Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Woops! I Guess I'm A Little Late

Looking around at the Orthoblogs I noice that many have posted the video you will find below. Sorry I'm late. I guess I never got the memo. Anyway, better late than never.

Translation:

Angels Sing

Spoken intro: no matter what you are doing, spin threads for heaven!

the night so grand and placid,
a star shining over the cave,
the mother sleeping in the cave,
where the angel of Jesus hast been.
the angels are singing,
the sheperds are fluting,
the angels are singing,
the wise bring it forth:
what the nations awaited,
what the prophets had said,
here and now it is announced,
it is announced and brought forth:
Christ, our Redeemer is born!
for the Salvation of us all.

hallelujah, hallelujah,
Lord, have mercy!

Joy, Soul, Passion, Honor, Jesus, Faith, Hope, Salvation, Peace, Repentance, the Lord, Calmness, Love, Charity, Harmony…

God’s peace! Christ is born! Truly, He is born!… let’s renew ourselves, let’s lift up the pillars!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Shack: A Review


My sister gave me a copy of The Shack on Saturday. I finished it a few minutes ago and this is my impression of it.

Have you ever seen a musical in which the songs just flow out of the story, or are even necessary for the story? I have in mind, Fiddler on the Roof. It is an amazing experience which leaves one feeling like the whole play is one beautiful dramatic and unified song. Another kind of musical is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The songs are nice enough but they do not flow naturally from the story. The story is merely an excuse for performing the songs.

Like musicals the Shack has a story and there are, not songs, but theological vignettes. Unfortunately, this book shares nothing, except the English language, with Fiddler on the Roof. The vignettes, are not only ugly but have nothing to do with the story. It is obvious that the vignettes are preconceived and strung together like wooden pickets stapled to chicken wire; like the songs in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; like the speeches in an Ayn Rand novel.

And then there are the vignettes and the theology they attempt to portray. Beginning with God the Father appearing as Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple it only goes down hill. Jesus seems more like a New Age Jewish Grizzly Adams than the person revealed in the Bible. The Holy Ghost is shown as an Asian woman, I suppose, because Asian women are mysterious.

Perhaps the most flabbergasting thing in the book is when the persons of the Trinity have family devotions, during which Jesus tells The Father/Oprah that he loves him/her; as though the Son's eternal self-sacrifice is insufficient. But even aside from that, the hubris of the author's speculation regarding the inner life of the Holy Trinity is utterly astounding.

Another major problem with the book is the absence of the Church, which most Christians think of as the primary mode of God's self-revelation. In the protagonist's encounters with God in the Shack he is alone. The Church is not with him, he is not shown as being part of the Church. It is the same mindset that produced the song, "I Come to the Garden Alone", which of course is not true. The only thing anyone does alone is go to Hell. Furthermore, when the Church is discussed (in the chapter 12) it is completely wrong and ahistorical; seemingly ignorant of the New Testament text and the teachings of Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons. If the author understood what the Church does he might have written the family devotion part differently, for the Church, which really is the Body of Christ continually offers worship to the Father.

Regarding Jesus, specifically, the author writes as though the Ascension never happened, as though Jesus is limited by his Incarnation and not the Lord and Master of all, as though the Father has not given him all power in Heaven and on Earth.

This is not to say the book is a total waste of trees. What it says about living in the present is true. What it says about willful independence is true. What it says about several things is true. But there are better books where that truth can be found; books that won't poison a person against the Church, which is Jesus Body and the Ark of Salvation.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Second and Third Days of Christmas

Yesterday my Sister and Brother-in-Law came over for dinner. It was a great good time. Today we had a bunch of kids and their parents over to make gingerbread men. Another great good time. But now, at the end of the third day of the feast it is meet to reflect...

"There are many alluring secular images associated with Christmas - snow, Dickensian stagecoaches, holly and mistletoe, lavish eating, drinking and good cheer. All of these are legitimate parts of the tradition too, provided they are subordinated to the essential theme, the birth of our Saviour. For the placid vignette of the infant in the manger conceals the reality that those tiny hands will one day be pierced with nails, for our redemption." - Gerald Warner(If you want, you can read the whole article here.)


Today, and over the next few days the Church commemorates many thousands of Holy Martyrs: Those who suffered to the end with Jesus. Today is, in the Orthodox Church the Feast of St. Stephen, the first to give his life for the Gospel. We sing to him...

Because of all you have endured for Christ our God, you have been given a royal crown, O First and Holy Martyr Stephen! You have put your persecutors to shame and have seen your Savior enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Do not cease to intercede for the salvation of our souls. (Troparion, tone 4)


So, let us rejoice in the Nativity of Jesus for by it God became one of us and lifts us up to Him, but let our rejoicing be in conducted in the effulgence of the Holy Cross. and in the invitation to partake in that Cross.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Eve and the Feast

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

It has been a flurry of activity and I am sure I am forgetting much of it. But Wednesday Basil and I went shopping for a Christmas Present for his Mommy. We live in an area where there is a high concentration of interior designers and furniture stores, and on Wednesday they allput their Christmas decorations on sale. So Basil picked out three new Christmas tree ornaments for his Athanasia: An angel playing a lute, a nativity scene made of copper and porcelain, and a red glass bauble. I know other things happened that day but I really can't remember them except for ... Oh! We stopped by my brother's house on the way to San Francisco. I gave him some books and panatone to give to his grandchildren, who he would be seeing later in the day. (Although he is the youngest of my siblings he is nine years older than me.) He gave me a bottle of Mama Lucia, which is like Kahlua, except that it is made with a tequila base. I don't think it can be bought in the U.S. I'm looking forward to opening it sometime soon. Hmmm. Maybe I'll save till Pentecost and share it with Bishop Benjamin and Patria... whoops! I mean Metropolitan Jonah.

We got to San Franciso just 10 minutes before the butcher shop closed. We always buy our Christmas ham (whole, bone-in, smoked) from Bryan's on California Street in Laurel Village. We were very worried we were going to be late. But we made it with ten minutes to spare. Then from Bryans we went to a little burritoria on Divisadero, where we had our last veggie burritos for a while. Then Zoomed to church for the Festal Vigil.

Matushka Naomi took Basil from us and let us relax in the chanting. Then she did something totally unexpected. She let go of him and let him walk around, even run a coupe of times in the nave. Well, I guess if she lets him do that then it must be okay.

The service of course was great. Basil Wenceslas loves getting the oil on his head. Anselm Samuel likes the bread dipped in wine.

When we got home we put a candle in the window for Jesus, the Theotokos, and St. Joseph. We unlocked the front door for the Magi. We went to bed. Late during the night I put the boys stocking in bed with them.

When they woke up this morning they were very surprised. Anslem said, "Wait, I thought Santa Clause wasn't real. Did The St. Nicholas bring this? This isn't his day. Did the wise men come? They only visit one house each Christmas. Why'd they come to our house? Did Mommy put the stocking in bed with us? I don't understand." It was funny.

I woke up with a stuffy head and a sore throat.

The Nativity Liturgy was a hierarchical liturgy with Bishop Benjamin presiding. Anselm served and got to do lots of cool things. This time he held the silver bowl for Bishop Benjamin and carried prophora. (He has carried the prosphora many times but it only dawned on me tonight that he didn't know what it was. So tonight I told him about the angel in heaven who carries prayers to God (Rev. 8:4) and explained that when he carries the prosphora to the altar he is carrying the prayers of God's people. He was pretty amazed by that. He had thought it was just bread with Greek writing on it.)

With basil we followed Matushka Naomi's example and, for the most part, let Basil wander around in the nave during the liturgy. but he was sick and tired and cranky and hungry so the tactic wasn't quite as successful as it was last night. But for the most part, it worked. Several times he strode across the nave from the south wall to the north wall, or from the north wall to the south wall, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE AMBO. Once right when Bishop Benjamin was blessing the people with the dikiri and trikiri.

I was almost mortified. After the service Bishop Benjamin walked up to us, and said, "That was really cute how Basil tip toed across the room right in front of me". I said, "Your Grace didn't mind?" To which he replied "Are you kidding? I'm just happy he's here. Merry Christmas." Bishop Benjamin baptized basil three years ago. It is my hope that in another 10 or 12 he will tonsure Basil a Reader.

Cyndi and I passed out all the cranberry orange bread, several choir members gave my boys stuffed animals, an other woman in the parish, who never had children of her own gave presents to every child in the parish, one of the subdeacons had presents of fine chocolate for all the acolytes.

After we got home I cooked the Christmas Sausage while presents under the tree were opened. I have to admit that I was a little bit worried as I watched the pile of presents growing under there the last few days. I am not opposed to Christmas presents, of course, but I am opposed to my kids thinking of Christmas as the day the get lots of new toys. My concern was completely misplaced. My wife is very wise and almost every present under the tree was a replacement for some article of clothing the boys had outgrown. I have the best wife.

Oh, but I should tell you what she gave me: Six bottles of gin (Gilby's, Seagram's, Bombay, Beefeater, and Hendricks), a bottle of vermouth, jar of olives, and a cocktail glass. Now I am sure you are thinking "where is the wisdom in that present?" Well, the bottles of gin were those little miniature bottles they sell for a dollar each!

After sausage my illness intensified and at about 3 o'clock I had to lay down for a while. I got up at 5:30 still not feeling great but doing okay. Stomach is still upset.

We watched "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" staring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Cloony. Athanasia had cooked ham while I was recumbent. I had a little but not much. My stomach just feels a little topsy turvey. I don't think it was the sausage, though, since Basil, Anselm, and Athanasia seem unaffected by stomach symptoms. While watching the movie Basil and I played with play-dough. Athanasia made him 10 lbs of the stuff for Christmas.

After Athanasia and Basil went to bed, Anselm read one of his new books, "The Very Hungry Caterpiller " to me. Of course, I used the occasion to talk about the resurrection from the dead. And then I read to him "Strangers and other Angels" from one of our many Christmas books.

Now it is time to go to bed. Second Day of Christmas starts in just few minutes.

Your Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a Star to adore You,
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know You, the Orient from on High.
O Lord, glory to You!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A nice evening

Anselm Samuel and I just got home from Royal Hours. This is one of my favorite services. He served in the Altar. He was pretty excited because tonight he got to carry the 4 foot candle and the censer. He had been telling me only this morning how he wished he could carry that big candle. He did a good job. He is in bed now. Bishop Benjamin was there but sang in the choir instead of presiding.

Before your Nativity, Lord, the heavenly hosts looked with trembling on the mystery and were struck with wonder; for you were well pleased to be born as a babe, you who adorned the vault of heaven with stars; and you have been laid in a manger of dumb beasts, you who hold all the ends of the earth in the hollow of your hand; for by such a dispensation your compassion and great mercy have been made known. O Christ, glory to you! Idiomel (Tone 8)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Things I need to do today

1. Finish decorating the house
2. Grocery shopping
3. Make Aunt Nettie's fruited molasses balls (Sorry Mark. I can't make her persimmon cookies. I don't have enough persimmons.)
4. clean the kitchen so my wife can make
5. 60 loaves of cranberry orange bread
7. Take Anselm to doctor (he's been coughing since before thanksgiving.)
8. Take Basil to the Park

Well, it is almost 1. I'd better get to bed.

Just can't wait any longer

We are in the Forefeast of the Nativity now. We've been waiting for almost 40 days and almost can't wait any longer. Sure we can do with out certain foods for a few more days but the joy of the Nativity is so near we can taste it. We have to sing the song of salvation.

Rejoice, O Bethlehem!
Prepare yourself, O Ephratha!
The Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Chief Shepherd
she carries in her womb.
The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice,
beholding Him,
And with shepherds, they will glorify
the Virgin nursing Him.

Kontakion of the Forefeast of the Nativity of Christ
Sunday of the Forefathers

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Enemy of Democracy

* Prop. 8 received 2,150,000 MORE votes than did Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was reelected in 2006

* Prop. 8 received nearly 2 million MORE votes than Dianne Feinstein did when she was reelected to the US Senate in 2006

* Prop. 8 received 250,000 MORE votes than did John Kerry when he carried California in 2004

* Prop. 8 received 45,000 MORE votes than did Barbara Boxer in her landslide reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2004

* Prop. 8 passed with approximately the same percentage of the vote that Barack Obama received nationally

The Attorney General of California has decided to fight the will of the people. That is he has filed an argument with the Supreme Court of Californa urging it to overturn Propostion 8. He is saying that it doesn't matter if the people of California vote. He is saying that because we are stupid the unelected judges and legal experts should make our laws. I say that idea is treasonous. Where is the petition to recall Jerry Brown? Put the pen in my hand and let me sign it.

How Much Do You Have To Hate Someone To Not Tell Them How To Gain Eternal Life?

I have heard people say that Orthodoxy is non-proselytizing. I say, tell that to St. Herman, St. Nina, and St. Paul. Love demands proselytizing.

Saturday Soundtrack: Boom Boom Boom

It is a strange thing how certain sounds and smells evoke memories. For example, there isn't a rainy morning that doesn't make me think of an M-16. Why? Because almost every time I went to the range to for my semi-annual qualification it was raining. (the one time it wasn't raining it was snowing.) Another gun memory I have is brought to the fore every time I hear John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom Boon".

John Lee Hooker was not a good man by any stretch of the imagination, but back in the mid-1990s, because I used to work at SF Weekly, his doorman used to let me in to his "Boom Boom Room" in the Fillmore without paying. Back then I never went out at night without I was always wearing a double breasted jacket with peak lapels and Star model S .380 ACP. I didn't feel invincible, but several people told me I looked scary. I think 11 years, 20 lbs of (more) fat, and hair on my head makes me look much nicer than I looked then. Sometimes a woman would feel the gun and ask if I was a cop. I would, of course, say no, but I didn't volunteer that I was an advertising salesman, either.

I only drew that pistol one time, when a crazy man tried to hit me with a cane. (this was about 3 a.m. on Eddy street in the Tenderloin.) I didn't even have to take the safety off or point it at him. As soon as he saw the pistol he fell all over himself to get away.

Anyway, here is the song. I still hear it in my head every time I walk in the Fillmore or the Tenderloin.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow, Doughnuts, and Cub Scouts

This morning after dropping Anselm Samuel off at school Basil Wenceslas and I went up the hill to the snow. We found a meadow - I'd like to say alpine meadow but i don't know what that means - with a goodly amount of snow. It was ankle, so I guess that was three inches. The sun was out so there was lots of steam. Snow in the trees was beautiful. I made a bunch of snow balls for Basil and he enjoyed throwing them at me. When his hands got cold we came home and I bought him 6 doughnut holes at the doughnut shop around the corner from our townhouse. It has been a nice morning. I think we will take a nap now.

Last night at the Cub Scout Pack meeting Anselm Samuel was awarded the Ice Skating Belt Loop and the Outdoor Activity patch. He also won a prize for selling a lot of Christmas wreaths. Pinewood Derby is the next big event. He got his car kit last night. NowI get to teach him how to use the power tools.

A Quote

A friendofmine askedmewhy the Orthodox Churchfasts. I told him that the main reason I fast is because the Church says fast. That is all I need to know. But there really are reasons for the fasting we do, which is really so easy, but my flesh still resents it. One reason for the fasts of the Orthodox Church is to wean us off of the attachments of this world, that we will stop loving it, so that, like Lot, we can flee its certain destruction (and each of us will face a personal cataclysm when our hearts stop beating.) without looking back. This reminds me of something written by the Anglican J.I. Packer:

"Love of the world is egocentric, acquisitive, arrogant, ambitious, and absorbing, and leaves no place for any other kind of affection. Those who love the world serve and worship themselves every moment. It is their full-time job. And from this we see that anyone whose hopes are focused on gaining material pleasure, profit, and privilege is booked for a bereavement experience, since as John says, the world will not last. Life's surest certainty is that one day we will leave worldly pleasure,profit, and privilege behind. The only uncertainty is whether these things will leave us before our time comes to leave them. God's true servants, however, do not face such bereavement. Their love and desire centre on the Father and the Son in a fellowship that already exists and that nothing can ever disrupt." J.I. Packer, Hot Tub Religion

Monday, December 15, 2008

Good News


Brothers and sisters, the verdict is in. Containing no meat, fish, olive oil, alcohol, or dairy ingredients, the Ghirardelli 72% Cacao Intense Dark Twilight Delight bar is 100% Fast Friendly!!!

Yesterday and today

Yesterday started out with a bummer. Drove all the way to SF (in the rain) for Church but wasn't able to find parking. Drove home.

In the afternoon went Christmas caroling. It was funny because the trombone had different music. When we were singing in C he was playing in D. It took three songs before the various horn players figured out that the trombone had the wrong sheet music.

Anslem Samuel is staying home from school today. He has a pretty bad cough. We'll be stringing more garlands later.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My life's work is to give the geese what they want.

Aside from that obnoxious Salk quote, what is said here is worth listening to. It seems to me to be God pleasing, because it is thankful. Thankful agriculture is even better than organic agriculture.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

British Television (Or, I watched all the bad performances so you don't have to.)

I know the BBC has been in some trouble lately and is probably going to lose the license fee revenue and be forced to go commercial, but I have to say I think they have some of the neatest programing. As a teenager I loved "Doctor in the House", The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Are You Being Served" and MPFC. A couple of years ago discovered "Cadfael" and "The Irish P.M." And of course, the BBC version of "The Chronicles of Narnia" is far superior to that produced by Walden Media. And wasn't "I Caludius" a BBC production?

I just found out about another show they have: "Last Choir Standing". WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA!!!! Choirs of all sorts competing week after week until only one remains. Check out these clips and you tell me if you wouldn't sit transfixed in front of your television for a hour after hour watching them. (Yes, I've been in a few choir. None this good.)

From What I've been able to ascertain,this is a real church choir, and they are good! Choir: ACM Gospel


This Choir is really very good, but they chose music that was to high brow for a what is essentially a game show. Too, bad. I think they were better than the choir that won. Choir: Ysgol Glanaethwy


This is the choir that won. They are good. Very good. Choir: Only Men Aloud!


Now, listen to the perfect unison on the 8th notes and the key changes. This is good choir! Choir: ACM Gospel


This last Choir isn't as good as those above, but I really like the third man from the left on the front row. He looks like he is living this song.



Here is the same choir. Again, watch this guy. (This time he is in the center front.) I know what it is. The barrier between his emotions and the outside world is paper thin. He's like the young Marvin Gaye.


Finally, these are the two performances I enjoyed most. Both are by the ACM Gospel Choir.


A couple of sour notes from a soloist do not ruin this version of my favorite pop song. AND I LOVE THE DIRECOR!!! I just have to dance with him when I watch this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Labels

Perhaps you can help me. I am trying to decide on a label for some bay rum cologne I made.

California Matt's
Original
Pork Chop Brand
Bay Rum

or

Pork Chop Matt's
Genuine Virgin Islands
Bay Rum


In the comments, let me know which label text you like. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

He wrote back

Athanasia came in with the mail today and said to Anselm Samuel, "You and your Daddy need to read this together". So he and I looked at the letter. It had an Italian stamp on it. The return address? St. Nicholas, Bari, Italy. I am not making this up. When Anselm wrote to St. Nicholas I had no idea he would write back. We opened it. The letterhead was an icon of St. Nicholas in his Holy Week vestments, his right hand raised in blessing. The hand written letter said,

My Dear Anselm,

I'm very happy to received your letter.
Yes, I pray for you and your brother Basil.
God bless you always, and I also bless you.

With love,

St. Nicholas


Can you believe it? I knew the monks read the letters to St. Nicholas' relics. I had no idea they also answered the letters. I am amazed.

Are we almost there?

A little while ago I tried to make a joke. A friend of mine had gone down the list of economic woes and asked "what next?" To which I replied "The appearance of the Antichrist." Neither of us laughed.

Later, just a few minutes ago I read a call for one-world government in the Financial Times. I repeat, the Financial Times. Not the Socialist Worker. Not The Militant. Not the Morningstar. Not Time. (You know, there is a reason why the cover of Time is red.) No, not in any of those places did I read it. It was in the level-headed, common sense pages of the Financial Times. It was like one of those "What's Wrong With This Picture" drawings they put in kids magazines.

Now I am thinking to myself: Interest rates near 0%. Buying and selling hampered. The country willing to see large businesses nationalized. Deflation in prices of basic commodities such as oil, steel, scrap metal, copper, coal, silver. Deflation in real estate. The loss of 1/2 of my own retirement savings. Global war on terror. The weak saying they are strong. The acceptance of homosexuality as an acceptable way of life. (I mention this specifically because homosexuality is placed by St. Paul near the bottom of the death-spiral in Romans 1, and the Holy Prophet Isaiah pronounces, in the 5th chapter of his book, "woe" on all who call good evil and evil good.) And the formerly liberty-loving Financial Times saying now is the time for one world government. And I have to stop and think, is this the time? Should I look up? True, for two thousand years we have been waiting, and many have thought the time was upon them. But time, the physicists tell us, only moves in one direction. We only ever move from the beginning to the end. Is the time now? I don't know. And I don't want to be surprised when it happens. I think I will start looking up.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I can only be pleasatly surprised.

I was often disappointed by Reagan, Bush (41), and Bush (43), they so often acted like big spending internationalist pro-abort liberals. But I have no hopes for Obama. I fully expect him to reach into women and pull their babies out, to send soldiers to take our guns, to run the money presses day and night till our money is worthless, to put homeschooling parents in jail, to tax industry into oblivion, and nail priests to the doors of their churches if they don't marry homosexuals. With expectations like that I can not be disappointed. But the people who want those things sure can be. And they are.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Feast of St. Nicholas

Troparion - Tone 4
In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;
your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.
Hierarch Father Nicholas,
entreat Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion - Tone 3
You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest,
For you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ
By giving up your soul for your people,
And saving the innocent from death.
Therefore you are blessed as one become wise in the grace of God.



Consider how the Church, in her hymns, does not extol St. Nicholas' sufferings under the whip, nor the miacles he works by God's power, nor his zeal at the 1st Ecumenical Council, nor even his wonderful acts of charity. Rather the Church points to his asceticism, his humility, his poverty, and his self-sacrifice.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eve of the Feast of St.Nicholas


Metropolitan Jonah is serving the Divine Liturgy in St. Nicholas Church in San Anselmo in the morning. Athanasia bought candy to go in the shoes of the boys. Here is a story.
---
The Icon's Warm Bread

Retold by Louise Carus from The Real St. Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope from Around the World.

0nce there was a brother and sister whose parents had suddenly died, leaving the poor children all alone in the world—or almost all alone. They did have an uncle who lived not far away, and even though the children scarcely knew him, the townsfolk took them to him, since he was their only living relative.

"Don't cry," the people comforted the sad boy and girl. "Your uncle is your family now, and he will take care of you. You must be brave and good for him."

This uncle was a wealthy man, owning many cattle and a large house filled with fine possessions. Little did the townsfolk know he was a mean and stingy man. Far from caring for the children, he was angry with them for still being so small—too young to be useful servants and not yet strong enough to manage heavy work.

But there was one thing they were not too small for—begging! Every morning, the uncle sent the children out onto the streets to beg for money, and every evening he made them hand over every drachma they had collected as soon as they came home.

And that is how life was. With bare feet and cheeks flushed with hunger, the little beggars would stand all day on the street corners, holding out their cups to those who passed by. Some compassionate and kind people gave the children money or bread, but others were hard hearted and gave nothing. Some even made fun of the waifs or shook their heads in disapproval.

One rainy day the children had received almost nothing. As evening approached, the rain stopped and the sun came out from behind the clouds, but the small beggars looked at their empty cups in dismay, fearing their uncle's bad temper. Strangely enough, just then a well-dressed man appeared and gave each of them a large silver coin. The children had never seen such large coins. How they gleamed in the fading light! As the gentleman strode away, the brother and sister shouted their thanks to him and then said happily, "Today, for once, Uncle will surely praise us!"

As soon as evening came, they started off, eager to go home. But from a distance, two older boys had seen the gentleman take money from his pocket and give it to the children. These boys waited in the shadows until the children passed. Then they grabbed the defenseless little ones and took everything they had—including the gentleman's large silver coins.

The brother and sister ran home crying and told their uncle what had happened. "Get out!" the man screamed, chasing them from the house. "Disappear, you worthless little thieves! I never want to see you again!"

The terrified children ran out into the dark, dashing first one way, and then another. They did not know where to go or what to do. Finally, they happened to come to the street where the church was. Seeing its windows were lit, they went in.

Inside, the sanctuary glowed in the flickering light of many candles. The exhausted children began to cry with relief at being in what they felt was a safe place. The first thing they noticed was an icon of St. Nicholas. Through their tears, and in the shimmering light of the candles, it seemed to them that in the painting the Saint's lips began to move. An instant later they were surprised to hear a deep, kind voice say, "Children, are you hungry?"

"Yes, very hungry!" the astonished children managed to reply.

"Here, then, take this." In the unsteady light, the children couldn't be sure, but they thought they saw the robed arms of the icon move. Regardless, the delicious aroma filling the room was real enough, and so were the three warm pieces of bread the children suddenly found in their hands.

The image of St. Nicholas continued, "I know you were chased out of your home. So be it! You have nothing more to fear from that miser of an uncle. Go now to the little house down the road." He pointed to show them the direction. Give the old woman who lives there one of these pieces of bread and tell her that I sent you. She will take you in."

The children thanked St. Nicholas and did as he had instructed. Sure enough, when they gave the old woman the bread and said Nicholas had sent them, she welcomed them in. Her house was not grand like their uncle's and her possessions were modest and few. But her heart was much larger, and the children knew they had found a home at last.

The next day, they went back to the church to thank St. Nicholas again. Once more, he gave them three pieces of bread and said: "Come as often as you are hungry!"

In this way the children and the old woman lived for some time. Every day, the boy and girl shared the Saint's bread with the old woman, and she in her turn cared for them well.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the stingy uncle died in an accident. As it so happened, the children inherited his house, his cattle, and all his possessions. When they returned to what was now their new home, they took the old woman with them. They continued to give thanks to St. Nicholas whenever they passed the church. Now, though, he didn't need to offer them any more bread, because they had plenty to eat at home.

As time passed, the old woman became too frail to take care of the children any longer. But by then they were grown and took loving care of her.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Belt Loop

Anselm earned another decoration for his Cub Scout Uniform tonight. He accomplished all the tasks for the "Ice Skating Belt Loop". He had to learn how to fall safely and the safety rules for this rink. He had to practice the skills of skating, and he had to spend 3 hours on the ice. I thought it might be difficult keeping him on the ice that long but I was wrong. After three hours he wanted to keep going. He was wet, cold, and bruised from falling (about 20 times on his first lap) but was having a great time. By his last lap around the rink he wasn't falling. I am so proud of him.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

When I am old and in that bed, what will I see?

When my grandmother was dying she said to my mother, "Bunny, I can tell when the drugs are making me see things and when I am really seeing. I am really seeing this. I see Heaven. There are horses. And your Daddy is there. And it must be Sunday because he's wearing his preaching clothes."
---
When I was a boy one of the pastors in my Dad's section (roughly analogous to a diocese) was dying. My dad and some other people were in the room when the dying man suddenly sat up, pointed to a corner in the room and said, "Who is that?" My Dad said, "Brother, there is no one there". But the dying preacher asked, "Who are you?" Then, as a smile spread across his face and as tears of joy rolled down his cheeks, he said, "Oh! I know you." And he laid his head on his pillow and died.
---
When Abba Sisoes was about to die, and the fathers were sitting with him, they saw that his face was shining like the sun. He said unto them, "Behold, Abba Anthony has come." After a little while he said again, "Behold, the company of prophets has come," and his face shone twice as bright. Suddenly, he became as one speaking with someone else, and the fathers sitting there asked him, "Show us with whom you are speaking, father."

Immediately, Abba Sisoes said to them, "Behold, the angels came to take me away and I asked them to leave me so that I might tarry here a little longer and repent." And the old men said unto him, "You have no need to repent, father." And Abba Sisoes said to the fathers, "I do not know in my soul if I have rightly begun to repent," and they all realized that the old man was perfect.

Then, suddenly, his face beamed like the sun and all who sat there were afraid and he said to them, "Look! Look! Behold, the Lord has come and he says, 'Bring unto me the chosen vessel which is in the desert,'" and he at once delivered up his spirit and became like lightning and the whole place was filled with a sweet fragrance.

What to Say, and to Whom

I came across a C.S. Lewis quote today that I thought was very wise. Speaking of Christians who disagree on various matters he said...

“Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.”

I think it goes along pretty well with my policy (learned from Frs. Tom Hopko and Tom Allesandroni) not to talk about Mary, saints, theories of justification, relics, the bishops, the feasts and fasts, the mark of the beast, prayer ropes, etc. with non-Christians. All they need to hear (e.g. the life and words of Jesus) is contained in the four Gospels. They shouldn't even hear the Epistles because those are for people who already believe.

I forgottheprayer request

The title of my last post mentioned a prayer request but I forgot to put it in the body of the post. Here it is. Athanasia has become acquainted with a monk named Ignatius. He has been staying at the Stanford Guesthouse while his abbot is undergoing treatment at Stanford Hospital. Please pray for Ignatius and his abbot.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Holidays and a prayer request

I am used to seeing Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving. But this year I some something new. Christmas trees and tinsle displayed in shops at the same time as Hallowe'en ghouls and blood. Is it just me or does anyone else think there is something fundamentally wrong with that? Now to be fair, I have been listening to Christmas music since September, but quietly, and not in public. Besides, Christianity is an Incarnational and Resurrectional Faith, so, as I have been informed, it is always appropriate to greet each other with a "Christ is Born!" or a "Christ is Risen!" But Christmas wreaths hanging on the wall next to witch's brooms? Bah! It is just wrong. Over at First Things they are talking about what happens when Christmas lasts too long.

Today, Anselm Samuel came home from school and told me that he learned that there are three ways to celebrate Christmas: Christmas, Chanukha, and Kwanzaa. I almost gagged. So, his mother and I explained to him that that was not correct. (the teacher will get an email.) I asked him what we celebrate at Christmas. Of course, he knew the answer. I asked him what the Jews (including Jesus) celebrate on Chanukha. Of course, he knew the answer. And I told him that Kwanzaa is a non-Christian festival and we do not observe it. (In case you are wondering, Christians do celebrate Chanukah. Every celebration of the Divine Liturgy takes us into the 8th Day pre-figured by the Chanukah event.)

Rather than spending anytime at all explaining to Anselm why we do not observe the vile Kwanzaa, we will simply keep him busy with all of the real Holy Days that occur this time of year.


Tomorrow, rather, today since it is after sunset, is the feast day of one of my new favorite saints, The Prophet Habakuk (If God gives me another son, I'm leaning toward Habakuk.) Today we celebrate him, but on Pascha he celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus..

"The inspired prophet Habakuk now stands with us in holy vigil, he is like a shining angel who cries with a piercing voice: Today salvation has come to the world for Christ is risen as all powerful!" (4th Ode, Paschal Canon)


On Wednesday we will commemorate St. Alexander Hotovitzky, who established so many parishes here in America and defeated Satan and received the Martyrs crown in Russia.

St. Nicholas' Day is on the 6th, of course. Between then and now I'm going to teach Anselm Samuel the troparion between now and then, and have him sing it during morning prayers. I think it is probably important that the troparion doesn't dwell on the candy parents deliver in his name, neither on the miracles he performed and performs. Rather the troparion talks about St. Nicholas' orthodox dogma (Did you know that in all the world, only Rome and St. Nicholas' diocese in Myra were uncorrupted by Arianism?) humility (he accepted deposition from the hands of his brother bishops even though he was right) and self-control (he remained steadfast in his profession of Jesus Christ under torture).

St. Ambrose's (and that cool story of the penance he laid on Emperor Theodosius) is the day after St. Nicholas. And there is St. Herman, St. Anna, St. Ignatius, and so many others. Well, I don't want to put the whole church calendar in this one blog post. Suffice it to say, between now and the leave taking of Theophany (It totally bugs me that Kwanzaa is covered in school but Theophany isn't. How many people celebrate Theophany vs. Kwanzaa?) there is much goodness, and no reason to even think of that other thing Anselm heard about in school today.

Mysteries of Antioch

We all know about the spear "found" by that Crusader monk in 1098, but I often wonder if somewhere in a nearly forgotten vault in Damascus Patriach Ignatius IV has hidden away that other dread weapon of antiquity, and is just waiting for a reason to count to three.

"...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thine Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." (Book of Armaments 2:9-21)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I made one of these today

One of the books I read to the boys today is "A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the Backwoods in 1841". After reading about pomaders in the book I decided to make one. I modified the instruction a little and came up with this.

You'll need:
-sheet of newspaper
-a jar of whole cloves
-an apple
-a tablespoon of ground cinnamon (1 tsp in original instructions)
-a tablespoon of ground ginger (1 tsp in original instructions)
-a Tablespoon of ground nutmeg (not in original instructions)
-a small paper bag (I used a zip lock bag)
-2 24inch (60cm) lengths of red ribbon

1. Spread newspaper out on table (This made clean up very easy), push stem of one clove into apple. Pushi in a scond clove right next to the first one. Continue adding cloves until apple is completely covered. (Your thumb will get sore.)

2. Put Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger into bag. Put one clove covered apple into bag and shake it until it is coated with the spices. Remove apple from bag and shake to remove excess spice.

3. Make the hanger as follows: Set 1 ribbon before you on the table. Set the apple in the middle of the apple. Wrap both end of the ribbon up and over the apple. Tie a tight not, leaving two long tales. Stop here and move one to making the bow.

4. Set apple on 2nd ribon so that the second ribbon is at a right angle to the first. Tie a bow on top the the knot inthe first ribbon.

5. Complete hanger by tying the two ends of the first ribbon together.

6. Hang it up to dry.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Soundtrack: I go chic-chickie-boom-chic-chickie-boom-

When I was a kid I thought nightclubs would be like Ciro's in "Hollywood Steps Out", or like the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, or like the Copacabana in Manhattan (Actually, the Copacabana still exists, but it is nothing like it used to be. Now its just another loud bar.) But more than anything my understanding of nightclubs was based on what I saw on "I Love Lucy". Perhaps you remember that Desi worked at a nightclub. Well, in a few episodes of the show we got to see inside that nightclub.

I can not tell you how disappointed I was the first time I was in Manhattan (I was 17) and went to a nightclub. It was nothing like what I was expecting. There were no tuxedos anywhere in sight, no showgirls, no conga drums, no live music, no floor show. I was looking for Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa, Desi Arnaz, Cab Calloway, Les Brown, and Billy Eckstine performing live with their orchestras. Well, not really them, but their heirs.

There was an attempt to revive that kind of night club. In San Francisco, in the mid 90s a place called the Coconut Club opened. Unfortunately, it was tied to closely to the swing fad of those years. When the fad went away so did the Coconut Club. In Sunnyvale, there was club open about the same time. It was called the Palace. Men were required to be in ties and jacket. Blue jeans were verboten. I only went once (It was very expensive), but it was almost like being at Desi's nightclub, but much bigger; not as big as the old Coconut Grove in L.A., though. They had live music. (I danced the Cha Cha Cha, but not this good.) But Silicon Valley is not a good place for nightclubs, and they closed their doors. Sometimes, Bimbo's in San Francisco has events that seem like they were brought forward in time from the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s. But not often.

My brother and I talked about opening nightclub once. But he got married and that was the end of of that. It probably wouldn't have worked out. He is more of a Margaritaville and Cabo Wabo guy.

Anyway, here is the clip of the song. I suppose most people today associate the song with Jim Cary's movie "The Mask", but Desi was first. Sometimes, when walking down the sidewalk this song pops in to my head and I have to add a little Latin motion to my walk.

May I draw your attentionto this article?

The Wall Street Journal (in my opinion, the best American news paper) has published a story about the students at Newcomers High School in Queens, New York, where all of the students are recent immigrants.

Newcomers High School also has students who, like the Pilgrims, came to the U.S. seeking freedom of worship. A boy who says he's from Tibet notes that his family "couldn't practice the religion of the Dalai Lama" in China. An Indonesian girl, who is Christian, tells of being persecuted by Muslims in her neighborhood and fearing for her safety. An Egyptian, also a Christian, says she feared being kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. "We wanted to close all the bad pages of memory . . . and start a new page." (Read the whole story here.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Prayer

"Life-giving and merciful Trinity, receive my thanksgiving for all Your goodness. Make us worthy of Your blessings, so that, we may enter into the joy of our Lord, forever exulting in the shout of victory: Haleluja!" - Ode 13, Akathist to the Lord Jesus Christ

Thanksgiving

The following words (I copied them from www.Schmeman.org) were read every year during the Thanksgiving liturgy at Holy Trinity Cathedral by the late Archpriest Victor Sokolov.
---
Father Alexander Schmemann celebrated the divine liturgy for the last time on Thanksgiving Day. This was particularly appropriate since Father Alexander had devoted his whole life to teaching, writing and preaching about the Eucharist; for the word eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving. At the conclusion of the liturgy, Father Alexander took from his pocket a short written sermon, in the form of a prayer, which he proceeded to read. This was a strange occurrence since Father never wrote his liturgical homilies, but delivered them extemporaneously. These were his words, which proved to be the last ever spoken by him from the ambo in Church.


"Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.

Thank You, O Lord, for having accepted this Eucharist, which we offered to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with the joy, peace and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for having revealed Yourself unto us and given us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having united us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.

Thank You, O Lord, for having helped us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations and restored peace, mutual love and joy in sharing the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestowed upon us, for they are purifying us from selfishness and reminding us of the "one thing needed;" Your eternal Kingdom.

Thank You, O Lord, for having given us this country where we are free to Worship You.

Thank You, O Lord, for this school, where the name of God is proclaimed.

Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives and, especially, children who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement and holy noise.

Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.

Lord, it is good to be here! Amen."

(The Orthodox Church, Vol. 20, No. 2, February 1984, p. 1:1)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Uh Oh

I think Athanasia just realized that our name is on the Prop 8 donor list. She asked for a key to the shotgun.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I Thought were True

This morning I had the displeasure of finding out that we no longer hang pirates. This is important because just a few days ago I explained to Anselm Samuel that we did hang pirates. I also explained that he is not allowed to play that he is a pirate, but that he could play the brave naval captain fighting against pirates. (All of this was brought about by watching the classic Oscar winning swashbuckler movie, The Black Swan, in which some pirates turn their lives around and, under the flag of the king, work for law and order on the high seas.)

This has caused me to reflect that over the last 10 years many of the things I thought were true hadn't been true for a century or more. For example, it used to be that an employee protecting the body or property of his employer was almost completely immune from prosecution for inflicting damage on an attacker. (Recently, in California, a gardener was sent to prison for breaking the jaw of a burglar who was stealing from the gardener's employer.) But today this is not the case. This morphing of the law is very bothersome to me. Now laws are more complicated. And in being more complicated, less predictable, and thus more dangerous.

I do not think everything in the 19th Century was good. But at least pirates knew they faced death for their crimes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Letter to St. Nicholas

Anselm Samuel Wrote a letter to St. Nicholas today.

Dear St. Nicholas,

I live in California. Please pray for me and my brother Basil. Please bring Candy on Dec. 6. And I will be waiting for you.

Love Anselm.


As he was addressing the letter (San Nicola, Basilica di San Nicola, Piazza di San Nicola, Bari, Vecchia, Italia) he said, "St. Nicholas' body is dead. Will he understand when the monks read it to him?" I answered, "He knew what you wrote as soon as you wrote it." Anselm laughed and said, "Oh Yeah. He's a saint!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pop Culture

"Pop culture’s assault on beauty is too wide-ranging to elucidate here. “Pop” may be “popular” abbreviated, but it also calls to mind brands like Coke and Pepsi—producers of something fizzy, sweet, briefly stimulating, and rotten in the long-term. Pop culture is junk culture. Its invitation is not to “savor life” but rather to exploit it for the sake of instant gratification. It is designed, manufactured and marketed to be consumed and thrown away."


The whole essay is fabulous, and much deeper than this quote. I just like the way the author links junk food to pop-culture. You can read the whole thing here.

Before you click on that link, here ia another quote from the article and an observation.

"When I attend evening mass on Sunday, the music is often a watered-down version of folk rock. It’s John Denver 1ite, which wouldn’t seem possible but there it is. Pastors and youth ministers, understandably eager to entice teenagers to church, pander to what they perceive as the “taste” of the younger generation....The folksy liturgy is supposed to appeal to the younger generation. It’s supposed to make the mass “more accessible.” This is condescending to kids who know better. Recall that the only people who stopped to listen to Joshua Bell play classical music [in the subway during rush hour] were under the age of ten, and then ask yourself who has the more sophisticated taste. Going to church must offer us something that we do not get from the wider culture or else what’s the point? It’s the sacred liturgy. Treating it as a diluted rock concert is silly, for the simple reason that somewhere else in town (or even at home on a pair of headphones) any kid can experience a better rock concert."


For a brief time I was the leader of a small group at PBCC (Wow! That is is really hard to imagine.) and I took my group of people, all in their 20s to visit an enormous youth group (500 to 600 teenagers) in Santa Cruz one night. There was a band leading the congregation in the expected Christian rock songs. But hardly anyone was singing along, many talking with each other and flirting (For the record, I am in favor of teenagers flirting in church. It is the safest and best place for it.) Just before the preacher stood up they sang a 1200 year old Orthodox hymn. For that song - beautiful, slow and without instrumentation - everyone paid attention, and sang solemnly and thunderously.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Standing, Kneeling, Prostrating

Anselm Samuel asked me today why we kneel and prostrate when we pray at home but not on Church at Sundy. Isn't that a great question? I was able to exlpain the Canon 20 Nicea and Canon 90 Trullo and how we obey the Canons of the councils. I was able to talk about repentence and celebration, preparation and fulfilment, dieing to orselves and ber raised with Jesus. I've never read the Trullo Canons, but I remembered reading something about it a couple of years ago on the Antiochian's website. I found it again today.


How come on Sunday at the Divine Liturgy some people kneel in church and some don't? (Dec. ’02)

Let us look to the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea (325 AD). The 20th Canon which states that on the Lord’s day (Sunday) and from Easter through Pentecost all must pray standing and not kneeling. Canon 90 from the Council in Trullo (692 AD) reinforces Canon 20 from Nicea and specifies that the celebration of the Resurrection on Sunday begins with the entrance at Vespers on Saturday evening through the entrance at Vespers on Sunday evening. We don’t kneel because kneeling is a posture of repentance. On that day we are not repenting, but celebrating the Resurrection.

During the week it is appropriate to kneel as an act of repentance and faithfulness. Since many Orthodox Christians don’t attend liturgical services throughout the week, the practice developed in many parishes to kneel on Sunday at the Divine Liturgy during the Consecration of the Gifts. It has become an act of piety for some and an act of following the crowd for others.

Ideally, we would have the opportunity to participate in the daily cycle of church services, but very few of our parishes offer them. In our daily prayer life, when possible, we ought to assume a kneeling posture for prayer as a humbling gesture before God. Then on Sundays, we would feel the obligatory desire to kneel but would piously stand in reverence throughout the service.

Also, I might add that the normative postures for prayer in the Orthodox Church are standing or kneeling — not sitting. Seats were available for the elderly and infirm in our mother churches. It wasn’t until the Protestant influence in America, that Orthodox churches adopted the regular use of pews. The Protestants had the pews due to the lengthy sermons, which are the focal part of their services.

Saturday Soundtrack: Then He Smiled At Me

When I was a small boy I would listen to my mother's Christmas records all year long. My favorite was the one published by the Firestone tire company. (For my younger readers, there was a time when many big companies had an orchestra or choir. Those that didn't would, at least, sponsor some other musicians who would produce records with the sponsors logo prominently featured on the cover. Both Firestone and Goodyear used to realse albums of Christmas carols and songs.) This Firestone record was my favorite because it had "The Little Drummer Boy" on it. I would thrill every time I heard the words, "Then he smiled at me." Isn't that our goal? To hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"?

The clip below is from a "classic" televsion show. I think I saw it every year up until I was a teenager. I don't know if they still show it on television or not. I bought it on DVD so my kids can watch it on the computer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos

Consider how the Theotokos entered the Holy of Holies; not by suddenly appearing in that awsome room, but by ascending step by step, room by room. Thus is our ascent to holiness. As the prophet Isaiah said, "For precept [must be] upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little". We do not attain the true knowlede of God, which is holiness, in a flash but only by struggle, only by constant movement onward and upward.

Non, Possumus.


I was thinking about going hunting on the second weekend of January, and I thought Basil might enjoy seeing all the taxadermied animals, so we went to the gun store the other day.

I asked for a box of 00 buckshot and was told, "We sold out the day after the election. The largest load we have is #6 birdshot". I was kind of flabergasted. And the phenomenon, it seems, was not restricted to that one store. Every merchant in entire county is out of buckshot.

So, I bought a box of #6 birdshot and will see if I can't talk someone into going quailing with me. (Yes I know #7 1/2 is recommended for quail, but I might use these for turkey, too.)

Oh, yes. Basil did like the animals, especially the ibex. He did not like the lion, which was, he thought, scarry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peer Pressure


Last night at the Cub Scout Pack meeting, Anselm Samuel told me he wants to be a Roman Catholic. Really. That is what he said. What prompted this utterance is that Anselm saw me holding the Roman Catholic religious award work books (I'm the pack's religious activities coordinator), and has noticed that most of his fellows are Roman Catholic. (In the whole pack there are only 4 non-Roman Catholics.), and has not yet seen the Orthodox medal or book. (For Orthodox Christian Cub Scouts it is the St. George Award, pictured above.) I can't wait to get that book and the medal so Anselm can get to work on it.

If anyone knows any Orthodox Christian boys (age 6 to 10) in the Willow Glen area of San Jose let me know how to get in touch with them. I'd like to recruit them into the pack.

Simple and Good

One ting that is difficult for me during the fast, and I bet I'm not the only one, is making simple food. I am often tempted to make more complicated meals using various fast-friendly substitutes. But that detracts from the benefits of the fast. Two simple meals that take little time and are pretty good are as follows:

On oil days: spaghetti, garlic (or chopped green onions), salt, pepper, olive oil.

On non-oil days: Put a hunk of old hard bagguette in a bowl and pour hot vegetable stock over it. During the fasts always have a box or two of vegie stock in the cabinet.

On fish days: Well those are feast days so don't try to be simple and plain. Besides there are only a couple (Fish for St. Herman, right? No?)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Miraculous Icon to Visit San Francisco

I received an email from a priest at the Geary Street Cathedral about a miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon that will be visiting San Francisco.

-------
Christ is in our midst!

Dear brothers & sisters,

On Friday November 21st at 6:30 pm our Cathedral will be visited by the Hawaii Iveron Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Holy Theotokos!

Everyone is welcome to come!

Our address: 2005 15th Street, San Francisco CA 94114.

To learn more about the icon go to http://orthodoxhawa ii.org/icons. html
and http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Theotokos_ Iverskaya

Schedule
1. 6 30 pm - meeting of the Icon.
2. 6 40 pm - prayer of supplication and akathist.
3. Sermon.
4. Veneration of the Icon (please bring zip-lock snack bags that you'll be carrying the small copy of the Icon & Q-tip that you'll be annointed with. To be taken home.)
5. Cup of tea. Reader Nectarios will answer all questions about the Icon..
6. Leaving of the Icon.

Yours in Christ,
priest Andrey Kovalev.


So, the obvious question is, are we to be annointed by the myrrh that flows from the Icon? If so, WOW!!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Church is Catholic

I looked around my parsih yesterday and saw something my Dad would have loved. He often preached (for new readers, my Dad was a pentecostal preacher for more than 50 years.) against peer-group churches. He didn't like churches that only had young people. He didn't like churches that only had people from the same economic strata. Why would he have loved what I saw in my parish yesterday? Because there were very rich people, very poor people, new converts, old (I mean thousand year old) Orthodox families, three Kenyan women, lots of old people, many many children under 10. Then there are those who serve in the Altar: Our priest is Japanese, three of our acolytes are Eritrean, two are the children of European immigrants, one id my son, one subdeacon is from Nigeria, one reader is tall, blond, broadshouldered, and youthful; the sterotypical californian. The other reader is old, crooked, and fled war in the Horn of Africa. One subdeacon is a psychologist, another is a cop, another is a painter. Our deacon is an engineer. Bankers and laborers, those with education and those without, hale and infirm, young and old, from four continents. But one Gospel. One Chalice. Ond Cross. One King.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In case you've been wondering, yes, today is the feast my heavenly patron, the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew



The Epistle for St. Matthew's Day:
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. (1 Corinthians 4:9-16)


The Gospel for St. Matthew's Day:
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. (Matthew 9:9-13)


Troparion (In Tone 3):
With zeal, you followed Christ the Master,
who in His goodness, appeared on earth to mankind.
Summoning you from the custom house,
He revealed you as a chosen apostle:
the proclaimer of the the Gospel to the whole world!
Therefore, divinely eloquent Matthew,
we honor your precious memory!
Entreat merciful God that He may grant our souls remission of transgressions.


Kontakion (In Tone 4):
Casting aside the bonds of the custom house for the yoke of justice,
you were revealed as an excellent merchant, rich in wisdom from on high.
You proclaimed the word of truth
and roused the souls of the slothful
by writing of the hour of Judgment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Its On!!!

Much goodness and joy. After the kick off meal of crab, shrimp, brussels sprouts, San Pelegrino, and a 2006 Parducci sauvignon blanc(my fave non-bubbly white wine at the moment) we gathered around the icons, sang O Heavenly King" and read Genesis 3:1-15. And then we talked about what it meant.

I asked Anslem Samuel some questions about the facts of the story, a story he has heard hundreds of times, and he answered them. Then I began to explain what it meant. When I asked him what Gen. 3:15 meant he said he didn't know so Iexplained it to him. This prompted his mother to say "Every day I feel like we are getting closer and closer to having to talk about the birds and bees, and I'm not ready for that." I thought that was very funny.

One thing I noticed tonight, and I am a little suprised I hadn't noticed it before now, is that the very day Adam and Eve sinned he showed up to help them and give them the promise of a redeemer. Isn't that just like God?

Anyway, it is very important to me that the boys not grow up thinking that we do all the stuff we do just because we are Orthodox and that is what Orthodox do. I want them to know why we hold our hands the way we do when we make the sign of the Cross, why that bottom cross bar is tilted, why only clergy touch the altar, why the eggs are dyed red, and why we fast before the feast of the Nativity. So tonight I said this...

"For thousands and thousands and thousands of years we waited in darkness for that Seed, Jesus to be born. And we fast every year before Christmas to remind oursleves of that waiting. It is our way of reliving that long wait. Just as the Feast of the Nativity is our way of remembering that Jesus was born, the Nativity Fast is our way of remembering that long wait."

After that it was a zip up to San Francisco (traffic was horrible!) to receive the Holy Mystery of Confession and then home. (Anselm Samuel is sick so Athanasia stayed at home with the boys.)

While driving home I was tinking about Gen.3:15 and how in those years between that day and the birth of Jesus, and how God, like a horticulturist breeding the perfect plant, had tended the bloodlines that produced Mary, the one who would be His own Mother. And I wrote a poem. Forgive me, it isn't very good, and seems a little limricky. Maybe, when I'm done with school I'll take the idea and try to shape it into better meter and rhyme.

Wild plants, vines without stakes
Fiberous, crooked, and tough
A gardner chose hard labor
He pruned and croseed and watched
And after many years
The gardener crossed two plants
From that pair a flower grew
From that flower, alone, The Seed.

Such a Strange Song: Saturday Saoundtrack

In the years before cable television spread to every corner of the suburbs, KBHK Channel 44, broadcating from Sutro Tower high above Twin Peaks, was every San Francisco Bay area kid's best friend. Every weekday afternoon they broadcast several hours of cartoons followed by reruns of Leave it to Beaver, the Brady Bunch, and Batman. On Saturday mornings KBHK broadcast a local professional wrestling show called BigTime Wrestling. It was alwways broacast "live from the Cow Palace", and followed by "The Monster Mash", which was what they called their weekly horror movie. But this was in the days before the slasher movies of the 1980s, so they weren't very horrifying. The Blob, Santa Calus Conquers the Martians, and Creature from the Black Lagoon were about as frightening as the movies got. And following that was usually an Abbot & Costello, Shirley Temple, or Bowery Boys movie. As I am sure you have figured out, if you have a compilation alum of forty of the strangest songs ever to appear on the pop charts, you are going to want to get Wolfman Jack to pitch it for you on KBHK.

In 1977 I begged my mother to buy me that 3 LP set called "40 Funky Hits",and, believe it or not, she did. Now, every once in a while I have this song by the Trashmen pop into my head. And once, at a nightclub in San Francico at least 30 years after this song was a hit, the band on stage, all to young to have been alive when it was on the radio, started playing the song. Astoundingly, and I kid you not, every single person in the place started dancing the pony, the twist, the swim AND SINGING ALONG!!! They all must have begged their moms for the album, too!

The song has ben covered by the Ramones and the Cramps, and even appeard in Stanley Kubrik's Full Metal Jacket. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, may I present the most perfect high energy dance song ever recorded: "The Bird is the Word" by the Trashmen!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Local Paper Covers the News of Metropolitan Jonah's Election



What I want to know is how was this even on the reporter's radar screen?

"SANTA CRUZ - A UC Santa Cruz graduate has been named archbishop of the Orthodox Church in America and Canada.

"Bishop Jonah Paffhausen, who graduated from UCSC after founding an Orthodox Christian Fellowship on campus, was named Wednesday to the top post at the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh. After he is installed by the Holy Synod of Bishops at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington next month, he will oversee an American church membership of at least 500,000." (Read Whole Story Here)

No Wellies for Me?

Athanasia, the boys, and I are going to Yosemite for a few days during the Feast of the Nativity but I do not have appropriate footwear. In fact, since snowboots are the appropriate footwear, but I am in the snow no more than 15 days in any decade, I really do not want appropriate footwear. I want rubber Wellingtons. They are much more practicle for me and should be convenient for turkey hunting in the spring. Finding boots in my size should be no problem, right? Wrong. My feet are extremely wide. I have been told that I have cave man feet, paddles, hooves, etc. This is a problem because, though the best compnay (That is Hunter, a U.K. firm.) makes rubber wellies for wide calfs, they do not make rubber wellies for wide feet. After much searching, it seems that no one does. Oh, well. I guess, I'll just have to tie plastic garbage bags over my deer skin oxfords.

St. Philip's Day

Today is the Feast of St. Phillip, who was a disciple of St. John the Forerunner, and, later, a disciple and Apostle of Jesus. After Jesus Ascension, St. Philip (remember this is not St. Philip the Deacon) preached in Galilee, Greece (concentrating his efforts on the devout jews in the synagogues), and Persia. He was crucified in the Phrygian city of Hieropolis following a confrontation with the servants of a snake god.

St. Philip's feast is not a major feast, but has taken on a certain importance in the mind of the Orthodox, as it is the harbinger of the Nativity Fast (AKA Advent). At Church we don't do much to recognize the season, the the liturgical expression of Advent only lasts for two weeks. This is very much unlike Great Lent in the spring which starts off with many services and keeps them up for the length of that fast. So the Nativity Fast is different. It is a time for the little church in each Christian house to step up and live the life of Christ more brillianly. This is accomplished in many different ways.

In my house we'll start tomorrow by reading the account of the fall and the protoevangelium from Genisis. And we'll light a candle in the window. Of course, we'll also eat some crabs to mark the beginning of the relative (to Great Lent) joyfullness of this particular fast. Every few days we'll add more to what we do. By Christmas Eve, the house shall be decorted, many books shall have been read, alms shall have been given (Oh! There are so many people who need. I wish I was a rich man so I could help them all.), and much incense offered. Confession and Communion are part of every fast, of course. Hopefully, with God's help, we will be more like Jesus by the end of the Fast and ready to more perfectly celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, and be closer to being able to endure to the end like St. Philip.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Expelled

I took a break from school work and watched Ben Stein's Expelled.

I agree with the critics who say it is propoganda. But I don't think that is a bad thing. Propaganda for truth is very different from propaganda for falsehood. It is clear from the very beginning that Stein and the other filmmakers had taken on the role of propagandists. They were not trying to hide it. They forthrightly and honestly said, Darwinism is evil. In addition to thinking it was propaganda, I thought it was pretty good propaganda in that it allowed the Darwinists to speak for themselves and show themselves to be inconsistent at best and loons at worst. When Dawkins , in reference to the obviousness of the design of organisms, said ID couldn't be true but alien seeding could be true I just about fell out of my chair because he had just admitted that ID could be true. It was astounding.

Now here is the part that surprised me buy, I guess, shouldn't have. It seemed to me that most of the Darwinists really hated God and built their science to destroy beliefe in God. Not as I had assumed would be the case, that their science lead them to reject God. No it was the rejection of God that made them embrace Darwin.

Not easy to balance

"We must be super-conservative in preserving the Orthodox faith, but super-modern in propagating it." - St. Nikolai Velimerovich

All Piles Are Atomic

This Guy Cracks Me UP!

Hmmmm. This is weird.

My Dad was an Oakie. My Mom, from Missouri. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and Tampa, Florida. How in the world do I get results like this? And just for the record, I call all carbonted bevreages by their brand name(e.g. Coke, Mr. Pibb), or most specific generic name (e.g. cream soda, tonic water). I never call them "pop".

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North
 

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
 
Philadelphia
 
The Midland
 
The South
 
Boston
 
The West
 
North Central
 
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mission Control, we have a Metropolitan.

Well, it is wonderful news. The Orthodox Church in America has a Metropolitan. I haven't had a lot of interaction with him. I've only seen him a couple of times. I know my bishop has a lot of confidence in him. And I knew he was much respected by the two priests who brought me into the Orthodox Church. Oh, I remember this story, too.

We were on a pilgrimage and a priest was acting a little bossy and show-offy about enforcing a certain rule. I remember Abbot Jonah (he is a real monk, formed by years in a monastery, not just a priest who becomes a monk the day before his consecration as bishop. Though there have been many fine bishops, such as St. Ambrose of Milan, who were not monks before they were chosen as bishops.) not contradicting his superior, who was certainly correct, but looking a little embarrassed that a priest was acting that way. A little while later another priest refered to Abbot Jonah as "Bishop Jonah". I asked, "Is that prophecy"? The priest answered, "At this point let's just call it supporting a cause." And that is about all I knew about him until last night when I listend to his speech on behalf of the Holy Synod.

The context for the speech was a situation of grave sin, an embarrassed Holy Synod, and demoralized laity and clergy. The Bishops had been asked many questions in writing and had answered some of them. In my opinion, and it is just mine, some people went to the Council ready to spit on the bishops. It can only have been a tense time. Then Bishop Jonah, who had only been a bishop for 10 days stood before the council and spoke for Jesus.

Click here to hear his speech. It is worth listening to.

That was yesterday. Today this most junior bishop in the Orthodox Church in America (probably the most junior in the world) was chosen to be the most senior bishop in America. Now listen to him today.

I can not begin to tell you how happy this makes me.

Update on Sausage

First of all, it takes a lot longer than the videos below show. They were experienced and had an electric grinder and stuffer. I have an an antique cast iron hand cranked meat grinder witht a dull blade. I also have 6 and 3 year old helpers. We all participated in the making of it. What the videos I posted a couple of days ago show taking about 15 minutes really takes several hours.

Anselm Samuel and Basil Wenceslas peeled garlic and turned the handle on the grinder. Athanasia mixed the ingredients (pork, salt, garlic, sage, paprika),turned the handle on the grinder as we were stuffing, and she also cooked a little bit and tasted it before we stuffed it into the casings. I did all the knife work, and filled the casings while others (mainly Athanasia) turned the handle. At this point, we have 8 lbs of beutiful sausages in the freezer. They shall remain there until just before we leave for Church on the Eve of the Nativity. They should be thawed and ready to cook by the time we get out of bed the next morning.

Cleaning the casings was fun. Anselm asked, "Are those some kind of special plastic?" I said, "No. They're pig intestines". His reaction was very funny. Basil said, "I like pig intestines". What I think he liked is that they looked like water baloons when I was washing all the salt out of them. He kept wanting to play with them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Closest Friend

It has been said that countries don't have friends, only interests. I think that is wrong. Throughout the history of the United States many wars, one nation has joined with us time and time again to defeat out enemies. Of course, we were allies in WWI and WWII, but also in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait/Iraq, Iraq & Afghanistan. But they serve by our side in hundreds of other smaller missions, too. And often, they take on the thankless job of peacekeeping missions that America needs done but, for political reasons, is unable to do.

So, on this Veterans Day, or as you call it, Remembrance Day, I say God Bless Australia, God Save the Queen, and may he remember all Australia's fallen heroes.