Wednesday, August 30, 2006

one Thing needful...

School is off and running; with the illnesses of previous weeks beaten, my students and I seem to be getting into a routine now...just in time for total upheaval, as an assistant principal and I have determined that the only way we can fix the absurd-yet-perennial situation of native Spanish-speakers being placed in my language acquisition classes is to convert one of my existing Spanish 2 courses into a Spanish 1/2 course for native speakers, and move all native speakers either to this class, or to other native speaker classes already in existence. The non-native speakers in said class will be dispersed to my other six periods. Joy. Yet, while this is a big pain both for me and for them, the advantages of having a much more homogenous classroom environment in terms of abilities and background will be well worth it once we really hit a stride.

Attended liturgy last Sunday for the first time since Transfiguration on the sixth. "It is good for us to be here" is about the only thing that needs to be said. The Church being what it is: the mystery of the Body of Christ on Earth, full of light and lightness.

Found out that a dear friend is getting a divorce, and is already in another serious (or at least an emotionally intense) relationship. Questions about why we grow up to practice without a second thought what we spent our childhoods knowing was wrong (I am no stranger to this), as well as what possible emotional need we're looking to fill by running to these things for our sustenance.

Talk with two inquirers last Saturday evening after Vespers (out of order, I know, but so are these rambling thoughts) about the church they're coming from versus ours, and the invariable discontent that is present during that period of transition. The situation they were coming from was one I could sympathize with, as well as understand why they would want to make the move they were making, so it was a bit of an attempt to help them temper the discontent with acknowledgement of the goodness and beauty that's there where they came from. Had "that feeling" both during and after the conversation, which I brought up to Father Basil after they had left: during conversations where I am asked my opinion (and even those when I am not), I will often feel, during the times I'm talking, a nagging voice inside that says, "Shut up; shut up; shut up; you're talking too much and not only making a fool of yourself, but also hogging the conversation and feeding your ego with your chatter." Father said that he had talked with a priest just the other day who was concerned about this very thing within himself, and also said that he had overheard an actual theologian voice this very fear about himself, as well. Good to hear I'm not alone... Fr. said that, as long as I'm aware of the tension, as long as I'm asking these questions of myself, an important check is in place in me. Audra's advice re: this was best, though, imo: "Always strive to listen louder than you talk."

Vespers tonight, then inquirers class with two regular inquirers. Talked about the Church as a Mystery which has mysteries within it, and about how to read the Bible. For the latter, we read part of an article by Bp. KALLISTOS (which can be found in the back of the Orthodox Study Bible New Testament/Psalms). Always good to revisit "the basics." A brother from an OCA mission in Birmingham is here in Ft. Worth on business the next few weeks; got to visit with him and hear his story. Growth, pains, small buildings, committment, community--all these things mark his current experience in the Faith, and he loves it. Totally captivated by the beauty and the goodness of the Church as worship of God. Seeing the Church--and, thus, Christ--in this manner makes all other reasons for leaving behind former confessions/lives rather trivial, as the one Thing needful trumps all convert defensiveness, self-important chatter, emotional reactions or occupational curveballs.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Graduate-Level Problems?

Yes, those of you who check timestamps, I'm home again, home again. Hope is better--thanks for the prayers--but we had another doc appt. and she's been cleared for daycare tomorrow. Meanwhile, I miss more school. Glory to God in all things, in spite of the inconvenience, I suppose.

My friend Alan referred me to this article, whose main premise (if you're adverse to reading the whole thing yourself) is that an ecclesiastically or organizationally unified Church such as Rome or the Orthodox is no better off re: doctrinal unity than a conglomeration of doctrinally divided institutionalized churches (i.e, the various Protestant confessions) because of internal conflicts and differences of opinion within the confession re: certain theological issues.

My thoughts (which can also be read under the article in the comments section if you want to click there) would be that the difference between the more ancient confessions and the more recent Protestant groups lies in Hebrews 6:1-2:
"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
In our view, the conflicts that Protestant groups have with each other stem from those things we would define as "elementary principles"--the nature of faith and works, the nature of baptism, the nature of the laying on of hands, of the end times, as the passage indicates--while those that the Catholics and the Orthodox have each within their respective communions are much more recent. Having settled these elementary principles through Holy Tradition, we now struggle within our respective families to ascertain what the proper way to engage today's culture our case as the Orthodox, which calendar do we use? How do we receive converts in THIS day and age, since many of the converts are coming from backgrounds the authors of Scripture and the later fathers never DREAMED of? We Orthodox all absolutely agree on what the nature of baptism is--it is the moment of regeneration from being buried in Christ and raised with Him and is available to all people--but the application of said sacrament under these unique circumstances eludes us; we are praying for a unified response to come, as we believe it (eventually) will.

So are we perfectly united in all respects today? No, and in that fact--that we are not in total unity of belief--we have something in common with the Protestants. Yet I would rather have merely the problems of today and know that the problems of the apostolic age are settled, so we don't have to go back and re-search the Scriptures in every generation to see if we've got something as basic as baptism right.

Similar symptoms; two different diseases.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


...for daughter Hope (baptized Elizabeth), who has been sick with intermittent fever, congestion, pinkeye, and just general miserableness for a couple of weeks, on and off.

Y'all Take Isseer ADVANCED Test...!

For those of y'all who already took the first's a second one.

Now, I don't know how--not all my answers were as "Dixie" as they could be--but my score went up from 83% in the original test ("Do you still use Confederate money?") to: "100% Dixie. Is General Lee your grandfather?!" Ah'll be...

(Loved the response to "c" on #19...heh, heh, heh...lunes...)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sick Leave, Day 2

There was no "Day 1" post because, unlike today, I spent most of yesterday either in bed, or walking around at half speed in a drug-enduced stupor. Today I'm much more alert, God be praised, but continue to spend the day at home--sort of an "ounce of prevention" thing. Not enjoying it at all though; emotions and what we do with them when we get knocked off our feet are tricky.

At first I thought my initial frustration was due to the fact that this is the first week of school back with the kids, I need to be there and meet them, I need to establish rapport, yadda yadda yadda...which is true, but anyone who looks honestly at the first week of school knows that, instructionally speaking, not a whole lot goes down. So whence the frustration?

Mostly, I figured out last night, it stems from my not getting sick a whole lot. Really, ask my students. They complain when they come up the stairs and see me, day after day, "Man, you never get a sub!" So all of a sudden, here I am on Monday, at school, with a back ache, a neck ache, and pain in my scalp and behind my eyes, and a little feeling of drainage, the beginning of chills...and I know something's wrong. Turns out, the doctor said, that it's probably an upper respiratory infection--hence my four-prescription cocktail they have me on for the next few days.

Losing control of one's body...I've seen a man who was absolutely reduced to a growling, raging lunatic because of it, and I've seen a man (my grandfather) who changed from an abusive alcoholic to a much humbler, gentler (though perhaps no happier) man. Sickness to me--at least, before the medications, when I was really feeling down--was a reminder of just how much dust I am, how helpless. Regaining a part of that strength back yesterday, yet still being unable to go to school and teach--now that was difficult. The old trusting in the chariots and horses tied into the "reins of my body," as the prayer says, came back strong, leaving me to wonder where the blessed submission went, the mindfulness of my own weakness. Also left me wondering just how often we "use God" in our prayers, when so very often we think we are being sincere. We say all the prayers, use the anointing oil, etc when we have no other option (because we can barely stand up), but when given the choice between our strength, once returned, and a continued awareness of God's necessity...many of us act like my daughter: once we have whatever it is that we're crying for, we're off like a shot to do it ourselves, blissfully ignorant of needing any Others' help.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all that He hath done for thee / Who is gracious unto all thine iniquities, Who healeth all thine infirmities...

Friday, August 11, 2006


Check this out, all my theologically-minded peeps!

I know, I'm a geek. Geek Orthodox, I guess.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 27

So, yeah...four months since the last one...which means I'll probably get done with this in, oh, a decade or so...

"Unto Thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit" (v. 1).

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him" (v 7).

What strikes me here is David's childlikeness. His total dependence upon and trust in his God and Father in word, deed, and thought. Of course he's as good as dead if God truly is silent to his plight. Of course he his helped when he puts his trust in the LORD. Of course men are going to be swallowed up alive and consumed if they trust in anyone or anything that is not God. The prophet revels in this salvific simplicity, the same one I see in the eyes of a certain 13-month old I live with. She gets it, as does the Prophet. So what's my deal?

Let's see...(flips through Fr. Patrick's book to the notes made on this psalm, then chuckles)...heh...funny how thoughts can stay the same over the months...

Taking the psalm from a christic point of view (which is the point of Fr.'s book and, indeed, is the ultimate point of all Scripture), those two verses take on a new meaning, particularly when read in the Greek version of the Old Testament (referred to as the Septuagint, or abbreviated LXX). Verse seven, instead of saying, "my heart greatly rejoiceth" as the Hebrew does, says "my flesh took life again" or "flourished again." No wonder this psalm is chanted in the Eastern Orthodox Church early on Sunday mornings, the day of resurrection; our Incarnate God did not experience the silence of the Father when He went down into the pit, but showed Himself to be the very and final Word which bestowed life upon all of us who were in the tomb of rotten humanity. Therefore His flesh took life again, as will ours as well. May our hearts trust in Him and thereby rise to glory and not to damnation.

Hopko Lectures at the 2006 Diocese of the South Diocesan Assembly

I was blessed to be able to attend said Assembly last week, and, after a hierarchical Divine Liturgy, sat in on a talk by Fr. Thomas Hopko. Even more blessed was I, however, when Fr. Basil told me last night after daily vespers that four of Fr. Tom's other talks have been put online in mp3 format, available for streaming listening and/or download!

What I've listened to so far is classic Fr. Tom (read: that means real, real good), and it can all be found here, thanks to St. John the Wonderworker in Atlanta.