Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tiny Veins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 30, 2006

White & Nerdy

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

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christ's Mass

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 24, 2006

¡Cristo ha nacido! ¡Glorifícale!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So long...

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

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

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Puente del Río Ortodoxo

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas

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

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

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

Holy Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!

Monday, December 04, 2006

St. Barbara

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

Holy Martyr Barbara, pray to God for us!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Draw Swords...

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

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

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

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

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

Sober Joy

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


Orthodox Chrildren's Bible Reader!!

Click here for a sample of the reader.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Erring on the Side of Smallness

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received regarding my spiritual life came just recently (yes, it's an instant classic with me) from my parish priest. I was talking with him, inquiring about a suitable daily prayer rule, and when I laid out what I had planned, he said something I'd never heard from a spiritual leader.

He said I really ought to consider scaling it back.

Coming from traditions within the Evangelical world where "going all out for Jesus" is expected, I have to say I was surprised. I unwittingly had been projecting the expectations (which were projected onto me by others) I had had of myself within Protestantism onto my prayer life in Orthodoxy. There is often the pressure to read a certain amount of Scripture in a day, pray for a certain amount of time...of course, ultimately these things are left up to the individual, but the examples that we were given to emulate often devote substantial periods of time to these activites, periods that, for many of us, are not reasonable to expect. I was translating that into something along the lines of, "Trisagion prayer, 'Arising from sleep,' the Creed, a kathisma of psalms, the epistle and gospel reading for the day, the litany of prayers for the living and the dead (along with others we added in), a benediction and veneration of all the icons in the corner--that was morning. Evening prayers consisted of a similarly long rule. The idea was, "this is what is laid out in the prayer book as 'Morning/Evening Prayers,' so I'm gonna do it all." Needless to say, the variables of day-to-day life with toddler made mincemeat of that expectation--we as people must be more flexible than a by the book approach to rubrics will allow--and I was left feeling as though I'd bitten off more than I could chew, or "should be doing more" to accomodate this level of a prayer life within my life.

Not so, said Father. It's interesting to hear something I never heard in my years as a Christian: that we are actually better served by doing a small amount of prayer, consistently, than we are in doing large prayer rules in what inevitably ends up being in fits and starts. Humbling, this, as I no longer am expected to see myself as immediately capable of something having to do with prayer; it has allowed me to reevaluate just how serious, how weighty a thing like prayer is, and how incapable I am of actually tackling regular audiences before the King of Glory.

Sit in the lesser seats, desire them. If God moves you, fine. But err on the side of smallness, I was told--have a "bare minimum" where you can be sure, at least, to "check in" with God--makes days like today where I actually was up early enough to do almost all of the whole aforementioned Morning Prayer shbang all the sweeter. And when these moments happen, be sure to thank God for them, like this fella did (and probably still does). Speaking of thankfulness, I was surprised after today's prayerfest when, upon pulling out from the garage today, I openly wept for the joy of and thankfulness for having a sweet, kind, playful, beautiful toddler; an amazing, loving, nurturing, radiant wife; a life that, I sometimes fear, has gone too well (Fr. Alexander attributed it to God's awareness of Fr. Alexander's weakness...probably a wise take, that)...there's a wonderful comfort in small steps with this God, where we develop our soul slowly, consistently, the way we develop our physical bodies.

Apparently growing up the way we should takes time, and God's all right with waiting...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanks(giving) Be to God

Called different parishes around Lexington on Tuesday to see if any of them would be celebrating Divine Liturgies, praying Akathists, etc., on Thanksgiving Day morning. It's a tradition at our parish to celebrate a DL in thanksgiving--what better time for a Eucharist, after all?--for everything God's given us. The folks at St. Athanasius' parish in Nicholasville, if the Lord willed, had a "Glory to God for All Things" Akathist, as they do on the eve of Thanksgiving, but as we will only be travelling out that way tomorrow morning late, we couldn't attend. Ironically, St. Michael's in Louisville will have a DL, but we'll have gone the other direction and won't be able to attend that tomorrow morning, either!

Ah, well. 'Twas good to talk to the brethren regardless, wishing them a Happy Feast Day in the midst of in-laws--and don't get me wrong; they're wonderful in-laws--but they wouldn't understand (and are visibly uncomfortable with) the celebration we engage in with the Godbearer as "the prelude of the goodwill of God" was refreshing to wish "Spradznikom" to somebody while here.

An interesting event this evening...a crank call on my cell from someone calling herself "Whitney"--young-sounding, possibly bored on Thanksgiving Break--whose (repeated!) calls within a twenty minute period (nine, count 'em, (9) messages in the fifteen minutes I had turned off my phone after the first two calls) rapidly escalated in--ahem--"inappropriateness" once she found out that the person she had dialed was a guy who was married and who objected both to being called "Baby" and to the idea that he gave her his number in a bar recently. Once the phone came back on, she called again, and I decided to have a little fun. If you can't beat 'em, preach at 'em.

WHITNEY: "Hey, baby, I--"

ME: "Wow, Whitney; nine messages in fifteen minutes; you must be ridiculously bored, huh?"

W: "Well, I love you, baby, an--"

M: [said without letting her get a word in edgewise] "Well, I have to say, it's interesting that your messages took the tone that they did, because you see, some of the things you put in those messages might be taken to bring strife into a marriage, possibly breaking the marriage up. And it's a shame that you'd want to break up a marriage, seeing as how God Himself has ordained and blessed marriages as a way for two people to come into total union with each other."

W: "I--"

M: [still goin' strong] "--and it's a shame that you'd want to do something that would endanger that, seeing as how it disrupts something that goes back to the creation of the first man and woman, who God created to become one flesh, to be fruitful and multiply--which my wife and I have, with a beautiful toddler who's a real spitfire and a blessing from the Lord, by the way--and this is really a representation of the Kingdom of God, whose goal is the reunion of all men and women together, since sin and death has fractured mankind's relationship one to another."

W: "Well, I--"

M: [yep, still goin'] "'--I mean, my wife and I had crowns placed on our heads when we were married, and not only did that represent that we would be rulers over our household, guiding our children to follow and serve and love the Lord, but that they would also serve as martyrs' crowns, since we would be prepared to sacrifice our own desires--even our very lives if need be!--for the sake of each other and for each other's salvation--"

W: [dial tone]

This is the way it went for about two more times after that. Haven't heard from her all this evening. Now, I did think about putting the kerygma, or basic gospel message, out there for her--the fact that there is a God, we were separated from Him by nature, personal sin, and death in our members due to the falling of our ancestors, and that God became one of us in order to deify our nature, forgive our sins, and destroy death (which He did), and that we could participate in this life, this reconnecting with God the Father in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit working in the Church--but I stopped, as I got a "pearls before swine" feeling about all of that. Perhaps I was wrong--Lord, have mercy on me if I did not make the most of the opportunity--but perhaps something mentioned in the "blitzkrieg" of references to the sacrament of Holy Matrimony will stick with her and she won't do that again.

Regardless, it was fun, I have to admit...

Evening prayers tonight with Anza, her little head on my shoulder, her Buddha belly going in and out more and more regularly while Papi chanted prayers. Sleepy kisses given to the icons of Christ and the Theotokos...amazing how she knows which pictures are icons, and which are not, regardless of what or who is on an icon. The gospel from today--"you must enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a little child." Indeed, she shows me how. Tomorrow is the commemoration of the repose of St. Alexander Nevsky (pictured here)--I shall have to call our friends the Wingerds and ask if it is indeed our little godson's first namesday. Regardless, God grant that little man many blessed years!

Thanks be to God for His many indescribable gifts! Y'all have a blessed Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On the Road Again


I'll be driving to KY this evening w/family and will be staying in Lexington for most of the upcoming week. Should be back next Sun. night. Prayers for safe travel are coveted.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, all.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fear of Life as Prayer

Colossians 3:17 (Revised Standard Version.): "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

vv. 23-4: "Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ."
I am a Spanish teacher by trade. Yes: in the world, I am that guy--the one who dragged you through (or, if you were like me, dragged everyone else through while I enjoyed) endless vocabulary words, conjugations, and dialogues/stories in the target language you've long since ceased using and, therefore, remember "un poquito español," as I hear all the time.

I am a husband and a father. Breadwinner, peek-a-boo engager, companion and helper, I've been charged with, well, "leading the charge" within my household in taking the Kingdom by force, all the while working to help keep things organized, clean, and otherwise appropriate for sane, mature adult life.

It is, therefore, required of me as a follower of Jesus Christ to offer up these positions to Him in gratitude, as well as with the greatest amount of preparation and thought put into exactly how I am going to execute what I firmly believe to be my divinely appointed niche in life. This is done "so that it may be profitable to myself and others, and to the glory of [God's] Holy Name," as goes the prayer. Ideally, such a venture is to be surrounded by and permeated by prayer--a morning and evening habit of meeting with God, along with as much during-the-day meditation on the Name of Jesus as running frantic through life in this world will allow--and thus is itself infused with the presence of the divine and made into a prayer. Life as prayer, worldly vocations as ministry for others (not to mention salvation for self)...nothing so repulses me.

I prefer, rather, to "talk shop" in Church, substituting a lively theological debate or a "basics" rundown of Orthodox theology with an inquirer for another, perhaps "uneventful," encounter with God that provides no "rush." There's blogging--everything from customizing a "look" to a "comments blitz" that can take you late into the night--and discussion forums that can sap the time clear out of a day that was supposed to go towards grading papers...TV to books to even YouTube...most anything can be and is preferred to the slow, simple, obligatory (and often unnoticed) work of daily's been said that the problem with life is that it's so daily, and these sugar-pill distractions tend both to tantalize and edge what matters most--my life as prayer--outside the edges of my life's picture.

This happens, of course, due to its being the "quick and easy" route, that of least resistance, where we can (at least temporarily) fool ourselves into believing once again that reading about Chalcedon can sub for our humanity meeting the divinity within us (and all the terror and sacrifice that entails), that debating Protestants over justification, sanctification, sacrament, et al is tantamount to letting this life in Christ mold me into one who loves God and neighbor. Not that these things are always to be avoided or seen as unnecesary, but rather prioritized and lived instead of told so much...

Ora et labora, St. Bendedict said: Pray and work. The challenge, then, being not to consume our every waking hour obsessed with work obligations or (even worse!) turn actual prayer into no more than an obligation, but rather to find the "rest you can find in your work, that you can't get out of sleep,"* the trust that takes us through mundane tasks because we've seen the One for Whom we're doing this and we love Him with an Eros that at least rivals that which we give to our own, personal, sugar-pill gods.

Lord, have mercy on us. St. Benedict, pray to God for us.

*(referenced here)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Church Website

Thanks to the diligence of my lovely wife, our parish has a website! Click here, or in the sidebar to check it out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ochlophobe's Apologia

Looking for something beautiful to read about our faith?

Owen of The Ochlophobist has a four-part apologia for Orthodoxy that is literally stunning in its intimacy and enthralling in its eloquence.

Pt. 1
Pt. 2
Pt. 3
Pt. 4

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quick Political Blog...

Just to's a good day for us pro-life Democrats.

We got to add six likeminded souls to our congressional ranks: Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, Charlie Wilson of Ohio, Chris Carney and Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania.

Whooda thunk; the Democratic party has to get away from the liberal monopoly wielded by the New Englanders in order to be relevant enough to gain any kind of political clout...hmm...might there be a lesson here for '08? (As in a resounding rejection of Hillary and her ilk?)

OK, done...


Thank you all for praying. I was feeling better last Thursday, though I still stayed home. Now this week is taken up not only with bringing some sense of normalcy back to the class--just in time for Thanksgiving Break next week! Yay!--but with correcting the truncated version of grades that had to be submitted since I was too weak from illness to finish off the grades as I would have liked.

Also...Kaylyn has been removed from my roll sheet. I have not heard if she has been found or not.

A few weeks back, a bunch of us at St. Barbara's went to Mineral Wells State Park for our annual fall retreat. A good time was had by all; we had everything from fishing in the lake (which also provided a lovely chilly wind at night that blew right into each campsite, glory to God for all things...), to BBQ dinners over the fire and s'mores for dessert (not to mention late - into - the - night talks over Shiner Bocks re: everything from faith to politics to hobbies...good times...), to readers' vespers that, though they be chanted into the wind and the tones be mixed up every so often, were still the center of the evening and an excellent "point of contact" for all of us to touch base and put everything in context: to remember the One who created all these things around us "in wisdom."

I'm biased, I know, but our little sweetheart had the time of her little life crawling around the rocks...y'all pray for us; we've got a real explorer on our hands.

The whole gang; it's nothing short of a miracle this one picture came out with everybody visible. We had to leave early due to Hope's not feeling well, but overall it was a highly enjoyable weekend.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I've been home all this week with strep, and this is the first time I've been able to sit in front of a PC for more than five seconds without feeling exhausted. I may have to miss the rest of the week, too, if I don't feel better by this evening or early tomorrow...

Prayers, y'all...

Monday, October 30, 2006

I Met My God...

The usual question--"How was church today?"--from my mother this afternoon, followed by the usual murmured "Oh, fine...good..." and change of subject by either me or her...

Please don't misunderstand...I'd much rather have this than what my mother and I did to each other when I first became Orthodox. My mother has shown that she can be a very big person regarding something she so clearly and strongly opposes; her resisting the temptation to badmouth my Faith is noticed and appreciated, but...still...

It's difficult to avoid the elephant in the can I really justify saying anything but "I stood in the courts of the King of Glory today, Ma...I sang with the cherubim and glorified God at the empty Tomb...I chanted "Holy, Holy, Holy" with the angels and elders of the faith...I saw the Queen of Heaven sitted at the right hand of her Lord...I saw the Lamb and Word of God on the Holy Altar, and He spoke to me and gave Himself to me as food...the flesh and blood of He who loves me--who loves mankind--mingled with my own, for the forgiveness of my sins and the healing of my soul and body--I kissed the Tree of Life and ate of the Fruit thereof...I met my God in heaven today..."

In other know...oh, fine...good... (sigh)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"A 'Good Uneasiness'"

Dixie's got a great post here about mindsets and conversion and how mental gymnastics don't always apply when wanting to fit in while pining for the past... The part that most caught my interest was this:
"I started reading the Lutheran Confessions anachronistically. I tried to convince myself that Lutheranism was Orthodoxy...just the Western version of it. A few Lutheran pastors I know, including my own, would tell me "that's not how we were taught to understand the Confessions" but I couldn't pretend to be Orthodox if I couldn't be allowed to read the Confessions in a particular light."
I commented there, but thought it also worth mentioning's hard also, when coming from the Southern Baptist Church to Orthodoxy, to let go of the idea (which is even less ancient than Lutheranism) of "Once Saved Always Saved," wherein God is either so loving that He lets you KNOW you're saved, or He's a sourpuss who nitpicks at every little work you do as you scrape together your own salvation.

As Fr. Thomas Hopko says, God is a God who, when He meets our sin, says, "You're not gonna get me to bless it, but you're not gonna get rid of Me, either." The possibility of choosing sin and death over Life remains, but the love never wanes--nevertheless, every now and again it gets hard not to paint a "Once Saved Always Saved" veneer over the somber faces on those icons...

They're somber for a reason.

They're somber 'cause they care.


I was just notified today by a parent that her daughter--one of my students, Kaylyn--has been missing from her home for ten days now. She was suspended, and now has left home and her parents have no idea where she is.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Funny how things can speak right to you...

Tonight at Vespers, the reading from the prophecy of Jeremiah: (2:2-12, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition.)

2Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying: Thus saith the Lord: I have remembered thee, pitying thy soul, pitying thy youth, and the love of thy espousals, when thou followedst me in the desert, in a land that is not sown.

3Israel is holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his increase: all they that devour him offend: evils shall come upon them, saith the Lord.

4Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all ye families of the house of Israel.

5Thus saith the Lord: What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

6And they have not said: Where is the Lord, that made us come up out of the land of Egypt? that led us through the desert, through a land uninhabited and unpassable, through a land of drought, and the image of death, through a land wherein no man walked, nor any man dwelt?

7And I brought you into the land of Carmel, to eat the fruit thereof, and the best things thereof: ad when ye entered in, you defiled my land, and made my inheritance an abomination.

8The priests did not say: Where is the Lord? and they that held the law knew me not, and the pastors transgressed against me: and the prophets prophesied in Baal, and followed idols.

9Therefore will I yet contend in judgement with you, saith the Lord, and I will plead with your children.

10Pass over to the isles of Cethim, and see: and send into Cedar, and consider diligently: and see if there hath been done any thing like this.

11If a nation hath changed their gods, and indeed they are not gods,: but my people have changed their glory into an idol.

12Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and ye gates thereof, be very desolate, saith the Lord.

Holy and Glorious Great Martyr Demetrius the Myrrh-gusher of Thessalonica
, pray to God for us...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Abraham's Seed

At the request of Stephen, the following is as brief an elaboration of my thoughts as I can muster re: the nature of "Israel"--who is in it today, who is not, and what this has to do with that hotly-disputed little parcel of land in the Middle East.

Firstly: I do not believe in--nor, imo, does the Orthodox Church teach--what is called "Replacement Theology" by many groups in Christianity that are enamored with all things Hebrew...that is, the idea that the Old Testament Israel has ceased to be, and has been replaced by the Church. The Church does not see herself as a Second Israel, for the Scriptures teach that the Original, First Israel never ceased to be. What has happened is that, simply speaking, those human beings, be they Jew or Gentile, who have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah of God have been severed from the Israel of God (see Rom. 11 for an indepth description of this by St. Paul). In the same manner, then, all those who live by faith in Christ have been baptized into the Body of the Messiah, who is the Root of Jesse and the flowering of the tree of Israel.

St. Paul states it succinctly: "If ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." For me--and for the Church--the idea that a group of people that have, by and large, deliberately and vehemently separated themselves from Christ for almost 2,000 years can still be called heirs of promises made to the "children of Abraham" is a slap in the face of Jesus Christ himself. Will all of the Jews come to faith in Christ? Eventually, somehow, yes, to the glory of God they will accept their Messiah and be united to Him with the circumcision not made with hands (baptism), but until then--we must be clear--they are no longer in the green wood of the tree of Israel, but rather the dry (Luke 23:31), and therefore inheritors of none of the promises made to Israel in the Old (or New) Testament, for they (unlike the Christians) no longer comprise the Israel of God, which has been carried on into the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ by those who would accept said Christ.

"Reclaiming" the Gospel

In the Ancient Faith Radio archives, there is this supremely excellent "interview with Dr. Bradley Nassif on Orthodoxy and the Gospel"...specifically, it is on how the Orthodox need to reclaim the actual practice of living out the faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel on which our faith actually centers.

So many good things in it, I won't go into it here. Just know that this Orthoblogger gives his "Amen" to all of it...a prophetic message to the Church, imo...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Zorya Ukranian Dance Ensemble at TX St. Fair

Recovering still from a great three-day weekend with the in-laws, during which we went to the fair and saw the Zorya Ukranian Dance Ensemble--several of whose members attend St. Barbara's! They did four very impressive numbers, all of which were recorded amateurishly by Yours Truly and are available for viewing here, here, here and here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Orthodox and the Afterlife

Yeah...another audio download post for folks with a LOT of time on their hands to listen to stuff...

Go here and you can download all nine talks from the 2006 St. Vladimir's Seminary Summer Institute, where the theme was, obviously, death and the afterlife in the Orthodox tradition.
Just click like you're going to "buy" them, then download them to your hard drive as mp3s.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Drinking of the Fruit of the Vine in the Kingdom of the Cross

Thoughts lately have been coming back to conversations as of late between Orthodox and Protestants (of which I have been a part of or to which I have listened) regarding both the Eucharist, and the millenial kingdom of the Lord...

It's often said by Protestants that the Lord Jesus claimed, after sharing the first Eucharist with His apostles, that He would not drink of "this" fruit of the vine until He was in His Father's Kingdom.

This having been stated, the Protestants often say, we can conclude that:
  1. That which was in the cup was clearly not His Blood, as He seemed to call it "the fruit of the vine," and
  2. As He did not drink wine but "vinegar" on the Cross, the Kingdom of His Father is yet to come, and will come at the end of the age of the Gentiles as prophesied in Revelation.

Aside from the fact that St. Luke's account places the statement before the Eucharist (thus adding support to our belief that the contents of the cup were Blood and not wine), the liquid that Christ drank on the Cross was not vinegar as we know it, but actually a sour wine--the fruit of the vine.

Proof of this can be seen by paralleling the Sacrifice of our Paschal Lamb with the type and shadow of the sacrifices of lambs by high priests in Passovers past: At the appointed time, the High Priest would say “I thirst” and drink a cup of sour wine. Then he would say, “It is finished” as he killed the lamb. The lamb was then placed in the oven before sundown with all of its bones intact. Our Lord fulfilled this perfectly, for not only did He, as our High Priest, utter "I thirst" at the right moment, but He also drank the fruit of the vine on the Cross. And since He said He would not do so again until He did so in the Kingdom, it is clear that the so-called "millenial" Kingdom of the Father ("1,000 years" or "millenium" is simply apocalyptic language for "a really long time that has an eventual end") has come! The Kingdom of Heaven is now!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thought I'd Died, Huh?

No, I haven't forgotten that I do, in fact, keep a blog. So for those of you still checking after 11 days (because we bloggers can be fickle folk), here's a brief run-down on the past week and a half.

Sept. 19: The ninth anniversary of the untimely death (though he would correct me: all was in God's timing, that and all the cool geniuses died young) of a man many (of which I am one) consider to have made a profound effect on their spiritual outlook: Richard Wayne Mullins. He was killed on that date in 1997 when a semi collided with his Jeep. He was 41, and one of the most needed voices within contemporary Christian music. May his memory be eternal.

Allergies: My goodness. Usually I experience minor stuffiness, drainage, etc. at the beginning of Spring, beginning of Fall. Not this year. It's a week and a half and I'm just now getting past the worst of it. Unfortunately, this hit during the last week of the grading period, which means that a lot of the end-of-period grading I usually get done has now piled up on me due to my early-to-bed ways (which is also my excuse for not blogging). Late nights ahead this weekend, but glory be to God, I'm now able to tackle it...

Good conversations: A catechumen at our parish and I talked about what exactly "Israel" means for the Christian...who is it, what is it, what does it have to do with that patch-o'-land in the Middle East...actually won him over, which doesn't happen very often...

Audra and I talking about how my native speaker situation (looks to be unresolved for good, folks) is constraining me; looks to be an opportunity for growth, though it is highly inconvenient.

Christmas plans lists, travel plans, which services will attend, where, and at which parish...ugh. The fast beforehand will be a welcome preparation for receiving the Incarnate One. Good to think about this, even in late September...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sprazdnikom! (late)

Rejoice, O Life-bearing Cross, the invincible weapon of godliness, the gate of paradise, the protection of the faithful! The Cross is the might of the Church. Through it corruption is abolished. Through it the power of death is crushed and we are raised from earth to heaven! The Cross is the invincible weapon of peace, the enemy of demons, the glory of the martyrs, the haven of salvation// which grants the world great mercy!

Rejoice, O Cross of the Lord! Through you mankind has been delivered from the curse, shattering the enemy by your Exaltation! O Cross, worthy of all honor, you are a sign of true joy; you are our help, you are the strength of kings. You are the power of the righteous. You are the majesty of priests. All who sign themselves with you are freed from danger. O rod of strength, under which we like sheep are tended, You are a weapon of peace round which the angels stand in fear! You are the divine glory of Christ our God,// Who grants the world great mercy!

Rejoice, O guide of the blind, physician of the sick and resurrection of the dead! O precious Cross, you raised us up when we were fallen into mortality. Through you corruption has been destroyed, and incorruption has blossomed forth. We mortals are made divine and the devil is completely overthrown! Seeing you exalted today by the hands of bishops, we exalt Him Who was lifted high upon you and we fall down in worship before you,// freely drawing from you great mercy!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Moses prefigured the Cross and defeated Amalek; David ordered worship at Your footstool. So today we sinners venerate it with unworthy lips, O Christ God. We cry to You, the crucified One:// “O Lord, make us worthy, with the thief, of Your Kingdom!”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Classic Rich...

So I saw a link to this on Josh's blog, and I loved it; classic Rich Mullins:

[In the middle of leading a chapel service at Wheaton College]
"You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you just have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too...[And he paused in the awkward silence.] But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Blessed Beginning

So about a week ago, Matushka asked me if I would mind leading the intermediate (pre-teen, basically) group in Church School this year. Since I knew that those three kids were bright, attentive, and well-behaved in general, I figured it'd be good discussion, insights on their part, and lots of cooperation.

I was not disappointed in the least. Would that our parenting skills produce children so good-natured.

But, I gotta tell y'all...sigh...y'all, I'm a teacher. I have been college-educated and state-certified in order to be a professional educator of children with regards to the Spanish language. So you can imagine that dispersing information to pupils would be nothing new to me. No big deal, right?


Lyrics from Rich Mullins are commonplace on this blog, as longtime readers will attest to, but one in particular stood out as I walked them through Adam and Eve/New Adam and New Eve for the Nativity of the Theotokos:
Two full-grown men in a huddle of kids
And they're tryin' to help them to believe
What is too good to be real
Yet is more real than the air they breathe
To see the "light bulb moment" on their faces when they saw that the woman who was taken from the man would offer him death, and he took it, then when they saw that the Man who was taken from the woman would offer her life, and she would take it--they saw how the original (as in very first) sin of our race began to be reversed in this mirror image, and that image ending in the image of the Resurrection, the ultimate defeat of death that began...well, with the first Adam, but, as one of the kids noted, "the beginning of the end of the beginning" being the miraculous arrival in this world of she who is the New Ark of the Covenant, for she holds the Word of God -- she who is the second Eve -- she whose womb was more spacious than the heavens, for it held what the universe cannot -- she whose "yes" was pure enough to untie the knot that Eve's "no" fastened around our race -- she who is the East Gate in which the Prince ate bread for nine months, then passed through, sealing it against any others' passing through -- she who is the New Red Sea, through whom the deliverance of Israel passed and then remained closed as it was before -- she who is the New Ladder of Jacob, on which the Lord descended to Earth -- she who is blessed among all women -- she whom all generations, under the declaration of the Holy Spirit of God, will call blessed....

Such a blessed beginning is a much weightier endeavor than any ol' Spanish lesson. Fear and trembling is appropriate here. Prayers for our Church School year would be appreciated.

Happy New Year (or as Father likes to say, Holy New Year) to all of y'all, and happy belated feast day!

Orthodoxy and Same Sex Attraction

A great summation of the Orthodox view of same-sex attraction has been written here by Steve Robinson. Also there is the (ideal, yet sadly, in many cases ignored) reaction that we as Orthodox Christians should take towards those with SSA.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Schmemann and Eucharist

Owen and Douglas Ian have both mentioned The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann recently, and said mentionings have prompted me to pick my copy back up. Fr. Alexander was quite a formidable influence in my journey to become Orthodox, and these quotes pretty much sum up why:

[Referring to the ROCOR, towards whom in general I hold no ill will whatsoever; the situation between the OCA and the ROCOR was much tenser then than it is now ~ DB] "These people, stifled by their own chose limitations, are quite unable to accept or try to understand any creativity. Christianity and Orthodoxy are good and acceptable [according to them] because the are ancient, because they are in the past, because they are the substance and the sanction of the 'orthodox way of life'...The defenders of the 'orthodox way of life' express one clear and profound answer [to the question of Orthodoxy's future] as they define it. But there is no clear, total answer from any other side except reductions, like return to 'Byzantium,' or spiritual individualism, or reading the ascetics, or escapism from reality. I hesitate to come forward with my feeling--it sounds arrogant--that I have an answer! In everything that I preach, or teach, or write, I want this answer to appear, hopefully to shine through. But that answer cannot be squeezed into any system, any recipe, any defined way of life. No rules come out of that answer. It is simply a vision of life, and what comes from that vision is the light, the transparency, the referral of everything to the 'Other, the eschatological character of life itself and all that is in it. The source of that eschatological light, the lifting up of all life, is the sacrament of the Eucharist.


"The Eucharist reveals the Church as community--love for Christ, love in Christ--as a mission to turn each and all to Christ. The Church has no other purpose, no 'religious life' separate from the world. Otherwise the Church would become an idol...Only this presence can give meaning and value to everything in life, can refer everything to that experience and make it full. 'The image of this world is passing away.' But only by passing away does the world finally become the 'World': a gift of God, a happiness that comes from being in communion with the content, the form, the image of that 'World.'"


"In our world, any religion without Christ (even Christianity and Orthodoxy) is a negative phenomenon, even frightening. Any contact with such a religion is dangerous. One can study it to better understand Christianity, or Christ. But by itself, it cannot be salvation, however one understands this word.

"For the early Christians, the Body of Christ is on the altar because He is among them. For the contemporary Christians, Christ is here because His Body is on the altar. It seems to be analogous, but in fact, there is an essential difference between the early Christians and us. For them, everything is in knowing Christ, loving Him. For us, everything is in the desire to be enlightened. The early Christians came to Communion to follow Christ, whereas now Christ is not the unique reason for partaking of Communion."
There's a lot of talk on other blogs--most notably Julio's here and here--about what exactly the "Western captivity" of Orthodoxy is and/or was; it's said that we lambast the western expressions of Christianity for exactly the wrong things, and do so in a way that is (ironically) inherently western. While I sense the veracity of this, I do not, I admit, possess the intellectual wherewithal or philosophical background of the guys I linked to above to actually explain it. I will say, however, that one of the things from my own Protestant/Evangelical upbringing for which I am the most grateful and which Fr. Alexander states so beautifully above (along with his son-in-law, Fr. Thomas Hopko, if you've listened to him) is that all is about God; all points to God. Nothing should ever be done simply because "that's the way it's always been done," or because "St. Soandso said suchandsuch in chapter eleventeen of the fortyleventh book of the Philokalia"--these things may add to the force of argument for a certain practice, if said saint or tradition has been shown to show forth the life of God in the Church, but the primary reason anything should be done in our Church is because it shows forth the Kingdom of Heaven.

We as Orthodox have an amazing opportunity with our icons, vestments (Imperial in appearance though they may be, eschatological they still remain), architecture, liturgy, sacraments, rubrics, hymnography, music and theology: we can search for the "one thing needful" in all of this--and it is more a matter of what one is looking for rather than if something is or is not inherently within a practice; a practice is what we make it--and use it all, every note, word and movement, to point to the renewal of Creation through our Lord's taking on our nature for our sake, and for the life of the whole world.

Happy Labor Day, y'all. God bless.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Cipher of Leonardo

If you have ever read Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the Middle English (or tried to) and are up to the challenge, I dare you to read this and not sit in slack-jawed amazement at the sheer brilliance of it.

Memory Eternal

That seemingly omnipresent bloggerchick, Stacy, has written a couple of pieces--here and here--that were prompted not so much by her experiences in Africa as of late, but more by the concept of remembrance. Excellent posts, as they not only treat the people of Africa as just that--as people, instead of mere emaciated heads and ribs and swollen bellies that get depicted and thrown away in world hunger leaflets...(ahem)--but they touch on a primal need of people: the need to be remembered.

We Orthodox make a lot of that verse ("that verse" being Hebrews 2:15) that says that Christ came to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." We see this in the icon of Pascha that Stacy references in her second post. But why do we fear death? Is it the process of death? Is it what lies beyond death? I honestly don't think most people make it that far out most of the time, myself included. I think a lot of us fear death because that's the Great Forgetting, in a lot of our minds. We think that men will forget us once we're gone, we think that God will allow for our memory to pass into oblivion, and this terrifies us, since we also lose track of the fact (or forget, ironically) that the whole world will pass away. Since, though, Christ has not forgotten us nor left us in the tombs, we are free to remember and be remembered in the restoration of the communion (or the re-membering of one another, if you'll forgive the pun) that defines us as human.

Speaking of communion defining what it means to be human, this post on touch within the Church by Owen is well worth the time I've spent up this morning. I may be unable to sleep, but when one has good readin', it makes it better.

Anticipating Christ's Communion, and our remembering each other -- and re-membering with each other -- in and through His presence, in a few hours...

Insomnia and Oxen...

So I can't sleep. Somebody sent me this 'cause they knew I liked the song.

On the one hand, I'm scared someone took the time to do this with a video game.

On the other, I'm impressed he could "act out" the lyrics so precisely.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

one Thing needful...

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2006

Graduate-Level Problems?

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

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

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

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

Similar symptoms; two different diseases.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


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

Y'all Take Isseer ADVANCED Test...!

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sick Leave, Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2006


Check this out, all my theologically-minded peeps!

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

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopko Lectures at the 2006 Diocese of the South Diocesan Assembly

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

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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Eucharistic Relations

I did not commune this morning. Suffice it to say, I was not prepared. We'll leave it at that.

It's always interesting to me to deal with my thoughts on mornings I don't commune. Why are my sins, which really are ever-present in my life, all of a sudden so serious now that they keep me from the chalice, when on other weeks such is not the case?

St. Paul, it seems, is quite merciful when he tells us that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27, emph. mine). He does not say, it should be noted, that we are not to partake "unworthily"--for none of us could claim to be such--yet we are not to partake in an "unworthy manner." My manner of preparation, or lack thereof, was most definitely unworthy of the supreme gift that was offered today for all of us, and for all the world. A bit of the foretaste of that Day, perhaps, when all those who come before the Lord unprepared will see that they are unable to partake of His presence as joy and rest...

What is the Eucharist for us Orthodox, exactly? My thought while driving to church today was that the Eucharist is, for a person who's living an upright Christian life in relation to his God and his neighbor (especially his brothers and sisters in Christ), what sex is for a couple in a healthy marriage. Does the sex make the couple one? Not really; the act of marriage itself is what unites a man and a woman, while sex is the celebration of the union that's already been formed. In the same way, the Eucharist is not the thing that truly unites us to Christ--that happened at our baptisms and chrismations--but the Eucharist is the (if you'll pardon the somewhat vulgar pun) "climax" of our already existing union with the Almighty, a celebration of a union that is healthy and open, both as individuals with their Maker and Bridegroom, and as individuals in community with each other as the Body of Christ.

For me to have communed today would have been like cheating on Audra, lying to her, verbally abusing her, ignoring her--then turning right around and having sex with her. While such an act would probably still be pleasureable for a selfish b****** who cares nothing for the feelings of the spouse (in this case, me), such an act could hardly be seen as an expression of a sacrificially giving husband towards his wife (and vice versa) that is described in Ephesians 5. So, too, would communion today have been my getting what I wanted--to live like the devil but still make "my communion" (as if it were actually mine alone to be had) in order to look good or lull myself into a stupor of false piety--but in no way making it a genuine reflection of a cherished, healthy relationship with my God and my neighbor.

No...time to get off the couch, out of the doghouse, whatever--hey, I put myself there--and make amends. Transfiguration looms close...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

New Mexico

God be praised for a wonderous and relaxing vacation. The trailer my aunt and uncle own--we call it simply "The Place"--is in Angel Fire, NM, and was a welcome relief from the 100+ degree temperatures that were/are baking the majority of the rest of the country. Audra, Hope, my mother (we call her "Gammie") and myself spent the week before last up there and got a great deal of relaxation done.
We quickly realized that we'd left Hope's ducky bathtub in Ft. Worth, so the sink had to serve as bathtub while we were there.
Hope took it all in stride, cool as she always is...
This is me out front attempting to start a fire for BBQ burgers and franks. Said fire was, we found out later that night, illegal due to dry conditions that prompted an area-wide ban. Neverthe- less, the fire did its thing. Meat good.
Hope is learning Baby Signs (see the link for an explana- tion), and here you can see her with her version of the sign for "cat" -- brushing her cheek (supposed to be whiskers) and giving a higher-than-normal-pitched cry for a "meow." She got that cemented in through lots of practice using the neighborhood cat as an example. She's gained the ability to express, either verbally or through a sign, around 20 words in the past month, much to the relief of her parents, who now no longer have to be frustrated by the "she's STILL crying/what the #%!^ does she WANT?!" phase that plagues parents. Good stuff.
Walking in the path in front of the house, picking up pebbles ... good times. She did, unfortunate- ly, trip and fall on a larger rock (smacked her little forehead, but it's nothing a band-aid and kiss couldn't cure).
Audra and I were able to convince Gammie to watch Hope (because getting grand- parents to watch their grandkids is so hard, don't you know) while we took a scenic chair lift ride up a mountain in Red River. Here's me at the top...
And a picture from our chair on the way down, overlooking Red River. Very nice having this to look at each morning...
Got down from the chair lift, and this is what we saw; apparently Hope had had enough ... and snagged a bear in the process and promptly tuckered it out, as well...
Taos, another city in the "Enchanted Circle" area of NM, is one of the older cities in NM, colonized early on by land grants from Spain, as the monument attests to. Side note: IF ANYONE WHO SMOKES CIGARS IS GOING TO GO TO THE ENCHANTED CIRCLE AREA, PURCHASE CIGARS BEFORE LEAVING HOME! Cigar places are pretty much nonexistent, much to my surprise; I had hoped to purchase a nice cigar, sit out on the front patio of the trailer, and pass a relaxing hour reading, smoking, and looking at the mountains while listening to the wind blow through the trees. Finally found a place here in Taos where I bought a very nice Bolivar Maduro, much to the ladies' relief (they no longer had to endure my hunt for cigars, which entailed following this lead or that from every shop owner in the Circle re: where I could buy one). Enjoyed aforemetioned, early-evening smoke with book and mountain view. Truly thankful for the peaceful hour.
Went on a hike through an Angel Fire park. Gorgeous smells--we were suprised at how good clover could smell!--and humbling sites. Trails were well-marked for us; we imagined what it would have been like to pioneer places like this, sans trails.
On our last day in Angel Fire, we nailed down a rumor of a hot-air balloon event that happens every so often in the Circle. Unfortunately for us (or fortunately, if you want to look at it that way, as this could NEVER happen anywhere else in the country right now due to heat), the early morning fog prohibited the event from actually happening; this balloon was the only one that even got all the way inflated. Still, it was impressive, and it's a sight to see a couple of dozen of 'em floating over the little village of Angel Fire.
We broke up the drive both to Angel Fire and back to Ft. Worth by stopping in Canyon TX and staying with my Granny. I just wish she and Hope could pretend to like each other, even a little bit...