Sunday, June 25, 2006

A thee-post weekend. Rare for me; hope y'all's endurance is up...Interesting couple of days...

Audra and I celebrated our anniversary this past week by going out to Red Lobster (we didn't have to twist my mom's arm TOO much to watch Hope). After four years of marriage she's still by far the most incredible woman I know. I am dumbfounded that I got to "walk around the table" with this woman to whom I've been crowned, and now get to work out my salvation with her there to help.
So yeah. Then there's this. This is, no doubt, the happiest face I have ever seen, in my life, period. Hope's birthday party was yesterday, and I guess you could say she enjoyed herself a little bit. You could also, in the same frame of mind, say that Hitler was a somewhat unpleasant fellow. Many friends from the neighborhood and church came. Very blessed to have all of them there to celebrate the coming of our precious daughter into the world.
My dad, pictured here with Hope. He and my stepmother came down after the party (they weren't able to make it early enough from Oklahoma City), and we sat around and talked for about three hours, then went to dinner at Pappadeaux's.

Oh. My. Lanta.

If you EVER get a chance to order the Blackened Catfish Ophasophasomethingorother Platter, DO IT. Even if you call it Ophasophasomethingorother. Good stuff.

Other things:

Listened on NPR to a fellow who, upon attending his twentieth high school reunion, discovered that his mostly negative perception of those years may have been all wrong, causing me to think of individual memories and how they can decieve you. Have you ever had one of those moments where you'd swear on a stack of Bibles (or the equivalent for those who don't do that sort of thing in the first place) that something happened a certain way, only to have EVERYONE around you calmly tell you, in that voice usually reserved for mental patients, that no, it wasn't like that, it wasn't like that at all? There is wisdom in a multitude of council, mostly because it helps the insistent-yet-delusional soul get back on the right track. Except this time the guy was actually proven right in the end. Ah well.

Daddy duty today in liturgy; Mama stayed home with bad allergies. Wonderful as always to step back and be a participant, a member in the Body of Christ, doing what the ekklesia has always done, feeding off the Lifeblood of my Maker.

Went 0 for 3 on showing our house to be sold, and each time stood up in the same, inconsiderate way: folks called to schedule an appointment, only to call it off after five days of planning due to having JUST NOW looked at the square footage (special person #1), or call it off the day of when you've known for TWO DAYS PREVIOUS that you were gonna do it (thanks, special person #2), or just NOT CALL AT ALL and not show up (extra-special person #3). Seriously, do people just engage the For sale by owner folks and make appointments for kicks? 'Cause this is odd....

Regardless, that 'bout sums it up. Hope your weekends were merry and bright, as well....

Archpastoral Visit

(My apologies in advance for the sub-par photos)

A week ago today St. Barbara's was blessed with a visit from His Eminence Archbishop +DMITRI of Dallas and the South (we're spoiled being so close to our bishop). We had a full hierarchical liturgy, which was actually the way all services in the first days of Christianity used to be carried out. The camara was acting up, but imagine if you will the man in the last photo--a frail, bald man with a long, white beard, dressed in nothing more than a plain, black cassock which "is called 'the robe of salvation and the garment of joy,' symbolizing a pure and peaceful conscience, a spotless life, and the spiritual joy in the Lord which flows in him who wears it"--ending up like the first picture here, with each vestment placed on him serving as a reminder of all the different aspects of the office of bishop that the Holy Spirit conferred upon him for the building up of the Church and the right division of the Word of Truth.
In the earliest days of Christianity, when most every congrega- tion had their own bishop due to the small size of the Church at large, the bishop was vested in the midst of the rest of the ekklesia ("Church," or "assembly of people" in Greek), to show that he, a mere, sinful, fallible human being had been appointed by an apostle (who had, in turn, been appointed by Christ Himself) and given the grace of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in order to continue the work the apostles started for the good of all Christ's Church. Here in this second photo we see Abp. +DMITRI, still in the midst of us, his hands being washed in accordance w/Psalm 25:6-7 (Ps. 26 in Protestant Bibles): "I will wash my hands in innocence; So I will go about Your altar, O LORD, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works."
He then proceded to lead the congrega- tion in the rest of the Divine Liturgy as our father in Christ. I thought this was not only a good opportunity to get a photo of him serving at the altar with the rest of the clergy under him, but also to get a photo of our temporary iconostasis with the Pentecost green hung around it. Unfortunately, it seems that my digital camera and the new building don't get along too well together just yet. Hopefully this will improve.
This last photo is with me, Vladyka (a word that means "Master" in Slavonic, I think), and Hope after the service. Hope was fussy and clung to me like a velcro midget (she loved being held by him last December, but whaddyagonnado). He speaks fluent Spanish and was telling me about Orthodox liturgical materials that he had had translated for the Mexican Exarchate; he said he was going to see about getting me the materials I didn't already have. May God grant an increase in this area of outreach; efforts so far have been, by and large, quite frustrating, for reasons beyond me...

May God grant His Eminence many years!

Keystone Nests, Patty Sauce

This has been posted over at Seraphim's blog Ancient Church for a while, but I'm just getting around to "breaking the news" here...

He's got a section on "Orthodox Writers" that you can visit by clicking the link at the top of his blog (the link's in the sidebar). My submission is here, for those of you not wanting to click around elsewhere on that page...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Nena!

The party won't be until this Saturday, but "my life" (as the phrase goes in Spanish) turns one year old today! May God grant this little beauty many, many years!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Joyful Knocking

Audra and I stayed up late last night talking about the last five or so years since we first started that time there's been a lot of changes in our lives theologically, and each of our respective changes have been quite different from the other's.

One of hers that she mentioned was being lazy, allowing the "I don't want to" attitude to get in the way of doing morning prayers, the reasons being everything from "I didn't really totally choose this for myself to begin with" (I was the one who introduced her to the faith initially), or "I don't feel like God hears/is answering"...yet she said two things that really resonated with me:

1) "No one's making me be Orthodox." -- True, she can't ever say that she chose this faith via an objective decision, unhindered by any other relationship with any other person, but she's stayed with it, continued to choose it for four and a half years now. Kind of takes the "I didn't choose to submit to this" aspect out of it.

2) "I'm just going to keep knocking on God's door, until even the knocking itself becomes a joy." Even if God never answers, she said, the daily and yearly cycles of prayer are themselves to be a joy, simply because of He who is on the other side of that door. (She wanted me to say that that second quote might be from something she read in one of Metr. Anthony Bloom's books, but she's not sure. Regardless, it's deep).

Friday, June 16, 2006

Little Tortilla Boy

Pablo Francisco does the most amazing imitations I've ever seen. Here is his well-known "Little Tortilla Boy" sketch, along with other various imitations in a great standup routine on Leno several years back.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

They're Back!

OK, so they've been back since Saturday night. Been busy.

They flew in lat(er than originally planned), and both looked tired, but I got weary smiles from them both. Greater than I can express here to have them back. The house is alive again.

Pentecost on Sunday--this is the fulfillment of the promise, the "completion of hope," the moment when the grace of God makes up for that which is lacking in man and gives us the power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

First birthday party for little Hope E. is coming up in a couple of weeks. A belated shout out to my boy Alan and his girl Aubrey for completing five years of marriage on June 1. Yeah. I'm mad late.

Audra and I completed four years a week after that--she was in KY, however, and we've since not had a good time to make that up. She's finishing her graduate work and is usually on the PC whenever she can be. This definitely is a strain, but she'll be done after this summer, then it's on to actually being a librarian.

The Psalter--the steady flow of the Kathisma echoes, time and again: our sufficiency is not in ourselves, but in the steady, quiet voice of God who will not force Himself on you, who will not impress you with loud, grand words of thunder that shock and awe you into submission. Rather He will simply tell you, in that still, small way of His, that you are His, He made you to live in communion with Him, no other life will suffice in place of said communion, and no other incentive will be given other than the tranquil insistence of the Holy Spirit and the unchanging, secure witness of the Holy Scriptures. Compulsion will not take place here. All necessary grace has been given and is being given. We now must respond if we are to live, period, for refusal to still the raging passions for the sake of the even placidity of the fire of God will end in the eternal torment of one who, in craving novelty and stimulation, is forced to endure the hell of God's never-ending, always-contemplative, ever-worthy holiness.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Craving a Challenge

This post by Brother Aiden on oc . net (in the sidebar) is one of the most right-on assessments of effectively reaching out to youth that I've read.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


OK, seriously, I would make the worst monastic in the world. Wanna know why?

Seriously, it shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you once I actually tell you, seeing as how I'm deeply involved in both the blogosphere and an online discussion forum...

All right, here it is, my confession...

...I am a community junkie. That, and I've always been addicted to physical contact...not even actual touch would be necessary, just the presence of another person in the same building with me. Church, dinner at aunt and uncle's house, coffee today with Nick (Fr.'s son and the choir director @ church), the new gig I've got for the next month (may God grant) with the school district--all this contact with people has been a lifeline. 'Cause I gotta tell ya', I come home here, and it's quiet. And empty. And icons are precious little companionship. So AIM and blogs and theological discussions online ensue as an "out," some kind of contact to fill the silence.

A silence which falls back on me as soon as the PC shuts down. And it's a silence which, I know, would speak volumes to me about the hollowness of my heart and my need for God to fill it if I'd stop and listen, but...I really don't want to. As should be obvious.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." Sure would be nice to lean up against the holy flesh of the Lord right now...then again...would it burn? With joy? Or aching longing?
Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat


And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most


I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

~~ Rich Mullins

Monday, June 05, 2006


What. The. Trash.

Lioness in zoo kills man who invoked God

Mon Jun 5, 2006 8:31am ET

KIEV (Reuters) - A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said on Monday. "The man shouted 'God will save me, if he exists', lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions," the official said. "A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery." The incident, Sunday evening when the zoo was packed with visitors, was the first of its kind at the attraction. Lions and tigers are kept in an "animal island" protected by thick concrete blocks. ***************************
Comment: The Prophet Daniel. St. Ignatius of Antioch. Countless other holy martyrs who met their end this way...and now this joker wants to do this in order to test God.

[deep breath]


Church Saturday night and yesterday; a small group of guys showed up for Great Vespers, so a male-only service. Something about the quiet, even strength exhibited in male voices chanting a service helps me, somehow, to focus more than a mixed choir.

Liturgy was half choir/half male chanters (our ladies were under the weather and had to bow out half way through). Got my "baby fix" by taking my newborn godson up to communion. He's much wider awake now, though calm. A miracle unifying with his Maker. What a joy.

Went over to (and spent the entire afternoon in) Azle, at the house of a family from our parish. Good, long talks w/James, the dad, over stuffed bell peppers and Negra Modelo about life, history, faith, prayer, geneaology, struggles, family (and the identity that comes with it), responsiblity, iconography and painted art in general (both of which James has done), spiritual warfare, church politics, stand-up comedy, can see why this took up the whole afternoon. Was given a copy of the Psalter according to the Seventy put out by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, since he happened to have two copies. That translation (online here) is one of the smoothest translations for chanting I've ever heard; today's kathisma went by in no time.

I always love that sort of thing...when members of a parish just get together and socialize. No other agenda, not even any kind of service, just relaxing together as family. Good times.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Stuck at Home...

...and according to the photos my wife is taunting me with posting on Hope's website, I'm missing this:

Not. Fair. Seriously: who said she could change so much in a week?!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mission-Minded Parish

A breath of fresh air for me...

I know, Come Receive the Light has been in my sidebar for months, and I myself am just getting around to listening to this, but the link is an excellent interview w/Fr. Luke Veronis, an OCMC missionary in Africa and Albania, about being mission-minded.

Dat Bwessed...Ebent...

And now, the pictures from Steve and Luda's wedding! Orthodox weddings begin in the back of the worship area, or nave, where the priest will take the rings and place them on the hands of the couple. This is called the betrothal, where "the servant of God Steven is betrothed unto the handmaiden of God Ludmila, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The names are then switched and the second ring placed on the other person's hand.
The betrothed are brought to the middle of the nave to where the table with the gospel book, a common cup of wine, and two wedding crowns are. The rest of the ceremony will be carried out here.
Father prays over the betrothed, that God will bless them as He blessed Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Steve really is, btw, quite happy to be here, as you'll see below, but this picture of Luda is just too good to pass up.
Another "goodie." The choir was singing several different hymns -- mostly about the Incarnation, for just as God became one with humanity in the person of Christ and we are to become one with God in our lives, so the two are to become one flesh and thus give glory to God. Father seemed to get lost in this part. We are truly lucky to have this man as our father in Christ.
Candles were lit, one for each of the betrothed, as lights to reflect Christ, the Light of the world, the one who unifies them. Two candles, one get it.
Now this was an interesting tradition, one that is apparently Ukranian, where the betrothed have their right hands bound together by a cloth. My first thought was that, since the right hand is, in biblical language and that of other ancient civilizations, the hand of strength, these hands are bound to show the unifying of the strengths of each of the betrothed, working together as members of Christ's Church. (It should be added here that Orthodox couples in traditionally Orthodox lands, as well as some Orthodox here in the US--like my wife and I--wear their wedding bands on their right hands. I have no idea if Steve and Luda chose to do this, though.)

See? Told you Steve was glad to be here. ;-)
Father then takes two wedding crowns and, just as he did with the rings in the betrothal service, chants, "The servant of God Steven is crowned unto the handmaiden of God Ludmila, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" three times, then switches names. Audra and I had our wedding crowns placed on us, but apparently in the Russian tradition, the crowns are held above the heads of the couple by the best man and the maid of honor. (Xenia Jules, you should be grateful if you're reading this!) These crowns represent both the crowning of the couple as king and queen of their household, which is supposed to be a microcosm of the Kingdom of God, as well as crowns of martyrdom, where each person takes on a life of self-denial, a dying to self for the purpose of submitting to and serving one another, "that they may stand before their fellows and in [God's] sight as an ideal family and...worthy of everlasting life," having given their lives to God and one another.
The priest will then read the gospel lesson from the Wedding at Cana, where the Lord Jesus, in coming to that wedding, blessed marriage and "declared it to be an honorable estate" by His performing His first miracle.
These two pictures are the drinking of the common cup of wine, again an icon of both the shared joys and sorrows that married life will inevitably bring.

This last photograph is probably my favorite--an Unwedded Bride in the foreground, humbly looking downward; a newly- wedded bride in the background, posed in much the same way.

Many, many, many blessed years.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christ is Ascended! He is Ascended in Glory!

From last night's vespers service:
Without leaving the Father's bosom,
having lived with mankind as a Man,
today You have ascended in glory from the Mount,
mercifully raising our fallen nature,
enthroning it with the Father on high.
The angelic hosts were amazed with awe, seeing Your great love for mankind!
With them, we glorify Your condescension to us;
with them, we glorify Your Ascension from us.
By it, You filled Your disciples and Your Mother with great joy.
By their prayers, and through Your great mercy
make us, Your chosen people, worthy of this joy!

O God, You have refashioned the nature of Adam,
which had fallen into the depths of the earth.
You have led it up today above every Principality and Power,
for in Your love for it, You have seated it together with Yourself.
Since You have taken compassion on it You united it to Yourself
and having been united with it, You suffered with it;
as not subject to suffering, yet You suffered and glorified it with Yourself!
The bodiless ones said: “Who is this Man of beauty?
He is not only a Man;
He is both God and Man, united and manifested in One!”
Astonished Angels, some flying in glorious apparel, and some standing
near the Disciples, cried out:
“Men of Galilee, the One gone from You is Jesus, Who is both God and Man!”
The God-Man will come again as the Judge of the living and the dead,
granting to the faithful remission of sins and great mercy!

When the Angels beheld You ascending from the Mount of Olives, O Christ,
they cried to one another:
“Who is this? He is strong and mighty!
He is mighty in battle!
He is truly the King of Glory!
But why are His vestments purpled?
He is from Bozra, which is to say, ‘the flesh.’” (Is. 63:1)
As God, You sat at the right hand of majesty.
You sent us the Holy Spirit to guide and save our souls!

God has gone up with a shout;
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet,
in order to raise the fallen image of Adam,
and to send the comforting Spirit,
Who will sanctify our souls!
And, tying it all together today during Divine Liturgy:
When You fulfilled the dispensation for our sake,
and united earth to heaven:
You ascended in glory, O Christ our God,
not being parted from those who love You,
but remaining with them and crying:
“I am with you, and no one will be against you!