Saturday, August 30, 2008

Did I mention that Palin is Pro-Life, with a capital P and captial L?

Hey, Check out what the Susan B. Anthony List says about Gov. Palin here. I still have to pinch myself. I can't believe I get a chance to vote for her. Like I said, I was hoping for Kay Baily, but Palin is just to good to be true.

It Just Makes Me Giddy.

Have you compared her experience to that of Obama? Palin: Ten years mayor of a town. two years Governor of a State. Obama: 2 terms in the Illinois legislature and 2 years in Congress. Oh, and let's not forget his years spent as a "community organizer" (snicker snicker). It is so good. It is so good. I just can't stand it, it is so good! And did you notice what the crowd was chanting at her speech. They sure weren't chanting her name. They chant the wicked man's name at his rallies. No, Palin's audience was Chanting U-S-A, because we are are a republic, not an empire ruled by a god-king. And do you know the best thing? McCain/Palin 2008 means Palin/Anyone 2012!!! And thus the GOP will be the first party to elect a woman president. Because she is a woman? No. Because she is, in the words of my wife, "..the kind of person most Republicans wish they were and pretend to be." And did you know she is in the NRA? Yes! It just keeps getting better. She is someone who understands the President's first job: To scare the fight out of any potential enemy.

The 5th Beatle Teaches Math: Saturday Soundtrack

Billy Preston, who played with the Beatles during their roof top concert, who is one of only two people sharing label credit with the Beatles, who played the part of Sgt. Pepper in the Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Heats Club Band (He sang "Get Back"), who helped the Beatles stick together long enough to complete the Abbey Road album, and who lead all the assembled musicians in "My Sweet Lord" at George Harrison's memorial concert, was one of the most exciting performance musicians of the last 30 years. Here he is playing and singing what is probably his biggest commercial hit. Like some other songs in the Saturday Soundtrack series, I remember first hearing it in my brother Mark's car. Unfortunately, it isn't Billy Preston's best song, and it isn't on the Hammond B3 organ with a Leslie speaker, the instrument that best revealed his musical heart. (There was also a Hammond B3 with a Leslie in the church I grew up in. I never learned to play it but I certainly used to play with it.)

Sarah Palin

I was kind of keeping my fingers crossed for Kay Baily Hutchison. But I am thrilled thrilled thrilled that Palin is going to be the veep Nominee. She has more executive experience than McCain, Biden, and Obama combined, unless you count McCain's time as an officer in the Navy and Obama's time working for for the terrorist Ayers. But even then, the quality of her experience is much more relevant to being VP, and probably President. She's not a lawyer (always a plus). She has had to balance a budget and manage a government. She is SUPER pro-life. She raised a son who takes his citizenship seriously enough to enlist in the Army during a time of war. Her whole political career has been about saying no. No to high taxes. No to wasteful spending. No to corruption. No to infringements on liberty. My wife, who is a registered Green said, "She's the kind of person most Republicans wish they were and pretend to be." I only wish Palin's name was at the top of the ticket.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Propaganda Isn't Always False

From the 1920's all the way up to the end of the cold war, American industry was engaged in a war of ideas with socialism. Of course, the ideological struggle can be seen in non-propaganda pieces, too. For example, in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls-Wilder and in the poem The Ox Cart Man the virtues of capitalism (e.g. personal liberty and responsibility and private property) are extolled. But in these works, the economic and anthropological ideas are servants of the story. The propaganda of the 20th Century American industry was different in that the story was the servant of the ideology. This doesn't mean that the ideas are false, it merely means the presentation is ham-handed. Nevertheless, they are entertaining in a campy kind of way. Here is a fun little move produced by the Petroleum Institute:

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wow! I had no idea.

One of he things that I find to be fascinating about Youtube is this: Songs I grew up singing in little pentecostal churches are astoundingly famous songs. For example if you go to YouTube and search "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" you will get about 1,100 versions of the song. Anyway, here is the song. It is based on some words of Jesus: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." Matthew 10:29. I've watched about 30 videos of this song by all kinds of singers. Lauren Hill's version is okay. I guess Mahalia Jackson was the first to record it. But this Korean group I found to be very moving. (BTW: I think Bishop Tikhon was wrong when he said [joked?] that barbershop quartet would be the American contribution to Orthodox music. I think it will be black gospel.)

Dealing with Trouble

I have encountered some bumps here at the townhouses. It seems that I have angered several tenants by insisting that they keep their cats indoors, and that I can enter their units to make necessary repairs. So they have begun a campaign to discredit me, making up stories. Oh well, what can I do? Not much. I don't set the rules, the owner does. It seems like my boss is in my corner, but I've only been here a month, I don't really know him.

So, today I was looking at help wanted ads in Eureka, Fresno, Redding, and Fort Bragg. That was depressing, too. So I clicked over to The Handmaiden where I read this:

"Why are you writing such despondent letters? Are you the only one there who is encumbered with difficulties? The point is not in external difficulties - I think you understand that yourself - but you in your spiritual constitution. No matter where you may go, you can’t hide from yourself or the enemy. All that is yours will go with you and elsewhere will cause you even more suffering than here. You must not forget that the spiritual law states that “We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22); “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 11:12); “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19); “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22); “In the world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33); “The world hateth you” (John 15:18); “If you desire to labor for the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation”; etc."

The best water comes from the deepest wells.

Catholic Leadership

Okay, all you Roman Catholics who vote for Democrats... Consider these words from a prince of your Church, Cardinal Eagan:

"What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name."

For you Orthodox thinking of voting for Obama (or any other member of the death party), I remind you of 2,000 years of Church teaching. Beginning with the Didache (c. 70)and up to this day it has not changed.

1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.
2 Now, this is the way of life:…The second commandment of the Teaching: "Do not murder; do not commit adultery"; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; "do not steal"; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.... Do not plot against your neighbor. Do not hate anybody; but reprove some, pray for others, and still others love more than your own life. - Didache

How can you even think about voting for someone who thinks its okay to kill babies? I tottaly understand not wanting to vote for Republicans who seem hell bent on waging war against other countries, but at least there is some moral defense of that practice (we have many soldier saints on our calendar). But baby killing? There is no defense of that practice. The Catholic is right about this: When a person thinks it is okay to kill babies that person "should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name."

I told you it was all about hating humanity

"With 60 million people already living in one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the journal said, British couples should aim to have no more than two children as part of their contribution to worldwide efforts to reduce carbon emissions, stem climate change and ease demands on the world's resources." (Read whole Chicago Tribune article here.)

I say, "Just kill some termites".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Terror and Anxiety: Seeing that cover page coming out of the fax machine is from the Department of the Army.

Relief and Happiness: Seeing that the second page of the fax is from a Warrant Officer who wants to lease a townhouse from us.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Joke is on Obama.

I was worried. I thought it might be the case that America might elect Obama to the Presidency. Until this morning. I have just heard the news that Obama picked Biden as his running-mate. Can there have been a worse choice? He is a man loathed by all who have seen him at Senate Judiciary Committee meetings. He is a bully and a blowhard. And he has the lawyers disease: He changes arguments, even contrdicting his early arguments to win the cause. For example: In order to protect the "right" to kill babies, when grilling Justice Bork he was in favor of aome kind of idea of Natural Law because he thought it would work as an argument against Bork's idea that nothing mattered but the text of the Constitution. But during the hearings for Justice Thomas and Justice Alito, Biden feigned shock and horror that these men view the Constitution as being an expression of Natural Law, Thomas actually saying that the Constitution can not be understood apart from the Declaration of Independence, which is itself an expression of Natural Law. (I'm still waiting for a nominee for the Supreme Court to say the Constitution rests on the Mayflower Compact. Oh! What a day that would be!)

Besides that, Biden has serious logorrhea: Even the Washington Post, a paper that agrees with Biden's wicked and derranged world-view says this about him:

"Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., in his first 12 minutes of questioning the nominee, managed to get off only one question. Instead, during his 30-minute round of questioning, Biden spoke about his own Irish American roots, his "Grandfather Finnegan," his son's application to Princeton (he attended the University of Pennsylvania instead, Biden said), a speech the senator gave on the Princeton campus, the fact that Biden is "not a Princeton fan," and his views on the eyeglasses of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)." (Dana Millbank)

It's gonna be bright bright bright suns-hiney day.

Saturday Soundtrack: Love Will Keep Us Together

This clip from Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special is of some of my favorite performers when I was a kid. I didn't know about the Midnight Special in 1975, I was six and my bed time was 8 p.m. But I heard this song on the radio pretty often. And I seem to remember the Captain and Tennille being on television a lot. "Love Will Keep us Together" was one of Captain and Tennille's many hits in the mid-70s, winning the Grammy for best album. In case you are wondering, even though fame slipped away from them, they are still together as a performing duo and a married couple. So, apparently, this song is true.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Quote of the Week

Peggy Noonan says: "We know when life begins. Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins." Read the whole article here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Paper on the Holy Trinity

I met with a friend I haven't seen in many years tonight. She wanted to know why I am Orthodox now. I won't relate that whole conversation here, but talkingwith my frind tonight reminded me of a paper I wrote for school a couple of years ago. I've posted it below (And I might hve posted it before on this blog but I don't think so). Unfortunately, the footnotes won't copy correctly. I don't know why, nor what to do to fix it. Sorry.

The Holy Trinity in the History of Salvation

Matthew Karnes

(Written for the Faculty of Orthodox Christian Theology, University of Joensuu, Finland, 2006)

The God of the Christians is transcendent. He is the One# who can not be approached. Like a great black hole at the center of a galaxy He melts anything that gets too close to Him. He is a consuming fire#, and the dreadfulness of His glory is such that even the holy seraphim cover their eyes as they soar around His throne.# He is alone Holy.

But there is more to God than His terrible transcendent Oneness. He is also unimaginable condescending love. His love is such that He is near whenever He is called#, and He is unfailingly faithful and loyal.# The Prophet King David describes God’s love:
The Lord executes mercy and judgment for all that are injured. He made known his ways to Moses, his will to the children of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and pitiful, long-suffering, and full of mercy. He will not be always angry; neither will he be wrathful for ever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor recompensed us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, the Lord has so increased his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, the Lord pities them that fear him. For he knows our frame: remember that we are dust.#

His love is so great that it can only be measured by His transcendence: “as the heaven is high above the earth” .# But what is the source of this love? How can the One love anything inferior to itself? Specifically, how can the One love man so as to want to save man?

It might be that the Holy Trinity Icon by St. Andrei Rublev is the perfect introduction to how the Holy Trinity loves and saves man#. Indeed, we can look at this Icon as a framework on which to hang all the theology of salvation.
The first thing to notice about the Icon is that it is not just an Icon of God. It is an Icon of a specific event# in the history of salvation. The point being that God acts in history. The Icon teaches us that the three Divine Persons don’t just sit around in Heaven admiring each other. The Holy Trinity acts in history, on earth, with people. The historical table at which the Divine Persons were seated was prepared by Abraham and Sarah near the Oaks of Mamre. The Holy Trinity entered history at that point# to make a promise# and judge two cities#.

But this is not the first time the Holy Trinity came down from heaven in order save us; either by keeping us away from total self-destruction by killing the most wicked among us, or by forcing us to obey him.
An example of the former is when God spoke to Noah. Then, when he saved a remnant of humanity, we see in the Masoretic text a hint of His Trinitarian nature when he speaks as Elohim not as the singular El. The second person plural noun (elohim = gods) is turned into a proper noun and used as the singular name of God.#

“The earth also was corrupt before [Elohim], and the earth was filled with violence. And [Elohim] looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And [Elohim] said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch…And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven; [and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.”#

We see an example of the latter in the story of the tower of Babel in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. God had told humanity to scatter across the whole Earth but we refused to obey. Nevertheless, God was determined that we would obey. The reason this story is important to understanding the Holy Trinity is one word: “us”. When we read of Him stopping us from committing great evil at Babel we read that He revealed Himself as YHWH but He used a first person plural pronoun (“us”) in reference to Himself#:
“And [YHWH] came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And [YHWH] said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.”#

Neither of these two examples is explicitly Trinitarian# but taken together with the account of the theophany at the Oaks of Mamre, it is clear that the Old Testament teaches that the Divine Persons work together in history for the salvation of men.#
But there is more to the Old Testament teaching regarding the Holy Trinity than His# actions in history. As we continue to look at the Icon we see three angels with identical faces, wearing blue, and holding rods. What is the meaning of this. I think St. Andre was trying to relate to us the inscrutable likeness (faces), Divinity (blue clothing), and power/authority (rods) that the Divine Persons share. How difficult it is to differentiate the Spirit of God, from the Word (Grk: Logos, Heb: Davar), from Angel of YHWH, from the Law, or from the Glory, or from God!# Which of these is the Father? Which is the Son? Which is the Holy Spirit? In the Old Testament the reader has great difficulty discerning which of the Divine Persons is acting or speaking.

Regarding the Angel of YHWH it is clear that the messenger is the sender, and that the presenter is the presented.# Hagar encountered the Angel of YHWH, and said to Him “Thou art the God of seeing…”# After Abraham prophesied “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering”# the Angel of YHWH does, indeed, provide a sacrifice in the place of Isaac, but also promises that through Abraham all the people of the earth will be blessed.#

It is interesting to see that Bobrinskoy classes the appearance of “The Angel of Elohim” in Genesis 31:11-13 as another appearance of the Angel of YHWH.# Perhaps he has in mind Exodus 3:4 which brings the two names, Elohim and YHWH together: “When YHWH saw that [Moses] turned aside to see, Elohim called to him out of the bush.” Thus, the identification of the Angel of Elohim and the Angel of YHWH is complete, and this identification takes place in the context of the salvation of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

That Philo, the Alexandrian Jew believed that the Angel of YHWH was the Logos is well known, and Bobrinskoy mentions this.# But it is important to remember that Philo was a speculative philosopher in the platonic mold, and seemed to think of the Logos as something less than God:
“But the shadow of God is his Logos, which he used like an instrument when he was making the world. And this shadow, and, as it were, model, is the archetype of other things. For as God is himself the model of that image which he [Moses] has now called a shadow, so also that image is the model of other things, as he showed when he commenced giving the law to the Israelites, and said, 'And God made man according to the image of God,' (Gen. 1:26) as the image was modelled according to God, and as man was modelled according to the image, which thus received the power and character of the model.”#

Nevertheless, it seems that Philo might have planted a seed that flowered in the teaching of the Alexandrian Church Fathers that the Angel of YHWH was the Son. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 120 – c. 200) and Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 393 – c. 458) built on this, showing that God readied the Incarnation of the Son through a series of theophanies, among which were the appearances of the Angel of YHWH.# Nevertheless, St. Jerome (c. 341- 420) and St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) taught that the Angel of YHWH was a theophany of all Three Divine Persons.

This same difficulty in discerning which Divine Person is which is a theme that runs throughout the Old Testament. This confusion (for want of a better word) is especially apparent when we consider the Word of God and the Wisdom of God. It might seem to us, at first, that the Word of God is the Son, and that the Wisdom of God is the Holy Spirit. But the facts are not that neat and tidy. The Spirit who brings forth life on earth and who is breathed into Adam thus making him a living being seems to have a co-laborer in the life-giving works: namely, the Word.# This is seen in powerful imagery in the valley of dry bones, where the Word of God, that the Holy Prophet Jeremiah described “as a burning fire shut up in my bones”# is spoken by the Holy Prophet Ezekiel and the Spirit brings life to dead bodies.# And the Word’s creative power is also possessed by the Spirit.#

But we also have to look at Wisdom. What is it? Where is it from? From the pen of Solomon the Wise we learn of the eternal existence of Wisdom:
“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When [there were] no depths, I was brought forth; when [there were] no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I [was] there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, [as] one brought up [with him]: and I was daily [his] delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights [were] with the sons of men.”#

Well, obviously, Wisdom is the Holy Spirit. Of what other Being can these statements be truthfully made? Certainly no created thing can say these words. Perhaps the Son might say them but look at the references to water in the text: They demand that we remember Genesis 1:2:
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

In addition to the quoted text from Proverbs 8 we can find other places where Wisdom seems to align with our understanding of the Holy Spirit: Ecclesiasticus 24:1-9 and Baruch 3 come to mind. But there is a famous passage in the Wisdom of Solomon which seems to muddy the waters:

“For wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her is an understanding spirit holy, one only, manifold, subtil, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good, Kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pure, and most subtil, spirits. For wisdom is more moving than any motion: she passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. And being but one, she can do all things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new: and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of stars: being compared with the light, she is found before it. For after this cometh night: but vice shall not prevail against wisdom. Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily: and sweetly doth she order all things.”#

In this passage we see Wisdom called the “image” and we are told that the “spirit holy” resides in Wisdom, these two descriptions seem to have more to do with Jesus than with the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, there are other phrases in the passage that seem more in line with what we know about the Holy Spirit.

It seems that St. Andre Rublev expressed this closeness, this frequent inability to distinguish one Divine Person from another, both in essence and in operation. This is why he has each Divine Person wearing blue and holding a rod. And though it is impossible to distinguish one face from another, one authority from another we do see glimpses of their separateness in the fact of their number and in their posture and some of their clothing. For example, the Holy Spirit known to the Orthodox as the “Giver of Life” is wearing green, the color of life and the liturgical color for the feast of Pentecost in addition to blue, the color representing divinity.

Notwithstanding the separateness of the Divine Persons, the close working relationship that leads readers of the Bible into difficulties continues throughout the Old Testament so that the reader comes to see that the works of the Word and the Spirit are such that each transmits the other: The Sprit transmits the Word, the Word transmits the Spirit.# The Divine Persons serve each other and do each others work. And this brings us to the table in the Icon.

In the Icon by St. Andre we see the Divine persons seated around a table enjoying a meal. And what does this table signify? It signifies sacrifice, for it is no ordinary table: It is an altar. The fellowship of the Three is one of mutual self-surrender. Even the Father, the source of the others, loves and gives himself to the others. He does not ever think of himself, but only of the others. He is never the subject of his own divine gaze, rather “He sees himself as the object of the Son’s love.”# In fact, because of his intense focus on the Son he would utterly forget himself but for the Son’s love for him.# In the Holy Trinity there is no individual “I”, only individual “Thou”.# Thus the Son and the Father, beholding themselves in each others gaze are reduced to one, and in their unity there is “I”# And this union exists between the Son and the Holy Spirit, and between the Holy Spirit and the Father. Each one gives everything to the others. And the other two give their unity to the one.# Kovalovsky has said:

“The Character of the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit is to love by eclipsing himself, as the Father forgetting himself loves the Son in whom he has placed all his joy, and as the son is beloved because he puts off his own “I” in order that the Father may be made manifest and the Spirit shine forth.”#

In short, relationship among the Three requires sacrifice of “I” - preferment of the others before the self. This is why this paper is not merely three lists: The Father does X, the Son does Y, and the Holy Spirit does Z. “The work of human persons is distinct. Not so those of the Divine persons; for the Three, having but one nature, have but a single will, a single power, a single operation.”# Nevertheless, as St. Irenaeus of Lyons has shown#, it is possible to make such lists. But there is danger in that such lists can result in a misunderstanding of how the Holy Trinity does what He does, to say nothing of the polytheism such lists could represent. The persons of the Holy Trinity work together in every thing they do#– All three are seated at the table in the Icon. This is part of what St. John the Theologian meant when he said, “God is love.”# And what Archimadrite Kallistos had in mind when he said the motto of the Holy Trinity could be Amo ergo sum.# And this brings us to the cup sitting on the table.

Having discussed the historical table set by Abraham, and having discussed the table in the Icon, which is really an altar of sacrifice, we should look carefully at the table one more time and let the Icon reveal two more things to us.

First, resting on the table is a cup. But it is not just a cup. It is a chalice. And it indicates the Mystery of Christ. How so? A chalice on an altar only contains one thing: The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. But why would this chalice be in the middle of the altar, equidistant from each of the Divine Persons, as though Jesus Christ is proper to each of them, and not only proper to the Son? This is so because Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of the Son, but he is also the revelation of the Father and the Spirit#, indeed he is the “One in whom the Father and Spirit remain in fullness”.#

The facts of what the Son did in history are well known and oft repeated in the Creed:

“I believe in … one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God… who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father...”#

But how Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Father and the Spirit might not be so well known. Jesus was sent by the Father#, reveals the Father#, and is revealed by the Father#. Similarly, the Son is “from all Eternity the ‘place’ of the presence of the Spirit; and therefore, the incarnate Son naturally becomes Anointed of the Spirit.”# And “Christ [i.e. Anointed] is the term in whom resides the fullness of grace, of wisdom, of power, of authority and holiness, that is, the fullness of the Spirit”.# As St. Paul wrote, “In [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”# And in Jesus the Holy Spirit, as Bobrinskoy writes, “conceals Himself, and, somehow, blends with His gifts, His energies which are the eternal radiance of Divinity.”# And Jesus, the “abode of the Holy Spirit”# is also able to impart the Spirit with Whom he is anointed.

All of this “fullness” is expressed by St. Paul when he writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.”# It is impossible to be the recipient of only one because the Trinitarian revelation is all-encompassing. If we see the glimpse of the Father in the Old Testament He directs us to the Son in the New Testament, Who pours out the Holy Spirit on the Church. And, if we are apprehended by the Spirit, He will prepare us and lead us to the Son, Who will bring us into communion with the Father in whom all things will be fulfilled.#

The second thing we need to notice about the altar is that though Three Divine Persons sit around it, the table has four sides and one side is open to the viewer of the Icon, to us. It is God’s invitation for us to dine with him#. He offers us a place at the table, participation in the divine nature#, and fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Salvation is not merely survival, either of the spirit or of the body.# Rather it is eternal life in communion with God.

Since Pentecost we experience that eternal life now. It is in the life of the Church. During the Divine Liturgy# the Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Son, and “introduces us to the Trinitarian communion and intimacy (Rom. 8:16-17)”#and Man offers, much as Abraham offered food to the Holy Trinity, this food to the Father, “on behalf of all and for all”#. Only then when gifts God has provided have been offered back to God in thanksgiving, and God has filled them and changed them, we “in faith and love”# eat the Logos# who was slain for us from before time, and “enter freely and personally into communion with the divinizing grace” of God#.

But for those who are “members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit” Eucharist does not stop when the final words of the Divine Liturgy have been said. For having consumed the Bread of Life# they are in Christ and Christ is in them# and Christ is forever offering Eucharist at the throne of God.# Therefore, St. Paul can offer Eucharist in the inner liturgy of his heart:

“I do not cease to give thanks (euchariston) for you, remembering you in my prayers…(Eph. 1:16). I give thanks to God always for you…(1 Cor. 1:4) We give thanks to God always for you all…(1 Thess. 1:2) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine… (Phil. 1:3-4) [see Col. 1:3; 1Thess. 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:3; 2:13]. Always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father (Eph. 5:20). Give thanks (eucharisteite) in all circumstances…Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:18-19).”#

But we need to notice that both the offering of Eucharist in the Divine Liturgy and the inner offering of Eucharist expressed by St. Paul followed the descent of the Holy Spirit. And St. Paul says the Eucharist is spiritual food and spiritual drink, and that the songs sung during the rite are spiritual songs, and the Church is a spiritual house and the sacrifices offered by the church are spiritual sacrifices.#
And here, finally, in the age of the life of the Church, where the Spirit dwells, which the Spirit penetrates, we see the Holy Spirit. Thus the Father, Who was revealed in the Old Testament, and the Son, Who was revealed in the Jesus Christ and the Gospels, have been joined in being revealed by the Holy Spirit, Who is revealed in the Church.


Bobrinskoy, Boris, The Mystery of the Trinity: Trinitarian Experience and Vision in the Biblical and Patristic Tradition (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, New York, 1999)

Hillar, Marian, The Logos and Its Function in the Writings of Philo of Alexandria: Greek Interpretation of the Hebrew Myth and Foundations of Christianity, A Journal from The Radical Reformation. A Testimony to Biblical Unitarianism, Vol. 7, No. 3 Spring 1998, Part I pp. 22-37; Vol. 7, No. 4 Summer 1998, Part II pp. 36-53.

Lossky, Vladimir, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, New York, 1984)

Mantzaridis, Georgios, The Deification of Man: St. Gregory Palams and the Orthodox Tradition (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, New York, 1984)

McGrath, Alister, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 2nd Ed. (Blackwell Publishers: Malden, Mass. & Oxford, UK, 1997)

Staniloae, Dumitru, Theology and the Church (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, New York, 1980)

Ware, Kallistos, The Orthodox Way (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, New York, 1986)

Yannaras,, Elements of Faith: An Introduction to Orthodox Theology (T & T Clark: Edinburgh, 1999)

Interference in the Market

About 4 years ago, Athanasia and I were thinking about using a zero-down interest-only ARM to buy a house. Several people we know did it. But after thinking about it we decided not to. Why? Because we learned that in 2007 a tremendous number of mortgages were going have their interest rates go up and property values might go down as a result. We decided not to be part of the owner-occupied part of the real estate market.

As it seems to have turned out, had we used a zero-down interest-only ARM to buy in San Francisco or most parts of Silicon Valley (excluding condos) we would have been okay. Property values here are fine. Of course, in other parts of California and the the rest of the coutry the real estate market is in a tail spin.

So what does the U.S. Government want to do? It wants me, who deliberately chose not to buy a house because I thought it was to risky, to help bail out people who made bad decisions. Guess how I feel about that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Proof of the Adamic Nature: Trash talking the computer

I taught Anselm Samuel to play chess. Now, when I am busy I can set him in front of the computer and he can spend a few minutes playing a classic game. I thought it would be good for him, but now I am not so sure. Sometimes I feel like Joe Pesci is being channeled trough my son. Below are some of the things I have heard come out of his mouth while playing this cerebral game:

Oh yeah! Take that, you pig!
Oh poor you...ha ha ha ha ha
I dare you to move. Go ahead. Move it, Slime.
How does that feel, coward?
Yeah, that hurts. You want more of that?
I don't need knights. I'll still kill you.
You want a piece of me?
I'll spit on you.
You can't hurt me.
You think I care? I think you're going to die.
I'm not going to capture you. I'm going to crush you.
You think you're a winner but you're just a loser.
You think you're smarter than me? Hah!
Say goodbye, Rat.
You'll be sorry you took that pawn, Bucko.

Cobbler Crust

2 cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
2-1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tbs Sugar
1/4 cup Butter
3/4 cup Whole Milk

Mix all dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Stir in the milk. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead lightly for no more than 1 minute. Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness but make sure dough is a little smaller than baking dish because it expands during baking. This recipe is good for a 12 inch pie pan.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dormition: An Excerpt of a Paper I Wrote for the Theology Faculty at the University of Joensuu

Icon of Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos (August 15)
Our Lord is the first resurrected from the dead(57). And his Mother is second. The Icon shows the death and burial, and the resurrection( and ascension of the Theotokos. In the death scene her body is laid out on a bier, surrounded by the Apostles, her soul is in the hands of her Son. Her resurrection and ascension are depicted by placing her in a Mandorla near the top edge of the Icon.
Aside from our love for, and awe of the Mother of our Lord (58), why does the Church remember this event with a Great Feast? Because, what happens to her is what happens to all faithful Orthodox Christians. Just as she participated in his resurrection by being resurrected(59), we will be resurrected in the same manner. Just as she ascended in to Heaven by participating in Christ, so too shall we ascend into Heaven by participating in Christ. For, like her, we become God-bearers, Arks, and like her we are carried up with the Lord. Indeed, Psalm 131:8 is repeated many times throughout the services for the Dormition: “Arise O Lord, into thy rest, thou, and the Ark of thy holiness”. Thus the end of the Church’s year is graced with the promise of our resurrection and the celebration of the resurrection of Mary.

(57) Acts 26:23, Rev.1:5
(58) Luke 1:43
(59) Kontokian of the feast (tone 2) - Mary's resurrection is linked to her carrying God in her womb and giving birth to Him: "For being the mother of Life she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb."


This isn't part of the paper I wrote, but considering what was reported in New Scientist in November 2004, how could Mary have remained in the grave?

For Dormition: A Hymn In Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos

The last feast of the Liturgical Year is today's feast: The Dormition of The Theotokos. Unlike some Orthodox who seem to be very close to Mary, I am more of a distant admirer. Much in the way I assent to the Periodic Table of the Elements, I assent to the Church's teaching on the Mother of God: I know it is true, but I don't get excited about it. Except for this one feast: The Dormition revs my engine. I mean, what's not to get excited about? A woman like us, resurrected from the dead and taken to heaven! She, before all of us is raised by her Son, never to die again. The general resurrection is not far off in the future but has already begun.

Thus spoke the Lord Most-high:
"From thy heart, pure Virgin,
Living water will flow,
That those who thirst will drink Christ."
Life-bearing source,
We all boast of thee!

Those who thirst will drink Christ.
By Him, the bitter is sweetened;
By Him, the scales are washed from blind eyes;
And by Him, the grief of those in sorrow is healed.
Life-bearing source,
We all boast of thee!

Sweet drink sprung from eternity,
The brook filling our arid age:
Once more raised toward heaven,
Our exhausted world becomes refreshed.
Life-bearing source,
We all boast of thee!

Glory to thee, O Most-pure One!
Glory to thee, O Mother of God!
Thou didst bear for us the Living Christ,
The living water of grace!
Life-bearing source,
We all boast of thee!

- St. Nikolai Velimirovic, Prologue of Ohrid

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Birthrights for Sale! Going Cheep! Birth Rights Traded for Pottage!

Rassmusen has startling news that a large number of Americans favor the "Fairness Doctrine". All I can say is, Traitors!!! Who are these servile dogs who would surrender freedom of speech and the press?

The Fairness Doctrine is nothing less than Tyranny!!!! Don't the 47% of Americans who say they want the fairness doctrine know that it forces people to say things they don't believe? I hate everything Pacifica Radio stands for, but I wouldn't for an instant make them broadcast Sir Winston Churchill's speeches or read the Gospel of St. John over the airwaves. They have a right to say what they want without me horning in on their game. If those who want the Fairness Doctrine want to say something over the airwaves they should go get their own FCC licenses and get to work. Even in the crowded radio and TV dials in the San Francisco Bay Area there are plenty of slots available. But it is foul and malodorous to force one to say words that are not his, that he believes are not in his interest, or even injurious to his person or property.


One of the first things caused me to doubt the way I was attempting to be a Christian was worship. The church I was attending then had been having problems finding a "worship pastor" (e.g. song leader/choir director) for a couple of years. And the style of the music kept changing. So, the question I was asking myself (all the while, leading an atrocious life. I don't want anyone to think I was a saint thinking about these things.) was this: How does god want to be worshiped? Once, I said to a friend, "I don't think it was the Apostles just sitting around the living room playing guitars and singing praise songs." The look on his face was kind of like "Matt's gone of the deep end." Well, at that point I hadn't read the Didache or St. Justin, so I really didn't know what the earliest Christians were doing. Now, of course, I do know.
There is a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor who wrote about house churches and the formality of early Christian worship. It is interesting, especially since it is written by a protestant (for now?). Take a look.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bunk Bunk Bunk. Global warming is bunk!

My good friend, brother in Christ, and kum, Ian (St. John of the Ladder) sent me a link to a fabulous article on global warming

Not only is carbon dioxide's total greenhouse effect puny, mankind's contribution to it is minuscule. The overwhelming majority (97%) of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere comes from nature, not from man. Volcanoes, swamps, rice paddies, fallen leaves, and even insects and bacteria produce carbon dioxide, as well as methane. According to the journal Science (Nov. 5, 1982), termites alone emit ten times more carbon dioxide than all the factories and automobiles in the world.

You can read the whole article here. This, of course, doesn't mean I favor building coal-fired power plants plants all over the country(sulfur dioxide pollution still kills fish, even if the carbon dioxide doesn't warm the planet.), and it doesn't mean I favor drilling for oil off the coast of California (I swim in those waters).

What I think is that there is in man a knowledge that the Day of Judgement is coming, but because we, generally, hate God we don't want to acknowledge that He is coming to judge us. But the knowledge of Doom is is in us. It can not be expunged. Therefore, we make up global catastrophes to worry about. Global Warming is merely the Ragnarok, the appearance of Kali, the overthrow of Zeus, the Gotterdammerung of educated modern pagans. It is better to "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins", and thereby have a good defense on the in the Last of Judgment than to point fingers at SUV drivers and go to Hell.

Monday, August 11, 2008

There Must Be Something In The Water.

What is it about that tiny country Wales that produces such amazing singers? Here are five of my favorites. And when I say they are my favorites, I mean, unlike vast majority of famous singing acts, I'd pay money to see them perform.

Katherine Jenkins is probably the most popular mezzo-soprano alive today. Here she is singing a Habanera from Carmen!

I especially like this guy. He sings the raunchiest songs but is almost as famous for being being true to his wife as he is for singing. Also, he takes the songs of lesser known singers and popularizes them. For example, he added EMFs "Unbelieveable" to his Vegas act and told people about the band long before EMF became a name act. Besides that, have you ever been in a wine-soaked room when this song comes on the juke box? I've experienced it twice.

Bryn Terfel, the "barritenor" sings of Wales and makes you want to see it.

I first heard the voice of Cerys Matthews in 1999 when I came into possession of a frightfully good CD by band called Catatonia. Sometime after that album was made the band broke up and Cerys began a solo career, which, oddly, has seen paired her with Sir Tom Jones singing "Baby, Its Cold Outside." Here she is the way I first heard her, singing in Welsh with the rest of Catatonia, the amazing and loud song "International Velvet"

Ladies and gentelmen, Dame Shirley Bassey! What else needs to be said?

Monastery Cook Becomes Famous Cook Book Author (in Greece)

Unfashionable ingredients such as broad beans, artichokes and okra, which many older Greeks still associate with poverty and often are ignored by the young, remain staples here.
“People are less in touch with their natural surroundings nowadays,” Father Epifanios says. “They used to eat what they found around them and what they could gather.
“Now they try Chinese, Indian food, and dishes from — I don’t know — Finland before they realize that what they really liked all along was the meals their grandmother made them.”(Read whole article here.)

I really like eBay

I have been using eBay for about a year now (I know, I'm so lame. I have friends who were employees #20-something and #30-something, but always thought eBay was silly.) But after visiting a bunch of furniture stores to find something to use as a home altar and being appalled by the prices, I found exactly what I needed on eBay, at a very comfortable price, too. I've also been using eBay to buy and sell textbooks. Very convenient.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Saying Goodbye

In 39 years I have learned a few things. The bitterest thing I have learned is that most of this life is about saying goodbye. The smell of death lingers over everything. Not just physical death, but other kinds of death. Memories fade, friendships come to an end, spouses "drift apart", reputations are ruined (sometimes by one mistake), empires crumble, olive oil goes rancid, pages of books turn to dust. I am reminded of this everyday when I look in the mirror and see less hair on my head and more white in my beard. I recently watched the Last Lecture. The speaker, who died a few days ago, was happy and upbeat. But several times he remarked on how his work was what he was depending on to carry him into the future. To me it seemed like a frightened man grasping at smoke with his fingers.

Anslem has made some friends here where we live. Carlos and Eddie are 9 and 10, and are very nice boys. I've noticed that they obey their father happily and quickly. Much to my relief, I think they might be a good moral influence on Anselm, and I am happy for him to have other boys to play with. But it makes Basil, who is only two, very sad when Anselm runs out the door to ride scooters with Carlos and Eddie. And this is death, too. I held him today as he was crying for his brother. He said, "But I love Anselm". Of course, this is not as extreme as Cain and Able or Jaccob/Israel and Esau, but still, it is brothers growing apart and hurting because of it. And yes, it is uncomfortable for Anselm, too. He told me tonight that he misses Basil when he is playing with Carlos and Eddie.

In the funeral service of the orthodox church the question is asked "Where is that joy which is un-mixed with sorrow?" That is how I feel watching my children grow up. O, how I crave that Blessed Land where there is no night.

Saint Herman, the "apocrypha", and a cocktail recipe

Today is the Glorificatin of St. Herman of Alaska, one of that select group of of Christian royalty known as missionaries. It is worth noting that Saint Herman and his fellow laborers were so successful in their mission to the people of Alaska that when the United States bought Alaska from the Russians, that the U.S. government suppressed the Orthodox Christian faith, considering it part of the native culture.

I have grown to love that part of Scripture called by some "the Apocrypha". On this day, when we celebrate the glorification of of Saint Herman of Alaska, an important saint in the American church, we are assigned this passage from Wisdom of Solomon:

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule other peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones. (Wisdom 3:1-9)

Since today is a wine day, according to the Church Calendar, I thought I would invent a new cocktail in honor of St. Herman.

The Spruce Island

3 ounces Gordon's Gin (I've been drinking Gordon's lately in honor of the late father of my friend, Jeff)
2 dashes Angustora bitters
1/4 tsp orange flower water
shake together with ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Saturday Soundtrack: Day By Day

When I was a little boy, the Jesus People movement was somewhat active in my pentecostal church in Palo Alto. The LP for Godspell seemed to be very popular among the recently converted, and my mother. In reality, hippies didn't dress in the clownish way depicted in the movie, but I do remember such earnestness. This is the only song I remember from the record.

Herself a Rose

Our brother over at biblicalia posted this poem. It is a good one, and especially appropriate since we are approaching the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.

Herself a rose, who bore the Rose
She bore the Rose and felt its thorn.
All Loveliness new-born
Took on her bosom its repose,
And slept and woke there night and morn.

Lily herself, she bore the one
Fair Lily ; sweeter, whiter, far
Than she or others are :
The Sun of Righteousness her Son,
She was His morning star.

She gracious, He essential Grace,
He was the Fountain, she the rill :
Her goodness to fulfil
And gladness, with proportioned pace
He led her steps thro’ good and ill.

Christ’s mirror she of grace and love,
Of beauty and of life and death :
By hope and love and faith
Transfigured to His Likeness, ‘Dove,
Spouse, Sister, Mother,’ Jesus saith.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, circa 1877


For a decade or more I have been complaining that tonic water is too sweet. It seems that others have the same idea, that tonic water shouldn't tatse like a drink for 6 year olds, but these people are actually doing something about it. Read this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Mantle

"And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where [is] the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over." (2 Kings 2:14)

"The priest from the "Old Cathedral" of the Russian Church Abroad in San Francisco graced us by bringing the mantle of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco to place over my mother during the service." (Read more here.)

Aleksander Solzhe­nitsyn - Memory Eternal!

I have not much to say about Aleksander Solzhe­nitsyn, who died a few days ago. He was a friend of my pastor, Archpriest Victor Sokolov (who's widow is now suffering). I read his famous 1978 speech in the early 1990s, but I have not read any of his books. I find it interesting that the press doesn't seem to understand that he is an Orthodox Christian and keeps judging him by modernist western standards. (Of course, the Russian press has trouble understanding him, too and portrays him as a nationalist before all else.) We pray for him, expecting God to hear our prayers...
“O God of spirits and of all flesh, You have trampled upon death and have abolished the power of the devil, giving life to Your world. Give rest to the soul of Your departed servant Aleksander in a place of light, in a place of repose, in a place of refreshment, where there is no pain, sorrow, and suffering. As a good and loving God, forgive every sin he has committed in thought, word or deed, for there is no one who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your word is truth. For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servant Aleksander, Christ our God, and to You we give glory, with Your eternal Father and Your all-holy, good and life‑giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen”

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Life in Willow Glen

So far things are going okay. There is one vacant unit that is driving me nuts. So far, five different people have dome to look at it but have turned it down, or we turned them down. I have two appointments to show it tomorrow. Wish me luck. I've met the painter (Ivan), the mailman (Gabriel), and the plumber (Hector).

Yesterday, a water heater pipe exploded in no. 4. The water heater and pipe were repared but not before horrible water damage was done. I'm letting it dry out now, and will do the necessary wood and sheetrock repairs (part of the structure fell off when I opened the door.) on Saturday morning.

My tenant in no. 8 is threatening to call the police about her neighbor's alarm clock going off at 5 in the morning. I'm not going to do anything about it. The way I see it, if she wants to press charges for disturbing the peace she can, but the guy has to go to work and I don't want him to get a quieter alarm clock, oversleep, get fired for tardiness, and fail to pay his rent.

I have at least 4 tenants who have cats. This is supposed to be a "No Pets" complex. I don't know what I am going to do about this. I don't want to serve them all with notices to perform only to see them move out and leave me with 4 vacant units.

I had a pool contractor come by today to give me a bid on re-plastering the pool. It needs it bad. It seems the City Health Department has been "suggesting" it for a couple of years. I'll gather two more bids and present all three to my boss for a decision. Besides needing re-plastering, the pool has a leak. It loses about 4 or 6 inches of water per day. Who knows what kind of shape the gunite is in?

Athanasia is enjoying doing all the paper work (you'd be surprised by how much there is) but we need a file cabinet. I ordered a beautiful four-drawer oak upright (tax deductible!!!) today. It should be here in a few days. Why so fancy? Because the "office" is in my living room and I do not want an ugly metal file cabinet dragging down the mood of the room.

We are still looking for a suitable hall table or console (I'd really like a Bombay chest, but have you priced those recently? WOW!) to use as a home altar. Haven't found one yet, but still looking. I did find a set of gorgeous brass bison heads to use as a gun rack. Now, other than the hall table/altar all we need is a shoji screen to hide the ugly area under the stairs where all the wires for the modem and wifi router live.

Oh, there is one more good thing about living here that is worth mentioning. When my wife first started at Stanford she worked on one side of campus, the side closest to our house in Mountain View. It took her about 20 minutes to get to work. Then she got a new job at the University that took her to the farthest away place she could possibly be from our house. Then it took 45 minutes for her to get to work. Now that we live in Willow Glen, which is actually farther away from where she works, it only takes her 20 minutes because between here and where she works is all freeway. Plus, she is able to ride to work with a co-worker she likes.

Anselm Samuel made two new friends today. They are the sons of the man who lives in no. 15. They are polite boys. Their dad is a skilled tradesman. (If any teenage boys are reading my blog, I'd like to encourage you to not go to university. Instead, become a plumber, electrician, roofer, or painter and then start your own firm. I know many men who work in each of those trades and they all live comfortably.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hinky Dink

My mom loved shopping at second-hand stores, which she called "hinky dinks". Growing up, half my clothes, or more, came from second hand stores. She would drag me from the Goodwill store to the Salvation Army store and all the other stores in between, drop me in the toy or book area and go through the racks looking for bargains. I hated it. As a kid I had bad allergies and the dust in those stores irritated my nose and eyes.

My opinion of hinky dinks changed when I visited a Salvation Army store in Hollywood, Florida. It was amazing. It specialized in furniture and housewares. It was full of beautiful Art Deco statues, Louis XVI chairs, a zebra hide chaise longue, crystal chandeliers, a white baby grand piano, Tiffany lamps, Waterford crystal decanters, ivory table lighters, etc. It was the coolest hinky dink ever. But it is, to the best of my knowledge, the only hinky dink like that.

Nevertheless, I still go to hinky dinks to buy stem ware. Wine glasses and cocktail glasses break easily and I don't like spending money on them. Recently, I have discovered that when one has two young boys, plates break easily, too. So, after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday we went to the local hinky dink to buy plates. And boy-o-boy! did I find plates. I got a four-piece set of Japanese dessert plates (standard blue and white Tobe-Yaki pattern), a four piece set of Wedgwood salad plates (red and white pastoral pattern), and a crystal caviar server for $15. The store wasn't as cool as the store in Hollywood, Florida, but I got some great deals. I shall return there often.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

I know you'll think I'm nuts, but I think that a Paris Hilton candidacy would be great. Problem: The Constitutino says the president must be thirty-five and she isn't thirty-five....hmmmmm....Maybe that is okay, after all. I mean, the Constitution reguires the president to be a natural born citizen, but there seems to be some question about Sen. Obama's birth certificate.

UPDATE: Obama spokesman Bill Burton reacts: "Whatever."

UPDATE: McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds emails: “It sounds like Paris Hilton supports John McCain’s ‘all of the above’ approach to America’s energy crisis - including both alternatives and drilling. Paris Hilton might not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan.”

(Updates courtesy of

Monday, August 04, 2008


Yesterday was the first Sunday of the Dormition Fast. In a sermon on Romans 15:1-7 yesterday, Bishop Benjamin reminded us that we shouldn't be very impressed with our ability to fast; God's not, and, besides, the demons who never eat anything do it better than we do it. The whole effect of the sermon on me was to remind me that even though I try to do good I usually do evil. Pretty much, the only thing the fasts of the Orthodox Church teach me is that I really like food. Proverbs 23:2 is of no little concern to me.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Foundation of Prayer and Belief

Athanasia and I celebrated the name day of my god daughter, Josephine on Friday. Her parents had us over for dinner. After praying a short service in honor of Righteous Joseph of Arimathea, we had a fabulous meal. (It is good to eat well before the start of a fast). One of the things we talked about was prayer, how there is no pressure to come up with really good prayers because there are thousands of really good prayers in our books, from Psalms up to the most recent prayers written by modern saints.

One of the things I love about the Orthodox prayer life is that there is never a question about the correctness of the prayers. When I was a protestant I, sometimes, though not often, because I believed in pre-destination, worried about whether or not I was praying according to the Will of God. That is, was I praying for what God wanted me to pray for, or was I praying for merely what I wanted? This is something I never have to worry about as an Orthodox. All of our prayers are, essentially, acknowledments of God's power and love, confessions of our own sin and helplessness, and supplications for God to be merciful.

For example, take this prayer of St. Basil the Great:

O God and Lord of the Powers, and Maker of all creation, Who, because of Thy clemency and incomparable mercy, didst send Thine Only-Begotten Son and our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, and with His venerable Cross didst tear asunder the record of our sins, and thereby didst conquer the rulers and powers of darkness; receive from us sinful people, O merciful Master, these prayers of gratitude and supplication, and deliver us from every destructive and gloomy transgression, and from all visible and invisible enemies who seek to injure us. Nail down our flesh with fear of Thee, and let not our hearts be inclined to words or thoughts of evil, but pierce our souls with Thy love, that ever contemplating Thee, being enlightened by Thee, and discerning Thee, the unapproachable and everlasting Light, we may unceasingly render confession and gratitude to Thee: The eternal Father, with Thine Only-Begotten Son, and with Thine All-Holy, Gracious, and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

I am not saying no other Christians know how to pray, and that wasn't the direction the conversation on Friday night. What I mean is that there is an ease and a confidence that comes with praying as an Orthodox. Ease in just praying some Saint's words, be they the words or Moses, or David, or Basil, or Maria. And confidence that the words are true.

Consider this interesting thing that happened to me the other day when I was going to the memorial service for my friend, Zachariah. As we were driving, my friend George asked us all to pray, since there was some concern about what we might find when we got the place where it was going to happen. He was to start, I was to go second, Brian was to go third. George, in what, I am sure, was a worthy desire to praise God and to ascribe everything that is to God's creating power, went too far and even said death was one of God's creations. How could I say "amen" to those words? I couldn't. The words were not true. In fact, I couldn't even pray the simple prayer to the Holy Spirit I was going to pray, I was just too stunned by what I had heard. I barely was able to get "God be merciful to us" out of my mouth.

Later that day, when we sat down to eat, I quickly prayed and blessed the food before anyone else could. George asked, "Do you always pray memorized prayers?" I answered "all prayers are memorized". He looked puzzled for a split second, then I saw understanding on his face and he said, "Yeah, your right." Prayer has to come from somewhere. Every word we know is memorized. The manner in which we put them together is memorized. The theology in the sentences we pray is memorized. If a prayer is true it is of God, for God is Truth.

Ephesians 5:26 is, I think, the most ignored verse in the letter to the Ephesians, following as it does on the heels of that blockbuster verse, 5:25. The verse says: "That he might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word". The washing of water is, as we know, Baptism. But what is the washing of the word? I think it is many things. It is the saving acts of Jesus, the listening to Holy Scripture, and the chanting of the Hymns. But, I think, it is also the prayers of the Orthodox Church. If three times a day a person prays these prayers, memorizes them, and adds more to them, they begin to fill one's mind. They push out, wash away dark and evil thoughts. And, over time, they become what one believes.

But Orthodox are not the only people who know this. All other Christians have read Matthew 22:37. They know they must love God with their minds. They have to keep their minds filled with God-pleasing thoughts.

About 25 years agoBill Gaither wrote these words...

I'm gonna fill up my mind
With happy songs of praise
Remind myself that He's forgiven me.
I'm gonna think about things that I know will lift me up
Like hope and peace and truth and joy
And simple honesty.

I'm gonna think on the good things
Think on what the Lord has done for me
I'm gonna think on the good things
Cause what I think is what I'm gonna be.

But how do we change what we think? It was Saint Prosper of Aquataine who said "legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi", since shortened to "lex orandi, lex credendi" by liturgical theologians. In English it means the law of prayer is the law of belief. And while I am not entirely sure what he means by "law", he is pretty close to the mark if he means the words we pray dictate our belief, if how we pray controls how we think. So, it is with great joy that I pray all of those prayers in the prayer book, even the funny one that requires me to point at my bed and ask God if this bed will be my coffin. Hmmm. On second thought, maybe that's not very funny.