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.