Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Theophylact on the Annunciation

"Because the Lord had once said to Eve, In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, that sorrow is now removed by the joy which the angel offers to the woman, saying to her, Rejoice, thou who art full of grace. Since Eve had been cursed, now Mary hears herself blessed."

"He who appears as a man is called the Son of the Most High; being of one hypostasis, the human son of the Virgin is in truth the Son of the Most the mouth of Nestorius is sealed. For that man said that the Son of God did not take flesh by dwelling in the womb of the Virgin, but that a mere man was born of Mary, and only later was this man "accompanied" by God. let Nestorius hear, therefore, that that Holy Thing Which is being begotten in the womb is the Son of God. That which was carried in the womb and the son of God are not two separate entities, but one and the same, the Son of the Virgin and the Son of God. See how the angel revealed the Holy Trinity by naming the Holy Spirit, the Power which is the Son, and the Most High which is the Father."

The Psalms of David -- Psalms 30-31

Our Lord's cry of the committment of His Spirit into the hands of His Father--along with the rest of Psalm 30--show us the Passion "from the inside," as Fr. Patrick says. The rejection and mockery of those around Him (vv. 12-14); His becoming sin for us (vv. 10-11); and His saving trust in His God and Father (vv. 6, 15).

Yet there was another whose soul was pierced with a sword, some say of doubt, others of grief, still others of silent suffering. Though her side be not pierced with the spear which would cause the life-giving flow our our baptisms and communions, yet her womb would, unpierced, bring forth the thereafter often-pondered Mystery which hung, trusting, on the Cross. As with her Son, so with her, and so it must be with all of us in that mysterious family: "You shall hide [those who fear You] in the secret of Your presence from the disturbance of men; You will shelter them in Your tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues." The one who was His tabernacle, who gave Him His fleshly tabernacle, is now "tabernacled" (as the Greek puts it in Jn 1) by that same, saving, flesh-and-blood Savior.

Her silence is different here. The Prophet David said, "Because I kept silent, my bones grew old From my groaning all the day long; For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; I became miserable when the thorn pierced me. I made known my sin..." Here, however, was no sin, only the Fruit of grace and faith on Its Tree. This Fruit had been borne in silence (minus the saving "Let it be" which, in echoing the creative logos of the Father, undid Eve's treacherous knot) by the one who was and is most favored, most gracious. Still, the sword does pierce, and the cry of Rejoice! from the angel and from the 31st Psalm must be tempered with Psalm 30's closing words; our Lady must be courageous and let her heart now be strengthened, even she who hopes supremely in the Lord.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blessed Feast

Back home from Amarillo; the services -- or lack thereof, as my granddaddy wanted it -- were good in the sense that his nieces and nephews (dad's cousins) came in from all over, and it was good to meet some of them for the first time. I was honored to deliver a prayer -- loosely based on our prayer for the departed (which, not surprisingly, includes a petition for those still in this life) and stated in "down home" language. Barely got through it, but it was good to commend both his soul and our lives into God's hands.

The hymns for today--the Forefeast of the Annunciation--and tomorrow's feast:

Forefeast of the Annunciation

Troparian - Tone 4
Today is the prelude of joy for the universe!
Let us anticipate the feast and celebrate with exultation:
Gabriel is on his way to announce the glad tidings to the Virgin;
He is ready to cry out in fear and wonder:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You!

Kontakion - Tone 8
You are the beginning of salvation for all of us on earth, Virgin Mother of God.
For the great Archangel Gabriel, God's minister, was sent from heaven to stand before you to bring you joy:
Therefore, we all cry to you: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.

The Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Troparion - Tone 4
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, The Lord is with You!

Kontakion - Tone 8
O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos!
As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity
So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Memory Eternal

UPDATE: My grandfather entered the next life tonight around 8:30.

Interestingly enough, Father had heard wrong somehow and put granddaddy's name on the "departed" side of the list prayed over tonight during Presanctified; when he prayed his name, he was either going right then or may even have gone.

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for his soul, as well as ours.


Original Post, Tuesday, March 18, 2008:

I received a call from my father today informing me that my grandfather (his father) Leroy, whose health has been deteriorating for a good long while now, is now in hospice care. His lungs are slowly filling with fluid, he is unconscious, but he is still grimacing in pain. They're therefore giving him morphine and just keeping him comfortable until he reposes.

He isn't a professed follower of Christ that I know of; pray, please, that in these last days of his life (barring a miracle) he would be ministered to by his guardian angel, any and all saints that would come to his aid, and by the Lord Himself.

Most holy Theotokos, pray for my granddaddy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

55 Maxims from Fr. Thomas Hopko

55 Maxims

  1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything
  2. Pray as you can, not as you think you must
  3. Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline
  4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day
  5. Repeat a short prayer when your mind is not occupied
  6. Make some prostrations when you pray
  7. Eat good foods in moderation and fast on fasting days
  8. Practice silence, inner and outer
  9. Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day
  10. Do acts of mercy in secret
  11. Go to liturgical services regularly
  12. Go to confession and holy communion regularly
  13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings
  14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly
  15. Read the scriptures regularly
  16. Read good books, a little at a time
  17. Cultivate communion with the saints
  18. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race
  19. Be polite with everyone, first of all family members
  20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home
  21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby
  22. Exercise regularly
  23. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time
  24. Be totally honest, first of all with yourself
  25. Be faithful in little things
  26. Do your work, then forget it
  27. Do the most difficult and painful things first
  28. Face reality
  29. Be grateful
  30. Be cheerful
  31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small
  32. Never bring attention to yourself
  33. Listen when people talk to you
  34. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are
  35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary
  36. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly
  37. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out
  38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance
  39. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine
  40. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise
  41. Don’t compare yourself with anyone
  42. Don’t judge anyone for anything
  43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything
  44. Don’t defend or justify yourself
  45. Be defined and bound by God, not people
  46. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully
  47. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty
  48. Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves
  49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice
  50. Be merciful with yourself and others
  51. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath
  52. Focus exclusively on God and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin
  53. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy
  54. When you fall, get up immediately and start over
  55. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame

Father Tom explains this list of maxims in an excellent podcast for Ancient Faith Radio.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 29

From the OSB:

"Ps 29 speaks of the Resurrection of Christ, who is the End (v. 1), and together with Him, the resurrection of the Church. Man's dilemma is the death and decay of his body in the grave (v. 10) and the dwelling of his soul in Hades (v. 4). As a result, these enemies rejoiced over him (v. 2), and his life was filled with weeping (v. 6), trouble (v. 8), lamentation and sackcloth (v. 12), and sadness (v. 13). But through Christ's resurrection (lifted me up, v. 2), (1) the Church will be healed (v. 3), that is, the body will be raised in beauty and power (v. 8) to immortal life forever (vv. 7, 13) at "the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come" (Creed); (2) the souls of the righteous in Hades were brought out from there at His Resurrection (v. 4); and (3) the Church is filled with praises (vv. 5, 13), thanksgiving (vv. 5, 13), great joy (v. 6), dancing and gladness (v. 12)."
An interesting observation from Fr. Patrick: he translates v. 11 -- ηκουσεν κυριος και ηλεησεν με κυριος εγενηθη βοηθος μου -- using the imperative "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper," while the OSB (perhaps taking their cue from the Douay-Rheims) translates it as "The Lord heard and had mercy on me; the Lord became my helper." Regardless, the Lord did hear His Christ and answered Him (Heb. 5:7).

Fr. George -- the priest in Tulsa who received both myself and Audra -- always mentioned v. 10: "What profit is there in my blood, When I go down into decay? Will the dust confess You? Or will it declare Your truth?" Christ's groaning in Gethsemane is heard in these words as the fulfillment of David's longing for freedom from his physical enemies. The answer is a resounding yes: there is profit in the blood of the righteous innocents being poured into the ground; there is redemption for those gone down into decay. The dust will confess Him, not just the rocks. In its quiet submission to apparent destruction and death, the death of a holy one does declare God's truth, simply because it is done in union with the death of the Holy One of God. When God's blood soaks into the ground, life sprouts. When the fruit of life falls from the tree of the Cross and is planted as a seed in the ground, Israel is (re)born therefrom. This is a truth that no cruelty, no intimidation, no princes nor sons of men can overcome; our Lord has heard His Holy One, as well as all the holy ones called by His name, and will answer all those who endured and died with Him, for they shall reign and live with Him.

As Fr. Tom mentioned in quoting an (I believe) athonite monk: Our enemies can do anything they want to -- steal our money, burn our churches, smash our icons, rip up our Bibles, etc -- but they cannot rob us of our death. For God is with us.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 28

"The voice of the LORD..." The word voice in Hebrew, qol, is an onomatopoeic sounding of thunder itself. From the Word creating the worlds to the Word becoming flesh, the voice of the Lord tears through the cedar forest, yet blesses those who are His, those who hear the thundering voice and understand (not all do ~ St. John 12:28-9), with peace from His throne, on which He quietly reigns.

The thunder is, as St. Athanasius also says in On the Incarnation, our Father kneeling down to the level of our toddler eyes and clapping His hands to get our attention. We, distracted and consumed with anything but the still, small voice, are unable to hear Him, often enough, because His still, humble proclamation is drowned out in a sea of our passions. So He, condescending, thunders. Ours is a culture -- a rarity when one considers the scope of religious history -- that not only would have trouble hearing a non-thundering God, but also of hearing a God behind thunder. The qol Adonai, then, has not only to shake us from our distractions to Him, but also to shake us to Him and away from that which originally shakes us, lest we fail to see Creator behind creation.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

An Early "Bowout"

Way back forever ago I started to go over the psalms of my namesake, David, in the Psalter. I dropped it almost just as far back ago.

So I'm going to do two things with this blog for Lent this year, and yes, they're related.

(1) I will, by God's help, be regularly updating the blog with insights from Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon's Christ in the Psalms and/or the Orthodox Study Bible.

(2) I will be shutting off comments, a trick I learned from handmaidleah one Lent, I think it was...previously-made comments will still be there (too many good conversations have been had to get rid of them), they just won't be visible. I spend way too much time reading comments, responding to them, getting sucked into the blogs they link to, etc...hopefully the silence in the absence of conversation will do me good.

Lord, have mercy.

Y'all have a very blessed Lent, and "we'll talk" around the empty tomb of Pascha, Lord willing.