Monday, November 30, 2009

St. Andrew's Day

Among the many saints commemorated during Advent is St. Andrew. He beckons us with the words, "We have found the Messiah" And we follow him to Christmas. There are on this day some unusual things that happen. First, we also get to eat fish. Some parishes, including mine, bless tartans on St. Andrew's day. I guess it's because he is the protector and intercessor for Scotland. I think we should consider blessing golf clubs and wingtip shoes, too, on this day.

According Eusebius, Origin said St. Andrew preached in Asia, Scythia, around the Black Sea, and as far up the Volga River as Kiev. He established the Church in Byzantium and installed Staychus there as the first bishop of that little city. Today that bishopric is the Patriarchate of Constantinople. St. Andrew was crucified.

A hymn of praise by St. Nicolai Velimirovic

St. Andrew by the Spirit enlightened,
And the First-called Apostle of Christ,
Proclaimed the Lord day after day,
And baptized people with the Cross.
Like a gardener in his own garden,
Through village and town he walked,
And skillfully grafted wild trees,
Watering them with Living Water,
Until he came to the end of his days,
And saw the Cross awaiting him.
Joyful andrew said to the Cross:
"Greetings,O Cross! God sanctified thee,
Christ Sanctified thee with His body.
O Cross, be though my resting place.
From the dust of the earth, take me;
To God the highest, raise me up,
And let Christ take me from the-
The very Christ Who, because of me was crucified on thee."
Disciple of the holy Baptist,
and apostle of Christ the Savior
O Andrew, first-called star,
By your prayers, help us.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sometimes Holy Martyrs Leave Widows

On Thursday, November 19, 2009 35 year old Fr Daniel Sisoev, a very active and straightforward missionary priest in Moscow, defeated the ancient enemy when he was gunned down by a masked gunman inside the St. Thomas Church. Below is a statement his wife issued. Still with us on earth are Fr. Daniel's widow and three daughters.

Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco is taking up a collection for the family of God's newest Saint.

If you would like to help out, please send a check (payable to Holy Virgin Cathedral and earmarked: FOR FR DANIEL's FAMILY) to this address:

Rev. Peter Perekrestov
475 26th Avenue, #2
San Francisco, CA 94121

A letter from the Martyr's widow, Matushka Julia Sysoieva follows:

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for your support and prayers. This is the pain which cannot be expressed in words. This is the pain experienced by those who stood at the Cross of the Saviour. This is the joy which cannot be expressed in words, this is the joy experienced by those who came to the empty Tomb.

O death, where is thy sting?

Fr Daniel had already foreseen his death several years before it happened. He had always wanted to be worthy of a martyr's crown. Those who shot him wanted, as usual, to spit in the face of the Church, as once before they spat in the face of Christ. They have not achieved their goal, because it is impossible to spit in the face of the Church. Fr Daniel went up to his Golgotha in the very church which he had built, the church to which he gave up all his time and all his strength. They killed him like the prophet of old 'between the temple and the altar' and he was indeed found worthy of a martyr's calling. He died for Christ, Whom he served with all his strength.

Very often he would say to me that he was frightened of not having enough time, time to do everything. He was in a hurry. Sometimes, as a human-being he exaggerated, he got things wrong, he tripped up and made mistakes, but he made no mistake about the main thing, his life was entirely dedicated to HIM.

I did not understand why he was in a hurry. The last three years he was busy serving, never taking days off or taking holidays. I moaned, just now and again I wanted simple happiness, that my husband and my children's father would be with my children and me. But another path had been prepared for him.

He used to say that they would kill him. I would ask him who would look after us. Me and the three children. He would answer that he would put us in safe hands. I'll give you to the Mother of God. She'll take care of you'.

These words were forgotten too soon. He told us which vestments to bury him in. Then I joked that there was no need to speak about that, we still did not know who would bury who. He said that I would bury him. Once our conversation turned to funerals, I don't remember the details but I did say that I had never been to a priest's funeral. And he answered that it did not matter because I would be at his funeral.

Now I remember many words which have gained a meaning. Now my doubts have dissolved, the misunderstandings have gone.

We did not say goodbye in this life, we did not ask each other forgiveness, we did not embrace one another. It was just another day: in the morning he went to the liturgy and I did not see him again. Why didn't I go to the church that day to meet him? I had thought of it, but I decided I had better get the evening meal ready and put the children to bed. It was because of the children that I did not go there. There was a hand that did not let me go.

But the evening before I had gone to the church and met him. I had felt as if dark clouds were gathering over us. And in the last few days I had tried to spend more time with him. Over the last week I had thought only about death and about life after death. I couldn't get my head around either the first or the second. That day my head was spinning with the words: 'Death is standing right behind you'. The last week everything was so hard, as if a huge load had been emptied out on top of me. I am not broken. He is supporting me, I feel as if he is standing by me. Then we said so many affectionate words, which we had never said to each other in our whole life before. Only now do I understand how much we loved each other.

The memorial service for the forty days of Fr Daniel takes place on the eve of his namesday and the patronal feast of the future church, 29 December, and 30 December is the feast of the holy prophet Daniel. According to the prophecy of an elder, the church would be built but Fr Daniel would not serve in it. The second part of the prophecy has already been fulfilled.

Matushka Julia Sysoieva

/Translated by Fr. Andrew Phillips/

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vegetable Soup

This recipe isn't as useful during Lent or Dormition Fast since almost all of the days of those fasts are oil-free, but this is a handy recipe for Advent, when there are many oil days.

4 tablesspoons olive oil
3 chopped leeks
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 baby bear pumpkin, peeled and chopped to bite-size
4 Chantenay carrots, sliced to 1/8" to 1/14"
1 small/medium jicama, diced
2 russet potatoes, diced
kosher salt
2 quarts vegetable broth
black pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in soup pot. When hot add garlic and leeks and a picnch of salt. Cook till they start to sweat. Add all other solid ingredients, stir constantly for 5 minutes. Add all vegetable stock, put heat to high, bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Add salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes. Pepper to taste.

St. Catherine's Day

One of the days of Orthodox Advent is St Catherine's Day. (You can read about her here.)
Though her feast day is not one of the Great Feasts it is of major importance and she is celebrated around the world. She is of special importance to women, who sometimes have parties where they pledge to study rhetoric and elocution during the coming year. Athanasia says as soon as we are both through with school and we have a larger house (ha ha ha) she is going to have such a party. Lamb's Wool is the traditional beverage.

Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lamb's wool
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make a wassail a swinger
-Robert Herrick

I have an authentic medieval English recipe for lambswool butit contains cream and is, therefore, not suitable for Orthodox to drink during Advent. But here is a modern recipe by a somewhat famous bartender by the name of Nick Strangeway which is fast friendly.

1 bottle of Hix IPA or light ale or bitter

For the sugar syrup

200g granulated sugar
200ml water
4 allspice berries
The peelings from the grated root ginger, below
8 cloves
2cm of a cinnamon stick

For the apple purée

500g bramley apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
A good pinch of grated nutmeg
tbsp finely grated root ginger
120g Demerara sugar

First, make the sugar syrup. Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes; remove from the heat and cool. Then place all the ingredients for the apple purée in a thick-bottomed saucepan and cook on a low heat with a lid on for 6-7 minutes, stirring every so often until the apples have disintegrated. Remove from the heat; blend in a food processor until smooth.

To serve, strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve, gently heat the beer and whisk in the syrup and apple purée to taste; serve in a pewter or silver tankard.

Serve 4 small cups

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Church and Bowling

This morning we went to St. Nicholas Church in Saratoga. I am astounded by how much Fr. Basil can pack into a five minute homily. The Gospel for this day seemed especially appropriate as we approach the holiday shopping season: The rich man who tore down his barns to build bigger barns. Reminds me that I need to decide where to send my little bit of alms. Sometimes I wish I was very rich so I could give away more money. Then I remember that, compared to most people who have ever lived and are living now, I am very rich. And then I beg for mercy. Will my three coats and a sweater testify against me on the day of judgment?

Tonight, Athanasia, Anselm Samuel, Basil Wenceslas, and I went bowling to help Anselm earn his Cub Scout Bowling Belt Loop. Anselm's first roll of the ball resulted in a strike. In fact, he won the game! I came in 2nd, Basil 3rd, Athanasia, who was afraid of sliding down the lane (you know they oil them) came in last. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

A friend of mine was appalled one time when I declined to attend his Christmas party because it was happening during Advent. He just could not understand why I wanted to keep Advent, which to him was meaningless and dreary. I was new to Orthodoxy and wasn't really able to explain. If he ever asks again, I'll give him answer that includes a lot of what is below.

During the fasts of the Church year are the placement of some of the Great Feasts. Its nice since it lets us escape rice and beans for a day and have fish (No meat or dairy though). The Great Feast that happens during Advent is The Entrance (or Presentation) of the Theotokos into the Temple on November 21. Thus this Feast is part of Advent.

This feast is not one of the earliest feasts of the Church, however, there is evidence that it was being celebrated in the 4th Century. We can learn a lot about the feast from the Icon. (There is an Icon for each of the Great Feasts) The major figures in this Icon are Mary “the first and only woman to enter the Holy of Holies(1) ”, her parents Ss. Joachim and Anna, and her kinsman the priest St. Zacharias. Like all of the Feasts and their Icons, this Feast and Icon are not just commemorations of historical(2) events. This Feast is instruction in the way of holiness. In the Icon we see the role of parents and the Church in the formation of young souls. Mary did not enter the Temple alone(3), but was with her family and the priest. The point of this is that sanctification occurs in the natural community of the family and in the spiritual community of the church. We also see that the way to sanctification is gradual. There are fifteen steps. There are three chambers. The point of this is that sanctification does not happen alone and it doesn't happen in an instant. We must progress from the courtyard (active life) to the Holy (natural contemplation), then from the Holy to the Holy of Holies (the spiritual life).

There are three Old Testament readings during the Vigil (on the night of Nov. 20) for this Feast which climax with a revelation of the Theotokos as the Temple of God:

A. Exodus 40:1-5, 9-10, 16, 34-35 which refer to the outfitting of the Tabernacle
B. I Kings 7:51; 8:1, 3-7, 9-11 which refers to the dedication of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem
C. Ezekiel 43:27-44:4, which talks about the temple gate but has traditionally been interpreted by Christians as a prophecy of Mary's virginity.

So why all of this? Because, in some way I do not understand unless it is that all three are the dwelling place of God it is that the Temple, the Church, Mary are all thrown together into the same bag. They all explain each each other and reveal something very important about God and salvation.

The two main hymns make this connection more clear:

Today Anna bequeaths joy to all instead of sorrow by bringing forth her fruit, the only ever-Virgin.
In fulfillment of her vow,
today with joy she brings to the temple of the Lord
the true temple and pure Mother of God the Word. (Troparion, 4th Tone)

Today the universe is filled with joy
at the glorious feast of the Mother of God, and cries out:
"She is the heavenly heavenly tabernacle." (Kontokian, 4th Tone)

Later, during the Divine Liturgy (on the morning of Nov. 21) for the Feast we will hear the the first few verses of the 9th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews read:

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and [for] the errors of the people.

What is going on here? We see light, and sacrifice, bread, and a veil, God's provision for his hungry people, his Law, life coming from lifelessness, angels guarding the mercyseat, which is God's throne. And the picture is becoming more clear.

Then, all of a sudden, so we don't get carried away and step over the line like the Jews of old who seemed to worship the temple and not God who lived in the Temple (Jer. 7:1-7), the Deacon proclaims the Gospel:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed [is] the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed [are] they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (Luke 11:27-28)

And here we see that it isn't just the Tabernacle, or the Temple, or Mary, where God dwells. Rather, everyone who lays aside the cares of this world and hears and keeps the Words of Jesus is blessed. The hearers/keepers are the dwelling place of God. They are the Temple. And though the book is never read liturgically in the Orthodox Church, we see this explicitly in Revelation 21, where the Church is called the New Jerusalem and God dwells with human beings for ever.

You can read much more about this feast, including a a sermon by St. Gregory Palamas here.

So, this is part of what Advent is about. How can I not love it?

(1) Quenot, Michael, The Icon: Window on the Kingdom (Crestwood. New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996), Page 51
(2) Two famous and very influential American priests, Fr. Thomas Hopko and Blessed Seraphim (Rose) are in disagreement concerning the historicity of this event. Nevertheless, they both see the feast as a very important revelation concerning the attainment of holiness.
(3) My pastor and friend Archpriest Victor Sokolov used to say "the only thing a person does alone is go to Hell."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Basil's Prayer

Basil Wenceslas and Anselm Samuel are playing checkers. Suddenly Basil jumped up, ran to the Icon corner, crossed himself and said,

"Jesus, protect me. Protect my Mom and Dad and all the people who protect me, and all the people you love, and all the things you made. You protect because you are good. Amen."

He has now returned to the checkers game.

Pickled Peppers

Anselm Samuel and I made this today.
My fingers, mouth, and nose are on fire.
I didn't let Anselm touch the peppers. He's doing okay.

2 qts. Jalapeno peppers
2 cup white vinegar
2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pickling salt
4 cloves garlic

Slice peppers or leave them whole. (To prevent bursting, cut two small slits in whole peppers.) Pack peppers tightly into clean, hot jars.

Combine vinegar and water; heat to a simmer. Do not boil. Pour hot vinegar over peppers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add pickling salt and and a clove of garlic to each jar then seal.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

My New FavoriteWebsite

That's My Home has recipes for everything! Anselm Samuel and I are making Christmas presents.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My mother never made fruitcake. Instead she made fruitcake cookies. They were amazing good. I wish I had the recipe but I don't. So, I thought to myself, why not make an actual fruitcake? I know. I know. Fruitcakes have been ridiculed and feared for over a century. But I want to try it. So, I'm reviewing recipes and, I hope, shall have something good to report back here during the 12 days.

Why do we fast when everyone else is having fun?

Fr. John Matusiak answered:

We fast before the Great Feast of the Nativity in order to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Our Lord's birth. As in the case of Great Lent, the Nativity Fast is one of preparation, during which we focus on the coming of the Savior by fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

By fasting, we "shift our focus" from ourselves to others, spending less time worrying about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and so on in order to use our time in increased prayer and caring for the poor. We learn through fasting that we can gain control over things which we sometimes allow to control us -- and for many people, food is a controlling factor. [We live in the only society in which an entire TV network is devoted to food!] While fasting from food, however, we are also challenged to fast from sin, from gossip, from jealousy, from anger, and from those other things which, while well within our control, we all too often allow to control us.

Just as we would refrain from eating a lot before going to an expensive restaurant for dinner -- if we "ruin our appetite" we will enjoy the restaurant less -- so too we fast before the Nativity in order to more fully feast and celebrate on the Nativity itself.

During the Nativity Fast, we are called upon to refrain from meat, dairy, fish, wine, and olive oil. At the same time, we are challenged, within this framework, to fast to the best of our ability, and to do so consistently. If we must modify the extent to which we fast within this framework, it is of course possible, but in every instance our fasting should be consistent and regular, for Christ does not see fasting as an option, but as a "must." In Matthew Christ says, "WHEN you fast, do not be like the hypocrites," not "IF you fast" or "IF YOU CHOOSE to fast."

Can't get this out of a can.

A friend's wife sent me this recipe. I'll be trying it out during Christmas.

Matt here's one. It's just a soup, but it is different than what most AMericans eat. It is with pears, beans and bacon (or you could substitute prosciutto). You can also add potatoes. Could the beans in some water, add some broth, the bacon, add some potaotes. Make sure it is all cokked, and toward the end, add in some cut up pears. We have this probably once every 3 months or so. Karin says this is from northern Germany.

Maybe Soon She Will Be Glorified

Mother Olga (I had never heard of her until a few minutes ago) of Alaska was a midwife who is being considered for Glorification (that's what we call it when the orthodox Church recognizes a new Saint). You can read about her here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Advent Thus Far

We don't start off with a lot of big hoopla. Taking our cue from the liturgical practice of the Church, we ease into Advent which is variously called Nativity Fast, Winter Lent, St. Philip's Fast, or Nativity Lent.

This particular day, the second day of Advent, is the Feast of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, who is my heavenly patron and intercessor. We celebrated by his feast by eating salmon and singing the Troparion and Kontakion of the feast. Around the table I lead the boys in a discussion of St. Matthew's life. (Anselm Samuel was surprised Jesus chose such a wicked man to be one of his Apostles.)

I asked Anselm to tell me what happened in the Garden of Eden. He told us about Adam and Eve getting kicked out and why, but he didn't remember what God said to the serpent. So we opened the Bible to Genesis 3:14-15

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

We talked about what this meant, how it was a promise that Mary would have a baby and that baby would defeat Satan. We talked about how for thousands of years people waited for that promise to be kept. And we talked about how Advent is a time when we remember all those people who waited, and how God loved us even when we were His enemies, and how He promised to heal our souls, and how with these few words God set in motion a plan to save us. And that is what Advent is about, waiting and watching as the plan is unfolded before our eyes.

An Advent Hmyn

Composed in Latin by St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397).
Translated into English by J.M. Neal in 1862.

Come, Thou Redemer of the Earth

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin birth:
let every age adoring fall;
such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
but of the Spirit, thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
with virgin honor all unstained;
the banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
that royal home of purity,
a giant in twofold substance one,
rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
to God the Father back he speeds;
his course he runs to death and hell,
returning on God's throne to dwell.

O equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light,
where endless faith shall shine serene,
and twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be,
all praise, eternal Son, to thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God the Holy Paraclete.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I just came accross this on another blog.

I just read what follows at Mystagogy.

In a village of Romania there was no priest and the residents often went to the Patriarch with the problem in order to fill the empty spot. However the Patriarch did not have the means of satisfying the demand. The villagers often went to the Patriarch, but he would say the same thing, that he did not have a priest to send to the village.

Meanwhile people died unread (no funeral service), others had relationships and children without marriage vows, and the children and adults alike were unbaptized.

Then one day, outside of the church, a car stopped and out stepped a priest. The village was astonished and yelled out that a priest had come.

The villagers went to the church to greet him and asked him, "How did you come to the village after our Patriarch had said that he doesn't have a priest to send us?"

The priest answered, "Isn't this what you wanted? Did you not want a priest? Here I am."

All the villagers were glad in the presence of the new priest.

The priest began immediately working. He went to all the graves and read the funeral service. He baptized and married everyone in the village and administered Holy Communion.

One day he invited all the villagers to church and told them, "I will leave now, my mission is done."

The villagers were confused and asked, "Now that you came, you are leaving?"

However the priest did not listen to the villagers and proceeded with his decision.

When the villagers realized that their wasn't anything they could do, they thanked him for his offering.

After a few days, the villagers went to the Patriarch and they thanked him for sending them a priest and to let him know that they would appreciate it if he could send them another priest soon, but the Patriarch didn't know anything.

He said to them, "I didn't send a priest because I don't have one, however let me check with the chancellor to see if he had sent a priest to you to serve your needs."

He phoned the chancellor, but he too didn't send anyone.

The Patriarch inquired, "What did this priest do in your parish?"

The villagers answered, "He married us, baptized us, performed funerals for our parents, he did what any other priest would have performed for us."

Then the Patriarch asked, "Well, didn't he gave you any papers or log the Mysteries.

"Of course," said the villagers, "he gave us papers and he wrote them in the church's books."

"Then did anyone see what he wrote? And with what name he signed?"

"All the documents were written in Romanian and we are not well educated and the signature he signed in a language we have not seen before."

The Patriarch requested they go bring the books in order to see who was this clergyman.

When they returned with the book the Patriarch remained speechless. He couldn't believe his eyes.

Indeed all the documents were written in Romanian while his name was written in Greek with the name of his signature,

Nektarios, Bishop of Pentapolis

Feast of St. Matthew

Today, 15 November is the first day of the Nativity Fast, which is often called Advent. It is a fast during which the Orthodox prepare for the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus.

Beginning at sundown today (or the start of Vespers if you were able to get to the service tonight) today and running until Sundown (or the start of Vespers on the 16th) is the Feast of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, my heavenly patron and intercessor. In honor of the day, tonight at supper my wife gave me an Icon of the Synaxis of the Saints who have Shown Forth in America. Depicted in the Icon are all of the American Saints standing together, around the edge of the Icon are smaller Icons depicting partsof the Saint's lives. It is very beautiful and has been placed in the Icon Corner.

Anselm Samuel had a fever of 100 so he stayed home with Athanasia, but Basil and I went for a walk after supper. Every day when the sunsetshe says,"Can we go fora night time walk?" He loves them. I don't know why. So most nights, as we did tonight, we go for a walk through our neighborhood in the dark.

Everyone is in bed now but me. It cold out. I think I'll mull some cider and finish this paper I am writing for school.

Catholic match doesn't know what a Catholic church interior looks like?

I clicked on Drudge Report a couple of seconds ago and saw this ad at the top of the page. It is for a Roman Catholic match making company. But look at the picture. Does this look like any Catholic church you've been in? I suppose it could be eastern rite Roman Catholic, but it doesn't even look like those interiors, which, according to my extremely limited knowledge, have a kind of modernist sensibility to them. I zoomed in on the two crosses on the right side to get a good look at the angle of the bottom cross-bar but I can't make it out: One looks diagonaland the other looks horizontal. So, does any one know if this is this picture is the interior of Orthodox or Catholic building?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Grapevine: Saturday Soundtrack

Everyone knows Marvin Gaye is most closely associated with this song but this older version by Gladys Knight and the Pipps is so much better. And here is a confession, when I was a kid I used to pretend I was a Pip. I do the steps, the spins, and the "ooo ooos". I still think being a Pip would be really cool. Just imagine the business card.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Sermon, Cranberrry Bread, and Getting Ready for Christmas

Today Anselm Samuel paid attention to the sermon. I think it might have been the first time ever. In addition to being the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost this morning was also the Synaxis of the the Archangel Michael and the other bodiless powers. So, instead of just the Sunday Gospel reading we also had a Gospel for the Synaxis, which in the wisdom of the Church Fathers who arranged the lectionary, has nothing to do with any of the Archangels, unless, as the priest pointed out, you know the back-story. The sermon was over in 5 minutes but explained who the 70 were and what their job was, explained the rebuke Jesus gave to the 70 (it was very funny), and told the story of Lucifer's rebellion, the war in Heaven, and the casting down of Satan by Holy Michael. When the sermon was over and the priest was walking back to the Altar Anselm said, "That was good. That was the best sermon ever." It was pretty good.

Sadly, I am not well, and could not stay any longer. I have been drinking large amounts (even for me) of coffee doing without much sleep for days in order to get all my school assignments completed. Lately I've been shaking, experiencing stomach problems, and once even hallucinated. It was a very strange thing. Anselm, Basil, Athanasia, and I were all sitting in the living room and I saw another boy just stroll through the room. It was startling, but I saw right away he wasn't really there. Anyway, when after the sermon I fell asleep standing during the liturgy. Realizing I was about to become a huge distraction(Headline: Church burns as man falls asleep and spills oil lamps), Anslem and I left (Basil is sick - puke,sniff,cough,puke,sniff,cough- and Athanasia stayed home with him.) just as the clergy were getting ready for the Great Entrance. The drive home was pretty scary, but we made it and I crashed for 3 hours.

I really like this priest. I hope I am not breaking any kind of rules about the silence surrounding confession, but just before he prayed the prayer of absolution he me some spiritual advice, which essentially was "Satan sets traps, you see them and avoid them by prayer. You aren't praying enough." Another thing I like about him is that before he became Orthodox he was Pentecostal, like me. He was one of the Jesus People in the early 1970s.


I read "Cranberry Thanksgiving" to the boys tonight. They enjoyed it, and like I did when my mother read it to me, asked me to make cranberry bread. So, tomorrow, morning, after I clean the laundry room and get the roofers set up (we are re-roofing building 8) we are going to make cranberry bread. Much fun!

This is the recipe in the book, not my wife's famous Cranberry bread recipe.


Sift: 2 cups flour (sifted), 1 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Cut in 1/4 cup butter until mixture is crumbly (I use a mixer to crumble-ize it)

Add 1 beaten egg, 1 tsp grated orange peel and 3/4 cup organge juice and mix until mixture is evenly moist.

Fold in 1 and 1/2 cups light raisins and about a half bag of chopped cranberries per loaf.

Spoon into a greased 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan bake at 350' for 1 hour and 10 mins or until toothpick in center comes out clean.

Cool out of pan on a wire rack. keep stored in aluminum foil, unless you eat it all before it cools.


A friend of mine has given me a fabulous idea: A candlelight reading of W.H. Auden's For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. I'm thinking Jan 3 or 4, since the piece is really about the movement from Christmas into ordinary time. Oh! I can hardly wait! Got to get texts (Oh, I do hope it is in the public domain!), settle on a date, and get the invites out to all my friends and family. I haven't done readers theater since the 4th grade. This will be fun.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Soundtrack: Memories of my Dad

Back in the mid 1970s, when I was6 years old by Dad bought a cabin the mountain up above Sonoroa. We would usually stop in town on the way to the cabin, buy dough-nuts and peanut m&ms, sausauge and eggs for breakfast. He was always building something on the cabin so we would often stop at a hardware store, too. Usually we wouldn't get there till the afternoon. The next morning we would go fishing. Well, he would go fishing. I would take books and read. (I think that always made him a little bit sad, that I didn't like fishing. My older brother, Ken is the one who liked fishing as a kid.) Anyway, one morning, on the way to the lake he sang this song.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Death of Ven.Bede

I am currently writing a paper on the two great historians: St. Bede (c.672-735), the Father of English history, and Bishop Eusebis of Caesarea (c.260 – ante 341), the Father of Church history. I just read this beautiful account of St. Bede's falling asleep and thought you might like to read it, too. (Trivia: Bede means prayer, and is the word from which we get bead.)

Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John. In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished, "Thou hast spoken truth", Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father." And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.

Troparion, in Tone VIII

Throughout the dark years of thy times, O Bede, thou didst water the English lands and all the West with outpourings of grace; and like a skilled sower thou didst cast the seed of divine knowledge far and wide over the fields of thy Master, where, springing forth, it hath borne fruit for Him an hundredfold. Wherefore, having thus acquired boldness before Him, O venerable one, pray thou unceasingly that our souls be saved.

Wild Mushroom Lasagne (AKA The $50 Lasagne)

Even though this is the best lasagne I have ever had, because of the expense I don't make this except for company.


For mushroom tomato sauce

2 1/2cups boiling-hot water
1 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 (14- to 15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
A about 1/16 teaspoon white sugar

For béchamel sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 3/4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk, heated
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For assembling lasagne

12 long ruffle-edged dried lasagne noodles (not no-boil)
6 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Make béchamel (I like to make it the day before)
Heat butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat until melted, then add flour and cook roux over low heat, whisking, 3 minutes. Add hot milk in a fast stream, whisking vigorously, and whisk in garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes, then remove garlic and add pepper.

Make mushroom tomato sauce (I like to make it the day before)
Pour boiling-hot water over porcini in a bowl and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes.Lift out porcini, squeezing excess liquid back into bowl, then rinse to remove any grit. Pour soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into another bowl. Chop porcini and add to soaking liquid.

Cook onion in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes, then stir in tomatoes with juice, sugar, porcini with soaking liquid, and 1 tablespoon basil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until tomatoes have broken down into a chunky sauce, about 25 minutes. Stir in salt and remaining tablespoon basil.

Assemble and bake lasagne
Cook lasagne noodles in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water 8 minutes (noodles will not be cooked through), then drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread 1 cup béchamel on bottom of a buttered 13- by 9-inch baking dish, reserving remainder for last layer. Drain 3 lasagne noodles in 1 layer on a kitchen towel and arrange over béchamel in baking dish. Spread pasta in dish evenly with one third of mushroom tomato sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat layering of pasta, mushroom tomato sauce, and cheese twice, then cover with last 3 lasagne noodles. Spread remaining béchamel on top and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

Bake, uncovered, until lasagne is bubbling and top is browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand at room temperature at least 20 minutes before cutting.

Cooks notes

Go easy on the sauces for the bottom layer because it is easy to run out before the top layer. After you make this a few times judging how much to put on each layer is easy.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hallowe'en Report

On the night of the 30th we carved pumpkins (I'd much rather eat them.) and made little ghosts out of Tootsie Pops and little squares of white cloth.

On the morning of the 31st we drove to San Francisco for brunch with some of our friends. (Justin makes a totally amazing fritata.) It was much fun, and I could have stayed at that table with my friends all day but we had plans take the boys, and our friends were taking my goddaughters, to the Hallowe'en Fair at the Randall Museum.

At the Randall the kids played games, saw shows (you need to book The Bubble Lady for your next event. She puts on a very entertaining show.), and made crafts. The boys both painted some kind of Mexican Day of the Dead skull thing, and Basil made a trick-or-treat bag.

After the Hallowe'en fair we got dim sum with Athanasia's cousin, sister and brother-in-law at Tong Kiang out in the Russian neighborhood on Geary Blvd. (I really hate They make very good food. I especially like their steamed pork buns. Usually, when I go there it is in the morning and it is totally packed. This was, I think, the first time I've been there in the afternoon. It was nice not having to wait for a table.

That night was trick or treating. They had a lot of fun. Many people commented on their costumes. At one house Anselm was mesmerized by the very beautiful woman who answered the door in a skin tight (I think it must have been PVC) and very revealing Sexy Police Woman costume. (We might skip that house next year.) At another house, as they approached the door, the thing they thought was a scarecrow screamed and lunged at them! Well, they screamed and ran away from that house as fast as they could. We only went to about 40 houses but the boys had a great time and their bags were heavy with teeth rotting agents. Then we went back to our house where Athanasia turned door duty over to me, helped the boys go through the candy, and watched Its The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on iTunes with the boys.

This year, we did something different. In addition to handing out candy we gave kids candles to light in front of the Holy Icons. If anyone asked why all I said was, "Tonight is Hallowe'en only because tomorrow is All Saints Day." (Of course, that is only on the Western Calendar. For Orthodox All Saints Day is the Sunday after Pentecost. I'm not opposed to using the Roman Catholic and Protestant holidays for evangelism.)

Most of the kids wanted to light candles. The older kids, especially the teenagers seemed to get serious, even reverent when they lit the candles. One boy, dressed up like the killer in one of those 1980's slasher movies said after lighting his candle "That was cool." They all said "thank you". One grandmother started crying when her grand-daughters (all seemed between 5 and 10) lit candles before the Icons.