Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Woops! I Guess I'm A Little Late

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


Angels Sing

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

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

hallelujah, hallelujah,
Lord, have mercy!

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

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Shack: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Second and Third Days of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Eve and the Feast

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A nice evening

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

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

Things I need to do today

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

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

Just can't wait any longer

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

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

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Enemy of Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Soundtrack: Boom Boom Boom

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow, Doughnuts, and Cub Scouts

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

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

A Quote

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

Good News

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

Yesterday and today

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

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2008


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

California Matt's
Pork Chop Brand
Bay Rum


Pork Chop Matt's
Genuine Virgin Islands
Bay Rum

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

He wrote back

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

My Dear Anselm,

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

With love,

St. Nicholas

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

Are we almost there?

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

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

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

I can only be pleasatly surprised.

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

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Feast of St. Nicholas

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

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

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eve of the Feast of St.Nicholas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Belt Loop

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

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

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

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

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

What to Say, and to Whom

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

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

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

I forgottheprayer request

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

Monday, December 01, 2008

Holidays and a prayer request

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mysteries of Antioch

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

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