Friday, November 26, 2010


I was looking for a copy of the Akathist for the Nativity of Jesus when I cam across this surprising writing by Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev):   

     "All that has been said so far about the theological authority of liturgical texts relates to those found in the daily, weekly and annual cycle of services in the Service Book, the Book of Hours, the Octoechos, the Lenten Triodion, the Pentecostarion and the Menaia. Unfortunately, however, the contents of these books are not always accessible to the average Orthodox believer for several reasons. First of all, the majority of these services are not celebrated in churches that do not have daily services, and even in those that do, they are abbreviated (the Synaxarion, for example, is left out almost everywhere). Secondly, liturgical texts are read and sung in Church Slavonic, which not everyone can understand. Thirdly, many hymns are sung in church only once or a few times during the year, and are difficult to understand when heard, even if one knows Church Slavonic. Fourthly, Orthodox liturgical texts are essentially works of Byzantine liturgical poetry translated into Slavonic many centuries ago, and are therefore quite difficult to understand without a knowledge of the original language or the rules of Byzantine poetics. Even if all liturgical texts were to be translated into Russian they would hardly become immediately understandable to everybody.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Might as well say "Be ye perfect for your Father in Heaven is perfect."

"An Orthodox person is austere in his life, a monk in his household furnishings, in his labor, in his clothing, chaste in his senses and his thoughts. This is because he desires the Lord, loves his neighbor, has an open heart and an open mind to those of all religions and all ideologies though he holds strongly to his own belief. He denies himself. Here someone might hasten to ask, “Are these virtues not found in every Christian, even with every good person?” We answer: in Orthodoxy this spirit predominates. It is the inclination above all other inclination. The love of God dominates over the love of the world. The Orthodox person does not allow a worldly institution or even the law or the system to get a hold over him, to rule over him, to have exclusive power over him. A powerful inclination streams grace into his heart, ignites a fire in his heart." - Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos of Tripoli 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The last few days: Illness, advent, Bible

Well, I've been sick for 7 days.  Friday will be the eighth, if the Lord tarries.  The physician has me taking many powerful drugs.  I think I am getting better then I think I am getting worse.  I have been sleeping much.  Worringly, I have missed a week of work.  I am a contractor so I don't get sick days.  This is really going to hurt financially.  Oh well.  Not much can be done about it.  I'm a sales man who can't say 5 words without having a coughing fit.  And oh, my ribs are so sore, and today I was dizzy.  The M.D. said that though I don't have pneumonia, my O2 level is low.  I guess that is why I am so tired.

I've tried to do Advent stuff with my boys but have been to sick.  We didn't even have the traditional crab dinner to mark the coincidence of the opening of the Northern California Crab Season with the first day of Advent.  However, we did get the boys' letters to St. Nicholas into the mail, and we've been talking about where to give our alms.

On the sixteenth, St. Matthew's Day, my wife gave me an Icon of St. Matthew and a CD of sermons on child rearing by Bishop Irenaius of Ekateringburg & Sibirsk.  I'll load the sermons onto the iPod and listen to them on the train to and from work next week. (See, I have faith I will be healed.)

I've been enjoying the Advent Challenge, but I get so excited I keep reading ahead.  Usually, I read the Bible according to lectionary (I didn't know our lectionary dates from the 400s, and perhaps, if St. Gregory is to be believed, the 100s, reaching its present form in the 600s, did you? Pretty neat!) and then read the homilies for the passages as given in The Bible and Holy Fathers for Orthodox.  I had almost forgotten how pleasureable it is to just sit down and read page after page after page of the Gospel.

There is another pleasure associated with this reading I'm doing.  I am reading from my mother's last Bible.  She had only owned it a few few years, but it was already filling up with her hand written notes when she fell asleep.  I came across this one when I was reading about Jesus rescuing the Gergessene demoniacs: "When Satan reminds us of our past, we should remind him of his future."  It is a beautiful thing to hear my mothers voice again.

I'm going to have to thank the priest who challenged me to rad the whole NT during Advent.  It is really wonderful.  Even though I am sick as a dog this is really turning out to be a good Advent.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Something I'm Trying This Advent. I'm on the 40 Day Schedule.

Feast of St. Matthew

‎"With zeal, you followed Christ the Master, who in His goodness, appeared on earth to mankind. Summoning you from the custom house, He revealed you as a chosen apostle: the proclaimer of the the Gospel to the whole world! Therefore, divinely eloquent Matthew, we honor your precious memory! Entreat merciful God that He may grant our souls remission of transgressions."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Special Forces Sergeant

On this Veterans Day the boys and I stopped in at the bagle store to get breakfast.  I don't know why he was there - there are no Army forts near where we live, and the Special Forces are deployed around the world right now - but a Staff Seargeat of the Special Forces was getting a bagle too.  I was trying to tell the boys about the Special Forces but couldn't remember everything I used to know.
I called to him, "Sergeant, could you come here for a moment?"
"Yes, sir?"
"I was just trying to explain to my sons about how men like you specialize in one of four areas but I could only remember medicine and communications."
"Oh they are medics, commo, engineering (That's my specialty.) and weapons, plus the officers.  They have to know all of it."
"And you train and lead indigenous forces where we are fighting, right?"
"Oh, yeah. That's our bread and butter.  We help oppressed people fight for their own freedom."
Then he said to my sons, "I guess in about 18 or 20 years you'll be joining me out there."
Anselm and Basil were stunned by the idea.  I said, "I hope in 20 years you are retired with a fishing pole in your hand!"
The soldier lauged and said, "Yeah, well maybe they'll take my place."  We all laughed at that.  The story of self-mastery and heroism told by decorations and badges on his chest, the scars on his hands and face, made it clear that replacing him will be no easy feat.
"Say thank you to the Sergeant, Boys.  He protects you."
They both said "Thanks."
And the Sergeant said, "You're more than welcome.  I'll never let you down.  Have a good day, Sir."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Cooking and Canning

I am off to the market to buy the ingredients I for the things I am making tomorrow.

I am, if God wills, going to make "Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good" from a recipe I heard I NPR.  I shall also be canning jalapeƱos and pickled cauliflour.  I als have a whole lot of beets.  But I'm not going to can them. Instead I'll make them into a warm beet and feta salad.  Also, I plan on making the mustard (see below) I've been talking about. Have to go buy the ingredients for that, too.