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.
Archeologists uncover my weekly life I'd read about THIS story before, but this is the first time I've seen a photo. It's always interesting to see historians, museum curators, and archeologists marveling over things that are an everyday part of my Church experience. Not that I want to downplay the importance of these finds, it's just funny to witness its discovery and already KNOW it in a very intimate way. In fact, we may be far more familiar with the object (whatever it may be) than the discoverer him/herself.
It leads me to recall the somewhat frequent music or history or ________ students who, via mandate from their professors, visit a local Orthodox parish as if it were a museum...and end up like a deer in headlights having smacked into a vibrant and living ancient faith.
The behavior of the leadership at the AOCNA convention was nothing short of embarrassing and shameful. Forgive me for my being blatant, but the talks and pre-planned strategies (e.g. for avoiding a perfectly reasonable external audit) It ought to mark the beginning of some fundamental changes akin to what we experienced here in the OCA.
Many of us would like to think the best of our hierarchs and sometimes we do so to a fault...bordering on cult-like adoration. I recall back to when I wrote a blog post critical of Metropolitan Phillip's political views and I received more than one: "How dare you" response. No doubt this compounds the problem here.
And there are cultural issues as well. I thought a comment left by Kevin Allen HERE was probably quite accurate and really speaks to why the AOCNA may have a tougher sea to sail than the OCA did. It is my opinion that they must in fact sail that sea, by the way, if they wish to see real healing. Until then this is really going to fester. A friend wondered why I, as an OCA guy, should be concerned about all this. Well, put simply: I entered Orthodoxy through the AOCNA and thus I do not feel compelled to simply shrug...I care about it and, of course, the people there. And secondly, I care about Orthodox unity in America and if this is the style and mindset of leadership we will see being unified...well...NO THANKS!
Prayers. Prayers. Prayers.
Everyone especially needs to listen to the convention at AFR. In particular I suggest +Phillip's message in which he reminds everyone of all the good he has done and how clergy owe him allegiance and ought not to ever be critical of him because he paid for their education, the FINANCIAL session in which the anti-audit ambush is put poorly (yet succesfully) into play. And then the LEGAL AFFAIRS presentation in which a laywoman is virtually shouted down for asking why the Archdiocese continues to finance a Bishop who failed to be beyond reproach rather seriously.
The whole film revolves around what one might call the perfect 1950's family...Ozzy and Harriet...at least on the outside. I do not believe there is a single happily married couple portrayed in the whole film. Happiness in the repressive 1950's is, we are being told, a facade...a lie.
Well Winslet's and DiCaprio's unhappily married characters apparently come to realize this - being the enlightened elders that they are - and so decide they must break free and do something in order to save their marriage and their very souls..or something like that. The solution is obvious to them: He quits his job and they all move to France where he can write, hang at the Moulan Rouge and drink absinthe or something like that...my interest slowly deteriorated as the film went on so I may forget some details or confuse them. Was there singing in this movie?
I had a slight glimmer of hope that the film would have them make the move and then come to find out that nothing changes. Alas...the process by which they prepare for the plans has their marriage revived and their lives full of joy and color...think rainbows and dancing unicorns (if this had been animated...wait a minute...was it?) And then, their plans are brought to a screeching halt and everything collapses. All manner of despair, infidelity, and deadly home made abortions shatter their lives (yes, they even pitch the need for "choice"!)
The film almost seems to be saying: "Here are these wonderful bohemian-spirited free-thinking souls who are trapped in the evil repressive castle of the 50's generation and they make a bold effort to escape, but alas they fail. They are ensnared at the last moment...victims...mourn them...and be thankful we can be somewhat happy in our slightly less repressive age today."
In other words the film implies that if they had made it to France, they would have been okay. The enlightened culture of 1950's France would have saved them and set them free! Blech...this film gave me what they call in Uganda "Echidukano" (running stomach).
What have we learned from this two hour sermon: These poor souls needed to escape a "system" or a culture or a _____ (fill in the blank). Something external to themselves. It's always something external to ourselves isn't it? The eternal excuse of blaming the external for what we did and for what we failed to do...something or someone else. A system is a GREAT scapegoat! And these days we STILL have a great many people looking for external reasonings as to why they are not happy...and more and more people are looking to systems. If only I had a better job, more money, free health care...if only we could return our country to its "Christian heritage"...etc etc...all these things would make things right...and they would bring us happiness that we now lack.
But the TRUTH is...they (and we) need to escape OURSELVES!
Inner peace is what we really need. It matters not what is happening outside of us...nothing there can give to or take away from us inner peace.
Bp Kallistos Ware related this little story in "The Orthodox Way":
Sarapion the Sindonite traveled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Sceptical about her way of life, for he was himself a great wanderer, Sarapion called on her and asked, "Why are you sitting here?" To which she replied, "I am not sitting: I am on a journey."
Believe it or not...amidst the horrors of 1950's suburban social tyranny, some people were probably able to manage some degree of happiness - or at least a modicum of compromised satisfaction. I know it's hard to imagine, but if John Lennon...oh nevermind. But Inner Peace existed even prior to that. It existed (and still does) even in the hearts of martyrs whose heads were bowed to receive the swords or bullets of their executioners.
Now THAT'S a Revolutionary Road to travel...and you needn't even move.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:10 PM [+] +++
Monday, July 13, 2009
As many of you by now know, my ex-brother-in-law took his own life last week. I had not seen him for at least a couple of years but a few times I had tried to contact him by email and received no response. We had been quite close, and in fact he had been my best man at my wedding and for many years afterward we would often be found spending weekends together at one or the others homes working on some project. We shared an almost identical sense of humor and that added a great deal to my many fond memories.
However, the reality of what happened last Thursday is haunting me a bit. How does someone with whom we had so much joyful fun, end up in such despair that they can only see one very awful way out? Friends and family are left to wonder - perhaps forever - if there could have been something they could do differently. Or knowing details we ponder seemingly absurd ways in which his plans could have even been accidentally thwarted and thus afforded some more time for something or someone to see that it would never happen. Really, for those who were in direct contact with him at the time, I cannot imagine the emotional scars this leaves. They have my prayers.
As for me I am trying to focus my emotions and fashion them into something positive and right now that amounts to an absolute disdain of death and the enemy of God. I curse him who (and it that) restrained my friend and lured him into the pit of despair. I curse whatever physical/mental issues that contributed and are no less ultimately authored by death, sin and the devil. And I will make use of that disdain in two ways: 1) I will rededicate my life all the more to Christ and His Church wherein LIFE and LIGHT and JOY and LOVE are to be found. 2) I will seek to ever share that LIFE, LIGHT, JOY, and LOVE to those with whom I have contact.
As I ponder all of this, I realized that suicide is exceptionally common and undiagnosed. In fact, in one way or another we are all killing ourselves. Some of us kill ourselves slowly by what we eat, drink, or by what emotions we harbor that gnaw away at us. Some of us kill ourselves by the illnesses we secretly harbor in our hearts and minds that drive us perhaps not to despair by to less overt ways of murdering ourselves and others. But in the end we all kill ourselves by seperating ourselves from LIFE through sin. Really, those who commit suicide are not perhaps all that different from you and I and we might pause to consider this and perhaps we can take something awful and manifest something positive from it?
Sigh. There is HOPE in this world. And every person consumed (literally) by despair is a very real testimony to the perils we face in this life and the very great need for Him who is Hope.
While I've missed my friend since he left Washington, I now find I miss him in an altogether different and more profound way. I believe Christ's love is being presently showered upon him and how he ended his earthly life is no definitive indication of how he will respond to that love. Of all who need to feel God's embrace, none moreso, I think, than those sucked into the darkest pit of despair. I am reminded of St. John Chrysostom's Paschal homily and in that context I like to remember that even the tardy and those who have failed to keep the fast are welcomed in to feast, remembering that "He showeth mercy upon the last..."
And so I shout out (along with inappropriate expletives I will not repeat here): DIE DEATH! DIE HELL!
If any man be devout and loveth God, Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast! If any man be a wise servant, Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting, Let him how receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, Let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, Let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, Let him have no misgivings; Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, Let him draw near, fearing nothing. And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, Will accept the last even as the first. He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour. And He showeth mercy upon the last, And careth for the first; And to the one He giveth, And upon the other He bestoweth gifts. And He both accepteth the deeds, And welcometh the intention, And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; Receive your reward, Both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day! Rejoice today, both you who have fasted And you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one bewail his poverty, For the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, For pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, For the Saviour's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion Unto ages of ages.
Memory Eternal! My Friend, find peace in Christ, I pray.
Your prayers sought for Kevin and his family and friends.
This is something ArchDeacon Kirill said to us during the Diaconal Liturgical Practicum. He noted that too often we tend to see our preparation as being perhaps - at most - attending Vespers on Saturday and saying our Pre-Communion prayers, but in fact if we can begin to understand the reality and the centrality to our lives of what we do on Sunday mornings then we will see how everything is connected and hinged to it and correspondingly all is preparation for it. Our minds, in considering preparation, will often drift toward the obvious: keeping the weekly fasts and the Mystery of Confession. And many of us with families can attest to seemingly "ruining" our Sundays by having one of those rough mornings in which we lose our composure with our kids and siblings and then feel the need to refrain from communion. I can recall when my kids were younger leaving Liturgy altogether and in utter frustration going home believing that we were no longer prepared for receiving communion and just could not handle "it" any longer. But of course, these are the obvious preparations (or lack thereof) that one might expect even if all we were doing on Sunday morning was a ritual that had certain requirements of its participants. But, as we all know, this is not at all what the Divine Liturgy is for us. It is first and foremost REAL...as real as the Body and Blood we consume. It is not merely a "remembrance" and it certainly isn't merely a pretty ceremony. Yes, it is "symbolic" but not as we typically understand the word. It's more real and more important that any of life's most real and most important events; think births, marriages, graduations, milestone birthdays, the love for our spouses and our children, charity to others, care for our elderly parents, or even death. The Divine Liturgy is not only a hinge point for all of these, but it alone (by virtue of what it is and who He is) flushes out the fullness of meaning in all these other life events. Without it, we are testing God's admonition that "man shall not live by bread alone."
In my mind, this makes the notion that everyday life is a preparation for Liturgy quite clear. What I do on any given Monday morning with regard to myself, my coworkers, my family, and strangers on the street is all connected with, and ought to be seen in the context of what I did the morning before and what I'll do the following Sunday morning. It should be the melody of the song we dance to, and it's tangible reality very close to our hearts and minds. This is also why our presence and participation there as lay people and/or our service there as choir members or clergy is so much more than a performance or ritual....it's not an act at all. It is REAL LIFE. The MOST real in fact.