Thursday, April 30, 2009

It isn't Summer yet but I wish it was.

Singer: Madeleine Peyroux
Painters: Winslow Homer & Maurice Prendergast
Songwriter: Hans Bradtke

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Business Card

On the advice of my wife's father, a successful agribusiness owner in the Central Valley who is loathe to buy anything he can't write off of his taxes as a business expense, Athanasia and I are trying to start a business. Doing what, you would be justified in asking. Owning and managing rental property. (We have scads experience managing, owning will be the new part.) It isn't glamorous. It isn't millionaire-making. What it is is something that will let us build equity (we hope) and cash-flow (we hope) with minimal work (we hope), this last is very important since we will need to keep our current jobs. It's all very exciting, but boy is there a lot of work involved in starting up. Aside from finding and buying the property there is licensing, insurance, business card design, inspections, vendor recruitment (stuff like plumbers and electicians to call in an emergency), record-keeping, bank accounts, etc.

In trying to come up with a business card design I came across this fabulous business card of Kevin Mitnick's. Many years ago, before he was sent to prison, I wrote a paper about him for freshman English class. I don't remember anything I said in the paper (it was 20 years ago), but I remember being astounded by Kevin Mitnick's brilliance and thinking that if he had been given greater challenges and guidance he could have avoided his criminal behavior. But what was a teenage computer genius going to do in the 1980s? Go to work for TI, IBM, AT&T, or EDS? Not very likely. Now, companies exist that snap up that kind of raw young talent. Even the Army has a program for slovenly, pale, overweight, teenagers with unusual computer talent. But not then.

Mitnick, the father of all hackers, is out of prison and is working as a computer security consultant. Now instead of trying to hack into the worlds most powerful computers, he is stopping the hackers (and spies) who would gain access to the private information of millions of people and companies. Given what he does and what he did, can you think of a better business card for him than this one that is printed on a set of lock picking tools?

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Victory

"Christ broke down the three barriers that separated man from God: the barrier of nature by His incarnation, the barrier of sin by His death, and the barrier of death by His Resurrection." + St. Nicolas Cabasilas.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Something I never thought I'd see

Lately, I have encountered an Orthodox Christian who is a Marxist. I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Given what the Church teaches about the nature of sin and it's effect on people, given the suffering Marxism has caused in the world, given the forces of devastation Marxism unleashed on the Church, I am totally amazed that an Orthodox Christian would publicly espouse ideas even remotely similar to state-imposed socialism. Charitably, I see that he is someone who seems to be genuinely concerned for the poor, and he does not seem to think he deserves more out of life than he has. Marxists are usually people who care not one iota for the poor and are only concerned with their own comfort. It is very strange that this man of whom I write holds these conflicting views so easily.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Soundtrack: Bring It On Home

Some time ago on this blog I mentioned that my first cocktail (Irish Coffee) was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan in the Summer of 1986. That was an error. I only remembered tonight that I had a Gin & Tonic in December 1985 (I was 16) at the Limelight on Hollywood Beach, Florida. What prompted that memory was hearing the song Bring It On Home, while searching for another song.

My parents and I were in Hollywood celebrating Christmas with some friends in their manse on the Intercoastal Waterway, between Southlake and the the Hollywood Boulevard drawbridge. A girl my age, her name was Stephanie, was at the dinner and after a while, when the eating was done, we went for a walk over the drawbridge to Hollywood Beach. Well, it was hot, and salt water makes one thirsty, so we went to the Limelight, which was along our path from the ocean back to the drawbridge. (I don't think this was in any way associated with the famous Limelight, as the famous place burned down several years before I was in Florida.) The only cocktail I could think of ordering was a Gin & Tonic, probably because I had recently read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (I can't believe they bound it in leather and gave it gilt edges!).
("`... then I decided that I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. I kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic.'
Arthur cleared his throat, and then did it again.
`Where,' he said, `did you...?'
`Find a gin and tonic?' said Ford brightly. `I found a small lake that thought it was a gin and tonic, and jumped in and out of that. At least,I think it thought it was a gin and tonic.'
`I may,' he added with a grin which would have sent sane men scampering into the trees, `have been imagining it.
I ordered two and was stunned when the waitress served us. The lights were not even dim as the place hadn't even opened up yet (it was only 9 or 10 at night) so she had to have known we were underage. Later, I found out from my dinner host, who was on the city planning commission, that the Limelight was always in trouble with the law for various infractions. So back to the song. The version that was playing that night was by the Righteous Brothers, but Sam Cook is the one who wrote it and I was more familiar with his version as a DJ at Tampa's most poplar Top-40 radio station was partial to Sam Cook and would slip his songs into the playlist.

Here are two versions (The song has been recorded by dozens of people. My opinion: Duffy, who is Welsh, is better than the Animals.) of the song. The first is from Sam Cook's legendary Miami concert, during which he kind of works himself up, over the course of almost 3 minutes, into being able to sing the song; even singing a lines and phrases from others of his songs as part of his high-energy and barely contained rap, which is extremely different from the ultra-calm kind of opening raps done by Isaac Hayes. (Before you criticize that long sentence, I'd encourage you to read Kant's Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics. In that book you will find sentences 50, 60, even 70 words long, in which the main verb does not rear its head until the 30th or 40th.) Recorded before a live audience at the Harlem Square Club, this version is universally thought of as the quintessence of Sam Cook's musical vision.

The second version of the song is the one I heard that night at the Limelight drinking Gin and Tonic with a girl I barely knew. (Do you remember seeing that episode of Cheers in which everyone remembered Bill Medly's name but called Bobby Hatfield (d. 2003) "the other Righteous Brother"? Well, I never called him that. He was kind of a hero to me. I have a pretty high voice, though it has become lower with age, and would always sing his part when their songs were on the radio.) I don't think it is better than Sam Cook's Miami performance but it is, I think, more accessible.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Anselm Samuel just got home from school. Basil Wenceslas just woke up from his nap. We are getting ready to go to the beach for a cookout! Happy Bright Wednesday! Christ is Risen!

This one isn't too bad.

Am I the only Orthodox who cringes when whenever American Newspapers report on the Church? Probably not. But check this out. It isn't the typical "Ethnic food and folk dancing" story nor is it a scandal story. Instead, it deals with Orthodox and the internet. (Thanks to GetReligion for bringing this article to my attention.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scouting News

I am so excited for,and proud of Anselm Samuel who will be receiving Astronomy and Music awards in addition to the big achievement of being promoted to Tiger Rank rank in just a few more hours.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bright Monday

I woke, at 7:30, before everyone else in the house this morning. So i went downstairs got the bible and came back up and woke them with a big Christ is Risen. We sang the troparion and read the reading for the day. (Does anyone else think it is more than a little ironic that we read about being moderate the day after the main event of the Feast?) I had to deal with a tenant issue, then we ate some more deviled eggs and cheese and meatloaf and fig spread, then I promptly fell back asleep on a chair. I don't know what Athanasia and the boys did while I was sleeping, but when I woke back up at 11 I went across the street to Peet's to get iced tea and iced coffee. It was a scorcher today. Then Athanasia took to boys to a movie. (I kept Anselm Samuel out of School today because it is Bright Monday.) While they were gone I put away some clothes, checked the mail, ate a little. When they came home I said, "Hey, let's go to the beach!" So, we did. Then we had Chinese food. (I bet we were the first people to ever sing the Paschal Troparion in there!) Got home at 9pm. Quick showers for the boys and to bed they went. Wow! What a day.

Would you pray for my nephew's wife?

My nephew's wife is having a difficult pregnancy. Will you pray for "Matthew's Nephew's Wife" with me?


O Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ our God, the Source of life and immortality, bless (name) and the fruit of her body that was given by Thee; favor them and animate this child by Thy Holy Spirit, and let it grow a healthy and pure body, with well-formed limbs.

Sanctify this child's body, mind, heart, and vitals, and grant this infant that is to be born an intelligent soul; establish it in the fear of Thee.

A faithful angel, a guardian of soul and body, do thou vouchsafe this child. Protect, keep, strengthen, and shelter the child until the hour of birth.

O Lord Jesus Christ, place this infant upon the right hand of Thy grace, and through Thy Holy Spirit sanctify and renew this child unto life everlasting, that it may be a communicant of Thy Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

O All-Merciful Christ our God, look down and protect Thy handmaiden (name), from fear and from evil spirits that seek to destroy the work of Thy hands. And when her hour and time is come, deliver her by Thy grace.

Look with compassionate eye and deliver Thy handmaiden, from pain. Lighten her infirmity in the time of travail and grant her fortitude and strength for birth giving, and hasten it by Thine almighty help.

For this is Thy glorious work, the power of Thine omnipotence, the work of Thy grace and tender-heartedness. Amen.

My most gracious Queen, my hope, O Mother of God, the joy of those in sorrow, help us, for we are helpless.

Intercede thou and pray thy Son, Christ our God, that He lighten for his handmaid (name) this season while she is with child, and that He ease the burden of heaviness of her, and bestow His blessings upon the child to which she is giving birth.

For we know no other help save thee, no other hope save thee, O Mother of God that will guard and protect her and her child. For by thine intercession and help we send up glory and thanksgiving for all things unto the One God in Trinity, the Creator of all, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Bright Pascha! A Joyous Pascha!

I hope everyone enjoyed the pre-programmed postings of videos while I was gone. I'm back now, this being my first live post in a while.

I am too tired to blog much. I'll just say it was good. Didn't drink too much this year. In fact, hardly drank, at all. I only had a couple of sips of the Mama Lucia my brother gave me, it was very popular and the bottle disappeared down 2 dozen gullets.

I think Athanasia and I have decided Basil just can't handle being up all night. So, for the next few years we will all go to the Liturgy of St. Basil on Saturday morning (though about 2/3 of the way through the Old Testament readings he said in a loud plaintive voice, "Daddy, I'm tired of stories."), then Athanasia and Basil will go home until Agape Vespers on Sunday Afternoon, leaving Anselm and I in San Francisco for the main event of Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

I hope my Orthodox readers won't think me a heretic, but I actually enjoy the quiet Saturday morning Liturgy and the Sunday afternoon Vespers more than the crowded loud exultant and ebullient Matins and Liturgy in the middle of the night. The Saturday morning Liturgy and the Agape Vespers draw much smaller crowds, but almost everyone who I think of as the core group of parishoners (I don't think of myself as being part of that group. My weekly attendance is too spotty.), and these two services are very relaxed and homey feeling. Also, it is comforting in a way that I think Heaven is comforting. For example, and I write this knowing I am not doing a good job explaining it, at the end of the liturgy on Saturday morning the young women of the Catedral run downstairs to get several loaves of homemade whole-grain bread from the oven. A table is set up in the back of the nave, the bread and several large jugs of hot wine are blessed, and everyone drinks and eats in the presence of the Icons and Relics. And Jesus is there too, resting on the Altar. Its like that scene out of Exodus 24 where the leaders of Israel sit down to a meal with God. It isn't the frightening Communion meal(I'm more than a little bit afraid every time I see that chalice.), rather it is more like God's family just being with Him and each other. Its really better than anything I expected Orthodoxy to be. The Sacrifice has been made during the Divine Liturgy, now were just hanging out with God, the saints and each other.

Agape Vespers is great because, well, its a very short service, everyone is still giddy from the night before, and then, after the service there are leftovers to eat. And its really cool to see Bishop Benjamin in the kitchen, and have him laugh at me for calling him "Master" (but its easier than Your Grace, and I'm not Russian so Vladika would just be silly.)

The Paschal Divine Liturgy, as breathtaking and joyous as it is, is a bit like riding the rapids on the Tuolumne River: Exhilarating but exhausting.

Right after Communion during the Paschal Divine Liturgy, Athanasia took poor exhausted Basil back to the hotel room. Anselm and I stayed up till 4. Anslem had so much fun. I think he played the egg breaking game with about 40 different people. He and my God daughters, Amelia and Josephine, had a "candy party" during which they stuffed themselves with chocolate. I ate a lot but wasn't piggish: 1 slice of combo pizza, three boiled eggs, ham, roast beef, Molinari's salami, paskah & kulich, 1 shot of vodka (Thank you, Chief Warden Frank!), 1/3 a bottle of an Armenian beer (Thank you "Proto-acolyte" Ian!), 2 glasses of champagne (Thank you , Justin!), a few sips of the Mama Lucia (Thank you, Mark!) and an Irish Coffee that was mostly Irish (Thank you, Gregory!)

Anselm chowed down on the garlic pork sausages and roasted potatoes. I'm pretty sure he had 3 pounds of sausage all to himself. When we left at 4 am Fr. John loaded me up with meat. He tried to get me to take a whole roast beef but I declined. It looked like the greater portion of a hind-quarter. Instead I took about 5 pounds of a really amazing meat loaf.

I must mention going to Molinari's. I love that place. BAsil and Anselm picked out some cheeses. We got one huge salami to share later that night and one to eat on during bright week. Oh, it was also cool to hear Dean Martin Tunes coming out of the speakers while waiting to be served. After Molinari's we went to China town to buy firecrackers, sparklers, and pork buns. I got 2 dozen pork buns for $2 per dozen at Dick Lee's Pastry Shop and Dim Sum on Stockton Street.

The four of us woke up about 9 this morning and went for our annual family picnic. We had paskah & kulich, boiled eggs, meatloaf, various cheeses, red wine, cold water, and Molinari's salami sitting on the grass in the shade of a eucalyptus tree (It smelled beautiful) at Fort Mason. From where we were breakfasting we could see the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the wide Pacific beyond the bridge, most of the Marina district, Sutro Tower, and the Palace of Fine Arts. We got to the cathedral just in time for Vespers. After Vespers Anselm and I set off some fire crackers in front of the Cathedral. I had forgotten how loud they are. It has been many many years since I last heard them.

Tonight, after naps, we watched Around the World in 80 Days staring David Nevin. Evening prayers were, as they will be all week, the Paschal troparion:

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And Upon those in the tombs bestowing life! (3X)

It makes me so happy to hear my boys sing those words. After dinner (meat loaf, cheeses, Molinari's salami, brandy, pork buns, Italian sodas, deviled eggs) the boys and I lit some sparklers in front of the townhouse. We went for a walk and looked at stars. Anselm and I are teaching Basil to find all the constellations and stars I taught to Anselm a couple of years ago.

On Saturday evening, just about Sunset, Basil and I went for a walk while his brother and Mother were sleeping in the hotel room. We heard the big bass foghorn at the Golden Gate Bridge so went down to the marina to watch the fog. God puts on quite a show as He pushes that fog through the gate. Eventually, we only make out the tops of the bridge's two towers, and all the ships were just shadows passing through the fog. Basil liked the high piercing horns from the smaller boats the most. But he didn't like it when I imitated any of them. He war along the edge of the wall that defines the edge of the bay at that point, ran up and down the gang planks to the yacht berths. But it got pretty cold. Oddly, it got warmer as the night wore on, and reached 80 degrees in SF today. We had to stop at Starbucks on the way home from SF today to get cold drinks.

Well, 40 days till Ascension and 50 till Pentecost, when Metropolitan Jonah will be with us. Oh! That will be a big to do. (again, this Pentecost is one of these events where I like the services associated with it more than the main Divine Liturgy itself. I love the Festal Vigil the night before when all the priests surround the bishop in the nave of the Cathedral and sing O Heavenly King to the Holy Spirit for the first time since Pascha.)

I know this wasn't a very easy to follow post. I wrote stuff down in the order I thought of it not the order the events happened. I'm too tired to edit.

Christ is Risen!

The 9th Ode of the Paschal Canon

The Ninth Ode of the Paschal Canon, commonly called "The Angel Cried", is my favorite song of the Paschal season. I have heard many setting for the song but this is my favorite. First in Slavonic, then in English.

Holy Week and Pascha in Greece, Serbia, and Russia 2008

Hristos Voskrese!

Don't Shoot Me.

Patriarch of Jerusalem Emrges from the Empty Tomb Bearing the Holy Light

The Proclomation that Christ is Risen (in Korea)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Icon of the Crucifixion

In the iconography of the Orthodox Church “realistic’ portrayals of historical events are not as important as what is happening in the part of the world our eyes can not see. Thus, you do not see blood flowing all over this Icon as Mel Gibson showed in his movie “the Passion of the Christ”. It is not that we teach the crucifixion was neat and tidy; we know it was brutal and bloody and hideous. But like the Gospel accounts, our Iconography sparingly describes Christ’s suffering. It was real and it was horrible, but we see other things happening there during that mysterious time when God was suffering.

First he is still God. He is attended by angels who though amazed and speechless at the suffering of the Creator stand by, waiting to do his bidding. And in case we miss that point, the Iconographers of the Orthodox church have on the sign above the Lord’s head these words: “The King of Glory”. Thus bringing us back to the Psalmist who wrote “Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty!” And beneath the Cross, in the earth is a skull, symbolizing death being trampled down by death. (From a paper I wrote for the theology faculty at the University of Joensuu.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Holy Saturday

Weep not for me, O Mother, beholding in the sepulcher the Son whom thou hast conceived without seed in thy womb. For I shall rise and shall be glorified, and as God I shall exalt in everlasting glory those who magnify thee with faith and love.

"O Son without beginning, in ways surpassing nature was I blessed at Thy strange birth, for I was spared all travail. But now beholding Thee, my God, a lifeless corpse, I am pierced by the sword of bitter sorrow. But arise, that I may be magnified."

"By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble as they see me, clothed in the blood-stained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God have I struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee."

"Let creation rejoice exceedingly, let all those born on earth be glad: for hell, the enemy, has been despoiled. Ye women, come to meet with sweet spices: for I am delivering Adam and Eve with all their offspring, and on the third day I shall rise again."

(9th Ode of the Canon)

(Shroud is from the Korban Workshop)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha

This morning Anselm Samuel was thinking about what he heard about Judas during Bridegroom Matins earlier in the week. He wanted to know exactly what it was Judas did. So we faced the Icons, prayed "O Heavenly King" and opened my mother's Bible to the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.

Anselm said, "He shared his food with him? Why?"
I said, "God loves everyone even Judas."
Anelm asked. "Then why did Judas do it?"
Basil, not quite keeping up, said, "I like eating, too, Anselm."
"I don't know", I said, "but I think he couldn't have done it without Satan's help. I don't think betraying Jesus is something men can do very easily without an evil spirit giving them the will to do it."
"But what about the Holy Spirit? He was in Judas. Why didn't he fight Satan."
I explained, "The Holy Spirit had not come yet. Pentecost is still 54 days away."
Anselm was surprised by this news. "What? The Holy Spirit wasn't in them? What was in them?"
I answered, "Just their own souls."
Anselm said, "That must have been very strange."

The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

Anselm said, to no one in particular, "That's really bad."

Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

Here Anselm crossed himself, as though we were in the Divine Liturgy. Basil and I crossed ourselves, too.

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

We three crossed ourselves again.

But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, 'I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad'. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face...

Here Basil Wenceslas made a prostration and asked, "Like this, Daddy? Like this?"
I laughed. "Yes, like that."

...and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

Anslem, with a puzzled look on his face, interjected, "Wait. What cup?"
"He meant that he didn't want to die but that he would do it if the Father wanted him to", I answered.
Anslem, aghast, said, "His father wanted him to die?"
I tried to explain, "Not exactly, I don't think. He wanted to save us. St John told us that the Father loves us so much that he sent Jesus to save us, to die so that we can live forever."
Anslem pressed on, "But Jesus didn't want to die?"
I asked, "Do you want to die?"
Anselm answered, "no."
And I tried to explain again, "Well, Jesus didn't want to die either. But he wanted to do what his Father wanted and his Father wanted to save us."

And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.

"Why did he cut off his ear?"
"I think he was trying to cut off his head but missed."

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Anselm interrupted again, "What's a legion of angels?"
"Its about 6,000"
"6,000 angels?"
"Yes. Angels. Altogether it was 72,000 angels."
"That's a lot of angels."
"Well, he's God. He gets a lot of Angels if he wants them."
"O Yeah!", Anselm laughed. "God get all the angels he wants."

But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me?

"What's a stave?"
"A stick.

I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace, And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

Anselm: "Were they making fun of him?"
Me: "Yes."

Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Anselm said, "Is that what happened in Petook?"
"That's it exactly. Do you know why it happened?"
Wondering why Anselm didn't know this, since we had just read of Jesus foretelling the event, I said, "It happened because St Peter had told Jesus that he would never betray him. But Jesus said "Peter, before the cock crows you will deny me three times."

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

At this point in the story Anslem moaned and when I looked up at him he had a horrified look on his face. I asked him, "Are you okay?" He said, "this is getting sadder." I said, "yes."

And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me'. And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head...

"Why did they do that?"
"Because it hurts." And now I was crying. And Basil was saying, "Daddy, why are you sad?"

...and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Anselm: "But they left the crown of thorns on him. Why did they do that?"
Me: "Because it hurts."

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull...

Here I closed the Bible on my lap as I was unable to read for my sobs.

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.

We were not able to go to Holy Friday Matins (which for some reason is served on Thursday night.) tonight, so I am tankful to God that we had the opportunity to read these words today.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Litugical Calamity Averted!

On Sunday and Monday nights Anselm Samuel served as acolyte during Bridegroom Matins. Monday night, while the deacon and sub-deacon were attending to the incense, and the priest was praying, no one but Anselm noticed that the curtain in front of the Royal Doors was closed when it was supposed to be open. Now I ask you, do you know at what points during the matins service that curtain is supposed to be open and at what points it is supposed to be closed? I don't, and I've even read the rubrics guides. But my son noticed and, according to the Rev. Deacon, Anselm Samuel politely interrupted what they were doing to say, "Fr. Deacon, isn't the curtain supposed to open right now?" A seven year old saved us from liturgical calamity.

On a related note, this is my first time to be able to attend the Bridegroom Matins services during Holy Week. I noticed something very moving-frightening-terrible-fascinating-diverting-arresting last night: Judas held up as a picture of what we are. It isn't explicit but, after describing what Judas did, the prayer asks God to save us from Judas' fate. Why would it do that if each of my sins since baptism are not the same as Judas' betrayal? Thank God for Confession!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

For all my western Christian family

Happy Easter!
(This song is originally by The 2nd Chapter of Acts, but I like Kieth Green's version more.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vigil of Palm Sunday: The blessing of the palms and pussywillows


While the main message of this day, Lazarus Saturday is that Jesus will come back from the dead and that he will raise all the dead, there is another idea in this feast that comes to my mind: There are limits.

God is the biggest limiter. He sets the bounds of the sea, he sets the stars in their courses, he establishes seasons, and dictates the behaviors of animals. His interactions with us are limiting, too. He delayed in going to see his friend Lazarus, and Lazarus died. By waiting he put a limit on the life span of Lazarus. Of course, he raised Lazarus from the dead on the fourth day, but he did not raise everyone. Jesus didn't say, "All of you in that tomb, come forth." No. He said "Lazarus, come forth." And only Lazarus breathed again. Imagine if Jesus had raised everyone in that tomb. Were there men in that tomb who's surviving wives had re-married? Were there children in there who had they been raised would have faced lives as orphans?

While it it is true that "with God all things are possible" it is not true that all things are certain, or even probable. He puts limits on His creation. "Thus far and no farther. Here your proud waves stop" God said to the sea.

This in not a bad thing. Think of the limits parents put on children, that marriage puts on spouses, that speed limits put on drivers. The limits protect life.

While not particularly Christian, there is an essay on the Acton Institute's wbsite that deals with popular culture, limits, and why they are necessary for civilization and individual happiness.

For the past several decades, American popular culture has frequently promulgated an idea central to modern liberalism: the idea of a life without limits, that we can have everything we want with out having to make hard choices. That assumption is especially evident in Walt Disney movies, and not only in recent ones. Fortunately, the makers of some pop culture products see the absurdity and danger of that notion. (Read the whole thing here.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Pascha is Coming

"Among the few who survived was a prisoner who worked in the camp's archives, and he left us the description of an extraordinary occurrence. Through some favor - gained by one of the prisoners, Bishop Illarion - all the prisoners were allowed by the communist authorities to celebrate Pascha in the camp. But only that one night and never again. Preparations were made, vestments were secretly liberated from the vaults of the former monastery, and on Pascha night the whole camp gathered together. Here is the prisoner's description of that evening:"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Labor Pains

Back in March an archimandrite working for the Patriarch of Constantinople spoke at Holy Cross about how all American Orthodox Christians - he calls us "diaspora" like my ancestors came from Greece, like I wasn't born in Modesto, like I grew up eating dolmathes and souvlaki instead of pork chops and burritos - should be in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. I won't go into all of the reasons why what he said is wrong (they are at least 4) but what he said was odious and has resulted in some unpleasantness and, thankfully, some spine stiffening in America.

What I want to point out is how the senior Bishop in America, who is Metropolitan Jonah responded. He did not respond with a letter. He did not make a speech at a seminary or at a meeting of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards. He didn't write a magazine article. He didn't send out an archimandrite to speak for him. No. None of that. As an Orthodox bishop should, he preached a sermon during a service on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, an eschatologically important day if ever there was one, surrounded by clergy and faithful from all the various jurisdictions in America. By saying what he said on this day what he really said was, "I'm Orthodox and Bartholomew of Constantinople is not."

I am proud he is the Metropolitan of the American Church. He is worthy to stand on the orlets.

Here is the sermon: (Due to technical difficulties I removed the embedded video that was here and have replaced it with this link.) Let God arise and His enemies be scattered!

Can You Imagine Adams Bowing to the King of England?

Background: At the Olympics our flag does not dip to the host country's Head of State.

Background: President Regan fired a White House aide who curtsied to Elizabeth II.

The Situation: A few days ago I heard about President Obama bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia. I was astounded, and thought maybe I was hearing an exaggerated story. Just a few minutes ago I saw the video.

Here is the video.

It is repugnant. It is disgusting. It is worthy of censure by Congress. That the President of a free people would bow before a murderous foreign despot is worthy, at least, of censure.

Here is the number to the Capitol switchboard:
(202)224-3121. Call your Representative and Senators today and demand the censure of the President.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Submarine, Beach, Apartments, and Food

On Saturday, Anselm Samuel (Who used to be called "the little boy" on this blog. I miss that.) and I rode a train from San Jose to San Francisco. When we arrived in San Francisco we hopped on the Muni Metro K-line and rode it to the underground Embarcadero station. Then we went top-side and caught the "historic F-Line" to fisherman's warf. Since it was supper time we ate grilled shrimp on slice of Boudin's sourdough bread while sitting on the sidewalk. From there we walked out on to Pier 45, and boarded the USS Pampanito. There we spent the night with a horde of cubscouts. The kids were great. The sub was amazing. The more I learned about what she had done during WWII the less worthy I felt being aboard her. For example, remember the movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai? The sub that rescued some of those POW's was the one we were on. On the voyage from Thailand to Saipan the crew of the Pampanito gave up their bunks to the POWs and slept on the floors. The tour guide told me that 5 of the crew and one of the Australian POWs are still alive.

At one point, Anselm Samuel who was sitting on a torpedo playing Go Fish with some other Scouts asked me, "Daddy, can I stay up till midnight?" I said, "Sure, that was an hour and a half ago." At 2 on Sunday morning we did get to bed but I had guard duty from 5 to 7. Anselm had asked me to get him up for guard duty but I let him sleep an extra half hour, while I did a walk through of the boat. When I woke him I expected him to want to stay in bed but I was wrong. He was up with much enthuiasm. We stood on top of the Pampanito, in the dark, listening to the sea lions barking over at Pier 39. We saw the first freighter leave port just before sunrise. We watched the sun come up over the hills on the other side of the Bay, and quickly and quietly so as to not be conspicuous, sang morning prayers.

By 7 everyone on the boat was awake. We cleaned up, did the flag raising ceremony, and let the Scouts play with the canons (20mm, 40mm, and 5"). Anselm got to control the elevation on the aft 40mm. It was extremely cool.

That was the end of our naval excursion and the planned Cub Scout activities. Anselm and walked from Pier 45 over to the Hyde St. Pier and saw the cable car turnaround. Then we crossed the street and went to breakfast at the Buena Vista. After breakfast we walked to the cathedral. We got there in time for the sermon, but as I had not been to Confession, had missed the Gospel, and had not fasted I didn't go to Communion. Anselm fell asleep on the floor by the choir during the Litany of Fervent Supplication but I woke him in time for Communion. Basil and Athanasia drove up from San Jose. We met them on the street as we were approaching the cathedral. Anselm and I were too tired to stay for lunch so we all drove home.

Once home I took a short nap but had to show an apartment to a potential tenant. As it turns out, it was a good thing I showed the aprtment. We have had a of ov vacancies lately and actually have 3 right now. Thankfully, yesterday and today I've had enough good showings and applicants that I think all are going to be filled by the 25th of April, and the one that will be vacated on May 1 will be filled by May 4.

This morning Anselm was very tired still and didn't want to go to school. I made him go, though I hated doing it. He was crying when I said good by to him this morning. He was crying when I met him at school this afternoon. I bet he had a rough day. His mother gets weepty, too, when she is over tired.

While Anselm was at school I got some stuff done around here. About 10:30 I took Basil to the beach. It was warm enough to strip down and get in the water, and we had a lot of fun. We got back home just in time to pick Anselm up from school, and then I had to take a shower and get ready to show an apartment at 4:30. That went well and now I have a waiting list. (These are the people who want the unit that won't be vacant until May 1.)

I made noodles for the boys' dinner. Athanasia and I didn't eat dinner tonight. It was just too nuts here with tired boys, baths, qualifying applicants, phone calls to references, phone calls to the boss, and laundry. I am going to sleep well tonight.

Oh! I ordred the caviar for Saturday. Can hardley wait. Its funny, but until a few years ago I always thought caviar was salty and yucky. I didn't know that there were different preparations and that the best tasting has very little salt.

Athanasia told me she doesn't want to make the smoked trout dip for Pascha this this year. I know! I was shocked, too. But I am getting over that unpleasant reaction and am beginning to think about what we can make instead. I am leaning toward duck livers in cognac. Or, maybe, a salmon & cream cheese mouse. If we do the salmon mouse, I think, I ought to buy one of those fish shaped molds, don't you think so?

For Christmas, my brother Mark gave me a bottle of Mama Lucia Licor de Cafe he brought back from Mexico (You can't get it in America.), and I've been saving it for Pascha. It has a tequila base so I am not sure how well it would go with vodka in a Black Russian.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I just checked the Bishop Benjamin's schedule. He's at Holy Trinity all of Holy Week and Pascha! Totally excellent!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Getting Ready

Lazarus Saturday is next Saturday. For some reason I do not understand we are supposed to eat caviar on that day. I just talk to Marky's. They can deliver FedEx cold pack on Friday.

Farther Along: Saturday Soundtrack

It has been said that one test of whether or not one is a true Southerner is if the person knows what "by and by" means. I don't know if that is true or not. Maybe, it is a little bit true, but I don't think it is universally true. For example, I was born and, for the most part, raised in California by immigrants from Oklahoma and Missouri, yet I know what "by and by" means.

The reason I know is that many Sunday mornings, but more often on Sunday nights, the churches I attended sang this song. Back then, when I was just a boy, this song didn't mean much to me. And I didn't understand why so many of the old people wept when they sang it. But I am older now, and tears drop from my eyes now, too, when I sing it.

The song deals with three great mysteries: The prosperity of the wicked, and suffering of the righteous, and death.

The song has been recorded by many, including Ralph Stanley and Elvis Presley. This version by Johny Cash is my favorite.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Today and the Day Before

Today: The boys participated in a study of autism at Stanford Psych. They each were given IQ tests, interviewed, and observed. At the end of the experiment blood was drawn. The researches are looking at levels of various chemicals in the blood of autistic and normal children. Anselm Samuel and Basil Wenceslas will each get a check for their service as part of the control group. This is not Anslem's first paid work (My mother paid him $1 for sweeping her porch when he was 3 and 4 years old.) but it is Basil's. They will buy silver bullion with their earnings.

At dusk Basil and I went back into the pool/garden area (we check on it each day to make sure everything is okay) where we encountered a skunk. It ran away as we approached, and because of the small amount of light, I thought it was a cat. Only later did Athanasia ask, "Why do you smell like a skunk?" The skunk didn't spray us, obviously, but just being where it had been has left a slight noxious odor on us.

The day before: A girl in Anselm Samuel's class directed a solitary middle finger at another girl in the class. The offending girl was sent to the Principal's office. No explanation of the sign was given to the class. None of the other kids knew what it meant. After school, on the walk up Lincoln Avenue to our house, told me what happened and asked what the sign meant.

I said, "Can you think of any powerful signs?"

He said, "The Cross is a powerful sign."

"Yes it is", I answered. "But it is a good sign. The sign you saw today is an evil sign. It is like Satan. What was Satan before he became God's enemy?"

"An angel."

"Yes. He was good but became bad. The sign you saw today represents a word that became bad. The good word is love. And love is what God is. But the word was changed from love to something ugly. And that was worse than when an angel became Satan. An angel is like us, a created being. But the bad word we are talking about is an insult to the nature of God. The word says that what God is is hateful, and saying that is evil. The word is evil."

"How did someone change God's name?"

"They didn't change the name of God. God's name can't be changed. By using that word people say God's love ugly, and since God is love it is saying God is ugly. That is the main reason we do not say that word, and why I will not tell you what it is. Additionally, the word is so powerful and hurtful that it makes people attack each other. In California that word is called a fighting word, and using it or the sign is the same as challenging someone to a duel, which is also a crime in California. Think about that: Love, because it is God's nature, is so powerful that even the wicked and corrupted name for love is so dangerous that California has laws against it."

"Love is really strong! What about in other States?"

"You mean are fighting words against the law in other States?"

"Yeah, what if there is a State where it isn't against the law?"

"I don't know about fighting words but challenging people to duels is illegal in many States, and fighting duels is crime in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. But we are Californians. What other States do or do not do is not our business."

"But what is the word?"

"I won't tell you. It's better not to know. If you don't know it you can't say it."

"Can Basil and I have some frozen custard?"

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Scouts Need Your Help

Dear Reader,

The Boys Scouts of America have a program called Sea Scouts. It is a program for boys and girls that teaches all the moral and life skills the Boy Scouts are famous for, but it accomplishes the mission not on land, but at sea.

For more than half a century the Sea Scouts have used space at Maritime National Park in San Francisco. But something has happened. The Superintendent of the park has begun a push to so severely limit the Sea Scout's traditional use of the park that the Sea Scout program in San Francisco will likely not survive. You can read more about it here, where you will find a list of ways you can help.

Thank you.

Pray for me. I want to be like you.

Today we Orthodox comemorate our mother, Mary of Egypt.  When thinking about her and what she attained, and about me and what I have failed to attain I am filled with sadness. All I can think to do is say to her, "please, help me get to where you are."

The image of God is truly preserved in you, O mother, for you took up the Cross and followed Christ.
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away;
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.
Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.  (Troparion - Tone 8)