Saturday, August 29, 2009

In the Footsteps of St. John the Forerunner

On this day, the day of the beheading of St. John the Forerunner pray to pray to St. Yevgenii Rodianov, a Russian soldier beheaded by the Chechnyans in 1996. It hasn't happened yet, but the Church of Russia is in the process of declaring him a Saint.

Though the Muslims taunted him and tempted him with earthly life if he would only remove the little Cross that hung from his neck, he would not deny his faith or remove his Cross in order to save himself. He imitated St. John the Forerunner in his fervent devotion to God’s Truth, and also in the manner of his death as a faithful witness. He was 19 years old.

St. Yevgenii, well-pleased unto God, intercede before Him that our souls may be saved!

Vacation is over. Now, on with life.

Vacation was much fun. Some friends from church, my god daughters and their parents, actually, joined us for a few days of it. We returned to the place we went to in May 2007(read about that 2007 trip here and here.) when Basil Wenceslas was only one, when he didn't even talk: Russian Gulch.

We had a very excellent time. Unfortunately, the night before we left Basil had to get 20 stitches put in his leg from a bathroom accident. And then, he fell and busted open his cheek on the first day we were there.
Then, I think it was the second night, he burned his hand exceeding horribly on a red hot marshmallow skewer. But nought did his injuries reduce his enthusiasm for camping. He, Anselm, and my god daughters played hard the whole time.
They picked blackberries, climbed inside giant redwood trees, chased bunny rabbits and quail, hiked for miles,played in the pacific, explored ocean caves, blew music on kelp trumpets.

I did go to an internet cafe in Mendocino for about 5 hours one day to do homework (I am still way behind. I'll have to decide if I want to try to catch up or just move on from where the class is at now.), but other than that it was all fun all the time.

Today was the beginning of the term brunch for Anslem's new school. It isn't a traditional school as it only meets Tuesdays and Thursdays in support of home school families. Anselm will be using them for History/Geography and Science enrichment. As it turns out, one of the teachers at the school is Orthodox and attends the parish we are visiting tomorrow.

Yes, we are still searching for a parish. Tomorrow we visit St. Basil the Great Church in San Jose. It is in a part of San Jose I've never been in, so I am curious on two counts; what is the parish like (the teacher told me it is "very ethnic" which is something I like) and the lay of the neighborhood by the old mercury mines (I think they've been shut down since the gold rush ended).

The apartment complex is still here and needs constant attention. I've already had to change locks, replace a shower curtain rod, clean the laundry room, and deal with a tenant emergency. As I said, on with life.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Soundtrack: Fret Not sings I'll Fly Away

This song was sung often in the churches of my childhood. There is probably a sociology paper in here, but I don't have that much time. I think it is interesting how the music of American evangelical protestants, especially the pentecostals/charismatics has changed over the years. This song was only written in 1931 but is now considered old, as can be seen by the dress of the musicians. The songs of that era, such as Farther Along, In the Sweet Bye and Bye, and this one spoke of suffering in this life and attaining rest after death. Those are not the kinds of songs one is likely to hear in the materially prosperous churches of the grandchildren of those Depression-era American Christians. Ifthey are sung it is usually for nostalgia's sake. (For the record, I am not opposed to nostalgia.) Unlike today, death and suffering were everywhere. Small pox and the flu killed enormous numbers of people every year. Rickets and tetany were plagues. Penury was one untimely hail storm, or one anthrax outbreak away for most of the country. Most families had lost at least one child. Suffering was real and it was hard. That suffering was reflected in the church music of the time.

Fret Not, a local Bay Area band specializes in the Christian music that was written during the 1st third of the 20th century, and they dress the part. Here is Fret Not singing I'll Fly Away, a song often sung in the little pentecostal churches in which I grew up.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I have my Dad's tackle box. Well, I have his first tackle box. When we moved to Florida in 1981 he bought a great big plastic tackle box with six fold-out shelves. But the one I have is the one he had and used from 1936, when he was nine years old, until he bought the big plastic one in Florida. It's little, and made of steel. It only has one fold out shelf but that's enough for me. I don't know what color it was originally, but sometime in the 1950s or 1960s my brother, Ken painted it silver.

My Dad's Dad was a lead and zinc miner around their town (I've mentioned this before.), and he loved to fish. He and my dad would sit up all night long and fish during the summers. Well, when my Dad was 9, his Dad took him down to the hardware store in their little town of Commerce and bought him this tackle box I have.

When my Dad gave me the tackle box back in 2003, or maybe 2004 it was all rusty, so I painted it with silver Rustoleum, to match the color it had been during my childhood. A couple of days later I was over at his apartment in the assisted living community, and I told him I painted it and he began to talk about his Dad. And he started crying. His talking about his Dad that day, made me love someone I had never met, who had died decades before I was born. From that day, I've had it in my mind to go to Commerce and see the hardware store where he bought my Dad the tackle box. I'd like to see the place. But I looked on the map and there are no hardware stores in Commerce anymore.

While looking at the map I noticed something and remembered a story my Mom told. Route 66 though Commerce, Oklahoma is called Micky Mantle Blvd. Back in the late 1950s or early 1960s my parents were on their way to one of their denomination's biennial conventions in Joplin, Missouri. And, as the song says, the road between Joplin and L.A. was Route 66. So my parents and all the other preachers from Southern California had to drive through my Dad's hometown.

As my parents drove into town they saw the familiar sign over the road: "Commerce, Oklahoma. Home of Mickey Mantle." But this time the sign was longer. One of the other preachers had got there first added "& B.J. Karnes" to it.

I loved hearing them tell the stories of their early life together. I know from my older siblings that those years were not as rosy as my parents remembered. But I think there is a good example there, too. When I am old will I want to look back and remember hard times and sadness? What kind of old man will I be if at 70 I am bearing grudges from my 20s? I think I only want to remember the good things.

Anyway, I have a tackle box.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


A little while before my Dad died I was at his house and he said to me, "Matt, I've been thinking about cremation. What do you think of that." What I wanted to do say was "Abraham buried Sarah. Joseph was carried back to Canaan and was buried. Elisha was buried. Jesus was buried. All the early Christians were buried. The only ones that were cremated were those burned alive by the Romans." Admittedly my theology was not very sophisticated. It was simply following the example of Jesus and his saints. But all I managed to say, because I knew my Dad was trying to make a horrible decision and I was so pained by the thought of death was, "It isn't something I would do."
He said, "Okay. Thank you, Matt. I've been thinking about it." A few weeks later he asked me to find a burial plot for him. (I wasn't able to complete this task, because my Dad's health was failing fast and he wanted to see the place before we bought it. He never felt well enough to go out and look at the places I found. My brother Ken, after my Dad died is the one who found some ground for him.

Since then I've thought about burial and cremation a lot. And my opposition to it has solidified. Interestingly, this Newsweek article does a really good job of showing, what for me, is the core reason Christians ought to be buried instead of cremated. The whole article is rather long and is about much more than burial practices, but here is the relevant part:

Then there's the question of what happens when you die. Christians traditionally believe that bodies and souls are sacred, that together they comprise the "self," and that at the end of time they will be reunited in the Resurrection. You need both, in other words, and you need them forever. Hindus believe no such thing. At death, the body burns on a pyre, while the spirit—where identity resides—escapes. In reincarnation, central to Hinduism, selves come back to earth again and again in different bodies. So here is another way in which Americans are becoming more Hindu: 24 percent of Americans say they believe in reincarnation, according to a 2008 Harris poll. So agnostic are we about the ultimate fates of our bodies that we're burning them—like Hindus—after death. More than a third of Americans now choose cremation, according to the Cremation Association of North America, up from 6 percent in 1975. "I do think the more spiritual role of religion tends to deemphasize some of the more starkly literal interpretations of the Resurrection," agrees Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard. So let us all say "om."

In his little essay, Why Orthodox Christians are not Cremated, Fr. Peter Orfanakos writes...

"When we are baptized it is not only the soul which becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, but also the Body. When we receive Holy Communion, we take the real Body and Blood of Christ into our bodies. In the mysteries of Chrismation and Holy Unction it is our bodies which are anointed with Holy Chrism."

"The Church has unequivocally taught since Christ’s Crucifixion that the proper way to treat the dead is a reverent burial of the body in the context of a proper Church funeral and prayers for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. We sing hymns and psalms to escort the dead on their way and to express gratitude to God for their life and death. We wrap the body in a new shroud, symbolizing the new dress of incoruption the person is destined to receive. We pour myrrh and oil on the body as we do at baptism. We accompany this with incense and candles, showing our belief that the person has been liberated from darkness and is going to the true Light. We place the body in the grave towards the east, denoting the Resurrection to come."

Fr. Andrew describes a funeral in a small village in Carpatho-Russia...

"The sunshine is penetrating through the morning mist. The priest preaches in Rusin: ‘The departed is going to where all pious people go, to Christ and His Holy Mother and the saints. The people cross themselves and a hundred voices are raised to sing ‘Eternal Memory’. The service is finished. The lid is placed on the coffin. A son weeps, a daughter sobs. The hand-bier, on which the coffin is placed, is pushed up the village street towards the onion-domed church. We stop on the way for Gospel readings on the Resurrection. Two cars stop, for the road is blocked by the village funeral procession. At the church, the last panikhida is sung and then we make our way to the other end of the village - to the cemetery.
A stream babbles as it rushes down from the hills. A farm dog barks.
The cross and banners lead the way, as at Easter. For the funeral of every true believer is also a Paschal feast. There the last hymns are sung. As the coffin is lowered into the grave, a woman sobs uncontrollably. It will take time for her to heal. Yes, she has deep faith, like all these people. But to recover from the sorrow of death, it takes not only faith, but also time. The greater the faith, the less the time needed. The weaker the faith, the more the time needed.
A stream babbles as it rushes down from the hills. A farm dog barks.
Clods of earth drop onto the coffin. I make the sign of the cross over it.
To the servant of God Ekaterina, Vichnaya Pamyat!"

I wish I knew were I was going to be living for the rest of my mortal life. If I did, I'd buy some ground so that when Athanasia and I die the Church could bury us there. The Cross and the Icons would lead the procession, like at Pascha. I'd like it to be on the east side of a hill so we will see our Savior straight away. Cremation? No. Not for me. I'm planning on getting up again.

only 11 o' clock in the morning and already got tons done.

Taking a little break right now but so far today:

Cleaned laundry room
Breakfast for two boys
Dealt with tenant leaving trash outside front door
Added water in the pool
Morning prayers (Basil was only a little bit cooperative, even with incense. Although, he did want to hold a prayerbook for a few minutes.)
Dropped boys off at Kidspark
Replaced vandalized exterior light fixture (The police said there has been a spike in petty crime in San Jose.)
Second cup of coffee
Dealt with tenant noise complaint
Met with my boss and the owner of the property about painting and termites

I'm really happy about how this day is going. I think I'll say midday prayers now, and then work on the car a little bit, and then go to the Kelly-Moore, my favorite paint store before I go pick up the boys.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The last two days were dominated by plumbing problems and other tenant issues andalso no small amount of school work. Totally missed all the Dormition services. But today, Athanasia stayed home to deal with the plumber so I could go to the liturgy at St. Stephen's. We got there a few mintes after 9 thinking we were in time for Orthros and were confused that Orthros was almost over. Then we saw the baptismal candles and understood. The time had been adjusted so a Baptism and Chrismation could occur between Orthros and the Divine Liturgy. There were two people born again today. Many years to newly illumined Damian and Zacchaeus!

It's been too long since we have been to Confession, and because of that we couldn't eat the Body and Blood of Jesus, so we left at the dismissal of the catechumens. After church we stopped at Whole Foods and bought bacon. I'm very excited. Athanasia is cooking it right now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tipi Tipi Tay: A Saturday Soundtrack Post

I have no idea where or when I first heard this song, but I remember singing it as I played in the backyard of the house I lived in when I was 6. I've always loved Dean Martin. May Dad used to watch his comedy roast shows on the teevee but if I ever said anything good about Dean Martin my dad would say, "he's a drunk". Actually, and I only learned this in the last couple of years, when he was drinking on stage or in front of a camera it was apple juice in his glass. And when Franky, Joey, and Sammy would stay up all night in the casinos Dean would go up to his hotel room to spend the night with his wife. That's right, it was all just an act.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What I learned in Historiography today.

Here is an interesting fact. Xenophon was the inspiration behind one of the most important movies (along with "Fort Apache the Bronx" and "Escape from New York") about New York made in the dark pre-Giuliani days of the 1970s-1980s!

Xenophon wrote two major historical works called Hellenica (or Greek affairs) and Anabasis (the long march up country). The Anabasis is about his long march with Greek mercenary soldiers through Persia around 400 B.C. But the totally cool thing about it is that it was used by New York author Sol Yurick as the main theme of the story that was made into the 1979 film "The Warriors".


Today is Leavetaking of the Feast of the Transfiguration, which has been going on for a few days.

Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever;
-Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God; showing to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure. Shine forth Thou on us, who are sinners all, Thy light ever-unending; through the prayers of the Theotokos; Light-bestower, glory be to Thee.

In a few more days it will be the Feast of the Dormition, the last feast of the liturgical year, and the feast that shows us what is in store for all of us if we persevere to the end. One amazing thing that will happen on that day is that snakes will go to church on Kephalonia. I don't think there has ever been an official explanation for this phenomenon, but it seems to me that the obvious explanation is that the snakes are paying homage to the new Eve, perhaps asking for forgiveness on behalf of their ancestor.

Metor, Swimming Pool, Homework, Vegetables

It is about 2 a.m. and all I can say is What a Day! Read books about Abraham Lincoln and Dinosaurs to the boys. They watched Mary Poppins on iTunes while I read Historiography, They swam in the pool for a few hours while I read Fischer, who slammed my favorite modern historian in the first chapter. Talked with a tenant about a problem. Received some faxes. Sent some emails. Talked with the gardener about over watering. Oh yeah, I fit three meals in there, too. Then more reading to the boys. Then we watched a movie about Homer for my school. Then we drove out into the country to watch the Persiod Meteor shower. It was beautiful. I had never seen it before. Saw the moonrise over the mountains. Saw the Milky Way, which I rarely get to see because of light pollution where I live.

I think regular readers of this site know Athanasia runs a pick up site for Two Small Farms. Because her site has so many customers we get all the organic locally-grown vegetables we can eat for free. Sometimes people don't pick up their veggies and we give them to family and/or friends. Tonight, I tried to give four boxes to my nephew's family. But I learned that they don't eat vegetables. I was only able to press a few heirloom tomatoes onto them. Because it was after 10 (we were on our way out of town to watch the meteors) I didn't think I should try to drop them off at another's house. So, now I have potatoes, strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, onions, cabagges, beets, a collection of the worlds largest cauliflower (one could be the main course of a dinner for 4), cherry tomatoes, and two kinds of lettuce all over my kitchen and dining room. It's really kind of neat to look at. Its like I live on a farm and just brought inthe crops.

I fed some lettuce and beet greens to the chinchilla. Until tonight all he has ever tasted was "chinchilla food" which is a mixture of seeds, timothy hay, and raisins (only two or three each day). He went TOTALLY BONKERS for the beet greens. Then, when he tasted the lettuce he jumped all over the cage and sat up on his hind legs to beg for more. So, even if my nephew's family doesn't eat vegetables, I know someone who does.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Giving Alms

We Orthodox are expected to give alms, especially during the fasting periods. But there is danger in doing it. Jesus warned us not to give like the Pharisees give, that is give secretly. Don't even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. And don't feel proud about how much you are giving. So here is some practical advice on how to give alms:

1. Follow the example of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and give your alms secretly and and night. Let no one see you, least of all the recipient of the gift.
2. Pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and hide me. Let no one see me."
3. Pray, "Son of God, forgive me for not giving more, for you have given me your very life. Save me from pride for my alms are are nothing compared to what I have received from you."

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Biblical Studies Carnival

Biblical Studies Carnival at: Dr.Jim West

Contains this little slam of NT Wright, which I can't tell if it is serious or tongue-in-cheek,as Strauss denied every bit of truth in the Bible, while Wright is middle of the road EvProt.:

"No reckoning of the house of mirrors can take place without reference to the work of NT Wright, because no one can so famously distort both the message of the New Testament and the history of the early Church and its theology as he (unless you count David Friendrich Strauss)".

Home Schooling

In California, if you want to homeschool your children you have 3 choices:

1) Ignore the law and do what you want
2) Found your own charter school and maintain all the state required records.
3) Join a PSP (Private-school Satellite Program) and pay them to maintain the state required records.

We are trying to find a PSP. But they all require either 2 days attendance in enrichment classes and/or that we sign a statement of faith that we, being Orthodox Christians cannot sign. Some of them are very expensive. And they all act like we should be honored to be their customer. I don't like that attitude in restaurants, I certainly don't like it in record keepers.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

School Update

I just finished my first week of school, and, so far, I am really enjoying my classes at AMU. Among my classmates are a USMC artillery major who is training the Afghani 7th division's artillery, an army captain who is currently fighting in Iraq, a Lt. Col. in the Army Corps of Engineers who is in charge of a long stretch of the Mississippi River, an accountant for a Congressional committee, a chemistry professor who "knows nothing about history but should", a woman who works "in the intelligence area", and the head trainer of space shuttle crews. There are also many high school history teachers in my classes. It seems that some states pay their teachers more if they hold advanced degrees.

I had to drop one class, Seminar in World History. It was just too much work, requiring two 40 page (not counting bibliography and title page) pieces of publication-ready original research. So, I dropped that one. I still have Historiography (which is much fun class) and Historical Research Methods. That is enough for now.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday Soundtrack: A Little Bit of Soap

I first heard this song when I was 6 or 7 years old. It meant nothing to me but when I was a few years older I heard it and cried. This song really only holds meaning for those who feel the sting of eros' lash most keenly: Teens. Thankfully, age dampens, at least a little bit, those sufferings.

A Little Bit of Soap was the only hit the Jarmels had, reaching #12 in the United States in 1961.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Monday I said to Athanasia,"Sometimes I look at people around us who are just living life and I wish I could be like them." What I meant is that from the time I was a teenager I've had various plans for the future and have tried (and usually failed, but that is a different matter) to execute those plans. For example, today's plan is to get the MA in history while Athanasia gets the MS in disaster management then get jobs at some little college outside of the bay area (I'm thinking something like College of the Ozarks, Grove City, or St John's) where I will teach part-time and manage rental housing and Athanasia will work in student housing or disaster preparedness. But in the meantime, there is life to be lived now. Kids need to be fed, clothed, and educated. And there is the liturgical life of the Church which is often neglected. I mean, this is Tuesday evening (which to Jews and Orthodox Christians is really Wednesday), the time I should chant the Akathist to the Theotokos, but I had a full day of kids and work and still have a 100 pages of reading and a short assignment for for school to write. I'm not really complaining, I just, sometimes, wonder if life would be better if I tried to do less? I look at people I know who are free to do so much useful stuff, like volunteer at Raphael House, or with the IOCC, or who are able to move to new mission fields and help pioneer new parishes. It seems I spend all my time in preparation, living in the future. Mainly, I am tired. I don't get enough sleep. It might be the case, if I got more than 5 hours sleep each night I'd feel better about the path I am on. Well, I don't have time to do the whole akathist. I'll do one of the shorter prayers. Then I'll do the reading and the short assignment. But I am happy to finally be in grad school. I never thought of my undergraduate studies as being anything other than an obstacle between me grad school. So, I'm happy I'm finally doing it. The work is fun but I am not sure that it isn't vanity.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets yesterday afternoon. It remindedme of somethingI read at Biblicalia:

The Righteous Phoenix

“And she also gave to her husband” (Gen 3.6). The word “also” is a word that suggests she also gave the fruit to others to eat, to cattle, beasts, and birds. All obeyed her, except for a certain bird named hol (phoenix), of which it is said, “I shall die with my nest, yet I shall multiply my days as the hol” (Job 29.18). The school of R. Yannai maintained: The hol lives a thousand years. At the end of a thousand years, a fire issues from its nest and burns it up, yet of the bird a piece the size of an egg is left; it grows new limbs and lives again.

“After their kinds they went forth from the ark” (Gen 8.19). Eliezer (Abraham’s servant) asked Shem, Noah’s oldest son: How did you manage to take care of the many kinds of animals? Shem replied: The truth is, we had much trouble in the ark. The creature whose habit it was to eat by day, we fed by day; the one who ate by night, we fed by night. As for the chameleon, my father did not know what it ate. One day, as my father was sitting and cutting a pomegranate, a worm fell out of it and the chameleon consumed it. After that, he would knead some prickly reeds infested with worms and feed it with them. As for the phoenix, my father found him sleeping in a corner of the ark and asked him: Why did you not request food? He replied: I saw you were busy, and I said to myself that I should not trouble you. Noah replied: Since you were concerned about my trouble, may it be the Lord’s will that you never die. Hence it is said, “I shall multiply my days as the phoenix” (Job 29.18)

from The Book of Legends, William Braude’s very enjoyable translation of Hayim Bialik and Yehoshua Ravnitsky’s Sefer ha-Aggadah, pp. 20 (from Genesis Rabbah 19:3), 28 (from b Sanhedrin 108b).

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Last night, today, doubts about the plan of action

Yesterday, July 31 was the day the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Joseph of Arimethea. (It is also the day, in 1929 that my mother was born. Oh, how I miss her. I can hardly stand taking my boys to the park anymore because it used to be that every time I went to the park with them I would call my mom and we would talk.) So we went to a Name Day party for one of my God Daughters. It was much fun. We didn't get home till late last night.

So far today I haven't done much. Went to the farmers market with the boys. I only bought cauliflower. While there I talked to a native plant dealer. Right now the townhouses I manage are panted with the typical-for-commercial-developments-non-native flowers that have to be replaced every 3 months. It looks sterile. I would much rather have native plants growing wild all over the property. My boss likes the manicured look. So, I talked to this grower and she was able to suggest some compromise plants. I'll gather pictures, makesome drawings and propose it to my boss before next spring. It would be nice to have the right plants to make our townhouses into a butterfly habitat.

Leaving now to go to Home Depot. I have to buy a toilet for one of the apartments I manage. I'll install it this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon.