ones who bring the gifts to the Altar and WE are the one's who offer them up to Him and without this bit of "synergia" there would also be no Eucharist. It is as God wishes that we should come to Him with our humble gifts, even though they are not our own. We choose to give them, even in the context of the gifts being His to begin with:
Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all... And the people respond: ...We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord. And we pray unto Thee. O our God.... And finally: ...Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless worship, and ask Thee, and pray Thee, and supplicate Thee. Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here offered.
You will notice that the gifts are offered "on behalf of all and for all", illustrating the communal nature of salvation. We are not "saved" alone, we are riding together in this ark, and NOT just with those now, but also those with whom we see mystically present in the Icons around us. The Church.
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship for those who have fallen asleep in the faith: ancestors, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith. Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary...again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship...for the whole world
In all of this (and certainly you could include the entire Liturgy), I do see an image of salvation in terms of our interaction with God. In salvation, do we not in a sense offer up ourselves and generally say "Thine own of thine own"? In the Anaphora we do not only ask God to send down His Holy Spirit onto the gifts, but also upon US as well. It mirrors the fact that salvation means we seek to be able to say: "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
Our lives are a sacrifice to God, being "crucified with Christ." But like the Eucharist, the Bread and the Wine become the Body and Blood because we offer them to Him. We are engaged, we are participants, we are reaching up with confidence knowing that He, who loves mankind, will reach down.
Anyway, there you have it...a few random thoughts on the Anaphora.
...that Russell Crowe might be Orthodox or, at least, Byzantine Catholic. See article HERE.
Now, I'll be the first person to say: "So what!" Even if it is the man who brought Jack Aubrey to life on the big screen...none-the-less, I don't try and uphold a false image of myself that would deny that I'm at least a little interested. All I could find were a couple of pictures of his "Byzantine Chapel"
Apparently the mosaic on the floor dates from the 2nd century, but I can't discern what it is. It's one thing to have a "Byzantine Chapel" in your back yard...but it is quite another...well you get the picture. "Consecrated"? Ummm, shouldn't there be an altar, hello? Do Orthodox ever even consecrate private chapels if you aren't a Czar or something?
Another famous Orthodox Christian? I kinda doubt it, but a nice looking chapel in any event...though it could use a few icons.
For our Fr. Dcn. Mark who was hospitalized yesterday for an as of yet undiagnosed serious condition.
My wife and I were speaking just the other day and we both recognized the absurdity of how we treat prayer. We often say things like "Well, all we can do is pray" as if to suggest there could be something more efficacious or important that might be done under better circumstances? Where's our faith?
Thank God we can always pray. Please do.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:55 PM [+] +++
Watch yourselves - your passions especially - in your home life, where they appear freely, like moles in a safe place.
St. John of Kronstadt
I would just add (if I dare) that it is also here where they may do the most damage to those who must suffer them along with us.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:41 PM [+] +++
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Music and the 8th
First, Little Big Town has a new album out. And you can watch them perform some of the songs (as well as some oldies) HERE. (Warning: By clicking here you will end up going to Walmart, if you feel this will damn you to hell forever, don't click. Otherwise enjoy.)
ALSO...today is the 8th of November, and as we also approach Veteran's Day I offer a hearty thanks to all of the Vets out there. We honor you and those we've lost.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:50 AM [+] +++
Well, we knew THIS would make the press today. The notion that "we" might have made some people MORE susceptible to the disease isn't a happy one. While I actually was not involved too much with the study, I work with and for many who were/are.
A lengthy bit of theological pondering while riding the waves to work:
An Orthodox inquiring friend of mine has sent my theological thoughts flying in the direction of faith "vs." works. A topic to which I generally don't give a great deal of consideration. This is perhaps the case because in the Orthodox understanding of things the two are not mutually exclusive and are certainly not dichotomous. Not to mention, the issue is more recent to the theological memory of the western churches and I really do suspect that much of Protestant emphasis on faith over and above works is a knee-jerk and erroneous reaction to medieval Roman Catholic extremes in setting up a system of salvation that an accountant could appreciate.
Many efforts to “reconcile” St. James and St. Paul in such a context end up requiring some truly back-bending and circular reasoning. Looking back in time I suspect we AGers would simply say that works were a natural response to salvation and so whereas faith saves us (and, we must have also said, faith is NOT a work in and of itself but is the gift of the Holy Spirit), the evidence of saving faith is of course works. So, was I saved or not? Because good works never came “naturally” or should I say easily. It was always a struggle and as I read through the NT I saw unending exhortations to struggle and “work” and to do good and avoid bad. And, in fact, the existence of many of the epistles is attributable to the need for such exhortations. Many a late night was spent tearfully asking God to take away my inability to stop sinning. My good works were few and far between and I knew it, and so what could I do with what St. James was telling me? What had become of my “Blessed Assurance”? (Hmmm...contrary to the hymn, maybe I do not own Jesus?) I never could figure out what was meant by “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” despite all the fancy theological foot shuffling to make THAT one fit the mold. Anyway, this was the AG struggle I had...but in general, I think most Protestant struggle to some degree (often in slightly different ways since Scripture is so perfectly clear that dozens of different understandings of the intricate and technical workings of faith and works exist) with salvation being attributable to faith alone and yet works clearly being important for something, but NOT salvation.
I rather sense a need (product of the enlightenment perhaps) to define in the most precise and technical terms the process by which salvation functions. Who, what, where, and how am I saved? It’s like not being satisfied with the fact that your alarm clock wakes you up in the morning, one MUST come to an understanding of how the clock functions in intimate detail. This, I suppose, makes some sense depending on your understanding of what salvation is...literally.
Is salvation a legal contract, a fiscal ledger, or a relationship? If the latter, then I think it is obvious that seeking a system of functionality becomes absurd. Like seeking to understand what is the key "issue" with regard to your marriage working: is it faith in your spouse or is it works? One or the other...choose. If salvation is a legal contract then it makes sense to argue and debate about how that contract is fulfilled, but if it is a relationship then it becomes something that the functionality of which encompasses many things and it becomes silly - even insulting - to try and nail down the technical details. It's like science trying to tell me that my love for my wife is all about biochemistry. Salvation, like any relationship, is REAL, it is not a subjective agreed upon and contracted pseudo-reality. In other words, the little article of paper from the state of Washington truly says nothing about the reality of my marriage.
Works being included in the process of salvation is NOT about keeping score, it is about being in a relationship - we do things to maintain a solid relationship with our spouses - we hopefully do not have a secret tally sheet whereby we are able to keep score. We cannot quantify a relationship...this is the mistake we would say was paramount in western RC thought with notions of indulgences and purgatory all representing sin and holiness quantified.
God will do (or did?) what is impossible for us to do, while we must do what is possible for us to do. It's really rather simple isn't it? What is so difficult to understand here? There is no war between faith and works, unless one overemphasizes one at the expense of the other.
Consider context in Scripture. In my protestant hermeneutics class I was indeed taught that context is important in interpreting Scripture, but I wonder if this was really a bit of lip service to the notion. The New Testament is not and indeed was not intended to be a systematic theology or a sort of “summa theological”, but alas many Christian sects treat it as such. Thus, when St. Paul writes to the Romans and Ephesians about how your good works cannot save you, we might forget that he may very well have been addressing a specific problem in the Churches of Rome or Ephesus or wherever. In other words, like in so many other places he may have been correcting an error that had developed or a controversy to which we simply are not privy. Was someone in Rome or Ephesus overemphasizing works? Or perhaps was pride creeping in such that St. Paul had to remind them that “no man may boast.” Similarly, perhaps St. James was addressing a problem in which the importance of works was being negated?
I, for one, cannot read the New Testament and fail to see the importance of our cooperation with God. I think that too often with Protestants there is an assumed foundation which they set up (based - they say - on the Bible) and then the New Testament is made to fit it, in some cases the fit is perfect and in some areas it doesn't seem quite as good a fit and thus the founder gets out his crowbar and duct tape and forces it into place. A little bit of caulk and paint and you can hardly notice the contortions that had to be done to make it fit. Better to make such contortions than to assume the foundation was wrong to begin with. I've no qualms in saying, that with regard to Orthodoxy I have never seen the New Testament makes so much collective and overall sense...a perfect unity that requires very little explanation or philosophical loop-de-loops, caulk, or paint.
So many of the pages of the NT are wasted space if their words of exhortation to DO SOMETHING are meaningless. Like the woman with the “issue of blood”, her faith may have healed her, but it was intimately and inescapably connected with her reaching out and touching Him. She worked...her will and her body conformed to the will of God.
God has no interest in a marriage contract or a pre-nuptial agreement which act “as if” we have a relationship. He wants a REAL relationship with us and since we are not automatons, clearly we are involved. Salvation implies a real ontological change in our being and in our nature, not a change in legal status. Christ has renewed us so that we are no longer slaves to sin, but made alive in Him. This is the new life to which we are raised and the western theologians of all breeds may bicker and argue and try to label the Orthodox understanding over it all, but it seems clear to me that I have work to do...with fear and trembling – a verse that makes a good deal of sense to me now and the theological loop-de-loops are no longer necessary in this new (actually old) context of understanding (more accurately: experiencing) salvation.
As you likely know, my wife abandoned the world for Greekendale this last weekend. She clearly needed and deserved the break...and I recognize this all the more after my weekend. And I was only in charge of 1/2 to 3/4 of my brood.
Everyday farm chores are time consuming in and of themselves. Feeding, watering, milking, cleaning, and putting to bed are as integral to our lives as I suppose cleaning the kitchen would be to the average non-farm household. Rain or shine, night or day, muddy or dry...the chores must be done. No such thing as a "day off." Now, I'm not asking for sympathy here for two reasons: this was our decision and we are enjoying the labor (and associated fruits thereof) - though it would be disingenuous not to admit that on particularly dark, raining and muddy occasions I lament the labor...but oddly feel even more satisfied at such times when returning to the warmth of the wood stove and a Snow Cap having done my duty.
Combined with homeschooling and everyday normal house chores of which everyone is familiar, I have to wonder how Susan does it. She is tougher and more hard working than me by an order of many magnitudes.
So, one of our "additional" projects this weekend was regarding the securing of the stall in which we are keeping the 50 (now 48) new chicks. I likened our effort to building a fort and given the reality of predation, Nicholas and Charissa took to the job with vigor. With the evening as a deadline and representing the beginning of the inevitable battle (coyotes, raccoons, and feral cats waiting in their trenches nearby like the dark armies of Mordor assembling for their assault on Minas Tirith, we worked through the day nailing, stapling, and running wire netting. I did have to dash the hopes of the youth seeking the construction of catapults to be strategically placed around the barn. Coyotes don't have a Grond anyway, I explained.
I was a little worried the first night and so I went out a couple of times to check on them. I was relieved to hear that they had quieted down (their noisy daytime peeping would attract undue attention in the dark hours when evil reigns) and I suspected the goats would not put up with any critters working their way through their stall (where the ONLY and necessary weak spot in my plan is located - I think). So far, three nights into it, the fortress remains unbreached.
But I remain vigilant...and wish that Mina was bigger.
The Pallada sailing into San Francisco. Russian Orthodox Church Archibishop Veniamin, right, presents Nikolai Zorchenko the captain of the Russian tall ship Pallada, with an icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle-maker prior to a start of a round-the-world trip at a harbor of Vladivostok, Russian Pacific Ocean port, about 9,300 kilometers (some 5,750 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. (AP Photo)
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 11:58 AM [+] +++
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Met. KIRIL welcomes notion of Orthodox Blogging...