Thursday, March 31, 2005

May Her Memory Be Eternal...

...que su memoria sea eterna...

Remember, O Lord, Your servant Terri that has fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection unto life eternal, as well as all those who have finished this life in piety and faith. Pardon all their sins which they have committed both voluntarily and involuntarily, of word, deed or thought and shelter them in a place of light, a place of verdure and a place of repose, whence all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away and where the sight of Thy countenance rejoiceth all the saints from all ages; for Thou art the Resurrection and the Life and the Repose of Thy departed servant, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father who is without Beginning and Thine All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Recuerda, oh Señor, a Tu sierva Terri que durmió en la esperanza de la resurrección para la vida eterna y a todos aquellos que terminaron esta vida en la piedad y la fe y perdónales sus pecados que han cometido voluntaria o involuntariamente, de palabra, obra o pensamiento y colócalos en un lugar de luz, un lugar de frescor, un lugar de descanso, de donde toda enfermedad y aflicción son expulsadas y donde, desde la eternidad, brilla la luz de Tu semblante y alegra a todos tus santos; concédeles a ellos y a nosotros Tu reino y la participación en tus inefables bendiciones y el gozo de Tu eterna y bendita vida. Porque Tú eres la Vida y la Resurrección y el Descanso de Tus difuntos siervos, oh Cristo nuestro Dios y a Ti Te proclamamos la gloria, con Tu Padre Increado y Tu Espíritu Santo, bueno y Dador de vida, ahora y siempre, por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Li'l Ol' (Young!) Me...

Posted this on Now and Ever, a blog I frequent...the creator of said blog indulged in a bit of "divulgence," as he called it, then called on us to do the same. My little bit is here:
  • 24 years of age--a whippersnapper, yes--who teaches high-school Spanish in Fort Worth, TX.
  • Grew up Southern Baptist, devout, blessed with a mother who, though imperfect, made sure to instill in me the fear of God and the knowledge that, IN THIS IS LIFE, and nothing else could touch it. Like you said: God trumps pretty much all else. Even Sauza Añejo tequila (my poison of choice) or fine cigars (also a fave).
  • Attended Oral Roberts U, got a double major in English Ed/Spanish. Realized upon doing student teaching for English that I love the literature of the world so much that, if I had to teach it, it would ruin me, ruin it for the students, and that either I or the students (maybe both) would, in fact, shoot ourselves in the face. So I picked Spanish for teaching. LOVE IT, as for some reason, it is my public service--communication should know no bounds--whereas English/Reading fine lit is my private passion.
  • While at ORU, converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Was not converted so much--not at first, anyway--as I was blindsided. Was turned off by much of the televangelist-esque stuff going on at ORU, but was happy to stay a Baptist. Was then surprised to find out that the first-century Church had an amazingly different idea of what it meant to be "in Christ." For me, the Eucharist opened up my life, my relationship with God in ways I could never see myself leaving.
  • My wife, Audra, was not who I saw myself with, but she has singlehandedly shown me more about who I THOUGHT I was--big-shot, smarty-pants, free-thinker, man-about-town--and who I REALLY am--much less suave than all of that, much less certain of life in general, much more fond of silence and "settledness" than I'd ever thought...and that that's OK
  • A (as I call her) will give birth to our first child (Lord willing), Hope Elizabeth, on or around June 16th. Am still trying to make the connection that my wife's squirming stomach is actually 18 years of glorious stewardship and (may God grant) a lifetime of loving companionship.

A Study in Thinking on One's Feet

Yesterday--I didn't get to comment on this due to being a "bit of a hassle"--was a day full of spur-of-the-moment decisions regarding my classes. Now, I pretty much live by the spur of the moment, so I was used to the pace; I just thought it interesting that my school chose to play along yesterday.

I, as a Spanish teacher, was "volunteered," along with the rest of the dept, to oversee the testing of the Limited English Proficiency students at our school. Since this would take the whole morning, our fifth and sixth periods (we're on block) would be herded into the Auditorium with subs (there's good thinking). Five minutes after bell, however, a counselor tells me they can take my students--whose seats in the auditorium I had assigned only the day before and which (mysteriously!) had been taken already--to the computer lab in the library. As this had been my original plan before this lovely morning of bureaucracy was thrust upon me, I said something to the effect of, "Uh--sure. Umm...let me get some plans written down for my sub"--who was himself, I believe, of Limited English Proficiency (!)--and jotted down a note, given to my brightest student, and off they all went. This brightest student was only to return to my "penthouse suite" (my 4th-floor classroom with the leaky roof) to breathlessly inform me that half of the students had gotten confused on the way downstairs and had gone to the writing LAB. SOO, I corral a counselor (the cause of the whole morning) into my class, herd my students from the lab to the library, go back up to the room and administer the test.

So far, so good -- the "relief teacher" who comes to give us breaks had to tell us of some "last-minute procedures" that--surprise!--we weren't told about notwithstanding--but after sixth period I go down to the library to find out that, oh, only about FIVE out of the twenty-four kids in sixth period showed up. Where they were, I don't know. Here's to hoping they were in the Auditorium.

The counselors thanked us for our help, then asked what we were going to do with the rest of our free afternoon. (Umm...teach, maybe?) But no! They seemed to be under the impression that, since we had subs assigned to us today we could leave at lunch and leave them in charge. Sigh. If there are any other teachers reading this, you know how much planning a sub needs. So I went back up to the penthouse with my sub and explained to him--and a student who would be in the classes that afternoon--what would be expected. Seems, amazingly, to have gone off all right.

This is, more or less, what happens every day. I just usually get the WHOLE day to cram in this much planning, as opposed to about ninety minutes total.

Welcome to public ed: your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

New Look!

Got tired of reading pale letters against a black backdrop. Like this better; still fits with the "water" theme.

An Unwelcome Milemarker

For the first (and probably not the last) time, paid over $30.00 today for a tank of gas. IN. SANE.

Holiness as Idol

Orthodox Christians are expected to fast completely on Sunday mornings before partaking of the Eucharist. Not just from food; from most everything that would distract us significantly from the Act of intimacy we are about to undergo. I won't go into specifics, but I broke the fast rather severely last Sunday morning and, thus, refrained from communning. The temptation is there to do several things at that point.

The first temptation is to feel as though I'm "unworthy" or--better put--that I haven't "earned it" this week; the former is always true--I'm never worthy of the Body and Blood--and, that being the case, makes the latter a heresy--to say one has earned it makes him or her a liar.

The second temptation is to fall back into the process of preparation for "communion" in my Evangelical days, when Communion was no more than a memorial meal through which God was not expected to (though He certainly could) move within our lives. The idea--which is frowned upon by Evangelicals in theory, yet nonetheless colors their approach to repentance and forgiveness--is the idea that the verse in I John that says that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" means that we simply confess the transgression of the commandment, feel relatively sorry (though no one ever knows just how sorry is appropriate; certainly it is never emphasized that godly sorrow requires work, as this, they say, would infringe upon Christ's work in our forgiveness), and we can move along in our lives, confident that the Blood of Christ has wiped our leger clean. Whether our heart has changed--and this, the Fathers say, requires great effort and cooperation over time with the Holy Spirit--is another matter.

So I could reduce communion to a reward for being good enough, or dismiss my sin as being something that, ultimately, wouldn't separate me from communion. I wanted to go this second route, as I felt I needed the Eucharist (we all, of course, need God's grace) to make progress in my spiritual life. And yet...that's yet another wrong reason for communing!

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (of blessed memory), in his book Beginning to Pray, has this to say:
At such moments [of disobedience], how can we come into His presence? We can indeed, in prepentance, broken-hearted; but we cannot come in the way in which we immediately with to be received--with love, with friendship. [...] Not to speak of all the occasions when we should be aware that He cannot come to us because we are not there to receive Him. We want something from Him, not Him at all. Is that a relationship? Do we behave in that way with our friends? Do we aim at what friendship can give us or is it the frind whom we love? Is this true with regard to the Lord?
My behavior was a reflection on my heart that morning, as was, I think, even my desire to repent. My sins showed I was not so enthralled by the soon-coming Lord, escorted invisibly by the angelic hosts, that I was willing to abstain from certain things (only a few hours!) to prepare to receive Him. Likewise, my reasons for wanting to "repent" ("Perhaps Father has time for a 'quickie' confession this morning before Liturgy") was out of a desire, not for Christ alone, but out of an indignation that (tsk, tsk) I couldn't control myself, I couldn't do what I should do. Not even desiring holiness will do; such a desire makes holiness an idol. Only a desire for Christ should move us to the Chalice.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The King's Temple

Great Vespers tonight moved me, more so than much so that I was distracted from "choir-y" caught trying to turn pages in the choir book before we were ready (and neglecting to turn them when we were!).

Thought of worship in Isaiah, Revelation, where all mankind falls down and stands in the presence of the Holy God in the Heavenly Tabernacle, singing the eternal songs of praise. Thought of Orthodox worship, whose purpose is to take us, really, into that Tabernacle. Was well aware that all of us were clothed only in our baptismal garments, unworthy though we be, brought in to stand and ask mercy, give glory, render worship to God, and to honor the Queen Mother and the Princes of the Church--most notably St. Gregory Palamas this evening. Knew that every word I chanted was an honor, a privilege given me, a sobering opportunity to offer service to my Creator.

Thought of the Protestant emphasis.on familiarity, how formality is such a dirty word and can't we all just crawl up into our Daddy's lap and ask Him in a child-like way for what we need... then how those who walked with the God-man saw Him high and lifted up in His glory... and how such glory and kingship makes the condescension that will happen in ten hours all the more humbling, that our Lord would come down through the will of our Father and the presence of the Holy Spirit to fuse His incarnate divinity with our flesh.

...I love it when wonder sneaks up on you...

Terri III

I must strike all who read these posts about the Schiavo debacle as horribly indecisive.

Make no mistake: I am confused on this.

From a comment I made on a post at pensateomnia:

On the one hand, to hasten a death that, aside from artificial feeding, has not in and of itself begun in earnest [to end itself]--as has, for example, that of grandma who refuses to eat--is atrocious.

On the other hand, legally speaking, do we overthrow all spouses' legal rights to do what the law says they can do for the sake of one controversial case?

On the other hand, do we allow said spouses to end the life in question if some reasonable doubt of their recovery exists? Do we hold out hope and invest in therapy and tests (which M. Schiavo has denied Terri)?

On the other hand, do we dare dictate to individuals the extent to which they must extend their own misery and repeatedly crushed hopes (and who am I to judge how Michael feels at night?), often over the course of years?

On the OTHER hand...sigh...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bowed Down with Literalism

OK, here we go...


Just listened to an NPR interview of Tom Harpur, author of THE PAGAN CHRIST: Rediscovering the Lost Light. Now, really folks, I understand today's Good Friday for many people, so discussing Christ is date-appropriate but...sheesh. Are we so eager to embrace any other possible version of Christ that we'll listen to anything?! Are we this dead-set against the Church's testimony?

I thought I left behind ideas like, "Even though there are very real differences between the religions, underneath all that there's something all religions have in common, something that unites us all as humans" when I left high school. Yeah...that "something in common" we all have? It's called humanity, which is the problem! We need the divine Christ to unite our fallen humanity with the divine! This is miles away from Hinduism or Islam, and, ultimately, is not concerned with the union of man with God as much as it is the losing of one's physicalness in the spiritual, anti-material-ness of God.

Also in the interview was someone--I forget the name--was an SMU theology school professor whose objections were "answered" in amazing fashion by Harpur:
SMU Guy: You can't possibly prove any of this from the New Testament.

Harpur: On the contrary...(quotes from Paul's quotation of pagan poets in Acts, plus Jesus' quotation that we are "all gods.") So you see, it is compatible with the New Testament, it is that universal and ancient common faith of all pre-Christian St. Paul says, it's "Christ in you; the hope of glory." And we see this when we allow ourselves to approach the New Testament in a way that's not bowed down with literalism and historicism.
I wanted to hurl. This, along with "disproving" that Christ claimed to be divine with such verses as Christ's "rebuking" the rich young ruler for calling Him "good teacher" (Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone."), or saying that Christ always "skirts the issue" of His divinity when He calls Himself "SON of God" (as if this were any different from directly saying "I AM GOD" -- which He also did (John 8:58--and why'd the Pharisees get so mad, anyway, if He wasn't making Himself God?)).

Christ our God--co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, of a different person yet sharing the divine essence with Him and the Holy Spirit, one Godhead in three Persons and one Essence...why is this so hard?

Ah yes...because so many other faiths and ideas of men will have to answer to it. To all western Christians who may read this and are celebrating Good Friday today: may Christ our GOD bless all of you, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.


And from the West... (More Annunciation Stuff)

Not that it has to do specifically with Annunciation, but this comes from St. Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter, used by the Antiochian Western Riters, and is the Marian anthem sung during this time of year. Thought it appropriate to post today:

Queen of the heavens, we hail thee,
Hail thee, Lady of all the Angels;
Thou the dawn, the door of morning,
Whence the world's true Light is risen:
Joy to thee, O Virgin glorious, Beautiful beyond all other;
Hail, and farewell, O most gracious,
Intercede for us alway to Jesus.

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O holy Virgin.
Give me strength against thine enemies.

Let us pray:

We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to assist our infirmity: that like as we do now commemorate blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, Mother of God; so by the help of her intercession we may die to our former sins and rise again to newness of life. Through the same Christ our Lord.


Annunciation Troparion and Kontakion

Off today for western Good Friday...I joke with people: awfully nice of the District to give us teachers Annunciation off this year, right?

Taken from the OCA website for today:

Troparian - Tone 4

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with You!

Kontakion - Tone 8

O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos!
As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity
So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Second Thoughts

More about Terry...

I do believe that the "two sides" I wrote about are talking about profoundly different things.

The first--my indignation at Terry's being "terminated" before her body naturally gives out--was a reaction against a contempt for the life of a flesh-and-spirit human being made in God's image, a contempt on which our system of government seems to be habitually hooked.

The second--my frustration at the sickening congressional chess games over this issue--was a reaction against the fact that these men and women deny that their behavior is, indeed, hypocritical. For men to say that the Federal government should intervene in the issue of Terry Schiavo but not in the issue of abortion is just as much about an agenda--albeit, a much more life-affirming one--as those who claim the exact opposite. And then to say that this is about a one-time issue and that they're not saying the Feds should intervene in matters of life and death in a broad sense...well, of course they're saying that. It's just that, right now, the feds are intervening for the sake of the wrong side. Were the feds going the right way, the conservatives would scream for a constitutional amendment so fast it would astound us.

They've all got an agenda. Just be honest about it and save Terry and her family some dignity. Oh, wait...forgot who I was talking about there for a sec...

Let Me Not Be Consumed...

Last night at Presanctified I held the cloth under the chins of the faithful as they communed, then wiped the Blood off their lips afterwards before they kissed the chalice. I have to say that, hands down, it was the most intimate thing I've ever done. Not only because of the knowledge of what I was wiping from their lips, but because of the stories, the individual petitions and prayers that were etched into the faces of the faithful as they approached their God...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Where I've Been

2% of all sad...

create your own visited country map

and 41% of the states...better, but...

create your own personalized map of the USA

Terry Schiavo

There is so much here, so much going on, so much to consider...

There are parts of me, very different parts, that are reacting in ways that surprise me. On the one hand, the side of me that would fight tooth-and-nail against taking the life of both unborn child and death-row convict also insists that, no matter the cost, no matter the objection, we must preserve this life that has not yet been extinguished. I find myself agreeing with the President (and this is not a common thing for me!) that, "in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life."

And yet...I do find it a bit...odd...that Congressional Republicans, who themselves (allegedly) fight tooth-and-nail to keep Big Brother out of our personal affairs are now overruling the state of Florida's judicial system which, right or wrong, sided with the spouse, who has the say over the parents regarding this matter. Sky on Now and Ever rightly points out that these supposed champions of Terry's are "subverting the separation of the powers of government. don't be mistaken that there isn't an enormous political war being fought in DC - with many electoral issues at stake that have little to do with whether or not terri schiavo lives or dies."

Add to the mix that Terry--unlike the death-row convict and the unborn child--may not (and, by all current accounts, does not) have a good chance of developing to the point of a "religiously significant" person, and you have a compelling question: are we, in fact, sinning in prolonging a "life" that is merely physiological and nothing more? Would we, in reality, truly entrust her directly into the hands of God by allowing for her to either live or die by "natural" causes?

I don't claim to know the answers to this; life certainly isn't about one's mental capacity, and Terry may, in fact, benefit from further testing. But it's on those who would seek to prove her yet-abiding presence to provide the evidence of such; until then, the husband--to whom she cleaved upon leaving the parents who would seek to trump his spousal rights--has every right (right or wrong) to do as he's done.

I will not judge his thoughts; I will not blame the parents. May God--the only one Who could ever be the Author and Sustainer of Life itself--have mercy on us all.

Later edit, 3/25/05: I wrote this with an (apparently) imperfect picture of how far gone Terry was. "Religiously significant" means independantly operational in any way...she apparently can breathe on her own and has brain activity that reacts to some stimuli.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Priest Zebrun and His Dead Batteries

...hopefully I'm not the only one who liked Gangs of New York enough to get that...three baptisms, nine chrismations last Sat/Sun, and not a camera to my name that had a working battery! Maddening.

Glorious to see, though. I do believe I'm one of those people who, instead of crying at weddings as many do, I am cursed (blessed, probably) to cry at first communions. Probably's got something to do with how close I've become to all involved...and being able to relate to "coming in from the cold," as they were yesterday. To see my now-brethren and -sistren partaking for the first time of the all-holy Body and precious Blood of the One who died to trample down death for them and rose again to breathe His life into and through them...yeah, I lost it...wasn't the first time...I'd love it if it weren't the last...

How wonderful to know that they're under the full protection of the holy Church who's embraced Her Bridegroom for 2,000 years...and now, has embraced them...and now, they, though Her, are embracing Him in that most intimate of all encounters...flesh fusing with Flesh; blood mingling with Blood; one Body nourished, fed and united by the One Body; one Family linked by One Blood.

Appropriate that it should be on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the commemoration of the restoration of the Holy Images to the universal Church.

OK. Favorite Story Time:

My favorite story about the Holy Icons comes from a priest (I forget who, exactly) who was explaining why we kiss icons made of paint and wood to his child. He went outside and stood on the opposite side of the window. Mom told the child, "Kiss Daddy!" which the child promptly did.

The Father came back in and asked the child, "Now, what did you just kiss?"

"The window," the child said.

"Right. But, now, whom did you kiss?"

"I kissed you, Dadd-- ohhhhhhhh."

A worthy confession and realization made by those coming in that "we worship not these images as idolotry, but venerate them with the honor passing on to the prototype."

I do believe I'll go "greet the family" now.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Baptism Now and Again

Lots of talk lately about baptism of converts...on my mind personally because, happily, we'll be receiving nine catechumen this Sunday, some by baptism/chrismation, others by chrismation's a controversial subject , the two main schools of thought concerning which are highlighted very nicely in this post at The Perennial Rambler.

My own personal thought on the subject (which is worth just about what I'm charging you for it) is fairly simple, and, as I see it, reflects the traditional leniency of much of the Church throughout history and is often nowadays called the "Russian" practice:
  • Baptized by triple immersion or pouring in the name of the Holy Trinity and chrismated (Eastern Catholic, Non-Chalcedonian)=received by confession and communion
  • Baptized by triple immersion or pouring in the name of the Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic, Certain Protestant groups)=received by chrismation
  • Never baptized, or Baptized by single immersion and/or by some other name other than "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc., Certain Protestant groups and severely heretical sects)=received by baptism and chrismation
This view is both stricter than what you'll find in many SCOBA jurisdictions and more lenient than what you'll find in many "Synods in Resistance," and may get me into some trouble (it already has, spiritually, as by my own criteria I should have been baptized but was not and have had to deal with my somewhat hard feelings and regret regarding this)...I'm actually gonna ask for an audience with Archbishop DMITRI about this, as wheels are (slowly) turning to have a group of us at St. Barbara's tonsured as readers...a step I am reluctant to take because of my views on this.

What do y'all think (about any or all of this)?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Great Lent

Some notes and thoughts on Great Lent by Fr. Alexander Schmemann...sorry if it's long:
  • To think of Lent in terms of minimum obligation is to miss the point of Lent--namely, to carry us (slowly!) into the presence of God.
  • Use of the OT during Lent is a picture of the Church not only as having been fulfilled in the Kingdom, but "on the way" to the Kingdom, to Pascha.
  • Lent, when seen through the hymns in the Triodion (the "hymnal" of lenten services), "is a return to the 'normal' life, to that 'fasting' which Adam and Eve broke." Lent is greeted, therefore, as a spiritual spring, as a time of joy and life.
  • Re: total fasts on lenten Wednesdays and Fridays: these cause all things done or said during the day to be seen in the light of the coming communion in the evening.
  • On the Church's practice of preserving the Eucharist but not adoring it:
    • Affirms objective, lasting reality of the Real Presence in the gifts apart from their use as food.
    • Affirms said use as the primary objective of gifts, not as an end in and of themselves to be adored apart from consumption.
    • Christ in the gifts=Christ in the Church. Church=ekklesia=people=gifts, as we are also offered in the Liturgy along with the bread and wine ("Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon US, AND upon these gifts here present")...the Church as people, as Eucharist is not the end in and of itself, but it is always a passage...WE should always be a passage, to a communion with Christ, and indeed we are always, in Liturgy and out, this passage in and of ourselves.
  • Sin is not enumeration of transgressions of rules; it is a fall from an unimaginable height, from a glory so beyond all this. "[Sin] is in its roots the deviation of our love from its ultimate object."
  • Memory is transformed by Christ to defeat sin's breaking of time; our remembrance of Christ in the Eucharist, His Life during Holy Week etc., is done "not so much to understand as to witness" in reality and truth for ourselves--to really share in what once was, today.
  • "Christianity is above everything else expectation and preparation" for nothing other than Christ.
  • "Spiritual that little by little one begins to understand religion as a system of symbols and customs rather than...a challenge to spiritual renewal and effort."
  • Re: The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: one is encouraged to attend at least one during Lent. "No reference to conditions of life, lack of time, etc. etc., are acceptable at this point, for if we do only that which easily 'fits' into the conditions of our lives, the very notion of lenten effort becomes absolutely meaningless."
  • Fasting makes us face the ultimate question: on what does my life depend? "Satan came to Adam in Paradise; he came to Christ in the desert. He came to two hungry men and said, 'Eat, for your hunger is the proof that you depend entirely on food, and that your life is in food.' Adam believed and ate; Christ rejected that temptation and said, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by God.'" Our fasting is an entrance into Christ's obedience, a liberation from the total dependance of food and this world, a realization (with one's whole being and life) that the life we still must ultimately sustain with food is to be done in and for God, and not for material things as an end in themselves.
  • All hunger is ultimately hunger for God, but is mere suicide apart from connection with God through prayer.
  • Our ascetical efforts will most likely fail from time to time, but we must not despair, for God tells us to change; it would be prideful to say that we know better than God, that we cannot change. "Between holiness and disenchanted cynicism lies...patience," and not only patience in general, but "patience, first of all, with ourselves."
  • Cultivating a lenten lifestyle:
    • At home: cultivate silence, reduce as much as you can TV, PC, music, etc.
    • To fill time formerly filled with the above, pray (obviously), cultivate reading of great works (not necessarily spiritual ones), listening to time-honored music, etc.
    • Reexamine approach to job: "There is no job, no vocation which connot be transformed--be it only a little!--in terms not of greater efficiency or better organization, but in those of human value."
    • Control your speech, for it is powerful. By doing so we "recover its seriousness and its sacredness...Ultimately men are converted to God not because someone was able to give brilliant explanations, but because they saw in him the light, joy, depth, seriousness and love which alone reveal the presence and the power of God in the world."

O Holy Father Pádraig, pray to God for us...

Happy St. Paddy's Day! Was given a blessing by Father to have one (1) Guinness raised in honor of this beloved saint (a custom of mine), who happens to be the first one I ever read about as a Protestant and who "lit the spark" for my eventual conversion to Orthodoxy. Will also read through Fr. Pádraig's confession and breastplate, along with the troparion and hymns for today, posted here:

Troparion of St Patrick Tone 4
Most glorious art Thou, Christ our God
Who didst establish our Father Patrick
As the Enlightener of the Irish and a torch-bearer on earth,
And through him didst guide many to the true Faith.
Most Compassionate One, glory to Thee.

While thou didst live on earth, O blessed father Pádraig,
thou didst bind to thyself the strong name of the Holy Trinity,
and faith in the undivided Trinity Who created the universe.
Now that thou standest before the throne of the Holy Trinity,
entreat Christ our God to save our souls!

May Christ be in the heart of everyone who thinks of thee,
Christ in the mouth of those who speak to thee,
Christ in every eye that sees thee,
Christ in every ear that hears thy words,
O blessed Pádraig, our father.

More Kendalia Pics

Wow; some of these are prolly get the idea, though...

Inside of Chapel

Icon of Theotokos in Chapel "narthex," taken one evening before Canon of St. Andrew/Compline.

Close-up of Pantocrator and Synaxis icons

Close-up of Theotokos icon

Fr. Taxiarches calling the fathers and all visitors to service by rhythmically hitting a large, carved piece of wood (which, of course, has its own Greek name which I cannot remember for the life of me) with a mallet.

All the fathers, after breaking the Clean Monday and Tuesday fast following Presanctified this morning

A burial plot on the land..."give rest also to the souls of Thy servants, for Thou only lovest mankind..."

Pictures of the interior of the main Church in Holy Archangels'

I was given a blessing to go with Fr. Taxiarches' (whose name I'm probably butchering) into the main Church (we weren't going to have any services there while I was there).

Front of Church

hand of blessing in center of chandelier

Me and Fr. Taxiarches

Paul (a fellow visitor) in front of the royal doors

Holy Archangels' in Kendalia

Outer gate of Holy Archangels' Greek Orthodox Monastery in Kendalia, TX Posted by Hello

The monastery sign Posted by Hello

The outside of the main church Posted by Hello

Christ of the Hills in Blanco

Christ of the Hills ex-ROCOR monastery in Blanco, TX that, tragically, due to scandal several years ago is no longer in communion with anyone... Posted by Hello

The much-advertized icon of the monastery. Posted by Hello

My good friend Zac (with friendly monastery dog) outside the COTH Icon shop Posted by Hello

Friday, March 11, 2005

Saw the baby kick mama last night; the belly just popped up a few times. Precious.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Beloved, Let Us Learn to Fast and Die

One of the things they tell you (whoever "they" are) when you're getting ready to be a parent is, "Be careful of how you react to stress: if it's in a way you wouldn't want your kids to see, you might want to consider developing new coping mechanisms." Because kids, I already know, see everything. It's sad, really, then, that lately, with the approach of the Great Fast, that I have not only given in as of late to all my normal sins that help me cope, but literally have run after them as of late.

"Incline not my heart to evil, to contrive excuses for sin with men that work iniquity, and I shall not join with their elect." Not only am I contriving excuses for sin, it seems, but excuses to sin. It's that basic idea again--I just talked about this with a friend yesterday!--we die to our own will because we know that surrender of our will doesn't leave us any more vulnerable to harm and/or death. That there's a God Whom we can trust with our selves because we can't trust ourselves.

Always funny to me (or it would be, were it not so sad and embarrassing and, yeah, humbling) that this sort of thing always seems to increase during periods of aceticism--Great Lent, Nativity Fast, etc.--and that, in the words of St. Athanasios, “[it] is required that not only with the body should we fast, but with the soul. Now the soul is humbled when it does not follow wicked opinions, but feeds on becoming [i.e.: adorning] virtues. ...virtues and vices are the food of the soul, and it can eat either of the two according to its own will....Such was the case with our Lord, Who said, ‘My meat is to do the will of My Father which is in heaven’ (Jn. 4:34)” (Taken from orthodoxdynamis: See the full post here).

I'm not sure what it takes to beat this; during my days in the charismatic movement there was always a "deliverance du jour" that promised to fix it all miraculously. Seems like, were this truly done, it would destroy us, since it seems we don't really trust the Giver or want Him; rather we want the gifts he gives. Metr. Anthony Bloom makes it clear in his book, Beginning to Pray that we shouldn't even approach God wanting holiness; nothing less that wanting God for who He is--and not whom He can make us to be--will do. Which is my problem. And which is, in different ways, everybody's problem. We don't really trust--which is the foundation of the idea of belief in--our God.

St. Antony, pray for us that we might not fear God but love and trust Him, seeking Him during this time of denial of soul and body. And grant, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, the Grace of Yourself that we might catch but a glimpse of Your Glory during this time of fasting.

"I beseech Thee to purify me with Thy showers of forgiveness and lighten me with fasting."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The icon that will go in little Hope Elizabeth's nursery. Holy St. Elizabeth, pray to God for her and for us! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I Just Don't Get It...

500,000 Syria Supporters rally in Lebanon

So, OK...Syria's occupied Lebanon since 1976, Lebanon has pretty much been a puppet government ever since, and now things are finally coming to a head because of the car-bombing of the Prime Minister (the responsibility for which the Syrians deny but...duh...)...and STILL there are people who say things like this:
“Syria should not leave. We are one hand and one people,” said 16-year-old Esraa Awarki, who traveled by bus from Sharkiya in southern Lebanon. “Why do they want us to split now?”
Now, I understand; you're from southern Lebanon, you've seen the crap Israel's put you through, you're somewhat grateful to Hezbollah for moving them out, but oppressive does this have to get before you just say, "Enough!"?

My Wife and I Must Be Annoying

Just finished reading an article--I know I probably shouldn't have; it looked like something on the cover of some mindless rag--"Why happy couples are so annoying," by Bob Strauss. It actually started out all right--funny really--he picks on the public displays of affection that disgust all those who've been in a relationship long enough to know better, he (rightly) discerns that those who engage in such conspicuous displays are doing so only because of their insecurity about themselves and their significant others.

Right on, Bob! But wait! The last sentence gave me pause: "
But don't despair: science has proven that "Happy Couplehood" has only a six-month duration (a year, tops), so they'll be immersed in the unpleasantness of everyday existence soon enough, just like the rest of us." What, this is my only other option?

I should tell Mr. Strauss that my wife of (almost) three years and I have far outlived this pathetically low standard of "Happy Couplehood." That, even though we know better now than publically to engage in (to use his examples) the cooing of pet names or baby talk or whatever it is that individual couples do in those tender moments, we very much continue most of our original "language" between ourselves--does Strauss think these things should cease to exist because of the "unpleasantness of everyday existence"? That people who do so must needs be annoying?

I know, I know; he's advocating the "Get a Room" reflex we all have when subjected to "New Couple Syndrome." But to say that it has to be replaced by unpleasantness, that the hum-drum aspect of life's most menial tasks has to drown out the affection--my goodness, how sad.

And furthermore, if, as is the case with my wife and me, a couple does, in fact, maintain a healthy private affection level between each other, could not we expect from ourselves a bit more tolerance--celebration, even!--of those moments when it spills out, bidden or no, into a moment in public?

Heaven forbid someone should be annoyed by affection!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

No Place for Calculation

From today's post on the Yahoo! group orthodoxdynamis:

Blessed Theophylact bids us look at the disposition of such saints [in Matt. 25]: “...they deny, with befitting modesty, that they have cared for Him.” Why? Very simply - they do not calculate. They are preoccupied with gratitude, delight, and joy in the Lord. Yesterday, we considered the Lord’s “great glory” when He comes again upon the Cloud of Divine Majesty. An inescapable element of that glory will be the final judgment of all mankind. What will the Lord look for in each of us? He will look for gratitude, delight, and love. He will not review our giving to charity, nor our work in prison ministry, nor our struggle to relieve world hunger. It is dangerous to take assurance from any efforts we have invested in such activities. St. Paul warns us about this sort of thinking: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).

In today’s passage the Lord Jesus sets forward His basis for judgment: are His light and His love planted and flowering in our hearts? Do we calculate, or do we love? St. John of Kronstadt teaches that “The purer the heart becomes, the larger it becomes; consequently it is able to find room for more and more loved ones.” How easy it is to forget the poor, the neglected, the homeless, the destitute, the old, the sick, and the brokenhearted. Were the Lord not to heal our hearts, there would be no ability at all in us to love. God help us!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Holy Mourners

Vespers tonight for the Sunday of the Last Judgement. A stichera from the service:
I lament and weep when I think of the eternal fire, the outer darkness and the netherworld, the dread worm and the gnashing of teeth, and the unceasing anguish that shall befall those who have sinned without measure, by their wickedness arousing Thee to anger, O Supreme in love. Among them in my misery I am first: but, O Judge compassionate, in Thy mercy save me.
In Orthodoxy, as opposed to the faith I was reared in, there is the very real possibility that I will see hell. I never did understand why, when I told people as a young man that I was a Baptist, they immediately equated me with a hellfire-and-brimstone preachin' church that was fixated on the Judgement Seat. Only thing was, for us, there was no Judgement Seat! According to the teachings of the Baptist churches I attended growing up, the imagery in the hymns I sang tonight was strictly for the lost; I could rest assured that I would never see it, for I had the assurance that I was a child of God, and that I had already "passed from death unto life" and would never need to account for my sins in life, as Christ had dealt with all of this apart from me.

As comforting as this message is, though, one of the things the earliest Christian writers unanimously state is that it is absolutely not true. This was one of the things that blew me out of the Baptist waters in which I happily swam for twenty years. And sure, I had my background that told me what "Scripture plainly says," but when all the folks who were trained by the authors of the book I cherished said otherwise, well...who'm I gonna b'lieve?

And the about hellfire. There is plenty here to sober us. The author of a rather well-known blog (at least, among Orthodox bloggers) has a picture of the burial box of St. James with the words written underneath, "We're all gonna go!" Faced with the fact that, in spite of our baptism, in spite of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through chrismation, in spite of prayer, in spite of the partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord--or, more horrifyingly, perhaps even because of these things and our attitudes toward them--we may end up no better than the vilest sinner. St. Symeon the New Theologion (who lived, ironically enough, a thousand years ago) says we're actually worse than Adam in his sin, for while he was a newly created man who had only started to "grow into" his divine potential, we have the very Body and Blood of Christ! And, what's worse, no sooner do we partake of it than we use the same mouth to gossip about our neighbor! And the fault we find with him may be what blinds us to our own damning pride.

And therein lies the paradox, I think, of the Final Judgement. We are called, in Orthodoxy, to look at the world, in all its insanity and utter depravity, and say that, in spite of it all, we, as individual people, are desperately in need of God's grace, and, as far as we can tell, are the worst off all things on this earth. We have to say this and absolutely mean it. And it's only when we believe it, when we truly are so acutely aware of our own sinfulness and we wonder how any could surpass it (forgetting for the moment that, in reality, other people actually have) that we finally are open to the salvation that comes through humble service, through work--our whole being is opposed to it), it is the blessed comfort promised by the Savior to all those--and only those--who would be holy mourners.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My Blossoming Wife

I tell you what...there is nothing more stunningly beautiful than a pregnant woman.

Audra is now six months along and (she swears!) is getting bigger by the hour. Little Hope is kicking up a storm, though I think she's being a brat (already! Sheesh...) by never letting Daddy actually feel the kicks. Stinker.

My wife. In between the seventeen servings of apple juice, the heating pad for the back and the think-fast mandates for dinner entrees, she is truly a walking miracle. I look at the small Theotokos of the Sign icon under our guest bathroom mirror as I get ready for school in the morning and I just think...the miracle of birth, of an independent, squirming person being borne by and delivered by a woman is proof to me that there's a God (and NOT just because it can actually, somehow, even be done!). The fact that it all--with tragic exceptions--goes so smoothly, and that instincts tie mother to baby in a tender dance (which looks more like a waddle in the later months) is a testament to God's provision for the human race that's wonderful to behold.