Saturday, January 28, 2012

St. Ignatius

Until I heard his name at vespers earlier tonight I hadn't noticed that today (Orthodox Christians begin the day at sundown) is the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.   St. Ignatius is one of the people who lead me to Orthodox Christitianity.  In his seven letters, which he wrote in the 1st century while under arrest and on his way to be fead to lions (I found the letters on the shelves of the library at Peninsula Bible Church), I learned that the bishop, working together with the priests and deacons, rules his diocese like a father rules hisfamily (letter to the church at Magnesia), I learned that bishops work together to serve the whole Church (Letter to Polycarp), that the bloodless sacrifice is the central event of Christian worship (Letter to the church at Ephesus).  I even saw, in the difference between the letters to the six churches and the letter to Polycarp how a metropolitan addresses churches in his metropolia and how he adresses a bishop outside his jurisdiction.   In short, St. Ignatius' letters caused me to doubt the church structure of my Protestant Christianity and primed me to recognize ancient Church structure when I saw it a couple of years later in the Orthodox Church.  

But my favorite thing said by St. Ignatius is something all Christians agree with.  It is from the letter to the Trallians:

"Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and did eat and drink. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, his Father having raised him up, as in the same manner his Father will raise up us who believe in him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life."

So, we Orthodox Christians give praise and honor to our father in the Holy Faith, Ignatius of Antioch.


By sharing in the ways of the Apostles,
you became a successor to their throne.
Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation,
O inspired one of God;
by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith,
even to the shedding of your blood.
Hieromartyr Ignatius, entreat Christ God to save our souls.


 The stirring celebration of your victorious fight
Is an announcement of the One who is to be born of the Virgin.
In your eagerness to possess Him forever,
You hastened to be devoured by the wild beasts.
Therefore, O glorious Ignatius, you were called the bearer of God!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tattle-tales and Love

The boys have been bothering me with their tattleing on each other.  So I got the Icon of St. Peter down off the wall, and with the icon in my lap and each boy sitting beside me, I read to them a sermon on Love and Peter preached by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.   Then we taked about love and not rejoicing in the misdeeds of others. And, beeseching the prayers of St. Peter we asked God to help us love each other like Peter loves Jesus and Jesus loves Peter.  Basil was in tears by the end, but I think Anselm still wants to tattle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Something I Wish the Orthodox Had: A Call to Artists

Every month the leaders of my Cub Scout Pack meet in the science cassroom of a Roman Catholic school. On the wall is a poster of their liturgical calendar.  I look at it with envy every month.  I wish such a thing existed for Orthodox kids, so they could see how the year fits together.   Our calendar poster would be much more detailed, with weekly tones, fasts & feasts, etc.

The other thing I wish we had was a books of the Bible poster like the Protestants had when I was a boy.  It was a simple thing.  It showed two book cases, one the left was the OT, on the right was the NT.  Shelves on the left were labeled "Law", "History", "Poetry", "Major Prophets", & "Minor Prophets".  The shelves on the Right were labeled "Gospels", "History", "Epistles", and "Prophecy".  The poster showed each book of the Protestant Bible as a book on one of these shelves.

I don't think I am up to making a poster of the Calendar but I might try the poster of the books of the Orthodox Holy Scriptures.  I don't think it would be too hard.  And, I think, there is a need for this kind of stuff.  It helps kids learn who they are and what is important.

Rquired Reading for Spring Semester

After a year off, I am starting back to work on the masters degree in history. It will be a lot of work, but it ought to be fun. At least the reading list looks fun. In fact, I've already read some of these books.

Roberts, John M., A Short History of the World (Oxford University Press)
Standage, Tom, History of the World in Six Glasses (Walker & Company)
Burke, Peter, French Historical Revolution: The Annales School, 1929-1989 (Stanford University Press)
Manning, Patrick, Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (Palgrave)
Davis, Leo Donald, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) (Michael Gazier, Inc.)
Ostrogorsky, George, History of the Byzantine State (Rutgers University Press)
Hollister, W., Medieval Europe: A Short Sourcebook, 4th Ed. (McGraw-Hill)
Bennett, Judith, Medieval Europe: A Short History, 11th Ed. (McGraw-Hill)

If the papers I write are any good, I'll post them here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Kingdom of God is Within You

From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great, bishop 
(Resp. 2, 1: PG 31, 908-910) 
The ability to love is within each of us

Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same-perhaps even more so—with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.

For this reason, as by God’s gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.

This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.

Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.

What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

This Is Why I Am Orthodox

Back in the 1990s my very good and wonderful, full of love, and committed to the Bible church, Peninsula Bible Church in Cupertino (home of some of the best preaching I ever heard), lost it's worship pastor, and for a long time it was without one.  There were a lot of people who came through as temps or try-outs.  I remember one was very academical and tried to direct the congregation like it was a choir.  Another, who came up for the weekend from southern Caifornia, lead us in singing Desperado. (I'm not making that up.)  And there were alot of discussions among the people about what exactly worship should be.  I guess it was the summer of 1998 or, maybe, 1999 that I first stepped into an Orthodox church and was blown away by what I saw and heard and smelled.  I remember thinking, "this is the kind of setting where God is likely to appear".

Sometimes, when people ask me why I became Orthodox I jokingly say "I came for the baklava but stayed for vodka."  In reality, I came for the worship.  I stayed for the truth.   Or, something like that.

The Polyeleos (greek for "many mercies") is an example of that worship: Scriptural, joyful, reverent, beautiful.  It is a blending of two Psalms with "alleluia" inserted in between the verses.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Christian Parent

 Metropolitan EPHREM of Tripoli said
1) The role of a Christian parent is to help his children to pass from earthly life to heavenly life;
2) A Christian parent’s one and only concern is for the salvation of his children;
3) A Christian parent seeks above all to help his children to be filled with the Grace of the Most High; and
4) A Christian parent is supposed to be moved by the Spirit of God and not by that of the world.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Atai Parthenos (Today This Virgin) A Coptic Orthodox Hymn

هذه العذراء نالت اليوم كرامة هذه العروس نالت اليوم مجد، هذه الملتحفة بأطراف موشاة بالذهب مزينة بأنواع كثيرة.
Today, this virgin received honor. Today, this virgin received glory. Her clothing is woven with gold and adorned with many colors.

داود حرك الوتر الأول من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: قامت الملكة عن يمينك أيها الملك. (مز ٤٥:٩)
David moved the 1st string of his harp crying out and saying: At your right hand stands the queen O king (Psalm 45:9).

وحرك الوتر الثاني من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: اسمعي يا ابنتي وأنظري وأميلي أذنك وانسي شعبك وبيت أبيك. (مز ٤٥ : ١٠)
And he moved the second string from his harp crying out and saying: Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father's house (Psalm 45:10).

وحرك الوتر الثالث من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: كل مجد ابنة الملك من الداخل مشتملة بأطراف موشاة بالذهب. (مز ٤٥ : ١٣)
And he moved the third string from his harp crying out and saying: The royal daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is woven with gold (Psalm 45:13).

وحرك الوتر الرابع من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: يدخلن إلي الملك عذاري خلفها. (مز ٤٥ : ١٤)
And he moved the forth string from his harp crying out and saying: Virgins shall enter to the king after her (Psalm 45:14).

وحرك الوتر الخامس من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: عظيم هو الرب ومسبح جدا في مدينة إلهنا علي جبله المقدس. (مز ٤٨ : ١)
And he moved the fifth string from his harp crying out and saying: Great is our Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain (Psam 48:1).

وحرك الوتر السادس من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: أجنحة حمامة موشاة بفضة ومنكباها بصفرة الذهب. (مز ٦٨ : ١٣)
And he moved the sixth string from his harp crying out and saying: The wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold (Psalm 68:13).

وحرك الوتر السابع من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: جبل الله الجبل الدسم الجبل المجبن الجبل الدسم. (مز ٦٨ : ١٥)
And he moved the seventh string from his harp crying out and saying: The mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan; A mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan (Psalm 68:15).

وحرك الوتر الثامن من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: أساساته في الجبال المقدسة، أحب الرب أبواب صهيون. (مز ٨٧ : ١و٢)
And he moved the eighth string from his harp crying out and saying: His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion (Psalm 87:1, 2).

وحرك الوتر التاسع من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: تكلموا من أجلك بأعمال كريمة يا مدينة الله. (مز ٨٧ : ٣)
And he moved the ninth string from his harp crying out and saying: Glorious things are spoken of you O city of God (Psalm 87:3).

وحرك الوتر العاشر من قيثارته صارخا قائلا: الرب اختار صهيون ورضيها مسكنا له. (مز ١٢٢ : ١٣)
And he moved the tenth string from his harp crying out and saying: For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation (Psalm 122:13).