Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Dr. Clark Carlton (in this podcast) and Fr. Stephen (in this post )have encapsulated my thoughts over the past few days. In particular, the following from Fr. Stephen's post sums up where I am:
"Above everything we begin to move our Christian life out of the realm of abstraction and into the realm of living. We pray rather than think about prayer. We trust God rather than discussing the concept of trusting God. We act on the basis of faith rather than spending time talking about the importance of faith. We make every effort to embrace God as good and at work in all things."
So it is with both regret and resignation (though also with peace) that I announce on this, the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, the dormition of this blog, as well. For the past two and a half years I, both as Peter and later as David (pictured right, to the left of the Root of Jesse and her Branch, cradled in the lowermost branch above the fellow on the floor) have discussed the things I think about, wonder about, and get angry about. Y'all have been wonderful to talk to, disagree with, and build a community of sorts with. I have been truly blessed. My "signing off" does not come, surprisingly enough, from my newly-enlarged family (though that is a time committment, to be sure), as much as it comes from this feeling that's been dogging me lately that I am doing the opposite of what Dr. Carlton and Fr. Stephen have been saying that we should do: I feel as though I've been talking about the cure that Orthodoxy offers the world, yet doing precious little to take the cure myself (or, at least, not taking it as often, well, or as much as I should). So it is that--until further notice, at least--I shan't be updating. I will be lurking around some blogs, though, and may even comment. This blog will continue to exist in its current form in case someone should need to google something that I, in a better moment, may have blurted out. Perhaps I shall pick this up again someday; God willing, I'll be wiser and more prayerful when I do so.

So, to close out, I wish all of my brothers and sisters in the Lord a happy feastday -- Sprazdnikom! -- and may the Lord Jesus Christ our God, through the prayers of His most holy mother, have mercy on us all and save us.

From tonight's vespers:

"In giving birth you preserved your virginity.
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life O Mother of Life,
and by your prayers you deliver our souls from death."

"Come, O people, let us sing today to Christ our God a song of David!
'The virgins that follow her,' he said, 'shall be brought to the King.
With joy and gladness shall they be brought.'
For she, through whom we have been made Godlike,
is of the seed of David,

and gloriously and ineffably commends herself
into the hands of her own Son and Master.

Praising her as the Mother of God we cry out to her and say:
'Save us from all distress and tribulation, for we confess you to be the Theotokos!'"

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who hopeth in Him!

Pray for me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Quiet, Meek Brilliance

The theme of "storied" existence is being examined over at Father Stephen's blog--that is, that we often, in our culture, live as though the heavens and the earth occupy two mutually exclusive arenas of existence. Our challenge, then, is to experience the epiphany (and abide in said epiphanic existence) that the two are not separate but united, yet without confusion; in other words, what has been accomplished in the span of a God-Man's transfigured body has also been applied to the whole of the cosmos.

wpe14.jpg (11975 bytes)What is maddening to me is the refusal of God to break in, angel choirs blaring, and announce this triumphantly and in unignorable fashion to folks other than those already willing and capable of bearing it...and, often, those who experience Tabor experience more light and stillness than sound and fury, the latter being the M.O. to which this world is addicted and which, so it would try to convince us, is the only reliable way to make an impact. Squeaky wheels and pushy, slick sales pitches -- from the boardroom to the evangelist -- are seen to be the only way to get one's message across to its intended audience. One must, after all, compete with all the noise coming from all the competition.

wpeA.jpg (12232 bytes)Our passions feed us the same lie, only internally. There the promise of sweetness, of fulfillment, of recognition, of praise, of (vain)glory -- all this is trumpeted loudly, yet all we are offered by God, in contrast, is hidden in Sinai's cleft and Tabor's quiet, bright mount. When we desire a divine scream that will silence all carnal appetite, what we are given, rather, is a command to be still when we feel like stripping a gear. We're told to be small -- to be weak in the world's eyes and bury our faces in our cloaks -- when we feel like standing up for "rights" that vanish in the light of the realization that all of life is love of other. We're told to be light when we'd rather be heat -- the difference is that of a candle versus a flamethrower -- and we see our God to be a Fire who will consume yet forbears now so that not even a tiny bush is consumed in order that a young, fugitive shepherd might get the sober, simple message.

We attend services till we can no longer stand. We join every activity at Church (assuming we are blessed enough to be at a parish with a sufficiently developed sense of community to accommodate this) until we have no more time for anything else. We may even fill our time with so much online Orthodoxy that we don't have to deal with our own parish or our own selves. All of these movements, these sounds, these flashing, neon lies we deal ourselves not only will not substitute for stillness, smallness, and genuine light in our own lives, but are answered, not in kind by our Lord (nor by our Lady), but are largely ignored by them, really, and the humble, steady, peaceful light streaming from radiant flesh is shown only to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It's been said by many of us impatient types that "relationship evangelism"--a phrase usually associated, through crudely and unfortunately so, w/St. Seraphim's injunction to "acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved" -- is really a "cop-out" compared to the more aggressive, confrontational brands of reaching the masses, for one can simply claim to be acquiring said Spirit while actually engaging in spiritual apathy. Meanwhile, "results" are not seen and the world is not converted. What's frustrating is that the genuine answer to this accusation provides neither comfort nor a solution to the aggressive soulwinner's burden, for rampant buttonholing and (apparent) decision-making do not (usually) equate to genuine spiritual fruit, nor does genuine, humble acquisition of holiness (always) differ in appearance from those whose silence springs from indifference, so the false security we usually try to derive from watching for "results" is usually ill-founded, for we expect fruit in days or months which takes years to cultivate. Yet it is this silent, light, and sober joy which will allure those who seek to live in a world free from the need to muster up all our own clamorous, pretentious glory.

Those who have that quiet, meek brilliance are the only ones, it seems, that the Lord tells us to listen to. Would that it were as easy to obtain it as it is to write about it.


My daughter and lovely wife were, by God's grace and providence, churched last Sunday. My wife has been immensely grateful for the return to worship within the community (I'm glad she's back, too). Baptism will take place, Lord willing, come this Saturday. Your prayers are coveted.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A blessed, glorious feastday to all. Take a moment, would you, and regard the icon of our Lord transfigured. Our life, then--being Christ's life--has that image as its goal for us. May Christ our God grant us mercy to strip away all that would keep us from shining with this light from Tabor.

Thou wast transfigured on the mount, O Christ God,
revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Thine everlasting Light shine upon us sinners;
through the prayers of the Theotokos,
O Giver of Light, glory to Thee!

A/C and the Weakening of Man

The Ochlophobist is doing a series of short posts (apparently) every day of the Dormition Fast. I highly suggest reading each and every one of them. One of them that caught my eye was this one. My thoughts on the title of this post spring from that post. So read that (it's not long) and you'll get where I'm coming from.

My REAL first car (as opposed to the ACTUAL first one which I totaled a month after turning sixteen) was a 1987 Toyota Tercel, the motor in which, in fine Toyota fashion, served me impeccably through 2003, when I bought a truck. The a/c in the Tercel worked for (maybe!) a month after I bought it. Never did work afterwards. Survived brutal OK and TX summers by rolling down the window and speeding.

Today after liturgy I saw the grass needs cutting. My first thought to myself was this: Oh, but it's hot in the middle of the day. My second thought: Yes, and my great-grandfather did so much more than this in this same TX heat; bring on this little bit of heritage. Sadly, 'twas not my own laziness but rather the demands of parenting young children (the dance of naptime, post-liturgy lunches, etc) that prevented this. Perhaps sometime soon I can indulge myself in a little hardship...

I've long though that we're actually doing ourselves a disservice with all of our medical "advances," if you can call it that. Were this several hundred years ago, I would probably have been killed in battle or marginalized in society due to my poor eyesight. Now I can go to my choice of optometrist and see just fine, thank you...fine enough to pass my corrupted genes on to (may God forbid this) my two daughters. There's a fine line between despising our addiction to ease (which, while making us less susceptible to natural selection, also renders us incapable of coping should said "Man vs. Nature" scenario actually arise) and foolishly discarding advances that spare us loss of life through easily-preventable means. That line is hard to walk spiritually, as well: maintaining a healthy asceticism--touching discomfort enough to remember it always ought to be there--while being neither self-abusive or overly-indulgent.

Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Martyr Razhden

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with it, I heartily recommend you read John's travel journal (starting here in NYC) through Turkey, Cappadocia, and, most recently, the Republic of Georgia (pictured right). His recounting of Georgia and its people, language, and religion had left that charming little republic fresh enough in my mind that it was easy to notice one of the saints commemorated yesterday: St. Razhden of Persia.

Yes, Persia. The hagiography on the OCA website reads thus:
"Saint Razhden the Protomartyr was descended from a noble Persian family. When Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali married the daughter of the Persian king Hormuzd III Balunducht, the queen took Razhden with her to Georgia.

"In Kartli Razhden converted to the Christian Faith, and King Vakhtang presented him with an estate and appointed him as a military adviser and commander.

"At that time Georgia was under heavy political pressure from Persia. Enraged at King Vakhtang’s clearly Christian convictions, the Persian king Peroz (Son of Yazgard III.)(457–484) attacked Georgia with an enormous army. His accomplishments in this battle earned Razhden his distinction as a brave and virtuous warrior.

"Before long the furious King Peroz ordered that 'a certain Persian aristocrat who had converted to Christianity and survived the battle' be taken captive. The Persians surrounded Razhden, bound his hands and feet, and delivered him to their king. Peroz received him with feigned tenderness, saying, 'Greetings, my virtuous Razhden! Peace be to you! Where have you been all this time, and for what reason have you turned from the faith of your fathers to confess a creed in which your fathers did not instruct you?'

"Razhden fearlessly asserted that Christianity is the only true faith and that Christ is the only true Savior of mankind. King Peroz tried to conceal his anger and cunningly lure Razhden to his side, but his attempt was in vain. Convinced that his efforts were futile, Peroz finally ordered that the saint be beaten without mercy. The expert executioners trampled St. Razhden, battered him, knocked out his teeth, dragged him across jagged cliffs, then chained him in heavy irons and cast him into prison.

"When the news of Razhden’s suffering and captivity spread to Mtskheta, the Georgian nobility came to Peroz and requested that he free the holy man. Peroz consented to their request, but made Razhden vow to return.

"Razhden arrived in Mtskheta, bid farewell to his family and the beloved king Vakhtang Gorgasali and, despite his loved ones’ admonitions to the contrary, returned to Peroz. The Persian king tried again to return Razhden to the religion of the fire-worshippers. But seeing that he would not be broken, Peroz instead ordered his exile to a military camp at Tsromi in central Georgia. Then he secretly ordered the chief of the Persian camp to turn him away from Christianity and to execute him if he refused. 'Your flattery and bribes are insulting to me. With joy I am prepared to endure every suffering for the sake of Christ!'

"Razhden replied to his appeals.

"'If he hopes in the Crucified One, then he also is fit to suffer crucifixion!'

"Such was the Persians’ verdict. They erected a cross, crucified Christ’s humble servant, and prepared to shoot at the pious man with bow and arrow.

"'Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit!' were the last words of St. Razhden.

"That night a group of Christians stole the Persians’ cross, took the holy martyr’s body down from it, and buried his holy relics in secret. A few years later Vakhtang Gorgasali translated St. Razhden’s relics from Tsromi to Nikozi (in central Georgia) and interred them in a cathedral that he had built there not long before. Holy King Vakhtang later erected churches in honor of Georgia’s first martyr in Ujarma and Samgori in eastern Georgia."
There was a post by Fr. Stephen Freeman on "What an Icon Says" a little bit ago--I find it stunning that, in spite of the fact that we're all called to live "life as Eucharist and icon," this man was granted the grace and the amazing honor to be a literal icon of Christ, bearing witness to his Lord's Passion and propitiatory death through his own crucifixion. My wife gave me a copy of Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints and Fasting Calendar by the Orthodox Calendar Company (highly recommended), and the hagiography there (the one I noticed in the first place) says that, when Razhden died, "Suddenly the sun was hidden, and at night a terrible storm began. A heavenly light shone on the martyr, which so terrified the guards that they fled."

Holy martyr Razhden, pray to God for us.