Sunday, February 26, 2006

Of Chews and Chips and Ceiling Whacks, of Cabbie Jazz and Kinks...

...Audra and I came up with that parody of a line in this poem last night...thought it an appropriate (or, rather, sufficiently-random) lead-in to this, a Shakespearean version of everybody's favorite roller-rink activity...found among various and sundry Shakespearean parodies here...
The Shokey Pokey

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

-- by William Shakespeare (Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

House Blessing

Posted quite a bit after the fact--this happened on the 18th--Fr., Matushka and their son Nick were over for the blessing of our home. Some photos:

The icon (propped up on salt and pepper shakers, of course!) of the Theophany--the revelation of God as Trinity, seen in Baptism of Christ--in front of the bowl which would hold the holy water, laid out on a white tablecloth, as per Orthodox custom.

Fr. Basil and Nick with Hope--Nick's "mean-muggin'" here...

A nicer Nick w/Hope...awww...

Matushka bouncing Hope on her lap while Hope had a serious conversation with her and Father, mostly along the lines of, "AwahwahWAH!!"

Close-up of Matushka and Hope.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 25 (and thoughts on today's DL)


We are all fallen creatures. Twice in this psalm there's the idea of innocence--washing your hands in innocence, and thus returning to the innocence of Eden.

Innocence involves a purification of our relationships with those with whom we worship in the beauty of the house of God (v. 8). It also involves our relationship with God Himself. This relationship, when restored to its original, innocent position of total dependence on God for everything from our next breath to our mortgage payment, involves not only a real change on our part ("my integrity," v. 11), but an acknowledgement that, even when we do our part, we still require His help ("redeem me, O LORD," the rest of v. 11).

Or, as Fr. Patrick says, "It is from the altar of repentance that we are rendered innocent, purged by a coal so ardent that not even the firery seraph dares to take it except with tongs."

Thought of this today, btw, during Liturgy...the Holy Eucharist is likened to Isaiah's coal, yes, but an even more direct comparison is the blood over the doors of the Israelites when they left Egypt. We, when we place the Blood of the Lamb on our mouths--one of the "doors" of the body, our senses--we prepare ourselves for death, knowing that death will pass over us when it sees the Blood of the Lamb.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Students are Risen!

WARNING: The following is an attempt at humor and should not be taken seriously so...y'all chill out.

"11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[a] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:11-12).

I hate to break it to Paul, but there's something he left out in regards to things powerful enough to raise the dead. It has been my very recent experience that there is, in fact, something at least as powerful as the power of God to inspire dry bones to move.

The name of this phenomenal cosmic power? School Athletics. Seriously, now: I swear to you, I have never seen so many dead-on-their-feet kids climb all over themselves (and each other) to make sure their grades are passing so they can play. I'm lovin' life right now at school, y'all. Good times.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I Love Rustic Churches...(Chapel in St. Herman's Seminary)

This picture is cool. It would be cool to pray here.

Fr. Dan Suciu

Went with Audra yesterday to St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Euless to hear Fr. Dan speak on Salvation and Baptism (two separate talks) from an Orthodox perspective. If you EVER get a chance to hear this guy, go. It is a rare find indeed when a person is able to intelligently explain Orthodox belief while keeping it on the level that your average layman can understand.

Check back here later on--either this evening or tomorrow--for notes on what he said. Of particular note: his knowledge and expertise in using Scripture to explain himself was both refreshing and impressive. Was delighted, also, at his insistence that knowledge of the Scriptures is a key--if not the key--to the spread of Orthodoxy throughout the world and the revival thereof in places it already is found.

More later...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 24


This psalm, Fr. Patrick says, is basically a reflection of this one verse, and can encompass the entirety of our day, and indeed our lives:
  • We lift our soul to Him in the morning; the psalm is prayed before morning work, at Third Hour.
  • We ask Him to show us His ways, snatch our feet from the snares, and guard our souls; this goes on all day.
  • We ask Him to remember us in this psalm when we pray it at Compline at night, though it could just as easily fit when prayed in the nighttime of our lives, before death.
My own thoughts here:

Thought of what Fr. Patrick had said in Ps. 21, that this series of ten psalms (through 30) was prayed, we could assume, by Christ on the doubt that those who "transgress without cause" are the demons who scrambled to have Him crucified.

vv. 10-1 show a psalmist who recognizes that mercy and truth can be had only by those who fear the LORD...and that he, the psalmist, needs the LORD's pardon, for he does not fear Him as he should.

v. 13 is glorious...Christ, the One who fears and obeys the Father, will see His seed (that's the Church!) inherit the earth. May we be meek...wheat that grows in its place--not tares which must grow with the wheat within the Church, only to be winnowed apart and burned at the last due to pride and lack of love for God and neighbor.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Yay! Church Interior Pictures!

Previous Phases:
Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3
Phase 4
Phase 5
Phase 6
Phase 7
Phase 8

The following pics were taken today when I went to church for choir practice -- we practiced in the new building, so I got to click around and see all the new stuff (thanks, Matushka, for facilitating the "tour" of the great new altar we've got (see below). The first picture is the approx. ten-foot cross that will go on top of the huge gold-leaf dome which will go on top of the building. It is, as you can see, wrapped in what appears to be Saran Wrap. Huh.

Next up is the pic of the doors leading from the narthex to the nave. These are nice, wooden doors that work really well with the tile that is, as you can see, stylishly covering the concrete slab that we all stood on during the Abp's blessing visit on 12/4. Yes, that's Nick again.

From inside the doors, here's a pic from the back of the nave -- actually, it's sort of a "second narthex," since the two walls there are there to mark the back of the nave and, being moveable, will help us accommodate lots of folks for Pascha, etc. We're looking at the four quarters of the gold cupola, which are still awaiting the gold leaf. Once that gets here, the dome will be leafed and placed on top of the building! In the background you see the red-carpeted amvon and the just-made, traditional wooden altar.

This is a shot of the cupola quarters from the side. The thing is huge; it's probably about 10-12 feet high from base to tip, then add another 10 feet or so for that cross that's outside...whoo, boy...

Off to the side, opposite the cupola, is our new kitchen. Huge thing, this kitchen, which is great for us; we'll be able to properly facilitate our Old Country Christmas sales, which require much preparation of baked goods and pierogi...mmm...pierogi... {drools}

Interior of the very roomy kitchen, complete with nice wooden cabinets and cabinets, sinks...

...a range, an oven, and lots of other good stuff.

This is a classroom that's on the other side of the nave from the kitchen. This'll be used for everything from Church school to Adult Education.

The amvon, with Nick and Matushka sitting on the steps, waiting for the rest of the choir to get here...altar there in the background...

And now a close-up of the altar! This altar was made for us and paid for completely by donations (thanks be to God). It's a traditionally made altar for an Orthodox Church, which--aside from the three-bar cross on front--dictates that it be made entirely out of wood. No metal parts or tools or anything. No clue why that is, but the altar's gorgeous nonetheless. One of our altar servers (Steve!) asked if there was any way we could leave this uncovered for liturgies...unfortunately, no, but I felt the same desire myself while looking at it...

Matushka is showing us the reliquary in the top of the center of the altar; each Orthodox altar must have on it a relic of some saint in order to be used--I can't remember whose relics are on our current one. Next to the hole is a plastic bag with four wooden pegs that go in the corners of the altar once it's consecrated.

This small cross is on the side of the "lid" of the altar, on the side that is to face the people.

This is a storage unit we had built into the back of the altar (facing away from the faithful). It'll just be used to store some of the Holy Vessels, I think--chalice etc.

Close-up of the reliquary, pegs, and reliquary lid (also with cross engraved into front side of lid).

The Church Fathers (long!)

The following is a reply to a friend of mine who wanted to know what I thought about this article...basically an article about what Protestants are to make of the Church Fathers. You can read my response below, or go to the post itself, read it (it's long, too) and read what's here underneath in the comments section. Anyways, enjoy!
OK, so I really liked the first part of Steve's article, where he basically sets up how to approach the Fathers: things like "The church fathers have all the potential values and limitations of any historical observer," and "the chronological distance between the historical event and the historical witness is highly germane to the quality of his historical testimony" are both very good points, w/ which I obviously agree.

I also agree with the idea that "a heretic can unwitting witness to the very thing he denies," though perhaps for different reasons than the author does. I see things such as belief in apostolic succession of bishops and the Church's preservation from institutional apostasy in the writings of Tertullian, for example, both pro in the writings made when he was a Christian, and contra when he was a Montanist. By this we can see that these two doctrines were held by the early orthodox Christians and denied by heretics.

Statement #4, about Eusebius, Hippolytus, and Julius Africanus, is good. Nice to know the author is willing to give these post-apostolic fathers a place.

Using the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the author says that "the mere fact that A knew B is quite insufficient to connect a particular belief of A with a particular belief of B unless that connection is explicitly made by the party in question." This is true. However, given the extensive nature of the training all of the sub-apostolic bishops had to have received from the Apostles, it's not at all likely that every last one of them would have misunderstood such a crucial doctrine, much less that they all would have erred on the side of insisting on the Real Presence instead of some being memorialists, some being consubstantialists, etc. The uniformity of the sub-apostolic witness on this subject--hardly a family reunion with arguing siblings or a woman slapping her forehead about questions missed--is too great to dismiss with an argument from silence.

#7 is one I hear a lot -- that the apostles misunderstood Christ's teachings, and the Church misunderstood the Apostles. Christ knew the former, which is why He promised the Spirit, which would bring all things to their remembrance and guide them into all truth. He also predicted the latter, as did St. Paul, that false prophets would come...yet the prediction about the gates of hell not prevailing, that the whole Church would not be led into error, stands, largely due to the authority of the appointed leaders of the Church to teach and instruct, that error may be overcome and the Church may continue to "grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ" (Eph. 4:15). That troubles would come is seen in Revelation, in the letters to the Churches, but as long as one lampstand remained (as was obviously the case), the apostolically-ordained community of the Church would continue.

The last sentence of Steve's article, which said that "a generic appeal to the church fathers can never trump grammatico-historical exegesis on this or that verse of Scripture," is interesting because, imo, the ante-nicean fathers *are themselves* the historical half of said exegesis! I assume, then, a father-by-father breakdown regarding specific mentionings of specific doctrines would help move away from such "generic" appeals...I do, btw, agree that too many people in Catholic and Orthodox circles simply say "The Fathers say..." with about as much readiness (and as little proof) as many fundamentalist Protastants who say "The Bible says..."

Der Fuerspreche's main idea--that the well-documented institutional apostasy of OT Israel paves the way for a similar NT Church institutional apostasy--is definitely one that seems as though it could easily be true--the NT Church was made up of people no less human than those who comprised OT Israel--but I do not see that specific prophecy made anywhere in Scripture. Indeed, the Isrealites are told in advance, by Moses himself, that they would indeed betray God as a nation and go after other gods, be punished, and return to Him. The NT Church is given no such prophecy by our Lord. Instead, the NT Church is called "His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23). Instead of doing things on behalf of all the people (as the OT Levites did), the NT priesthood (the Apostles, ordained by the Great High Priest from the line of Melchizedek) were sent out to do what only God could do: forgive and retain the sins of men, and bind and loose with divine authority. Surely this would not be given to an ekklesia who, being just as brittle as OT Israel, would fall away so soon into obvious apostasy, or merely given to one generation of men (the Apostles), with the understanding that it was to be passed no further.

Christ's rebuttal of the Pharisees and Sadducees with written Scripture is also often used as a tactic in debates to say that one can do the same with extra-biblical Catholic and Orthodox teaching. Two thoughts on this: One--Christ had the benefit of being the Logos incarnate; it's a rather safe bet that His knowledge of the proper interpretation of Scripture would be *somewhat* thorough. Two--Protestants in any age cannot claim this, as they are simply men and women who read the Bible and come to (often very different) ideas of how the Catholic and Orthodox churches have strayed from biblical truth. This is hardly the authoritative voice we hear coming from Christ. Rather, we should look at how the Scriptures were received by the earliest Christians and, if there is, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, universality, antiquity, and consent displayed in the witness of these early men with respect to a particular interpretation of said Scripture, we can ascertain with reasonable certainty the original, historical theological meaning of said passage.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Wondrous Extrapolation...

...thanks to Stacy for bringing the following to my attention.

Most of y'all read this from me last read this from sky at Now and Ever for a much more exquisite extrapolation of my initial thought than I think I could ever make...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Strange Meeting Day

Took the day off from school to attend the Divine Liturgy at church today for the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple. A beautiful service, full of light--and a very light feeling to it, as well--it was good to take a moment out of the middle of the week and touch Heaven for a moment.

Funny how those days can turn on you...the rest of the day seemed to be a blur of futility, one of those days where nothing gets done that needs (or so we think) getting done. Audra and I went to consolidate our insurance policies (car, house, etc), and a process that should have taken fifteen minutes took an hour and a half due to a talkative (but, admittedly, very amiable) agent. Then, up to school to have a pizza party for the Whiz Quiz kids I helped coach this year. I'd made announcements for the past three days. How many kids came out of the ten or so that participated? Two. Sigh. Looks like I've got lots of leftover pizza for lunches...

Yet the part that beat all came after about 3:30, when I realized my sub hadn't come up to my room to bring back the folder I'd left with instructions, assignments, etc. (we'd been down in the library that day). This was because said folder was still in my desk!! Not only had the substitute barely shown up in time to meet the kids in the library, but she had not followed my specific instructions to come up to my room first and get the folder to use for the day. This means playing catch-up on Monday with these classes (we're on block schedule). Double sigh.

Good day. Seriously. Especially in the light of the coming Pre-Lenten and Lenten season (this Sunday is Zacchaeus Sunday, folks! Pre-Lent is almost here!) of those "trial" days where we have the uncomfortable opportunity to continually hold before our souls the words of St. Simeon: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation..."