Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Hey, Jeff. I know we are talking about a lot of different things right now, but I just came across this article that i thought you might be intereste in reading. Here is how it starts: The reason why different denominations, with very different forms of church government, can all claim to be based on the "New Testament model" is that the New Testament is not very specific about how the Church is to be organized or how services are to be conducted. It would be a grave mistake, however, to infer from this that the early Church had no definite structure or patterns of worship. The New Testament does not give a detailed plan of Church government, because the Church already existed when the books of the New Testament were written.

Also, I just got the boy to bed. Cyndi is at work. She gets off at 11:45pm. I have a bottle of Agrapart and Fils in the cooler, and polished up the silver stemmed champagne flutes. (Cyndi bought them at Gumps for our elopment.) Ready to toast in the new year as soon as she gets home.

Oh, price range on the car for my dad: US$6,000-$8,000.
My parents rented a movie last night. Lets just say they found out the hard way that BLUE VELVET was not the sequel to NATIONAL VELVET.
Jeff, my brothers and I are going to help buy a car for my dad. Do you think you could get a deal on something used, rliable, and with low miles?

Orthodox jargon: I hadn’t noticed that. I guess I am reluctant to say an Orthodox is dead. Especially, since they pray for me and I for them.

Tradition in general: You rely in tradition too, you know. There is a tradition that there are certain books in the New Testament. There is no inspired Table Of Contents from the hand of an St. John or St. Paul. The same is true for the Old Testament. You don’t know that St. Matthew wrote his gospel except by Tradition.

Tradition and communion: But you mentioned communion so let’s stay on that for a bit. You said we use 1st Corinthians as a source for that practice. I would say we don’t. The church at Corinth was doing something they had been taught by St. Paul. And they were screwing it up. St. Paul’s lnstruction to them regarding communion was not prescriptive, rather it was were corrective. Nowhere in the text of those letters does he say "This is communion and this is how it should be done." He assumes they have been taught and have drifted from that teaching. (As we know from St. Clement’s letter a few years later, the church at Corinth drifted from other Apostolic teaching, as well.) And I think St. Paul might have had Corinth in mind when he said this to the Thessalonians: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." It’s like he’s is saying, "I shouldn’t have to write you a letter. My teaching is true, whether spoken or written." That is what we are saying. That is what the bishops have always said. Just read through St. Iraneus of Lyons. But, in order to accept that you have to really believe in the Church as the Body of Christ, not just a group of people who share certain aspects of faith in God.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I found this today and really like it. It's from an old hymn by W.D. Longstaff

Take time to be holy
Speak oft with thy Lord
Abide in Him always
And feed on His Word
Make friends of God's children
Help those who are weak
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek
I read something in 1 Cor 10 today which had always confused me until I did a little background. It's the verse that says the Rock followed Israel through the desert. Well, evidently, the Jews had an ancient tradition that said the rock which they received water from physically followed them through the desert, providing them with water the whole time. Paul took this legend and said that a Rock was indeed with you, but it was the presence of Christ instead.
You know the whole tradition thing is one of those things about Orthodoxy which drives me up a wall. It really seems in such cases (although, not in the last few centuries) that you are just creating theology out of thin air. Something as radically divergent from Scripture as mary worship should have a source that can be pointed to. How do you know that it was not some pagan legend that somehow made its way into the church? How do yu know it didn't come from one of the mystery religions in Greece? I' not saying it is, but if you have no source, then all these possibilities open up.

How do we know, for example, about The Lord's Supper? What is the source of that tradition? That's easy. We go to 1 Cor 11 and we know the source. YOu can't do that with a lot of tradition, and thus its truthfulness is called into question.
Have you noticed how much your language is changed since you became Orthodox? You've adopted an entirely new jargon and you speak in Orthodox-ese. I do find it comical at times. Some of the things you say I have to translate in ordinary English. Ror example, in one of your posts, you used the phrase 'the repose of St John'. Oh, you mean when John died.

Monday, December 29, 2003

That was a great party on Saturday. It was especially great to see Billy and Bunny. Caleb was very good also, and we appreciate that about him.

Your dad was looking for a car and onyl wanted to spend $1000 at the most. His best bet (or yours, actually) would be to look at autotrader.com and see what they have. You can put in a whole bunch of specifications and it will spit out everything that fits that. None of my dealers are going to have anything that inexpensive, so autotrader is probably the way to go.
Two interesting things in C.S. Lewis reading yesterday. I saw two things I did not see when last I read these books at age nine.

C.S. Lewis takes on Freud. The setting is a conversation between The Green Witch on one side, and the newly liberated Prince Rillian, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum on the other side. Lewis has the Green Witch make the same argument that Freud made in “Civilization and Its Discontents”. Freud’s argument is something like this: “God doesn’t really exist. What does exist is the yearning to have a parent. So, humans make up a god that reflects all the best qualities of an idealized parent.” Lewis answers this charge in an interesting way. First, Prince Rillian et al, are not able to argue against the witch. They try and fail. The witch simply states over and over again that what everyone knows to be true, that the sun, the sky, the stars, and Aslan exist, is really false. And she claims that each is a fantastic exaggeration of things that really do exists. She says the sun is just an exaggeration of a lamp. She says that Aslan is just an exaggeration of a house cat. The four heroes flounder. They are at a loss. They fall back on an argument that is kind of like this: “Well, if it is fantasy it is a better than this reality”. But the prince and his three rescuers are soon deluded by the soothing music and beautiful voice of the witch (and no small bit of magic.) They almost are lost. But one of the four, Puddleglum does something startling. He puts his foot in the fireplace. The reality of pain liberates his mind from the soothing comfortable chains the witch has woven around his mind. The witch is exposed as a serpent-monster and finally hacked in twain.

Now here is a note about Puddleglum the Marshwiggle. He is used to physical hardship. When he first met up with Jill and Eustace at the beginning of the book, he was living in a wigwam, in a swamp, living on fish and eels. He was living mostly alone but could see the wigwams of other Marshwiggles.

After yesterdays reading I have no doubt that Lewis based this character on Orthodox Christian monks. The monks of my church only eat fish, and often live semi-hermetic lives. I do not know how I didn’t see it until yesterday. But what finally gave it away was when he put his foot in the fire. He denied the comfort of his flesh in order to see more clearly. That is what monks do.

The second thing that happened in the story was the veneration of an Icon. After the defeat of the Green Witch, an image (ikon) of Aslan miraculously appeared on Prince Rillians shield. Prince Rillian, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum each kissed the image of Aslan! What was that!? How can that be!? Lewis was a Protestant! An Anglican! And the Anglicans explicitly deny the Second Council of Nicea! They are officially iconoclasts, yet here is one of their greatest writers affirming up the iconodule position! Indeed, the Orthodox faith!

I wonder if the good Evangelical Protestants at the Marion Wade Center at Weaton College know about this. Do they know what they have? Do they know they house the writings of an under-cover Orthodox theologian?

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Jeff, at the party yesterday (I hope you had a good time.) when we were talking about the dormition of the theotokos you were asking when was the earliest written reference to the event. I was trying to get the point across that the tradition of the church is reliable and that it doesn't matter when it was written down. I don't think I was doing it successfully. But to answer your question more directly, There are some sermons from long ago that make reference to the Dormotion.
The first is called the Sermon of St. John the Theologian. Scholars disagree about when it was written. Dates range from the 3rd to the 5th centuries. They also disagree about who this John is.
The is also a series of three sermons by St. John of Damascus

None of these sermons is considered to be the source of the tradition. For us it is kind of like that quotation from the book of Enoch that appears in the Epistle of Jude. Enoch is a freaky, mostly made up book. But the part of what it said was true. And the church recognized that and brought it into Her Tradition. The book of Enoch talked about some true things. But those true things had been passed down from the time of Enoch as oral tradition, and were not written down until the time of the Ptolomies. Imagine that. From mouth to ear and mouth to ear from before the Flood until some Jew in 200 B.C. decided to write it down. And at least part of that Oral Tadition was true. But the Book of Enoch is not part of the Tradition. We do not look to the book of Enoch for truth. We look to the Tradition of the church, "The pillar and foundation of the truth" too find the truth. Sometimes parts of the tradition are adopted by those outside the church (Jehovah's Witnesses being an example). But that does not mean we look to those outside the church for validation of the Tradition. We do not look to the pseudipigraphal Book of Enoch for the true transmission of the Tradition. We look to the Church.

So, even though there are be ancient sermons about the Dormition, we do not look to those ancient references to determine the truth. And they are not regarded as the sources of the tradtion. They are seen as any sermon is seen, that is as a coment upon an already existing tradition. The Truth resides in the church, because the Church is the Body of Christ and He is the Truth. (In case you are still wondering if I think the Church is people or institutions, I think it is neither. I think it is the Body of Christ.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I need to know your new address for the brunch on Saturday. Call me or email me with it.
Jeff, I wasn't able to pick up a copy of the Oakland Tribune on Monday. Could you you bring it on Saturday? I'd like to see it.
We saw Return of the King today. Movies have reached there telos. There is no point in anyone ever making a film again. It is not ontologically possible for another film to be made. Directors should fold up their chairs and retire. Cinematographers might as well smash their cameras. We have reached the end. There is nothing left to be achieved.

Thanks for clarifying denomination and institution for me. I have some thoughts on that but I am so busy this week i might not get to them for a few days. As you can tell it is after midnight. I've been up since six-thirty this morning and it has been go go go allday. Tomorrow through Sunday will be the same.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I mean denomination in the ordinary everyday way. Methodist denomination, Evangelical Free, etc. I would use institution to define the church structures, the hierarchy, the 'official' way of doing things. The way things are codified in the church.
I wasn't trying to be antagonistic. I just wanted to make sure I understood what you were saying. A lot of confusion can be avoided by being exact in one's defininitions. Now, I understand what you meant by "NT times." If you could explain exactly what you mean by denomination that would be helpful. Are you using denomination as a synonym for hierarchy? Or are you meaning something else? And could you explain better what you mean by institutions?
I'm not in the office this week. Very busy with church, and Devon is here.
You need to pick up a copy of the Oakland Tribune today. In the LIVING section, there is a picture of both Christa and Caleb.
You need to go pick up a copy of the Oakland Tribune today. In the LIVING section, there is a picture of Christa and Caleb.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Why are you acting as if I am using foreign terms? You know very well what a denomination is? You know what N.T. time is.

How do you know i don't think we're still living in N.T. times? I feel you are putting words in my mouth which aren't there. On that subject, i believe that N.T. says we are living n the last days (thank you, writer of Hebrews). Okay, instead of N.T. times, let's use the first century. Same thing.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I do not understand how you are using the word "denomination" and "institution". Could you explain better what you mean? What exactly are you saying did not exist in N.T. times? And by New Testament times do you mean the period of time between Pentecost and the repose of Saint John? Or, do you mean the period of time when the N.T. Canon was being formed? I beleive we are still in N.T. times, by the way. But I know you don't, so I'm asking for clarification.

A couple more quick notes. I'm not necessarily a Boodles man. I was at Beverages and More and wanted to try something else for a change.

The only part of Narnia i ever read was the first one. I remember particularly the words about Aslan (paraphrased) that said, "No, He is not safe. he is very dangerous. But He is good".

You may not be saint like those you mentioned, but I do think it is important to remember that, as Christians, we are also called saints. That is how Paul refers to believers and i take comfort in that, knowing God has done that in my life.

You asked me last week (or so) what my definition of the church is. Without going into a full ecclesiology, I would define the church first and foremost as that group of people who follow Jesus as both Lord and Savior. On one hand, it's a simple definition, but on the other, it opens up a whole slew a questions.

I do not believe the church is any one denomination or a particular institution. Such institutions did not exist in N.T. times and only developed later, although there are hints of this in the Pastoral Epistles.

I believe that every church which is solid in its theology (although I still believe that every church is theologically deficient in one way or another) will have both true believers and false in it. In this regard, I am reminded of Jesus' parable about the wheat and the tares. Every church is going to have its tares in it and those will only be revealed at the end. ALong with that thought, i think we will be very surprised both whom we see in heaven and whom we don't.

The church is composed both of a community and individuals. On this note, I refer to both 1 Cor 12:12 and 1 Cor 12:27. Both verses show this, that the church is both a community of faith and individuals who follow Christ.
Okay, it's movie review time!!!

'Something's Gotta Give' with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Good movie, but one that you forget about the next day.

'Mystic River' with Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and kevin Bacon. What a fabulous movie. This is oen of those that you just don't forget. Probably the best thing that both Tim Robbins and Sean Penn have ever done.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that Cyndi and I are reading the Chronicles of Narnia for during the Nativity Fast. We finished the The Voyage of of the Dawn Treader on Tuesday and are about 1/3 of the way through the The Silver Chair.

I didn't receive any great insights from reading Dawn Treader except for at the end of the book, when King Caspian, Lucy, Edmund and the rest of the adventurers had made it through the most difficult part of the journey. That is when one idea I had never thought of before hit me. You can do a lot of hard work in reaching salvation, prep-work it could be called. But a point comes when you just have to sail into the narrow Eastward-moving current and let God pull you to Him. It serves as a metaphor for me becoming Orthodox. How many hours did I spend trying to wrestle truth out of the Bible? How many adventures did I have on the Lonely Isles of calvinism, dispensationalism, & pentecostalism before I slipped into the current that draws me East to Moscow, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Alexandria, and eventually to that mystical east where Christ himself will appear? But still the current is narrow. Nothing but love keeps me on course.

In the Silver Chair something else is going on. In this book Aslan is almost nowhere to be seen. And when he is seen it is by a girl who do not know him. She is given a mission by Aslan and four signs, which she is to repeat to herself morning and evening lest she forget. No fabulous adventures are going on like in the other books, no amazing appearances of Aslan. Just bad weather, hard roads, and distractions. During the course of the story she gets distracted from her mission, thinking only of comfort, and stops repeating the signs. And lands herself and her companions in a castle of giants (I'm not sure but I think the giants are getting ready to eat them). Oh, I should also mention that the girl and her companions have totally blown three of the four signs. But! They are still accomplishing their mission, or, rather, Aslan is accomplising it and they are just kind of there. It like he is saying, "Wow, you guys really suck at this stuff, you are not at all like my followers who came before you. But that's okay. I still call the shots and the ineptitude of my followers is not going thwart my plan."

So, what does this mean to me? It means a couple of things. Just doing evening prayers is not enough. I need to consistantly do morning prayers. Those a re the hard ones for me. I like my bed in the morning. I hate getting out of it. And when I do get out of it there is rushing around to get ready for work, getting Anselm dressed and fed, making cofee, etc. that has to be done. But! I must remember to stop for 10 minutes, light a candle, bow before the Icons, and pray. Much depends on it.

The other thing is this. I'm not a saint like Nicholas, Seraphim, Simeon, or John. I haven't seen visions, I haven't actually seen the Christ. But I still have a mission. I still have signs to follow. I can't forget them.

And speaking of saints, today is the feast day of St. Ignatius, whose words lead me to Orthodoxy.

O Holy Hieromartyr Ignatius, you lent yourself to the Apostles' way of life and succeeded them on their throne. Inspired by God, you found the way to contemplation through practice and prayer; wherefore you became a perfect teacher of truth, fighting for the faith unto the shedding of your blood. Intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.

Lord Jesus, help me follow.

Well, I have to stop blogging now. My youngest son is tangled in the computer & telephone cords.

Friday, December 19, 2003

You'd have to check the archives (Nov. 3, 1:51pm) for exactly what you said. Essentially, you said the the Orthodox Church doesn't do anything for people.

Just bring two bottles of champagne. Nothing too expensive since it is going to be mixed with "jus du l'orange". We will serve at 10:30.

It looks like my friend, Reader Andre might be coming. You saw his ordination pictures a couple of weeks ago.

So, are you a Boodle's man now?

We visited the Christmas Tree Lane in Palo Alto tonight. Fulton Street off of the Embarcadero. I was more interested in the architecture. You know what? It doesn't look to me like it would be too difficult to design neighborhoods like that. Modern suburban architecture just sucks. And here is why: The architecturral feature that is most prominant on modern suburban houses (from the 1950's on) is the garage. Take a drive through the older part of Palo Alto, San Luis Obispo, or any suburban development from the 1920's through the 1940's and compare it to, say, the Blossom Hill area of San Jose or the Cherry Chase neighborhood of Sunnyvale, or any massive tract-house development, and you will see what I am talking about. There has been a horrible decline in architecture in the past 50 years. It is proof that oure culture is failing.

O RADIX JESSE, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O ROOT OF JESSE, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come, to deliver us, and tarry not. Amen.

I went through a whole bottle of Boodles last night making Martinis. We had our bank Christmas party but there was an hour and a half between work ending and the party starting, so we got together at someone's house who lives nearby for a pre-party party. I brought Martini fixins and veveryone wanted one (about 10 people) Now I've got a rep this morning for being a Master Mixologist. I even brought my glasses from home. By the way, the only olives I use now are ones I get at the Olive Bar at Andronicos. Fuill of flavor and so woody you may get a splinter.
What was it that I said about Orthodoxy not doing stuff for people? I don't remember that at all.

Congrats on the job stuff. DOes that mean you are going to be more financially solvent?

WHat is the scoop for the 27th? What time? What am I bringing? How do we get to your place? Does God exist? Who invented liquid soap and why?

On Monday, you need to pick a copy of the Oakland Tribune. There's kinda an article on Christa in there. I dropped her and Caleb off at Oakland Airport yesterday so she could go see her parents. There was a reporter from the Trib doing a feature article on women traveling during the holidays. So there's Christa, with a big suitcase, a diaper bag, and Caleb in a baby backpack wearing a Santa suit. The reporter took pictures, etc and she's going to be the focus of this article.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I’ve been thinking about that thing you said a couple of weeks ago. You know, the thing about Orthodoxy not doing stuff for people. While I still am not sure I know what you meant. I thought you might like to know some of the things it has done for me.

I think the first thing is that it lets me relax. I used to be so “on guard” when I was in church. I was always thinking, “Is this hymn Scriptural?” or “Did the preacher teach right doctrine in that sermon?” I don’t have to do that anymore. In the Orthodox church, every word of every service, every prayer, every icon is inspired by God (with the possible exception of the sermon, which is usually short and in most services is not even given). I can relax and catch the wave of prayer that saints for thousands of years have been praying. I can join with them in their prayers, knowing that I am praying in the will of God. I can say, “this is the Church, the Body of Christ. I am safe here. My wife is safe here. My children are safe here.” And if a priest gives a whacko sermon, it stands out like a sore thumb because there is 2,000 years of living tradition, inspired tradition correcting any heretical or faulty teaching.

But I can relax in another way, too. When I was a Protestant, I felt like I had to know everything. Because my faith was based on the Bible I felt like I had to make every verse of scripture harmonize with every other verse of Scripture. But as an Orthodox, I can say “hmmm… well now, those inscriptions nailed to the cross above Jesus’ head are different from Gospel to Gospel. Isn’t that neat?”

Then, of course, there are the really important things: the Holy Mysteries. The Orthodox Church gives me the real Body and Blood of Jesus, the Tree of Life from which our primal ancestors were separated. It gives me real Healing. It helps me Repent and be Reconciled to God. It sanctifies my Marriage, converting it from a mere contract to a means of salvation.

But there are other things, so many that I can’t number them. The blessings of meat and cheese at Pascha, the blessings of water, the blessings of candles, the eighth day prayers for infants, the forty day prayers for new mothers…. In short the total conversion of life into worship and thanksgiving. When Adam sinned, it was primarily a failure to give thanks, to think God was holding back some good thing from him. But what the Orthodox Church does, is not just put people back in the Garden of Eden, it elevates us to Heaven. But I can’t describe that.

In Defense of the Christmas Tree

This article is by Fr. Daniel Daly, and appears on page 5 of the
2002 issue of "The Word" magazine.

Several years ago during the Christmas season, a religious program on television caught my attention. The program featured a discussion on the dangers of cults, especially to young people. I found myself agreeing with the panelists as they warned young people about the hazards of dabbling in the demonic. Given the many "New Age" movements, the warning seemed timely.

During the interview, however, one participant made a statement that shocked me. " ... and the Christmas tree is pagan too ...," he asserted. The Christmas Tree? Pagan? Could it be that something most of us enjoy so much might be actually pagan in origin? Despite its growing commercialization, the Christmas tree is still associated with the fondest memories of our early childhood. Who does not remember approaching the tree on Christmas morning? Today people are so captivated by it that some even put it up in November! It finds a place in the homes of believers and unbelievers alike.

Most people are aware that the Christmas tree came to America withimmigrants from Germany, but just where did the Christmas tree originate? Are its origins to be found in paganism, as the speaker suggested?

The Christmas tree does not date from early Germanic times. Its origins are to be found in a tradition that has virtually disappeared from Christianity, the Liturgical Drama. In the Middle Ages liturgical plays or dramas were presented during or sometimes immediately after the services in the churches of Western Europe. The earliest of these plays were associated with Mysteries of Holy Week and Easter. Initially they were dramatizations of the
liturgical texts. The earliest recorded is the _Quem quaeritis_ ("Whom do you seek?") play of the Easter season. These plays later developed into the Miracle and Morality plays. Some were associated with events in the lives of well-known saints. The plays were presented on the porches of large churches. Although these liturgical dramas have now virtually disappeared, the Passion Play of Oberamergau, Germany is a recent revival of this dramatic form.

One special mystery play was presented on Christmas Eve, the day which also commemorated the feast of Adam and Eve in the Western Church. The "Paradise Play" told the well-known story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise. The central "prop" in the play was the Paradise Tree.... During this play this tree was brought in laden with apples. The Paradise Tree became very popular with the German people. They soon began the practice of setting up a fir tree in their homes. Originally, the trees were decorated with bread wafers commemorating the Eucharist. Later, these were replaced with various kinds of sweets. Our Christmas tree is derived, not from the pagan yule tree, but from the paradise tree adorned with apples on December 24 in honor of Adam and Eve. The Christmas tree is completely biblical in origin.

The first Christmas tree dates from 1605 in Strasbourg. By the 1700s the custom of the Christmas tree was widespread among the German people. It was brought to America by early German immigrants, and it became popular in England through the influence of Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria.

The use of evergreens at Christmas may date from St. Boniface of the eighth century, who dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child in order to replace the sacred oak tree of Odin; but the Christmas tree as we know it today does not appear to be so ancient a custom. It appears first in the ChristianMystery play commemorating the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

How legitimate is it to use a fir tree in the celebration of Christmas? From the very earliest days of the Church, Christians brought many things of God's material creation into their life of faith and worship, e.g., water, bread, wine, oil, candles and incense. All these things are part of God's creation. They are part of the world that Christ came to save. Man cannot
reject the material creation without rejecting his own humanity. In Genesis man was given dominion over the material world.

Christmas celebrates the great mystery of the Incarnation. In that mystery God the Word became man. In order to redeem us, God became one of us. He became part of His own creation. The Incarnation affirms the importance of both man and the whole of creation. "For God so loved the world ..."

A faith which would seek to divorce itself from all elements of the material world in search for an absolutely spiritual religion overlooks this most central mystery of Christmas, the mystery of God becoming man, the Incarnation. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Enjoy your Christmas tree.

Very Rev. Daniel Daly is pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Grand
Rapids, MI.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Well, we orderd the ham today. $65 worth of smoked swine flesh. Oooooh. I can hardley wait. Every year we get the ham (bone-in, full) from Bryan's Meat Seafood, and Poultry on California street. They are the best butcher I have ever been too. Jeff, you should see what they do with chateaus. I can't even begin to describe all that corn fed goodness. When we are in San Francisco for Royal Hours on Tuesday we will pick it up.

Speaking of Royal Hours, would you like to meet us there? It is such a wonderful service. (actually 4 very short services strung end to end and sung. I suppose it is about 99.9% biblical texts.) You should hear the hymns. If you come I recommend reading the service first. I've noticed that some people who do not have orthodox ears yhave trouble understanding what is going on. (A friend of mine heard a CD of Orthodox Christmas music I was playing the other day. After a while he asked if my church does anything in English. I was shocked by his question because the whole CD iss in English. ) I can send you a copy via email, if you'd like.

Just had a meeting with my CEO. He informed me that our company is changing direction and is going to be organizing around my division and de-emphasizing our retail operation. I have to hire a bunch of new people after the first of the year. He also offered me 2% of the company. So, I guess I am successful. But here is the deal. I really hate advertising sales. If I am going to work in advertising I would so much rather be a copywriter. So, here is the good news: He agreed with me that our catalog and email newsletter need more compelling copy. He has put me in charge of copywritting for both of those projects, too. Hopefully, all of this work will turn into money someday.

To thee the Champion Leader, I thy servant give thank offerings of victory. And as thou has that power which is unassailable, from every danger deliver me, that I may cry out unto thee, Hail, thou bride without bridegroom!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Holiday violence update
This just in from the nothing to fear but peanut butter department.
What does that have to do with taking sick kids to be seen a physician?

Don't you think that guilt is an appropriate feeling for slacking off of training? Also, It's not like I'm tearing my clothes, pouring ashes on my head, and saying "woe is me". I'm not wallowing in guit. Also, its not that I think I sinned. It's more like I let the team down. What good work might I not be able to do 5 or 10 years from now because I slacked off in training? Now I'm back on the training regimine.
As far as the guilt goes, I'm looking at your post on Dec 12 about the fast. That's the language of guilt.
I don't know what you mean by guilt. Could you elaborate? I think you might be confusing ascetic zeal with guilt, but I am not sure. That's why I'm asking you to elaborate. I don't want to answer a question you aren't raising.
I didn't mean all fundamentalists, but there are some strange ones out there. I mean the ones who won't take their sick child to a doctor because they believe that only God can heal them, etc. SOme fundamentalists seem to be like Catholics (and, by reading your emails, perhaps Orthodox as well) in that there is an awful lot of guilt out there. The reason I mention you in this is that in several of your posts, especially in relation to your fasts, you really beat yourself up if you fall short. Sometimes I think you need to remember Romans 8:1, that "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".

Monday, December 15, 2003

We'd go to the monastery and attend all the services. I haven't spent a lot of time at monasteries so I don't know what to expect. Maybe the abbot will want to talk to us, he's a nice guy. I met him on the 4th of July. I don't understand what you mean about Christa and Caleb. Do you want to bring them?
To far on either side of what?

Ummm... By definition, fundamentalists are not whacky. B.B. Warfield was a fundamentalist. Do you know the origin and meaning of the word, fundamentalst? It originated at Princeton, when a group of faculty were trying to combat heresies. They published a series of booklets (or maybe it was just one book, I don't remember.) called "The Fundamentals". I think they were financed by the same guy who funded Biola. Anyway, the booklets were each about a specific doctrine, such as the virgin birth, the resurrection; the things the modernists were questioning. These scholars were adamant that if someone denies these doctrines then he is not a Christian. Fundamentalists do not all wear white shoes and light blue double knit polyester suits. Of course, being Orthodox I would say the fundamentalists do not recognize all the fundamentals. In fact, most of them would not be considered Christians by people such as St. Iraneius, St. Ambrose, or St. James.
I think I'd be interested in doing the monastary thing for a weekend. What did you have in mind as far what we would do? It's also dependent upon when and where and I've got CHrista and Caleb to take into account.

As far as thinking myself as being EVFree or not, that's just kinda the denomination i've fallen into. I agree with most everything in their doctrinal statement. That doesn't mean that it is the only place I'll serve. I think I will try to avoid denominations or churches that fall too much one side or the other. No mainline denominations such as Methodist, Lutheran, etc. But no wacky fundamentalist church either. I could be happy in the EVFree church, but Im' certainly not limiting myself to it.
The menu at your party sounds good. I call Zack once a week. Never answers or returns a call. I heard that Annie's Dad has two grandchildren now. I wonder if Zack is the father of one of them.

I guess I don't know what you mean my mysticism. Could you elaborate? Hmmm if you want to be more mystical then you might want to start coming to church with me on Saturday nights.

Let me work on answering a few of your questions and we'll see if we can get rhough them in the next day or so.

As to the color of the flu awareness ribbons, i think they should be puke-color. You know, kinda an off-pink. Why do we need to we aware of the flu? i was at the mall on Sunday, and I was certainly aware of it.

no, i do not think all Christians are mystics. Some certainly are more than others. For example, I would say that BRian Morgan is a bit of a mystic, whereas John Hanneman is not. As with all things Christian, it can be easy to swerve too far one way or the other. I think if yo uare too mystical, then you can lose touch with the world, but if you are too doctrinal in your thinking and teaching (for example, John macArthur), then perhaps you lose touch with any sense of the mystery of God. I for one, would like to be a bit more mystical than I am. That's why a lot of my spiritual reading these days is not in areas related to doctrine but rather in areas of spirituality.
Yes, I know I haven't blogged in a while. WOrk has kept me a bit under the pile. You missed a great dinner party last night. It was smaller than in other years, but a lot of the usual suspects were there. I even sent ZAck an invite, but he never bothered to respond. Big flippin' surprise. The main course was chicken that was baked in a sauce with artichokes, mushrooms and Marsala wine. It was rat bastard good.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I am drinking Chandon California Blanc de Noirs at this very moment. I am not impressed. I think I will relgate it to the category of champagne used for cocktails. It is one of that handful of sparkling wines that can only be truly enjoyed as a compliment to sardines on saltines... and while smoking a machine made cigar, a Swisher Sweet, perhaps.

Today is the Sunday of the Forefathers. We commemorated all the OT saints. A very long list. It was good to hear it recounted last night at the Vigil. The vigil is where most of the teaching takes place. Sundays are for the liturgy, sure there is a sermon, and Fr. Victor and Fr. David are both good preachers, but, the theology seems more powerful when chanted and sung. Maybe because that is because, as Fr. Thomas Hopko says, thesermons are not really inspired the way the rest of the the Bible, the Icons, and the rest of the liturgical texts are. I don't know.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Well, I blew the fast today. Chocolate chip cookies, bourbon, a hot dog, and milk. I feel pretty bad about it. Sometimes I think i am doing really good then, wham! I totally screw up.
All I want for Christmas is a long gun.
Hey, Jeff! I just did a link search on google and found out that some has linked to our blog!!! Go to this is the site and scroll to the bottom of the page. We are in the left column.
Well, Chattem just said no. I feel like I am trying to sell public transportation to people who like to drive cars.
Islam is evil and they are leaning on Paul Harvey.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Jeff, I am picking up on a Monday, Tuesday, Friday pattern in your postings. Do you only post when you are in the office?

So, to back up to a few questions asked earlier in the blog that you might have missed:

1. What do you think the church is?
2. Are you still interested in spending a weekend at the monastery?
3. Do you not think of yourself as EV Free anymore?
4. Regarding the baptist distictives, do you know what you believe?
5. What did yout think of my biography of St. Nicholas? (Okay, so this is a new question. Sue me.)
6. What color should the "flu awareness ribbons" be?
7. Aren't all Christians "mystics" simply by virtue of being Christians? (Here is a pretty good article about mystery.)

To be fair I never answered your question about why I was thinking about the Trans-Sahara Highway. Here is the answer: I was thinking about slavery in Mauratania and how they transport slaves. Then I got to thinking about what a difficult thing it must be to build a road on sand dunes. So I decided to find out if it had ever been done. i discovered that yes it is being done and it is not easy, and is probably a futile undertaking.

Isalm is Evil
This report just in from the "You can get the girl out of the ghetto, but you can't get the ghetto out of the girl" Department.
I just read this by a 17th Century Lutheran.

"No man will have God for His Father in heaven who refuses to have the Church for his Mother upon the earth. Just think, O devout soul, of the many thousands who go down to hell every day, for the reason that they are outside the bosom of the Church. . . The Holy Church of God . . is as a Mother because she daily bears spiritual sons of God. . . Meditate , O devout soul, upon the worthiness of the Church, and take heed lest thou do anything unworthy of her. The Church is thy spiritual Mother; take care that thou despise not her voice as she speaks to thee. She is thy Mother, and through Word and Sacrament thou oughtest draw all thy spiritual nourishment from her." (John Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, Meditation 23)

It should be noted that in Gerhard's day the Lutheran Church still regarded itself as a reforming movement in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I'm not sure they still think of themselves in that way. Anyway, all he is doing is restating something the Council of Carthage and St. Cyprian said many centuries earlier.

So, Jeff, you asked me onetime what I think the church is. What do you think it is?

Well, Vespers last night was really great. I love it. I learned something recently, when the Reader cries out “The Prokeminon in the 8th Tone” and then proceeds to chant a verse from the psalms, well, that is really a shortening of the service. Apparently, sometime between the 7th and 14th centuries, to save time, the bishops changed that part of the liturgy so that now only a couple of verses are sung not the whole psalm. Also, there was a reading from the Old Testament that was removed from the liturgy.

I’m feeling much better. My lungs are still a little congested but other than that every thing is okay.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

We've talked about Saints on this blog a little. I always wonder what you think about the Orthodox doctrines involving saints. I know at one time you thought I was guilty of idolatry. I explained the difference between worship and veneration but I don't know if you understood what I was saying. Anyway, I came across this article at the website of St. Lawrence church in Felton. I thought it was a pretty good 1 page statement of what Orthodox believe.

I get to go to Vespers tonight. We almost never have the time to get to a midweek service. I'm very very excited.
Hey, Jeff! Here is a website you might want to check out. It belongs to the Monastery up in point Reyes. (It is my understanding that they are thinking of moving to Modoc County. Marin County won't let the make necessary epanssions.) Are you still interested ihn spending a weekend up there?
From a work point of view I hate this time of year. Everyone I need to talk to is out. I've made my pitches. Now I wait until the first workday after January 2 and see if any contracts come in. In the meantime, I have to act busy.
That means doing things not in my division. For instance, I am helping the Campus Partnership Team put together a deal with Stanford, and I am doing the prliminary work on a media buying business that concentrates on college newspapers.

I came across the blog of a girl at Biola who is in the honors program there. You have to read what she wrote. It is so moving that I had to wipe away tears.

The swedish chef was one of my fave muppetts. My alltime faves were the two old guys in the balcony. Man, I miss that show.

Oh, that is bringing the champagne, not drinking it. And no need to go high-end with them. They will be for mimosas, mainly.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Is that drinking 2 bottles or bringing them?

I think a dough wisk is just another kitchen gadget. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty with food. Sometimes it gets to the point after dinner that Christa looks at the kitchen and wonders if the Swedish chef from the Muppets was in town.
Epicurious just sent me an ad for this dough wisk. They say everyone uses them. Okay, maybe I'm not baking cakes for Queen Elizabeth, but I do own Baking with Julia, made my first apple pie at 10, and make a mean soda bread, and I have never ever heard of one of these things. What is wrong with people? Are they afraid to get their hands dirty?
Oh, in case you have some free-time this Christmas season (ha ha! who has any of that?) here are the services we are going to be at. (there are more but we can't make them all.) We'd love for you to join us for any of them.

12/23: 6 p.m. Royal Hours of the Forefeast of the Nativity. These are the services of the First, Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours combined into one continuous service. This is in honor of the Forefeast of the Nativity.

6 p.m. Festal Vigil (Great Compline and Matins) This is Cyndi's favorite service. We do this thing in which wine a bread is blessed, people kiss the cross (the Orthodox version of singing "The Old Rugged Cross"), the priest annoints everyone (orthodox, catholic, protestant, and atheist) with oil of blessing. Then everyone gets some of the wine and bread. And it tastes very good.

10 a.m. The Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, Festal Divine Liturgy

2 bottles of champagne get you out of the song/story/game requirement.
Only you would have a 'religious breakdown of invited guests'. Is there anything we can bring to it? We're really looking forward to seeing you parents-they've never seen Caleb. I have no idea if we'll bring a story, song or game.

The shrimp was very good, but there's no real recipe. Just stir-fry some shrimp and throw in some veggies (we usually use frozen ones). The sauce is one you can get at any store in the Asian section. It's a littel jar that says 'Black Bean Garlic Sauce'. Very good stuff. Oh, and serve it on rice.
How was the shrimp yesterday? Could you post the recipe or give me a link to it?
Nope not back to normal. Went to bed at 9pm yesterday. Woke up at 9am today. Still feel like I need to be in bed. Cough-hack-cough. But I got to the office by 10:30. Had a good conversation with an ad agency in Manhattan.

Brunch is not an Orthodox thing. Religion breakdown of invited guests

Pentecostals: 4
non-pentecostal Evangelicals: 7
Athiests: 1
New Agers: 1
Unknown: 1
Orthodox: 5

But, in as much as most Protestants do not celebrate the 12 day feast of Christmas, but Orthodox do, it is an Orthodox thing. But, don't worry. There will be no incense or prostrations. The only "religious" thing we will do is pray before we sart eating. The prayer will be either the"Our Father" or one of the two hymns bleow followed by "Lord Jesus Christ our God, bless this the food and drink of thy servants for thou art holy always.":

Troparion of the Feast:
"Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
hath shone forth the light of reason upon the world;
for therein those who worship the stars
have been taught by a star to worship Thee,
the Son of righteousness,
and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high.
O Lord, glory be to Thee!"

Kontakion of the Feast:
"Today the Virgin giveth birth unto the Transcendent One,
and the earth doth offer a cave to Him Who is unapproachable.
Angels and shepherds give glory,
and the magi journey with the star.
For unto us a Child is born, the Pre-eternal God!"

Also, we will greet everyone with this greeting: "Christ is Born!" To which the customary response is "Glorify Him!" But most people don't know the customary response. "Good morning" or "merry Christmas", or even, "Hi, its good to see you" are fine.

So are you going to bring a story, song, or game? I'm doing a song, my wife has a game that involves songs, and I think devon is going to read a story.

Oh, yes Devon will be here. I'm very excited. He said he wants to go shopping for a tie to wear for the brunch. He's going to help me with the cooking, too.

So are you back to normal yet? Christa and I would love to come to your 3rd day of Christmas brunch. What is the deal on it? Is it an Orthodox thing or just something you are putting together?

Monday, December 08, 2003

What do the American Baptists believe? Well there are several different groups that call them selves the American Baptists. They are all baptist. Which doesn't actually mean much, since all Baptists affirm the Baptist Distictives. Some Baptists say there are only three. Some say there are eight. Some say thee are more. In short, they all say the individual is free to define truth for him or her self. It is instructive to see what happened with Roger Williams, who brought the Baptist religion to America: He ended up praying by himself, alone in a room. In short, every baptist church believes whatever they want to believe, and disbelieves what ever they do not want to believe.
Jeff, I thought you were EV Free? Do you know what you believe?
So what do you know about the American Baptist denomination? They ahve a church in Boise which needs an Associate Pastor, and they seem to be looking for what I can do.
Gene Scott was looking pretty old on the show. He's gotta be 80 or so by now. Liver spots all over his face, but he seemed to have it all together mentally.

Dinner for tonight is stir-fry shrimp in a garlic black-bean sauce.
Dr. Gene Scott is my all-time favorite TV preacher. I watched him every day and late in to the night when I was a kid (10-12 years old). He is the first person I ever heard mention Tertullian, St. Ignatius, and St. Polycarp. I loved listening to his teacing on the pyramids, especially. (I belive he is right about them but so what? Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father. What can the great pyramid teach us that Jesus hasn't revealed to us perfectly?) But just because you are right about a couple of things and have a Ph.D. from Stanford doesn't mean you are right about the important things.

I also remember him teaching on Jeremiah 18. Wow what a powerful set of sermons those were. But he is such a nut. To him Christianity is a source of pride. His knowledge does not lead to repentence. He is like Satan in that respect.

He was one of the up and coming stars of the Assemblies of God. But he got into a fight with the state of California and went of the deep end. My Dad new him back in the 60s. Said he was one of the best preachers he ever heard. But something happened to him during his fight with the State. Dad says a spirit of rebellion entered him. I think he might be right.

Nope, my parents didn't go to church with me. They are both in very poor health. I don't theing they will be alive much longer. They said they want to go to church with me on Christmas Eve but that is going to be such a long service that I am trying to discourage them from going.

I am still sick. I was just on the phone with a client and had to end the call because of my coughing.

I've noticed that you still don't put links in your posts. Did you ever learn how? all you have to do is highlight the text, click on the icon of the globe w/chain links, enter the URL and hit Okay.

You'll never believe who I saw on Tv when I was down South for THanksgiving. Dr. Gene Scott! I didn't even know he was still alive! He's the one who had the nightly TV show in which he would talk about anything and everything related to Christianity. I still can't decide if he's a crank or not. He's the one who, when I was in college, saw do communion on Tv and said, "For those of you at home who want to join us in communion, grab a beer and a dinner roll and join in". It can be hard to be both heretical and fall-on-the-floor funny at the same time, but did achieve it with that comment. He also smokes big-ass cigars.
So how are you feeling?? Are you back to normal? Did your parents come to church with you? How did that go over?
If you're not going to buy the new Johnny Cash set, at least find it online and download the song "Pocahontas". it is really one of the most amazing things he has ever done.
I have had such a difficult weekend. I had to leave work early on Wednesday. Was sick in bed with flu thursday, friday, most of Saturday and Sunday. I still don't feel 100%. Discovered that bourbon is the best medicine for coughs. one finger of bourbon in an old fashioned glass, microwave on Hi for 30 seconds. vapors numb the pain in one's head and lungs. sleep sleep slepp. Everything is good good when drinking hot bourbon. (Honey is optional.)

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Yesterday, the feast day of St. Nicholas my parents and all of their descendants had a party. I wrote a little booklet and gave a copy to each of them. Below is the text.

Who's The Man in the Red Suit?
I have a photo album with nine photographs of me and Santa Claus. Every year from 1969 through 1977 my mother dressed me up and took me to get my picture taken with Santa Claus. One year I was too sick with the mumps to go out, so my brother Ken dressed up like Santa Claus for the picture. But who is Santa Claus? Why do people dress up like that every year? Why do we pretend that he gives gifts to children?
Let’s start with his name, Santa. This is the first clue. Santa is derived from the Latin word "sanctus", which means holy. It means that whoever this Santa Claus is, he is filled with God. Or in the words of the St. Peter it means that he partakes in the nature of God. So we know that Santa Claus is not an ordinary man. He is a holy man, a saint. But what about Claus? Where does that come from? Well, in some parts of northern Europe, Klause, and Klass, and Claus are all ways of saying Nicolas. I know you already know this, but whenever we talk about Santa Claus we are really talking about Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas, who is revered as a saint, a bishop, and a real person by Orthodox, Byzantine Catholic, and Roman Catholic Christians, entered into legend among the Protestants of western Europe. Though reverence for the saints has been de-emphasized and neglected within Protestant countries, sometimes even outlawed, the memory of Saint Nicholas could not be repressed. He emerged in the popular culture as Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Sinter Klaus, and other names. Always, he is a kindly man who gives gifts to others -- especially children -- during the Christmas season. Gradually, his gifts came to be given on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day rather than on the proper day for the celebration of Saint Nicholas, December 6. Orthodox Christians still celebrate his feast day by giving gifts of candy to their children on December 6. (Candy canes remind us that St. Nicholas is a bishop, a shepherd of men’s souls.)
But why? Why is this man so loved and honored today, exactly 1,660 years after his death? Why should we remember him today, especially when we consider that a lot of people hated him while he was alive? Who was he? What did he do that warrants this kind of memorial to him year after year?
For the answer to that question we have to journey across the sea and back many centuries to the city of Myra in Lycia, which is in modern day Turkey.
At a time and place when being a Christian was a crime, Archbishop Nicholas was a very public Christian. By the power of the Holy Spirit he preached Jesus Christ in public, did miracles, and even stopped the killing of a political prisoner by grabbing executioner’s sword with his bare hand. But the act he is most remembered for, and the origin of giving gifts in his name, is rescuing three girls from lives of prostitution. All the details of the story are not known, but this is what we do know. There was a poor family in city of Myra that did not have enough money to provide for their daughters’ dowries. So they were going to sell their daughters to a brothel.
St. Nicholas was not willing for that to happen so he decided to give the family money so the three girls could get married. That is all we know. Some legends about this event are very elaborate and involve throwing socks filled gold through windows in the middle of the night. The legends might be true but no one is sure. All we know for sure is that Bishop Nicholas saved the three girls with a gift of money. But there is more to St. Nicholas’ story than his acts of mercy.
On February 23 in the year 303, the Emperor Diocletian began one of most brutal persecutions of Christians in history. (Only the Communists in the 20th century were more cruel.) Holy books were burned, and altars desecrated. Christians' homes were confiscated and their furniture was thrown in the street. So many Christian men and women were martyred that the executioners were exhausted and took turns at their work.
During these years of persecution, Saint Nicholas was imprisoned and branded with hot irons. He was beaten. He was pinched with metal pliers and pieces of his skin were torn off. After his skin healed he would be tortured again. But he never denied the Lord Jesus. Eventually, Diocletion died and a new emperor took the throne and after many horrible days of suffering, Nicholas was set free.
After the persecution ended, and after the new Emperor, St. Constantine legalized Christianity Satan attacked the Church in a more insidious way than before: From the inside.
A popular preacher in Alexandria, Egypt, the presbyter Arius began teaching that Jesus was not really God. Arius deceived many Christians. And by his false teaching took many people to Hell. Even some of the most important bishops had embraced this demonic doctrine.
But the evil dogma of Arius was not just damaging the church. It was also causing riots throughout the Empire. The Church and the Empire were under attack. St. Constantine had to do something. So, in A.D.325 the summons went out to the bishops scattered around the world. From Britania and Gaul in the West to Assyria, Persia, and even India in the East; from the far reaches of the frozen North, to the blazing deserts of Africa in the South, all the bishops of the church, including St. Nicholas, were called to city of Nicea to deal with the teaching of Arius and settle the question of Christ’s divinity. Not all the bishops could come, some were too old or in poor health, and the bishops from India and Persia were forbidden the right to travel by the Parthian Empire. But eventually, enough bishops, or their representatives arrived and the meeting could start. The council began when St. Constantine set the Gospel book on the throne and asked the very old and much loved Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria to explain what was going on. So the old Alexander, assisted by his deacon, Athanasius told what Arius had been teaching and how the Synod of Alexandria had deposed Arius and excomunicated him and his followers.
The bishops from far away, who knew nothing about this controversy, wanted to hear Arius’ side of the story. So Arius was given a chance to speak. He stood up, and filled with perversity began to sing a song about Jesus not really being God. All the bishops were stunned! Here was a man ordained to the priesthood who, without even having the excuse of being tortured was denying Christ! There was uproar in the hall as the godly bishops, including ssome who had survived Diocletian’s tortures for loving Jesus, were exclaimied their horror and outrage at the demonic words of the song.
It was all too much for Saint Nicholas. He was so infuriated that he walked up to the evil man and hit him in the mouth! Some versions of the story say he threw the Gospel book at Arius.
But bishops are not allowed to hit people, not even arch-heretics. Immediately, the other bishops deposed Saint Nicholas. They stripped him of his position as Archbishop of Myra, and threw him out of the council.
Did St. Nicholas regret his hasty action? I’m sure he did. He was a bishop and loved God, yet he hit another man, who, though filthy with sin, was nevertheless, made in God’s image.
St. Nicholas was no longer a bishop. But he was still a Christian and wanted to use his talents to serve God’s people. So, he built an orphanage. After he finished building one orphanage, he built another orphanage. He spent the rest of his life and all of his fortune taking care of parentless children.
Later, not long after he was deposed, the other bishops of the church decided that St. Nicholas had suffered enough, and that the church had suffered enough, and restored him as bishop of Myra. But as was his practice from his youth, he never gave up his asceticism, as some bishops did. He refused to live lavishly. He kept the fasts, prayed constantly and God rewarded him by giving him the gift of miracles. Just as our Lord multiplied bread and fish, to feed the hungry, St. Nicholas prayed over food and saw it multiply to feed his city during a famine. He even raised some people from the dead.
Covered by God's love, Saint Nicholas suffered abuse as he chose to follow Christ. His life was a gift to others and to God, as ours should be.
St. Nicholas died on December 6, 343 at the age of 73. But the story does not end there.
He was buried in his cathedral and from that moment on, just like with the body of the holy prophet Elisha, his body would heal people. The sick and infirm who came close to his body were healed of diseases and filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
One day it was noticed that a clear liquid was trickling from the coffin of St. Nicholas. People who touched this liquid were healed, so the monks who took care of the cathedral moved the coffin over a metal grate on the floor so people could stand in the room below it and be showered with the holy myrrh. For 740 years the relics of St. Nicholas were kept in Myra and guarded by monks.
But the Empire of the Christians was under attack from the Muslims. And finally after more than 300 years of war, the Muslims took the area of Lycea, and set about burning down churches, defacing icons, and destroying relics of saints. But God was not willing for the body of his holy servant Nicholas to fall into the hands of the Muslims.
One of the monks guarding the body of St. Nicholas had a vision and was told that some people were coming to rescue the relics and move them to a safe place.
Those people were sailors from the town of Bari, Italy. They set sail to rescue the relics of St. Nicholas in 1087. With three ships, and prepared to die fighting their way through the Muslim navy they made straight to Lycia, but they encountered no enemy ships. They landed, expecting to have to fight through an army of Muslims, but there was no army. The way to the cathedral was clear of enemies.
When they got to the cathedral and opened the coffin to remove the body they did not smell death and rot, but they smelled to odor of flowers coming from the beloved saint’s body. They quickly got the relics back to their ships and set sail for Italy.
They landed at Bari, Italy on May 9, 1087, and according to Archdeacon John, who was present when St. Nicholas’ relics were brought into the church, about 30 people suffering from various ailments had gathered at the cathedral hoping to be healed and were, in fact, healed when the body of St. Nicholas arrived.
The relics of St. Nicholas have rested in Bari, Italy to this day, and Holy Myrrh (That is what the clear liquid is called.) still flows from his body. And thousands of people make pilgrimages there every week to honor this great man of God and be healed of their diseases.
But the story does not end there. Since the death of St. Nicholas he has been a favorite Saint for the naming of Churches. By the year 430, just a few decades after his death there were five churches named after him in Constantinople. If you look in the phone book of any major city you will find several Churches named after St. Nicholas. (In case you are interested, there are two in San Francisco, one in San Jose, and one in Saratoga). One of those churches named after St. Nicholas was in New York City.
I say "was" because it was across the street from the World Trade Center and on September 11, 2001 it was destroyed when the Muslims attacked the United States. But the church is being rebuilt. My church has helped them buy new bells, other churches have contributed money for construction, and icons, and liturgical vessels and all the other things needed in an Orthodox Church. Even the mayor of Bari, Italy gave $500,000 to help rebuild the church. But something special is being given.
For a thousand years the relics of St. Nicholas have been kept in the cathedral of the Archbishop of Bari. But that is about to change. Pope John Paul II is sending the relics of this Saint to our country to rest in the altar of the rebuilt Church of St. Nicholas in Manhattan. So, for the people of New York City, Santa Claus really is coming to town.

"You appeared to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence. Because of your lowliness, heaven was opened to you. Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you. O holy bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ our God to save our souls."

Friday, December 05, 2003

Me: very sick. Have the flu. Going back to bed as soon as I finish this post. I was going to make grandfather's cioppino for Anselm's godmother tonight but had to cancel.

Brenden manning: Didn't mean to sound harsh. I don't know his biography. All I know about him is that he used to be a catholic priest (The Orthodox view on this is kind of complicated, but, in shorth, we do believe the the RCC has valid orders and that their clergy recieve grace sufficient to their office when they are ordained.), that he took a vow to be celebate, and that he walked away from both. I do not know what led to him becoming a drunk and leaving his priesthood behind. I have no idea what it is like to be a Franciscan. And I do not know Brendan Manning's particular situation. It's just that when ever I hear his name my mental caption for his is "failed priest, vow breaker".

Emphasis on God's love: nothing wrong with this. Every night I pray, "O Christ our God who art worshiped and glorified in all places and in every hour, who lovest the just and showest mercy upon the sinners, who callest all men to salvation through the promise of blessings to come..."

Christmas party: We never received the invitiation. We can't make it. We already have plans in SF from 5 to 9 that evening. But thanks for inviting us. I always enjoy your parties and am sad to be missing it.

Benny Hinn: What you stated was not exactly my former view of him but is close enough. My current view is that he is a liar and a showman and might be leading people to hell. I do not think God has given him the gift of healing. If he repents, God will forgive him.

You asked why I liked Brennan Manning. Let me qualify it by saying i like some of his stuff, but I do think he gets a bit mushy from time to time-theologically as well. Sometimes he almost comes across as a universalist. His main theme that he hits over and over is the love of God, and he does have some powerful things to say about it, but i can see him coming across as a 1-note performer.

That being said, I'm surprised at your harsh criticism of him as a 'failed priest and a vow-breaker. Isn't the Catholic system as much to blame, as they would let a priest basically become a homeless alcoholic? Funny thing-if he were Orthodox, he'd probbly still be a priest because they are allowed to marry where Catholics aren't.
All right, I'm back today. I haven't gotten an RSVP as to whether you are coming to the Christmas party or not.

Benny Hinn came up yesterday (lunch almost did also at the mention of his name) You used to say that you thought he was gifted at healing but abused his gift. What do you think now??

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Jeff, we have the ability to receive coments now. It is a little bit confusing, the way they are laid out on the page, but I think I'll have it figured out soon. I want the comment line to be directly below the posted by line, not way way down at the top of the previous post.
I am having to learn way more Javav than I ever wanted to learn for this little project of ours.
Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I'm learning Slavonic! I just heard part of the divine liturgy of St. John Chrysoston sung in Slavonic (see the link below) and knew what they were singing! This is so excellent!
I came across this website. Pretty music. I'm looking forward to seeing how they develop.
The flu kills an average of 36,000 people in the USA every year. (Source USA Today 12/3/03)

Since the beginning of the epidemic in 1982 through 2000 there have been, 448,060 reported AIDS deaths (Source: Centers for Disease Control). That means that from 1982 through 2000 there have been an average of 24,892 AIDS deaths per year.

So, what color are the flu awareness ribbons and why don’t I ever see people wearing them?

I was just at the Red Meat website to see if they hand any new CDs out that I could by my wife for Christmas and saw that they have a verse of the day feature on one of their pages. Kinda weird from that band. But here is the verse: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: " - Colossians 1:13 I also thought it was weird because it is an incomplete sentence.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I love this picture. It was taken during the liturgy on Nov. 23 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Boston. What's happening is called the great entrance. That is when the bishops and/or priests cary the bread and wine from the table of preparation, and into the altar through the Royal Doors. You can see the bread (covered by a cloth) between the heads of the deacons.
I really do not understand why you like Manning. When I think of him the first thing that comes to mind is "failed priest, vow breaker". And I think it is strange that both Micael Card, who wrote a wonderful bookon wisdom literatue in the Gospel of John, and Mark Lowry, who is gay (Look at this link and scroll down until you see the picture of bill gaither.)are both promoting him. And when I read his stuff... it just seems so "precious moments" or "chicken soup for the soul"...very sentimental. So, what is it about him that you like? One way is narrow. One way is broad. I think Brenden Mannig is popular because he is unoffensive. He can include people as different as Card and Lowry. He represents the broad way. (But I did like the quotes. The Barret-Browning one took me a minute to understand, though.)
A couple of quotes that I ran across today on Brennan Manning's website:

"Spiritual maturity is giving up the illusion that I can ever be alone"

"All difficulties in prayer can be traced to one cause-praying as if God were absent" (Teresa of Avila)

"Every bush is a burning bush. A few stand transfixed. The rest sit around and pluck blackberries" (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Joke time!

Panda goes into a bar, orders a sandwich and eats it. Then pulls out a six-shooter, peppers the shelf of bottles and the mirror behind the bar, and walks out. Bartender non-plussed, panda tells him to "look it up." Encyclopedia conveniently stowed under the bar, says

"Panda--bearlike mammal from Asia, eats shoots and leaves."

Hey, on Anselm's Godfthers blog he has a quote from Bl. Seraphim Rose that goes a long way toward explaining Saddleback Community Church and other "seeker" churches.

I don't know what book it is from but here is the quote:
"When the "me generation" turns to religion - which has been happening very frequently in the past several decades - it is usually to a "plastic" or fantasy form of religion: a religion of "self-development" (where the self remains the object of worship), brainwashing and mind-control, of deified gurus and swamis, of a pursuit of UFO's and "extra-terrestrial" beings, of abnormal spiritual states and feelings."

You know what? As I reflect on my exploration of Saddleback, I think it is fair to say they do not offer meat, not even milk, and barely any colostrum.

Oh, I had some excitement in my life last night. I was heading North on San Tomas Expy when I was stopped at a red light at Pruneridge. A black late 80's model Mustang pulled up next to me at the light. I looked over at them and saw the guy in the passenger seat light up a three foot tall bong! I couldn't believe it! He saw me looking and tried to put it down below the level of the window so I wouln't be able to observe his nefarious actions. BUT IT WAS THREE FEET TALL! I picked up the cell phone and tried to call 9-1-1 to report them. They saw the phone in my hand and must have figured out what I was doing. They took off like Seabiscuit on speed. I went through all five gears and hit 85 mph by the time I got to homestead. But the light at homestead was red and I didn't want to endanger someones life. and here is the kicker: I never got through to 9-1-1 because all circuits were busy. If I'd had my pistol on me I would have just shot out his tires.
Just thinking of Tozer. When I was a catachumen there was a woman in my class who had been in Tozer's denomination most of her life. She told me that Tozer's book Knowledge of the Holy first set her on the path that lead her to Orthodoxy. I read the same book back in '97 or '98. I can't say that it lead me to Orthodoxy, though. At least not more so than anyother Christian influence on my life.
I've never understood what is meant by describing a Christian as a mystic. We are all mystics, aren't we? We all have to admit that things happen that we do not understand. God is hidden yet is everywhere. To qute one of the Gnostic gospels "Lift a stone and I am there". Jesus said that if we feed the hungry we feed him. That seems mystical to me.

Faber was a Protestant who converted to Roman Catholicism and wrote some hymns for that church. Sometime in the 1800s That is all I know about him.

Nursing: Well, because of all of the changes in my life (moving threee times, working nutso hours) I had to put nursing school on hold after the spring 2003 term. I am starting up again in January at De Anza College. My ultimate goal is to be a hospice nurse but there is a lot that has to happen between now and then.
I still haven't figured out how to allow people to make comments on our blog posts. But we can still publicize the existence of our blog. Is there anyone you would like to invite? I'm thinking the the people to whm we have links, (except Johnny Cash) should be invited to read it. Anyone else? Oh, George, and Keith, of course. Anyone else?
I talked with Fr. Victor about doing a house blessing for us on the Third Day of Christmas (which is Dec 27) but he said he would like to wait until the week following Theophany, when we remember Jesus' Baptism and do the great blessing of the waters. That got me to thinking about Holy Water. And it occured to me that most Protestants don't know what it is, I didn't until my first Theophany/Epiphany and listened to all the prayers.
So, I thought you might like to read a little bit about Holy Water. This was written by Fr. Thomas Hopko (Former dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary):
"Sometimes people think that the blessing of water and the practice of drinking it and sprinkling it over everyone and everything is a "paganism" which has falsely entered the Christian Church. We know, however, that this ritual was practiced by the People of God in the Old Testament, and that in the Christian Church it has a very special and important significance.
It is the faith of Christians that since the Son of God has taken human flesh and has been immersed in the streams of the Jordan, all matter is sanctified and made pure in him, purged of its death-dealing qualities inherited from the devil and the wickedness of men. In the Lord's epiphany all creation becomes good again, indeed "very good," the way that God himself made it and proclaimed it to be in the beginning when "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen 1:2) and when the "Breath of Life" was breathing in man and in everything that God made (Gen 1:30; 2:7). The world and everything in it is indeed "very good" (Gen 1:31) and when it becomes polluted, corrupted and dead, God saves it once more by effecting the "new creation" in Christ, his divine Son and our Lord by the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal 6:15). This is what is celebrated on Epiphany, particularly in the Great Blessing of Water. The consecration of the waters on this feast places the entire world -- through its "prime element" of water -- in the perspective of the cosmic creation, sanctification, and glorification of the Kingdom of God in Christ arid the Spirit. It tells us that man and the world were indeed created and saved in order to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19), the "fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:22). It tells us that Christ, in who in "the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily," is and shall be truly "all, and in all" (Col 2:9, 3:11). It tells us as well that the "new heavens and the new earth" which God has promised through his prophets and apostles (Is 66:2; 2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1) are truly "with us" already now in the, mystery of Christ and his Church. Thus, the sanctification and sprinkling of the Epiphany water is no pagan ritual. It is the expression of the most central fact of the Christian vision of man, his life and his world. It is the liturgical testimony that the vocation and destiny of creation is to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19). "

That reminds me...what is going on with your nursing stuff? I haven't heard anything in a while and thought you had given up on it. Once you start up in january, how long will you have to go?

Speaking of biographies, I've just started one on Tozer (St. Aiden, to you)which was written right after he died in 1964. I didn't know he was as much of a mystic as he was. He's a big proponent of someone named Frederick Faber, who I have never heard of.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I'm glad you had a good time down south.
Helicopters are scary. I never got used to riding around in them.
Nope I haven't listend to the Johnny Cash boxed set. I usually don't buy outtake albums, just for the reason you said.
I came across a neat online bookstore, eightday books. This is what they say:
"Reality doesn't divide itself into religious and literary and secular spheres, so we don't either. We're convinced that all truths are related and every truth, if we pay attention rightly, directs our gaze toward God. One of our customers found us "eclectic but orthodox." We like that."

I have a feeling they carry no "purpose driven" or "late great" books.

I don't know if you've read about many of the Holy Martyrs of the communist years but one of them, Grand Duchess Elizabeth" is very dear to me. I read her biography when I was a catachumen. Her story was a mjor motivator for me to begin training to be a nurse. This has been a difficult autumn with all the moving and I have had to interupt my attending of classes. I'll be starting classes at De Anza in January.

There is another saint (I call him a saint but I don't know if it is official or not). His name is Father Arseny. He was born in 1893 and reposed in 1973. mimeogrpahed stories about him were handed from hand to hand by the Christians of Russia during the persection. These stories have been collected now and are in a book. Here is an excerpt from one of the books about him.

"One of the sick men told him that his name was Sazikov, Ivan Alexandrovich. Father Arseny prayed quietly while he was helping him. Sazikov noticed it and mumbled, ''you're praying, eh, Priest?! You pray to get forgiveness of your sins and this is why you help us! You're afraid of God! Why's that? Have you ever seen Him?'' Father Arseny looked at Sazikov with surprise. ''How could I not have seen him? He is here among us and unites you and me!'' ''What are you saying, Pop? God is in this barracks?'' he laughed. Father Arseny looked at him and said quietly, ''Yes, I see his presence. I see that your soul is black with sin, but there is room in it for light. Light will come to you Sazikov, light and your Saint, Saint Seraphim of Sarov will not abandon you.'' Sazikov's face distorted, he trembled and whispered with hatred, ''I'll kill you, silly priest, I'll kill you -- I don't know how you know things. I hate the way you think.'' Father Arseny turned around and walked away repeating, ''Have mercy on me, a sinner!'' While he was doing his work he prayed the akathist, his rule of prayer, vespers, matins, and all the other prayers a priest must pray. . .Sazikov, a hardened criminal, perhaps a murderer; Fr. Arseny, in the world an eminent art historian and now a priest-monk -- both thrown together, as were unknown millions of common and political prisoners, into the unspeakable horror of Stalin's gulag. Eventually the light did come to Sazikov; and the darkness could not overcome it."

Frederica Mathews-Green reviewed the two two books about Fr. Arseny. But that is not how I found out about them. When I was a catachumen, a woman in my church who used to be a spirit medium introduced me to them. She said, "The goal of every Christian is to become like Fr. Arseny because he became like Christ".

So many posts from you...so little time. So why were you looking up stuff on the Trans-Saharan Highway? I didn't even know there was such a thing. Around here, we call that Highway 5
Okay, I'm finally back after Thanksgiving and all. We had a great trip to So Cal to spend it with Christa's family. Caleb saw Santa Claus for the first time and was his usual happy self. We also had a special guest for Thanksgiving...a female Apache helicopter pilot from the Marines who is going to Iraq in 3 months. Christa's Uncle Bob is a Lutheran pastor in Oceanside, right near Camp Pendleton and she goes to his church. To meet her, a Marine helicopter pilot is the last thing that would come to mind. She looked like she could work at the cosmetic counter at Macy's.

Did you by chance get the new Johnny Cash boxed cd set? Pretty flippin' incredible. Two of the best are his take on Neil Young's 'Pocahontas' and Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song'. The latter is a duet with Joe Strummer, former lead singer for The Clash. Of course, since it's a box of outtakes, some of the songs just don't work. Johnny's version of 'Wichita Lineman' just blows.

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