Friday, October 30, 2009

The Beginning and the End of It

"If anything, I think that both among Catholics and Orthodox Christians (at least in the US) our liturgical life suffers[...]because we have neglected the whole rest of our Christian lives. First and foremost this neglect[...]flows not from a lack of commitment to our respective theological or liturgical traditions but a general lack of repentance. But running a close second are those in both communities who assuming, simplistically and wrongly, that commitment to tradition—essential for salvation though it is—is the same as a personal commitment to Christ. It simply isn’t."

From Fr. Gregory Jensen, who consistently, accurately, and lovingly gets to the heart of all things pastoral. Read the whole post HERE. Please.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last night, the SVS Men's Chorale sang at the United Nations Prayer Service, a Vespers service presided over by His All Holiness, BARTHOLOMEW, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Very thankful for the opportunity.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mid-Terms Begin

Tomorrow I'll take one of two mid-terms (the other classes don't have them; papers will substitute for these tests). Old Testament is tomorrow, and Church History 101 will follow on Wednesday. Your prayers are always coveted.

Holy Prophet Joel, pray for us as we prepare and as we work. Lord, have mercy.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Here in America

To the right you can find today's festal hymns and the life of this great saint and martyr of the Church.

Following today's festal liturgy, I've been thinking about the saintly bishop's sacrifice; we need his prayers very much. He toiled to bring the gospel to a relative few in this land, serving both Russian and Syrian faithful, as well as establishing a monastery and pushing for English in the liturgy so as to reach all those around us.

There is a priest in North Dakota who worked with the Syrian archdiocese, now with that of the sons of the Russians, and in a manner reminiscent of the tireless hierarch commemorated today. and, while time will tell if the good Father endures to the end (may God grant), his current life of sacrifice and fidelity does not go unnoticed. Read more, and that excellently written, HERE.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Grateful for All Favors, Great and Small

Life here has been a challenge over the past month or so, to be sure. Audra's work situation and my study time have had to dance repeatedly as we struggle to find something resembling a balance for life as a family in this first semester. In spite of all of that, the willingness of those in the community has repeatedly impressed us; indeed, we're very thankful for it.

Also, we are thankful to those who've chosen to help us out financially rather spontaneously; that has been a great help, and we appreciate it.

Weather here has been rainy and cool; perfect conditions for "the crud," which seems to be working its way through (and out of, thankfully) the community. I went with the St. Vlad's octet (an honor to be asked to sing in said group) to Connecticut and sang the Akathist to the Mother of God for the feastday of her protection. Sacred Heart University had invited us to sing in a week-long celebration of the dedication of their new chapel. Since, however, I was asked to sing second tenor (I'm a baritone), my voice was a bit raw following the service. Couple that with the weather, and you have a very froggy voice come today's liturgy in the seminary chapel. Today, it just so happens, was my turn to read the hours and the post-communion prayers. Just my luck as well, there was only one deacon serving, so Reader David gets to read the epistle, too.

Favors, however, come without warning, be they via PayPal or ways more mysterious. I had chanted the hours about an octave lower than what I normally chant, yet when I opened my mouth to sing the first response to the epistle reading, out, unbidden, came my normal baritone voice. Just for the epistle. Post-communion prayers were similarly tough afterwards. However it happened, thanks be to God.

Orthodox Education Day was yesterday; I served as a "gatekeeper" (welcoming visitors and directing traffic), so I didn't really get the "feel" of the day with all of the worship celebrations and different cultural booths, speakers, etc. I did hear, however, that Metropolitan JONAH's talk with the teens was very well-received, with many insightful questions and comments from the youth. Thanks be to God, as this is probably the area of parish life (youth and young adult) in which I'm most interested, at least right now.

In talking on the phone with someone from my parish back home tonight, I hit on something about my time -- all, what, five weeks? -- here so far at SVS that seemed to express something I'd been feeling but not able to articulate. First the bad news: the pastoral aspect of an M.Div seems to be lacking in comparison to other aspects of the degree; this is obvious enough to someone looking at the curriculum on the SVS website. What's encouraging is that this is mentioned specifically by the administration; it's obvious that the "work in progress" mentality is in place here, and that this is a known area of need at the moment.

While it's not at the level I'd prefer (as if our 'druthers dictate anything), it seems like the approach to pastoral life at present which comes from the faculty is much like the approach to comportment of teachers in the classroom which I received during my time getting an education degree at ORU (one of several departments in that university that provided a very satisfactory academic experience, by the way). Namely, as we had "teachers of teachers" in ORU's Ed Department, we seem to have "pastors of pastors" here. The idea of formation doesn't seem to be (again, this being against my 'druthers) an academic approach of teacher-and-student but rather of father-and-son, complete with the subconscious, in-between-the-lines type of imitation that comes from living in proximity and gleaning from observation. While I may have to check out some counseling syllabi from other graduate programs to see about doing some remedial reading on pastoral counseling or what not (if the program does not change during my time here), the pastoral concern of the faculty here towards us is apparent, even given the opportunities we (and, I'm sure, they) have to complain due to financial difficulties faced by the seminary (which reflect those of the whole country at large).

Keep us in your prayers.