Monday, January 31, 2005

Random out-takes and an editorial

While putting the little boy down for his nap he said "Sing a song". I said, "What song". He said "Cowboy done wrong". So I sang the Streets of Laredo for him.

I had a breakthrough in Statistics and Probability tonight. I finally understood what we are doing in this class. I was able to follow the lecture. Things we talked about weeks ago finally made sense to me. I am so relieved. I was beginning to wonder if I had any hope of passing the class. Now, I can say, given a normal distribution, that the probablility of my passing this class is .883 (a little math humor, there.)

But seriously, I am very relieved. Nevertheless, I went by Barnes and Noble after class and bought "Even You Can Learn Statistics". It is a little bit like the "for Dummies" books. Here's a question? Why do text books have to be so horrible? The text book($85) is so bizzarely abstruse that I strongly desire hurling it into everlasting hell. Last quarter, the ($90) math textbook was equally awful. I'd spend hours reading it and not understanding it. But the little book I bought at Barnes and Noble for $15 explained everthing I needed to know to pass the class. And it explained it step by step, and in English. What is up with the use of jargon in textbooks? Something must be done about these people who write math textbooks. What is their major malfunction?

The same is true of Economics. I loved economics until I took a class in it and had to read that amazingly bad book. I think that 75% of the people who only take one Economics class would take a second economics class if the textbooks for the first class were these three books: Economics in One Lesson, The Road to Serfdom, and Economic Fallacies. (Yes, I know the Wealth of Nations is the fundamental text, but it is not accessable to most beginning students.)

And this is also true of history textbooks. The story of the American Revolution is one of the most exciting stories ever told, but history textbooks make a sleeping cat seem more interesting the movement toward political liberty. I do not understand that at all. Okay, if there are any highschool history teachers reading this blog I have a suggestion for you: Throw away the textbooks and use these four books:

1. Patriots by A.J. Langguth It is footnoted history but reads like a thriller. You're students will be trembling with excitement and never ever forget the name Crispus Attucks. Also, your students will fall in love with George Washington even though he ran away from almost every battle.

2. Novus Ordo Seclorum by Forrest McDonald He begins with an explanation and history of the development of the rights of english farmers, and from their takes us through all of the ideas (No one knows John Locke like Forrest McDonald knows John Locke) and experiences of the Revolution that lead to the ratification of the Constitution. When you are through teaching this book your students will be begging their parents to buy them all three volumes of Sir William Blackstone's Commentary on the Laws of England.

3. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood Do you want your students to know how a bunch of polite English farmers, tradesmen, and merchants overthrew their emperial ruler, and managed to avoid a Reign of Terror or a slide into depotism? Then this is the book. (Former Secretary of the Navy James Web has authored a book about the Scots-Irish that should be read in conjuction with this book. FYI: These are my people, and no, you can't have my guns.)

4. The Declaration of Independence with Short Biographies of Its Signers by Benson John Lossing This one might be better suited for elementary school, but given the lack of knowlege I have encountered among highschoolers I think this book might be in order. Want to know how many of the signers actually died in the revolution? How many actully lost their fortunes in the revolution? This book answers those questions and more.

And finally, when the story contains a line like "Both suspects took cover behind the store's meat counter as the owners opened fire." you KNOW there's more than a little Scots-Irish blood in these strapped-up store owners.

A Beautiful Picture

Just look at this! Isn't that beautiful? That stained finger cost the people of the United States billions of dollars, a sea of sweat, and thousands of dead and wounded soldiers. No gem on any ring ever placed on that finger will ever be as precious as that ink. God, bless Iraq.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Annual Parish Meeting

We had our annual parish meeting today. It was a lot of fun! I'm serious. It really was. The prayers were great. The reports, even the financial reports (which were quite grim) were excellent. It is such an honor to get to associate with these people. I love the people in my parish so much!

Saturday, January 29, 2005


I manage an apartment complex. My duties include minnimizing expenses and keeping the landlord from getting sued. But I have four big recycling bins on the property that are attractive to poor people who come and remove all of the aluminum and plastic. If one of them gets hurt on the property, gets hurt going through the recylcling bins or one of the dupsters the landloard could be held liable for the injury. And the whole point of the recycling bins is to keep the cost of garbage collection down. But if people take the most valuable parts of the recyclables out of the bins it defeats the purpose of using the bins. So, I chase away the scavangers.

Today, I yelled at an old Korean man to leave. He didn't look up. He didn't act like he heard me. So, I went over to where he was and when he saw me looked at me. I told he was tresspassing and would have to leave. He reached into the recyling bin and continued looking for more cans and bottles. I jumped up and down, yelled, and pointed. He looked at me with mouth agape. I think he was deaf. I know he was old. At the very least, I am sure he didn't speak English. As he looked at me I looked at him. And as I saw the surprise on his face I knew something was wrong but I couldn't put my finger on it. He picked up his bags of cans and walked away.

As I walked back to my office I remembered Leveticus 19:9&10, though I had not read it in 20 years.

"And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. "

If he comes back, if I see him again, I hope I have a beer or some freshly brewed of coffee to offer him.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Vigil Service

Jeff, with whom I used to blog sent me an email about the Vigil he went to with athanasia, the little boy, and me last saturday:

"My favorite part of the service was when the priest, or deacon stood in the middle of the sanctuary and chanted various parts of the Psalms for a long time. THat was the most worshipful time for me and I found myself whispering the ends of the verses also.

"I'm still a bit confused about why the three vigil services where all together in one. Instead of cramming three into one, why not just not do the other two services? I think your answer will be something along the lines of it being important to carry out all the services. But if this is so, does this not become merely doing a service for the sake of doing it? Granted, I'm assuming what your response may already be.

"One did that little door keep opening and closing when the priest got near it? I kept waiting to hear a Star Trek-like swoosh everytime he went in."

Here are my answers to Jeff:

The Psalms that were chanted are called the Six Psalms. They were Psalms 3, 37, 62(63), 87(88), 102 (103), and 142 (143). I don't know why these six are read at this service.

Well, the services that are joined to form the Vigil service are these: Vespers, Compline, the Midnight Office, and Matins (In Greek and Arabic churches Matins is called Orthos). I think one of the Hours services might be in there, too. I'm not sure. Liturgics isn't a strength of mine.

As for the services being important, yes they are important. But they are not essential to salvation. In fact, some of them were never intended for non-monastics. (Our salvation is worked out a little but differently form that of monks and nuns.) Now, to the best of my knowledge no one outside of a monastary does all of the services. (Doing all of the services from sunset on Saturday through the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning would take between 12 and 15 hours.) And there is variation among the Orthodox Churches. For instance, the Greek, Arab, and African Churches do Vespers in the evening, and then the next morning to Matins, 3rd Hour, and then the Divine Liturgy. They totally skip Compline and the Midnight Office. And that's okay. Most (maybe all) of the other Churches, such as Japanese, Russian, and American edit out much of all of the services and join them together in the Vigil service which is used in parishes. And that's okay, too. Even in our most important service, the one we absolutely must serve or else we fail to be the Church, exists in 5 versions, (The Liturgies of St. James, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Gregory, and St. Tikhon). My Church, the OCA, only uses three of them (Basil, Gregory, John Chrysostom). The Church of Jerusalm uses the same three as the OCA but also uses the Liturgy of St. James. The Church of Antioch uses four too, but it uses the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, and not the Liturgy of St. James. And there used to be others (such as the Old Roman Mass, the Liturgy of the Sarum Rite, and the Liturgy of St. Mark to name three) but they have fallen out of use.
As for the Reader zooming through some of the texts, I'm not wild about it, but that's just his personal style. I've also been in services where the Reader speaks very s-l-o-w-l-y. Trust me, that's worse. I prefer medium-speed. Oh, the guy who chanted the Six Psalms is a Subdeacon. (The clergy of the Orthodox Church consists of Readers, Subdeacons, Deacons, Priests, and Bishops. Of those, only Bishops are absolutely necessary, the others flowing from and receiving their charisma from the Bishop.)

The doors open and close via gas pressure that builds up in reserve incense holders. The never go swooosh, but they do sometimes go PSSSssssss....

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hmmmm. Ecumenism?

Hmmm. I wonder what caption this picture should have? The people in the picture (L to R) are The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, His Emminence William Cardinal Keeler, and my lord, His Beattitude Metropolitan Herman.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Potty training

Yesterday, the little boy pulled the potty chair out of the closet and announced that from now on he is only going pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty chair. So far, this has been a successful endeavor. No diapers yesterday or today. Today, his mother bought him 9 pairs of "big-boy" underwear. I am very proud of my son.

I have run ito some schedule conflicts that might prevent me from going down the road toward working in healthcare. I am trying to say to myself "God is in control. He leads, I follow." and other things like that. But it is really hard. I am having to re-evaluate my plan.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Wheeeeeerrrrrre's Johnny?

I'm sure everyone knows Johnny carson died this morning. I saw the tonight show for the first time on May 19, 1980. How do I remember the date? It was the day after Mount St. Helens exploded. I was 10 years old. I was amazed. I had never seen anything like the Tonight Show.

By the end of the monologue I was totally hooked on Johnny Carson. I watched his show almost every night from the time I was 10 years old until I went away to basic training when I was 17. When I was 14 I talked my parents into buying me a navy blazer. And guess what, it had Johnny Carson's signature on the label.

I used to love it when Buddy Hackett and Dean Martin were on the the show. And, Oh Boy! when Don Rickles was on too, look out! I remember this one time, Dino was so drunk he could barely stand up. From audiece left to audience right: Ed, Don Rickels, Buddy Hacket, the very drunk Dean Martin, and Johnny. While Johnny is talking with Dean, Buddy keeps flicking cigarette ashes into Dean's drink. Dean doesn't see it but every time Buddy does it, the audience laughes and Dino looks around trying to figure out what he said that was so funny. Every time Dean Martin did this, Buddy looked around trying like he didn't know what was funny either, and Don Rickles and Ed McMahon busted up laughing. And I, an 11 year old boy busted up laughing, too. I mean I was on the floor rolling and howling. I laughed so hard my sides were aching. I was so sad when Johnny changed the format of the show from 90 to 60 minutes back in the early 80's. And then he retired altogether in 1993. It was such a bummer. It was like the great comedians of the Borscht Belt and Vegas of the 50's and 60's had no friendly place to go after Johnny retired.

I remember this other routine I saw, it was maybe 1981 or 1982. Bill Cosby did his dentist routine. I can't even begin to describe how good this was. The next day I had to go to the hospital for some tests, while I was laying on the table for a very horrible procedure to be done, I was doing the whole routine for the X-ray technichian. I was laughing so hard I was in tears. Eventually, the the X-ray tech got annoyed and said, "Kid, you have to be still so I can take these pictures." I said, "You don't understand, he said 'smoke! I smell smoke! FIRE!!!' "and just fell apart in laughter. Sometimes, my friend Jeff and I do this routine together. (Gin is usually nearby.)

The Tonight show was also where I first saw George Carlin do his Football/Baseball routine. He was better then than he is now. Now he is just angry and bitter. Back then he was genuinely funny.

The Tonight Show is also where I first heard Tony Bennett sing. Where I first saw Buddy Rich pound the drums. Fell in love with Madeleine Kahn, Bernadette Peters, and Terri Gar. Just sat there amazed at Liberace. It wasn't until many years later that I found out that he was homosexual and then it kind of, but not really, made sense.

I remember the first time I saw Jimmy Stewart on the show. Until I saw him on the Tonight Show I didn't know he was still alive. I had seen Mr. Smith Goes to Wasington when I was really little (6 or 7) and totally loved the movie. So when I saw him come out on stage it was just so neat. I remember thinking that it was so neat that he was a real General in the Air Force. I will never ever forget the poem he read to his dog, Bo. Then there were the wildlife people, Joan Embry and that other guy. I think Joan was from the San Diego Zoo. The other guy was from Wild Kingdom.

Oh, Gosh, thene there were the guys I always thougt of as "the Steves". I don't think they were ever on on the same night, but Steve Lawrence, Steve Allen, and Steven Wright (My two favorite Steven Wright jokes: "I got a new map. The scale is 1:1" & "42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.") were always fun to watch. Two are comedians. One is a singer. I liked all three.

I never liked Dolly Parton as a guest on the Tonight Show, she never seemed real to me. But one night Johhny was interviewing her and it was the most boring interview ever. Then totally out of the blue he said "I'd give a weeks pay for a look under there". Now that in itself was pretty crass, but hearing Johnny, a suave cool guy, say something so stupid was just plain funny. It was like big boobs had totally killed his brain! But it was a funny moment in an otherwise boring interview.

I learned one very important thing from watching the Tonight Show staring Johnny Carson, When they pick a permanent guest host it's time to start watcing your back.

It's funny, I don't even watch television anymore. But when I did, I watched Johnny.
Never liked Leno.

Oh, in case you are wondering, this is the Jimmy Stewart poem that made Johnny Carson and me cry.

My dog, named Bo
by Jimmy Stewart

He never came to me when I would call,
unless I had a tennis ball
-or he felt like it.
But mostly--he didn't come at all.
When he was young,
he never learned,
to heel, or sit or stay,
he did things his way.
Discipline was not his bag,
but when you were with him,
things sure didn't drag.
He'd dig up a rose bush just to spite me,
and when I'd grab 'im he'd turn and bite me.
He bit lots of folks from day to day,
the deliv'ry boy was his favorite prey.
The gas man wouldn't read our meter,
he said we owned a real man-eater.
He set the house on fire,
but the story's long to tell.
Suffice to say that he survived,
and, the house survived as well.
And on evening walks
(and Gloria took him),
he was always first out the door.
The old one and I,
brought up the rear
because our bones were sore.
And he'd charge up the street
with Mom hangin' on,
what a beautiful pair they were.
And if it was still light,
and the tourists were out,
they created a bit of a stir!
But every once in awhile
he'd stop in his tracks
and with a frown on his face, look around.
It was just t'make sure,
that the old one was there,
to follow him where he was bound.
We're early-to-bedders in our house
I guess I'm the first to retire,
and as I'd leave the room, he'd look at me
and get up from his place by the fire.
He knew where the tennis balls were, upstairs
and I'd give 'im one for awhile
and he'd push it under the bed with his nose
and I'd dig it out with a smile.
But before very long, he'd tire of the ball
and he'd be asleep in his corner in no time at all,
and there where nights when I'd feel him climb up on our bed
and lie between us, and I'd pat his head;
and there were nights when I'd feel this stare,
and I'd wake up and he'd be sitting there
and I'd reach out to stroke his hair;
and sometimes I'd feel him sigh,
and I think I know the reason why.
He'd wake up at night,
and he would have this fear
of the dark, of life, of lot's of things,
and he'd be glad to have me near.
And now he's dead.
And there are nights when I think I feel him
climb up on our bed,
and lie between us, and I pat his head;
and there are nights when I think I feel that stare,
and I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
and he's not there.
Oh, how I wish that wasn't so,
I'll always love a dog named Bo.

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday was the little boys first soccer lesson. He is as tall as the four year olds. Taller than all the three year olds. But he was the only 2 year old in the class. The other kids did a pretty good job in the very structured environment. My little boy did not. I think he might be too young for this class.

My friend Jeff (of Matt and Jeff Diverge fame) joined us for the Vigil service last night. I don't know what he thought. After church we walked up the block to The Golden Turtle. It was the best Vietnamese food I've ever had. And it is just one block from Church. (That is my favorite thing about San Francisco: You never have to drive anywhere because everything you want to do is within walking distance.) Originally we were going to go to the Greek place across Van Ness from the church but it is out of business. And I'm surprised by that because it was very good. Then we walked up the hill to the Matterhorn, a swiss place, but the host looked at us like we were nuts. ("On Saturday nights you must have a reservation"). But that was okay because just a few steps away was the Golden Turtle. Yum!!!

My Kum, Raphael was at church last night. We asked him to join us for dinner but he was suffering from pretty bad jet lag. Next time he comes to the Bay area I'm going to insist that he stay with us.

I didn't get to go to church today. I had a mountain of homework to do. Got most of it done, too! Very happy about that. Athanasia and the little boy went, though. Athanasia said the church was packed. Lots of visitors. Its kind of interesting being a member of a church that is also a tourist destination.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Islam is Evil

Today I saw three women walking down the street in the full muslim veil. Head to toe they were covered. They could have been in Tehran. My first thought: They could have AK-47s under those clothes.

At scool last quarter, just after Thanksgiving other day I heard a muslim (manning a table, handing out copies of the Koran) describe a group of Chinese Baptists at my school as "stupid fucking Christians". The Chinese Baptists!!! These are some of the nicest people on campus!

I am worried that we might be letting scorpions into our country.

Here is something Sir Winston Churchill said about Islam:

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytising faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science - the science against which it had vainly struggled - the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Ancient Christian Commentary

So I pick up the "Romans" volume of the Ancient Christian Commentary. And who do you think the editors rely on the most? The heretics Tertullian and Origen. Uuuggghhh. YUCK!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

My mom is home from the hospital!

The Road To Serfdom: The Movie

Stream it here.

Love songs

The other night someone said to me, "Jesus wants to save us but God is just waiting to wipe us out".

It made me remember a a song my Dad and Mom used to sing in Church back in the 1980's. It is "I am Loved" by the Gaithers. Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a good song there. But right in the middle of the song my dad would stop singing and talk about the love of God....

"You know, a lot of the people I've pastored, who've had bad relationships with their fathers would say to me, 'I love Jesus, but I'm afraid of the Father'. So many people think of God as an angry old man in the sky, holding a club, just hoping you'll make a mistake so he can whack you. Well, let me tell you somethig, you are not saved because Jesus loved you. You are saved because the Father loved you. Now listen to me. John 3:16 says, 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son...' Can you believe that? The Father didn't give His own life, He sent His son. His only Son. I can imagine giving my life to save yours, but one of my kids' lives? I have for children and wouldn't give one to save you. I But God did it. He loved you so much that He sent His only Son to die an a cross for you. Never let it be said that God is an angry old man in heaven waiting to lower the boom on us. His nature is love. He is love. If you want to know God, just start loveing people and see what happens. If you want this church to grow start loving people and watch these pews fill up. You want to see sinners come to repentance? Marriages put back together? Just start loving people and watch what God does through your love. "

At this point everyone in the church would be in tears and Mom and Dad would continue the song.

Today I was listening to a CD by a band called Fret Not. There was a lyric that really struck me...

"Before Adam's first tear touched the dry cursed land,
Before Cain washed the blood from his trembling hand,
Already the hope of the homesick for paradise
Was our Lord, Jesus Christ and the water of life."

It reminded me of these words of St. Peter's , "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. "

Monday, January 17, 2005

30 Stockton (One more thing I miss about S.F.)

The first time I rode the 30 Stockton I was with my two oldest sons who were much younger than they are today. I remember that my attempt at explaining to them the differences between George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George Clinton caused huge amounts of laughter from the young women sitting behind us. As we were riding along about 600 old chinese women got on the bus. Chickens in cages, turtles in plastic jars - lots of pushing and shoving. Lots of uncovered caughing. (A few years later I caught pertussis. I am sure I caught it on the 30 Stockton). I didn't see what happened but someone did something that prompted a guy standing in the aisle to say "Hey, watch it. If you aren't careful she'll feed you to that chicken." I never forgot that.

On Craig's list (My wife has actually met Craig.) there is an area called "Best of Craig's List". One of the entries is another person's story about what he saw on the 30 Stockton.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Consecration and Kickbacks

St. Lawrence Church in Felton was recently consecrated. Their website has a very good description of the event.

Last night I was having dinner with someone who works in the same industry I am in. We were both guests of a good friend. During dinner he talked about how there is so much money to be made in kickbacks from contractors. I was shocked. I had never heard someone talk about something so immoral and ilegal over dinner, in a brightly lit room, in the presence of holy icons. I just don't know what to think.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Mom, School, Contractors

Well, my mom is still in the hospital. Its been since Thanksgiving. She is doing a lot better though. Even though she has had no pain for the last few days (Thank you, God. Thank you intercessors.) the doctors are putting her in traction. Just because she can't feel the pain doesn't mean there is nothing wrong with her. There is good news about her kidneys and blood sugar, too. It looks like she might be home sometime in the next two or three weeks.

Well, we began sticking each other in class last night. It is very weird to be passing each others blood around. Finished my first anthro paper. It isn't anything special. Just a discription of the various subfields of anthropology. Statistics test tonight.

Dealing with contractors all day. The plumber just left. Carpenter was supposed to be here to fix a door. Haven't seen him. The pool guys have been jack hammering the plaster all day. Tomorrow: More plumbers, more pool plasterers, more carpenters, plus a heating and air conditioning contractor. Lets see if I can fit in an electrician for some more lights in the carports. (There have been some burglaries, lately.)

Iraq War Deaths (US Only)

Have you been hearing news stories about the mounting death toll in the war in Iraq? As of yesterday US KIAs are at 1,357. Usually, this number is accompanied with questinos about how long the American people can stand these daily killings of US servicemen.

I think we can stand it a long time, if history is our guide....

Battle of Shiloh (U.S. Civil War)
- approximately 13,000 KIAs (U.S. only) in just one day.

Battle of the Bulge (WWII)
- approximately 19,000 KIAs (U.S. only)

Battle of Saipan (WWII)
- approximately 3,425 KIAAs (U.S. only)

D-Day Invasion of Normandy (WWII)
- Approximately 1,465 KIAs (U.S. Only)

The Battle for Iwo Jima (WWII)
- 6,503 KIAs (U.S. only)

Korean War
- approximately 12,300 KIAs (U.S. Marines and Army only)
- approximately 51,000 WIA (U.S. Marines and Army only)
- approximately 3,200 non-enemy-inflicted deaths (U.S. only)

American Revolution
- approximatly 25,000 KIAs (Continental forces only, no allies included in this number)

Spanish-American War
- approximately 2,900 KIAs (U.S. only)

The American death toll in Iraq (while horrible for the individuals and families affected) is almost insignificant to the U.S. as a whole and the military situation on the ground. There are more Americans killed in Traffic accidents each day than are killed in Iraq. I think the American people know about death and are willing to suffer a lot of it in order to achieve national goals. Heck in 2003 we suffered 42,643 highway deaths (source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation) just for the sake of driving cars.

So, yes, I think we can stay in Iraq a long time.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Holy Unction

Yesterday, Sunday morning, was a hierachical divine liturgy served by Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley. Again, lots of people were at church. There were many priests concelebrating with the Bishop. The secretary of the Metropolitan was one of the concelabrants. After the liturgy he, in the name of Metropolitan Herman, presented Fr. Victor with a new pectoral cross - sterling silver containing the relics of five saints whose prayers are being requested for Fr. Victor's healing. (I got two good pictures and will post them as soon as I lear how to upload them to my computer. It's my wife's Camera.)

After the service, Athanasia, the little boy, and I went to my wife's sisters house on Nob Hill for lunch and naps. It was very nice. Their hospitality is very grand.

Then back to church at 4 PM for the Holy Unction service. I suppose I could describe what happens in the service but it wouldn't mean much. You can read the words of the service and know what is said. But that would be inadequate to describe what happened last night.

When my wife and son and I arrived (5 minutes before the scheduled start time) the little cathedral was packed with about 250 people. There were some monks and nuns in attendance as well. The celabtants were Bishop Benjamin, Archpriest Basil from Sratoga, a Rev. professor from St. Vladimir's Seminary, the Metropolitans Secretary, and 3 other priests I had seen from the morning liturgy but did not know. As my wife and I made our way up to the south east corner of the building, opposite the choir (our usual place) I heard the Bishop saying something like"We are here, and we pray these prayers in anticipation of a healing".

The actual service is simple, in the center of the church, surrounded by the six priests and Fr. Victor, the bishop asked the Holy Spirit to make the oil into a healing oil. There was a reading from an epistle by a choir member. Then there was a hymn, lead by Deacon Kyrill. There was a reading from the Gospe by the bishop. Then we all prayed for Fr. Victor and the bishop annointed him with the oil. Then there were six more readings from the epistles, six more readings from the Gospels, six more hymns, six more prayers, and six more annointings -one annointing by each priest. During each annointing this prayer was said:

"Holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, Who sent Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ Who healed every illness and delivered from death, heal Thy servant from the weakness that holds his body, of either body or soul, and enliven him by the grace of Thy Christ, by the prayers of the All-holy Lady Theotokos and all the Saints."

What, you ask were the readings?
1. James 5:10-16 & Luke: 10:25-37
2. Romans 15:1-7 & Luke 19:1-10
3. I Cor. 12:27-31;13:1-8 & Matthew 10:1,5-8
4. II Cor. 6:16-18, 7:1 & Matthew 8:14-23
5. II Cor. 1:8-11 & Matthew 25:1-13
6. Galatians 5:22-6:2 & Matthew 15:21-28
7. I Thessalonians 5:14-23 & Matthew 9:9-13

Oh, some of the saints to whom we prayed:
- St. James the Brother of the Lord, who gave the command that this service be performed for the sick
- The Great Martyr Demetrios, whose bones exude healing oil.
-St. Nicolas the Wonderworker of Myra in Lycia, again one who's relics heal.
-All of the unmercenary healers: Cosmas, Panteleimon, Samson, Cyrus, and the others.

Then the Gospel Book was opened and placed on Fr. Victors head and all the priests surrounded him and the final prayers for his healing were said.

At the end Fr. Victor stood on the ambo and Deacon Kyrill read a letter from Fr. Victor to us. Then Fr. Victor did something so shocking that the priest standing next to me gasped- he prostrated himself before us. Well, of course, we all immediately were on our knees with our foreheads touching the floor in a a heart beat. Even Bishop Benjamin.

(I have a couple of pictures of this service, too. I'll post them as soon as I learn how to get them from my camera to the computer.)

On a personal note, last night I was reunited with the first Orthodox I ever met. She was my freshman English teacher back in 1991. What joy! What joy!

Today I admitted that I can not do trig, stats, and advanced hematology. I dropped trig and signed up for anthropology, which is a pre-req for nursing. So it still works. New rule: No more than one math class per quarter.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Answers about Orthodoxy for my Nephew

A few days ago, my nephew was painting an aprtment for me. He asked me some questions about Orthodoxy and I did my usual sucky job giving answers. So, today I wrote him a letter that I hope does a better job answering his questions. The text of the letter is below.

Dear Daniel,

The other day when you were working on apartment 20 and we were talking about the Orthodox Christian Faith, you asked me a question to which I didn’t know the answer. I felt really bad about that. I should have been ready, per St. Paul’s command to give a good defense. I am also sorry, because you asked a sincere question and I was no of use in answering it. But, now that Advent and Nativity seasons are over I’ve been able to find the answer.
Your question, you’ll remember grew out of the discussion we were having about the rite of confession and the forgiveness of sins. It was “What about the tearing of the veil in the temple? Don’t you believe that that gives us access to God without having to go through priests?” My answer was, “I don’t know, I’ve only been Orthodox for two years.” And you were gracious toward me, not using my ignorance as a place of weakness for you to build an argument. But you also had other questions that I did not answer well. So, I will try to explain several things that I think I should have done a better job explaining:
I. The Orthodox explanation of the tearing of the temple veil
II. The Church and the Bible
III. Faith, Works, and Salvation

I: The Orthodox Explanation of the Tearing of the Temple Veil

Formerly, I did not know the answer to your question regarding the tearing of the veil, but, as I said above, I do now know the answer. I found it in the 11th century commentary on the Gospel of Matthew by the Blessed Theophylact. Archbishop Theophylact did not say anything new. Essentially, all he says throughout his commentaries is, “This is how the Church has always understood this passage.” In the case of the veil in Herod’s temple being torn (Matthew 27) Blessed Theophylact passes on to us several ideas that he received from those who came before him:
1) The veil was rent, and God thereby showed that the inaccessible and unseen temple, whose innermost part, the Holy of Holies, had been secluded by a veil, would be made common and profane so as to be visible and accessible to all.
2) The veil being rent indicated that the letter of the law had been stripped away to reveal the entirety of the law. What before had been obscure and enigmatic was made plainly visible.
3) The veil tearing in the temple revealed the temple’s true abhorrence of the blasphemy of the death of Christ. This is in contrast to the high priest tearing his clothes in pretended abhorrence of Jesus’ claim to divinity. (Matthew 26)
Personally, if I had to pick one of these three I’d go with the third one, but that is probably because I grew accustomed to literary interpretation of the Bible while sitting under Brian Morgan at Peninsula Bible Church.

II: The Church and the Bible

Several times when I mentioned the tradition that has been passed down to us, you said something like “but those are just men”, to which I said something like, “the Church is the body of Christ”. I think we were talking past each other. I wasn’t happy about that. I feel like we had a real chance for understanding but I blew it.

So, now I’ll try to explain (briefly and incompletely, because I have an amazing amount of homework to do this evening.) Orthodox thinking on the Church and the Bible.

We believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church. We do not see St. Mark or St. Paul or the other New Testament writers as being outside the Church rather we see them as being an organic part of the Church. Therefore, we see the Bible as the product of the Holy Spirit working through the Church. (I have a friend who has fun with this. Whenever someone asks her if the Orthodox Church believes in the Bible she answers, “Believe in it? Hell yes! We wrote it.”)
We do not believe that the Holy Spirit stopped speaking through the Church when the Apostle John died. We believe the Holy Spirit spoke through the Church when the Church wrote the Gospel of Matthew. But we also believe the Holy Spirit spoke through the Church when she decided to officially put the Gospel of Matthew in the canon and excluded the Gospel of Peter. We believe the Holy Spirit spoke through the Church when the Church included 3rd Macabees in the canon but excluded the book of Enoch.

We believe that the same Spirit that inspired the writers of the Biblical books also inspires Church Councils, as happened in Acts. You might remember that when Christianity had begun to spread throughout the Roman Empire and huge numbers of gentile began to accept the Christian faith, some Christians were troubled. Some Christians of Jewish lineage held that gentiles had to submit to the Moasaic Law before they could become Christians; it should be necessary to turn them first to the Jewish faith because otherwise they could not be saved. This led to heated disagreements among the Christians.

No one apostle was able to resolve such an important question alone. It was determined by the apostles together with the presbyters (or priests) to convene the first Council in Jerusalem in the year A.D. 51.

After long discussions, the issue was settled by a speech by St. Peter. He rose and said that the Lord having chosen him in the early days to preach to the gentiles did not make any distinction between Jews and gentiles but gave the Holy Spirit to all; and therefore, Christians converted from paganism did not have to keep the rituals of the law of Moses. "We believe," the Apostle finished his speech, "that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
The speech of the Apostle Peter created a deep impression and was then strengthened still more after the Apostles Paul and Barnabas related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

After this, St. James, the brother of the Lord, spoke to the council. The last word belonged to him as to bishop of the Jerusalem Church and president of the council. His opinions were furthermore important because he himself was a strict adherent of the Law. (Not only Christians but also the Jews called him the righteous or the just. In Hebrew this is t’sadic. If you’ve see the movie “The Chosen” based on Chiam Potok’s novel of the same name you will have some idea of the meaning of the title among the Jews.)

St. James approved the opinion of the St. Peter and He showed that it agreed with prophecy (Amos 9:11-12) and he proposed, "we should not trouble those of the gentiles, who turn to God, with keeping the rituals of the Law of Moses; but they must refrain from idol worship, from fornication, and from things strangled and blood."

This proposal of the Apostle James was accepted by the apostles, priests, and the whole Council unanimously as a resolution of the Council. It was made known to all Christians in a conciliar decree which began with the words, "It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." and continued, “to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.”

From then until now, when a Council of the Orthodox Church reaches a decision we begin the proclamation with the same words used in Jerusalem, “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
So, how can we speak for the Holy Spirit? How can we be brave enough to say gentiles can ignore the law of Moses? How can we be brave enough to say the letter of St. Jude is acceptable for reading in the services but the letter of St. Barnabas is not? Because we believe we are the Body of Christ (We do not mean that as a mere metaphor.) the foundation and pillar of the truth and that the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth.
This kind of goes to the question of the Church today versus the early Church. The Orthodox do not see any difference. It is the same Church. If you don’t mind, I can use a physiological analogy, it is like a body, your body has few if any of the cells it was born with, but is still your body and has been from conception until this today. Sure, St. James is not on earth anymore. St. John Chrysostom is long gone. Blessed Theophylact is in Heaven with the others, but the Church is still here.


Faith, Works, and Salvation

Of all the questions you asked, it was your questions about faith, works and salvation that I found the most difficult to answer. Part of what makes it hard to answer is that the Orthodox experience of Salvation does not fit into the familiar categories of Calvinist or Arminian, Roman Catholic or Reformed. Orthodox soteriology was most clearly stated in the short book “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius of Alexandria in the Fourth Century, 1,200 years before either John Calvin or Jacob Arminius lived.
Roman Catholics and Protestants tend to think God became a man in order to die for our sins. This can be seen in a song we used to sing at Peninsula Bible Church:

Lord, I lift Your name on high.
Lord, I love to sing Your praises.
I'm so glad You're in my life.
I'm so glad You came to save us.
You came from Heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay;
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky;
Lord, I lift Your name on high.

Orthodox Christians believe God became man so that we can experience His nature, and that he died and conquered death in order to get us back to the place where we could begin to experience that mystical union. Here are songs from the feast of Nativity that proclaim this doctrine:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has illumined the world like the Light of Wisdom
Today the whole creation rejoices and is jubilant,
For Christ is born of the Virgin
Heaven and earth now are united through Christ's Birth!
Now is God come down to earthAnd man arisen to the heaven
Today Christ is born in Bethlehem of the Virgin.
Today He who is without a beginning begins,
And the Word is made flesh.The powers of Heaven rejoice,
The earth and her people are jubilant;
The Wise Men bring gifts to the Lord,
The shepherds marvel at the One who is born;
And we sing without ceasing:"Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, good will toward men".

Also, both Calvin and Arminius were heavily influenced by two heterodox thinkers: Anselm of Canterbury, an 11th Century Roman Catholic, and Tertullian, a 2nd century Roman lawyer and Orthodox priest who left the Church for the Montanist heresy. His early writings are considered Orthodox if a bit legalistic, but since he wrote in Latin he didn’t have much influence on Christians in the east.

The main effect of Tertullian and Anselm on Calvin and Arminius (actually, on all Protestants and Roman Catholics) was in thinking of salvation in mainly legal terms. From this springs questions such as “Can I earn Salvation?”, “Is Christ’s death effective enough to save me or do I need to add my good works to it?” “How, exactly, does God justify me? ”. Those aren’t questions Orthodox even think about, let alone write books about.

The Orthodox look at Calvinists and Arminians and say, “you are missing the point.” Whereas, both of their systems are mainly concerned with escaping Hell, which is the just compensation for sin, the Orthodox Christian understanding of salvation is not the acquittal for sin that allowed man to gain salvation through “good works” (900 year old Roman Catholic idea) or the acquittal of sin by “faith alone” (500 year old Protestant idea). Instead, it is about being transformed, by Christ, into His likeness and partaking of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-4).

This transformation takes place in the life of the Church, the living revelation of Christ. We do not pretend to understand this. We call it a Mystery. And the life of the Church is filled with discreet acts we call the Holy Mysteries. Some of these are:
1) Baptism in which Christ makes us participants in his death and resurrection, and clothes us with Himself. (Galatians 3:27, John 3:5)
2) Chrismation in which Jesus seals us with the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables to do the work of Christ in the world (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
2) Communion (John 6:53-58, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17) in which Jesus feeds us with His own flesh and blood of Jesus, thereby bringing His body into our bodies, we being joined to Him and to each other, forming the Church, the Body of Christ.

With much affection, your Uncle, Matt

Friday, January 07, 2005

Mom Update

For the last three days my mother has been free of pain. It is a mystery. Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Today is Theophany. I'm not in Church. I wish I was. But I've had plumbers to deal with today. Last night I had trig and stats so I missed the vigil last night, too. I hate missing the major feasts. My wife comforts me saying, "We're going to be Orthodox the rest of our lives. You can go next year."

Good news: My wife, Athanasia passed her real estate exam.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Big trouble

You ever been in one of those situations where you have to do something, you know you have to do it for someone's good, that that person is someone to whom you owe your life, but that person will think you betrayed them, even hate them when you do what needs to be done? And add to this a major Biblical injuction that you have to come pretty close to breaking. And then add to that the possibility of huge legal bills. And uncertainty - there is much uncertainty. Oh, and there are other people who have to join you in your action but you all hate the situation, even talking about it is dispicable. And the embarassment of even knowing about it, have I mentioned that? Have you ever known something and just plain been ashamed for even knowing it? But not only do you have to know it, but you have to talk about it with other people (With demons trying to push you over that fuzzy line into gossip.), and you have to take action that you really do not want to take. Action you do not know how to take. Oh and then there is a key person who's not up to the battle either physically or mentally, who's resolve waivers. Did I mention the fact that the best foreseable outcome still sucks? You've been in a situation like this? Then please, have mercy on me and pray to God for me, for I am in a situation like this now.

Claudia's Tombstone

Math (both stats and trig) last night was hard. After class I had trig homework and was up till 1 am. This moring at six we all got up and went to Oakland for my wife's real estate exam. (She doesn't hink she passed.) While she was taking the test, the little boy and I ate at Mama's on the corner of Broadway and 41st. (For my readers in sunny Mexico, there is Mama's in Cabo San Lucas now, so don't be envious anymore of your amigos nortenos.) Yum! Then we had some time to kill. I don't really know Oakland so we just drove around. The area around Lake Merrit is pretty. Eventually, we wound up in the Piedmont District. I wrote about the Piedmont back in the summer so I won't go into it again. But the thing that is neat is that I ran across the cemetary. (I had forgottent that it is just at the end of Piedmont Ave.) Well, since I had some time I thought I would stop by and pray for my my co-parishoner, Claudia (Mmmm. I wonder if it is okay to talk about reposed Orthodox in the past tense.) and ask her to pray for Fr. Victor, too. We eventually found the stone, the little boy and I. As I was praying he wandered off. When I was through I saw him about 50 yards away kneeling at a little Christmas tree. The little Christmas tree was left on the fresh grave of a seven year old boy named Arthur. There was no tombstone, just the christmas tree, a piece of cardboard with the dates and name, and a picture (taped to a rock) of a little boy in a wheel chair. I prayed for Arthur and his family, too.

Monday, January 03, 2005


The little boy's godmother is now one of my tenants and neighbors. It makes me very happy. We had supper together last night. Athanasia made a lentil soup using the hjam bone from the 3rd Day of Christmas Party. After supper we prayed for Fr. Victor and for the godmother's daughter, who is traveling. I have school tonight (Stats and Trig) but Athanasia, the little boy, and the godmother will be having supper together and praying for Fr. Victor again.

The liturgy on Sunday (St. Seraphim of Sarov) was beutiful. The little cathedral was crowded. I think people are coming to see Fr. Victor one last time before Heaven. I do not know how Father Victor is so strong in the face of death. It is like being in church with St. Ignatius or St. Stephen. I think he must know that even though he is no longer able to sing the liturgy at Holy Trinity Cathedral he soon will be singing the liturgy in the Heavenly Temple.