Sunday, December 28, 2008


In honor of the King and Prophet David (my patron saint who is commemorated tomorrow), I've posted a link to the akathist to him HERE.

From the Akathist:

With hymns and psalms let us honor the holy King David, who of all the sons of Israel was chosen by God to reign over His elect, and, through his seed, gave rise in the flesh to the Messiah, our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ; and let us say unto him: As thou wast delivered from hades by our Redeemer at His glorious resurrection, and standest now with boldness before the throne of His divine majesty, teach us to sing to Him a new song, that we may cry unto thee:

Rejoice, O holy king and prophet David, thou ancestor of God and singer of His praises!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Early Greetings

I will, because of the nature of the holidays, not have the time to blog during the coming festive days, so I thought I would simply greet you all early with the traditional greeting of "Christ is born!  Glorify Him!"

It's literally freezing outside, and a hard rain is falling here.  Audra and I prayed the Akathist to the Nativity of Christ tonight (found HERE if you'd like to pray it during the feast); the rain made for a fitting background.  The One Who is as harsh as the cold rain also uses the rain to bring forth life.  The One Who can move the stars from their frozen places can also make them shine with terrible brilliance on a manger and on terrified shepherds.

We sang tonight, and my mind wandered frequently, as it is wont to do.  One of the great mercies of Eastern Orthodox services is their sheer repetitiveness.  This seems to many western minds to be an odd statement, for this aspect of our services can often seem a tedious, unnecessary annoyance at best, and an unbiblical abomination at worst.  Yet I've heard it said that we repeat things 33 times or 100 times because we really only start to pay attention around time number 87 or so.  In true form, tonight the lines
 of the akathist continued to bring me back:
Glory to Thee Who hast united Thyself with us!

Glory to Thee Who Thyself hast saved us!

Glory to Thee Who upon us hast shown forth the abyss of Thy love for mankind!

Glory to Thee Who hast ineffably loved us!

Glory to Thee Who hast sought out the lost sheep!

Glory to Thee Who hast taught us to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness!

Glory to Thee Who by Thy nativity hast abolished the delusion of polytheism!

Glory to Thee Who hast delivered us from everlasting death!

Glory to Thee Who has given us a model of humility!

Glory to Thee Who didst impoverish Thyself for our sake!
About two thirds of the way through, we prayed, "Glory to Thee, O delight of our hearts," and I had to stop and wonder..."delight."  The temptation at times is simply to "get through" the service, to fulfill the requirements so that we can say that we've given God what He wanted. 

Keep in mind, however, the fact that these services are sung not solely because a Babe was laid in a cave, but because that Babe would grow up to be laid in yet another cave, one in whom no 
one else would ever have been laid.  We know that the One from the infinite heavens Who was brought from the Virgin's travail to rest in the finite cave in Bethlehem as the Sun of Righteousness is significant because He would take that same flesh--our flesh--and, having travailed on the Cross, would rest (wrapped yet again in swaddling bands) in a cave to bring forth light forevermore.

There are winds that blow around our lives--winds of economics, of marketability, of nations with borderless, faceless ragings--and our lives can seem small, weak, and poor.  We're reminded that a cold rain, or abstinence from significant amounts of protein, or an unforseen delay can remind us of how vulnerable and fickle we are.  At times, we project this on our faith, particularly when what is seen is a cooing, pudgy infant in a dirty horse trough who's being hunted by the most powerful man in the region.  Yet as we pray the following, something changes:
Jesus all-sweet and most compassionate, our Savior, Creator and Master!  Accept this, our meager supplication, thanksgiving and glorification, as Thou didst accept the gifts and worship of the Magi; and preserve us, Thy servants, from all perils.  Grant us the forgiveness of sins, and from everlasting torment deliver those who with faith glorify Thy nativity from the pure Virgin, and who cry out to Thee: Alleluia!
The One Who shines forth light from the Bethlehem cave will shine forth from another in Jerusalem; for this He was born, and for this we were created.  Our God, who was born of the Virgin for our salvation, effected this salvation through His three-day passage through the Arimathean's cave.  If this is true, if He is our Light and our salvation as our youngling Passover, then how can we fear anything else?  Death is vanquished by the Babe who is the Conqueror of all things.  Would that His light be our life.  Would that His life be our delight.

Christ is born.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the Nativity of Christ

By Saint Gregory Nazianzen (taken from St. Nicholas Church in Billings, Montana)

(This is often chanted during the pre-Nativity season feastdays; I decided to put it here for some meditation, just in case the bustle of the season was getting to you like it is to me...)

Christ is Born; glorify Him! Christ from heaven, go to meet Him! Christ on earth, be lifted up! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. And that I may join the two in one word: Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, because of Him who is of heaven and is now on earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy because of your hope. Christ of a virgin. Live as virgins, you mothers, that you may be mothers of Christ. Who does not worship Him who is from the beginning? Who does not glorify Him who is also the end?

Again the darkness is past. Again Light is made....The people that sat in darkness, let them see the Great Light of full knowledge. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things are becoming new. The letter gives way, and the Spirit comes to the fore. The shadows flee away, for the Truth has come upon them. Melchisedec is now fulfilled. He that was without a mother (being begotten from the Father before all ages) now becomes without a father (being born of the Virgin). The laws of nature are upset. The world above must be filled. Christ commands it. Let us not set ourselves against Him.

Clap your hands together, all people. For unto us a Son is born, unto us a Child is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders (for with the Cross it is raised up), and His name is called The Angel of the Great Counsel of the Father. Let John the Baptist cry aloud: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! And I too will cry aloud with the power of this Day. He who is without flesh has become incarnate. The Son of God becomes the Son of man. Jesus Christ: the same yesterday and today and forever! Let the children of Israel who seeks signs be scandalized. Let the pagans who seek wisdom speak of their folly. Let all the heretics talk till their tongues ache. They shall believe when they see Him ascending up into the heavens. And if not then, when they see Him coming out of the heavens to sit in judgment.

This then is our present festival. It is this that we are celebrating today: the Coming of God to man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is a more proper expression), that we might go back to God - that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him!

From Oration #38 delivered in 381 AD on Christmas Day

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fr. Herman

Today the Church (or, rather, the section thereof on the Revised Julian Calendar) celebrates the repose of our blessed Father Herman of Alaska (LIFE, HYMNS, AKATHIST).

Father Herman was one of the first specifically Orthodox saints I read about in becoming Orthodox, and, coming from a missions background as I was, I loved his example of how one should be, not only as a missionary in a foreign land, but also as a mere Christian in any land. The quote both in the icon to the right and in the banner currently at the top of the blog states why he is both so peaceful and yet so solemn, for it is no small thing to love as he suggests, and few more troublesome things than to see loved ones far from showing that love.


I was going to title this post "Reading and Being Read," and still plan to write such a post -- or, rather, finish this one -- with reference to something Father Stephen Freeman has suggested recently, but time constrains me from doing much at the moment. So, for today, happy feastday.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Feastday Greetings and Resources

Greetings on this glorious feastday of one of my favorite saints, Nicholas of Myra in Lycia (life of the saint). He's the patron saint of teachers -- and, yes, as it so happens, about every third profession out there.

Tomorrow looks to be busy. The modest scene to the right is what the good bishop left our two girls, complete with gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins in shoes and half-eaten carrots for the burro. He has, God be praised, successfully filled the "Santa" position in our three year-old's mind, as she has told us no less than half a dozen times in the last 72 hours that we must "hurry up and go to sleep so Saint Nicholas will come." Following the morning festivities, we will, Lord willing, be in liturgy tomorrow morning for the feastday, followed by church school for the parish kids (where I hear the good bishop himself will be making a personal appearance). I will be helping the 10-12 year-olds put together a banner of sorts of St. Nicholas' life, but wanted to draw any interested parties' attention to this interactive painting from the St. Nicholas Center website. By clicking on the various scenes surrounding the saint you can read with your children about some of the many miracles this beloves saint performed in the name of and for the glory of our Lord.
Troparion - Tone 4

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;
your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.
Hierarch Father Nicholas,
entreat Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion - Tone 3

You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest,
For you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ
By giving up your soul for your people,
And saving the innocent from death.
Therefore you are blessed as one become wise in the grace of God.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Deeper Level of Thanksgiving

This post follows the holiday due to my being out of town during the holiday but is nonetheless very timely. Fr. Thomas Hopko's most recent podcast with the same title of this post is a beautiful summation of life in Christ. We are to live life as "eucharistic, doxological beings," in the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann--beings who give thanks and glory to God--and departure from this is what deforms men into demonic entities who quarrel over their "rights."

From St. Paul, also quoted in the podcast and one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture:
"But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Epistle to the Colossians, iii, 14-17)