Monday, October 31, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
I began studying Spanish in the seventh grade. Dad (as well as Sesame Street) had given my little sponge brain a nice little primer (numbers, basic greetings, feelings, etc) growing up, and I took to the subject eagerly and naturally OK, I'll be honest: I was and am, academically speaking, a dork in that I LOVE the hallowed halls of academia, so taking to the subject naturally wasn't too much of a surprise, if I can say that without sounding too arrogant...**grimaces**...what DID surprise me was how much I LOVED the subject itself! Math, science, even English--I loved the fact that I could succeed in these courses with little effort, but Spanish...I just LOVED learning it for its own sake. And I learned the traditional way--textbook vocabulary lists, grammar exercises, workbook listening and speaking exercises, etc.--with an almost innate ability to take the grammar rules I'd learned and put them to use in real-life situations.
So I go to college, double major in English Ed and Spanish, and wind up teaching Spanish in a non-magnet school environment (my high school environment was accelerated, AP-type stuff), and, sho nuf, I taught they way I was taught: worksheets, verb conjugation charts, etc. At the end of the year, though, something was odd: my students could conjugate the heck out of a verb or two, meaning that they knew grammar rules, but they didn't know Spanish; if someone came up to them and asked them ¿Qué hora es? they'd be stuck. So I investigated TPR--Total Physical Response--and it claimed to address this very problem. I read a couple of books on it over a summer, and implemented the stuff I gleaned from it the following year.
It was (and is) amazing. My students, in terms of actual communication, can do more after three months of instruction in TPR than my kids in traditional schooling could do after a whole YEAR of instruction. Rather than focus on grammar, we take phrases (already conjugated somehow) and assign an action to them, and every time I say the phrase, they do the action until the sound of the word triggers the meaning. Then, we put the words (along with the words they've already acquired) into a story (which they make up, mostly) and they can oftentimes retell the story with relative ease. They even write their own stories--over 100 words in nine minutes at this point for many of them--and we have quite a bit more fun than I remember having in my own, traditional Spanish class (aside from the dorky, "Wow-this-is-nifty-'cause-I'm-learning!!!" fun, that is).
So why the comparison? Well, like anybody who naturally achieves at something, I find myself feeling as though I'm depriving my kids. TPRS (the S being for Storytelling) doesn't stress formal grammar, correct conjugation, etc) like traditional learning, so it's hard for me not to cringe when I hear my kids say something like, ¡Mi necesitaba fue baño, Señor! (a horrible version of "I need to go to the bathroom, sir!") It's made me realize exactly what it is that I do when I take all those grammar rules and run them through my head real quick-like to communicate in higher-level Spanish: it's like doing calculus in one's head. On the one hand, I know there are bright kids who can handle the grammar, who can use the grammar (as well as the extensive vocab units) and go onto AP stuff. But the majority of these kids...man...this is just getting them to do basic (read: ROUGH) communication in Spanish; the use of the more intricate grammatical functions is and most likely will be lost on them.
So it's a matter, imo, of doing the most I can for as many as I can, and trusting that the ones who will go on and succeed are not going to be killed by going more slowly than I'd like (the premise of TPRS being "Teach less...but teach it more") and that, if they want to continue in this they'll catch the vocab later. It's difficult being someone who got all the vocab words and irregular verbs the first time he heard them; Lord grant that I would act wisely, without embittering or embarrassing those who do not have the gift You've given me.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy! And blessed be the name of the LORD.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The Church is Visible and One by Patrick Barnes of orthodoxinfo.com reknown, regarding THE issue that (ultimately) converted me.
Fabulous. Rather long, but fabulous.
I suddenly had a "head smack" moment of why we do this godparent thing. Yes, yes, the historical roots of such a practice date back to the days of the Roman persecutions when parents stood a good chance--due to the likelyhood of martyrdom--of never seeing their kids grow up in the Faith, so godparents were assigned to do just that. There is that. But watching the two of them approach the Chalice, approach our God's flesh and blood while we just stood there impressed two things upon me:
1) This child is not really mine. Biologically, yeah. Don't get any ideas. But she's "on loan," as it were. And that meeting at the Chalice is why she's really here. That's Who she really belongs to, so the fact that another should take her there, who's specifically there to be an example in the faith, seems fitting to me.
2) The child went on up ahead of me, which left me free to...pray. For myself. She was fine. She was partaking of the all-holy Body and precious Blood of the Lord, unhindered by any personal sin. I was not, and this needed my attention. For if my own life is unfocused, how can I help her focus hers?
Friday, October 21, 2005
Part of the text:
Thomas: How do you approach the souls that come to you? If they are Moslem how do you work with them and how do you explain the difference between Christianity and Islam. How do you draw them in?
Fr. Daniel: I think that in any missionary work, you must first of all understand the culture of the people and you have to be able to speak within the bounds of that cultural language, because otherwise your word cannot be heard or understood. So, when you talk with a Moslem, you must understand the Moslem mind. Don’t just try to throw in words and phrases that are familiar to Christians, to Orthodox, because they will not be understood by a Moslem. First of all, when you talk to a Moslem, you have to emphasize that God is One.
Thomas: Because they already believe this?
Fr. Daniel: Not only because they already believe this, but because they accuse us [the Christians] of having three gods. That is the problem. So, you have to clear up the misunderstanding that we worship three gods. Don’t try to use our traditional language, like Father, Son and Holy Spirit – because for them, that is three gods! In their minds, the Father is different, the Son is different, the Holy Spirit is different. For myself, I emphasize that God is One, that this One God is also the Living God, and as the Living God He has Mind. Because if God didn’t have a mind, I’m sorry to say, He would be like an idiot. God has to have a mind. Within the Mind of God there is the Word. Thus, the Word of God is contained within God Himself. So, God in His Word is not two, but one. God is full with His own Word; He is pregnant with Word.
And that Word of God is then revealed to man. The thing that is contained within – like being impregnated within oneself – when it is revealed, it is called being born out of that person. That is why the Word of God is called the Son: He is the Child Who is born from within God, but outside time. So, that is why this One God is called the Father, because He has His own Word Who is born out of Him, and is called the Son. So, Father and Son are not two gods. The Father is One God, the Son is that Word of God. The Moslem believes that God created the world through the Word. So what the Moslem believes in as Word, is what the Christians call the Son! In that way, we can explain to them that God does not have a son separate from Himself.
Thomas: So the Moslems see our idea of the Son of God in terms of physical sonship.
Fr. Daniel: Yes, of course. And God does not have a son in that way, that’s true. He is not begetting in the sense of a human being giving birth. He is called the Father because He produces from Himself, His own Word, and that Word is the Son. So because God is the living God, He must have the principle of life within Himself. In man, this principle of life is man’s spirit. God is the same. The principle of life within God is the Spirit of God. It is called the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is not the name of the Angel Gabriel, as the Moslems understand it. The Holy Spirit is the living principle, the principle of life and power within God Himself. This One God is called the Father because He produced from Himself His own Word, which is called the Son, and the Word of God is called the Son because He is born out of the Father eternally, without beginning, without end. This One Living God also has Spirit within Himself. So, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one God. This is the way we explain to Moslems about the Trinity, and we should not try to use our language of “Father and Son, co-equal, co-...” something like that. Even though it is our Christian terminology, they will not understand this. The purpose is not to theologize to them but to explain the reality of the Gospel in a way that is understandable to them. This is point number one: you have to be clear about the Trinity. The second point is this: the basic difference between Islam and Christianity concerns revelation. In Islam, God does not reveal Himself. God only sends down His word. “Revelation” in Islam means “the sending down of the word of God” through the prophets. And that word is then written down and becomes scripture. So in Islam, revelation means the “inscripturization” of the word of God while in Christianity, it is not the same. The Word was sent down to the womb of the Virgin Mary, took flesh and became man. Namely, Jesus Christ.
So, the two religions believe that God communicated Himself to man by means of the Word, but the difference is how that Word manifested in the world. In Christianity it is manifested in the person of Jesus Christ and in Islam it is manifested in the form of a book, the Koran. So, the place of Mohammed in Islam is parallel to the place of the Virgin Mary in Orthodox Christianity. That is why in Islam the Moslems respect Mohammed, not as a god, but as the bearer of revelations. Just as the Orthodox Church respects the Virgin Mary not as a goddess but as the bearer of the Word of God, who gave birth to the Word of God. Incidentally, the two religions both give salutations, to Mohammed for the Moslems and to the Virgin Mary for Christians. The Moslems also have a kind of akathist, like a paraclesis but to Mohammed! It is called the depa abarjanji – in Orthodox terms it would be a “canon” to Mohammed, because he is the bearer of the revelation.
Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down, deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword.Also telling are the last two verses, with all their talk of the unrighteous' belly being filled with its portion in this life, as opposed to the righteous' being satisfied only when he "beholds the form" or "awakes in the likeness" of God. This truly is the struggle I know I face: determining day by day--often minute by minute!--where my satisfaction will come from. Will I find my portion in what is passing away in this world with all its passions, or will I be satisfied only by beholding and becoming like the One who is above it all, who changes and heals it all (myself included, if I let Him)?
Fr. Patrick talks a lot about how St. Peter heard the psalms explained to him by Christ after the resurrection and used them when he preached. St. Peter was an ignorant fisherman when Christ found him, but preached the Messiah from the prayerbook of the Church. Comforting to me, another Peter, who desires to meet the Word through the psalms. Arise, O LORD...
Add to this lovely complication--isn't it amazing how living out of someone else's house and having to shuttle stuff back and forth puts a cramp in your life?--the fact that I am one of the lead sponsors of our school's sophomore class and that this past week was homecoming, and you have one tired dude. Had to decorate our hall, which meant a week and a half of staying after school, facilitating student work days, storing and moving materials, and putting it all up (with the help of a VERY dedicated core group of students) last night. Now, this would have been difficult regardless. HOWEVER! We--Trimble Technical High School--share a building with a night school who (of course!) had chosen this week to administer the state's standardized tests and (again, of course!) would be using my room to administer said test after school. So--once again feeling the pain of shuttling materials from one place to another because of an unforseen event (we had not been notified by our administrators that the other school would do this, though they'd known for weeks prior)--we moved all the decorations we'd done down to the other head sponsor (who, of course, is on the first floor while I am on the fourth. Joy).
I am happy to say that, small and inconsequential a victory though it may be, we did, in fact, win the competition for best class hall decorations. Now my life can resume its more-or-less normal pattern.
Just in time for another surprise. Hoo boy.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Psalm 15, then, ties all the commands given to the man who would ascend -- which, by the way, all paint a picture of a man the Fathers say has achieved peace, stillness and immoveable inner silence -- into one particular description (v. 8):
“I have set the LORD always before me: because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
May we set Him before the eyes of our hearts through constant meditation and contemplation of His Name. May we be so still at His side that we resist any of our own, sinful, inner reactions to the cares of the world listed in Psalm 14, and rather that we be moved into action from our stillness only by the holy prodding of the Holy Spirit.
An interesting note: the almost identical duplication of this psalm within the psalter shows the result of some overlapping from two different collections that eventually made it into the book and were not “synchronized” to prevent the repetition.
Fr. Patrick seems to think that “there is no God” refers only to the atheist, who is, in Fr.’s opinion, is the ultimate in foolishness, engaging in the ultimate and voluntary denial of the self-evident God. He “cuts some slack” to the idolaters mentioned in Wisdom 13 and Romans 1, as though they were not cut from the same cloth.
I think, though, that we today deal with idolaters of a different stripe: the idol is now secularism, and it is much more damaging, I think, than pure atheism. The latter vehemently set itself up as the overt enemy of God (and thereby tacitly acknowledged Him), causing the adherents of the Faith to resist it (atheism) more passionately. Secularism, however, says “there is no God” in a much more devious way, I think. Secularism desires to destroy the transcendent One, to say that nothing can surpass the physical world, that nothing is greater than what our senses can show us, and that (and here’s the horrid part), while God may be found, He is not to be seen as above or beyond -- and certainly not as ruling over! -- the physical world. Therefore, by saying that God is not over something, the secularist, while leaving room for the existence of a deity, is, in his idolatry of the material, denying that this deity is a transcendent One -- and yet we know that if God is not God over all, He ceases to be God at all. A more devious thing, therefore, is not merely to say “There is no God,” but rather “there is no God as He Himself proclaims Himself to be, for the latter, though it allows for the presence in our mind of a deity of sorts, makes it a powerless one, one who will not interfere, one who will not break into our tiny, material worlds and shatter our created souls with His fiery Grace.
May we see You as You are; burn away our foolish hearts, O LORD…
“How Long, O LORD?”
Some beautifully crafted thoughts on this from Fr. Patrick:
“Psalm 12 yields yet a more ample understanding if we hear it on the lips of the Lord Jesus during the night of His agony and betrayal…As it was in the garden that we first fell beneath the power of darkness, entirely proper it was that the redeeming blood of our true Adam
should fall first on the earth of the orchard, in the shadows of the garden trees, those dear and lovely trees, of whose fruit, He told us, we might freely eat. His blood puddle on the very ground where we contemned His gracious trees, and where the earth had been cursed, and where the ancient serpent was condemned to crawl across it on his belly…Every night has something about it of Gethsemane and the dark salvific drama that unfolded amidst the witnessing trees.
“That nocturnal engagement of Jesus in the garden is repeated, too, in the souls of those He has reconciled to God, for they also are summoned to the bearing of His cross, warring against the devil, sin, and death.”
Vv. 3-4: “May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, Who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?’”
Fr. Patrick makes the claim in his commentary on this psalm that it is an example of the way Scripture goes against the idea prevalent in today’s society that “[h]uman society, no matter how sinful and deceived, is named the final authority over speech, which is responsible only to those who use it…” He makes the claim based on the idea that man can arbitrarily decide what words mean without regard for the objective truth of God, which was the original purpose of man’s use of speech (cf. Adam’s naming of the animals).
A good idea, I think, but a bit too general…the nature of the defining of individual words is in fact societal and arbitrary; the framing of our thoughts depends on a common societal agreement regarding the meaning of the individual words strung together to express said thoughts. But individual words’ definitions determine neither the capacity nor the tendency of a society to reflect God’s truth either accurately or poorly. Any rendering of individual words is capable of either reflecting or refuting God’s truth; it is the realization of this capability -- transcending as it does the mere use of individual words’ definitions – that determines either the godly or corrupt heart of a people.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The LORD is in His holy temple /
The LORD’s throne is in heaven.
"God's throne is the source of our stability and the foundation of our hope," says Fr. Patrick of this psalm. "If there is any firmness for our lives, any steadfastness for our souls, the cause of such constancy is the immoveable throne of Christ our God. Consequently, in the history of Christian prayer this line has often served as the interpretive antiphon for Psalm 10, especially on the Feast of Our Lord's Ascension."
Saturday, October 08, 2005
The triumph of the risen Christ, as expressed to His Father!
Remembering our place as "dust in the wind," or mere dust that the breath of life has animated:
3 When my enemies turn back,
They shall fall and perish at Your presence.
4 For You have maintained my right and my cause;
You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.
5 You have rebuked the nations,
You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 O enemy, destructions are finished forever!
And you have destroyed cities;
Even their memory has perished.
7 But the LORD shall endure forever;
He has prepared His throne for judgment.
8 He shall judge the world in righteousness,
And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.
9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble.
10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion!
Declare His deeds among the people.
12 When He avenges blood, He remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the humble.
13 Have mercy on me, O LORD!
Consider my trouble from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 That I may tell of all Your praise
In the gates of the daughter of Zion.
I will rejoice in Your salvation.
20 Put them in fear, O LORD,Contrasting the godly, Christ-like, humble, satisfied man with the man of this world who seeks only his own gain and not that of God or his neighbor:
That the nations may know themselves to be but
23 For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire;The reason for the wickedness in my own life; the product of deception:
He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD.
24 The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God;
God is in none of his thoughts....
29 He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den;
He lies in wait to catch the poor;
He catches the poor when he draws him into his net....
31 He has said in his heart, "God has forgotten; He hides His
face; He will never see."
33 Why do the wicked renounce God?The ultimate goal of our Lord (deals with destinies of those who are proud and those who are humble of heart):
He has said in his heart,
“You will not require an account.”
38 To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Seven is said to be a parallel of our Lord's passion--from the initial plot to betray the LORD'S Anointed One to the scourging, crucifixion, and death. This highly emotionally expressive psalm "is not [there] to give expression to our own personal feelings, but to discover something of His. It is to taste, in some measure, the bitterness and the gall."
Eight is a meditation on the parallel between the fourth verse--"What is man"--that is, the total of our race--"that You are mindful of him, / And the son of man that You visit him?"--and the Creed, where we see the uniquely translated line, "and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man"--that is, made into the total of all mankind, the restatement of the whole human race in Himself, the "reboot" of humanity in that one Man. The man little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9); the subjugation of all things under the first Adam was a precursor to all things being put under Christ's rule later.
Good, I think, that those two psalms are back to back; the passion and the pain of the Cross before the glory and honor of the Resurrection. O Lord, bring us further into union with Thy Passion and Thy Resurrection, that we might truly walk with Thee; through the prayers of the holy Prophet David, have mercy on us.
Monday, October 03, 2005
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,We serve a God Who will destroy all iniquity, Who will purge away--and violently so--all evil, corruption, dishonesty, vanity, selfishness, and disobedience from this earth. He abhors it, and the hatred towards it is felt by those who would unite themselves to it. We must, therefore, take care to avoid union with these cancers, as they will be purged; let us not be consumed as well, O our Creator.
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
At the risk of sounding flippant, another--obviously lighter--comparison to the wrath of God and its consumption of wickedness and those who practice it: siblings who are told to refrain from hitting their siblings often work around this prohibition by saying that "they were just swinging their fist and his/her face got in the way!" A lame excuse in that case, but relatively like what God will one day do. He does not delight in the death of a sinner, nor does He establish their death as some sort of payback or vengeance (at least, not in the hurt, spiteful way that we easily-offended humans know it). He destroys wickedness with a swing of His Fist that cannot be stopped; any man who would unite himself to wicked deeds is "in the way," as it were, and will feel the same pain as the wicked demons who are consumed along with him.
2 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak;There's a song whose lyrics include the following:
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled;
But You, O LORD—how long?
4 Return, O LORD, deliver me!
Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!
5 For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?
And the smell of our sacrificesThe psalmist senses the need for a purification, a cleansing not only of a record of wrongs done, but of a death that cascades down to our very bones. This death will be the universal end of us all, David knows, unless the LORD intervenes. No one gives the LORD thanks from the grave; our own courting of death cuts us off from life as Eucharist even now, thus making us less than human. Were we to turn, however, from our thankless deeds and walk towards Him apart from His Way of the Cross and Resurrection, even then it would not be enough, for it is our very nature, now finite and mortal, that would still be drawn to the dust from whence it came. Obedience is not enough; there must be a salvation from the fruit of sin, still present and eating away at this world. We must succumb for a while to our race's chosen fate in order to bear that other, glorious fruit of immortality.
still fills up my head
There’s just a few left at the altar, Lord
all the rest of them fled
And we’ve cried and we’ve tried
We’ve sweat and we’ve bled
But we don’t just need atonement
We need to be raised from the dead
6 I am weary with my groaning;Would that I saw my sin as being this serious.
All night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
It grows old because of all my enemies.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;And the saint knows he grieves not as one without hope. The battle that he wages, though long and without an end in sight, is one of victory if fought through.
For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my supplication;
The LORD will receive my prayer.
10 Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
What strikes me here--other than the repeated battle of good vs. evil that is again so clearly drawn by David--is the confidence David has in placing himself on the "good side." This man knew he was righteous. Not perfect--we all have our Bathshebas--but righteous. He was not a bloodthirsty man, not boastful or a worker of iniquity, not deceitful or a flatterer, not faithless or a wicked liar. When he did stumble into sin, he knew how to repent and accept the forgiveness and correction of God and His servants.
I have no such confidence, nor such skill in repentance. I have to say, however, that these meditations on just how much spiritual warfare Joe Christian is expected to fight--and I speak only of that within his own heart!--are strengthening me in areas where before I had simply "rolled over" and stood in the path of the sinner...which, of course, means that the enemy turns up the heat on his side.
Noteable notes from Fr. Patrick on this psalm:
"The Greek (parastesomai) [in verse 3, "direct it to You" in the NKJV]...preserve[s] the original sense [in the Hebrew] of simply standing in proper order in the presence of God. To this is added a certain note of vigilance, 'keep watch.' These two verbs...set the tone for how to begin the day of prayer."
"...the proper praying of the psalms is rleated to a certain regular and disciplined style of life. The Christian, by preference, rises early and stands in vigilance in the presence of God. When the sun rises, it shines on the believer already at prayer."
"The context for this worship...is still the life of strugle with evil. When the Christian rises, it is always on the battlefield."
"'They have rebelled against You,' the psalm says. Sin is abhorrent to God. He not only loves justice; He also hates iniquity. 'Fools shall not stand in Your presence,' our psalm goes on, 'You hate all workers of iniquity.' When the psalmist prays for the destruction of the wicked, this is not his personal sentiment...of private vindictiveness but of foundational justice. It is a plea that God vindicate His own moral order. When Jesus refused to 'pray for the world' (John 17:9), He was recognizing the existence of those who, willfully unrepentant and deliberately hard of heart, have placed themselves beyond hope...Jesus on the Cross had not one word to say to the blasphemous, unrepentant thief."
"Some modern Christians are tempted to see in such sentiments [as those mentioned above] only a lamentable vestige of Old Testament negativity and judgementalism, now appropriately surpassed by a New Testament emphasis on God's mercy and compassion...Such an idea would have surprised the Apostles...Indeed, the descriptions of sin in Romans 1 and 3 make a good commentary on many verses of Psalm 5. Similarly, when the Book of Wisdom says that 'equally hateful to God are the ungodly man and his ungodliness' (14:9), its thesis is hard to distinguish from certain verses in the New Testament, such as 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who pravctice lawlessness' (Matt. 7:23 cf. 25:41) and 'You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate' (Rev. 2:6; cf. 21:8; 22:15). The loving mercy of God must never be thought of or described in ways suggesting that Christianity is less morally serious than Judaism. The moral sentiments of the psalms are, in this respect, Christian sentiments, and they are highly appropriate in Christian prayer."