Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Help Father Nathan

David W at Pious Fabrications brought this priest to my attention; Fr. Nathan and his parishioners are the process of being received into the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate from Old Catholicism. He is very active in helping the poor and needy around him; as this is (Lord willing) the type of life my family and I will be engaged in, I think any help we could send his way would be beneficial (I checked references; if anyone wants some regarding donations, you can email me). His contact info is at the end of the video.

Talk about using the media of today to reach the hurting and downtrodden. God bless the man's efforts...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bridegroom Bellies

Tonight, Hope attended her first Bridegroom Matins. She fell asleep for about the last quarter of it, poor thing.

She is getting to the age where she questions why we go to church. Why we go to Church a lot. Why we go to church...and other family members don't. Or why they go to different kinds of churches.

And she's a typical kid. Church is long. Church is boring (except when, like last Sunday, she went in procession around Three Hierarchs' Chapel with her palm branch). So cool.

Oh, she's smart. Smart enough to know that Mommy and Papi think church is way important, so she's not going to say too much against church. And she does love communion; she's always disappointed if we go to church and there's not going to be communion (Kate is more of a coffee hour junkie at the moment, incidentally).

So we walked, just she and I, down the hill and around the creek to the seminary chapel. Kids have a marvelous way of helping you cut through the crap. "What's 'Bridegroom'?" she asks.

"Well," I answer in Spanish, "a novio is the boy that a girl gets married to. And, um, does the girl go back and live with her mommy and papi after getting married, or does she live with her husband?"

"Her husband!" she says with a smile. The very thought of its being otherwise is silly, as she has seen Mommy and Papi's wedding album and knows about these things as only a 4 ("and a half!") year-old can.

"Right. Well, Jesus is our novio, and we were in our boxes"--this is how we refer to coffins, as she knows about death--"but He loves us so much that He comes down to our boxes after He goes to the Cross, and He does that to bring us back up to His home."

"¿El cielo?"

"Sí, mami."

"Why did He go to the Cross?"

"Because of us."

"Why did we put Him on the Cross?"

"Well, our sins keep us in our boxes."

"So, He has to come and limpiar el mugre of us?"

"That's right."

No response after that. It's these kind of things that keep parents up. I know that there's no guarantee on a tit-for-tat, "Your kids will stay faithful as long as you do" arrangement with God. But something basic, something foundational, for her to hold on to, for her to grapple with an elementary context of faith and thus come to grips with the One who trampled down death by death for her, for us...this is what I hope for.

Another no-responder (though I swear she'll bring this stuff up a month, six months, a year from now): She looked up at Fr. John Behr, decked out in black vestments with the gospel book perched in front of him on the head of a deacon and, while he read a diatribe against the Pharisees that would make any seminarian cringe, she turned and asked me:

"Papi, how do they [the clergy] know God?"

I said the only thing I knew to say: "De la Biblia y de la Comunión, Mami, igual que todos nosotros."

Through the opening of the Scriptures, and the breaking of the Bread.

The Jordanville Prayerbook says that, when making the sign of the Cross, we "touch the brow, the belly, and the right and left shoulders, and make a slight bow." One of the first things I noticed about Orthodox praxis was the markedly different way in which Eastern Rite Christians made the sign of the Cross. Not only was it "backwards" in terms of the shoulders, but the tendency of Roman Catholics to touch the chest was different from the usually larger Cross the Orthodox made on themselves. That we are to crucify our bellies is a huge part of who we are (or should be) as Orthodox Christians.

Metropolitan Jonah came to SVS for the Feast of the Annunciation and, in his homily, spoke of how the Mother of God had believed the word of the Lord and, because of that, the Word was made flesh. We are all called, being members of the Church that is to be the Virgin--giving herself to no one but Her Bridegroom--and the Mother--the spiritual nourisher and the place of our birth into the Kingdom of God--to hear the Word of God by which all men live and, in seeing it as being the chief upholder of our life, break ourselves of our reflexive addiction to creature comforts, approval ratings, midnight fridge raids or anything else--and thus prepare a manger in our souls for the Word of God who comes to be formed and born in us.

Yet we know that we are "not worthy nor sufficient that [God] shouldst enter under [our roofs] into the habitation of [our souls], for [they are] all deserted and in ruins and...not a fitting place" for the divine One Who has come through hearing to lay His head. The faith has been planted, the confession made, the kerygma believed. It is in the community of like-confessing brethren that the fruit of that labor of faith comes to pass. As Fr. Alexander Schmemann said (and here I paraphrase because my copy of his journals is in a dark room with a sleeping pregnant woman and I dare not tread to get it), in the early Church, Christ was brought to be mystically present in the Eucharist because He was really present in the midst of the people's common, confessed faith; nowadays Christ is thought to be present because of what the Eucharist is, all by itself. We hear and we receive. We act on what we hear and we rejoice, for at the end of it, we can taste and see that the Lord is good.

So really, I pray that the word spoken to Mary and rejoiced over by Elizabeth makes its way into my little Elizabeth's ears and heart, so that, when she comes to the Cup, she is ever more partaking of that which confirms, and is confirmed by, the preaching which fills her soul and body more than bread alone could ever fill her belly.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Cup of Christ, by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

I received the following in an email from Fr. John Mikita, the rector of St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church, directly before Clean Week. With our entry into Holy Week, it seems this is appropriate reading yet again.


Two beloved disciples asked the Lord for thrones of glory, and He gave them His Cup (Matt. 20:23).

The Cup of Christ is suffering. But for those who drink from it on earth, the Cup of Christ grants participation in Christ's Kingdom. It prepares for them the thrones of eternal glory in heaven. We stand in silence before the Cup of Christ, nor can any man complain about it or reject it; for He, Who commanded us to taste it, first drank of it Himself.

O tree of knowledge of good and evil! You killed our ancestors in Paradise, you deceived them by the delusions of sensual pleasure and the delusions of reason. Christ, the Redeemer of the fallen, brought His Cup of Salvation into this world --- to the fallen and to those who are exiled from Paradise.

The bitterness of this Cup cleanses the heart from forbidden, destructive and sinful pleasure. Through the humility that flows from it in abundance, the pride of understanding on the carnal level is mortified. To him who drinks from the Cup with faith and patience, the eternal life, which was -and still is - lost to him by his tasting of forbidden fruit, will be restored.

I will accept the Cup of Christ --- the cup of salvation.

The Cup is accepted when the Christian bears earthly tribulation in the spirit of humility learnt from the Gospel. St. Peter turned swiftly with a naked sword to defend the God-Man, Who was surrounded by evil doers; but Jesus said to Peter: "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).

So, too, when disaster surrounds you, you should comfort and strengthen your soul, saying, "The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" The Cup is bitter: at first sight all human reasoning is confounded. Surmount reason by faith and drink courageously from the bitter Cup: it is the Father Who gives it to you, He who is all good and all wise. It is neither the Pharisees, nor Caiaphas, nor Judas who prepared the Cup; it is neither Pilate nor his soldiers who give it! "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"

Pharisees think evil, Judas betrays, Pilate orders the unlawful killing, the soldiers of the government execute his order. Through their evil deeds all these prepared their own true perdition. Do not prepare for yourself just such a perdition by remembering evil, by longing for and dreaming of revenge, and by indignation against your enemies. The heavenly Father is almighty and all-seeing. He sees your affliction, and if He had found it necessary and profitable to withdraw the Cup from you, He would certainly have done so.

The Lord - as the Scriptures and Church history testify - has often allowed afflictions to befall His beloved, and often warded off afflictions from them, in accordance with the unfathomable ways of Providence. When you are faced with the Cup, turn your gaze from the people who gave it to you; lift up your eyes to Heaven and say: "The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"

"I will take the cup of salvation..." (Psalm 115: 4 [LXX]) I cannot reject the Cup --- the promise of heavenly and eternal good. The Apostle of Christ teaches me patience when he says: "...we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). How can we reject the Cup, which is the means of attaining this Kingdom and growing with it? I will accept the Cup --- the gift of God. For the Cup of Christ is the gift of God. The great Paul writes to the Philippians: "For unto you is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:29).

You receive the Cup, which seemingly comes from the hand of man. What is it to you whether the bearer of the Cup acts righteously or unrighteously? As a follower of Jesus, your concern is: to act righteously; to receive the Cup with thanksgiving to God and with a living faith; and to courageously drink it to the dregs.

In receiving the Cup from the hand of man, remember it is the Cup of Him, Who is not only innocent but All-Holy. Thinking on this, remind yourself, and other suffering sinners, of the words that the blessed and enlightened thief spoke when he was crucified on the right hand of the crucified God-Man: "We receive the due reward of our deeds... Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23:41-42). And then, turning to the people, you will say to them: Blessed are you who are instruments of righteousness and of God's mercy, blessed are you from henceforth and for ever! (If they are not in a fit state to understand and receive your words, do not cast your precious pearls of humility under the feet of those who cannot value them, but say these words in thought and heart.) By this alone will you fulfill the commandment of the Gospel which says: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you..." (Matt. 5:44).

Pray to the Lord on behalf of those who have insulted and outraged you that what they have done for you should be repaid by a temporal blessing and the eternal reward of salvation, and that, when they stand before Christ to be judged, it should be counted to them as if it had been an act of virtue. Although your heart does not wish to act in this way, compel it to do so, because only those who do violence to their own heart, in fulfilling the commandments of the Gospel, can inherit Heaven.

If you have not the will to act in this way, then you have not the will to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look deep within yourself and consider searchingly: have you not found another teacher, the teacher of hatred - the devil - and fallen under his power?

It is a terrible transgression to offend or to oppress one's neighbor: it is a most terrible transgression to commit murder. But whoever hates his oppressor, his slanderer, his betrayer, his murderer, and whoever thinks ill of them and takes revenge on them, commits a sin very near to their sin. In vain does he pretend to himself and others that he is righteous. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer of man, proclaimed St. John, the beloved disciple of Christ (I John 3:15).

A living faith in Christ teaches one to receive the Cup of Christ, and the Cup of Christ inspires hope in the heart of him who receives it; and hope in Christ gives strength and consolation to the heart. What torment, what torment of hell, to complain or to murmur against the Cup that is pre-ordained from above! Murmuring, impatience, faintheartedness and especially despair are sins before God --- they are the ugly children of sinful disbelief.

It is sinful to complain of neighbors, when they are the instruments of our suffering; still more sinful is it when we cry out against the Cup that comes down to us straight from Heaven --- from the right hand of God.

But he who drinks the cup - with thanksgiving to God and blessings on his neighbor - achieves holy serenity --- the grace of the peace of Christ. It is as if already he enjoys God's spiritual Paradise.

Temporal suffering has no importance in itself: we lend it significance because of our attachment to the earth and to all corruptible things, and through our coldness towards Christ and eternity. You are prepared: to bear the bitter and repellent taste of medicines; to bear the painful amputation and cauterization of your limbs; to bear the long drawn out suffering of hunger, and prolonged seclusion in your room. You are prepared to bear all this to restore lost health to your body, which after it is healed will certainly become ill again, and will certainly die and become corrupt. Bear, then, the bitterness of the Cup of Christ, which brings healing and eternal beatitude to your immortal soul.

If the Cup appears to you to be unbearable, deadly, then it reveals that although you bear Christ's name, you do not belong to Christ. For the true followers of Christ, the Cup of Christ is the Cup of joy. Thus, the holy apostles - after having been beaten before the gathering of the elders of the Jews - went out from the presence of the council rejoicing --- that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 5:40-41).

Righteous Job heard bitter news. Tiding after tiding came to pierce his steadfast heart; the last of these was the hardest: all his sons and daughters had been struck down suddenly by a cruel and violent death. In his great sorrow, he rent his clothes and covered his head with ashes. And then - in submissive faith - he fell down upon the ground, and worshipped the Lord saying, "I myself came naked from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, the Lord has taken away: as it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blessed Feast!

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!

One of the things that this feast always brings to mind the Akathistos hymn to the Theotokos--one of the most glorious proclamations of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God which is with us now. The Kontakion above is chanted at the beginning and end of it; how odd it is that, this year for New Calendar folks, the hymn was sung last Saturday and Annunciation follows it. Definitely not typical; this will be the only time this century when Pascha falls on April 4th -- the absolute earliest day on which Pascha could occur.

Another thought the feast usually brings up for me is how much it impressed itself on the mind of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, how otherworldly and transcendent the feast was for him. From his journals:
"Sunday night and Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation--a breakthrough of radieant eternity with the voice of the Archangel. How difficult to preserve the feast, to live by its light! Once the celebration is over, everything contrives to stifle the silence, the peace, the light of the feast and pushes one into the usual hustle." (Wed. 27 Mar 1974)

"Feast of the Annunciation--my most loved of all loved feasts! Standing in the sanctuary during the Vigil listening to these exultant hymns: "...proclaim, O Earth, the news of a great joy; sing, O Heavens, the glory of the Lord," I thought: How could there be problems? Doesn't our whole life consist in accepting and assimilating this joy from on high, in making it ours, in seeing and accepting this joy as eternally new?" (Fri. 25 Mar 1977)
A blessed feast to all who celebrate it today, and may our upcoming journey from Lazarus' Tomb to Christ's be a blessed one.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on Sola Fide, God's "Tough Love"

Long-time friend and commenter Rhology has asked me if my brief line concerning sola fide is actually representative of my thoughts concerning it. True, it was a throw-away line, and yes, it needs to be unpacked.

I get it that, properly engaged, sola fide means to lead the believer to a life of holiness. That it means that "true faith" will "flip a switch" whereby the true believer will become sanctified (though how quickly and how thoroughly in this life is never addressed).

The problem with this is that it's all a psychological construct. There's not a way to know that you've actually come across true faith. Reformers tend to quote the admonition to "make one's calling and election sure," but if you aren't sure of your calling's permanence to begin with, and if you have to make your calling and election sure (active verb), then what's the point of acting as if you're actually sure of salvation?

Sure, you can say you're "pretty sure," even admit you're "not 100% sure, but pretty dang close," but then again, that's no assurance. From your point of view, you can't be sure that you're not actually damned now, but just completely deluding your own self before you wind up abandoning God later on.

What I'm saying, then, is this: Sola Fide may be a good concept on paper, but it's not how anybody actually lives out their Christian life. Everyone knows, whether by gut instinct or life experience or James 2.22 that faith must be made perfect by works.

Darlene also asked about my quoting the Ochlophobist's post, as she was concerned (among other things) about the "hopeless" tone therein.

I linked to Och's article because it is a stellar example of someone who has struggled with the untenable position of "really, really, really knowing that I'm saved" business and found it wanting, and I can relate to that. But more than that, there's the idea of a real lack of a mindfulness of hell in American religion in general, even in (and at times, especially in) Orthodoxy. We have things like The River of Fire and Romanides' Patristic Theology which, for all their good points, make unqualified statements that say that God has no wrath and that hell is just love experienced negatively. And it's dangerous to talk that way, because Scripture doesn't talk that way at all, and making statements like that without qualifying or explaining them is extremely unwise and unpastoral, I think. (For a very balanced treatment, in my opinion, of the subject, reference the audio files of some talks by Fr. Thomas Hopko in this old post of mine, as well as this post on Athanasius from the day after).

Is the Orthodox view of salvation hopeless? I don't think so. From a post I put both on this blog and (originally) on a discussion forum:
"When you take the stated doctrine of having all your sins completely and permanently wiped out, forever, of never having to deal with any kind of ascetic effort in order to arrive at purification and sanctification, and are 'free' to rejoice in a perceived spiritual perfection that God has granted you apart from any obedience you may or may not have actually walked in -- well, as virtual and artificial as it may sound when I put it that way, it does make for a VERY grateful reaction on the part of the believer. 'He who has been forgiven much, loves much,' and all that. The Evangelical perceives that his sins have been declared null and void through the legal transaction of the blood of Christ before the Father, and so they are free simply to rejoice in an already finished righteousness, an already guaranteed place in heaven. Couple this grateful state with AGRESSIVE memorization of proof-texts that seem to bolster this teaching, and you have the added rush of thinking that God's biblical stamp of approval supports the idea, adding confidence to enthusiastic gratitude.

"It is difficult, then, to put Orthodoxy next to that and say, 'Christ has died and risen again; through baptism we are brought into His Kingdom so that we would have the POTENTIAL of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, making every effort to enter into the rest He prepared for us through His Passion and Resurrection. The enemy, however, still prowls around as the wolf of souls, seeking to make us his prey, so we must be ever mindful of sinful habits that remain in our lives, as they could be occasion for the enemy to gain a foothold. Our life in Christ consists of constant vigilance, constant repentance, constant participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and constant sorrow and (should God grant) true tears of repentance over our state as 'chief of sinners' so that we might gain times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord which is the comfort for those who have mourned.'

"Evangelicals will say that this gospel has been tried and found wanting, pointing to the Orthodox hierarchs' and clergy's moral failure, as well as the laity's laxity and lack of fervor in studying about and participating in their faith outside of services. I would say that the faith is not so much tried and found wanting as it has been found difficult and left untried."
I'm convinced, Darlene, that though the Orthodox Church will not state the comfortable teaching found in Calvinism of a guaranteed place in heaven which one can know about in this life--and in doing so they make hell a very real part of the whole picture--it is better to have uncomfortable truth than a comfortable lie when it comes to God.

Friday, March 19, 2010

God Is No Fool

Fr. Stephen Freeman and John of the Commonplace Book have commented on Peter Hitchen's road to faith, and our friendly neighborhood Ochlophobist has commented on the fear of hell which Hitchen seemed to perceive through a particular image of Rogier van der Weyden.

I never bought the idea that, because of sola fide, my works had no effect on my life, nor my eternal life. I can relate to much of what Owen has written.

My grandmother--may her memory be eternal--had a book called "God is No Fool," which I remember reading as a young boy. I do not remember reading a book that resonated with me nearly as profoundly as that one. That I would end up in a faith that continually keeps one in a state of tension between "You are merciful and desire not the death of a sinner," and "My bones are strewn near hell" is not surprising.

What is ironic (and very, very sad) about this particular devotional jewel of the late sixties is that the new, 2009 printing has moved away, it seems, both from the wonderful cover and the even better subtitle ("WHO DO YOU THINK YOU'RE KIDDING?") that I remember from my grandmother's copy. I dearly hope that the editors in charge who have chosen to replace this cover...

...with this brighter, cheerier, cover...

...and have taken away the subtitle have left the text within untouched.

I found some of the excerpts from the book online that offer a taste of the work:
They say that God has infinite patience,
And that is a great comfort.
They say God is always there,
And that is a deep satisfaction.
They say that God will always take you back,
And I get lazy in that certitude.
They say that God never gives up,
And I count on that.
They say you can go away for years and years,
And He’ll be there, waiting, when you come back.
They say you can make mistake after mistake,
And God will always forgive and forget.
They say lots of things,
these people who never read the Old Testament.
There comes a time,
A definite, for-sure time,
When God turns around.
I don’t believe God shed His skin
When Christ brought in the New Testament;
Christ showed us a new side of God,
And it is truly wonderful.
But He didn’t change God.
God remains forever and ever,
And that God is no fool.
And again:
Who would I be? If I were then?

Would I stand on the curb and watch him go by?
Would I have knocked off for the afternoon to see what he had to say?
Would I have raised my eyebrows and wondered what all the excitement was about?
Would I have stood with a few on the corner and wondered pettishly, when were the authorities going to put a stop to this thing before it got out of hand!
Would I have drunk it all in, and been wide-eyed and wide-hearted with wonder?
Would I have clinched my opinion as soon as I saw he was associating with some of "those" kinds of people?
Would I have smiled benevolently at the stories of wonders and healings?
Would I have wanted to get his autograph?
Would I have stood aside and waited thoughtfully--oh so thoughtfully--for him to prove himself fact or fiction?.......
Isn't it nice to be here, now, for we can't make those mistakes.

God have mercy on us.
God have mercy on us.
And, yet again:
The pain of pain is disappointment, for it cannot be taped or healed or cut away. Dull, creeping out of nowhere, it settles and seeps, covering heart, mind and perspective.

The task that loomed as special, glowing with promise and challenge, slips into meaninglessness. The task aimed at, sought for, planned on, arrives; and what glowed is tarnished, and what beckoned seems hollow. And disappointment smothers.

The eyes that loomed as special, glowing with warmth and shared moments, slip into the sea of uncaring eyes. Moments awaited, arrive; and untrue words rattle aimlessly around the room. What seemed real now appears false; what appeared expansive now narrows. And disappointment smothers.

One could become angry and feel cheated in the disappointments that move into hopes, dreams, and daily steps. One could turn hard, cold--except for two questions.

How many times do others watch me in dull disappointment?
How often do the eyes of Christ look on, throbbing in disappointment?

God have mercy on us.
I cringe when I read the description on Amazon for the 2009 printing:
"In 1969, "God is No Fool" delighted readers, consoled them, provoked them and inspired them to consider God and life in new ways. The short musings in the book are funny, earnest, loving, probing and full of joy. Reading this book, you will embark on a journey whose ultimate destination is a better understanding of faith, people and the world around you. On the 40th anniversary of the original publication, Lois Cheney's reflections are as powerful and necessary as ever."
God have mercy on us.
God have mercy on us.

Monday, March 01, 2010

On Spanish Greeks and Palamite Parishes

I am up later than I probably should be, but am taking the time now after having cranked out the entirety of one paper (due Wednesday) and the majority of another, longer one (due Thursday, but will consult with prof on Wednesday regarding content, interpretation, etc). The latter paper is for a class in iconology with Richard Schneider, a class which I am enjoying immensely, for more than one reason. Firstly, prior to taking this course, I was entirely unfamiliar both with the structure of literary rhetoric and with how such rhetoric was purposefully reflected in visual art. The class is quite rigorous; much new terminology to memorize and apply. Secondly, I am receiving a course on the conventions of visual art--focusing mainly on Christian iconography, of course--from a man who teaches concurrently at the University of Toronto and is a respected figure in his field. It is an excellent way to try to get ahead in my M.Div. program.

Living just to the north of New York City puts events within striking distance that only come to this continent once in a lifetime. One such event was the display at the Onassis Cultural Center. (NY Times review HERE). On display were several byzantine icons from Venetian Crete, as well as several icons from Andreas Pavias, Michael Damaskenos, and Giorgios Klontzas, and (the main attraction) icons and paintings from Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known to the world as El Greco. His recension of the Dormition of the Virgin is seen to the right, with the triple figura of the Theotokos as corpse, newly-borne soul, and enthroned Queen of Heaven. I remember studying El Greco in my AP Spanish Literature course, though we mostly covered his better-known works (which were reviled in his day) such as Coronation of the Virgin and the Burial of the Count of Orgaz. It is interesting how the elongated figures of his later works are a sort of superimposition of Byzantine, iconographic elongation upon manneristic, natural depiction. Also interesting to see was the way in which the starving artists of Crete and Venice catered to their patrons (the Roman Catholic ruling minority) and painted composite works with byzantine, hieratic axes flanked by extremely narrative, emotive western figurae.

Hope went with me (she was eager for some Papi time and I for some one-on-one daughter time) and, bless her heart, was great. We rode the subway in and walked about a half a mile. Hope is quite easily one of the most observant children I have ever known, with one of the best memories. She was incredibly involved in the images once we got to the display, and not just from getting a "head start" on these scenes from church. She got several comments from fellow observers who were impressed by the things she pointed out. Mimesis is definitely one of this kid's strong suits. We took a break and had lunch in the outside corridor (PB&J), then went back in for the rest of the images. I do believe the high point for me was standing in front of Giorgios Klontzas' work In Thee Rejoiceth (pictured left) and, crossing myself, singing the hymn it depicted (known to most English-speaking Orthodox as "All of Creation Rejoiceth in You").

Today we travelled to Glen Gardner, NJ for Divine Liturgy and had the pleasure of meeting the warm, faithful brethren at St. Gregory Palamas Church (mentioned in a previous post as the generous souls who "adopted" us during the Christmas season. We had sent them pictures of the girls opening their gifts and were surprised to find them up on display in their hall (they did not know we were coming, though I had left a message). Father Thomas was concelebrating with Fr. Paul Shafran, a priest of many faithful years and one of the first graduates of my current place of studies. Again Hope proved interesting. She looked at the aged priest and, turning to me with a crinkled nose, said, "But he's so old, Papi!"

"Yes, and that is why we must be so nice to him and do what he says, because he knows better." It is interesting that, somehow (Lord, help her) Hope has picked up on the notion that old people are somehow less, that they are not to be listened to or heeded. The Church has, of late, been a link to things beyond us, before us, both in pictoral witness of eternal things and living examples of steadfastness in the Vineyard. Wisdom...