Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kid Stuff

I changed Anselm's math curriculum. The book provided by the ISP had him doing much cutting and pasting and coloring but didn't have him doing much math. This is a big deal because a fiev year old boy isn't goig to concentrate on anything for more than 20 minutes. And if 18 of those minutes are taken up with cutting pasing and coloring he isn't going to learn math. So I changed books. He's been working in ot for two days. Just a minute ago he said, "Hey, Dad, I lovove my new math book. Thank you for getting it for me."

In other news, Basil, who is two, has learned that he can stand on a chair and reach the top or the refrigerator. This is very very bad because the top of the refrigerator was the last place in the house he couldn't reach. I don't know what I am going to do.

I'm It.

Elizabeth tagged me.

The Rules:-
Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

Title: The Martini by Barnaby Conrad III

Sentences 6, 7,& 8 of page 123: "William of Orange, a Dutchman, became King of England in 1688 when his predecessor, James II, was exiled to France. Up until then, many of the wines and spirits of the day had come from France, but King William ended French trade and gave the English the right to distill spirits from native-grown grain. Gin consumption rose from an estimated half million gallons in 1690 to 5 million gallons in 1727."

I tag: Matt, Jeff, James, Kevin, and Don.

Sir Winston Churchill's Funeral

Sir Winston's funeral was on Jan 30, 1965. Below is an excerpt of an articleabout that funeral. It is a beautiful peice of philiopatria. (I think I made that word up. Do you like it?)

"The great man's great funeral of state five days later remains vividly in my memory as a young man as the family watched it all unfold on television throughout the day: the procession of the gun carriage to and from St. Paul's Cathedral; the service itself and the moving entrance of Sir Winston's body into the church accompanied by Croft's setting for the Burial Sentences: I am the resurrection and the life saith the Lord. He who believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.

"There, gathered before the whole world, in one place at one time, were the presentation of the man, the signs, symbols, sounds and words that, in all their historical grandeur, represented everything that we were, in which we believed and for which we held the deepest affection and loyalty: Our Christian Faith, Freedom and Civilisation; Britain, Mother England, the Union 'Jack', the Mother of All Parliaments, the Royal Navy and Marines, the Army and the RAF, resplendent all, even in mourning.

If you want to read the rest, and you should , please visit Piddnet. (I recommend that you visit soon, as there was no date stamp or specific article page to which I could link.)

Presentation of Christ (AKA Candlemas AKA Groundhog Day) - Part 2: The Icon of the Feast

Well, this Feast, one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, is just around the corner so I had better get a move on, huh?

The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple- In obedience to the Law, Jesus was brought by the Theotokos and St. Joseph the Betrothed to the Temple in Jerusalem. This was required of all first-born sons in the house of Israel, for the first-born of Israel are holy to the LORD.

Holding the Lord is St. Simeon, who’s words "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel" are prayed daily by every Orthodox Christian.

But other than that, what is known of St. Simeon the God-Receiver? Why did God cause him to live to see the Salvation of Israel and the Light to the Gentiles? Well, it all started during the reign of the Egyptian Emperor Ptolemy Philadelphus, when he requested that the Bible be Translated from Hebrew into Greek for his Greek-speaking Jewish subjects. St. Simeon was chosen as one of the prominent Seventy to whom was entrusted the task of translating the Bible from Hebrew into the Greek language [This translation becameknown as the Septuagint, for seventy].

St. Simeon was performing his task conscientiously but when he was translating the book of the Prophet Isaiah and came upon the prophecy: "Behold, a virgin [Heb: almah] shall conceive, and will give birth to a son" (Isaiah 7:14), he translated the word into Greek using the Greek word for virgin, but he became confused and took a knife to scrape off the word "virgin" in order to replace it with the words, "young woman," (‘young woman’ is an alternate translation of almah) as is seen in many modern translations. (The Revised Standard Version is one such translation; translated from the Masoretic text instead of the Septuagint.) At that moment, however, an angel of God appeared to Simeon and restrained him, explaining to him that the prophecy is true and correct. The messenger of God also said that Simeon would be convinced of it personally for Simeon would not be allowed to die until he saw the Messiah born of the Virgin. Simeon rejoiced to hear the angel’s voice, left the prophecy unchanged and thanked God. He died shortly after meeting Jesus.

On the vigil of the Feast (Evening of Feb 1) and on the Feast itself (Feb. 2), we will all be rejoicing. But look closely at the Icon. Look at St. Simeon's face. Is that a face filled with joy? Is that gladness? No. That is a very serious visage. He forsees sorrow. Perhaps, God has revealed to him the Crucifixion, for he says to the Theotokos, "A sword will pierce your heart". We must never forget that Jesus came to pour out his life, in fact, his self emptying is part of his nature. He is slain from the foundation of the earth. He gives everything he is to his Father.

Yes, I know I haven't gotten to the whole Groundhog-Candle-Presentation connection yet, but I will. Trust me.


Jesus said: Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Interfax reports: ‘When the examined prayed, their biological current rhythms slowed down to just 3 hertz. These slow rhythms are called ‘delta-rhythms’ and are characteristic only of infants under two-three months... From neuropsychological point, praying people somehow regress to childhood,’ research director professor Valery Slezin notes. (More)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Wish List for Prince Caspian

Devin Brown is an English professor at Asbury College who says, "...for me—and a good number of people like me—these books are on that list of special things in life that have become a part of us and have helped make us who we are." and makes several important recomendations to the film makers. Let us hope they read closelythe professor's words.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Presentation of Christ (AKA Candlemas AKA Groundhog Day)

I don't know how I failed to notice it before, but yesterday it occured to me that Groundhog Day and the The Feast of the Presentation of Christ (Candlemas) are both on February 2 and both are concerned with light. So, given what we know about Christmas and how the Puritans suppressed that glorious feast, I suspected that there was a similar story behind Groundhog Day. Here is what I discovered, and it isn't as nefarious as the was suppression of Christmas.

All over western Europe there was an association of Candlemas, as the Feast of the Presentation is known in that part of the world, with weather prediction. I don't understand it, but there it is. Below are some of the poems from around western Europe pertaiing to the Day.

From England:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

From Scotland:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.

From Germany:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

Kind of neat, huh? Of course, that doesn't answer the question of how in America the Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas became known as Groundhog Day. I'll get to that but first I want to talk about the Feast of the Presentation of Christ/Canclemass.

So what is the Feast of the Presentation and what does it celebrate? To answer this question we have to look at the Books of Exodus and Leviticus where God gives two commands. In Leviticus 12 the women of Israel were instructed to vist the temple on the 40th day after giving birth. (FYI: Orthodox Christian women still do this. But now it is called Churching.) The other Old Testament text we look at is Exodus 13, where God directs that the first born males of every creature be given to him in sacrifice, but that human beings be redeemed.

Now we see why Februry 2 is the date for the Feast of the Presentation: It is 40 days after the Feast Nativity of Jesus/Christmas. As it is written in the Gospel of Luke, "And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)." (Luke 2:22-23) I know, I know... You are still trying to figure out what this has to do with candles, weather, and groundhogs. I'm going to get to it. I promise. But not tonight.

Illness Update

For those keeping track, only one of us is well at the present time: Anselm. I took him to the liturgy yesterday so he could receive Communion. My wife and youngest son stayed home.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Soundtrack Saturday: Come a Little Bit Closer

Jay and the Americans only had a couple of hits but they were really good songs. And I'm a sucker for a song with a story. I think most men have had the misfortune of meeting the woman this song is about. I've the horrible experiences of encountering her (and Jose!) more than once.

New Shotgun

Today I bought a new shotgun. I went into the store to get an inexpensive single-shot 12-guage but bought, instead, an inexpnsive used 12-guage pump-action repeater! It is a J.C. Higgins Modle 20 with a compensator (it reduces kick) and variable choke. It cost less than the single-shot I was planning on buying, has a smooth action, and has very little wear in the bore. It isn't as pretty as a Purdey, but what is? I'm very pleased. Next Thanksgiving the turky on the table will be a turkey I will have killed.


I know almost nothing about the Scientologists, except that when I lived in Tampa, L. Ron Hubbard (He made up Scientology) faked his death and lived tax-free during his last few years on a yacht in the bay and there was a huge court battle and the Dr. who ppronoucned him dead was a Scientologist. So, that is just about all I know. I've been told that they think alien spirits called engrams live in us but I don't know that they really believe that. Oh, I also know that some Hollywood people are Scientologists and that the gov't of Germany thinks they are some kind of mind control organization and won't let them operate in Germany, rr something. I also know that this is cool...

Update: Since writing what I wrote above I looked up a story about the fight between Anonymous and the Scientologists. I also looked up some other stuff about Scientology. These guys are scarry. I think I understand a little bit better why "Anonymous" is attacking them. I can say this, I am glad not to be in the fight between Scientology and "Anonymous" but I am definitely curious about how it is going to turn out. I'll be looking for stories. I have a feeling that this is going to be better than a tag-team death-cage rasslin match. Oh, here is the scarry video, In fact it's so scarry I'm thinking about taking this post down, I have children...

Second Update: I thought I would visit the scientology website to see how Anonymous' denial of service attack is going. It seems to be working. Man this is like the 21st century version of being ring side at the Thrilla in Manilla. I just wonder how in the world the Scientologists are going to respond against an enemy they can't see.

Who's 3D?

Tonight I went to see the movie Cloverfield (Save your money. No matter how small the price of admission it isn't worth it. I actually had more fun counting product placements than trying to follow the action.) and saw something that concerned me. In the lobby there was a poster davertising some kind of live concert movie by some singer I'd never heard of. But the singer is apparently backed Disney. And Disney is releasing the film in Real D technology. I must say that this was worrying to me for purely financial reasons: I have taken a a large gamble with my IRA: I have invested in Dolby, who have a competing 3D movie technology.

But wait, let me back up a little and tell you my investment strategy. It is really simple and is based on something I heard a a NFL Offensive lineman say one time. When a reporter asked what is team was going to do to win he said, "We have to to score more points." It was that simple. So, every day, with my IRA my goal is to score more points that the other team. The other team is the S&P 500. So far, I'm doing really well. I am up over 800% in 3 years, and that is with $0 in new contributions. I don't know what the S&P is over 4 years, I just know that almost every day I score more points. For example, today the S&P fell by 21.46. (No I don't know what that means. But for the purposes of my game I think of it as points.) But my portfolio went up by 0.02. So, I think of myself as winning today's game by 21.44 points. Now again, almost every day I win. I do it, mostly by picking stock that are in businesses that sound like fun. I know, it sounds silly. But at least for me, silly seems to be working.

Among the fun companies I have bought were a grocery store chain that I enjoy shopping at (but can't afford to shop at), a company that operates tramp freighters (come on, haven't you always wanted to work on a freighter, traveling to all the port cities in on the pacific? Besides all the officers of this particular company were Greek or Russian and I figured they were Orthodox.), a company that retrofits buildings to use LED lighting, a gold mining comapny, a company who emplyes deep sea divers to weld together oil piplines on the ocean floor, and a company that is big in audio, video games, and 3D movies. Yes, I mean Dolby.

My first experience with Dolby was in my Dad's 1974 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. I don't remember how it sounded, but ever since then, I have thought of Dolby as the Cadillac of sound systems. So, when I read that Dolby was getting into 3D movies, I thought "Cool! I'm think going to get a piece of that." So, I did some research and found out that this little San Francisco company is multiple revenue streams and has built a rock solid reputation in the video game industry for delivering superior sound quality. So, I bought a lot of Dolby shares. (Keep in mind that "a lot" is relative. To most investors my "a lot" is probably laughably small.)

So, tonight when I saw that Disney is going with the Real D format I freaked out a little bit. As soon as I got home from the movie (Which, again, was a waste of time and money.) I hopped on the internet and started looking around. As it turns out, Dolby is the easiest 3D format for theater operators to use, and provides the best 3D movie watching experience. I am much relieved.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My New Hobby

These are what I want to hunt. They are big, wiley, and good to eat.

This is the Purdey Double Express. It might be the most beautiful shotgun in the world. I don't have one,yet. But like all hobies, you have to have room to grow in it. (Purdy makes shotguns for Elizabeth II)

An Altar Boy

I have four sons. As stated in a previous post, the oldest is a paratrooper fighting in Afghanistan. Here is a picture of my third son, Anselm Samuel (He's the little boy in the middle.) taken two Sundays ago, his first Sunday serving as an acolyte. My hope is that he will grow up to be a priest, but as of now he says he wants to be a carpenter and build houses.

My Son Kills Taliban. What Does Your Son Do?

This is the view from a gun position at Firebase Phoenix overlooking the Korengal Valley. My oldest son's outfit, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) (Yes, he is a paratrooper.) occupies several small firebases along the valley in one of the most hard fought areas in in eastern Afghanistan's Regional Command-East. He fights and he kills. Many of the men in his regiment have been wounded in the fighting. The last I heard, twenty-three have been killed. My son still fights. I am very proud of him.

Every time I see an 18-25 year old man not in uniform I feel sorry for his parents. What a shame that our country is at war and their sons are afraid to fight. But it goes with this modern age, I suppose.

At Stanford University there is a building where the names of students who left the school to fight are engraved on the walls. The First World War has the most names. Then WWII. Korea has fewer. Viet Nam just a handful. There are no names engraved for any more recent wars. Shame. If it were up to me, no man would be given federal financial aid to go to college during a time of war, unless he had served and been honorably discharged.

But my son, all the rest of his days will be able to say, "I was with the 503rd when we fought the Taliban in the Korengal Valley. Too bad you weren't there with us." And those men who studied chemistry and commerce instead of going to war will feel like lesser men. They are lesser men. Shame on our nation for producing them.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pentecostals: On the Cusp of Orthodoxy

There is a Gaelic proverb that goes like this:

Cuimhnich air na daoine o'n d'thainig thu.
(Remember the people from whom you have come.)

The people from whom I come are the Pentecostals, and I think about them a lot. I thank God for them, for without them I wouldnot know God. I thank God for them because they formed my mother and father, who raised me. Now i am thinking about them and their relation to Holy Orthodoxy.

I think that Pentecostals, more so than other Protestants are likely to become Orthodox. Why? Well, even though Orthodoxy has sometimes been refered to as Christianity for graduate students (not because you have to be hyper-educated to to be Orthodox, but because there is so much of Orthodoxy that one can devote a lifetime to studying one little area of the Orthodox life, such as the Christological controversies of the 4th & 5th centures, or the development of Church singing in Russia.) and Pentecostalism is often accused of anti-intellectualism (Unfairly, I think.) they are both most immediately experienced supernaturally.

The Pentecostal and the Orthodox both "Expect a Miracle" and neither is surprised when miracles happen. When my Dad's hearing was restored when he was prayed for by an itenerant pentecostal evangelist holding a tent meeting in Commerce Oklahoma, that was the expected outcome from praying to the God who does wonders. When the face of St. Seraphim of Sarov began to glow, no one is surprised because that is the expected outcome of being near the God who does wonders. When I as a foolish child (age 6 or 7) prayed for snow where it does not snow (Silicon Valley) and God made it snow, I wasn't surprised because I knew God was the God who does wonders. When Fr. Juvenaly came back to life and continued preaching to the Eskimos who had just killed him the Orthodox are not surprised. (but the Eskimos sure were!) Such is to be expected from the God of Wonders. But some Pentecostals seem to be aligning themselves with the Orthodox in other ways, besides.

Now look at these two videos. The first contains a simple eucharistic prayer (fast forward to 4:10). It is so simple it could have been taken from the Bible or the Didache. He asks for forgiveness of sins. He gives thanks. He states that the congregants are bout to eat the Body and Blood of Jesus. But the words are coming from the lips of a Pentecostal. And near the end of this video Bishop Patterson (some Pentecostal denominations style some of their ministers bishops) says "There's a craving for the glory" and keep in mind when you hear him that one of the possible translations of "Orthodox" is "right glory". Do we Orthodox posess the glory these Pentecostals are seeking?

The second video is of a guy I have never heard of. He is, apparantly, a Pentecostal preacher who got interested in Orthodoxy and has been "ordained" by a Syro-Indian Episkopoi Vagantes. Nevertheless, he seems to be, as I say, on the Cusp of Orthodoxy. And look at the people to whom he is preaching. They are eating it up. And look at them standing! This is the Orthodox posture for going to church. These peoplewill have no problem standing through a Vigil.

Now here is a question, does anyone in the Orthodox Church (I mean the hierarchs) have the Pentecostals on their radar? Are we doing anything to help these people find us? It seems to me that God is doing something with them, are we going to be ready to accept them? Will be able to accomodate their exuberence and zeal? I think we can.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Possible Autism Connection and Other Ill Consequences of Ultrasound

"...ultrasound exposure may plausibly add to the risk of onset of a more devastating condition (e.g., autism) in an already-genetically-vulnerable fetus." (Read the whole article here.)

Synodicon of Orthodoxy - Part 5

"This reproach wherewith the enemies of the Lord reproached, wherewith they reproached the recompense of His Christ, was remembered by God, Who was besought by His own compassion, and Who yielded to the prayers of His Mother, and moreover His apostles and all His saints who, with Him, were rendered of no account by the insolent defamation of the holy icons, so that even as the saints suffered in the flesh, so might they, as it were, suffer with Him the insults directed against the holy icons God then wrought later that which had been counseled today, and He subsequently brought about that which He had previously performed; previously, because after many years during which the holy icons were spurned and dishonored, He re-established true piety. "


besought by His own compassion: What caused God to remember the affliction of his recompense? First, it is in His nature to notice when His own are suffering. Why is this? Because when we suffer, He suffers. Compassion means "suffering with." So when the Orthodox were bing tortured and killed by the heretics God felt it. He could not ignore it. We are his body, so just as my brain is aware of the pain in my foot when I step on a tack, God feels any pain inflicted on the Church.

Who yielded to the prayers of His Mother : There is quite a history in this statement, and any person from the Ancient Near East would know exactly what it means. It means, talking to the Queen Mother, one who has earned the automatic attention, respect, and love of the king. We can see how this kind of relationship works in 1 Kings chapter 2. The chapter begins with Solomon as king of Israel but immediately jumps to a converstion between Adonijah and Solomon's Mother.

Adojiah said to Bathsheba " Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king..." And Bathsheba said, "Well; I will speak for thee unto the king." Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, "I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay." And the king said unto her, "Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay."

Thus it is and always has been with Queen Mothers. The Queen Mother, by virtue of her relationship to the King has the King's ear and can serve as a conduit for supplication. Of course, a King can say "no", as Solomon denied Bathsheba's request, but sometimes a King grants the request, even when he'd rather not, as in the case of Mary and Jesus at the wedding in Cana (John 2).

His apostles and all His saints who, with Him, were rendered of no account by the insolent defamation of the holy icons : I have a ot of Icons in my house. Sometimes the boys will get them down off the walls to sleep with them, and they will wind up under the bed, or between the bed andthe wall. And I have been known to just pick them up and set them on a table, or on top of the dresser, and thngs get piled on top of them, or one of the boys grabs it and uses it to build a house, or to hit his older brother, or...I will never carelessly stack or handle Icons again. In short, if our praise reaches God and His holy Ones through the icons, so do our insults.

so might they, as it were, suffer with Him the insults directed against the holy icons: All suffering does not automatically end when we are in Heaven. It is still possible to suffer in Heaven because of things done on Earth.

after many years during which the holy icons were spurned and dishonored, He re-established true piety. : True devotion to God precludes the spurning or dishonoring of Icons.

Louisiana GOP Caucus - Victory for Life and Ron Paul

(There is an update to the post below. Apparaently, the Louisiana GOP is trying to defeat Ron Paul. See the ABC Report here.) I hate it that everything in Americarequires lawyers to be involved. I guess it's better than the old way of solving problems, but only barely.)

The Results in Louisiana are looking good.

#1 "pro-life uncommitted" (which means anyone but Da Mayor)
#2 McCain
#3 Dr.Ron Paul

Now why is this such good newsfor the GOP and the USA if Paul isn't going to win? two reaons:

1. It confirms that at least in Louisiana, The GOP is the Pro-Life party.
2. Because of Ronald Reagan. Every Republican remebers the 1976 Campaign when Gerald Ford was nominated to run for President, but he asked his primary challeger, Ronald Reagan to speak to the Convention. It was that 1976 speech that made everyone in the room say, "uh oh! We nominated the wrong man." It was that speech in 1976 that made Ronald Reagan the nominee in 1980. The speech was delivered without a teleprompter, without notes, and Ronald Reagan didn't even know he was going to be giving it. I won't put the text of the speech here, but I urge you to read it. Now why is this important to the Conservative movement? Because if the number of paul delegates at the convention is great enough, he will get the podium and others like him, real Conservatives, will be speaking - we will have an opportunity to push the Neo-Cons and the RINOs back into the slime.

Some people think Paul isn't a real conservative, or think he isn't electable. If you think he isn't I'd like you to consider these...

San Francisco March For Life 2008

Mateo has pictures of and comments on some signs he saw at the march. (Click to see.)

I'll try to make it next year. I've stayed away from these things in the past because I have trouble with the whole non-violent aspect. Where we are supposed to see victims and deceived for who we should have mercy, I easily slip into seeing enemies of babies. It doesn't help that the last pro-life event I went to (in the mid 1980s) I saw a Latin priest stabbed with a hypodermic needle by a pro-abort. Maybe next year I'll carry a big Virgin of the Sign Icon. I bet a big Icon would help me keep the right attitude.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Vomit Report

Yes, our house is still a world of sickness. Since mid-November we have been full of ear-infections and flu. Both boys went to the pediatrician this morning. Fluid in ears. Anselm has a nasty cough and is running fevers. Basil though has turned into a vomit monster. Puke tally for the last 7 days follows:

Tuesday: 1 puke (in bed)
Wedneday: 1 puke (in the car on the way to church)
Thursday: 2 pukes (in the car on the way to church, in the middle of the living room)
Friday: 2 pukes (in the living room, one at dinner table)
Saturday: 1 puke (I didn't witness it so I can't say where it was)
Sunday: NO PUKE!!!!
Monday (today): 1 puke (in livingroom)

Oh, Dear Jesus, save us from repeating this history.

The New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton, who has not had a non-lawyer or non-government job since the 1960s wants the government to play a larger role in the economy. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't she propose prosecuting physicians who accepted payment for service? If she is elected I predict revolution or gulags. There will be no in-between.

We are Americans, aren't we?

One of the joys of being an American is a certain silly pride in being of that continent whereon God first caused to grow tobacco. Unfortunately, like beer and wine which which are distilled into deathly spirits (yes, I've given up gin.), tobacco, too has been by profit-seeking men transformed from an occasional cigar or bowl of burly into packs of foul smelling addicting "cancer-sticks". Recently, my doctor told me I should stop smoking my monthly, or at the most semi-monthly, pipe. (By the way, I think it really bugs him that a man of my girth has a cholesterol of 85 and no triglycerides to speak of.) I think I shall not.

Image Hosted by

(Tolkien, Bilbo and Galdalf all smoked pipes)

First Things published, some years ago, a piece that I think says what needs to be said on the subject. (Hat tip to the monarchist.)



by Michael P. Foley

Copyright (c) 2006-2008 First Things (April 1997).

The current brouhaha over smoking has made everyone painfully aware of tobacco’s effects on the body, but it has also obscured a more profound reason for smoking’s popularity: its relation to the soul. As the heyday of smoking passes into the ashheap of history, it is meet that we reflect on this connection.

The soul, of course, is a complex thing. Long ago Plato suggested that we consider it as divided into three parts—the appetitive, spirited, and rational—that correspond to the three basic kinds of human desires: the desire to satisfy physical appetites, the desire for recognition, and the desire for truth. Once this tripartite division is recalled, tobacco’s relation to the soul becomes clear: the three prevalent types of smoking tobacco—cigarettes, cigars, and pipes—correspond to the three parts of the soul.

Cigarettes correspond to the appetitive part of the soul, a fact that explains their association with both food and sex. The connection with the latter is particularly obvious: think of the proverbial postcoital cigarette, or of the ubiquity of cigarettes at singles bars. People with strong physical desires demand instant gratification, and they try to make what they desire as much a part of their own bodies as possible: hunger demands eating, thirst drinking, and lust making the body of one’s lover a part of one’s own. So too with cigarettes. A cigarette is inhaled: it must be fully and internally consumed in order to give pleasure. And a cigarette, with its quick buzz, is also instant gratification. Even the cigarette’s notorious connection to death ties it into appetites: both are indifferent to health in their quest for satisfaction, and both, when they reach addictive levels, become hostile to it.

Cigars, on the other hand, correspond to the spirited part of the soul. This explains their traditional popularity among men seeking honor or reputation—politicians, executives, etc. The reason for this correspondence can be found in the similarity between cigars and ambition. A cigar is visually impressive: with its large size and great billows of smoke, it often leaves a greater impact on the spectator than on the smoker. Further, a cigar is phallic—not with regard to male lust, but to male power. “Testis” in Latin means “witness”: the phallic status of the cigar is meant to bear public witness to the smoker’s prominence, his virility. The fact that a cigar is not inhaled reflects this external focus.

Ambition also has these traits: it too is more external than internal. Unlike physical desires, which are satisfied simply by consumption, ambition requires the consensus of others. The honor-seeker, for example, has to be honored by as many people as possible in order to be satisfied.

Finally, the pipe corresponds to the rational part of the soul, which explains why we tend to picture wise figures smoking pipes: the Oxford don surrounded by his great books, or Sherlock Holmes, who, in Doyle’s original stories, actually smoked other sorts of tobacco as well, yet is almost always portrayed with a pipe. Unlike cigars and cigarettes, a pipe endures. Similarly, the questions of the philosopher far outlast the passing concerns of physical desires on the one hand and human ambitions on the other. Further, while the cigar is entirely masculine, the pipe has both masculine and feminine elements (the stem and the bowl). This corresponds to the philosopher’s activity, which is both masculine and feminine: masculine in its pursuit of Lady Truth, feminine in its reception of anything that she discloses. Finally, the effect that the pipe has on others is analogous to the effect of philosophizing: the sweet fragrance of a pipe, like good philosophy, is a blessing to all who are near.

It is fitting that all three kinds of smoking tobacco involve the use of fire, for each relates to the soul’s responsiveness to reason, and fire, at least from the days of Prometheus, is especially emblematic of reason. But there are also nonhuman parts to the human soul. The growth of our hair and fingernails, for example, is due to the soul’s activity, yet is not responsive to rational instruction.

The use of tobacco that does not involve fire, therefore, somehow corresponds to these nonhuman—or more accurately, subhuman—parts of the soul. Chewing tobacco, for example, is a quintessentially subhuman activity. It is the rumination of bovine men. Or perhaps we should say it is camel-like, for camels not only chew, but spit as well. In either case, the point is clear: chewing tobacco is a sub-rational activity, which is why we usually associate it with men of limited acumen.

Snuff, too, would fall into this category, but with some minor differences. First, because it is not so disgusting, it would not have the same negative connotations as “chew.” (Activities can be sub-rational without being bad.) Second, snuff taken through the nose would fall under a different category. Everything else we have seen involves the mouth, and this is only natural, for the mouth was made to receive things into itself. But to sniff something up one’s nose . . . this is unnatural.

A question remains, however, about smoking non-tobacco. One candidate immediately comes to mind because it, like tobacco, is a natural leaf. Marijuana is also noteworthy because it is used in the same ways as smoking tobacco.

The key to the difference between the two is how each one affects the smoker. Tobacco—whether in a cigarette, cigar, or a pipe—leads to conversation, loosening the tongue just enough to incline it towards speaking, but not enough to disconnect it from the brain. Marijuana, on the other hand, does not keep this balance, loosening the tongue only to have it reel away from rational thought. It does not truly facilitate conversation, drawing the smoker into himself (not outwards, as does all good conversation) and dumbing-down any speech that is uttered. Thus the appearance of conversation can be created, but it is usually only that—an appearance. Marijuana is therefore a charlatan-weed, an impostor that apes its distant relative tobacco in a shallow and perverse way.

The uses of marijuana are twisted imitations of the uses of tobacco. Joints perversely imitate cigarettes in both their appearance and in their users’ claim to be erotic. But while the claim is one thing, the reality is another. Eros requires both a healthy tension and a sense of discrimination in order to be truly human. Marijuana, however, eliminates both. Think of the counterculture of the 1960s, which, in preaching sexual liberation, actually destroyed the human part of our sexuality by robbing sex of any sense of mystery, standards, or fidelity. Where once sex was a magical moment between eternally committed lovers, it was now purely animalistic, something that had no more meaning than any other bodily function. The pot-smoker fancies himself an erotic man, but ends up being an unerotic animal.

Similarly, the hash pipe is a perverse imitation of the tobacco pipe. The pot-smoker often fancies himself an intellectual: he gets high and thinks “deep thoughts” (again bringing the 1960s to mind). But the appearance is one thing, the reality another. Just as the wisdom of the 1960s student turns out to be sophomoric, so too do the deep thoughts of the pot-smoker end up being moronic.

And yes, there is even a marijuana counterpart to the cigar. In the early 1990s the inner cities gave birth to a new practice called “blunting,” in which cheap cigars are gutted and stuffed with marijuana. It is fitting that this practice originated in the same place where gangs come from. An inner-city gang seems supremely concerned with honor and courage: its elaborate codes would suggest as much. But seeming is one thing, being another. The gang-member fancies himself honorable, but is in reality a thug. Just as the cigar is the counterpart to the real virtues of honor and courage, the marijuana-blunt is the counterpart to the fake virtues of gang-honor and gang-courage.

As every student of Plato knows, if something has a relation to the soul it has a relation to the city. Thus if our theory is anything more than the smoke it purports to explain, it can be used to analyze political phenomena. For example, in recent years we have witnessed a concerted effort to sterilize our erotic attachments, to sap them of their danger but also of their vigor. The flat, unerotic words we now use for these attachments confirm this. Instead of “lover” and “beloved,” we now have “significant other” and, even worse, “partner” (a term which lends to the affairs of the heart all the excitement of filling out a tax form). Given this environment, it is no wonder that our most vigorous moral war waged today is against cigarette-smoking. Nor is it any wonder that this war’s only rival in intensity is the one in favor of “safe sex,” for condoms sterilize sex not only literally but figuratively as well.

Further, the relation between cigars and spiritedness may explain why cigars are now for the first time gaining a significant number of female disciples. For as women continue to enter the traditionally male world of competition, many are beating men at their own game by using the same tactics of gaining power. And with the tactics have come the symbols.

Most significantly, however, the relative rarity of pipe-smoking in America is a telling sign of its current intellectual crisis. If the pipe epitomizes the intellectual way of life, then is it any surprise that it cannot be found where schools substitute politically correct ideology for real philosophy, or where the intelligentsia, instead of engaging in serious thought, pander to the latest activist fads? Is it any surprise that America’s most famous pipe-smoker in the last thirty years has been Hugh Hefner, pajama prophet of the trite philosophy of hedonism? No, the age of the pipe-smoker is as far from us as the day when philosophers will be kings and kings will philosophize, a sad reality to which the thick blue haze of non-pipe smoke is only too ready to attest.

It should also be no surprise in this pipeless age that the ferocious battle over tobacco has missed the real point about its addictive power. Tobacco holds sway over the soul as much as it does the body. The qualities it takes in its various forms make it a near irresistible complement to the particular desire dominant in an individual’s soul. How we react to these forms says as much about our attitude toward those desires as it does toward the weed itself.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Puritans, Iconoclasm, Antichrist

I have been thinking about something since Christmas, and if I was a graduate student in history, theology, or American studies I think it would make a fascinating dissertation.

The Orthodox see an unbreakable link between the veneration of Icons and the Incarnation of Christ. To deny one is to deny the other. Just look at the Puritans. They hated the holy Icons and today their descendants are the UCC and the UUC: Two groups that do not affirm that God became man and dwelt among us. Which means that in four hundred years the Puritans became Antichrist (1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7).

So this would be the area of inquiry: Can a connection between the Iconclasm of the Puritans, which in their own day was manifested not only in destroying stained glass windows and statues, but also in banning Christmas (the principal feast of the incarnation) and severly punishing the bodies of sinners; is that Iconclasm traceable in their writing and practices all the way down to the Anticrhist of the UCC and the UUC?

Man, to be grad student with time and money to researh this!!! But I opened different doors in my life. And every time a door is opened another door is shut. Someone else, not me, will have to investigate this.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Take Me Back (A Saturday Soundtrack Posting)

Tonight in confession the priest said to me, "Sometimes you just have to cut it off and start over at the beginning. Like a computer that stops working: You turn it off and turn it on again." When he said that I thought of three things:
1. St. Serephim of Sarov using the Paschal greeting "Christ is Risen" all the time, not just on Pascha,
2. St. Symeon the New Theologion's teaching that we we have to constantly be intouch with God and renew the effecaciousness of our Baptism (I didn't say that exactly the way he said it.), and
3. Andre Crouch and the Disciple's singing their 1974 hit "Take Me Back".

The first time I remember hearing this Andre Crouch song it was in the mid-1970s in the church my Dad pastored in Palo Alto. My Mom sent me downstairs (we lived in apartments above the church's fellowship hall) to get my brother. I found him in the church listening to this song very loudly on the church's PA system. I think I was 8 years old. I don't know why he was using the church's PA system; we had a big console stereo upstairs.

Synodicon of Orthodoxy - Part 4

"The recompense of Christ is those who have been purchased by His death and who have believed in Him, both by the preaching of the word and by the representation in icons, whereby the redeemed know the great work of His Oeconomy both the Cross and all His sufferings and miracles both before the Cross and after it; from which the imitation of His sufferings passes over unto the apostles and thence to the martyrs, and descending from them to the confessors and ascetics."


Recompense of Christ: In the last post we ended with a strange statement that Christ and his recompense had been reproached by his enemies. The Christ part I understood. I didn't understand what was meant by "recompense". But that's okay becuase the very next section explains. Those who believe in Jesus are his recompense. The enemies were not just attacking Christ but they were going after his property. It like the bad guy in the movie who shoots the marshal and then, out of spite, shoots the marshal's dog.

Believed in him How? : "by the preaching of the word and representation in Icons." That's interesting. The part of the liturgy we usually don't think of as being inspired, the part of the liturgy that is sometimes omitted by the priests, is put onthe same level as the Holy Icons. Maybe we have been underappreciating preaching.

What do the preaching and Holy Icons do? : They teach the redeemed to know the life, ministry, Cross, miracles, and sufferings of Jesus.

What passes over what? : When I first read that last line I thought it was saying something passed over the preaching and Icons to the Apostles, Martyrs, and Ascetics. But that doesn't make since because the Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, and Ascetics are the subjects of the Icons. So,whatI think it is is that from the Cross the imitation of Jesus' sufferings passes to the Saints, and they are saints preceisly becuase they share in Jesus sufferings.

Descending : Well it seems that my guess a few days ago about the Orthodox Church having a hierachy ofSaints was correct. Apostles at the top, followed by Martyrs, Confessors, and then Ascetics. (I know where the Mother of God comes in this hierarchy, but what about evangelists, passion-bearers, the OT personages, and others?)

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Baby Picture

On mere comments there is a beautiful picture. It goes with what I said, in my third Synodicon post, about God not just destroying the enemy but restoring the damaged to wholeness. In the Icon He does not just trample the gates of Hell but He lifts Adam out of the tomb. And he saves this little baby from death.

Texas Caviar

Make this one day before you plan on eating it. Essentially you mix together all of the below ingredients and set the bowl in the refrigerato for 24 hours. The longer it ages the better it tastes.

3 16-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed of all juice
1 small jar chopped pimentos, juice included
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
3 canned or fresh jalapeño chiles, chopped
1 firm, ripe, chopped tomato
2 cups vinaigrette
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced

Synodicon of Orthodoxy - Part 3

Today I continue my learning about the Synodicon, specifically, the preamble portion.

Nor did He overlook the voice of those crying to Him: "Remember, O Lord, the reproach of Thy servant which I have endured in my bosom from many nations; wherewith Thine enemies have reproached, O Lord, wherewith they have reproached the recompense of Thy Christ."

The Church states that God not only put down His enemies (in part 1) but He did not forget His suffereing servant, the Church. This is very much unlike the American justice system. In the American system the state will prosecute a criminal but will not restore a victim to wholeness. The victim, in a seperate court action, has to seek a remedy for the wrong committed against him. But not God. He does not merely punish the evil doer but has mercy on the afflicted.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Synodicon of Orthodoxy - Part 2

Well, I am awake with an upset stomach and thought i would carpe some diem before my wife and sons awake.

It occured to me after my last post on this subject that I mentioned the 1583 meeting where three patriarchs signed the Synodicon but I did not really explain when the 7th Ecumenical Counci was, nor why it was. I'd like to rectify that now.

Holy Icons were a part of Christianity from the beginning, even from the Old Testament Period, if you want to count the images of angels in the Tabernacle and the Temple. In the New Testament period we can see the presence and influence of Icons from the earliest days of the Church (not an exhaustive list):
1. A woman healed by Jesus erected a statue in his honor (mentioned in Eusebius' 4th century History of the Church)
2. Iconography is present in the earliest of the Roman catacombs
4. St. john's vision of the Image of the beast makes no sense unless it is understood as a perversion of a Holy Icon: There is Jesus and there are Icons of Jesus. THere will be an antichrist and there will be an icon of the antichrist.
3. St Luke painted some of the first Icons.

In the the 8th century Iconoclasm, a variation of the old Monophysite heresy gained the ear of Emperor Leo III (716-741). The Iconoclasts, without going into to much detail (If you want the detail go here.), killed many Christians, destroyed thousands of Icons and kept the Church in turmoil for about a century.
In short, this is how it happened:

1. There was a persecution of Orthodox Christians by the Iconoclast heretics from about 716 to 780
2. There was the 7th Ecumenical Council (called Nicea II) in 787 that affirmed that the Iconoclasts were heretics and that God did indeed become a real live flesh and blood human being
3. There was another persecution from 814 to 842
4. And finally in 842 Empress theodora reepealed the Iconoclst laws, asked the heretic Patriarch of Constantinopleto retire, and convened a local synod in Constatinople which affirmed the decree of the 7th Council Ecumenical Council. It is this 842 reaffirmation of the 787 decree that was re-affirmed in 1583. Iconoclasm still remains as a heresy today (no heresy totally goes away. There are still gnostics, modalists, and arians today, too.) but has never gained so much power as it had in the 8th and 9th centuries. (England had a hideous bout of Iconoclasm in the 16th century, but that was a protestant/catholic thing. The Orthodox had been gone from England since the end of the 11th century, though we are back now.)

Now that this history portion is complete, I will get back to reading and trying to understand the text of the Synodicon in the next post of this series.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Paul Beats the Da Mayor and the Lobbyist in Michigan

"Well, he's hanging in there. Not only that, but Rep. Ron Paul thumped two reputed Republican heavyweights in the Michigan primary -- former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani."

Read the whole fabulous wonderful article in the LA Times

Synodicon of Orthodoxy - Part 1

I'm not sure I will have time to complete this project but this is my goal: To read and understand the entire Synodicon of the 7th Ecumenical Council prior to the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (1st Sunday of Lent, which is March 10 this year). It is a much longer document than the tiny portion we recite in our temples on that Sunday.

Procedure: I will post a section of the text of the Synodicon, immediately following it with comments and explanations.


We have received from the Church of God, that upon this day we owe yearly thanksgiving to God along with an exposition of the dogmas of piety and the overturning of the impieties of evil. Following therefore the sayings of the prophets, honoring the exhortations of the apostles, and being instructed by the histories of the Gospels, we celebrate this day of consecration. For Esaias says: "Be consecrated to God, ye islands, " intimating the churches from the nations. The churches being not simply the edifices and the embellishments of the temples, but rather the congregation of the pious, therein and those who there serve the Divinity with hymns and doxologies. The Apostle advises the same thing, exhorting us, "to walk in newness of life" and that the "new creation in Christ" be renewed. So too, the oracles of the Lord prophesied our condition. "The consecration," they say, "was in Jerusalem, and it was winter"; that is, either a spiritual winter because of the storms of bloody murder and tumult which the nation of the Jews raised against our common Saviour, or that winter which troubles the bodily senses by making the air colder. For indeed, there came upon us a winter, not an ordinary one, but one of truly great evil, brimming over with harshness; but there blossomed forth the first season, the spring of God's grace, in which we have come together to give thanks for the harvest of good things, or as we would. say from the psalms, "Summer and spring hast Thou fashioned, be mindful of this Thy creation," For verily, those enemies who reproached the Lord and utterly dishonored His holy worship in the holy icons, were both arrogant and high-minded in impieties, and were cast down by the God of marvels, and He leveled to the ground their insolent apostasy.

On November 20, 1583 a document called "SYNODICON OF THE HOLY AND ECUMENICAL SEVENTH COUNCIL FOR ORTHODOXY" was signed by three Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church, Jeremiah of Constantinople, Sylvester of Alexandria, and Sophronius of Jerusalem, in the presence of a council of Orthodox bishops. It seems that they were reitterating the tradition that had been passed down, that the teaching of the 7th Ecumenical Council be reviewed every year. This does not seem to be an innovation, rather a regularization, to keep the practice alive and to make sure all Orthodox everywhere were rembering to do it each year. This raises the question, were Orthodox forgetting to do this, like the Jews who forgot how to perform the Temple rituals during the exile?

Dogmas of piety and Impieties of evil: Truth and worship/holiness are not seperate things. Notice that the opposite of the dogma of piety is not, as i would have expected, the dogma of impiety. Rather it is the impieties of evil. Failure to worship and failure to be holy is evil. Not worshiping is evil. No neutral ground.

Islands: This is the first time I have heard this interpretation. Makes since given that the seas is often a prophetic representation of the nations.

Winter: Itseems that the immediate controversy that was settled by the 7th Council is being called winter. It should be remembered that even today, in America, as rich as she is many many people freeze to death every winter. The Iconoclasm likewise killed many.

Enemies, reprached, dishonored, arrogant, high-minded, insolent apostasy: There is no room given for excuses. The Iconoclasts chose to be hate-filled enemies of God.

Cast down by the God of marvels: Though the Iconoclasts seem to have been defeated by the state (the empire) and the Church (the council) it was really God who defeated them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Theosis Through History

Fr. Stephen has a neat blog post about the historicity of the doctrine of theosis. Below is the time line of quotes that I liftd from his blog. But you should read his post because it contains other stuff besides this.

Daniel Keating has produced a small book on the topic: Deification and Grace. He says:

Following Irenaeus - and probably dependent upon him - we find wide attestation to this formula throughout the patristic period. It is noteworthy that some form of this expression can be found in writers from Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, Syria, North Africa, and Rome….

St. Clement of Alexandria: the Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria: For he was made man that we might be made God…and…he himself has made us sons of the Father, and deified men by becoming himself man.

St. Gregory the Theologian: Let us become as Christ is, since Christ became as we are; let us become gods for his sake, since he became man for our sake.

St. Gregory of Nyssa:…the Word became incarnate so that by becoming as we are, he might make us as he is.

St. John Chrysostom: he became Son of man, who was God’s own Son, in order that he might make the sons of men to be children of God.

St. Ephrem the Syrian: He gave us divinity, we gave him humanity.

St. Hilary of Poitiers (in the West): For when God was born to be man the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost, but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be god.

St. Ambrose of Milan: For [the Son] took on him that which he was not that he might hide that which he was; he hid that which he was that he might be tempted in it, and that which he was not might be redeemed, in order that he might call us by means of that which he was not to that which he was.

St. Augustine of Hippo: God wanted to be the Son of Man and he wanted men to be the Sons of God.

Pope St. Leo the Great (5th century): [The Savior] was made the son of man, so that we could be the sons of God…and…He united humanity to himself in such a way that he remained God, unchangeable. He imparted divinity to human beings in such a way that he did not destroy, but enriched them, by glorification.

Even in Protestant writers…

Martin Luther in a Christmas sermon: For the Word becomes flesh precisely so that the flesh may become word. In other words: God becomes man so that man may become God.

John Calvin, rather eloquently: This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kenny Hinson is Dead (featuring a brief rant on teaching the faith to children)

Sometimes, when I am missing my parents very badly I will listen to the music I heard in church growing up. Today I learned from that a man I knew died. His name is Kenny Hinson and he was part of a singing froup called the Hinsons.
In the little world of Sourthern Gospel (the style of music that used to dominate in Pentecostal churches in the U.S.) Kenny was huge. I heard him perform live in the church my Dad pastored when I was seven.

Some criticize the sentimentality of the Pentecostals, but I'd like to point something out in their defense. On the feast of the Nativity my Bishop Benjamin said that he recently was in the company of 30 Orthodox children, not one of whom could tell him the story of the Nativity. (I know! It's almost too shocking to believe.) This would not have been possible in the Pentecostal church I grew up in. Historically, as wel as personally (concretely personaland abstractly personal), Jesus' ministry was explained to children. For example, when I was seven, when I heard Kenny Hinson sing this song I immediately was filled with gratitude because "if it wasn't for the light house, where would this ship be?" I knew I was lost, I knew Jesus was my only salvation, and I was thankful to Him. My heart sang the words with Kenny, and tears dripped off my chin for sins I barely even knew about.

Now as for Orthodox kids not know the story of the Nativity, well, parents, if your kids do not know what the events of the Great Feasts are, and why they are important, get copies of the Icons, get out your Bible's and explain what's going on to your kids. It is unlikely that a 7 year old is going to catch what is being said as it is chanted at them at 90mph. But if you prep them before hand they will eventually start hearing things in the services that are familiar to them, because you have already put the words and ideas in their minds. Our Orthodox services are not really pedagogical, as were the services of the church I grew up in. The Orthodox services are directed toward God, as though we are in His court and everything revolves around Him. (That is because we are and it does.) So, it is going to be really hard for a kid to hear something said in our services and have it resonante with him at the level this song reached me when I was seven. (Orthodox apologists: Do not flame me. I am not saying Orthodoxy is wrong. I am not saying the Pentecostals are right. I am saying that Pentecostals do an amazing job at communicating ideas regarding salvation to kids. Besides, wasn't it Metropolitan Philip who said we should admire the Protestants for doing so much with so little (e.g. only one Mystery, and a truncated Bible); that we Orthodox should learn from that? We need to remember that Jesus words to the Jews about turning rocks into sons of Abraham (Matthew 3:9) can be turned on us very quickly if we deserve it. "To whom much is given much is required". Lord have mercy!)

Well, I didn't mean to write so much. When I started this post I was just going to introduce the song. Here it is. If you're like me you will need two hankies. But you probably won't; when I hear this song I see my mom and dad sitting in the church with me.

Another shot of the newest acolyte

This one doesn't have a candle blocking his face.

The Little Acolyte

My son Samuel made his debut as an acolyte today. The's the little onein the middle. He held the candlvery straight and did not spill any wax. And he only fidgeted a little during the homily.

Poor Italy

A few months ago I overheard a conversation between several europeans from various countries. The group included an Italian woman, a couple of men from Holland, a Spaniard, and some others from Germany. They were all speaking English. I started listening to their conversation when they began listing the languages they all spoke. They each spoke the language of their owncountries, and they all spoke English. Most spoke German, too. But only one, the Italian spoke Italian. She said, "See? Just as I said. No one learns Italian anymore. Even in Italy no one wants to speak Italian. In a hundred years no one will even know Italian."

The New York Times has an intersting article about Italy's doldrums.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Heart of Every Free Man is Beating In Alberta

This was just theopening statment of the accused. You can watch the whole interrogation here.

A New Feature: Matt's Mental Soundtrack Saturdays

The other day I mentioned that I know very little about contemporary pop music. Maybe its because my youngest sibling is nine years older than I that the music I think of as being of my generation is that recorded by Peter Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Stone Ponies, and The Mamas and the Papas. It was a golden window that I think of as the time between the assasination of John Kennedy and the release of Saturday Night Fever.

Every Saturday, from now until I run out of clips (or until the Lord returns, whichever happens first), I am going to be posting songs that make up the mental soundtrak of my childhood (except I wasn't born until 1969 so mst of this stuff is from before then.).

One of the more sad stories in music is that of Simon and Garfunkel. It might be true that no two voices were ever so complementary, but Paul Simon's pride and resentment of Art Garfunkel caused him to break up the duo. Since then he has only, in my opinion released two good albums: One Trick Pony and Graceland. Had he remained in his partnership with Art Garfunkel it is likely that the two of them would have produced a dozen amazing and beautiful albums together during the past 30 years. Thankfully, a lot of their gigs were recoded, such as this performance of Late in the Evening during their 1984 reunion concert in Central Park.

Fr. Dumitru Staniloae on the Essence of Christianity

I was introduced to Fr. Dumitru's writings when I was taking those theology classes from the U. of Joensuu. I quikly fell in love with his books. I haven't read everything he has written, or even 1/2 of his works that have been translated into English. But I feel confident in saying that he is in the top teir of all Orthodox Christian writers. He would deny it, but he is every bit as important to our day as St. John Climacus was to his.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What side are you on?

While reading the below story, keep in mind that the United States is officially on the side of the Albanians. And ask yourself, "What side am I, personally, on?" and "What side is Jesus on?" and "How should I respond?" and "How is Jesus responding?"

Orthodox church desecrated near Preševo
10 January 2008 | 18:06 | Source: Beta
PREŠEVO -- A Serbian Orthodox church near Preševo, in southern Serbia, has been desecrated, a SPC statement says.

The church, dedicated to St. George, has been broken into, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) reported on its website, pinning the blame on ethnic Albanians in the region.

"Albanian terrorists have committed a grave crime against the Serb people and our spiritual and cultural heritage on the most joyous of Christian holidays, Christmas, by desecrating the church in Oraovica," the SPC said.

It remains unclear whether the case was reported to the police. The unknown vandals have broken into the church to desecrate it, having previously ripped out the cross from the temple's roof.

The SPC also said that "after 1996 and the expulsion of Serbs from Oraovica, Albanian extremists desecrated a Serb cemetery in the village."

Oraovica's 3,800 residents are all ethnic Albanians. The village is located two kilometers north of Preševo. The region borders with the administrative line with Kosovo.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who does he really want?

I feel a little bit sorry for people who for whatever reason are supporting the wrong candidate for president. They know what their heart wants but feel social preassure to line up behind someone else. That is one of the reasons I hate Identity politics. "I'm a woman so I am voting for Hillary." "I'm black so I'm voting for Obama." "I'm a Christian so I'm voting for Huckabee." "I'm a Mormon so I'm voting for Romney" "I'm a Hindu so I'm voting for the BJP" "I'm Sunni..." "I'm Shia..." "I'm..."


Back in 1997, when I was crawling out of the pit of homelessness I got my first job in sales at a Williams-Sonoma store in San Francisco. This job was very important to me, even thought it was just retail sales because it opened the door for me to a career in advertising. (But that is a different story). I'd been at Williams-Sonom aabout a week when I found a CD by the band Cake that someone lost at an ATM. I started listening to it and really liked their music. One day at work I was talking about them with a co-worker when a customer overheard us talking and said, "My frind looking at the cookbooks over their is Cake's drummer." It turned out that Pete was a major foodie. We chatted briefly about the band, chocolate torts, and Chuck's new soup cookbook. Now, look what I found on YouTube.

(In case you are wondering, yes, I am still sick I just don't want to dwell on it.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I can't vote for him (even if he wins the nomination) because he is a socialist, but listen to him play with Mama Kicks. (In case you don't know Mama Kicks does the best live version of the Aretha Franlin classic, "Think".)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Illness update

My temperature is 102 degrees F.

To be safe I looked up when to call a doctor.
It looks like 'm within the safe zone by 2 degrees F.

Times like this are when I especially wish lived closer to my priest so I could recieve the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Healing.

The Short Version

I saw a physician today. I'm still sick. I might not get my hearing back for another month. He took me off of any medication to control the fever because he thinks it is interfereing with the medication that fights the infection. Which means, as I am writing this, I am shivering from a chill. I'm giving this 1 week and if I'm not better I'm going back to mulled wine and hot bourbon. At least that makes me feel better.

Monday, January 07, 2008

An Orthodox Teaching on Vocation

It might be that discussions of vocation are the best answer to western Christians questions (and pronouncements!) on predestination.

Fr. Hopko says...

"For example, some people may be called to suffer on this earth and to bear the results of fallen humanity in the most violent manner; to be victimized by disease, retardation, affliction; to be the objects of other people's cares, or disdain. This is their vocation, and they are particularly blessed by God and loved by Christ in its acceptance and fulfillment. "

To me this kind of quashes any theoretical discussion of Calvin and Arminius under the weight of what God wants from us right now given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. You can read Fr. Hopko's whole piece here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sick Sick Sick

It is difficult being sick. I still can't hear half of what my wife or my kids say to me. My left nostril feels like there is a golf ball stuck in it. My ears ring constantly. I cough and cough, and I'm running low on codine. I'm out of bourbon. I'm out of wine. (Hot burbon and mulled wine is about all thats been getting me through these last few days.) My head is burning up and the rest of me is cold. And tomorrow its just me and the kids. I am dreading it.

Thankfully, the boys seem to be doing better. Anslem was even able to go to church today. Father John had him carry the Book of Needs during the Great Blessing of the Waters. It was part of his training for his oficial debut as an altar boy next week. Athanasia said he was very happy to get to hold the book.

Bollywood is the New Hollywood

It used to be that Hollywood made movies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

And Band Wagon

But now they don't. Bollywood does.

I think this is froma movie titled Bunty Aur Bobli

And this one is from a movie titled Nimbooda - Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Memories of Calvinism

A couple of days ago I was at my frend Jamie's house. He is an older man now, but I first me him when I was 4 and he was in his twenties. He is one of the best men I have ever known and though he has worked as an accountant his whole adult life he is also one of the pastors at a Mega-Church here in Silicon Valley. He asked me why I was no longer a Calvinist. What I told him, and I don't know if I've ever put it on this blog before, is that..."When I was a Calvinist the amount of the Bible I could read kept getting smaller and smaller; Much of the New Testament disagreed with the 5 Points. That and I was leading a horrible life; excused by predestination. What did it matter how I lived if I was one of the elect? Noting I did or did not do could have any effect on what God had determined."

Of course, Calvin didn't make up the Five Points of Calvinism. They were named after him by a goup of French and Belgian theologians who followed him. And, shockingly, the roots of Calvinism are found in the error of an Orthodox Saint, Blessed Augustine of Hippo. (Actually, he made three serious errors, well maybe only two - it depends on what he thought the Pope was supreme over -, but we consider him a Saint primarily for the depth of his spiritual life, not for his intellectualizing. As is often said, 100% of the saints are only Orthodox 90% of the time.)

In the end, I had to abandon Calvinism for the love of Jesus. I had to recognize that God's love is greater than and completly overpowers logical systems that give rise to things such as the ideas I formerly held. And now what is amazing to me is that I ever belived it was true.

Here is what John Wessly said about the Calvinist doctrine of predestination:

"Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! But there is yet more behind; for just as it honours the Son, so doth this doctrine honour the Father. It destroys all his attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit “seeketh rest and findeth none;” so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!"


Carolina Canonball, reminds us: "Confession", wrote St. Isidore of Seville (+636), "heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession."

I do not know the context of these words. He could have said them to his bishops in council. (The Archbishop of Seville excercised much direct control over the diocesans in Spain, similar to the Patriarch of Moscow.) Or perhaps he was talking to the the Visigoths who he lead out of the heresy of Arianism. Maybe it was to one poor man stumbling under the wait of a hunderd "little" sins. I don't know. What I do know, is that illness has kept me from making confession for a long time. And it doesn't look like I'l be able to go later tonight, because of allthe ilness in my family. Its been almost two months. Much much to long.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Three is too many

For years I have been mistakenly included in Chad's email conversations. Tonght I learned why.


Chad: hey sexy
this is chads girlfriends friend keigh
remember me
Sent at 11:32 PM on Friday
me: Hi. Sorry. I'm the wrong person. For several years now, Chads friends have been mistaking me for someone else. I'm Matt Karnes the theologian.
Chad: who are you voting for?
me: ha ha. That is very funny. I'm votin for ron paul, why?
Chad: me too...that is a great answer.
good luck to him...i am in finance and we all agree the fed reserve has got to go
amongst other reasons
me: I got an email from chad or one of his friends about an trip to tahoe for new years eve. Were you on that trip? Yes, the FRS is simply evil.
Chad: we are there now and stranded lol
we are using chads computer
me: Poor you. I've always wanted to be snowed in.
Chad: they just went skijorning thru the neighborhood behind the 4runner with all the snow
me: That sounds like fun. What speeds do they get up to? Hey, I have a question. Is the matt Karnes you and chad and his friends are always mistaking me for, is he the famous software engineer/game designer?
Chad: he is not in software. he is chad karnes's brother. so i think it is just a mistake...i have been told that he is
alright...have a good night. sorry for the confusion
me: Good night.
Sent at 11:40 PM on Friday

There has been a request

I received an anonymous question. Someone was looking for a pie he had tasted and found my post of the Cranbery Walnut Pie recipe. The person wanted the wanted to know about Fruited molassas balls that I mentioned in the same post as the pie.

Here is the recipe.

Matt's Aunt Nettie's Fruited Molasses Balls

1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup molassas
1 stick soft butter
2 large eggs
2 cups flower
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup raisins
24 oz. chopped dates
2 cups chopped nuts (I use pecans AND walnuts)

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs
Stir in the in the molassas
Add dry ingredients
Stir until no white flower is visible.

Pour dough into greased baking pan, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes
Cool a little bit, but while still hot (this hurts, but what act of love doesn't?) pick up some of the dough (you've buttered your hands haven't you?) and roll it into a ball about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. Let cool.
Sprinkle w/ powdered sugar.

Recipe can be doubled but you'll need a very large mixing bowl.

Interesting 1st Century Syriac Texts about the Mother of God

The Mary We Never Knew
New Light from the Syrian Tradition

Sally Cunneen

It’s hard to maintain the spirit of anticipation that should mark the season of Advent when Christmas itself has become little more than an occasion for extravagance and consumption. We could all use some fresh inspiration concerning what Advent is preparing us for.

I have found an unexpected source for such insight in the increasing number of English translations from ancient Syriac literature. It turns out that the early Christians pondered the same questions we face. And while Gnostic texts have been widely touted in the mainstream media in recent decades as alternatives to the canonical Gospels, the lesser-known Syrian Christian tradition opens up an equally ancient but orthodox theology and devotionalism that are surprisingly fresh, deeply human, and, despite the differences in time and culture, relevant to our own needs.

(Read the whole thing here:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Theophany in Colorado

When I first saw this I thought "Wow! That's neat." But the second time I watched it I thought "Wow! They are all really very cold."

Makes me glad to be a Californian Orthodox.

For all my Calvinist and Reconstructionist Friends

I know some of you are waiting for Jean or Rousas to come back from the dead and establish an ecclisiocracy, but until then, take a look at what Gary North is saying about Ron Paul. (I don't agree with North on much, but you guys do. So pay attention, please.)

"We are seeing a political phenomenon like no other in history. We are seeing the creation of an army of volunteers who have not been actively recruited. This is as close to Hayek's concept of the spontaneous order as politics has ever provided. It is Isaiah's job in action.

Back in 1937, Albert Jay Nock wrote an essay titled "Isaiah's Job." It dealt with the strategic error of starting a political movement to save America. It will not work, Nock said. The kind of people who you need in order to change America cannot be attracted by active political recruiting. Such people will seek out those leaders who they approve of. He called them the Remnant.

We are now seeing what Nock did not foresee: the coming together of a grass roots army. It is assembling itself. The Internet's technology is making this possible.

The Remnant is forming."

(You can read the whole thing here.)


From the OCA Website:

"The Archbishop went on to report that several Orthodox priests had seen their homes destroyed losing everything to fires set by angry mobs. Some of these priests are now taking refuge at the seminary which has been temporarily closed. Food has become scarce in Nairobi and people are staying home fearing continued troubles." (Read the whole thing here.)

From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (After the 1st Antiphon)
People: By the intercessions of the Theotokos, Savior, save us (3).

Deacon: In peace let us again pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Deacon: Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.

People: To You, O Lord.

Priest (in a low voice): Lord, our God, save Your people and bless Your inheritance; protect the whole body of Your Church; sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house; glorify them in return by Your divine power; and do not forsake us who hope in You.

Priest: For Yours is the dominion, the kingdom, the power, and the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

6 out of 8

It's official. Basil saw the doctor this morning and I am sad to report that 6 out of 8 ears in our house are infected. Let us hope that all the illnesses during this years Nativity/Theophany season areabberations.

In other news, streams are out of their bank northof here. Snow level is expected to fall to 2,000 ft. The first of three big storms is just now moving in from the pacific. We've been warned to expect flooding, downed trees and power lines. I can hear the wind howling now.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I am sick

About 3pm today I noticed I couldn't hear out of my left ear. at 4:45 I went to my medical group's urgent care facility. While I was there a man with a broken leg came in. He had to be seen before me. Then a woman turning blue came in. She had to be seen before me. Then a man who said he had tuberculosis came in. He had to be seen before me. And there were already a whole lot of people there ahead of me. While I was waiting to be seen I lost hearing in my other ear and both ears started to hurt. I saw a doctor at 7:55. Then I had to go to the pharmacy. Good drugs: Narcotics and antibiotics. I got home at 9:20 and took my meds. already feeling drowsy. nite nite.

The Acton Institute

I must congratulate Google. Their ad targeting based on email content is amazing. Just a few minutes ago they targed a small single line text-ad to me that said " - C.S. Lewis' place in the history of liberty" Well, I had to click. And I saw a list of names grouped by century. Mos t of them I recognized. I scrolled down to the 20th century, clicked on C.S.Lewis, and this is what I read.

"I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man... Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows."

"One of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis was a respected scholar and teacher at Oxford University for 29 years and then a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University to the end of his career. An atheist throughout his early life, he adopted theism in 1929 and converted to Christianity in 1931. Although a talented debater and writer-Lewis wrote many fictional, didactic, and devotional works in addition to his sizable academic production-he is not known as a political commentator. He avoided partisan commitments; indeed, he turned down a title offered him by Winston Churchill, thinking his critics would use it to accuse him of being an anti-Leftist propagandist.

In spite of his indifference to politics as such, he did often give prescient analysis of a variety of political topics. One example is Lewis' sharp criticism of what he termed “the omnicompetent state,” that is, the modern welfare state that promises a universal curative for society's ills. He saw it as antithetical to human freedom and the institutions that preserve it, and instead favored a regime of limited government. He was suspicious of technological advancement, but only because he thought that technology in the hands of the omnicompetent state would result in widespread, all-pervasive tyranny. He noted that the lure of the welfare state is understandable in the face of seemingly limitless human suffering, yet he exhorted his readers to be wary of the purveyors of utopian dreams. He instead promoted the good actions of individual Christian citizens engaging the challenge of living in a fallen and dark world, stating that “the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can.”

Sources: “Politics from the Shadowlands,” Policy Review, Spring 1994 by John G. West, Jr., God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (Eerdmans, 1970), and The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis (Macmillan, 1947).

I still don't know exactly what the Acton institute is, or how they make money. But it seems pretty neat.