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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Cuz it's hard!

Awhile before I became a catechumen, while not attending any church, my wife (who is not interested in being Orthodox) asked me why I just didn't go ahead and "become" Orthodox. I took a while to answer, but the gist of my response to her was "because it's hard and I'm not sure I'm ready".

Of course, I did make that committment and stand on the brink of chrismation. But Great Lent has only reinforced that perception of Orthodoxy, especially in having to live in both an Orthodox and non-Orthodoxy (and non-sympathetic) world. Don't think I write this because I've done such a great job with the fast, either. It's just that as I approach chrismation at the end of this time, all the expectations, all the effort, all the, well, hardness, is in clear focus.

This is not your father's Christianity. It is not the easy believism of so much of modern American Evangelicalism. It is not the once-a-week (or twice a year) nominalism of so much mainstream Protestantism. Nor is it the go to confession, take communion and live like you want of much of American Catholicism. Oh, it undoubtedly can be all those things, but it most certainly is not. The Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria (see here), reverberates in my soul each time a I pray it and rises up in my heart every time I fail to abide by its spirit. I am proud and arrogant and passionate yet my heart aches to be like Christ and my heart breaks that I am not moreso. Without even trying I fail so easily. And it is hard. Hard to expect more of myself, hard to pray more, to give more, to open myself for others to see the real me and help heal me, even if it is only one other. Hard not to just fall back into that comfortable, mushy, sloppy agape christianity that is satisfied with asserting "I'm not perfect, just forgiven". So why don't I? Because I keep hearing Christ say "Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" and it's hard to resist His call!

Monday, March 29, 2004

10 days and counting!

...need I say more?

Why we know the press has a liberal bias...

I don't know what you may think of Ann Coulter. Sure she's acerbic (I confess I kind of like that in a woman), but that really is irrelevant in regard to the facts she presents. One of the prominent tactics in public debate is focusing on personalities when you can't dispute the facts. So, take a gander at Ms. Coulter's most recent column and you'll understand exactly why so many believe the "main stream" media has a liberal bias.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Richard Clarke?

Lately I've truly tried to stay away from politics (well, really, I have), but it's not easy. Politics and Lent do not make great bedfellows. I will not comment myself, but if you are curious about Richard Clarke and what he has said and whether he is credible, check out this at Power Line.

Now, where did my copy of The Ladder of Divine Ascent get off to?

Update on Kosovo

Chrysostom over at Skopos has lots to say about Kosovo, and much of it encouraging of late. I am glad that much of my gut cynical thoughts about what will happen has turned out false (not that I shared much of it, but it was there).

WMD? How about WATB?

As in "where are the bodies"? As documented here, the number of those "ethnically cleansed" in former Yogoslavia in the mid to late 90s fell precipitously after NATO action became a done deal. If Iraq was all about WMD (which it was not, but even if it was) wasn't Yugoslavia all about genocide? We toppled a mass murderer in Iraq, there's no doubt, got the graves, the bodies and the testimony to prove it. In Serbia? We may have gotten rid of a little tin-horn dictator, but it turns out not only was he no threat to our interests, but practically no threat to anyone.

Of course, don't expect to read this in the Press, either. Clinton got supported and Bush is getting bashed. That is all that matters for the elites.

The Great Deception

Seems that Muslims are wanting to try to convince American Christians that we are all one big happy family (despite one and a half millenia of Islam doing whatever it can to wipe out Christians and Christianity). Read the story.

Unfortunately, so many Christians are ignorant of history, and so many "leaders" seem intent on appeasing Muslims (for whatever reasons), this may actually make some headway. I am especially concerned about the major media picking up on this given their woeful ignorance of Christianity and history. Vigilance is called for here. Be ready to give reason for what you believe!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Kosovo

While many of you out there have been blogging on what is happening in Kosovo, I confess I simply don't have the heart to do it. Or maybe I have too much heart (as in passion) to do it. All that the Left complains about regarding Iraq, most of which is simply not true, is at issue with Kosovo and the NATO war against Serbia in general. Now, for the world to all but ignore the genocide going on there because it is Muslims carrying it out simply outrages me to the point of being practically speechless (I did write "practically"). At anyrate, some good comments on Kosovo may be found here and here and here.

Oh Most Holy Lady Theotokos, through your all holy prayers, protect and defend the Serbians and bring peace to their land!

Monday, March 22, 2004

What Peanuts character are you?

Quizzila's fun, but I'm not any kind of Audrey Hepburn. I do like Peanuts, though!


Schroeder
You are Schroeder!



Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

19 days and counting

That is how long it is to my chrismation. I'm not sure it has really sunk in yet, though I know the longing I feel during the Eucharist grows more every liturgy! I have the ability to put things off in one corner of my mind until I really need to focus on it, so I can't say that I am nervous. And, fortunately, Holy Week promises to be so busy, both at Church and at work, that I will have little time to think about much more than preparing for my confession. However, should you happen to think of it, please say a little prayer for me between now and then.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Ladder of Divine Ascent (cont.)

This has been such a busy week for me, especially at work, that I have had little time to write much. With a chance to catch my breath this morning, I thought I would share some thoughts on the fourth week of study at my parish of St. John Climacus' The Ladder of Divine Ascent. At this point in my readings and our study I certainly understand why this book is not recommended to newly Orthodox (so why am I reading it?). First of all, it is aimed at those living in a monastic community or lifestyle. Without a strong grasp of that fact and an understanding of the differences between the monastic life and those the rest of us live, the book can easily lead to dispair and/or condemnation. Secondly, one must be strongly grounded in the concept of God's grace and that while with men these things may be impossible, "with God, all things are possible". Apart from a genuine experience of God's empowering grace to overcome oneself, the Ladder may very well instill a legalistic perception of the Faith as well as practice in life. The inevitable failures that will come, coupled with this perception, can, again, lead to dispair, condemnation and even a loss of faith. If failure does not come, it can lead to pride and vainglory.

I truly appreciate the way Father Jacob is approaching this for our class, emphasizing what is applicable for all of us, but pointing out as well what applies, in all but the most basic principles, to monastics only. Also, emphasizing that the ladder of divine ascent is a progressive work in our lives. It is not a "10 Keys to a higher spiritual life" or "15 steps to a better you" - it is a committment of oneself to God and letting His grace work in our lives as we apply ourselves to taking up our cross and following Him. My approach has been that "these things are too lofty for me" and I take what is applicable to my stature and place the rest on the shelf for the future, knowing that God is calling me to run that race but that I am not ready for it yet.

Just to share one thing from this past week, on "insensitivity", that certainly pricked my heart:

The insensitive man complains about what has happened and does not stop eating what is harmful. He prays against it but carries on as before, doing it and being angry with himself...His lips pray against it and his body struggles for it. He talks profoundly about death and acts as if he will never die... He has plenty to say about self-control and fights for a gourmet life. He reads about the judgement and begins to smile, about vainglory and is vainglorious while he is reading. He recites what he has learnt about keeping vigil, and at once drops off to sleep. Prayer he extols, and runs from it as if from a plague. Blessings he showers on obedience, and he is the first to disobey. Detachment he praises, and he shamelessly fights over a rag... He gorges himself, is sorry, and a little later is at it again...He teaches meekness and frequently gets angry while he is teaching it. He denounces laughter, and while lecturing on mourning he is all smiles. In front of others he criticizes himself for being vainglorious, and in making the admission he is looking for glory. He looks people in the eye with passion and talks about chastity...He glorifies almsgivers and dispises the poor.
Not all of it describes me, but enough to say "Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner". Come to think of it, perhaps that is the point as much as anything else, to keep us mindful of how far we fall short of the mark and that righteousness will never be found in us apart from God's grace and mercy and that we must always approach Him as the Publican and never as the Pharisee!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

What we are doing...

Karl points out in a comment to my earlier post that the Orthodox are doing a lot, if not being as visible as the Protestants about it. Thanks for reminding me about the OCMC, Karl, as they are certainly making the effort to reach into the current "third world".

Anyone know of other efforts out there? Stories to share?

Monday, March 15, 2004

What you won't see in the news...

...two women die from having abortions. These are the untold stories that make the Media elites in this country complicit with the abortionists in the murder of millions of unborn. If such things were routinely publicized what a difference it would make.

What are we doing?

According to this report, Christianity is growing at an astounding rate in Africa, Latin America and Asia while, it many respects, it is rapidly decling (at least many so-called traditional or main-line denominations) in the northern and western hemispheres.

My question is where is the Orthodox Church in this expansion? While I rejoice that it is "...not modernist, liberal Christianity that is sweeping through the Southern Hemisphere...but a Christianity in which the gospel is proclaimed, that believes God's Word, that refuses to conform to the world." What are we doing to see that it is not just some generic "christianity" that takes root, but the actual Church of the Apostles and the Apostolic Faith? This is a serious question, not rhetoric, because I don't know. If we're not doing anything, why not?

I wish I could be around in two hundred years to see how this plays out (okay, by God's grace I hope to be one of the "communion of saints", but you know what I mean). If history is any indicator, these "third world" areas will be the source of renaisance, the resurgence of moral civilization and prosperity while the current "first world" slowly declines into decadence, moral decay and societal collapse.

And a quote I just found from T. S. Elliot (whom I am beginning to admire more and more) that seems apropos:

"The world is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time; so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and to save the world from suicide."
T.S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture

Veneration of the Life Giving Cross

As most of you are undboutedly aware, yesterday, the third Sunday in Lent, was the Veneration of the Cross. Obviously another "first" for me as I work my way completely through the liturgical year as (almost) Orthodox for the first time. At the beginning of Divine Liturgy a cross was brought out in procession and laid on a table and then, beginning with the clergy, we all venerated the cross by prostrating three times. Very moving. Father Jacob emphasized the centrality of the Cross for our Faith and that without it the Resurrection is meaningless. Of course, the Gospel reading for the day also centered on the cross, though not specifically the Passion of Christ, but rather our taking up our own crosses.

34 And calling the multitude together with his disciples, he said to them: If any man will follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul: 38 For he that shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: the Son of man also will be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Just as Christ gave Himself for us, we must give ourselves for Him to have a place with Him. Seems like an apt descritption of synergy.

O Lord, save Your people,
and bless Your inheritance.
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians,
over their adversaries.
And by virtue of Your Cross
preserve Your habitation!

Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden;
it has mysteriously been quenched by the wood of the Cross!
The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished;
for You, O my Savior, have come and cried to those in hell:
"Enter again into paradise."

Thursday, March 11, 2004

More Passion

Peter Bouteneff, Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Vladimir's Seminary, offers up, in my view, a quite reasonable view of Mel Gibson's The Passion. Let's all acknowledge that this is not an Orthodox film, as Father Thomas Hopko reminds us, it is not an Evangelical or even strictly Roman Catholic one, nor is it a precise retelling of the Gospels' story. However, it is a movie with much to offer members of each of these groups, as well (and perhaps especially) as to those with no religious affiliation whatsoever. Prof. Bouteneff points out:

How one takes these additions and interpretations depends on one's background and disposition. As to the violence, viewers have offered several explanations: brutal violence is necessary to get your average 21st-century filmgoer's attention; the violence depicted in the film was nothing more than what would have come to any 1st-century reader's mind on encountering the simple scriptural words "scourged" and "crucified." I'm not convinced by these justifications. Yet the violence of the scourging, and the endless road to Golgotha, conveyed something very specific to me, and did so in a way for which I am grateful. It spoke to me of Jesus' total clarity of vision concerning himself and his mission. By the time of his trial and passion, he knew without a single doubt that he was the messiah, and that the messiah needed to die voluntarily in order to despoil death once for all. Neither the scourging, nor the weight of the cross, nor the sadistic hatred on the part of those whom he loves, none of this will slow him on his way. And because he loves, and so fully understands what is happening and what must happen, there is not a trace of bitterness for his persecutors.
Honestly, as I've mentioned before, everyone I've personally talked to who has seen the movie has had this reaction. Seems to me we should get beyond talking about what the movie isn't, and watch God use it for what it is!

Disingenuous Hypocrisy

Is there such a thing? Or is this simply redundant? I'm not so sure, but I sure am sick of hearing elected officials speaking about being "personally opposed" to something yet supporting it in the public arena. It is nothing more than a way to either mollify religious constituents while placating moral relativists or assuaging one's own conscience while following after the world. If you believe so strongly that such things trump private conscience, then you shouldn't be seeking elected office to begin with. Our Lord told us it is better to have never lived than to cause a "little one of [His]" to stumble. Doesn't this include any sphere we find ourselves in? If you support public policy that you supposedly find morally wrong, are you not causing "little ones" to stumble? Sorry, this is plain hypocrisy, nothing more or less.

What is the source of this rant? Well, of course we've been hearing it from nominally Catholic and Orthodox (and I suppose, other brands of Christians) liberal politicians for thirty years now concerning abortion. Now the presumed Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry is saying the same thing concerning Homosexual "marriage", after already having stated he was against homosexual "marriage". This is pandering, plain and simple. How shameless must a politician be before people start saying "enough"?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Betcha Didn't Know

....that today is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Yep, that's right. We truly do live in an Orwellian world!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Maybe it really does work!

There are few things regarding the education of teenagers in America that get's more ridiculed than abstinence based sex-education. Either its reactionary, repressive, Victorian or a host of other terms intended to be pejorative. However, it turns out that it just might also be...gasp...effective! According to an article in the New York Times (you gotta believe it if it's in the Times!), the teen pregnancy rate in America has dropped to the lowest it's been in decades with births per thousand among teenagers 15 to 19 lower than even in the 1950s! Of course, the article attributes the drop to many factors, none scientifically researched, but the central idea the article starts off with is the changing view of teens having sex, at least partly due to abstinence based sex-ed.

Who knew? Simply not engaging in risky (not to mention immoral) behavior alleviates a whole host of consequences!

Monday, March 08, 2004

Why they're termed "cultural elites"

Brent Bozell at the Media Research Center has a column that demonstrates emphatically the disconnect between the "cultural elites" of our media in this country and the Christian (of what ever stripe) majority. In the column he compares the fawning accolades accorded Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ with the vitriolic bashing given Gibson's The Passion. Just one example Bozell provides:

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post complained first not about the artistry, but the history. The film “engages in some troubling assumptions, for starters by treating the Bible's four Gospels as literal eyewitness accounts of Jesus's arrest, torture and crucifixion.”
He then points out
Four days after the debut of “The Passion,” Hornaday recommended “Last Temptation” to Post readers with great enthusiasm – and equal loathing of the Gibson film: “But now that ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is, with any luck, on its way out of theaters, it's a good time to reassess Scorsese's movie, whose lyricism and meaning and spiritual heft have grown with time....The film is one of the most provocative, haunting and devout meditations on spiritual sacrifice and commitment ever made.”
Relativists truly don't get it. They have become precisely what St. Paul warned about, having turned the notions of good and evil so upside down that as to make them unrecognizable. I have not seen the film yet, but am determined now to do so. Everyone I have talked to personally who has seen it has literally raved about it, including the Deacon conducting my catechism. One of the great ironies is that a film these same elitists predicted would lose Mel money big time, is instead becoming one of the biggest box office draws ever. Of course, their outrage that Mel would dare flout Hollywood and make a movie presumed unprofitable is only surpassed by the outrage that he is going to make a ton of money off it.

I can't wait for Mel's sequel, said to already be in the works. The title? Why, The Resurrection of course! (For the humor impaired, this paragraph was tongue in cheek.)

Flip side of the coin...

Lots of people are writing about homosexual marriage, but no one is writing about the flip side, homosexual divorce. If, as proponents contend, homosexuals are due all the same legal protections as "couples", that heterosexuals are, are they not due the same legal grounds for divorce? Now, my understanding (limited as it may be), is that there is really no such thing as strict monogamy among homosexuals and that a little "playing around" is not only tolerated, but expected.

My wife has been extremely close friends for years with a member of my family who is homosexual and tells me that he has stated in the past there is "no such thing" as adultery among homosexuals. Well, if they get the legal right to be married, you can bet it won't be too long before someone is suing for divorce based on the other party cheating on him. The law of unintended consequences is at work here, folks, no matter which way this thing shakes out.

And California is a community property state!

Still Passionate

You should check out this blog by Donald Sensing over at One Hand Clapping. It is one of the best things I've read on The Passion. One of his concluding comments reads:

Christ's suffering was great. The fact compels us to ask whether our Lord so painfully lay down his life just so we can live the way we are living. God's grace is free, but God forbid we ever think it cheap. We were, wrote Saint Paul, bought at a price.
Read the whole thing, it's worth it!

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Title

Many thanks to Chrysostomos who provided me with the Unicode for the title of this blog. It now looks correct in both MS IE and the various incarnations of Mozilla (Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox, etc.). Very cool. Kudos to Chrysostomos. I also fixed some alignment problems that showed up in Mozilla based browsers. I hated using MS IE, so now I'm glad it looks right in both!

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Desert

On Doves and Pommegranites is posted a quote that has captivated me:

The desert is not remote in southern tropics. The desert is only around the corner. The desert is squeezed in the tube train next to you. The desert is in the heart of your brother or sister.
T S Eliot, quoted by Kenneth Leech in
Experiencing God: Theology as Spirituality
For those bemoaning that they are not monastic and so cannot really do Lent "right".

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Do they even get it?

I can't help but ponder with not a little bit of frustration the cultural disconnect that seems so to often occur when The Media reflects on things religious. It seems that those with a liberal [I like the term relativist better, since most who are characterized as liberal do not seem so liberal (i.e. marked by generosity; promoters of individual liberty) to me] bent ascribe the most simplistic reasoning and base rationale to those with whom they disagree. They seem to make no effort to actually understand the opposing point of view they deem less sophisticated and instead leap to knee-jerk condemnations.

GetReligion points this out concerning a recent column by consistently relativistic Anna Quindlen. It really does seem that she fails to see herself doing exactly what she condemns in others, simply using her own, personal, individual preferences as the yardstick rather than a "simplistic, literalistic" reading of scripture or an "unsophisticated" adherence to dogma.

The frustration comes because there is almost no way to rectify this (my natural inclination to "fix" things that I perceive wrong coming into play here) without actually making things worse. Father Joseph brought out a point the other night from The Ladder concerning judging, that when you attempt to take the speck out of another's eye with the logs in your own, you simply drive the speck more deeply in. I like the way GetReligion did though, simply pointing out the inconsistency and, dare I say it?, hypocrisy.

******************************************
Related to the above is a column by one of my favorites, Mark Steyn, on the misinterpretations of Gibson by relativists. It is in the Jerusalem Post, with which you must register (free) in order to access the column, but it only took me a couple minutes to do so. Some of Mark's pertinent comments:

When this film first loomed on the horizon, the received wisdom of the metropolitan sophisticates was that Mel Gibson had blown well over 30 million bucks of his own money on a vanity project of no interest to anyone but him and a few other Jesus freaks. A couple of weeks ago, when stories began to trickle out of amazing advance sales and Bible Belt multiplex owners booking it on to all 20 screens simultaneously, the received wisdom did a screeching U-turn:

How about that Mel Gibson, huh? He claims to be such a devout Christian yet he's pimping his Saviour's suffering to the masses and raking in gazillions of dollars.

As Andy Rooney, the ersatz controversialist on CBS's Sixty Minutes, enquired: "How many million dollars does it look as if you're going to make off the crucifixion of Christ?" Hey, if he's lucky, maybe as many millions as Michael Moore made off all those dead high-school kids with Bowling For Columbine.
I guess this is what makes a good relativist, the ability to condemn those with whom you disagree no matter how a matter turns out. Classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" mentality. Steyn goes on to write:
They don't mind Jesus when he's hippy (Godspell) or horny (Terrence McNally's "gay Jesus" play Corpus Christi) but taking the guy seriously is just for fruitcakes.

SO, WHEN metropolitan columnists say Mel's movie makes you want to go Jew-bashing, they're really engaging in a bit of displaced Christian-bashing.

Ever since 9/11, there's been a lame trope beloved of the smart set: Yes, these Muslim fundamentalists may be pretty extreme, but let's not frget all our Christian fundamentalists – the "home-grown Talibans," as The New York Times's Frank Rich called them, in the course of demanding that John Ashcroft, the attorney-general, round them up.

Two years on, if this thesis is going to hold up, these Christians really need to get off their fundamentalist butts and start killing more people.

Critics berating Gibson for lingering on the physical flaying of Jesus would be more persuasive if they weren't all too desperately flogging their own dead horse of fundamentalist moral equivalence.
The only way to win with these relativists is to surrender, they will accept nothing less. In our desire to be kind, to be compassionate, to not judge, to "get along", we have surrendered to the point that there is not much left to surrender in our culture. Don't blame this all on Evangelicals or Protestant Fundamentalists. Orthodoxy has been part of this Country for over two hundred years and, in the last 30, with certainly as many members as the rapidly declind ECUSA. If we are "leaven", where is the leavening?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Some sense on The Passion

The Greek Archdiocese came out with what I consider a very sensible, and profound, take on the whole matter of Mel Gibson's The Passion. Here is what I consider the most pithy of the comments:

Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Mr. Gibson’s film (which in the final analysis is a personal expression of a particular tradition of piety), it has raised to national and international attention matters of vital spiritual significance, bringing to mind the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Whether in pretense or in truth, in every way, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice” (1:18).
This is pretty much my opinion on the whole matter as well.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Yet more from Orthodox jurisdictions in America. Metropolitan Philip recommends his flock see The Passion in an encyclical letter to be read from Antiochian pulpits!

The Greeks and the Antiochians have weighed in, can the OCA be far behind?

Ladder of Divine Ascent: Week 2

Last night was the second weekly session of my parish's study of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. I write "study", but I probably should characterize it as a "survey". We are certainly not going through it step by step nor doing an in-depth, point by point study of Saint John's work. Father is hitting the "high points" in regards to what is most applicable for those not monks, especially for the season of Great Lent.

So, last week we primarily talked about exile (and the quote I provided was exactly the quote Father gave me on the paper), this week we focused primarily on Step 8, On Freedom from Anger and On Meekness. Father did touch briefly on Step 7, On Joy-Making Mourning, as well as the step on Repentance (I think it's step 5 but can't remember off the top of my head) and discussed briefly how that we, not being monastic, might sometimes experience such things, they are not states we, living in the world the way we do, can sustain nor view as dogmatic principles.

With anger, however, he pointed out that everyone can overcome anger, must learn to do so. First he shared a few quotes about what anger is, such as

Wrath is a reminder of hidden hatred, that is to say, remembrance of wrongs. Wrath is a desire for the injury of the one who has provoked you. Irascibility is the untimely blazing up of the heart. Bitterness is a movement of displeasure seated in the soul. Anger is an easily changeable movement of one’s disposition and disfiguration of soul.
Then he elaborated on St. John's "cure" for anger
The beginning of freedom from anger is silence of the lips when the heart is agitated; the middle is silence of the thoughts when there is a mere disturbance of soul; and the end is an imperturbable calm under the breath of unclean winds.
Being one who has a tendency toward anger, I found this both convicting (is that an Orthodox term?) and illuminating. As Father pointed out, in those situations where we find ourselves prone to get angry, we can all do the beginning, keep our mouths shut! Practicing that we can climb to the place of silencing our thoughts when we see ourselves getting disturbed. Finally, when we have learned the art of silence of thought, we can be a calm in the storms that rage around us. Of course, I want to be the calm now! Those other steps are too tedious. I'm sure there's a step on patience somewhere...

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Great Lent

Fr. Alexander's (Schmemann) Great Lent: Journey to Pascha came last Friday or Saturday. I started reading it Sunday afternoon. I realize I'm ignorant in things truly Orthodox, but for the life of me I cannot see why he provokes such a strong response from those whom we might term (to borrow a phrase from another Orthodox blogger) rigorists. In the two books I have read, at least parts of, so far (Great Lent and For the Life of the World), he has explained nuances and depths of meaning in Orthodoxy that I have not gotten elsewhere. As others have opined (and thank you for talking about this book, it encouraged me to order it), Great Lent is truly a marvellous work and shines a bright light on the tradition of the Church for Lent. His explication on the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian is worth the price of admission. I struggled in vain to find one pericope to share, but it is the whole of his explication that shines forth and illuminates the Grace of God at work in that prayer.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk.
But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Passion Etc.

Clifton has made an observation that I think I've been trying to, only he does it better. Mel Gibson's The Passion is not un-Orthodox. It doesn't say enough to be un-Orthodox. It is a a pericope, a small passage, a limited message. It is less the whole Gospel than Jackson's LOTR is the whole of Tolkien's work. It is deliberately so. I may not see it, at least in the theater, but not because it is un-Orthodox, but because I don't quite have the stomach to view that much blood, pain and agony. I loved Saving Private Ryan, the opening literally moved me to tears as I contemplated those men laying down their lives in such a fashion. But I only watched it once, and that on DVD. I suspect I may give The Passion the same treatment.

New Look

I've been playing around today and came up with this new look. Let me know what you think, if you care! ;-D I've still got to re-do the title graphic, but I think it's getting there.