Thursday, December 27, 2007

Icons, Icons, Everywhere

From those who deny them (my response to which is here in that combox) to those who celebrate them to those who limit them--gloriously--to their proper use (hat tip to John for the link), icons seem to be a topic of several blogs as of late. Allow me to come and join the mighty chorus.

My daughter -- the elder, of course -- has been making connections left and right as of late between characters in, say the icon of the Nativity of our Lord and the standard icons in our iglesia pequeña ("little church," what we call our icon corner, though the Fathers speak of the household itself time and again as such). We're also blessed with a priest who has taken her up to blow candles out in front of the iconostasis at the end of every service my daughter attends and, in so doing, has given her a catechism of sorts using the icons up there.
I was pleasantly surprised when, after noticing the icon of "bebé Jesús" on the screen (Fr. Stephen Freeman's site was up at the time), she asked to see "Gran Papá Jesús" (which is not "Grandpa Jesus," but rather "Big Daddy Jesus" or "Grown Up Jesus" -- think Three Bears). We scrolled down until we saw the icon there to your right; she pointed to the IC and said, "Dat say ... DJesus ... Keist," referring of course to the IC meaning IECOUC, or Jesus, and the XC on the other side meaning XPICTOC, or Christ. The icon, then, is already doing for her what it's always done: catechizing the illiterate in the gospel--giving them in colorful mosaic the proper portrait of the King that St. Irenaeus said the tradition of the Church would proclaim to the faithful, both through written gospel narrative and through worship and icon.

In a post a few years back, I talked about how icons can be approached coldly and intellectually, as well as worshipfully and spiritually, with radically different effects. The former, if the sole method of inquiry as to the riches of holy images, leads to an academic dead-end of arguing over minutae and intellectual burn-out. The latter, thankfully, can both be coupled with the former (leading to the cultivation of a multi-faceted and rich spiritual life seen in many of our seminaries, parishes, and monasteries) and stand alone (leading to the reason why our faith has been, for hundreds of years, the faith of countless illiterate peasants to whose piety I aspire). I have been progressing further through that train of thought--mostly thanks to the fact that I now have a two year-old to whom I must attempt, falteringly, to explain what Rich Mullins called "what is too good to be real, yet is more real than the air [she breathes]." Rather than begin at the christological, incarnational justifications for icons--though those are important--it's been more important to me that I kiss these icons because they're depictions of people I love. These are members of a community that will save me if I let them. That I can do something, physcially, that will allow me to express this love for them is gratifying. God grant also a heart that would live in a manner so that the love expressed would be without hypocrisy. The Lord is at hand, after all, and no where is this more apparent than in the holy icons.

Father Thomas Hopko, in his recent release "Praying with Icons," says that icons are a presence of the mighty works of God that are depicted therein. Whether it be the icon of the Nativity, Theophany, St. Nicholas, the Theotokos, or Christ Himself, icons stand as a visible reminder of the invisible reality in which we as believers find ourselves: that of baptized, sealed believers who, though we live in this visible world, are not limited to the seen, as we are by virtue of our baptisms and chrismations citizens of the invisible lasting City, wherein our worship actually takes place. While we don't "need" icons to pray--anyone truly seeking God can be said to be praying--for us as believers who've been initiated into the reality of God's mystical union with His Church, icons are necessary for prayer in its fullness, since all the universe, beginning with the flesh of Christ Himself, has been "shod with the grandeur of God," and it is in these images that we see created things proclaiming what all matter should proclaim and what even the rocks would proclaim if we were silent: that God has visited His people and has done great things for us, and holy is His Name.


All sorts of people are attempting to "get in touch" with nature these days, from the secular environmentalists to neo-pagan tree-worshippers. While both groups seem to think that there's some need to listen to what nature is saying, the former only hears its own voice echoing back to it, as it sees mankind (rightly) as part of the creation, yet sees that creation as the sum total of existence and, therefore, no more or less important than human beings. The second tends to go a little deeper and, while it does acknowledge hidden rooms in this "one-story universe" (to use Fr. Stephen's terminology), the hidden glory behind nature is a false one, for its impersonal, collective spirit (shared also by humanity) bears no witness to an actual Creator, a Source of all being. Icons do what all Creation used to do and one day will do: declare the glory of God in all its fullness, a glory which even now shines not etherially from some intangible source, but from the corporeal face of the Word of the Creator (2 Cor. 4:6).

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

As I will be on the road here in Kentucky this evening and will only return tomorrow night, I'll post my "return post" now and wish those who might swing by for a glimpse a happy feastday.
Your Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a Star to adore You,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know You, the Orient from on High.
O Lord, glory to You!

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men journey with a star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dormition

Dr. Clark Carlton (in this podcast) and Fr. Stephen (in this post )have encapsulated my thoughts over the past few days. In particular, the following from Fr. Stephen's post sums up where I am:
"Above everything we begin to move our Christian life out of the realm of abstraction and into the realm of living. We pray rather than think about prayer. We trust God rather than discussing the concept of trusting God. We act on the basis of faith rather than spending time talking about the importance of faith. We make every effort to embrace God as good and at work in all things."
So it is with both regret and resignation (though also with peace) that I announce on this, the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, the dormition of this blog, as well. For the past two and a half years I, both as Peter and later as David (pictured right, to the left of the Root of Jesse and her Branch, cradled in the lowermost branch above the fellow on the floor) have discussed the things I think about, wonder about, and get angry about. Y'all have been wonderful to talk to, disagree with, and build a community of sorts with. I have been truly blessed. My "signing off" does not come, surprisingly enough, from my newly-enlarged family (though that is a time committment, to be sure), as much as it comes from this feeling that's been dogging me lately that I am doing the opposite of what Dr. Carlton and Fr. Stephen have been saying that we should do: I feel as though I've been talking about the cure that Orthodoxy offers the world, yet doing precious little to take the cure myself (or, at least, not taking it as often, well, or as much as I should). So it is that--until further notice, at least--I shan't be updating. I will be lurking around some blogs, though, and may even comment. This blog will continue to exist in its current form in case someone should need to google something that I, in a better moment, may have blurted out. Perhaps I shall pick this up again someday; God willing, I'll be wiser and more prayerful when I do so.

So, to close out, I wish all of my brothers and sisters in the Lord a happy feastday -- Sprazdnikom! -- and may the Lord Jesus Christ our God, through the prayers of His most holy mother, have mercy on us all and save us.

From tonight's vespers:


"In giving birth you preserved your virginity.
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life O Mother of Life,
and by your prayers you deliver our souls from death."

"Come, O people, let us sing today to Christ our God a song of David!
'The virgins that follow her,' he said, 'shall be brought to the King.
With joy and gladness shall they be brought.'
For she, through whom we have been made Godlike,
is of the seed of David,

and gloriously and ineffably commends herself
into the hands of her own Son and Master.

Praising her as the Mother of God we cry out to her and say:
'Save us from all distress and tribulation, for we confess you to be the Theotokos!'"

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who hopeth in Him!

Pray for me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Quiet, Meek Brilliance

The theme of "storied" existence is being examined over at Father Stephen's blog--that is, that we often, in our culture, live as though the heavens and the earth occupy two mutually exclusive arenas of existence. Our challenge, then, is to experience the epiphany (and abide in said epiphanic existence) that the two are not separate but united, yet without confusion; in other words, what has been accomplished in the span of a God-Man's transfigured body has also been applied to the whole of the cosmos.

wpe14.jpg (11975 bytes)What is maddening to me is the refusal of God to break in, angel choirs blaring, and announce this triumphantly and in unignorable fashion to folks other than those already willing and capable of bearing it...and, often, those who experience Tabor experience more light and stillness than sound and fury, the latter being the M.O. to which this world is addicted and which, so it would try to convince us, is the only reliable way to make an impact. Squeaky wheels and pushy, slick sales pitches -- from the boardroom to the evangelist -- are seen to be the only way to get one's message across to its intended audience. One must, after all, compete with all the noise coming from all the competition.

wpeA.jpg (12232 bytes)Our passions feed us the same lie, only internally. There the promise of sweetness, of fulfillment, of recognition, of praise, of (vain)glory -- all this is trumpeted loudly, yet all we are offered by God, in contrast, is hidden in Sinai's cleft and Tabor's quiet, bright mount. When we desire a divine scream that will silence all carnal appetite, what we are given, rather, is a command to be still when we feel like stripping a gear. We're told to be small -- to be weak in the world's eyes and bury our faces in our cloaks -- when we feel like standing up for "rights" that vanish in the light of the realization that all of life is love of other. We're told to be light when we'd rather be heat -- the difference is that of a candle versus a flamethrower -- and we see our God to be a Fire who will consume yet forbears now so that not even a tiny bush is consumed in order that a young, fugitive shepherd might get the sober, simple message.

We attend services till we can no longer stand. We join every activity at Church (assuming we are blessed enough to be at a parish with a sufficiently developed sense of community to accommodate this) until we have no more time for anything else. We may even fill our time with so much online Orthodoxy that we don't have to deal with our own parish or our own selves. All of these movements, these sounds, these flashing, neon lies we deal ourselves not only will not substitute for stillness, smallness, and genuine light in our own lives, but are answered, not in kind by our Lord (nor by our Lady), but are largely ignored by them, really, and the humble, steady, peaceful light streaming from radiant flesh is shown only to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It's been said by many of us impatient types that "relationship evangelism"--a phrase usually associated, through crudely and unfortunately so, w/St. Seraphim's injunction to "acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved" -- is really a "cop-out" compared to the more aggressive, confrontational brands of reaching the masses, for one can simply claim to be acquiring said Spirit while actually engaging in spiritual apathy. Meanwhile, "results" are not seen and the world is not converted. What's frustrating is that the genuine answer to this accusation provides neither comfort nor a solution to the aggressive soulwinner's burden, for rampant buttonholing and (apparent) decision-making do not (usually) equate to genuine spiritual fruit, nor does genuine, humble acquisition of holiness (always) differ in appearance from those whose silence springs from indifference, so the false security we usually try to derive from watching for "results" is usually ill-founded, for we expect fruit in days or months which takes years to cultivate. Yet it is this silent, light, and sober joy which will allure those who seek to live in a world free from the need to muster up all our own clamorous, pretentious glory.

Those who have that quiet, meek brilliance are the only ones, it seems, that the Lord tells us to listen to. Would that it were as easy to obtain it as it is to write about it.

Churchings

My daughter and lovely wife were, by God's grace and providence, churched last Sunday. My wife has been immensely grateful for the return to worship within the community (I'm glad she's back, too). Baptism will take place, Lord willing, come this Saturday. Your prayers are coveted.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


A blessed, glorious feastday to all. Take a moment, would you, and regard the icon of our Lord transfigured. Our life, then--being Christ's life--has that image as its goal for us. May Christ our God grant us mercy to strip away all that would keep us from shining with this light from Tabor.

Thou wast transfigured on the mount, O Christ God,
revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Thine everlasting Light shine upon us sinners;
through the prayers of the Theotokos,
O Giver of Light, glory to Thee!

A/C and the Weakening of Man

The Ochlophobist is doing a series of short posts (apparently) every day of the Dormition Fast. I highly suggest reading each and every one of them. One of them that caught my eye was this one. My thoughts on the title of this post spring from that post. So read that (it's not long) and you'll get where I'm coming from.

My REAL first car (as opposed to the ACTUAL first one which I totaled a month after turning sixteen) was a 1987 Toyota Tercel, the motor in which, in fine Toyota fashion, served me impeccably through 2003, when I bought a truck. The a/c in the Tercel worked for (maybe!) a month after I bought it. Never did work afterwards. Survived brutal OK and TX summers by rolling down the window and speeding.

Today after liturgy I saw the grass needs cutting. My first thought to myself was this: Oh, but it's hot in the middle of the day. My second thought: Yes, and my great-grandfather did so much more than this in this same TX heat; bring on this little bit of heritage. Sadly, 'twas not my own laziness but rather the demands of parenting young children (the dance of naptime, post-liturgy lunches, etc) that prevented this. Perhaps sometime soon I can indulge myself in a little hardship...

I've long though that we're actually doing ourselves a disservice with all of our medical "advances," if you can call it that. Were this several hundred years ago, I would probably have been killed in battle or marginalized in society due to my poor eyesight. Now I can go to my choice of optometrist and see just fine, thank you...fine enough to pass my corrupted genes on to (may God forbid this) my two daughters. There's a fine line between despising our addiction to ease (which, while making us less susceptible to natural selection, also renders us incapable of coping should said "Man vs. Nature" scenario actually arise) and foolishly discarding advances that spare us loss of life through easily-preventable means. That line is hard to walk spiritually, as well: maintaining a healthy asceticism--touching discomfort enough to remember it always ought to be there--while being neither self-abusive or overly-indulgent.

Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Martyr Razhden

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with it, I heartily recommend you read John's travel journal (starting here in NYC) through Turkey, Cappadocia, and, most recently, the Republic of Georgia (pictured right). His recounting of Georgia and its people, language, and religion had left that charming little republic fresh enough in my mind that it was easy to notice one of the saints commemorated yesterday: St. Razhden of Persia.

Yes, Persia. The hagiography on the OCA website reads thus:
"Saint Razhden the Protomartyr was descended from a noble Persian family. When Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali married the daughter of the Persian king Hormuzd III Balunducht, the queen took Razhden with her to Georgia.

"In Kartli Razhden converted to the Christian Faith, and King Vakhtang presented him with an estate and appointed him as a military adviser and commander.

"At that time Georgia was under heavy political pressure from Persia. Enraged at King Vakhtang’s clearly Christian convictions, the Persian king Peroz (Son of Yazgard III.)(457–484) attacked Georgia with an enormous army. His accomplishments in this battle earned Razhden his distinction as a brave and virtuous warrior.

"Before long the furious King Peroz ordered that 'a certain Persian aristocrat who had converted to Christianity and survived the battle' be taken captive. The Persians surrounded Razhden, bound his hands and feet, and delivered him to their king. Peroz received him with feigned tenderness, saying, 'Greetings, my virtuous Razhden! Peace be to you! Where have you been all this time, and for what reason have you turned from the faith of your fathers to confess a creed in which your fathers did not instruct you?'

"Razhden fearlessly asserted that Christianity is the only true faith and that Christ is the only true Savior of mankind. King Peroz tried to conceal his anger and cunningly lure Razhden to his side, but his attempt was in vain. Convinced that his efforts were futile, Peroz finally ordered that the saint be beaten without mercy. The expert executioners trampled St. Razhden, battered him, knocked out his teeth, dragged him across jagged cliffs, then chained him in heavy irons and cast him into prison.

"When the news of Razhden’s suffering and captivity spread to Mtskheta, the Georgian nobility came to Peroz and requested that he free the holy man. Peroz consented to their request, but made Razhden vow to return.

"Razhden arrived in Mtskheta, bid farewell to his family and the beloved king Vakhtang Gorgasali and, despite his loved ones’ admonitions to the contrary, returned to Peroz. The Persian king tried again to return Razhden to the religion of the fire-worshippers. But seeing that he would not be broken, Peroz instead ordered his exile to a military camp at Tsromi in central Georgia. Then he secretly ordered the chief of the Persian camp to turn him away from Christianity and to execute him if he refused. 'Your flattery and bribes are insulting to me. With joy I am prepared to endure every suffering for the sake of Christ!'

"Razhden replied to his appeals.

"'If he hopes in the Crucified One, then he also is fit to suffer crucifixion!'

"Such was the Persians’ verdict. They erected a cross, crucified Christ’s humble servant, and prepared to shoot at the pious man with bow and arrow.

"'Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit!' were the last words of St. Razhden.

"That night a group of Christians stole the Persians’ cross, took the holy martyr’s body down from it, and buried his holy relics in secret. A few years later Vakhtang Gorgasali translated St. Razhden’s relics from Tsromi to Nikozi (in central Georgia) and interred them in a cathedral that he had built there not long before. Holy King Vakhtang later erected churches in honor of Georgia’s first martyr in Ujarma and Samgori in eastern Georgia."
There was a post by Fr. Stephen Freeman on "What an Icon Says" a little bit ago--I find it stunning that, in spite of the fact that we're all called to live "life as Eucharist and icon," this man was granted the grace and the amazing honor to be a literal icon of Christ, bearing witness to his Lord's Passion and propitiatory death through his own crucifixion. My wife gave me a copy of Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints and Fasting Calendar by the Orthodox Calendar Company (highly recommended), and the hagiography there (the one I noticed in the first place) says that, when Razhden died, "Suddenly the sun was hidden, and at night a terrible storm began. A heavenly light shone on the martyr, which so terrified the guards that they fled."

Holy martyr Razhden, pray to God for us.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Procession of the Honorable and Lifegiving Cross of the Lord

A blessed forefeast (7/31) and--though it will mark the beginning of the Dormition Fast--happy feastday (8/1).

Troparion - Tone 1

O Lord, save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance!
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians
Over their adversaries.
And by virtue of the Cross,
Preserve Your habitation!

Kontakion - Tone 4

As You were voluntarily crucified for our sake,
Grant mercy to those who are called by Your name;
Make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power,
Granting them victories over their adversaries,
By bestowing on them the invincible trophy, Your weapon of peace!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Impeachment II

I (finally!) answered Robert here. Hopefully it won't be another week before I'm able to do something.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Voice of a Saint

Click here to hear a recording of St. John Maximovitch, giving a homily in Russian.

Holy St. John, pray to God for us.

(Any help in translating this into English would be appreciated)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tough Talk on Impeachment, and Christ-Hauntings

"BILL MOYERS JOURNAL explores the talk of impeachment with Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and THE NATION's John Nichols, author of THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT."
Part 1 and Part 2 of the above interview.

My Comments: Folks, we've been living in an over-centralized system of government for 140 years, in which Washington can dictate what will or will not happen, and dissenting states can do little or nothing about it -- they certainly can't leave the Union, that's for sure -- but here we have, within this system which would already horrify our founding fathers, a president who is further abusing said already-abusive system in ways that take the horror to new lows. Our President is clueless -- and what is more, the Democratic-controlled Congress is afraid to stand up to a clueless man -- so no one's bringing up the "I" word with any regularity. That someone -- and a conservative someone, at that! -- who helped lead the charge against Clinton should be calling Bush and Cheney on the carpet (as well as the current "invertebrate" Congress -- his words) is refreshing to me. We've lost our sense of statesmanship, so secession, for all intents and purposes, has lain murdered for decades. Let us not similarly lose our sense of obligation to impeach as the final check and balance to executive power gone insane.

Excellent interview.

And...to provide something else Southern Orthodox might relate to -- y'all read this by Fr. Stephen.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blinking at Trees

G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith spoke of those men who had been thoroughly convinced of what they believed in--and contrasted them with those who were only nominally convinced of the same--thusly:

"It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, 'Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?' he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, 'Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen.' The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex."

And so it is with Orthodoxy (big O) now that many paths, many inroads into my life have been made from various starting points (epistemology, aesthetics, work ethic, stewardship, sensory input, intellectual, emotional, and others). I believe that, were you to ask me "Why do you prefer Orthodoxy to Evangelicalism?" I would, in all honesty, have a hard time determining where to start my answer. Perhaps with the question, "How much time to you have?"

This was not the case in the beginning.

When I wrote the conversion story that's linked over in the sidebar, I wrote primarily about a group of particular theological issues that, due to a consensus concerning them in the Apostolic Fathers, I claimed as my basic reason for rejecting Protestantism and embracing Eastern Orthodoxy. If asked, I could (and would, and at the slightest provocation still do) prattle on about things like the early Church's treatment of the Eucharistic bread and wine as nothing less and nothing other than the Body and Blood of Christ Himself, made somehow mystically present in spite of the retention of the properties of bread and wine . . . the ability to trace one's bishop's ordination to one of the apostles as a hallmark of orthodoxy . . . salvation's being something that could be begun and thereafter lost . . . the practice of baptizing infants and seeing said moment as the moment wherein one is born again . . . Scripture's being by far the greatest influence on the Fathers' teachings yet not as a sole rule of faith and thus accompanied by oral traditions which encompassed (mainly) issues of how to worship, etc . . . the divinization of man through theosis and Incarnational theology . . . and so on . . .

I think it's fair to say, then, that my initial conversion, while hinging on a very real paradigm shift regarding several key theological issues within the context of my faith, nevertheless reflected something of a shallow artificiality for a while -- I look at those days as one would a newly-bound branch that's still held on to a tree through inorganic, unnatural means, without which support the branch would simply fall off. I think I converted, at least in part and temporarily, because I felt I had to based on theological arguments that had, to be honest, blindsided me. I was thus left in a limbo of sorts, wherein I had a place I knew I couldn’t be, but no place I could call my soul’s home. I had not been looking for or even desiring Orthodoxy specifically, and--again, honestly--when first confronted with the vast experience thereof in worship, neither recognized it nor desired it at all, finally converting more out of obligation and commitment to intellectual honesty (which, I realize, is admirable, albeit incomplete) than out of real desire for Orthodoxy as the life of God, as the Kingdom of Heaven. I liken the subsequent years of feeling Orthodoxy as the true life in Christ seep into me to that of a blind man receiving his sight all of a sudden, then being at a loss to describe what has been laid out before him, much less to be able to recognize the vision as beautiful and be thankful for it, blinking and squinting as he is for the first several moments.

Irenaeus said that the Faith is like a great mosaic of the King, and a heretic is not necessarily he who will take tiles from the mosaic and discard them; a heretic could be someone who simply takes all existing pieces and rearranges them into the image of a dog. When a man converts to what he sees as original, apostolic Christianity, it behooves him not only to recognize that not only must he regard the image of a King rather than that of a dog, but he must also learn to prefer the King to the dog—-no, moreover, he must learn to love the King through His proper image. I would dare say that this is the much more difficult step. It’s one thing for a man to embrace a faith because he’s aware that “the tiles just line up” in such and such a way; it’s another thing entirely to embrace said faith because he has stepped back, taken in the full image of the faith as newly presented icon, and been struck by the beauty of the scene. A man may convert out of obligation, out of commitment to correctness—-and anyone who converts to anything ought first to make sure he is regarding the proper image-—but there’s also a moment, or should be, wherein the man is taken in by a part other than his mind or his reason; said man has been caught by the Bridegroom Lover Whom he suddenly notices for the first time in this different way. Ask a man to tell you why he's in love; if he's really in love, he'll ask you how you could look at his beloved and not be. We have moved from the mind of logic to the eyes and heart of desire, and this latter is what must complete the former.

It is one thing to affirm the doctrine of the Incarnation; it is another to listen to the prayers blessing a little one whose infancy has been blessed by the Creator’s infancy and, weeping, rejoice. It is one thing to acknowledge the uniform shape of liturgical worship in the first decades of Christianity; it is quite another to stand in Divine Liturgy and awaken to the notion that you are standing in the Court of the King, and that with you in that Court are Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and St. John the Theologian and Evangelist, writing down what they're seeing in that Eternal Now.

A prominent Evangelical theologian has stated recently (and, most likely, often before that) that there is no uniform consensus in the fathers regarding any doctrine whatsoever except for -- possibly -- monotheism, and thus we are free to parse apart the Scriptures and bring them together in whatever way we feel makes more sense. I cannot imagine the micromanaging of the Fathers that must occur for someone to come to such a conclusion, but all I can say to that is that I have been convinced otherwise, both by the fact that the pieces of the Christian Mosaic do fit together in a way altogether foreign to the Reformers, and that the Church of the first few centuries agrees on and reveres the beauty within said arrangement. As much as I might jerk back to a "what about...?" reaction regarding a particular verse or what not, I have to ask myself why a tree should feel itself worthy to overrule its overall context within its forest. Christ may tell us that we are given to Him by the Father, but we are then told to choose Him and remain in Him. We are assured of our Father's love for us in Christ, yet we are warned against falling away from Him. We hear that God is not a man, nor is He like us, yet we hear of His rejoicing and His anger. As much as I might wonder about certain passages, what I've seen so far of the puzzle matches the front of the box, and that image, caressed by two thousand years of faithful lips, has taken me in. God grant I stay enthralled.

Why all this talk of knowing and loving what or Whom one studies? Why must we move from theological grocery lists to personal, breathing, penetrating Life? In essence, the latter allows us to bear witness as person, instead of as a litany of reasons. We thus become our witness, we embody that which God wills us to be, and thus provide "all things" within ourselves to all people through all the various facets of being a complete, Orthodox person rather than just a well-read answerman operating solely on the level of the mind.

How Texan I Am

Hat tip (of a ten-gallon, apparently) to Alan for this:

You Are 76% Texas

Well, knock me down and steal muh teeth! You're pretty darn Texan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Namings

Father came over on Wednesday and performed the short (and I do mean short, even for non-Orthodox...as in, say, five to ten minutes!) service of the signing and naming of the child. Orthodoxy is stone-cold sober when it comes to our spirituality, but both mother and father of the now-named Katherine Ruth couldn't help but tear up at the prayer given by Father, as this is our heart for both our daughters:
"O Lord our God, we entreat You, and we supplicate You, that the light of Your countenance be signed on this, Your handmaid, Katherine, and that the Cross of Your Only-begotten Son be signed in her heart and understanding, so that she may flee from the vanity of the world and from every evil snare of the enemy, and may follow after Your commandments. And grant, O Lord, that Your holy name may remain unrejected by her, and that, in due time, she may be joined to Your Holy Church, and that she may be perfected by the dread Mysteries of Your Christ, so that, having lived according to Your commandments, and having preserved the seal unbroken, she may receive the blessedness of the elect in Your kingdom: By the grace and love for mankind of Your Only-begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed, together with Your Most-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen."
Anyone looking for an explanation of why we do this on the eighth day, as well as the basis for the naming ceremony in the first place should read this, from a site under the Church of Greece.

We were also blessed--and surprised!--to receive an icon of Ruth from a fellow parishioner! This beautiful icon was painted by a Father David in Seattle, and is a timely gift, since we were wondering when/how to purchase an icon of Kati's middle-name saint. This lovely icon--painted in a material I can't place--now hangs above her crib.

The service was attended by our parents, none of whom are Orthodox, so it was a bit awkward, but all were, as expected, very respectful. A good opportunity to bear witness to the very last thing most folks would consider "mere Christianity" yet which we would (in our best moments as converts) fit right into...

It's strange--sometimes I catch myself wondering how I wound up here..."What a long, strange trip it's been" and all that. Surely I never would have placed myself here if I had at all been in control of it or gone where I'd have immediately chosen to go...so I wonder, if I--being familiar with the services, the prayer life, the, well, the being Orthodox--have these moments, what must our parents have been thinking, feeling? Were they wondering where they went wrong? What they could have done differently? What the odds were that two similarly "odd" young people would find each other and go off together into this bizarre faith?

A poem I wrote in college during my catechumenate comes back to me now (I'm amazed I still have it). If you'll indulge me and--those who are better poets than I--forgive my probable triteness...

Orthodoxy

You don’t u n d o t w e n t y y e a r s
in one.


This fabric’s a complex, recent weave
with new materials
new fabrics
new patterns
new threads coming in

Some of those already woven in no longer fit,
but stretch
and bulge
and some just break clean off.

They must be disentangled
(careful, now)
by hands that fear the unraveling of it all.

This will not be done in a year, or ten.

No,
I will ever be surprised
(and often frightened)
by the patterns that appear
(and disappear)
throughout the years.

But,
Even when I cease
to weave these earthen tones and,
Weaver willing,
move to patterns everlasting,

I shall still be weaving.

*****

Yes, there're lots of names being called, and it's not only limited to that of our newborn. We call on the name of the Lord, that Name that shines forth from those eternally present icons of the River Jordan. The name of He Who has brought us here, for reasons we most likely can't even fathom yet. We call on Him, having taken names ourselves of ones who now are, by God's presence, what God is by His very nature. Their glory--and our hope!--is Christ in them, causing their souls to shine as sunlight even as they wait for what Rich Mullins has described as "skin as clear as the stained glass panels that make their skin, and [we] will shine like they do now...." should we keep that Name on our lips to the end, should we live up to those names called over us at our baptisms, those names called over us by our Lord and His holy ones as we approach His Cup...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Holy Noise, Kiddo Blessings, and Liturgical Gripes

Life has been good the past few days. Much illumined. It's interesting that such a momentous occasion, such a significant shift in our life should feel so organic, so natural, as if our family could be no other way. I remember the days before Katherine's birth, of course, but it seems to be a mere cerebral memory, no longer connected to the earthy, organic communion that overwhelms and establishes as normal. The moment our little one began to cry, having been pulled from the womb of my beloved, we moved seamlessly from three to four...

But of course we are four, my whole body tells me; how could we be anything else?

The four of us, then, begin to harmonize, with cries and songs and very peculiar mealtime blessings all converging at once. For example, our two year-old now asks the blessing (in the way only super-sincere two year-olds can do) in the name of the "Fahduur, Shun, an' Hody Britches." She then says, "Tank 'oo, Gaaad, for corn, milk, an' mokey cheez" (that last one was "macaroni and cheese," for those of you without toddlers). New, also, is the Texas twang showing up in her speech; her toddler independence demands that she tells us "No, I'm going to do it"; it comes out, however, (and here you'll have to superimpose your idea of a Texas accent on it) as, "No, m'DOOO 'nit!" Ask her, "Sweetheart, y'done with dinner?" and you'll get a "Yup." Tell her to bring something to you, and you'll hear an "Oh-kiiiie." (rhymes with "pie.")

Imagine all that, punctuated by the beautiful, bleating cries of our newborn, and you'll have an idea of the joyful cacophony that fills our house. Fr. Stephen has a recent post about real communion that is worth the read; the above is our communion w/each other, and I'm so grateful for it.

Now, not to put a damper on all the above gushing--I really don't have a dog in this particular fight, though we did just make the news regarding similar liturgical "atrocities"--but I am quite baffled as to the outrage things like this provoke:
Pope's easing on Latin rites sparks outcry

"Jewish leaders and community groups criticised Pope Benedict XVI strongly yesterday after the head of the Roman Catholic Church formally removed restrictions on celebrating an old form of the Latin Mass which includes prayers calling for the Jews to 'be delivered from their darkness' and converted to Catholicism...the older rite's prayers calling on God to 'lift the veil from the eyes' of the Jews and end 'the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ' have sparked outrage. 'We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday Mass, it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted,' said Abraham Foxman, the [Anti-Defamation League]'s national director, in Rome."
How horrible...prayer, of all things, by members of a particular religious group, which correspond to the beliefs of that particular group, for the voluntary conversion of a certain group of people...never mind the spirit in which it was given...Κυριε, ελεησον ημας....

(Read the whole article here.)

Hope y'all had a great Lord's Day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Heeeeere's Kati! (Updated Again)

UPDATE #2: YOU CAN SEE PHOTOS DONE BY THE HOSPITAL HERE, AND YOU CAN SIGN HER GUESTBOOK HERE

UPDATE: PICTURES HAVE BEEN MOVED TO KATHERINE'S PHOTO GALLERY

May I introduce to you our lovely daughter, Katherine Ruth! 23.5 hours after arriving at the hospital, we became a (larger) family with the arrival of this little stinker. Perfect so far. Audra spent most of yesterday trying to dilate enough - they broke her water around 6:30, with an epidural shortly thereafter, which got her to the point where she was ready to deliver.
As Hope had been a C-section, we had wanted to try, if at all possible, to have Kati normally. Audra went to ten and pushed for about five minutes, when it became apparent that it was causing too much distress on the baby (like her big sister, Kati wouldn't fit). So a C-section was called for, and at 4:30 am she drew her first breaths!
She's eight pounds, even, 21.5 inches long, and, as you can see, pretty dang cute! We're thrilled to have the ordeal behind us, and thankful to God for His blessing.

And now, if y'all will excuse me, I'm going to sleep!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Brief Update on Delivery

I'm out running errands while Audra and her mother are at the L and D room; she's labored all day and they've only just now broken her water, so we'll be there all night. She called for an epidural right before I left. Lord willing, either late tonight or early tomorrow morning, Katherine Ruth will be here. Continue praying, please.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Prayers, A Plug, and a Feast Day...

...for my wife, who will (Lord willin' and nothing happens before then), be induced on Monday morning, July 2nd, to give birth to our second daughter, Katherine Ruth.

Thank you.

UPDATE (hence the title change): While wanting to keep the above prayer request at the top of the blog throughout the weekend, I also wanted to direct attention to the (very long) post directly underneath which I've just finished. Forgive any shortcomings in my words.

Thirdly: Happy Feast Day! (Lives) (Hymns)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Αδης / Γεεννα, The Second Coming, and Prayer for the Departed

For those of you who haven't already done so, I recommend that you start browsing the explosion of podcasts that has taken place over at Ancient Faith Radio as of late. I've particularly enjoyed a series of podcasts (recently concluded) by Dr. Clark Carlton on the Orthodox view of the afterlife, the end of all things, and prayer for the departed in light of the Last Judgment. This endorsement of Dr. Carlton may surprise some who read this blog, as they might remember that I've been turned off on past occasions by his at times dismissive approach to intelligent critiques from Evangelicals, but I think he does a good and honest job of putting forth the position of the Church on these subjects. You can hear the four podcasts here, here, here, and here. For those of you who are more the reading type than the listening type, however, I offer what I hope amounts to the main content of those four podcasts here, intertwined with my own comments, thoughts, and experiences.

Why pray for those who've already died? The question is brought up whenever we interact with folks from Protestant traditions and, I must say, was one of the first and most obvious issues I had to confront. I say "obvious" because, in reading the writings of the Church Fathers during the Roman persecutions, I was struck both by the number of references to an intermediate state of the dead as well as the detail given to the nature(s) of said state. My upbringing was one where, when a person died, they either went to live forever with Christ in perfect bliss in Heaven, or to die forever in the flames of Hell in utter agony. This idea of a "holding pattern" or "waiting period" was utterly unknown to me, so when I heard of a distinction between the two Greek words αδης (hereafter "Hades") and γεεννα (hereafter "Gehenna") which was based on a view of things which had at its center the Second Coming and Last Judgment, I was very intrigued, and not a little disturbed. Indeed, Dr. Carlton says, those two terms were made completely interchangeable by the time of the Medieval Period in the West. Hades was (rightly) seen as a place of punishment and torment, as was Gehenna, so both words were translated as "Hell" (this is also the unfortunate case in many of our liturgical translations in Orthodox parishes in the West). Rather, our understanding was that Hades referred to the state of the dead prior to the last Judgment, where those united to Christ began to feel the joy of God's presence, and the damned began to feel the dread and pain of their coming doom, yet neither group of people was understood to be in their "final place" precisely because the Last Judgment had not yet taken place. Said final place for the damned was what was called "Gehenna," or the lake of fire. Put simply, it is for this reason--that the dead are now in Hades, and not yet in Gehenna--that we pray for the dead.

Questions immediately arise at this point: Why would we pray for the dead if those in Hades already feel their inevitable doom? What difference would it make if those in the West (e.g. Tertullian, Cyprian) began early on to apply punishment to Hades if those therein already felt the effects of their sealed fate? Wouldn't the dead in Hades only have the inevitable delayed for a bit instead of thrust upon them, and therefore wouldn't prayer for the dead still be useless and (more importantly) a slap in the face of God's sovereignty in light of their fixed destiny?

Dr. Carlton waits until the fourth podcast to say this, but I think it bears saying outright: this life is the period given to us for repentance; postmortem repentance is not scriptural according to the Fathers. However, we do not rule out the possibility of a change of the state of a soul in Hades because a change could take place there based on events that happened in his/her life on Earth. Father Thomas Hopko has recently commented on predestination on the most recent broadcast of the Illumined Heart, saying that, yes, God foreknows and predestines some to be saved and others damned, but it is a predestination that is done from outside time, whose completion is, in a sense, already done (for God sees the whole span of time), and is a predestination that we, to a degree, influence now with our own prayers and actions, time-bound though they be. The same, he has said elsewhere, applies to our prayers for those in Hades. Our prayers for them are simply for God to do what He will do with them--for He sees what will/has become of them already--and we ask Him to comfort them, in whatever state they're in, knowing that our prayers in this life do reverberate in the eternal. In a nutshell, Dr. Carlton says that the so-called "problem" with prayer for the dead is the exact same "problem" some people have with prayer for the living: If God has already planned out His divine will in this world which He will bring to pass regardless of humanity's actions, what is the purpose of praying for the salvation of individual people or humanity in general? Are we asking God to override a man's free will? Are we asking Him to "change His mind" regarding what He has planned for us? Certainly not, and neither are we asking Him to do any such thing for souls in Hades.

We are, however, following the injunction of the apostles to pray, regardless of the outcome, for all members of the Body of Christ, which we believe are united one to another, even in spite of death. The connection of the people of God across the barrier of death is seen as being passable in the Old Testament (certain endings of Jeremiah show him praying for the people of Israel, and Judas Maccabeus prays "because of the Resurrection of the Dead" for the souls of possibly idolatrous fallen soldiers), after which it is expanded upon in the New Testament (Revelation shows angels and elders carrying the prayers of Christians on earth before the throne of God, and St. Paul, praying for comfort for the household of Onesiphorus, a man he references only in the past tense, asks that God might grant this possibly departed soul "mercy...in that Day" of Judgment (2 Tim 1:18)). While St. Paul's reference is definitely inconclusive--Onesiphorus could very well still have been in this life when St. Paul wrote--we need look no further into the patristic era than the martyrdom of one of the great Apostolic Fathers, Ignatius of Antioch, for confirmation that this belief was accepted and practiced in the early Church, for the account of his martyrdom shows him appearing to his flock, post-martyrdom, "embracing [and] praying for [them], and...dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labor, and standing by the Lord." In spite of the firm belief that this life is the one given to us for repentance, the Church has never felt any contradiction in praying for those who await the second coming from beyond the grave.

Why do we insist on an intermediate state of the Dead if the departed are outside time? Would it not be redundant to speak of a "waiting" period? Are we not contradicting ourselves here? We have, however, a hint in Revelation 6 of the "timeless waiting" spoken of by Father Tom. St. John writes:
"I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed."
Even though those martyrs are in the presence of the Lord--among the righteous dead--they are clearly not in a state of final bliss, for they are painfully aware of the fact that judgment has yet to be exacted on the unrighteous. More than that, they petition the Lord to act on behalf of those who still remain on earth. This is, to us, a beautiful example of the communion of the saints that not even the cruelest of deaths--that of a martyr--can sever.

Why not just have an instantaneous meting out of rewards and punishment, of salvation and damnation, right at the moment of death? We would say that, were this to happen, such a system would have no need of a resurrection of the body, nor of a Last Judgment; to said way of thinking, all the judging that would need to be done would have already been done at the moment of the separation of soul and body. This is an immensely troubling problem for the Orthodox, as any attempt to portray the separation of soul and body as "natural," desirable, or anything other than horrible and "the last enemy" of mankind (1 Cor. 15:26) amounts to a denial of the significance of the Logos' incarnation. There must be an intermediate state of the dead prior to the General Resurrection, because that Resurrection and subsequent Judgment is the consummation not only of Christ's Incarnation as the God-Man, but of the creation of the whole Cosmos.

God, it must be said, created the world with the Incarnation in mind. Knowing that man would separate himself from the Source of all Life, thus bringing death upon him as a natural consequence of his freely chosen action (rather than as a punishment from an offended God), the Holy Trinity saw from before man's creation that the only way for man to be truly united to Them would be to send the Son to become one of mankind and, thus, all humanity. We say in the Creed that He was made "anthropos", or human, not just "male" or "a man". This affirmation of the intrinsic goodness of the psychosomatic union that is a living human being is the very thing that is affronted by the appalling mockery that is death, for it seeks to put asunder the very thing that God joined together and, indeed, appears to do so to one not looking through eyes of faith. For us, to say that upon the dissolution of this union of soul and body a person immediately receives his eternal reward (thus making permanent said separation) is tantamount to saying that a human soul can be everything he was created to be without his body. Most religions treat death as this very thing: a "liberation" of sorts from this "fleshy prison" that flies the soul off to incorporeal, Ideal parts unknown and, perhaps unwittingly, consigns this current existence to an unfortunate "halfway house" we must endure before being granted the reward of "real life"--that is, "the life beyond."

In his book, O Death, Where is Thy Sting? Father Alexander Schmemann calls the above heresy on the carpet, saying that "Christianity is not concerned about coming to terms with death, but rather with the victory over it." Furthermore, he continues:
"When Christianity speaks of the resurrection of the body, it does not speak about the vivification of bones and muscles, for bones and muscles and the whole material world, its whole fabric, is nothing more than certain basic elements, in the end--atoms. And in them there is nothing specifically personal, nothing eternally mine.

"Christianity speaks about the restoration of life as communion, it speaks about the spiritual body that over the course of our whole life we have developed through love, through our pursuits, through our relationships, through our coming out of ourselves. It speaks not about the eternity of matter, but about its final spiritualization; about the world that finally becomes truly a body--the life and love of mankind; about the world that has become fully communion with life."
And it is because of the reality of this communion--established beyond time yet still to be consummated at the end of it--which we "remember" in our Sunday Liturgy, having ourselves been brought out of time and "Remembering...all those things that 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 of the Father, and the second and glorious coming," that allows us to add our prayers for the eternal memory of those already-departed souls whose destiny is eternally foreknown yet influenced by prayers from all ages and who are nonetheless joined together with us in the Eternal Now of the Kingdom.

Dr. Carlton recounts a story from the Desert Fathers in which Abba Macarius, upon finding a skull in the desert, inquires of the skull as to its identity. The skull answers that it was a pagan priest who is now in Hades, where all the souls in that very full place are tied back to back, so they cannot see one another. "However," the pagan priest continued, "when you pray for us, we begin to see each other just a little." Our prayer for those waiting for the Resurrection and Judgment asks that God grant them "memory eternal"--that is, that they not be lost to αδης, the land of forgetfulness where the Rich Man in the parable had no name, bur rather that they be sheltered in Abraham's bosom, in the presence of Abraham's Lord, remembered by God and all the righteous as was the beggar Lazarus--whose name was known even by the doomed Rich Man--in anticipation of the coming Day on which the last Enemy will be destroyed through a final, permanent reunion of souls and bodies and on which men will finally feel, in all its "reckless, raging fury," the Judgment of Love that will be the resolution of an existence-long dissonance for those who have loved His appearing, and the fire of γεεννα for all those who are yet determined to resist Him. Such a love, given as it is from an Incarnate Judge, can only be fully received, one way or another, by those in the flesh. Until the time of that universal reunion, however, we all wait--some under the altar, others yet in the arena of this life--still united by a Love stronger than death and (as Fr. Schmemann says) in "loving Christ, [loving] all those who are in Him" and "loving those who are in Him, [loving] Christ...it is truly our love in Christ that keeps [the departed] alive because it keeps them 'in Christ,'" that they might receive "times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19) instead of "
everlasting destruction" from that same presence "and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:9).

May the souls, then, of all the faithful departed (+) rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them--and upon us--until the Day when Christ Himself will be our Light.

Friday, June 22, 2007

HAHAHAHAHAHA...what???

This is Hope. Hope is silly. Hope likes to laugh REALLY loudly, then stop. We don't know why. But we thought this was really, really funny.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Jesus Prayer

Fr. Tom Hopko has said that there are people who are interested in the Jesus Prayer who are neither interested in Jesus nor prayer.

May we never trade in ends for means.


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
Señor Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios, ten piedad de mí, el pecador.
Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλόν.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Love w/out Reaction, Condition

Fr. Stephen Freeman has, in his usual, peaceful style, put together a great post entitled, "Why is Love so Difficult?" I encourage you to read the post itself, but I thought I'd duplicate my entry in the combox here:
Love is also difficult because of our fear of the reaction (or lack thereof) of the one loved. Rich Mullins described it better than I ever could, so I'll just defer to him:

"God calls us to 'be strong' and we mistake that for a call to omnipotence. We confuse strength to endure trials with an ability to walk unfrustrated through life. We convince ourselves that if we were strong we would never fail, never tire, never hurt, never need. We begin to measure strength in terms of ease of progress, equate power with success, endurability with invincibility, and inevitably, when our illusion of omnipotence is shattered, we condemn ourselves for being weak.

"God has called us to be lovers and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviors. So we 'love' as long as we see 'results.' We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self--and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.

"Love is a virtue and not a feeling. It is fed and fired by God--not by the favorable response of the beloved. Even when it doesn't seem to make a dime's worth of difference to the ones on whom it is lavished, it is still the most prized of all virtues because it is at the heart of the very character of God."

Friday, June 15, 2007

In the beginning was grammar . . .

Not sure where this originally comes from, but I really appreciate it, having majored in English Ed and Spanish and having been a Spanish teacher for five years...

In the beginning was grammar . . .

1. In the beginning my English teacher created nouns and verbs.

2. And the verbs were without form and voice; and darkness was upon the face of the deep—my teacher.

3. And she said, “Let there be grammar”, and there was grammar

4. And Teacher saw the verbs and laughed and said that it was good; and she divided the bright students from those who remained in darkness.

5. And Teacher gave the bright students A’s and kept the others after school. And the homework and the bell were the first day.

6. And Teacher said, “Let there be a sentence in the midst of the words, and let it divide the nouns from the verbs.”

7. And Teacher made the sentence and diagrammed it on the board; I looked and saw that it was so.

8. And the Teacher called the sentence declarative. And the capital and the period were the second day.

9. And Teacher said, “Let the noun words in the sentence be gathered together unto one piece, and let the verb words appear; and it was so.

10. And the Teacher called the verb words predicate; and the gathering together of noun words called she the subject; and Teacher was that it was good.

11. And Teacher said, “Let the predicate bring forth modifiers, the transitive verbs yielding objects, and the intransitive verbs yielding complements after their own kind, whose place is in itself, within the predicate.” And it was so.

12. And the predicate brought forth modifiers, and transitive verbs yielding objects after their own kind, and intransitive verbs yielding a complement whose place was in itself, after their own kind. The Teacher saw that it was good and confusing.

13. And the active and the passive were the third day.

14. And Teacher said, “Let there be modifiers in the firmament of the subject to further confuse and divide the students in the classroom; and let them be for proper nouns, concrete nouns, mass nouns, collective nouns, pronouns, and abstract nouns.”

15. “And let them give meaning in the subject and enhance the predicate.” And it was sooo . . . confusing.

16. And Teacher made two great words: the greater word, adjective, to rule the noun, and the lesser word, adverb, to rule the verb; she made the conjunction also.

17. And Teacher set them in the sentence in order to make it difficult to diagram.

18. And to make it easier for her to divide the bright students from those who remained in darkness; and Teacher saw that her system was good.

19. And the phrase and the clause were the fourth day.

20. And Teacher said, “Let the verbs bring forth abundantly the many verb forms, the gerunds, infinitives, and participles; the subjunctives; the auxiliary verbs, the linking verbs, and the phrasal verbs.”

21. And Teacher created moods for every living creature that moveth, and tenses for all time, and voices after their own kind. And Teacher saw that it was indeed good.

22. And Teacher blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and multiply in complexity, and fill young minds with bewilderment, and let the bewilderment multiply into chaos in their minds.”

23. And the lecture and the English test were the fifth day.

24. And Teacher said, “Let the nouns and verbs bring forth living sentences after their own kind, book reports, essay questions, and English themes for the students to write”, and it was very so.

25. And Teacher made all these things for the freshman English student to do, and everything that creepeth into her mind she gave to them to do; and Teacher saw to it that it was good.

26. And Teacher said, “Let us make one project in our image, after our likeness: and let the product have dominion over the other projects, and over every subject of the college student.”

27. So Teacher created the research paper in her own image, in the image of Teacher created she it; boring and difficult created she it.

28. And Teacher blessed it, and Teacher said unto the research paper, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the supply of dropouts, and subdue the remainder of the college students, and have dominion over the other projects, and over the other subjects, and other every single grade that the students receive.”

29. “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth into the classroom, wherein there is life, I have given every rule and principle for good English”, and it was so.

30. And Teacher saw everything that she had made, and behold it was very good.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Five Years and a Scotsman Saint

Celebrated five years of marriage with the love of my life last night. The little stinker spent the night at my mom's (BIG fun!) while Mommy and Papi went out for Salvadoran food and a movie. A great, kid-free and (best of all) grown-up time was had by both. Thanks be to God for declaring marriage an honorable estate.

Today is Gary's namesday, so this saint to the right, Columba of Iona, is thus commemorated. God grant Gary many years!
By your God-inspired life
You embodied both the mission and the dispersion of the Church,
Most glorious Father Columba.
Using your repentance and voluntary exile,
Christ our God raised you up as a beacon of the True Faith,
An apostle to the heathen and an indicator of the Way of salvation.
Wherefore O holy one, cease not to intercede for us
That our souls may be saved.
(Troparion, Tone 5)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Article for Posterity

In case anybody missed the "Faith and Works" post from a little while ago (as well as the huge discussion the followed in the combox), the content of said post is now available as an online article, courtesy of OC.net, and is now listed in the sidebar of this blog as "Harmonious Salvation."

More Grumbling from Texas

Oooookay...rant comin' up....

Things have been up in arms lately here in North Texas regarding some decisions made in some (very) small towns. One decision in Farmers Branch looks to deny illegal immigrants the "right" to rent apartments and is being contested by a federal (no surprises there) Texas judge. Another proposition in Oak Point aims to make English the official language of the city, though it may not have enough council support to make it through.

I enthusiastically support both of these measures, wish their proponents all the luck in the world, and hope that more and more cities here in the South follow suit. Yes, it may sound a little strange coming from me, the Spanish teacher, but I am enthusiastic about closing our borders to illegal activity (as well as streamlining legal immigration processes -- see here, here, and here for past posts on this), as well as making English our defining language as a nation.

You see, I've worked with latino immigrants--legal latino immigrants--helped them find transportation, apartments, jobs. I have absolutely nothing against latinos, Russians, Irish, whatevers coming here legally to contribute to the growth and cultural enrichment, as we are a nation of immigrants. What bothers me--no, what infuriates me--are the ideas that

1. individuals can come in "under the radar" and receive free health care, shelter, government assistance in WIC or foodstamps, free education, and freedom from paying taxes, while those seeking to do things the honest way are punished by not being able to work, sometimes for up to two years, without a green card;

2. said lawbreakers feel no remorse but rather entitlement to all of the above benefits simply by virtue of their being (in the most prominent case) Mexican, and (adding insult to injury) legal Americans of Mexican descent--not to mention many liberal whites working under a false sense of White Man's Guilt and fear of the "r" word--add to said sense of entitlement through their continued support for this illegal activity in the name of "compassion," "tolerance" "open-mindedness" and even "multi-culturalism";

3. our country leaves our borders and our ports wide open so that any José or Abduhl can just waltz right in undocumented, carrying God-knows-what either into our out of this country scot-free (hey, why not put troops on the border? Oh...right...they're all...overseas...making us...safer...yeeah...thanks, George/Dick/Karl et al); and

4. no part of our government--state or federal--is doing anything to punish businesses (as in, fine them so heavily that they're summarily put out of business) who knowingly hire undocumented persons, and so the major incentive to the immigrant flow continues to go unchecked for the simple want of cheap labor and our sad, continued love affair with big business.

I hope I've made it clear that the key distinction here is legal vs. illegal. I make this statement across the board, regardless of whether the person immigrating is Mexican, Irish, Polish, Greek, Russian, Somalian, Filipino or Lebanese. I personally welcome any and all people who simply seek to come and find a better life for themselves, and I'd like to see us able to legally accommodate them more easily. My only stipulation is that said persons do the honorable thing and obey the laws of the nation from which they seek to benefit--i.e., enter legally, register for taxation of wages, obtain a social security card and state driver's license, carry minimum liability insurance (if they are to be driving)--and, yes, learn the English language to at least a minimally proficient degree.

It is my profession to teach the Spanish language to Americans who do not know it, and some may see this, at first glance, as a way to accommodate and enable those coming in from Spanish-speaking countries so that they might not have to acquire the English language very quickly, if at all. Yet this is not the case; legal immigrants who are recently-arrived will have a learning curve, and thus should have some provision in emergency situations (hospital, police, fire, etc) in their native languages. What is more, our nation trails behind the rest of the world to a sad degree in the number of people who speak multiple languages and, thus, are able to compete more aggressively in the global market. Our determination to be a multilingually-proficient society is not as high as it could or should be, and can only do us good.

Yet "multilingually-proficient" does not necessitate "officially multilingual"; in other words, we can have a citizenry that seeks to communicate with the rest of the world and still have one lingua franca (no pun intended) that serves both to identify and unite us as one country. China's official language is still Chinese, in spite of the many students of English there; Germany still has German as its official language, France has French, Britain has English, and Mexico has Spanish. Other languages undoubtedly exist in each of these countries, but their respective official languages serve to unify all nationalities within said country. Refusal to learn and use said language--insisting, rather, that the country one has moved to in order to benefit cater to you and provide you with your language on a regular basis--is the height of cultural arrogance and should be treated as such.

People do not have the "right" to benefit from a country whose laws they don't respect; to the right you'll see the side of the house of Farmers Branch's mayor, lovingly inscribed thus for calling lawbreakers what they are. Way to win some hearts and minds, compa's. I could go into how meddling Feds are once again getting involved where they ought to butt out, but suffice it to say that if Farmers Branch is using federal guidelines to determine the legality of prospective tenants, then the kowtow to Washington, D.C. has been made and no further intrusion is necessary on the part of those boys north of the Potomac. The folks down here have done what needs to be done--made a law with teeth in it--and it stands to reason that only the folks from 'round here would really get what's led up to the passing of a law like this--and now folks from "way far 'way" are trying to dictate how (or even if) this'll go down. Seems we've seen that somewhere before...but y'all know where I'd go with that...