Monday, July 30, 2007

The Procession of the Honorable and Lifegiving Cross of the Lord

A blessed forefeast (7/31) and--though it will mark the beginning of the Dormition Fast--happy feastday (8/1).

Troparion - Tone 1

O Lord, save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance!
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians
Over their adversaries.
And by virtue of the Cross,
Preserve Your habitation!

Kontakion - Tone 4

As You were voluntarily crucified for our sake,
Grant mercy to those who are called by Your name;
Make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power,
Granting them victories over their adversaries,
By bestowing on them the invincible trophy, Your weapon of peace!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Impeachment II

I (finally!) answered Robert here. Hopefully it won't be another week before I'm able to do something.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Voice of a Saint

Click here to hear a recording of St. John Maximovitch, giving a homily in Russian.

Holy St. John, pray to God for us.

(Any help in translating this into English would be appreciated)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tough Talk on Impeachment, and Christ-Hauntings

"BILL MOYERS JOURNAL explores the talk of impeachment with Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and THE NATION's John Nichols, author of THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT."
Part 1 and Part 2 of the above interview.

My Comments: Folks, we've been living in an over-centralized system of government for 140 years, in which Washington can dictate what will or will not happen, and dissenting states can do little or nothing about it -- they certainly can't leave the Union, that's for sure -- but here we have, within this system which would already horrify our founding fathers, a president who is further abusing said already-abusive system in ways that take the horror to new lows. Our President is clueless -- and what is more, the Democratic-controlled Congress is afraid to stand up to a clueless man -- so no one's bringing up the "I" word with any regularity. That someone -- and a conservative someone, at that! -- who helped lead the charge against Clinton should be calling Bush and Cheney on the carpet (as well as the current "invertebrate" Congress -- his words) is refreshing to me. We've lost our sense of statesmanship, so secession, for all intents and purposes, has lain murdered for decades. Let us not similarly lose our sense of obligation to impeach as the final check and balance to executive power gone insane.

Excellent interview. provide something else Southern Orthodox might relate to -- y'all read this by Fr. Stephen.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blinking at Trees

G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith spoke of those men who had been thoroughly convinced of what they believed in--and contrasted them with those who were only nominally convinced of the same--thusly:

"It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that proof of the thing, and he can expound it. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it. And the more converging reasons he finds pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, 'Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?' he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, 'Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the coal-scuttle . . . and pianos . . . and policemen.' The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex."

And so it is with Orthodoxy (big O) now that many paths, many inroads into my life have been made from various starting points (epistemology, aesthetics, work ethic, stewardship, sensory input, intellectual, emotional, and others). I believe that, were you to ask me "Why do you prefer Orthodoxy to Evangelicalism?" I would, in all honesty, have a hard time determining where to start my answer. Perhaps with the question, "How much time to you have?"

This was not the case in the beginning.

When I wrote the conversion story that's linked over in the sidebar, I wrote primarily about a group of particular theological issues that, due to a consensus concerning them in the Apostolic Fathers, I claimed as my basic reason for rejecting Protestantism and embracing Eastern Orthodoxy. If asked, I could (and would, and at the slightest provocation still do) prattle on about things like the early Church's treatment of the Eucharistic bread and wine as nothing less and nothing other than the Body and Blood of Christ Himself, made somehow mystically present in spite of the retention of the properties of bread and wine . . . the ability to trace one's bishop's ordination to one of the apostles as a hallmark of orthodoxy . . . salvation's being something that could be begun and thereafter lost . . . the practice of baptizing infants and seeing said moment as the moment wherein one is born again . . . Scripture's being by far the greatest influence on the Fathers' teachings yet not as a sole rule of faith and thus accompanied by oral traditions which encompassed (mainly) issues of how to worship, etc . . . the divinization of man through theosis and Incarnational theology . . . and so on . . .

I think it's fair to say, then, that my initial conversion, while hinging on a very real paradigm shift regarding several key theological issues within the context of my faith, nevertheless reflected something of a shallow artificiality for a while -- I look at those days as one would a newly-bound branch that's still held on to a tree through inorganic, unnatural means, without which support the branch would simply fall off. I think I converted, at least in part and temporarily, because I felt I had to based on theological arguments that had, to be honest, blindsided me. I was thus left in a limbo of sorts, wherein I had a place I knew I couldn’t be, but no place I could call my soul’s home. I had not been looking for or even desiring Orthodoxy specifically, and--again, honestly--when first confronted with the vast experience thereof in worship, neither recognized it nor desired it at all, finally converting more out of obligation and commitment to intellectual honesty (which, I realize, is admirable, albeit incomplete) than out of real desire for Orthodoxy as the life of God, as the Kingdom of Heaven. I liken the subsequent years of feeling Orthodoxy as the true life in Christ seep into me to that of a blind man receiving his sight all of a sudden, then being at a loss to describe what has been laid out before him, much less to be able to recognize the vision as beautiful and be thankful for it, blinking and squinting as he is for the first several moments.

Irenaeus said that the Faith is like a great mosaic of the King, and a heretic is not necessarily he who will take tiles from the mosaic and discard them; a heretic could be someone who simply takes all existing pieces and rearranges them into the image of a dog. When a man converts to what he sees as original, apostolic Christianity, it behooves him not only to recognize that not only must he regard the image of a King rather than that of a dog, but he must also learn to prefer the King to the dog—-no, moreover, he must learn to love the King through His proper image. I would dare say that this is the much more difficult step. It’s one thing for a man to embrace a faith because he’s aware that “the tiles just line up” in such and such a way; it’s another thing entirely to embrace said faith because he has stepped back, taken in the full image of the faith as newly presented icon, and been struck by the beauty of the scene. A man may convert out of obligation, out of commitment to correctness—-and anyone who converts to anything ought first to make sure he is regarding the proper image-—but there’s also a moment, or should be, wherein the man is taken in by a part other than his mind or his reason; said man has been caught by the Bridegroom Lover Whom he suddenly notices for the first time in this different way. Ask a man to tell you why he's in love; if he's really in love, he'll ask you how you could look at his beloved and not be. We have moved from the mind of logic to the eyes and heart of desire, and this latter is what must complete the former.

It is one thing to affirm the doctrine of the Incarnation; it is another to listen to the prayers blessing a little one whose infancy has been blessed by the Creator’s infancy and, weeping, rejoice. It is one thing to acknowledge the uniform shape of liturgical worship in the first decades of Christianity; it is quite another to stand in Divine Liturgy and awaken to the notion that you are standing in the Court of the King, and that with you in that Court are Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and St. John the Theologian and Evangelist, writing down what they're seeing in that Eternal Now.

A prominent Evangelical theologian has stated recently (and, most likely, often before that) that there is no uniform consensus in the fathers regarding any doctrine whatsoever except for -- possibly -- monotheism, and thus we are free to parse apart the Scriptures and bring them together in whatever way we feel makes more sense. I cannot imagine the micromanaging of the Fathers that must occur for someone to come to such a conclusion, but all I can say to that is that I have been convinced otherwise, both by the fact that the pieces of the Christian Mosaic do fit together in a way altogether foreign to the Reformers, and that the Church of the first few centuries agrees on and reveres the beauty within said arrangement. As much as I might jerk back to a "what about...?" reaction regarding a particular verse or what not, I have to ask myself why a tree should feel itself worthy to overrule its overall context within its forest. Christ may tell us that we are given to Him by the Father, but we are then told to choose Him and remain in Him. We are assured of our Father's love for us in Christ, yet we are warned against falling away from Him. We hear that God is not a man, nor is He like us, yet we hear of His rejoicing and His anger. As much as I might wonder about certain passages, what I've seen so far of the puzzle matches the front of the box, and that image, caressed by two thousand years of faithful lips, has taken me in. God grant I stay enthralled.

Why all this talk of knowing and loving what or Whom one studies? Why must we move from theological grocery lists to personal, breathing, penetrating Life? In essence, the latter allows us to bear witness as person, instead of as a litany of reasons. We thus become our witness, we embody that which God wills us to be, and thus provide "all things" within ourselves to all people through all the various facets of being a complete, Orthodox person rather than just a well-read answerman operating solely on the level of the mind.

How Texan I Am

Hat tip (of a ten-gallon, apparently) to Alan for this:

You Are 76% Texas

Well, knock me down and steal muh teeth! You're pretty darn Texan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Father came over on Wednesday and performed the short (and I do mean short, even for in, say, five to ten minutes!) service of the signing and naming of the child. Orthodoxy is stone-cold sober when it comes to our spirituality, but both mother and father of the now-named Katherine Ruth couldn't help but tear up at the prayer given by Father, as this is our heart for both our daughters:
"O Lord our God, we entreat You, and we supplicate You, that the light of Your countenance be signed on this, Your handmaid, Katherine, and that the Cross of Your Only-begotten Son be signed in her heart and understanding, so that she may flee from the vanity of the world and from every evil snare of the enemy, and may follow after Your commandments. And grant, O Lord, that Your holy name may remain unrejected by her, and that, in due time, she may be joined to Your Holy Church, and that she may be perfected by the dread Mysteries of Your Christ, so that, having lived according to Your commandments, and having preserved the seal unbroken, she may receive the blessedness of the elect in Your kingdom: By the grace and love for mankind of Your Only-begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed, together with Your Most-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen."
Anyone looking for an explanation of why we do this on the eighth day, as well as the basis for the naming ceremony in the first place should read this, from a site under the Church of Greece.

We were also blessed--and surprised!--to receive an icon of Ruth from a fellow parishioner! This beautiful icon was painted by a Father David in Seattle, and is a timely gift, since we were wondering when/how to purchase an icon of Kati's middle-name saint. This lovely icon--painted in a material I can't place--now hangs above her crib.

The service was attended by our parents, none of whom are Orthodox, so it was a bit awkward, but all were, as expected, very respectful. A good opportunity to bear witness to the very last thing most folks would consider "mere Christianity" yet which we would (in our best moments as converts) fit right into...

It's strange--sometimes I catch myself wondering how I wound up here..."What a long, strange trip it's been" and all that. Surely I never would have placed myself here if I had at all been in control of it or gone where I'd have immediately chosen to I wonder, if I--being familiar with the services, the prayer life, the, well, the being Orthodox--have these moments, what must our parents have been thinking, feeling? Were they wondering where they went wrong? What they could have done differently? What the odds were that two similarly "odd" young people would find each other and go off together into this bizarre faith?

A poem I wrote in college during my catechumenate comes back to me now (I'm amazed I still have it). If you'll indulge me and--those who are better poets than I--forgive my probable triteness...


You don’t u n d o t w e n t y y e a r s
in one.

This fabric’s a complex, recent weave
with new materials
new fabrics
new patterns
new threads coming in

Some of those already woven in no longer fit,
but stretch
and bulge
and some just break clean off.

They must be disentangled
(careful, now)
by hands that fear the unraveling of it all.

This will not be done in a year, or ten.

I will ever be surprised
(and often frightened)
by the patterns that appear
(and disappear)
throughout the years.

Even when I cease
to weave these earthen tones and,
Weaver willing,
move to patterns everlasting,

I shall still be weaving.


Yes, there're lots of names being called, and it's not only limited to that of our newborn. We call on the name of the Lord, that Name that shines forth from those eternally present icons of the River Jordan. The name of He Who has brought us here, for reasons we most likely can't even fathom yet. We call on Him, having taken names ourselves of ones who now are, by God's presence, what God is by His very nature. Their glory--and our hope!--is Christ in them, causing their souls to shine as sunlight even as they wait for what Rich Mullins has described as "skin as clear as the stained glass panels that make their skin, and [we] will shine like they do now...." should we keep that Name on our lips to the end, should we live up to those names called over us at our baptisms, those names called over us by our Lord and His holy ones as we approach His Cup...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Holy Noise, Kiddo Blessings, and Liturgical Gripes

Life has been good the past few days. Much illumined. It's interesting that such a momentous occasion, such a significant shift in our life should feel so organic, so natural, as if our family could be no other way. I remember the days before Katherine's birth, of course, but it seems to be a mere cerebral memory, no longer connected to the earthy, organic communion that overwhelms and establishes as normal. The moment our little one began to cry, having been pulled from the womb of my beloved, we moved seamlessly from three to four...

But of course we are four, my whole body tells me; how could we be anything else?

The four of us, then, begin to harmonize, with cries and songs and very peculiar mealtime blessings all converging at once. For example, our two year-old now asks the blessing (in the way only super-sincere two year-olds can do) in the name of the "Fahduur, Shun, an' Hody Britches." She then says, "Tank 'oo, Gaaad, for corn, milk, an' mokey cheez" (that last one was "macaroni and cheese," for those of you without toddlers). New, also, is the Texas twang showing up in her speech; her toddler independence demands that she tells us "No, I'm going to do it"; it comes out, however, (and here you'll have to superimpose your idea of a Texas accent on it) as, "No, m'DOOO 'nit!" Ask her, "Sweetheart, y'done with dinner?" and you'll get a "Yup." Tell her to bring something to you, and you'll hear an "Oh-kiiiie." (rhymes with "pie.")

Imagine all that, punctuated by the beautiful, bleating cries of our newborn, and you'll have an idea of the joyful cacophony that fills our house. Fr. Stephen has a recent post about real communion that is worth the read; the above is our communion w/each other, and I'm so grateful for it.

Now, not to put a damper on all the above gushing--I really don't have a dog in this particular fight, though we did just make the news regarding similar liturgical "atrocities"--but I am quite baffled as to the outrage things like this provoke:
Pope's easing on Latin rites sparks outcry

"Jewish leaders and community groups criticised Pope Benedict XVI strongly yesterday after the head of the Roman Catholic Church formally removed restrictions on celebrating an old form of the Latin Mass which includes prayers calling for the Jews to 'be delivered from their darkness' and converted to Catholicism...the older rite's prayers calling on God to 'lift the veil from the eyes' of the Jews and end 'the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ' have sparked outrage. 'We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday Mass, it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted,' said Abraham Foxman, the [Anti-Defamation League]'s national director, in Rome."
How horrible...prayer, of all things, by members of a particular religious group, which correspond to the beliefs of that particular group, for the voluntary conversion of a certain group of people...never mind the spirit in which it was given...Κυριε, ελεησον ημας....

(Read the whole article here.)

Hope y'all had a great Lord's Day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Heeeeere's Kati! (Updated Again)



May I introduce to you our lovely daughter, Katherine Ruth! 23.5 hours after arriving at the hospital, we became a (larger) family with the arrival of this little stinker. Perfect so far. Audra spent most of yesterday trying to dilate enough - they broke her water around 6:30, with an epidural shortly thereafter, which got her to the point where she was ready to deliver.
As Hope had been a C-section, we had wanted to try, if at all possible, to have Kati normally. Audra went to ten and pushed for about five minutes, when it became apparent that it was causing too much distress on the baby (like her big sister, Kati wouldn't fit). So a C-section was called for, and at 4:30 am she drew her first breaths!
She's eight pounds, even, 21.5 inches long, and, as you can see, pretty dang cute! We're thrilled to have the ordeal behind us, and thankful to God for His blessing.

And now, if y'all will excuse me, I'm going to sleep!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Brief Update on Delivery

I'm out running errands while Audra and her mother are at the L and D room; she's labored all day and they've only just now broken her water, so we'll be there all night. She called for an epidural right before I left. Lord willing, either late tonight or early tomorrow morning, Katherine Ruth will be here. Continue praying, please.