Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tiny Veins

Let us all praise King David, the ancestor of God, /
for from him came the virgin stem: / from this stem blossomed the Flower – Christ. / Being delivered from corruption Adam and Eve cry out to Him, / for He is compassionate.

Let us celebrate the memory of the God-fearing David and James! / One was the king of the prophets; / the other was an apostle and the first bishop; / that being saved from error by their teachings, / we may glorify Christ Who shone forth incarnate from the Virgin to save our souls!

Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph, / to David, the ancestor of God; / you saw a Virgin great with Child; / you gave glory with the shepherds; / you worshipped with the Magi; / you received the news from the Angel. / Pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Today godly David is filled with joy; / Joseph and James offer praise. / The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy. / They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth, / and they cry out: “O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!”
The last week of the year is a full one for me. Nativity with all its bustle, my birthday on the "feast of Stephen" that King Wenceslas went a'walking on, and today is my namesday -- the Sunday after Nativity, whenever it falls, is the day commemorating David the Prophet-King, Joseph, the foster father of our Lord, and James, the step-brother of the Lord (child of Joseph from a previous marriage according to the Church's tradition) and first bishop of the Church in Jerusalem -- so needless to say, it's been nice. Whisky and Tequila--namely, this and this, respectively -- have been reintroduced into this house by birthday request, together with some O'Connor (thanks to John's prompting) and Killer Angels (I know, more War Between the States stuff -- I can't help myself)...

Today's liturgy -- replete with the hymns from above -- was accompa- nied by Father's homily on who we are as Orthodox Christians. Paraphra- sing Archbishop +DMITRI, Father mentioned that, upon being asked what we as Orthodox believe in, it would be best, first and foremost, to say that Orthodoxy is about the Incarnation of God made man. Everything we believe, everything we practice, everything we reject -- all of this is based upon the premise that the transcendent God has taken on flesh and become man. I always get stuck (in a good way) on the fact that the Creed says that Christ became man, or ανθρωπος. Not Jew. Not Gentile. Not male or female. "He's all humanity," to take a line from Beckett, and he takes all humanity united to His Body with Him to salvation ... and this is the urgency of the Incarnation. From yesterday's lectionary readings in the OCA:
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh-who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:11-13).
The word translated here as "commonwealth" -- πολιτειας in the Greek -- is more accurately translated as a community identified by a particular citizenship. The community of Israel -- the universal εκκλησια, or Church, after the Advent of Christ -- is the body of humans united to God the Father, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, and it is, during this time of year, not only remarkable that we -- fallen mortals who are subject to corruption -- could be united, flesh to Flesh and blood to Blood, to He who is beyond all else and is all Goodness, but also unbelievable that the divine Blood that is given to us in the Eucharist is what is now flowing through tiny veins, that the flesh He commands us to grind with our teeth (as St. John's gospel graphically records) was, at its start, the smooth, pudgy skin of a newborn babe.

It is scandalous. It is disturbing. It is incarnational. It is life, and it is salvation.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

White & Nerdy

My kids in school all sing "Ridin' Dirty." "Weird Al" Yankovic puts his spin on it with this. Love it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christ's Mass

(Just a note: there's some news in the post below this one that regular readers of this blog--however few y'all may be!--might be interested in reading, so y'all be sure to scroll down.)

A bit of rejoicing for our parish; as some of you will remember, the picture to the right was during this past Pentecost season, when his Eminence Archbishop +DMITRI came to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with us. We had at our disposal our portable iconostas that was at that time our only resource for worship upon having moved to our new building. We have recently employed the skills of Father Michael Storozuk of St. Paul's in Denison to construct a more permanent iconostas for our worship area.

As I'm sure you'll agree, the finished product, which was used for Nativity services (much to the appreciation of all those in attendance) is a much more inspiring piece of craftmanship. We thank God and His servant the priest Michael for this work, through which the Lord of Glory, His mother, and His saints are made to stand with us as we stand before the altar of His holiness in worship.

Also striking--today in particular--was the fact that, on the way to Nativity service this morning, all other churches on what has been termed "church row" here in Fort Worth had empty parking lots (including the A of G megachurch next door), but the "church with the funny dome and cross" had a good crowd! While that could lend itself to triumphalist, "look-at-how-devout-we-are" chest thumping, it rather served, to me at least, to move me beyond the individuals in our parish (or even individual parishes) to the character of the Church at large: ours, thank God, is a communion where the place to remember Christ's birth is not (principally) around a Norman Rockwell-style dinner table, but around a chalice, where the Kingdom to come is here now, the earthly cares and racing clock fall away--or, rather, are put in their correct priority and submitted (and thereby renewed) by the "one thing needful," an encounter with He Who Is which makes us Who We Are. Such a purpose--and the fact that neither I nor any other member or members had anything to do with the forming of said purpose--and the fact that we are able, as individuals and a communion of believers, to participate in the fruit of that purpose, is not so much self-inflating as it is humbling, and a cause for thankfulness.

Christ is born, and the incarnate One is made present in the midst of those He indwells as they gather in His Name.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

¡Cristo ha nacido! ¡Glorifícale!

A flurry of journeys hither and yon finally came to an end tonight when we came in from Oklahoma with about an hour to spare before Holy Supper (a slavic tradition that's very "Passover Seder-ish in the sense that all the lenten foods that are served carry with them a signifigance regarding the Christian life and the Nativity). This was our first one, as well as our first Nativity attendance at home--a sad thing, since we've communed at St. Barbara's for four and a half years now--and it was very intimate, a subdued contrast to the Christmas songs on the radio, the billboards advertizing sales, the houses using enough electricity to power half a city block in order to run their lights display...we all met, quietly, to eat and fellowship, and after to affirm that, indeed, God is with us.

One verse in that hymn that stuck out to me tonight in particular was, "I will set my hope on Him, and through Him I shall be saved -lo, I and the children whom God has given me."

That use of the plural, by the way--children, I mean--is not something I had to overlook, either.

I'd like to introduce y'all to our second child--head on the left, flipper-arm in the middle, two legs sticking up on the right--who is due to arrive on July 5th. If the child is a(nother) girl, she will be called Katherine Ruth (Ruth being my late grandmother's middle name), and if the child is a boy, he will be called Gregory Davis (Davis being my mother-in-law's maiden name). We are thrilled to be able to share this joy with y'all (finally!) and even more thrilled to finally be able to say with all those brethren on the New Calendar: Christ is born! Glorify Him!

All of the brethren still laboring in the fast, pray for us, and may God grant y'all a fruitful rest of the fast leading up to the joy of the Feast.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So long...

...and thanks for all the fish? No, my dear readers, just an announcement that I shan't be updating for the rest of the Nativity season. We have two weeks to go, and spending this holy time away from my "electronic mistress" seems to be appropriate.

I will, however, take this brief moment to say thank you to the Lord and His faithful servant St. Herman of Alaska (click the pic and read that scroll to get the gist of that guy's life) for bringing about a better-than-anticipated church school session today: the life of "the North Star" St. Herman (read it if you dare or have lots of time) tied in with the guiding star of Bethlehem, and how we can be guiding stars for those around us to bring them to Christ and salvation in His Church (joined together w/a look at the Sermon on the Mount for a picture of what it means to love God and neighbor, like St. Herman strove to do and we must strive to do). Sometimes things just fall into place. God be praised. Holy St. Herman, pray for us.

So adieu for now; God bless...may God grant you all a fruitful remainder of the fast and a joyous-- joyous!--celebration of His Incarnation.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Puente del Río Ortodoxo

Padre Antonio and Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo of St. George's down at the border in Pharr, TX (yes, it's Pharr, Pharr away) are busy with several projects this year (as they have been in past years. There's the food pantry, which provides for many in their financially struggling county (and unfortunately is in need of donations, should any of you in the TX area--or otherwise--feel a burden to UPS some cans down). And there's the "Puente del Río Ortodoxo," or "Orthodox Río [River] Bridges," aka "Icon Bridges to Mexico," wherein icons and other church supplies are hand-delivered to clergy in the OCA Mexican Exarchate (as mail is unreliable and slow).

Most imminent among their many outreaches is their "International Orthodox Winter Youth/Young Adults Service Retreat" which they will again be hosting there in Pharr the week after Christmas. Some services in Spanish, and Orthodox youth from Mexico are slated to come up to attend, as well. Service to those who come to the Food Pantry - over 100 families, most all who speak Spanish only - will be part of the retreat, as well as going to a girl's orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico to drop of donations.

These guys are amazing, folks. Your prayers are coveted as they strive to live in community (and reach out to the wider community) in and through the Church. Also consider, during this season, of helping them out in any way you can--you can use the links to see what the needs are, or contact Fr. Antonio from the website email provided.

¡Cristo está entre nosotros! ¡Está, y estará!
Christ is in our midst! He is, and ever shall be!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas

Gonna be a busy few weeks for us Orthodox...just feastin' away

Some hymns to St. Nicholas, with the bonus of their being on an "alternative to Santa Claus" site, which I think is something we Orthodox should do more of (the St., not the Santa).

And you can read about his life here, and some (more) hymns here.

Holy Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!

Monday, December 04, 2006

St. Barbara

Today is the feast of the Holy Great Martyr Barbara. Go here and scroll down a bit to be able to read her life story and the hymns sung to her on this day.

Holy Martyr Barbara, pray to God for us!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Draw Swords...

Orthodox Christians--along with Catholics and (perhaps??) some Protestants (fill me in if anyone knows for sure on that one)--are in a bit of a bind when it comes to Bible translations, as the texts which the Church has traditionally used for centuries are not the ones used by many, or even all, widely-spread versions of the Scriptures.

We use what's called the Majority Text for the New Testament instead of another version of the New Testament that varies in many places, called the Critical Text. The King James Version and the New King James Version of the New Testament are the only English translations of the New Testament that use the Majority Text; all the others use the Critical Text. As for why that should matter at all, I'd refer you here for an intriguing essay on why an Orthodox Christian should care--in addition to the fact that it's simply the Church's text, and always has been--about why we should go to one text and not the other.

The problem is increased even more when the Old Testament is brought into the picture. The Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (aka "The Seventy," or LXX), is the official Old Testament text of the Orthodox Church, as it is clearly the version of the Old Testament that the apostles quoted from when writing the New Testament. The messianic character of Christ is enhanced in many places in the LXX over what the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) says, and some theological points made in the New Testament depend on the reading in the LXX, and are lost if one reads the MT. However, all Protestant Bibles, including the KJV and the NKJV, use the Masoretic Text as their text for the Old Testament, and Catholics use the Latin Vulgate. Without even mentioning the Deuterocanon (the books taken out of the canon by Protestants), Orthodox, then, are left without a complete English Translation of the texts they revere as Holy Scripture.

The folks who are compiling The Orthodox Study Bible are working to remedy this; they are using the text of Nelson's NKJV for the New Testament text, and are in the process of translating the entire LXX (which, of course, includes the Deuterocanon) into English, thus providing a complete, Orthodox study Bible containing our entire canon. The release date of this long-awaited book is slated for Pascha of 2007. For those of you, however, who would at least have something available to you now, I'd like to invite you to look at Paul W. Esposito's Complete Apostles' Bible--an adaptation of an extant translation of the Church's traditional texts--for an example of our Church's texts in our language. You can see the text from his works online; look at this site for the Old Testament, and this site for the New (the Deuterocanon is in the works and is slated to be out in a new addition in September of 2007).

For those of you acquainted with E-Sword (which I highly recommend), Esposito's CAB is available for use on that program. Look also here for a very nice breakdown of which downloads are suitable for Orthodox Christians, which are in doubt, and why.

Sober Joy

Recently added Barnabas' blog to my blogroll, and read an excellent series of posts on Pentecostalism (his background) and how he sees it in the light of the Orthodox faith, which he now holds. Here are parts one, two, and three.


Orthodox Chrildren's Bible Reader!!

Click here for a sample of the reader.