Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

6th Day of Christmas and the Sunday Before Theophany

Not much in my posts for first 5 days of the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus has that cozy homley family Chistmas feel about it, has it? It is hard to imagine that all those deaths and all that sufferring has anything in common with the way Americans celebrate Christmas. I think that part of the reason for that is the different sources for the two ways Christmas is celebrated.

After the Puritans suppressed Christmas in England and America it was revived in those same countries as a secular holiday by Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, and the their Britainic Majesties Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The famed American author Washington Irving published his "Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall" (A book I much love) that detailed the observance of Christmas in an English manor house in the early 19th century. It was all about holly and ivy and mulled wine and wassail and boar's heads and how one wealthy English nobleman's family celebrated Christmas. Much Fun! And though there was Church service in the book, the emphasis in Irving reporting of the service was on the participation of the family of the manor, not on He who was worshiped in the service.

Charles Dickens, a friend of Irving's,wrote his famous novella, A Christmas Carol in 1843. Many tens of thousands of copies of the book were sold to Christmas-starved masses, and Dickens' public readings in England and America were attended as well as any by the superstar performers of today. People even stood in long lines all night in freezing weather to buy tickets to his readings. But what was Christmas in this book? Was it the worship of the nativity of the incarnate God? Was it amazment that God and man were joined together in one person?

In A Christmas Carol (I have read the book and am a fan. Each year I even make my kids watch the 1951 movie version, staring Sir Alastair Sim.) there is no mention of the Nativity of Christ. There is no rejoicing in the Incarnation. In fact, the only allusion to the breathtaking reality of Christmas in Dickens' book is that on Christmas morning Scrooge "went to church". And that's it. Nothing else. But if the central Christian understanding of Christmas is missing from A Christmas Carol, what takes it's place? Friends and Family. Scrooge's nephew's Christmas party, and the Christmas dinner of the Cratchit family, and Fezziwigs company Christmas party (which resembled an idealized family celebration more than any office party) are the three most lively, colorful, and well-presented celebrations of Christmas in the novella.

The last of the three forces that lead to a revivial of the celebration of Christmas in America and England, though not a revival of the traditional Christian worship (do you remember a couple of years ago Christmas fell on Sunday and several extremely large churches cancelled services?) was the portrayal of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as an ideal faimly that gatherd around a christmas tree to open presents. Pictures of the British royal family posed around their Christmas tree were published in the Illustrated London News in 1848 and in the extremely popular American womens' magazine Godey's Ladys Book in 1850. This was a very influential magazine, being something like the Martha Stewart's Living and Good Housekeeping of the early 19th century. It is difficult to overstate how important these portrayals of the British Royal family were. They clinched the Family-Home-Christmas union that had been so greatly encouraged by Irving and Dickens.

But does any of that have anything to do with the Christian celebration of Christmas? Not really. In general, the Bible, and especially, the New Testament is ambiguous about family. After all, Jesus warns that children will betray thier parents, tells a man to not bother about burying his dead father, and when given an opportunity to affirm the familial relationship with Joseph's children and Mary his mother he chooses not to. And consider all that was going on the the relationships between the Prodigal Son, his father, and his older brother! And what needs to be said about wicked family of Herod, Archaleus, and Antipas?

Nevertheless, on this day, on the Sunday Before Theophany, which this year falls on the 6th Day of Christmas, the Orthodox Church remembers three of Jesus' relatives, David, Joseph, and James, in its hymnody. And in these hymns we see the purpose of family: To foster the love and worship of God, to make saints.


Troparion - Tone 2
Proclaim the wonder, O Joseph,
to David, the ancestor of God:
you saw a Virgin great with Child,
you gave glory with the shepherds,
you worshipped with the Magi,
you received the news from the angel.
Pray to Christ God to save our souls!


Kontakion - Tone 3
Today godly David is filled with joy;
Joseph and James offer praise.
The glorious crown of their kinship with Christ fills them with great joy.
They sing praises to the One ineffably born on earth,
and they cry out: "O Compassionate One, save those who honor You!"

Think about this: In Jesus immediate family there are His Mother Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Zacharias, St. Joseph, St. Jude, St. James, St. John the Foreruner and several others. But this is not the only saintly family in the history of the Church. Think about St. Macrina the Younger in the fourth century. Her parents and her grandmother are saints, and her little brothers, whom she educated, are the famous bishops Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa . And consider St. Timothy. Didn't saint Paul commend St. Timothy's mother and grandmother for their raising of Timothy to love and obey God? This is the Christian understanding of the purpose of family. The Church is ful of these saintly families. There isn't space on my blog to write them all.

But the Christian understanding of Christmas is not tied to our own families. It is much grander that that. It is firmly anchored in the family of God. Because of Christ's Incarnation he has become one of us and is filliated to us (2 Cor. 8:9). He is our brother as much as he is St. James' brother. (Romans 8:17) And like James and David and Joseph, the glorious crown of kinship with Christ fills us with great joy.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A million dollars to give away

Many times in my life I have seen needs that I wanted to give money to meet. In fact, just today I recieved an appeal from the Russian Children's Home but tossed it in the trash because my wife had just told me not to spend anymore money. Most of my life I have not had money to give like I want to give. But tonight I came acrosssomething interesting while checking out the libertarians in my facebook networks. (I was checking to see if they were going to support Ron Paul)

One of the Libertarians in the Silicon Valley network runs an interesting blog.

"For most of us, having a million dollars liquid — that is, available for our use at any time, and easily convertible into cash — is the stuff of pure fantasy. But after talking to a few of my friends about decisions they were making, I was able to easily articulate one way we can all have $1 million in cash — liquid, available cash — in our lifetimes.

"No, this isn’t some “get rich quick” scheme, and it doesn’t require anything illegal or immoral. It’s actually quite simple. The one catch is that it’s easier to do earlier in your life. But it’s something anyone can do, and is easily within the range of most Americans. You have to follow some rules to make this work. But once you do, you’ll be a millionaire.
What is the decision?

"Buy a cheaper car, and invest the difference."



Read the details and review her math here.

5th Day of Christmas

14,000 dead babies. They are who are commemorated by Orthodox Christians on this, the 5th Day of Christmas. In an effort to protect his throne from Jesus, Herod killed all the boys from two years and under in the area of Bethlehem.

The Holy Prophet Jerhmiah fortold this event, saying "Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not." But Jerehiah did not know one very important thing.

He did not know that the God he served would decree "Whosoever loses his life for my sake shall find it." Therefore, in that vast and glorious assembly of God's Holy Martyrs are 14,000, who not yet even knowing Christ found their life and everlasting joy in him. What Herod intended for evil God turned to good; swords were turned into scythes harvesting souls for Heaven.

In three different places the Gospels record Jesus warning people about harming children, that it would be better for them to kill themselves before harming a child; that if they harm a child it will not go well for them on the Day of Judgment. But in Herod's case, it seems that God hastened judgement. It was not long after the massacre that Herod's rule ended. Though Holy Scripture does not record it, the historian Josephus records that Herod died from a terrifically painful disease.



When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi came from the East.
Having been led by a star from on High, they brought Him gifts.
But in exceeding wrath, Herod harvested the infants as sorrowing wheat;
The rule of his kingdom has come to an end.

(Kontokian in Tone 4 for Dec 29)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pop Music

I must admit that I do not listen to much Pop music. Most of it is just plain boring. But recently I have heard three songs that really caught my attention. Interestingly, they all contain some throwbacks to prior decades, and all are by British acts.

First, "I don't Feel Like Dancing" by the Scissor Sisters. It is a peppey BeeGees and ABBA influenced song that I dould listen to for hours. Don't ask me what the words are other than the "I Don't Feel like Dancin" line because I could't tell you. And Ironically, this song makes me want to dance.





Second, there is this unfortunate singer who seems to have narcotics and legal problems. I first learned of her from a drudgreport headline, and wondered why she was famous. Only a few days later did I hear this song on NPR. The singer's name is Amy Winehouse. Althought she is british she pronounces her long O's like a New Yorican and has a musical sound that brings Ameircan R&B music into the 21st century. It is a very sad song.





The third song reminds me of that song Music Box Dancer, ABBA, and every band that ever used a drum machine. But the perky happy music is juxtaposed with lyrics that are filed with pure English urban family life troubles. I find the video distracting and recomend listening to this song by Lilly Allen with your eyes closed.

A Roman Liturgist

I have some Roman Catholic friends who are highly critical of their church's liturgists. Now I think I understand why.

h



Yes, I know its Stephen Colbert, who, by all reports, is a very devout Roman Catholic. I was kidding.

Illness

I saw a physiciasn today. Of the four things I was concerned about he said (in order):
(a) "Its no big deal. Don't worry about it."
(b) "there no effective treatment",
(c) "I'm sorry, there is nothing that can be done", and
(d) it could be caused by one of three different things.

Personally, I think two of my problems could be helped very much with moderate doses of narcotics. Doctors tend to disagree with me though. They took some radiogrpahs and I have to go get some blood work done in the morning. I hate being sick.

This afternoon I noticed that Anselm wasn't hearing me very well. No fever, no ear ache, just lack of hearing. I took him to see the pediatrician. It is thought that he has another ear infection. 15 days of antibiotics and a check up in one month.

Basil just pukes pukes pukes.

Athanasia is coughing.

Misery.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In the 1980s did you "Want My MTV?" Maybe you should want Ron Paul.

For Non-Orthodox Pastors

I know there are some pastors who are not Orthodox, but who are interested enough in Orthodoxy to read this blog. This message is for you. If you think you might like to serve God in the Orthodox Church, please send an email to Howard Lange at the Antiochian Archdiocese. He specializes in helping Protestant pastors discern whether or not they should try to become Orthodox priests. He is better equiped than me (I'm just a layman) to anwer all of the question you have about the process. He can be reached at missions@antiochian.org

Its been a pretty rough day

Basil was sick all night and the sickness continues today. I started coughinb last night and that has only grown worse today. Additionally, my left ankle started hurting Chrismas Eve and now I can barely walk. I have an appointment to see a doctor tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, all this affliction meant we had to cancel our St. Stephen's Day dinner plans with my sister and brother-in-law, and my wife's uncle. Oh, well, there is next year to plan for. And aside from that CHRIST IS BORN!!!! GLORIFY HIM!!!

Third Day of Christmas

I hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas. Today, the Third Day of Christmas is one of my favorite days of the year. Everyone in English speaking lands knows the excellent song that begins "Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen…" And many probably wonder why this is a Christmas song since it doesn't even mention Christmas, elves, reindeer or chestnuts. Well, it is a Christmas song because the Feast of Stephen occurs during the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus.

Though yesterday, the 2nd Day of Christmas was the commemoration of St. Stephen in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist (yes, Virginia, some Methodists still remember the Saints) and Lutheran Churches, today, the 3rd Day of Christmas is the day the Orthodox Church remembers St. Stephen.

If there is a hierarchy (and I bet there is) among saints in the Orthodox Church, the Martyrs are right up near the top of that hierarchy. And first among the martyrs is St. Stephen. In fact, his official title is Protomartyr.

I'm sure everyone reading this is familiar with the story of St. Stephen: How he was chosen to be one of the first deacons to take care of the complaining widows, how he was tried for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin, and how was stoned to death. You have read how during his stoning Heaven was opened to him and he saw the Father and the Son. After his death, as you might not know, his body was left to be eaten by dogs, but was secretly taken by the famous rabbi Gamaliel, who buried St. Stephen on his estate. (Gameliel and his son both secretly believed in Jesus, but were later baptized.)

As marvelous as all that is, there is one thing I think of every time I think of St. Stephen: Ahead of all others, God chose a deacon, one who's only job is to be a servant, to first receive the crown of martyrdom. Certainly many others have received that glorious crown since St. Stephen, but he was first. The honor of being Protomartyr did not go to any of the Apostles, nor to Bishop James, nor to any of the priests or laity. But the crown was first given to a deacon, one of those who in all things is called to serve all the other members of the Church, even the bickering and complaining widows.

Thus the word of the Lord is fulfilled: "And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. - Mark 9:35"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Grades

Grades are comming in for last semester.

Athanasia got an A+ in Qualitative and Quantitative Methods.
I got an A in Economics

We each have one more grade to come in.

And did I mention that Anselm passed his first spelling test with a 29/30 ? He only missed "cat" wich he spelled with "k".

Basil is doing analytical trig. :)




UPDATE: The rest of the grades are in. All As for both of us.

The Second Day of Christmas

On the Second Day of Christmas the Orthodox Church remembers Mary.

As the Old Roman Martyrology says, Jesus was born during a time of peace. But it was peace under the oppressive heel of an empire. It was peace because death's domination was unchallenged. It was peace because of Satan's grip on creation was unassailable. The peace was so smothering that even the priest Zacharias was unable to see beyond the limits of death-bound flesh to believe the Angel's news that God was on the move. He just couldn't believe that after mellinia of peace God was going to take the fight to Satan. But that is exactly what Jesus did. He said that he came not to bring peace but a sword; that he would establish a Church that would storm the very gates of Hell and bring them down; that the conflict would be so catacylsmic that the valleys would be lifted up and mountains would be leveled.

That's very triumphant and exciting stuff. But every fight involves pain, hardship and suffering. And this fight involves looking beyond the "realities" of life. Whereas the aged priest Zacharias only saw this world, even when Heaven was opened to him, a young woman named Mary said " Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." And that was the beginning of her sorrows. Facing the rumors surrounding her pregnancy was just the first of her challenges. She had to travel to Betlehem when she was great with child. She had to give birth in a cave used to shelter animals. She was forced to flee to Egypt ahead of Herod's assassins. She had to watch her son die on a cross. She suffered with her Son, and in doing so, she shows us how to be co-laborer with God, how to, in the words of St. Paul, "complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions". We do not forget that she was present in the earliest days of the Church and was among those who counted it all joy to suffer for the name of Christ (Acts 1:14, 5:41).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Best Laid Plans

Well, about 4 pm today, Basil was taken to the doctor to get an elbow popped back into place. Emergency room was packed. Missed the Vigil. Anselm is sick so one of us hs to stay home with him tomorrow morning. It will probably be Athanasia who gets sick child duty. Not sure yet.

---

Terry Mattingly has a good article on the 12 Days of Christmas...

"There was a time when Christians did not celebrate a season that could be called the 30-something days of Christmas." (Read the rest here.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas in San Francisco

If you are going to bein San Francisco during the next few days, please, join us at Holy Trinity Cathedral (Corner of Van Ness and Green)

December 22, 6 p.m. All Night Vigil, 6:00 p.m.

December 23, 10 a.m. Divine Liturgy (Sunday of the Fathers/Sunday Before the Nativity)

December 23, 6 p.m. Royal Hours for the Nativity

December 24, 10 a.m. Vespers & Divine Liturgy

December 24, 6 p.m. Festal Vigil

December 25, 10 a.m. Divine Liturgy (Nativity of Christ)


If I don't see you there, Have a Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Do you think you're capable of being the King of Narnia?

That's what Aslan asked Caspian. Essentially, the question was, "Are you worthy?" Casipian answered something like, "I don't think I am, Sir." That was the right answer, and Aslan made him King over Narnia.

-----

Being at the center of attention clearly bothers Paul. "I like to be unnoticed," he says, a claim not typically made by presidential candidates. "That's my personality. I see all the excitement and sometimes I say to myself, 'Why do they do that?' I don't see myself as a big deal." Ordinarily you'd have to dismiss a line like that out of hand--if he's so humble, why is he running for president?--but, in Paul's case, it might be true. In fact, it might be the key to his relative success. His fans don't read his awkwardness as a social phobia, but as a sign of authenticity. (Read the whole article here.)

----
New Hampshire Primary Update: Paul has leap-frogged over Fred (The Lobbyist) Thompson and is tied for 4th place. Considering there are 9 candidates running, this is pretty good news. Even better news is that Paul is sitting at 9%. He only needs 10% to win a delegate to the convention next summer.

Just in case you missed it the last time I posted it

When Anselm saw this he said "They broke the law of music."


Bunk, Bunk, Bunk

Yesterday my neigbor remarked how the weather forcast said 7 days of continual rain but we only had two. I said, "Whats remarkable is that they can't predict rain a week out but expect us to be afraid of global warming. She was shocked that I would say sometinglike that.

----

"...Dr Renwick said his organisation was doing
as well as any other weather forecaster around the world. He was quoted
by the country’s leading newspaper, the New Zealand Herald as saying:
“Climate prediction is hard, half of the variability in the climate system is
not predictable, so we don’t expect to do terrifically well.” Later on New
Zealand radio, Dr Renwick said: “The weather is not predictable beyond
a week or two.”" Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Global Warming is Bunk

On this day, when the Washington Times directs our attention to world-wide record low temperatures, I'd like to point out the following:

More than 17,000 scientists have signed the Global Warming Petition from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. The Petition says, in part:

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

I think Global Warming hype is just another way for the Humanity Haters to convince people to give up their property and liberty.

Antiphonal Ave Maria/Angelus

Franz Biebel wrote an antiphonal anarrangement of Ave Maria and the Angelus for male voices; a choir and four soloists. Since bielbel wrote it there have been many variations. This one is for mixed voivces recorded by a choir from Jefferson County Kentucky's Youth Performing Arts School.

Here it is in English:

(Soloist 1) The Angel of the Lord made his annunciation to Mary and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

(Choir) Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

(Solist 2) Mary said, "Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be unto me according to Your Word."

(Choir) Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

(Soloist 3) And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

(Choir) Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

(Soloist 4) Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.

(Choir) Holy Mary pray for us, now and at the our of our death. Amen.

A Seldom Seen Part of Anna Nichole Smith

YouTube is amazing. I was looking for a video of Concordia College Choir singing "Beautiful Savior" when I found this. I don't know what to say about it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I did the "That famous guy on TV is one of us" thing

So, Anselm and I were sitting in an "Irish pub" on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale the other day and they had a football game showing on the TV. When I saw Troy Polamalu walk onto the field I said to Anselm, "See that guy? He's Orthodox like you."
Anselm said, "I've never seen him at Church."
"I think he attends the liturgy at a monastery somewhere near where he lives. He lives on the other side of the country".
"Is he a subdeacon?"
"I don't think so."
"Is he a priest?"
"No."
"Then why is he on TV?"
"He's a football player and people like to watch football on TV. He's pretty famous."
"Does he have a lot of money?"
"I think so."
"Could he buy this place?"
"Probably."
"Well, if he's not a priest why is his hair long?"

A Gregorian Chant

We all know St. Pope Gregory the Dialogist wrote some beautiful hymns. Here is one of the 3,000 that bear his name. I have no idea if his is the hand that penned it, but here it is. (Translation by Randy Kikukawa.)

Alleluia
Virga Jesse floruit
Virgo Deum et hominem genuit
Pacem Deus reddidit
In se reconcilians summis
Alleluia


Alleluia
The Rod of Jesse has blossomed:
A Virgin hath broght forth God and man
God hath restored peace,
reconciling in Himself, the lowest with the highest.
Alleluia.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Christmas Carol

A New Thing

Yesterday after church I went tosome used bookstores to sell books. I learned that,interestingly, used book stores do not buy during the month of December. So, I went to Half.com became a registed seller and listed my books. Hopefully, someone will buy them. At least three of them are being used as colege textbooks, so I have some hope. The only problem I hae with selling my books this way is that I have to keep them until they are sold. I really wanted to get them out of the house yesterday. Someday, when Basil is older and has grown out of his "I am the destroyer" stage I will have stuff again. But for now, my philosophy is "an empty house is a tidy house."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Washington Post on Ron Paul's Campaign

First, to my readers who don't care about politics, are favoring other candidates, or who my be worried that I am spending so much time on politics during Advent, let me offer a bit of an explanation. Back in the early 1980s I becme a Republican. I was only 14 but my dad fanagled a ticket for me to hear President Reagan speak to the National Association of Evangelicals. I heard that speech and believed what he said. And shortly after that I also read Reagan's bookand Bastiat's "The Law". The Speech and the books influenced me greatly. From then on I was pro-life and pro-liberty. In the 26 years since that speech I have watched my party, the Republicn Party, give lip service to the pro-life movement without actually ending abortion, when to do so is an easy thing. I've watched government and debts grow. which limit liberty. I kept holding out hope, though. They talked a good game, surely they would eventually get around to passing andsigning the bills I cared about. But in 26 years they haven't. Liberty has diminished, abortion is still legal, debts havepiled up and we have even waged anagreesive unprovoked war. I has always bothered me that the pro-lifepresidents Reagan,Bush, and Bush would not appear at the annual pro-life rallies, but would phone in their support. In 2004 I realised that G.W.Bush isn't really pro-life. And with the passage of the Patriot Act I realised that he isn't really pro-liberty. And I looked hard at the Republican candidates on my ballot in 2004 and came to the conclusion that most republicans were not pro-life and pro-liberty. Like the Democrats they were pro-lobbyist, pro-status quo, pro-what ever program their biggest campaign donors wanted. And I dind't vote for any of them. I voted my conscience instead. I figured I would never vote for another republican ever again. But then I heard about Ron Paul. And for the first time in almost four years I think that there is a chance to get some one into the OVal Office who will fight (and it will be a fight) with Congress and the monnied interests to roll back programs, end a federal right to an abortion, bring our troops home (My son is paratrroper), and begin to pay off the national debt. Mitney won't do it. Huckabee won't do it. Giuliani won't do it. Certainly no Democrat will do it. But if Paul is elected I am sure that he will do it, or go down fighting. My hope is in Heaven, but for the time being, I live here, and just as it would be a sin for an annointed Orthodox Christian monarch to abdicate his duty, I believe it would be a sin for me,a citizen in a rebublic not to be involved in politics. So, following St. Paul's advice, I am staying busy until the Lord returns.

If you are reading this on December 16, 2007 please, go to this site and help Ron Paul become the next President of the United States.

Now, here is the the article from the Washington Post about Ron Paul.

And here is a video:

Ron Paul in New Hampshire

CNN did a scientific telephone poll on Thursday.
Ron Paul is only six percent away from second place.
If he can take 2% from McCain and 1% from each of the others he is in second place.

Huckabee 24%
Thompson 17%
Giuliani 16%
Romney 16%
McCain 13%
Paul 11%


In other news I got the Ron Paul banner stretched over the northbound lanes of Hwy 101 at Moffat Blvd.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Freedom to Believe" Under Threat

Sharia Ecumenism
By Ruth Gledhill, Times 9/12/07
Dec 10, 2007 - 1:40:02 PM


A British imam's daughter is living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for converting to Christianity.


The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago.

Hannah, who uses a pseudonym to hide her identity, told The Times how she became a Christian after she ran away from home at 16 to escape an arranged marriage.

The threats against her became more serious a month ago, prompting police to offer her protection in case of an attempt on her life.

She was speaking on the eve of the launch of a new charity in London today to promote greater religious awareness. Muslims in Britain who wish to convert to Christianity are living in fear of their lives because of Islamic apostasy laws, a senior Church of England bishop will warn at the invitaton-only launch in west London.

The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, will claim "freedom to believe" is under threat in Britain because of Islamic hostility to conversion.

Hannah, now employed in multi-faith youth work and who gives talks to churches on Islam, is the daughter of a Lancashire imam whose seven other children are demanding she return to Islam. She has been in hiding, since her home was attacked by a group of men armed with knives, axes and hammers, in 1994. She will describe today how she is in fear of her life after the death threats against her were recently renewed.

She said: "I left home and I had nowhere to go. My religious education teacher gave me somewhere to live. Even though she tried to make me stay at home on Sundays, I am quite rebellious by nature and I started to go to church with her out of curiosity."

She said she had been in hiding, on and off, ever since, and has now been given a telephone number she can call for an instant response by police should she need help. The latest threat was a text message from one of her brothers, warning he could not be responsible for his actions if she did not return to Islam.

Hannah said she was looking forward to getting married so she could change her name and escape detection by her family. Not all Muslims in Britain are this extreme, she believes.

"It is representative of some Muslims. I know the Koran says that anyone who goes away from Islam should be killed as an apostate so in some ways my family are following the Koran. They are following Islam to the word. But I do not think every Muslim would actually act on that."

Earlier this year, a Policy Exchange study found that 36 per cent of British Muslims aged between 16 and 24 believed those who converted to another religion should be punished by death.

Dr Nazir-Ali will speak out on behalf of Hannah and others suffering persecution for their beliefs in the UK at today's launch of Lapido Media, a new charity which is seeking to promote "religious literacy" in world affairs.

The Bishop is expected to describe how sharia law in many countries, including parts of Britain, punishes apostasy with death and is viewed as treason by theocratic governments. Dr Nazir-Ali will call on society to offer greater protection, by increasing understanding of what makes people vulnerable.

Pakistan-born Dr Nazir-Ali, who has a Christian and Muslim background, is patron of Lapido Media, funded by donations and trusts including the Jerusalem Trust. The word ‘lapido’ means ‘to speak up for’ in the Acholi language of Northern Uganda. The charity has been named in honour of the courage of Acholi church leaders who campaigned for an end to a little-reported 20-year war there, involving the abduction of 25,000 children .

Working for Paul

Basil and I walked up and down Castro Street today; handing out literature and trying to round up votes for Ron Paul. Many people took the flyers. A few people said they were already planning to vote for him. A few people looked at us likewe were filth. All in all, it was a good day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ron Paul Meet Up

I went to a Ron Paul Meet up tonight. It was a of fun. Its interesting that there are so many different kinds of people supporting Ron Paul. There was a hanyman, a copy writer for Bebe, a college student, and about 30 other people. Some were there because of Iraq, some because of 1st Ammendment issues, some because of abortion, some for the gold standard. It was definitley an eclectic group of people. I left with a bunch of fliers, bumperstickers, and a sign to hang over the freeway. Much good!

Saints

One of my favorite things about Advent is the collection of Advent Saints. While still in November there is St. Catherine's Day (and when my little boys are older we willbe having the traditional St. Catherines Day Party, with the wheels and lambs wool and everything.) an there is St. Nicholas day and St.Ambrose's Day and today is a collection of very famous saints.

St Lucy of Syracuse is one of the Holy Martyrs who obtained their crowns during the reign of Diocletian. Her name means 'light" and ironically part of the torture she endured was the tearing out of her eyes. After her victory she appeared clothed in light walking on a lake in Sweden where she gave aid to people suffering from a terrible famine. You better believe that if I had a daughter she would be wearing that hat made of candles today.

St. Eustratius and his companions killed in Armenia, also during the riegn of Diocletion. Together they are called the "Five Companions". Someof the prayers they uttered while being tortured were incorporated into the Church's services.

And today is the repose of St. Herman the Wonderworker of Alaska. Working alone and forgotten by his countrymen,he evangelized the natives on Spruce Island, worked miracles, founded a school, invented an alphabet, and translated the services and Biblical texts.

I'm sure there are others, but these are the only ones I know.

Convention

Many years ago I heard two prayers at the Republican convention. Theo opening prayer was by a Presbyterian named D. James Kennedy. If you are familiar with Kennedy you know what his prayer was like. The closing prayer was by an Orthodox bishop. It was the first time I had ever heard an Orthodox bishop's voice. After hearing this prayer I thought to myself that the closing prayer was better than the opening prayer. That was 10 years before I became an Orthodox Christian.

School and the best Attack Ad ever

I don't think I've mentioned it on this blog (maybe I have), but I am taking classes to become a city planner. (Ironic choice for a libertarian, don't you think?) I just finished my assignments for the two classes I took this semester. 2, down 8 to go. I should be finished by thistime next year.


Mateo had this on his blog. As an old philosophy major (what a waste that was) I found this hilarious.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This just in From the Alaska Desk...

Good news (maybe), frinds of the Constitution.

Ron Paul is leading in one unscientific Poll in Alaska. Read here.



Music

The Handmaiden Leah had this very funny thing on her blog




And my wife and I have tickets to hear these guys at Stanford Memorial Church later tonight.





But we will be attending the Christmas Concert (one of my wie's benefits for working at Stanford.)



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Anselm Ate Today

2 sausage links*
1.5 eggs (Basil had the other 1.5 eggs)
4 tangerines
1/3 of a baguette (Basil and I ate the rest)
1/2 peanut butter and honey sandwich (I had the other half)
1/2 griled cheese sandwich (Basil had the other half)
2 celery stalks
1 carrot
4 lenten cookies**
1/2 of an apple (I had the other half)
1 pint of milk
1 cup of yogurt
Unknown amount of dried pineapple

And he has already place his order for breakfast tomorrow: baked yams and squash.

I am amazed by how much he eats.


* In our parish children under seven are exempt from dietary requirements of the Church's fasts. This makes it difficult for parents. I've discovered that the key is cooking less than they will eat. That way there are no leftovers to tempt me.

** Our closest grocery store sells really yummy date, anise, and sesame cookies that are totally fast-friendly.

Will Al Have to Return His Nobel Prize?

Look at this: "Warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence."

And this: “The observed pattern of warming, comparing surface and atmospheric temperature trends, does not show the characteristic fingerprint associated with greenhouse warming. The inescapable conclusion is that the human contribution is not significant and that observed increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases make only a negligible contribution to climate warming.”

And this: “Satellite data and independent balloon data agree that atmospheric warming trends do not exceed those of the surface. Greenhouse models, on the other hand, demand that atmospheric trend values be 2-3 times greater. We have good reason, therefore, to believe that current climate models greatly overestimate the effects of greenhouse gases. Satellite observations suggest that GH models ignore negative feedbacks, produced by clouds and by water vapor, that diminish the warming effects of carbon dioxide.”

And this:“The current warming trend is simply part of a natural cycle of climate warming and cooling that has been seen in ice cores, deep-sea sediments, stalagmites, etc., and published in hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed journals. The mechanism for producing such cyclical climate changes is still under discussion; but they are most likely caused by variations in the solar wind and associated magnetic fields that affect the flux of cosmic rays incident on the earth’s atmosphere. In turn, such cosmic rays are believed to influence cloudiness and thereby control the amount of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface—and thus the climate.”

Can you guess where these words are published?

The PAPER is published in the December 2007 issue ofInternational Journal of Climatology of a little insignifacant organization called the Royal Meteorological Society.

Fr. Stephen on Church and State

Good stuff here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fr. Hopko on St. Nicholas Day

I found this on another website. I know Fr. Hopko doesn't care what I think about him, but I think he might be the greatest preacher (in English) in the Orthodox Church today. I'm not sure I agree with him on a couple of diputable things, but heck, that's why they are disputable. Below is just really good teaching. Of course, it doesn't profit us at all if we think he is only talking about bishops and priests, and not all of us.

----

The Orthodox Church’s main hymn (troparion/apolytikion) for the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra is the general hymn for all of the Church’s holy bishops. As such, for example, it is sung the day after the feast of St. Nicholas for the celebration of St. Ambrose of Milan. This hymn tells us what a Christian bishop (and, by extension, also a presbyter) ought to be for his people. And so it also tells us how all Christians should be.

The song begins by telling us that “the truth of things” reveals a real Christian pastor “to his flock” as three things.

First, “the truth of things” reveals the bishop (or presbyter) as a “canon of faith.” This means that the holy pastor incarnates God’s Gospel in Jesus Christ in a living and vital way in absolutely everything he is, says and does. He not only “rightly divides (or distributes) the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), but he himself is a living “rule” and “norm” for everyone about what they should know and believe, and how they should be and behave as Christians.

Second, “the truth of things” manifests the bishop (or presbyter) as an “icon of meekness.” This means that the pastor learns from Christ, the Good Shepherd, who said “learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) And having so learned, the pastor becomes a living pattern and image to his people about Christ-like meekness which, according the saints, is a divine quality that no creature can adequately comprehend or explain. This meekness is the ability to express, exemplify and incarnate God’s Gospel in Jesus Christ in a clear, sound, true, sober and gentle manner, without anger, annoyance, irritation or aggression in any way. It is to be and to act like Christ himself: to affirm people’s freedom, to safeguard their dignity and to instruct them by example.

Third, “the truth of things” reveals the bishop (or presbyter) as a “teacher of self-control.” Self-control is how the Greek word enkrateia (in Slavonic vozderzhaniye) is translated into English in the RSV Bible, as, for example, as the final virtue in St. Paul’s listing of “the fruit of the Holy Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22) In the KJV Bible this word is translated as temperance. Sometimes in English translations of ascetical writings the word is rendered as self-discipline or self-limitation, or as abstinence or continence. Sometimes it is rendered as spiritual freedom.

So the Christian pastor is a canon, icon and teacher for his flock. He is a canon of faith, an icon of meekness, and a teacher of self-control.

Two other things are then proclaimed in the hymn about the holy pastor.

The first is that “through humility” the good pastor acquires “high things”. The word humility (in Greek tapeinosis) means lowliness, emptiness, powerlessness according to the flesh. It means that a person has nothing his own: no knowledge, wisdom, power or authority of any kind. Humble people understand that everything is a gift and a grace, and as such, they live by God, and not themselves. They realize that none of their words, actions, powers or properties are their own, to do with as they please. Humble people have the ability to see themselves not merely as the same as everyone else, especially the lowest and weakest, but they view themselves before God as beneath every creature. Thus they are completely devoid of conceit, arrogance, lust of power, vanity, vainglory and pride. The Lord Jesus Christ joined humility (tapeinosis) with meekness, when he said “Learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart (tapeinos en kardia).”

The second proclamation about the saintly pastor is that “through poverty” he acquires “rich things.” He becomes wealthy in the things of God by emptying himself, without exception, of all things earthly. In this sense the bishop (or presbyter) possesses nothing at all of his own. He is not an owner in any way. He is rather, as Holy Scripture says, a “slave” (doulos), a “servant” (diakonos) and a “steward” (oikonomos).

The word bishop (in Greek episkopos), which literally means overseer or supervisor, was the title in an ancient household (oikos) for the chief slave. The “epi-skopos” was the head servant and first steward who “over-saw” and “super-vised” the work of all the other slaves, servants and stewards. The “episkopos” spoke in the Master’s name, held the Master’s authority, wielded the Master’s power, cared for the Master’s properties, guarded the Master’s possessions, directed the Master’s services and distributed the Master’s goods. But he was not the Master himself!

Thus, in the memorable saying of St. Gregory the Great, the Christian bishop (or presbyter) is the chief “servus servorum Dei,” the preeminent “servant of the servants of God” in the household of God.
In reflecting on the main hymn for St Nicholas and all Christian bishops, we cannot help but recall the words of Holy Scripture about the Church’s bishops and presbyters.

For a bishop (episkopos), as God’s steward (oikonomos), must be blameless, must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or an active alcoholic or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and to confute those who contradict it. (Titus 1.7-9; See Also 1 Timothy 3:1-13, 4:11-16)

So I exhort the elders (presvyterous) among you, as a fellow elder (sympresvyteros) and a witness (martys) of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Pastor the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight (episkope) not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples (typoi) to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd (archpastor/archipoimenos) is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

The hymn to St. Nicholas, and to all holy bishops, concludes with the plea: “O Father Hierarch Nicholas, pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.” “The truth of things” on this holy day clearly reveals what God wills for us, and for our Orthodox Church in America, for our souls to be saved.

Fr. Thomas Hopko
St. Nicholas Day
2007

My Heart Was In My Throat

I just watched something that is unbelievable. I was so tense watching it I thought I was going to puke. I have never seen anything like it. Lion tamaers, race car drivers, bungie jumpers will never impress me after having seen this.

Thanks, Mateo.

This Wasn't Liby's Diner

Do you remember about a decade ago when a mmn entered Libby's Diner and killed a bunch of people? One of the survivors of the attack said that if she'd only had her gun with her, instead of locked in her car as the law required, she could have stoped the murderer before his second victim fell. Many of the anti-gun Nazis ridiculed this woman.

Yesterday she was vindicated when an armed person fought back against a a similar attack in a church..

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hanukkah Music

WUMB is streaming it.

The Tendecy of American to Want to Be Alone

If you've been a reador of this blog over the years You have, no doubt, read my rantings on the death of community. I have decried the decline ot Texas dance hall culture, bemoaned the sprawl of suburbs, begged people to get out of their houses and go to live music events in small venues, encouraged people to leve their cars at home and take public transportation. But tonight I'm going to ask the gablers out there to put away your quarter and play craps, or roulette, or bacarat. You migh ask why? Because....

"...[casino managers know] playing the slots, still pays the bills. Slot machines are sometimes called "beautiful vaults" in the industry because they bring in nearly three-quarters of the roughly $60 billion in gambling revenue that American casinos generate. "

Just think of it, its like being a lonely caged rat pushing a button and hoping for some food to pop out of the chute. It is just too gross to think about. Please, you gamblers, plyy a social game when you visit the casino. Don't just sit in front of a machine. Have the beautiful woman next to you blow on the dice, ask the handsome man accross the table to float you a c-note cause you just got raised, take a sip from your drink as you watch the new players try to figure out the rules. Or have some friends over and play cribbage for a penny a point. Don't just sit there drooling into your cup of nickles!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

This Day, an Advent Tradition, St. Nicholas, Poverty

Today, the boys and I went to Rancho San Antonio for a walk in the rain. It was realy nice. Usually when we go there it is very crowded with people but the rain kept most people away today. We haven'thad much rain this season so, though it was raining, the stram beds were mostly dry. We walked in them. Basil was head-to-toe covered in mud. At one time the boys took shelter from an especially heavy cludburst in a hollow oak tree. That was neat until Basil decided to taste oak sap. We saw six deer, two flocks of wild turkeys, and a bobcat. The bobcat was a bit worrisome since it wasn't afraid of us at all. In fact, at one point it was not more than 6 meters away from us. That is when Basil said the terryfying words,"My cat. Pick up cat." and tried to break free from my grip. Anselm exhibited much better sense than his little brother. It walked along the with us for about 50 meters before it crossed over a field (stopping briefly to sniff something and marks its territory) and dissapeard into the woods on the far side of the field. Rancho San Antonio is mountain lion area but I have never seen one there. I hope if I do come across a mountain lion it is much more wary of people than was today's bobcat. Anslem collected many tenis ball-sized buckeye seeds. Basil did manage to break free of me and chase a deer. He didn't get closer tan 20 meters before the deer bolted. By the time we finished our walk we were soaked.


One of the things I do with my kids every year is read Advent Story Book by Antonie Schneider aloud each night before bed. The conceit of the book is that Benjamin Bear opens a window on his Advent calendar each night before bed, thus reveling a new picture. And each evening Benjamin Bear's mother incorporates the picture into a long story about a little bear she is telling to Benjamin Bear. Below is the chapter for December 6.

---

On December 6th, Benjamin opened the next door and saw a man dressed in red.


It grew darker, the path to Bethlehem seemed immeasurably long to the little bear. Snowflakes blew in his face. He closed his eyes for a moment. He was so sleepy...
The little bear yawned.Before him sood a man dressed in red, a large sack slung over his back, leading a donkey.
"Hello, there, little bear. My name is Nicholas. What are you doing out n such a cold night?"
"I am following the star to Bethlehem to see the Child that will be born," muttered the bear.
Nicholas smiled. "Then we are going the same way!" he said. Without waiting for a reply, he lifted the little bear onto his donkey. When they reached a village, the little bear sawchildren peering out of brightly lit windows. Waht are they waiting for, he wondered. Then he saw empty plates and shoes in front of the doors.
Nicholas opened his large sack. It was filled with apples, nuts, and gingerbread. "Will you help me, little bear?"
The little bear nodded and cheerfuly passed out all the goodies. "Now the sack is empty!" said the little bear, disappointed. "We've given away everything."
"And because we did, we are nearer to Bethlehem." replied Nicholas....
The little bear rubbed his eyes. It was morning. The sun was shining. Next to him was a small sack with a card that read, FOR THE LITTLE BEAR.

"I'm glad the little bear got some goodies, too," said Benjamin.
"Yes," agreed Mother Bear. "But remember that sharing with others brings us closer to God."


-----

I just wrote a paper for scool on the Orthodox understanding of riches and poverty. Below is an excerpt that seems to me to be appropriate for this day:

In a letter written to some hermits, St. Basil the Great said, “If you are living alone who’s feet are you going to wash?”(Payne, 1980) The hermits had given up everything, but they had not taken upon themselves a work that Orthodox Christians deem very important: Serving other people with one’s own money and one’s own physical labor.

A person described as “a certain ruler” came to Jesus one day and asked what he must do to have eternal life. After a bit of discussion, Jesus said, sell everything you have and give the proceeds to the poor. When he heard Jesus words he went away very sad, because he had much wealth. (Luke 18:18-23) In the case of the hermits to whom Saint Basil wrote, their time and their solitude were possessions they needed to give up.

What can we learn from this? We can learn from this is that wealth, even if that wealth is only measured in minutes of peace and solitude, is very expensive if it costs one eternal life.

Happy Saint Nicholas Day!!!

Here is the Choir of St.Nichoas Church in San Anselmo sining the Kontokion to St. Nicholas. It's number 3 on the playlist.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Saint Nicholas' Day is Dec. 6

Troparion of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

You were revealed to your flock as a measure of faith,
You were an image of humility and a teacher of self-control.
Because of your humble life, heaven was opened to you,
Because of your poverty, spiritual riches were granted to you.
O holy bishop Nicholas, we cry out to you:
Pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.



We sang the troparion and venerated the Icon of St. Nicholas at home tonight.
Bishop Benjamin and, I guess, most of the northern California OCA is in San Anselmo for the feast tomorrow.
I mailed a "letter from St. Nicholas" to the God-daughters yesterday. It should be delivered tomorrow.
Delivered candy to all my local great-nephews and great-nieces. It was left on front porches within the last hour. Frightened my niece's husband. Glad he didn't shoot me.
The boys' shoes are filled with candy which they will find in the morning.

The St. Nicholas Center has available a remarkable collection of liturgical music pertaining to this feast.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Panic begins to set in

I just sat down and figured out the schedule for the period of 22 Dec through 6 Jan:

- 10 trips to San Francisco
- fudge making with a 2 year old
- 2 vigils
- 1 festal vigil
- 1 vespers
- 5 Divine liturgies
- 1 Royal Hours
- bread baking with a 5 year old
- 2 family Christmas parties (I think)
- 1 fancy dinner
- 1 ham from Bryan's
- ginger bread man making with a 2 year old and a five year old
- 1 very alcoholic egg nog

I can only think of one thing that can help. I need to live within 2 blocks of my parish. Will you all pray for that?

Really it isn't all that bad. It just looks like horribly much when it is written out that way. Here is my 4th day of Christmas report from 3 years ago. We are doing some of the same things this year as that year, but much is different. But I think it will be about as much activity, though with two children instead of one.

Ron Paul Song

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ven. Alexander Schmemann on Services of Christmas in the Orthodox Church

"Within the forty days preparation the theme of the approaching Nativity is introduced in the services and liturgical commemorations, little by little. If the beginning of the fast on November 15 is not liturgically marked by any hymn, five days later, on the eve of the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, we hear the first announcement from the nine hirmoi of the Christmas Canon: "Christ is born, glorify Him!"

"With these words something changes in our life, in the very air we breathe, in the entire mood of the Church’s life. It is as if we perceive far, far away, the first light of the greatest possible joy — the coming of God into His world! Thus the Church announces the coming of Christ, the Incarnation of God, His entrance into the world for its salvation. Then, on the two Sundays preceding Christmas, the Church commemorates the Forefathers and the Fathers: the prophets and the saints of the Old Testament who prepared that coming, who made history itself into the expectation, the waiting for, the salvation and reconciliation of mankind with God. Finally, on December 20th, the church begins the Forefeast of the Nativity, whose liturgical structure is similar to the Holy Week preceding Pascha — for the birth of the Son of God as child is the beginning of the saving ministry which will lead Him, for the sake of our salvation, to the ultimate sacrifice of the Cross." (Read the whole thing here.)

She used to sing in our choir.

The boys were not with me at church yesterday so I sang in the choir. I was amazed at all the high high notes. Later the Choir director told me I was sining an octave higher than tenor and even sang the soprano line on a couple of litanies!!! Maybe its time for me to get new glasses. Or, maybe, I was just trying to sound like April Marie Sokolova, who used to sing in our choir. She is sorely missed by all who worship at HTC. Now she sings with several opera companies in the midwest. I hope she is still singing in church.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Anti-Marriage Party

"...it should not surprise us that the Democrat party is the anti-marriage party, since the more people marry, the worse things are for them. To put it another way, their electoral success is directly tied to the weakening and/or destruction of the family as we know it. "

Read the whole thing here.

(Hat tip to Mateo)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My Friend Jeff Remembers My Parents

My friend Jeff (If you want to know how important Jeff is to me you should watch Tombstone and pay careful attention to everything Doc Holiday says.) wrote something about my parents on his blog. I had forgotten the incident he mentions. He has that book now. And a bunch of others my Dad used in his ministry.

Memorial Service

Today was the memorial service.
Of my mothers 35 descendants and their spouses, my two brothers, my sister, a sister-in-law, two nephews, and I eulogized her. Below is what I said. Part of it already has appeared on this blog.

-----

Since October 25 I have been walking around bursting into tears at inconvenient times. And as late as two nights ago I was not going to speak because I thought I would just get up here and start sobbing and then someone would have to carry me off the stage.

But every one of the tears I have shed since October 25, in fact almost every tear I have shed in my whole life is a testimony to my Mother’s love for me.

Before my Mom and Dad adopted me I had been cruelly trained to not cry. My mother discovered this when I crawled over a heater vent and burned myself without yelling or crying out in any way. So she said to my Dad, “We have to teach this baby that it is okay to cry”. So several times a day, until I got the message, they pretended to weep.

So, if I weep today I thank Bunny Karnes. She taught me how.

I was born in February 1969. In August 1969 my biological father murdered my biological mother. And my grandmother mother suddenly found herself overwhelmed by bunch of kids, including me, a baby with all of the needs of a baby.

She was a member of the church pastored by my Dad. He had been by her place a couple of times to check on her, and each time he said to my Mom, "You need to go see that baby", by which he meant me. But each time my Mom, who was a teacher and a mother of three, said, "Billy, I am with kids all day long, I don't need to go see that baby."

But on August 17, my Mom and Dad's wedding anniversary, he went and got me. I was only wearing a dish rag for a diaper. Before he took me into his house he said "Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-shhhhh" and he carried me into the the kitchen where my Mom was doing dishes. I am told that I did not make a noise and that she didn't know we were standing there. When she turned around and saw us standing there I became her son.

And as difficult as it is to believe, the goodness I received from her did not stop there. I wasn’t just taken in and treated like a burden. I was treated like a prince. The dish rag diassapeared and I was dressed in velvet. I was thirsty and she gave me to drink. I was hungry and she fed me. I was naked and she clothed me. When I got older and rebelled her love did not ebb. When I repented she rejoiced. When I suffered – almost always from my own folly - she suffered with me.

She prayed for me always. She taught me to pray by holding me and rocking me when I was an infant. She would pray over and over again “Thank you, Jesus, for letting us adopt Billy Matthew. Thank you, Jesus, for letting us adopt Billy Matthew.” Think about that. She was already a mother. She was not a first time mother with fantasies about how easy it is to raise children. She had two teenagers and a nine year old. Yet, she was thanking God for giving her two more decades of hard work. And the amazing thing is that she counted it joy.

What I am saying is that she was an Icon of Jesus to me. She had so completely put on Christ that her way of life evangelized me and drew me to Him who loves me even more than she loves me. She put my feet on the Rock. And so now, when St. John says God’s love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12), and St. Peter says we are participants in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) I know exactly what they are talking about.

The Apostles are talking about growing in Jesus to a point where bearing the burdens of others is not just second nature, but first nature. They are talking about living Christ to such an extent that suffering with the suffering isn’t one option among many, but is the only way of life.

The Apostles are talking about being like Jesus, so that even though you are tired from already having three children of your own and dealing with a classroom full of other peoples’ kids every day, your heart breaks, like Jesus’ heart broke on the Cross, and the only thing you can do, because it’s the only thing Christ living in you would do, is turn an orphan into a son.

A few days after my Dad gave me to her, my mom wrote these words:

"What do I need with you, little boy
Looking so solemn with big blue eyes
There with Daddy holding you close
Smiling because of his big surprise?"

"What do you need with me, dear little one
Old enough to be your granny-
Why to love each other, what else? My son.
So God gave you to our family."


Thank you, Jesus, for letting her adopt Billy Matthew.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Real da Vinci Code

It seems that The Last Supper did have some secrets to reveal after all these years. But they are musical, devotional, and Christian. Read about it here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ron Paul

Ron Paul is reaching out to us, I guess. (or Clark is acting on his own. I don't know.) I decided to vote for him months ago, but I hold no delusions. He is a politician, after all. And we are instructed by the Church to, "Put not your trust in princes or sons of men in whom there is no salvation". So having said that, and fully expecting the enemies of God, the Church, and humanity to prevail in the elections, let me say HOOOORAYYYY!!!! For Ron Paul!! (You have my vote, Paul! But it won't be enough.) and direct you to the letter below.


An Open Letter to Orthodox Christians, on Behalf of Ron Paul
by Clark Carlton



Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The 2008 US presidential election is almost a year and a half away, and yet the various campaigns are in full swing. With states vying to move the primary season up into late 2007, it is time that we as citizens of the United States start to think about who we would like to see elected to the White House next year.

Before I express my own thoughts about the upcoming election, let me begin with a couple of obvious, but nonetheless vital, observations. First of all, reasonable people – and certainly the reason-endowed sheep of Christ’s flock – can disagree about political philosophies and the relative virtues and vices of particular candidates. I do not believe that there is one "Orthodox" answer to some of the questions that I will raise below. In other words, I will question neither the purity of your faith nor the sincerity of your commitment to Christ if you disagree with my thoughts.

Such circumspection is necessary because our Lord did not deliver to us any particular "political philosophy." When the Pharisees tried to trap Him with a question about money He replied simply, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s." Later, the Pharisees accused Him of trying to put Himself in the place of Caesar. When Pilot asked Him about this He replied, "My Kingdom is not of this world." St. Paul admonished Christians to obey those in civil authority – even though they were pagans – but later writers, living under intense persecution, were somewhat less enthusiastic about their allegiance to the Roman Empire.

Finally, in the fourth century the Roman Empire underwent a slow and sometimes painful process of Christianization. (Eusebius’ rose-colored version of events needs to be taken with a grain of salt.) This eventually gave rise the Byzantine theory of "symphony" between Church and state. There is no question that the conversion of the Empire had many benefits, chief among them the development of a genuinely Orthodox culture – with all of its artistic, literary, and architectural achievements – and greatly increased missionary expansion. At the same time, however, there was always a very real danger of identifying – confusing, really – the state with the Kingdom of God. Indeed, the actual history of Roman Orthodox symphonia is a decidedly mixed bag. Our calendar is full of saints who suffered exile and even torture at the hands of the "most pious Christian Emperors" (Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Maximus to name but three). The point is that Orthodox Christians throughout history have lived all over the world under quite diverse political circumstances. While Byzantine symphonia holds an honored place within the history of the Church, one cannot claim with any theological seriousness that this is the only Orthodox political philosophy.

This leads me to my second observation, which is that contemporary American culture is far removed from that which has developed within traditionally Orthodox lands. Therefore, I do not for one minute believe that the political principles that I shall advocate below are necessarily exportable to other cultures. Frankly, I would be delighted to see the restoration of an Orthodox monarchy in Russia. (For the record, I do not subscribe to the Third Rome theory.) However, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever of such a thing happening over here. And frankly, I would not want it to happen even if it were possible because our culture is so profoundly different from the Russian culture, which is the product of a thousand years of Orthodox influence.

Keeping these observations in mind, we must begin with the principles that make the American system unique in the world. Certainly most of the nations of the developed world could be termed "democracies" in some sense, and yet it is clear that our political culture is quite different from that of France or Germany, or even Mother England for that matter. The political principles that undergird the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are technically known as "political liberalism" and go back to the empiricist philosopher John Locke. ("Liberalism" in this sense is quite different from the typical modern use of the word.) The differences between Locke’s approach and that of Continental philosophers like Rousseau and Kant are crucial to understanding the uniqueness of the American political system.

According to Locke and his spiritual heirs such as Thomas Jefferson, the function of government is to secure the liberty of individual citizens. Thus, the American political philosophy begins with the individual. Of course, for the Orthodox, individualism is a very problematic notion, one that is intimately connected to our understanding of the Fall of Man. Yet, we must keep in mind that no secular political philosophy could possibly do justice to the Orthodox concept of persons-in-communion. Given the choice between secular individualism and secular collectivism, a good case can be made that individualism is preferable.

The belief that the purpose of government is to secure the liberty of its citizens necessarily entails limited government. The equation is quite simple: the bigger the government is, the more it tries to do, the less freedom is available to its citizens. The purpose of government within the American tradition, then, is neither to make its citizens righteous nor to take care of them from the cradle to the grave, but to protect their God-given liberty.

The American form of political liberalism is not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination, and we must always be wary of granting America a sort of messianic status as some Evangelical Protestants have done. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that given our political, social, and cultural history, the kind of government envisioned by Jefferson is by far the best form of government for Orthodox Christians in America who wish to live their lives in pious obedience to the Gospel and the Tradition of the Church.

This political system will not guarantee righteousness – no government can – but it does guarantee the fundamental conditions of liberty in which a life of true evangelical righteousness can blossom. Neither will this system guarantee that every citizen is "taken care of." Yet, we must not forget that the admonition to feed the hungry and clothe the naked was addressed to the Church, not to Caesar. Sometimes we confuse the two and expect the government to do our work for us. This is an abdication of our evangelical duties to the poor, not their fulfillment. At any rate, a limited government would mean a more expansive role for the Church within society, whereas an expansive government necessarily means a diminished role for the Church. For example, the Roman Catholic Church in California has had to alter its participation in the state’s adoption system because of state rules regarding same-sex couples. Government involvement always involves government regulation.

This example, however, illustrates the fact that the kind of government we have now at all levels bears little resemblance to the system envisioned by Jefferson and the other founders of our Republic. All three branches of the federal government – branches that were created precisely as checks on each other’s power – systematically ignore the limits imposed upon the federal government by the Constitution. The Congress passes all manner of legislation not authorized by the Constitution, limiting the freedom of the public through an ever-increasing network of laws and taxes, while at the same time almost completely abdicating its constitutional duties in regard to foreign policy and war. Presidents, for their part, routinely abdicate their duty to veto unconstitutional legislation and act as a check on congressional spending and instead have taken to themselves the almost monarchical power to promulgate their own laws (Executive Orders) and to wage war without a congressional declaration. (The last time Congress declared war was 1941.) And rather than keep the other two branches of government in line with the Constitution, the judicial branch instead rewrites legislation or invents new laws simply by fiat. (That is how we ended up with Roe vs. Wade.)

In short, the problem we face is that while the constitutional form of government envisioned by Jefferson may well be the best form of government within our cultural context, yet, quite clearly, this is no longer the kind of government we actually have. The question is whether or not this form of government can be restored to the American people. I believe that it can and that the presidential election of 2008 is the key to this restoration.

I am 43 years old and for the very first time I will be voting for a presidential candidate rather than against the other guy. I am convinced that Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, a candidate from the Republican Party, is the single most important presidential candidate in my lifetime. I make this bold statement because he is the first presidential candidate that I have ever heard who clearly understands the philosophical foundations of our republic and who is committed to governing in accordance with the Constitution – including abiding by the limitations placed on the power of the president.

In more than seventeen years as a US congressman, Ron Paul has never voted for an unbalanced budget. He has never voted for legislation that is not authorized by the Constitution. He does not even participate in the congressional pension plan. His consistent, principled stand for constitutional government has earned him the nickname, "Dr. No."

While opposing runaway congressional spending, Congressman Paul has also been an indefatigable opponent of runaway executive power. Committed to the constitutional principle that only Congress can declare war, he voted against the resolution approving of President Bush’s war plans for Iraq. (Congress refused to actually declare war, so they passed the buck by granting the president the "authority" to go to war.) Furthermore, he voted against the Patriot Act, which represents one of the gravest threats to individual liberty in American history. He stood almost alone among Republicans in this. (He also opposed President Clinton’s illegal war against our brother Serbs!)

Some have tried to portray this position as being contrary to conservative and Republican principles. Yet, Congressman Paul knows well that non-interventionism is the traditional Republican stance. The foreign policy of the present Republican administration is designed by a clique of former Trotskyites who have embarked on an imperialistic program of perpetual war abroad and ever-greater government power at home. Ron Paul understands that…

There is nothing conservative about an undeclared war against a country that has not threatened us.
There is nothing conservative about threatening other countries (Iran) with a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
There is nothing conservative about "spreading Democracy" at gunpoint.
There is nothing conservative about suspending or ignoring habeas corpus.
There is nothing conservative about warrantless searches.
On the contrary, these are all the actions of leftist, totalitarian governments. The failures of the Bush administration are not the result of traditional Republican principles; they are the result of the abandonment of traditional Republican principles. Quite frankly, Ron Paul is the only traditional Republican in the race.

Now I am not claiming that Ron Paul is perfect, and neither is he. Paul is not running for "Savior of the World," but for president of the most powerful nation on earth – a nation that is so far removed from its founding principles that it is now one of the greatest threats to freedom in the world, both at home and abroad. The United States has certainly become a threat to our Orthodox brethren around the world. Witness the US-backed persecution of our brethren in Kosovo and Palestine. Certainly the Christians in Iraq are much worse off now than they were before the US invasion. Furthermore, if current policies continue in place, we will be headed for an inevitable confrontation with a resurgent Russia. Our children and grand-children may be in for another Cold War – only this time we may just be the Evil Empire.

I believe that Ron Paul is uniquely qualified to turn our country from this disastrous course and return her to her constitutional foundations. In particular, he possesses two character traits essential for this task. These are traits to which every Orthodox Christian should aspire: personal integrity and humble obedience.

It is a sad commentary on our society that integrity is not a trait we have come to expect from our politicians. As the GOP candidates crawl all over themselves to claim the flag of being for "family values," it is fascinating that the (current) top four candidates (including Fred Thompson) have seven wives between them. Ironically, the Mormon is the only one who is not a serial bigamist! In addition to the fact that Ron Paul has been married to the same woman for fifty years (five children, seventeen grandchildren), his voting record after more than seventeen years in Congress is the very picture of consistency and principled dedication. Indeed, he seems to be from another century altogether. The Scripture enjoins us: "Let your ‘yea’ be ‘yea,’ and your ‘nay’ be ‘nay.’" Whether you agree with all of Ron Paul’s positions or not, you know exactly where he stands today and can be assured that he will not change his principles tomorrow for the sake of political expediency.

Within our ascetical literature, one virtue stands out as the surest way to achieve Christ-like humility and love, and that is the virtue of obedience. When Ron Paul became a US Congressman he took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." That oath has determined every vote he has cast in the House of Representatives. In other words, he placed himself in obedience to the Constitution. He has never voted for a House bill that is not specifically authorized by the Constitution. Again, I am not suggesting that Congressman Paul is an Orthodox saint; he isn’t. But his humble obedience to his oath of office is an example for us all. He certainly behaves as "one under authority." (Imagine how much better off our Church would be in North America if our bishops always acted in accordance with the canons!)

Furthermore, as a conservative Protestant and as an obstetrician by trade, Congressman Paul has consistently opposed abortion – far more consistently than most of the other Republican candidates. Most importantly, however, Paul opposes abortion on sound constitutional as well as religious grounds. This means that he will be able to make a clear and credible case why the most fundamental right of all – the right to live – must be guaranteed to the unborn.

I have never contributed to a presidential campaign before. I have never put a political bumper sticker on my car before. And I have never written a letter like this before. I have done all three because for the first time in my life I truly believe that there is a chance to return this nation to the rule of law under the Constitution. Traditional Republicans feel betrayed by the Bush Administration, and anti-war and pro-civil liberties Democrats are beginning to see through the hypocrisy of their own candidates. The time is right for a man like Ron Paul, and Ron Paul is precisely the man we need for these times. As Judge Andrew Napolitano recently commented after reviewing a litany of tyrannical, post 9/11 "homeland security measures": "We need a Ron Paul in the White House more desperately now than we ever have at any time in our history."

If you are interested in learning more about Ron Paul, please go to RonPaul2008.com.

Asking for your prayers for our Nation, I remain,

Yours in Christ,
Clark Carlton
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Dr. Clark Carlton is assistant professor of philosophy at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, TN. A graduate of Carson-Newman College, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and the Catholic University of America, he is a sought-after speaker on Orthodox issues. He is the author of the five-volume Faith Series from Regina Orthodox Press, and his weekly podcast, "Faith and Philosophy," can be heard on the Internet at Ancientfaithradio.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sacrilege?

This piece was written for performance during Lent, for the support of orphans. What was intended as a work of beauty and mercy, the students of Northwestern University have attempted to change to comedy at best, or sacrilege at worst. Probably, they have not been taught the importance of this music and have been infected with the spirit of disrespect that has permeated our society since at least the 1950s. Nevertheless, when one knows the words and has heard the Word, even this strange version can direct one toward repentance, piety and joy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Music for Worship/Music for Other Things

Father Steven has an interesting post on his blog...

"I have spent plenty of time with youth of both highschool and college years, who have been nurtured in Orthodox life. They’re not anti-music, etc. (indeed I like a lot of contemporary music and appreciate my children sharing it with me), but these same youth know what it is to worship God and when it is time to lay aside “all earthly cares” and offer God praise that is worthy (if any praise can be worthy) and in a spirit that is yielded to God and not something else. Presenting the Gospel to youth in America very much means to draw them beyond the boundaries of their own “niche” and into the glorious liberty of the sons of God." (Read it all)

Orthodox Music

The last post I did, the one about bringing Tahitian music into the Church was a joke - kind of like Bishop Tikhon's joke about Barbershop Qurtet music. But the music was beautiful, wasn't it?

The thing about Orthodox Christian music that makes it very difficult for us to adopt other forms of music is that much of it is of Heavenly origin. We all know the story of the Trisagion Hymn: Anatolian child who was liften up into a tornado and heard the angels singing. And we know how in the 1st (or was it the 2nd?)century an angel taught St. Ignatius of Antioch to use antiphony. THere is more to it than that, though. Below is a paper I wrote for school a year ago. It isn't the best structured paper, but the facts are all researched. There is a problem with posting footnotes that I haven't figured out, but I've included the bibliography and will be happy to email the paper with footnotes to anyone who wants a copy.

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A Preliminary Inquiry into the Spiritual Origin and Significance of the Eight Tones

By Matt Karnes

A visitor to an Orthodox temple is likely hear a reader announce “the prokeimenon in Fourth Tone…” and this might be the only hint a first time visitor notices that there is something markedly different about Orthodox Christian music. Oliver Strunk of Princeton University has pointed out, rightly, I think, that “one striking characteristic of the Eastern Service book is that each melody – indeed, each text intended for singing – is headed by some indication of its mode.”# The eight tones or modes (Greek: ekhoi - tone and mode are only two of the possible English translations of this word.#) are the “eight different melody stores or variants”# in which all Orthodox Church singing is firmly rooted. The term “mode” can be confusing to Westerners. The reason for this is that in the West modality is predominantly associated with a certain scale, while in the Byzantine system, the mode is defined by types of melodic patterns that are grouped together, each group forming the mode.# This modality is not merely happenstance, rather it is ancient tradition - from the creation of the world#, and it is spiritual – reflecting or participating in the music in heavenly realms. Therefore we read Ben Sira’s words praising, Isaac, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Enoch, in Ecclesiasticus 44:5, which can be translated “such as adapted music according to tradition”.#

The idea of spiritual power residing in, or being controlled by music is not confined to the Orthododox Church or the people of God in the Old Testament. For example, in Indian religion each mode is mystically connected to a god or goddess.# Also, in the Chinese Book of Ceremonies there are prescriptions for which melodies can be played at certain time of the day so that disorder can be avoided.#
In Plato’s Timaeus is written the story of the demiurge# who created the world according to Pythagorean# mathematics and musical theory#. This resulted in a World-soul and human soul that are in relation to each other according to their shared ratios, or harmonia. Therefore Plato writes,

“… so much of music…is granted to us for the sake of harmony; and harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of our souls, is not regarded by the intelligent votary of the Muses as given by them with a view to irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the purpose of it in our day, but as meant to correct any discord which may have arisen in the courses of the soul, and to be our ally in bringing her into harmony and agreement with herself; and rhythm too was given by them for the same reason, on account of the irregular and graceless ways which prevail among mankind generally, and to help us against them.” #

Thus we can see that in the great human civilizations in India, Greece, and China there is a shared notion that music is more than mere vibration of air on timpanic membranes. Rather, music is deeply spiritual or magical.

Yet there is one extremely important civilization I have yet to discuss: Egypt. Egypt is so important because of Moses. According to Philo, “…[Moses] speedily learnt arithmetic, and geometry, and the whole science of rhythm and harmony and metre, and the whole of music, by means of the use of musical instruments…” #

Assuming Philo’s information is correct, there are two reasons why we need to take note of it. Firstly, Moses is a bridge back to the hierophantic tradition of Egypt. The Egyptian hierophants believed in the spiritual power of music (all art, really), as though it was magic. And their influence is known to have set music into forms that remained unchanged# even after the reforms of the 18th Dynasty.#

Secondly, unlike he did with images#, Moses never prohibited the use of music, which seems very odd, given the sacral context of music in Egypt and the jealousy of the God of Abraham.# But does this mean that the spiritual tradition of the ancients was passed down to the Orthodox Church? Can we even be sure that the tradition made its way from Abraham to Moses without being polluted by Egyptian idolatry? Maybe.
The conservatism in the music of the Church (both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament) is well known. For example, Wellesz mentions the fact that after thousands of years of separation the tune formulae for the Psalms is essentially the same in modern Persian and Moroccan synagogues, the 10th century Roman Church, and the modern Orthodox Church.# But that has more to do with the structure of the music than with the spirituality or theology of the music.#

One doesn’t have to look very hard at the Old Testament to see the post-Exodus Israelites’ “belief in the power of music”#. Elisha used music in the miraculous watering of a valley.# David used music to relieve the torment King Saul endured at the hand of an evil spirit.# David#, Job#, and Jeremiah# all expressed concern because of their enemies’ singing. Though these and many other Old Testament passages# show us the theology in the music, they don’t seem to say much about modality in Israelite religious music. However, such references do exist.

In the superscription to the 12th Psalm is this word, ‘al-hasseminit# The whole phrase could be translated “For the chief musician in the 8th tone”.# In 1 Chronicles 15:20-21# both the 1st tone, ‘alamot and the the 8nd tone, ‘al-hassemint are mentioned, almost in a way similar to Jesus use of A and Ω in Revelation.#


Bibliography

Drillock, David, Byzantine Chant, Jacob's Well, Fall-Winter 1998-99, http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEOLitMusDev3.jsp#byzantine Accessed 8 December 2006

Philo, De Vita Mosis, I, 23. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book24.html
Accessed 9 December 2006

Plato, Timaeus (Trans: Jowett, Benjamin), http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/timaeus.html Accessed 9 December 2006

Pythagoreanism, EncyclopÊdia Britannica. Accessed 9 December 2006 from EncyclopÊdia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-68377

Seppala, Hilkka, The System of the eight Ekhoi and Orthodox Church Music in Finland, Ortodoksisen teologisen laitoksen julkaisuja no:22 (Joensuu, 1996)

Seppala, Hilkka, The Solemn Recitation, Byzantium and the North, Acta Byzantina Fennica, Volume IV (Finnish Association for Byzantine Studies: Helsinki)

Strunk, Oliver, Essays on Music in the Byzantine World (W.W. Norton & Co.: New York, 1977)

Wulstan, David, The Origin of the Modes, Studies in Eastern Chant Volume II (Oxford University Press: New York, 1971)

Wellesz, Egon, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography (The Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1949)