Thursday, January 29, 2004

Prayer request: I have offers in front of several large clients. If any of them signs a contract I am out of debt, my company is in the black, and my wife will be able to quit one of her jobs, thus devoting more time to raising children. Please pray for my deals. I offered the lowest prices and the best programs possible. Now it is out of my hands. Pray that God gives us favor in their eyes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I wrote to Dr. Bronner about his 18 in one soap. On the label there is a big warning that says "DO NOT EAT THE SOAP!":

I said: "I read the ingrdients.  There are not 18 of them.  Could you explain the name? Also, there is a warning not to drink the soap. But all of the ingredients listed are edible.  Why not drink the soap?"

This is the reply I received: "

Dear Matt,
Thanks for writing, and I apologize for the horrible delay in responding to your email.  18-in-1 refers to the number of uses for the soap.  All of the ingredients are edible, except that they are saponified with potassium hydroxide, otherwise known as lye, which converts the oils into inedible soap.  If it wasn't for that, it would be very much edible.

Take care, All-One!
Michael Bronner
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

Why didn't we just let the Germans have them?
I have a friend who is a Roman Catholic. He sent me a very long document about how members of his church prepare for confession. A lot of it is similar to how the Orthodox do it, but much of it is different. The self examination part is interesting: Here is the list against which the RCs are supposed to judge their lives as they prepare for the Sacrament.

The Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.
4. Honor thy father and thy mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

The Six Commandments of the Church
I. To Hear/Attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
II. To fast and abstain on the days appointed
III. To go to confession at least once a year.
IV. To receive Holy Communion once a year at least during Easter time.
V. To contribute to the support of our pastors.
VI. To obey the Church in regards to the Sacrament of Matrimony.

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Opposite Virtues
I. Pride..........................................Humility
II. Covetousness...........................Liberality
III. Lust...........................................Chastity
IV. Anger........................................Meekness
V. Gluttony.....................................Temperance
VI. Envy..........................................Brotherly love
VII. Sloth..........................................Diligence

The Four Sins Which Cry to Heaven for vengeance:
1. Willful murder. 2. The Sin of Sodom/Homosexual Acts. 3. Oppression of the poor. 4. Defrauding the labor of your wages.

Nine Ways of Being Accessory to Another's Sin:
1. By counsel. 2. By command. 3. By consent. 4. By provocation. 5. By praise or flattery. 6. By concealment. 7. By partaking. 8. By silence. 9. By defense of the ill done.

The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy
1. To admonish sinners. 2. To instruct the ignorant. 3. To counsel the doubtful. 4. To comfort the sorrowful. 5. To bear wrongs patiently. 6. To forgive all injuries. 7. To pray for the living and the dead.

The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
1. To feed the hungry. 2. To give drink to the thirsty. 3. To clothe the naked. 4. To visit and ransom the captives. 5. To harbor the harbor less. 6. To visit the sick. 7. To bury the dead.

This is kinda funny, kinda sad.
Yeah, Schnapps girl was bad news. Even when I was in the Army I never saw anyone do something like that. She was a sweet girl, just so messed up. The other bad thing about that trip was the high-altitude pasta fiasco.

Cyndi and I are thinking about getting into commercial realestate. Because of her CCRM status she qualifies for some US Govt. loans. thinking of a mixed use building in SF. Bottom floor retail/top floors residential. We are still in the investagatory process. Might have to form a LP or a Corp to do it. If we do a LP or a Corp would you be interested in investing?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Actually, the Church was around not just before the NT was canonized, the church existed and was doing its work before any part of the New Testament was written. The Church functioned for several years with no written New Testament. Also, you are incorrect in what you are saying we agreed to. Certain members of the Church wrote the New Testament. All of the New Testament authors were prominent members of the church, every single one of them one an apostle or bishop. So, I contend that the Church did not just recognize the New Testament, but produced the New Testament.

Now to your question :"Why?". Why write some things but not all things? Of course, does "why" even matter? Why did Jesus become a man to save us? Why does God love us? Does it matter? Why did God create the universe? Why is the sky blue? Does it matter? Why are the laws of addition what they are? Does it matter? No. What matters is the fact, not the reason. Why doesn’t change facts. Why the U.S. overthrew the governments of Argentina, Germany, Iraq, and Panama doesn’t chage the fact that it did overthrow those governements. Nevertheless, I shall try to answer your question. I know some what, but not even much of that. But why? I do not know why, only some what. I can conjecture, guess, infer, venture, and hypothesize about why. But I can not state why with certainty. All I can do to answer your question is to list certain facts and see if some sort of picture congeals around those facts. And what are those facts?

1. The Bible assumes the authority of extra-Biblical tradition. In fact, the Bible even appeals to sacred knowledge not within itself. I would direct your attention to 2 Chronicles 29:25, 2 Chronicles 35:4. Oh, and here is one form the New Testament: 2 Timothy 3: 8-9 The two magicians who opposed Moses are called Jannes and Jambres. Where do those names come from? Nowhere in the Old Testament. But in extra-biblical writings from around 200 B.C. Here is Bible showing the authority of non-biblical writings in the life of the Church. I know you are a big John MacArthur fan, but in his essay in the book Sola Scriptura! he said something like "there is no place for tradition in the worship of Yahweh." (It’s been 3 or 4 years since I read it so I don’t remember exactly what he said, but that is pretty close.) But here are three verses that just flat-out show he is wrong.
2. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 11. In verse two, St. Paul is commending the church at Corinth for keeping the ordinances exactly as he delivered them. When did he deliver them? Probably on his first visit to Corinth. Were they written down? And in verse 34 he says, I’ll straighten out the rest when I get there. Here is St. Paul saying "good job on obeying my oral instructions. I’ll give you som more next time I see you."
3. God has always given a group of people the authority to speak for Him and expects his Church to obey. Just take a look at Deuteronomy 17:8-12. Here is God setting up some Levites who will give directions to the people and the people are to regard those directions as directions from God. Likewise, this is seen at the proto-council of Jerusalem. The council said, "It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us".
4. St. Paul expected the Church to believe and obey his words, disregarding whether they were written or spoken. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
5. In 2 Timothy 2:2 , St. Paul expects his teaching and his authority to be passed on. (Compare this passage to 1 Timothy 4:14, Acts 1:15-26) It seems that St. Paul is giving equal weight to the spoken word ("heard") as to Scripture. This verse doesn’t just give us a picture of the deposit of the faith being transmitted, but even the beginnings of the succession of Apostolic authority.
6. St. Paul was not the only one of the Apostles who gave such great weight to the spoken word. St. John made it clear that the epistle was second best to speaking face to face. (2 John 12 , 3 John 13)

Now let me ask you to imagine the silliest thing…. Zwingli arrives in 1st century Athens and says, "Hey, you guys got it all wrong. These verses Paul wrote to the Corinthinas don’t mean that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, the Bible doesn’t say anything about fasting on Wednesday and Friday, and for Heaven’s sake, stop honoring your bishop." Well I can imagine them saying, "Zwingli, you are of the Devil. St. Paul himself was here himself, just a few days ago, and set us in order. We heard the words of God from the Apostlic lips and we are not going to change just because you have subtle and logical explanations of his letters". And imagine John Macarther Visiting Rome and saying to Justin Martyr, "Justin, what are you doing? You know worshiping the true God shouldn’t involve tradition!" I can almost hear St. Justin saying. "John, you’re a good man, your hearts in the right place, you are jealous for God, but you are wrong. Ss. Peter and Paul were hear just a few years ago and they set us in order with this liturgy. It’s the same cup of blessing the church in Jeursalem has. The same cup St. Marks church in Alexandria has. It was passed on to us just like St. Paul instructed St. Timothy to do at Ephesus. I love you John, but your wrong. Why don’t you come inside and get right with God?"

Do you remember when Matt Hendricks was trying to get me to convert to Catholocism? Well, I wasn’t about to do something like that with out examining the evidence. So I read. And I read the most amazing thing. In Volume VII of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the 19th Century Calvinist editors admitted that the liturgies of St. James and St. Mark really are the work of their namesakes, if not in all the details then in some of the prayers and the main structures. The early writing of the Church are full of things said by Apostles and Jesus that never made it into the Bible. But that’s okay. The Bible is a special book and servea a particular role in worship that the other writings are not intended to fill.

But how do we know the extra biblical traditions are passed on correctly? I look at three things and take great comfort in them.

The first is something called the Canon of St.Vincent, "Magnopere curandum est ut id teneatur quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est". Does everyone believe it? Is it believed everywhere? Has it been believed at all times?.

The second is the apostolic succession of the bishops. St. Clement of Rome, who knew the apostles and heard their teaching with his ears, wrote (about A.D. 80):

"The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ is from God and the Apostles are from Christ. Both of the orderly arrangements, then are by Gods will. Receiveing their instructions and being full of confidence on account of the resurection of of our Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in the faith by the word of God, they went forth in the complete assurance of the Holy Spirit,
preaching the good news that the Kingdom of God is coming. Through the country side they preached and they appointed their earliest followers, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers." (Letter to the Corinthians)

Then he goes on to write:

"Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and and afterwords added the provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed their service." (letter to the Corinthians)

And Iraneus of Lyons (in Present day France) after asking who laid hands on the heritics wrote "It is possible for everyone in every church to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which had been made known throughout the world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors, to our own time…"

The third thing is this: The Orthodox Church fasts on Wednesday and Friday. Why? For 1800 years we said, because the Apostles said to fast Wednesdays and Fridays. But it wasn’t written down anywhere. At least not anywhere that we knew of. But then, in the 19th Century someone found a copy of the Didache in a monestary in Turkey. And guess what it said. That’s right, you guessed it. The Didache (subitled: Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) which was written in Jerusalem about the time of that citys destruction said Christians are to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Tradition checked out. Bishops all over the world, checking each other, making sure each passed on the tradition correctly had done there job. And even though the Didache had not been seen since before A.D. 500 the instructions were passed on in the life of the church. But that is only to be expected, for as St. Paul wrote, she is the "Pillar and Foundation of the Truth"

So, why extra biblical tradtion? I do not know. But neither do I know why Biblical tradition. God does what he wants to do, who am I to question. I only have two choices, believe or not believe.

i was looking at the part of the log with the 'stuff about us'. We do loans on blow-up couches also.
I was a bit puzzled when you said that the first trip was so much better than the second trip and then I remembered...oh, yeah, Schnapps.
Okay, lt me ask you another question. Granted, the church was around before Scripture was canonized the way it is. Why, then, did some of the things that the Orthodox church teaches not make it in? mary's virginity being one, infant baptism being another. I believe we've both discussed and agreed that the way Scripture came about is that the church did not decide which books to put in the canon but rather recognized those books which were authoritative. Why were some of the doctrines of the Orthodox church left out?
Yeah, suzanne was a nut. I remember she got furious over that passage that says women are saved in bearing children. I never could figure it out. It was only whan I saw Cyndi's conversion that I began to understand it.

That was a fun trip to tahoe. Much better than the last one. Although, on the last one we learned how to ski. My feet still ache when I remember those boots.

Karin and Chris Downie are coming over for dinner Saturday with their 4-month0old son Will. We actually saw them at ELizabeth's for lunch about 3 weeks ago. Will is a really cute baby and Karin seems to be taking to motherhood pretty well. I'm making my famous Hawaiian Baked Ribs. I think the only time I made them for you was when we were on that TAhoe trip where we had to dig out the way to the door. Diane was on that trip as was Tanya(remember her) Oh, and i also remembered the name of that weird girl who always jumped down hanneman's throat whenever he mentioned male/female relationships. I don't remember her last name, but her first name was Suzanne...last I heard, she was living with some guy in North Carolina (I actually think you told me that)
Good, I'm glad you see the blog. I was worried I might have offended you with the link to your denomination. I think its pretty funny.
How do you not remember the things you write? It is difficult enough that you do not read what I write, but when you don’t even remember what you write how can we have conversation?

Mary’s Ever Virginity
Did I ever deny that the New Testament clearly said “brother”? I never claimed there was ambiguity. But Genesis also clearly states that Lot and Abraham were brothers. I think you are premature in applying our modern definition to the word brother. But, be that as it may, this is not the position of the Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Church teaches that St. James (I do not know that we have a position on St. Jude and the others) was the son of St. Joseph by a previous marriage. It would not be incorrect to call him the Brother of Jesus.

Why do I not question any of this? By any of this I’m going to assume you mean our two dogmas about Mary: 1: She is the mother of God and 2: she is ever virgin. The answer is simple: Because I believe in the Church. I don’t need to remind you that the Church predated all New Testament books. We were around for years, doing the liturgy, singing hymns, trying to lead holy lives for years before the New Testament was written. The Church is, to quote the Apostle Paul, the pillar and foundation of the truth. It is Christ’s Body. It has the authority to write and interpret its own books. Who am I to question it? Why do you think that the very Church that has the authority to write its own books lacks the authority to interpret them? Remember, it is the Church, not the Bible that is the Body of Christ. So again, who am I to judge the Church? Would I sit in judgment of Christ?

Regarding Isaish 19:1 I didn’t give those as proof texts for doctrine. I showed them to you as examples of poetic sources for the services. We only have two dogmas that touch on the Virgin: 1) She is to be called the Theotokos, and 2) she is Ever-Virgin. You can not believe Isaiah 19:1 is about Mary. But let me ask, what do you think that cloud is?

Dennis Miller said last night that America is, at the same time, the most hated, feared and loved country in the world. In other words, America is Frank Sinatra!
Okay, now I remember about the stuff (Sunday of Orthodoxy, etc) I'll try to get to them by the end of the day.

WHat do you mean that I woulnd't enjoy doing Bible study with you anymore?
As far as brothers of Jesus and mary are concerned...I'm a bit disappointed that you would buy into Biblical interpretations that are so haphazard and questionable. For example, the issue with brothers. THe NT uses the word brothers in its clear, everyday use, but someone comes along hundreds of years later to say that it might mean cousins. That is what you are hanging your theological hat on????? You are taking the clear words of Scripture and making up interpretations to satisfy a theological position.

As far as the list of verses you gave me for Mary, well, I'm not sure what really to say. For example, to say that the isaiah 19:1 verse has anything to do with Mary is one of the worst misinterpretation of Scripture I've ever run across. Someone on the church, way back when, started pulling this stuff out of thin air and it worked its way into doctrine.

Why do you not question any of this? Or do you just blindly accept anything the Orthodox church says is true regardless of whether there is any sense in it or not? Issues like this are one of the reasons that I'll never ben Orthodox. Some of it is nonsensical.
All right, let me tackle a bit of this. The class I'm taking at Fuller this quarter is a class in the Psalms. it deals a bit more with some of technical aspects of Hebrew poetry than I'd like, but I'll get through it. The professor reminds me of teh Rick Moranis character from GHostbusters, and it's been tough to get that image out of my mind.

I can't remember what i asked you about Sundays in Orthodoxy or liturgical practices. What did I ask?

By the way, I am seeing the blog the way everyone else is.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Jeff, if it sent you straight back to the posting page I think you stil might not be seeing the blog as other people are seeing it. I changed some of the links and want to make sure it is okay with you. Please, look at the blog. click here and check it out. Let me know what changes you want to make.

Also, before we start a new subject (I Corinthins study) I'd like to close up a few that are already open. I've posted a ton of stuff the last couple of weeks. Have you read it? Most of it was in response to things you posted.
1. You asked for an explanation of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Did my response answer your questions?
2. I asked about what classes you are taking at Fuller this semester.
3. I answered your challenge regarding modern Orthodox liturgical practice. What did you think?
4. I'm still waiting for clarification on what you think did not exist in the 1st century.
5. You asked for one way brothers does not mean brothers. I gave you two. Where are you now on Mary, and can you defend your position?
Can't go to Idaho. That is during Lent.
You read Men's Health? I'd heard that theory several years ago. Is Men's Health saying that it has been proven in the lab?
My schedule is kinda nuts with work, family, church and school right now. It will probably be like this for a couple of years. But thursday of next week will work if it is the 5th. If it is the 4th I am no can do.
Sure, I'll try to do 1 Corinthians with you. But I don't think you will enjoy Bible study with me anymore.
I got my priest's blessing to do the 3rd Hour Reader's Service with people from work. Very cool!
Also, I finally decided on my 10th book. It is Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. From the first line to the last it is a truely enjoyable book.

I'm thinking of going up to Idaho to see Bryguy at the end of March or beginning of April. Do you want to go?
More evidence that evolutionary thought has gone too far. There's a blurb in Men's Health magazine this month that says scientists now believe that the head of the penis is shaped to way it is so that when it is withdrawn, it also takes out the semen of rival men.
Actually, I'm going to be in San Jose this Wed and either next Wed or thurs. Next week would probably work the best, either Feb 4 or 5.
Okay, I'm back on, I think...Let's see how this goes. By following the link on the email you sent me, it sent me straight to the blog with no sing-in. I wonder if this is a one-time freebie or not.

Anyway, here's something I'm going to be doing over the next three weeks or so and I want to know if you want to join me in this. I've been going through 1 Cor since September, taking 30 days or so for 4 chapters each. I'm in the home stretch and have 3 weeks left for ch 13-16

I printed out John Chrysostom's sermons on those chapters (all 12 over them) and I'm going to read 4 a week for the next three weeks. Do you want to read 1 Cor and go through those sermons also?
Hi, Jeff. I hope you got your logging on problems fixed. Here are some books you should read.

On the Holy Spirit, by St. Basil the Great
On the Incarnation, by St. Athanasius (The most important work on Soteriology ever written)
On the Christian Sacraments, by St. Cyril of Jerusalem
On Marriage and Family Life, by St. John Chrysostom
On the Divine Images, by St. John of Damascus
On the Apostolic Preaching, by St. Irenaeus of Lyon.

They are part of the Popular Patristics series bublished by St. Vlad's. They are modern translationsand have informative introductions. You can buy them directly from the seminary bookstore.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Me and the boy woke up form the traditional Sunday afternoon nap about an hour ago. I made him halibut steak, Annie's macaroni and cheese broccoli and peas. I also had a salad. Cyndi woke up before we did and went to work. She is on the closing shift tonight.

Church was very good today. As you know from yesterday's post today is both the commemoration of the New martyrs of Russia and Zacheus Sunday. As I looked around the the temple I several people who had fled that persecution as children. Father managed to pull both observances into one sermon. Before I had to walk to the entrance of the church with Anselm (he was being noisy) he had me in tears.

After the meal we had our anual meeting. Nothing fabulous. They are always the most boring things. Item of note. Anselm's godmother was elected to the church council.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Just got back home from church. I love the vigil services. So much cool stuff happens in them. Tonight we commemorated the glorious, beautiful, and God-pleasing New Martyrs of Russia. God gave me a new bit of understanding tonight. Three times during the vigil service everyone moves to the center of the cathedral while a priest or deacon walks around the whole interior of the building censing all of the icons. I always thought we moved to the center of the room just to get out of the way of the priest. But tonight I saw something else. As we were standing there surrounded by the cloud of prayer I saw all the icons are looking at us. The saints are being honored, sure. But they are watching us, and praying for us, too.
And with tonight's vigil we began the countown to Lent and the Pascha. Liturgically, it is very early on Zacheus Sunday, the first of the pre-lenten Sundays. It is like the first note in a great symphony, or the first raindrop of a huricane. Next week will be the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, then the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, then the Sunday of the Last Judgement and then during Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday we will enter into Lent. And Lent is hard work. I love it. I never feel better than when we are doing lent. I feel like al the prayers I pray all year "cleanse me, purify me, renew me, clean me, change me..." are being answered during Lent. I can hardly wait for it. But God has given these four weeks before Lent as well. I don't know what to do with them. Maybe I will find out at liturgy tomorrow.

I can't get together for martinis. I'm on the southbeach diet and martinis are verbotten. But why don't we meet at the Original Joe's in San Jose on thursday. We can sit at the counter and have steak, maybe talk boxing with the cooks. What kind of cigar you want? peppery? oily? creamy finish? You like the big 42 to 44 ring gauge right? If you are into a cigar with a pretty nice punch I can bring a fistfull of Punch Robustos (these are the shorter cigars with the 50 ring guage). They are about a 15 minute smoke, a little hot, but packed with flavor. When you are through with one of those you won't want a woman for a week.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Jeff, if just dawned realized that you have never actually seen our blog. I was wondering why you never commented on certain template changes I made or responded to people who made coments. It is because you are always logged in and don't actually see what everyone else sees.

Here is what we can do until we get this password thing worked out.
1) read the blog at home. The URL is http://mattandjeffdiverge.blogspot.com

2) write your post in MS Word and email the document to your work email address.

3) At work just copy and paste the text of your post to the blog and make any links you'd like to make.
Jeff, if just dawned realized that you have never actually seen our blog. I was wondering why you never commented on certain template changes I made or responded to people who made coments. It is because you are always logged in and don't actually see what everyone else sees.

Here is what we can do until we get this password thing worked out.
1) read the blog at home. The URL is http://mattandjeffdiverge.blogspot.com

2) write your post in MS Word and email the document to your work email address.

3) At work just copy and paste the text of your post to the blog and make any links you'd like to make.
Stop running whatever browser program you are running. close all windows. Open your browser. check your work email. there should be a message waiting for you. follow the instructions.

So when can you do Martinis? I might be in San Jose also the following Thurs the 5th, if that would work.

I've tried the 'if you forgot your password' box, but I can't get anything from that either. It says to put in your used id, and they will send an email to you with your password. Well, I've done it twice, and they either don't sent the email or send it to someone else. In any case, I'm stuck.

Did I tell you we're getting a new computer in the next week or so? The difference is that we're going to put this one downstair and redo some stuff. Right now it's in our room, and CHrista usually goes to bed about 9 PM or so, which leaves we little time to blog at home. So now I will be able lto do it later at night
If you forgot your password you need to go to www.blogger.com. right below the place where you type in your username and password are some red letters that ask if you forgot your password. click on that.

Is there a particular issue I'd like to discuss? Well, before you brought up 10 fave books we were talking about Marian doctrines (which are really just a chapter of Christology), and we were talking about worship in the Orthodox church. The book discussion is merely a matter of opinion and I don't see that thereis a lot to discuss there. You gave me you ten fave books, I gave you 9 of my 10. (Still can't decide on my 10th).

hmmmm. If you are eternally logged on at work do you ever see the blog as random surfers see it? Do you see the links and the archives? Before we lost our comments host a couple of weeks ago there were quite a few comments. some people even wrote essays in response to things we said. I just got comments working again and hopefully people will begin writing again.

I might be able to meet you for cigars but can't do martinis. Two reasons. Wed is a fast day and I am on the South Beach diet.
Okay, I'm falling behind faster than Howard Dean in new Hampshire. So why don't we regroup a bit. Is there a particular issue or question or subject that you'd like to spend some time on for the next few days?

I'm finding I've got a bit more time to blog at home, but I can't get on at home. I'm eternally logged on at work, but can't remember my user name or password to log on at home. How can I get that? I've used all the combos that it MIGHT be, but still can't get on.

It's also looking like I might be in San jose next Wed. Can you get together for cigars and martinis after work?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I'm feeling kind of home-sick right now. I miss living in San Francisco so badly. walking down theblock to Bi-Rite and deciding what I going to have for dinner while looking into the butcher counter. I miss walking up the street to my fave chocolatier, Joseph Schmidt. (Yes I know they have a store in San Jose, but the kitchen is in San Francisco. You can't actually talk to the people who made your champagne truffles unless you go to the store in San Francisco.) I miss going to Katz's Bagles (Real fresh boiled then baked bagles. Not steamed like Noah's pseudo-bagels) and standing in line behind three hung over partiers from the night before and getting my bagle from a 20 year old goth giirl in a Cub Scout cap and a giant nose piercing. GOD! I even miss Muni! It goes every whre you want to go, and to several places you didn't know existed. Oh, I hate the south bay. No cablecars, no tall buildings (they built downtown in the approach of SJO), no culture. You have to drive everywhere. No interesting architecture. The streets too wide wide. The sidewalks so narrow. There are no real neighborhoods. Sunnyvale looks like Santa Clara looks like San Jose. Driving down the street is boring. El Camino looks like Stevens Creek looks like Bascom. no one is on the side walks. Between the streets and the buldings are acres of parking lots. Its just one strip mall after another. Oh, I miss San Francisco. I miss all the dive bars on 16th street. Jacks $2 martinis. Drinking bourbon at Dalva's. My fave, of course, is the Skylark. But that isn't all. San Francisco is where I met and fell in love with my wife. It is where we courted for the 6 weeks before we married. Meeting at Java Beach, a run down coffee shop at the end of the N-Judah line, you can hear the waves crashing on the beach. I was drinking a very large Mocha. When she walked in she was carrying a straw bag. There was a new Yorker in it. She was so beautiful. Taking that same street car to 9th & Irving for our first meal together. Kissing in the bus shelter. She gave me a book. I asked her why. She just wanted to give me someting. I guess it was fair trade - she took my heart. 11 1/2 months after that first meeting our little boy was born at UCSF Medical Center, on that same N-Judah Line. Dates at Pacific Bell Park watching the Giants. (She would get embarrassed when I would yell, "YEAH!!!! Benny!!!!" every time they introduced the catcher, Benito Santiago) She made me picnics that we ate at Yerba Buena Gardens. We would go to dim sum on Saturday mornings, goat hill pizza all the time (pepperoni and red onion. salad w/ blue cheese dressing. root beer). The waitress knew and loved our little boy. I miss my drycleaners. They were a family of Vietnamese immagrants. Lived in the back room of the shop. He was so proud of his sons. He always remarked on how big my two older boys are. (they are both 6ft. now). I miss watching all the weddings at the Basilica at Mission Dolores, and watching the Sisters of Mercy of Calcutta escorting children to school, protecting them from drunks. I miss the gang pak and "Thavi's Plate" at Malai Thai. (For any Orthodox reading this blog: Thai food is mostly Lenten.) Popovers at Niman-Marcus! Will I never taste them again?
Come hell or high water, I'm going back to San Francisco.
Jeff, I’ve been thinking about your challenge regarding tongues and congregational participation in the Orthodox Church.

All I can say is that the Orthodox church has never condemned the use of tongues, miracles, casting out demons, etc. In fact, these things are still accepted and are considered apostolic to practice. We still have healing services we still do excorcisms in our public ministry. However, the Early Church at some point ceased to practice tongues during church services & left them for private worship. St. John Chrysostom said he had not seen the gift of tongues in operation. But that doesn not mean the gift was not functioning in any Orthodox Christians. It is probable that before St. John Chrysostom wrote that, that the church had relegated tounges, the least important of the spiritual gifts, to private use. In 1 Corinthians Paul himself had a difficult time controlling the abuses and spiritual errors that can easily occur with these miraculous signs, & Clement of Rome, who was a disciple of Peter & Paul, also had to deal with similar spiritual problems with the Corinthians when he wrote his letter to them. This letter is called 1 Clement & it was accepted as genuine by the Early Christians & in some cases was accepted as biblical. You can read it for your self in Eary Christian Writings.. So, the first Christians, who came from a pagan world & culture, were not doing a good job in a practical sense with these signs & wonders, which is why they were left to private devotions. And St. Paul said this to them: “I thank God that I speak in strange tongues much more than any of you. But in Church worship I would rather speak five words that can be understood, in order to teach others, than speak thousands of words in strange tongues.” (verses 18-19) In chapter thirteen, St. Paul says, “Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way.” Then St. Paul proceeds and shares with his readership the greatest gift of all — Love! Thus in the Divine Liturgy before we launch into the glorious dogma of the Creed we are instructed by the Priest “Let us love one another that with one heart and with one mind we may confess...”

But I am not saying that the gift of tounges is gone. Since Apostolic times there have been many saints, monks, nuns, etc. whose signs and miracles often accompanied them because of their spiritual purity. Even in the 1960's there was an Orthodox bishop, John Maximovich of Shanghai & San Francisco, through whom God worked miracles, healed people, foresaw the future, & cast out demons on a constant basis. The difference is that these people lived lives of prayer & definite spiritual maturity, rather than worshipping on an emotional level like babies in Christ, which Paul says the Corinthians were.

Now as for congregational participation, we do that. We all bring a hymn, we all bring a word. The word liturgy is not difficult to translate into English. It means the common work. Every one of us, from the oldest Bishop to the youngest newly baptized infant is doing what they are supposed to be doing in the church. When the Bishop blesses the people, he is giving his gift, when the baby cries and fills the room with its holy noise it is giving its gift. Decently and in order, The bishop according to his rank, and flowing from him the priests in their rank, the deacons in their rank, the minor clergy in their rank, the layity in their rank. Each has a role in the liturgy. No one is left out. But additionally, there is the meal that follows the liturgy. Several times I have been instructed by a wise older brother or sisters during those meals. They are not just a pot-luck. They are a continuation of worship, and the family breaking bread together.

Let me know if this does or does not negate your objection.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Well, I still haven't figured out what is going to be the 10th book on my list of alltime best. I've narrowed it down a bit. But still have three to choose from.

As for martinis in SJ, why don't we make it dinner. On the Southbeach diet I can eat everything at Original Joe's, assuming it isn't Wed. or Fri.. (But I can't have a martini.) I'll bring cigars. When exactly are you going to be down?
Well, I just came out of an interview with a job candidate. About 3 minutes into it I saw that she was wearing a prayer rope. SHE IS ORTHODOX!!! We talked about it a little bit. She had never met a convert and wanted to know all about it. (I gather that the Greek parishes are very Greek and don't see a lot of conversions.) Anyway, we offered her the job. She has a great resume and interviews well. I hope her references check out. Can't give someone a job just because she is Orthodox.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Jeff, Cyndi said you asked her about the Sunday of Orthodoxy. This is the best description it. (Is it against the law for me to post this here? I hope not.) I know you skip over a lot of the stuff I post (sometimes I think you skip over the stuff you post! Ha!) But, Please, take your time and read this. I think you will enjoy it.

Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey Into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy
Chapter 6 Icons and Sunday of Orthodoxy
by Frederica Mathewes-Green

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Jesus is lying on his side on my dining room floor, leaning against the radiator, balanced up on one finger and one toe like a gymnast. He is flattened, just a sheet of painted wood, and from pointed toe to the tip of his halo he is about four and a half feet tall. For protection, for storage, Jesus is swathed in a blue tablecloth that has been knotted around his ankles and pulled up over his head. When I push it aside I can see his form, a crucified body without a cross. His extended arms are like the wings of a bird; he floats in sorrow, head sunk toward one shoulder, eyes shut, face washed with death.

His arms are spread like gull-wings; he flies like Superman to save us. But Superman flew twinklebright with punchy fists out front, and our Jesus floats, wide-armed, fistless, hands open and drilled useless with holes. He comes to save us broken, hobbled and swathed here on my dining room floor. It is the only way he can save us; it is the only way we can be saved.

For many, many years, I didn't like icons. I kept this a secret. People I respected loved icons dearly, so I knew there was something I just didn't get. I didn't admit this because I didn't want to look dumb. My kids have a saying: "I played it off." It's what you do when (how familiar!) you want to pretend you understand something: laughing at an obscure joke, nodding at an opaque reference, all in the name of saving face. A friend would pause before an icon and I would hear that sharp intake of breath, and her words, "Oh! Isn't it beautiful." "Yes," I'd agree, "how marvelous." I searched the image, trying to find something other than a wizened, severe and apparently angry Christ. I was thinking, What's beautiful about this? But I played it off.

I can see, in retrospect, that my problem wasn't with the role of icons, just the style of them. When Megan was a toddler we spent many a bedtime story with a little yellow cloth book titled "The Little Lost Lamb." The shepherd climbed over rocks in search of his lamb; he would not let it go. The last page showed Jesus surrounded by children, and the text read: "Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He loves us and will always take care of us."

"This is Jesus," I told little Megan. "He loves you. We love Jesus," I said, and kissed the picture. "I love Jesus, too," she repeated, and gave it a noisy smack.

When David came along I went in search of something sturdier for permanent display. I bought a small laminated plaque of a gentle, smiling Jesus, and wrote on the back the date and this inscription: "So that David can know Jesus." Again, we kissed this picture goodnight. I knew this was only the thinnest glimmer of who Jesus was, that it omitted a great deal of what Christianity entails, but I urgently wanted to establish this beachhead: Jesus is real, he loves you, you can love him too.

My problem, then, was not with using images of Jesus, or depictions of Bible stories or heroes of the faith. I knew our love wasn't being lavished on a laminated plaque, but being offered through the picture to the Lord himself. The image was like a window, a seen object opening us to things unseen.

I had a dim idea that Orthodox icons were something different from this; I thought they were end-in-themselves objects of worship, idols. I was wrong. Orthodox often use the same analogy I did, calling icons "windows into heaven." St. Basil the Great explained that "Honor shown to the icon passes to the prototype it represents." It's not the wood and paint that matters, but the Lord pictured there.

So why did the Lord pictured there have to look so scary? A dozen years ago Gary and I were at the cresting wave of the Episcopal renewal movement; every Wednesday night I played guitar at the Prayer 'n' Praise service, and we sang happy songs about a Jesus who loved much and demanded little. Everything about renewal was bouncy and bright; icons looked then like the manifestation of a sad faith, a faith that was cramped and sour.

But eventually the renewal movement began to taste stale; it seemed forced and even a bit desperate. There had to be something deeper. I had been in spiritual direction for about three years, keeping a brief version of daily hours and spending nightly time in wordless adoring prayer, when I read about a show coming to Baltimore's Walters Art Gallery: icons, as early as the tenth century, that had never before been seen outside Greece. Gary wanted very much to go. Yes, that would be wonderful, I said--playing it off.

The Walters, to its credit, had endeavored to present the icons as something more than merely "good art." Gary Vikan, the Guest Curator of the show ("Holy Image, Holy Space") wrote, "we had a second, more ambitious aim. Namely, we hoped to present the icon on its own terms, not simply as art, but as sacred art...born of equal measures of art and spirit." To that end, the show began with carved wooden church doors, then led to a reconstructed chapel of icon frescos. Byzantine liturgical music, haunting and strange, drifted through the air. I began to understand the mood of solemn awe that inspired these paintings.

Directly in my path stood a towering icon of Jesus holding an open book, right hand raised in blessing. Red letters floated on the gold background on either side of his head: IC XC, H Sophia Tou Theou; Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God. His face was a subtle mix of emotions: though the brows were knit, the brown eyes were wide and kind. Light wrinkles radiated from the corners under his eyes, even suggesting a smile. The text on the book was in Greek too advanced for me, but I could make out the root for "forgive."

Moving closer, I realized that the sheet of plexiglass covering the icon was smeared. No, I saw with surprise, that was lipstick. In fact, there were a dozen kiss-marks scattered over the face of the plexiglass. Kisses! Who would kiss a painting in an art museum? And who would feel moved to kiss this painting in particular? This icon wasn't as harsh as some I'd seen, but it was still a far cry from Megan's Good Shepherd.

The path led on to another standing icon, this one two-sided, scarred at the bottom where a pole had been attached for procession. The side facing me had the familiar outlines of a Madonna and Child, but this Madonna was different from any I'd seen. Her heart was clearly broken. The Virgin's eyes stared wide with shock and sorrow, dark-pooled and seared with pain; they darted sideways, away from us, away from her child, resting unfocused in mid-air. Her head was ducked forward, held low in an attitude of helpless imploring; her halo had turned a dull brown-green. One hand was lifted to gesture toward the child, not a gesture of pride but of helpless resignation. The watery fingers were transparent, ripples in her robe showing through.

I thought about "a sword will pierce your heart also," and wondered what she could see that we couldn't. When I walked around to view the other side I got my answer. A brutal image filled the panel: Jesus dead, head sunk to one shoulder, magnificent and broken.

The sight arrested me; I felt pinned to the spot. The image was badly damaged, with large areas of paint peeled away and exposing the pitted raw wood. Jesus' head filled the center of the panel, tipped to one side, as round as his tilted halo and capped with streaming black hair. His eyes were closed and eyebrows lifted peacefully. His mouth was relaxed, drawn down, with only a touch of red on the lip as a reminder of life. All over the surface of that beautiful face ran the scars and scratches of 800 years, and all over the plexiglass were dotted the kisses of the faithful.

The magnificent head was set on an inadequate body: arms thin and useless, held pinched against the torso; shoulders round as wheels; an unnatural wide-ribbed breastbone. He had no neck; the head was not joined to the body, but laid awkwardly over the upper chest like a coin. This broken body was set before a wooden cross, and behind it the background was not gold but a somber dark blue. The border was a brilliant crimson.

I don't know how many minutes I stood there transfixed by the searing beauty of this silent image. I felt that there was something here I had not met before in religious art, indeed in conventional Western devotion. So much of my journey to that point had been focused on me, whether it was the giddy fun of renewal or the more recent self-improvement project of spiritual direction and centering prayer (a kind of Soul Aerobics). But looking at this icon I felt aware of nothing but Him. I was flooded with love for His sacrifice. How could it be that He would do this for me, who had once spent years in anger and rebellion, ridiculing Him and even trying to undermine the faith of Christian friends? Yet He had come to claim and rescue me when I was lost, endangered as a lost lamb on a rocky cliff. For me He had suffered this ultimate humiliation, abandoning all His power. I read the plaque on the cross above his ruined head: Jesus Christ, the King of Glory.

That was enough for me. When we reached the end of the exhibit, Gary and I picked up a handful of brochures; they included photos of several of the icons, including, fortunately, the King of Glory. At home we set up shop in the garage, sawing boards to size, spray-painting them red, and sticking the cut-out icons on with decoupage glue. I wanted this King of Glory with me everywhere. I put one over my desk, one on the bedside table, one over the kitchen sink, one over the washing machine, even one on the dash panel of my car. Gary, meanwhile, had bought some full-size icon posters and was applying them to larger stretches of lumber. The garage fed out a strong scent of spray aerosol every time the door was opened, and a fine red mist was settling on all the stacked boxes. Spare minutes after dinner found us rushing back in to saw another board or smooth wrinkles from the damp paper faces. We thought we were making icons.

Today after liturgy we're sipping coffee while waiting for Carolyn to begin her Sunday School lesson on the painting (properly, the "writing") of icons. She lays out one at a time the ones she's currently working on, images of the Virgin and saints at various points of materialization. This lesson in icons was scheduled for today because this first Sunday in Great Lent is called "Sunday of Orthodoxy," or sometimes "Triumph of Orthodoxy." The Triumph has to do with icons.

When a Christian bows before an icon and kisses it, why isn't this idolatry? A fervent battle raged over this in the eighth and ninth century; when the iconoclasts (icon-smashers) were in the ascendance they did such a thorough job that few icons from before the tenth century now remain. But the concern had simmered intermittently in Christendom for many previous centuries.

One defense, which strikes me as sweetly childlike, was "How could they be idols? They're pictures of Jesus. If it was a picture of Baal, that would be an idol. But Jesus is God!" The icon of a holy person or scene could not be unholy.

At the same time, the pro-icon party, the iconodules, were clear that the icon's tangible substance did not capture or imprison divine reality. St. Theodore the Studite (d. 826) suggested that it was like the impression left by a signet ring. Whether pressed into wax, clay, or any other material, it leaves the same seal; these materials can faithfully convey something they do not intrinsically possess. "The same applies to the likeness of Christ," St. Theodore wrote, "irrespective of the material upon which it is represented."

A frequent defense of icons is that it is not the image that receives the honor, but the Lord whom it depicts. The icon is a focal point, an open window through which we offer devotion, not an end in itself. Leontius of Neapolis (died c. 650) said, perhaps testily, "When the two beams of the Cross are joined together I adore the figure because of Christ who was crucified on the Cross, but if the beams are separated I throw them away and burn them." Of course, we treasure the physical icon just as we might a photo of a distant loved one, and the more ancient and beautiful an icon is the more precious it seems. But Orthodox have no illusion that an icon itself is a god. They distinguish between worship--given only to God--and veneration, the honor which may be accorded an icon, a saint, or the Theotokos.

Still, there seems something shocking about using representations of Jesus in our worship. It is the same shock that is sometimes called "the scandal of particularity"--that God who is ineffable and invisible, who commanded that no image of him be made, took flesh and became a baby. He became visible, concrete, with shocking specificity: a man of a certain height, build, and eye color, eating a real roast fish on a Sunday afternoon. Because God chose to become visible, we can represent him, the iconodules insisted; we can represent any person or event in his story because these are manifestations of God's will to invade earthly life, to make himself concrete and visible. What he chose to make visible, we should reproduce in visible fashion; "What God has cleansed you must not call common," the overly-scrupulous St. Peter was warned.

The iconodules grasped that to diminish the role of icons was to undermine the Incarnation. If it were conceded that matter was shameful, or evil, or merely inconsequential, all of orthodox Christology would begin to totter. The countless battles over the full humanity of God the Son had taken centuries to resolve, and iconoclasm, they saw, was a last infiltration of the anti-Incarnation spirit. Just as Jesus come-in-the-flesh was a sign of God's intention to restore his whole earthly creation, icons are a foreshadowing of that restoration: a holy seal impressed on humble wood and paint.

The use of icons was vindicated at a church council meeting in Nicea in 787; this was the seventh and last ecumenical church council, the first having also met in Nicea (to write the Nicene Creed) in 325. I say "the last," but in theory there could always be another, if the Holy Spirit so moved. These seven councils, where the whole church met to come to consensus on theological disputes, constitute the foundation of the Orthodox faith.

This morning at the end of Liturgy we recited a portion of the proclamation written at the seventh council, and it is triumphant indeed. The instructions say we are to read this "in a loud voice;" one of the pleasures of Orthodoxy is the opportunity to be emphatic all together!

As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught,

as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized,

as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth,

as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved,

as Wisdom has presented, as Christ awarded,

Thus we declare, thus we assent,

thus we preach Christ our true God,

and honor his saints in words, in writings, in thoughts,

in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons;

on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord;

and on the other honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all

and accordingly offering them veneration.

Louder! the instructions read.

This is the Faith of the Apostles,

this is the Faith of the Fathers,

this is the Faith of the Orthodox,

this is the Faith which has established the Universe.

By the end we are thundering. That settles that.

I watch Carolyn's hands as she lays out the icons. They are artist's hands, strong hands with short nails, and they are nervous hands. Carolyn is the other soprano, and she stands next to me in the choir, kneading her hands together, especially when a difficult passage comes up. She is younger than me, and a good bit slimmer. Where my voice is, how you say, full-bodied, hers is delicate, with a birdlike tremor.

Carolyn's shiny brown hair swings at her shoulders, and her eyes are wide and turquoise green. They often look startled. She is the hippest dresser in the parish; where most of the rest of us do some variant on Church Lady, Carolyn wears black leather stomper boots, khaki and black dresses, and a red bumpy-leather jacket that I envy. She runs a T-shirt printshop a little further up Frederick Road, and is one of our original pioneer band. Her husband, Keith, travels; he's road manager of a perennial on the soul music stage, and we rarely see him at church.

Carolyn clears her throat and begins reading her notes in a formal voice. "Traditionally, icons are painted by monks and nuns, in a monastery dedicated to painting icons. With fear and trembling I attempt to do this." When we chuckle, she goes on, "Not too much trembling, because then I couldn't paint a straight line. Icons are painted with prayer and fasting--I struggle with both of those!--so Lent is a perfect time to be painting icons."

A while ago, Carolyn had told me that it was icons that originally drew her to Orthodoxy. She had always been an artist, and noticed that in art class they just skipped over Byzantine art: "It was treated like 'This is what they did before the Renaissance, before they knew how to 'pain.'" Icons gave her a new freedom. "Now I can paint Christ and Mary and not feel intimidated--I was always intimidated that I couldn't paint the Madonna and Child like Raphael. Now I can do it, I can copy icons. And I just love it." Thus far she has painted a large crucifixion scene and many smaller icons as well; parishoners regularly commission eight-by-tens of their name-saints. The corpus lying on my dining room floor is also one of her offerings.

On the Thursday night before Pascha, Holy and Great Thursday, my husband will carry a large wooden cross around the church, then lay it on the floor and hammer this corpus to it. Carolyn, when she finished painting it, had to create those holes for the nails to pass through; she laid the icon down and drove through Jesus's hands and feet with an electric drill.

The first icon she displays is a Virgin and Child. These are usually one of two basic styles. The Virgin Hodegetria ("of the Way"), portrays a dignified Mary gesturing toward her son with an open hand, showing the way; the icon that so impressed me at the Walters show was a variation of this type. The other is the Glykophilousa, the Virgin of Tenderness or "Sweet-kissing Jesus" that shows mother and child cuddling cheek to cheek. Variations on these two types abound. Carolyn explains that icon painting moves from darkness to light, so on this Theotokos she has laid down the darkest colors and just begun to highlight the robes. The faces of the mother and child are blank silhouettes of a surprising dark greenish brown.

"That color's called 'first flesh,'" Carolyn explains. The next icon, of St. Mary of Egypt, has acquired "second flesh," a shade lighter and more red. Mary of Egypt was a fifth-century courtesan who fled to the desert in repentance; she is depicted as she was found by a monk fifty years later, withered and dark, with wild gray hair. The third icon, of St. Helena, has gained "third-flesh," and with it facial detail and expression. Helena was the mother of the fourth-century Emperor Constantine, and discovered the relics of the Cross in Jerusalem. She wears an elaborate robe and a fan-shaped crown studded with jewels, which looks interesting next to Mary of Egypt, who's wrapped in only a scrap of green robe.

Next, Carolyn reads some "Rules for the icon painter:"

Before starting work, make the sign of the cross, pray, fast, and pardon your enemies.

During work pray in order to strengthen yourself, physically and spiritually.

Avoid above all useless words, and keep silent.

When you have chosen a color, stretch out your hands interiorly to the Lord and ask his counsel.

Do not be jealous of your neighbor's work, his success is yours also.

When your icon is finished, thank God that his mercy granted you grace to paint the holy image.

Carolyn explains that icons are to be of historical incidents, not speculative. "We can show Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as a dove, but not God the Father." Occasionally you'll see God the Father depicted as an old man with a beard--Michaelangelo did this on the Sistine Chapel ceiling--but the Church frowns on such conjectures. "What about the 'Old Testament Trinity'?" someone asks. This familiar icon was painted by the Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev about 1411, and shows the three "angels" who came to tell Abraham and Sarah they would have a son; they are sitting down to the meal Abraham prepared. Popular devotion holds that the angels actually represent the Trinity. "We can't just paint our idea of the Trinity, but that dinner was an actual, historical occurence," Carolyn explains. "We can paint that."

When Carolyn says that icons are usually flat, though they may have a raised border, I ask if they are ever more three-dimensional than that; it strikes me that I've never seen Orthodox statues. No, Carolyn says, they're flat because they're supposed to be like windows; you're supposed to have the sense of looking 'through' them, not at them. Three-dimensional representations have a tempting way of taking on a life of their own.

Smiling Jeanne, Frank's wife, breaks in. Their conversion from an evangelical Episcopal parish is still recent, and old friends and family are still somewhat baffled. "I have difficulty explaining to my evangelical family why I have icons. They raise their eyebrows and..." she shakes her head and laughs. "So I had been asking the Lord to give me the words to share with them. This week I was keeping my little 3-year-old grandson, and he wanted to phone his mom. They had a nice little conversation and he said, 'Bye bye, Mommy,' and he 'kissed' the 'phone'." The group begins to chuckle; we can see what's coming.

"When my daughter came to pick him up, I said, 'Did you get your kiss?' She said, 'Yes!' and just beamed. I said, 'Do you think he was kissing the telephone?'" This brings on a wave of appreciative laughter.

As Carolyn carefully layers her icons and puts them away, Sheila prepares to spread out her project, our epitaphion. On the Friday before Easter, Holy and Great Friday, Orthodox process around the outside of the church carrying a wooden bier, on which is laid a sizeable fabric icon representing Jesus's dead body; creating a needlepointed epitaphion is an enormous undertaking.

Like Carolyn, Sheila is an artist, and her personal style is artistic; today she is wearing a long brown cotton sweater over a long purple cotton dress, brown socks and sandals, and abalone-shell purple earrings. Her gray-brown hair escapes from bobby pins and flies out like electricity. Unlike Carolyn's wide, water-color eyes, Sheila's are dark and intense behind red-framed glasses.

"I was asked to develop an epitaphion for use during Holy Week," Sheila begins. "It depicts the death of Christ--what, in the West, we call the deposition from the Cross." Sheila began by assembling several examples of epitaphion, then chose a border and a center image. The border is borrowed from a modern piece, and runs around the four sides of the image; it is inscribed with the words: "Noble Joseph, taking down thy most pure body from the tree, did wrap it in clean linen with sweet spices and he laid it in a new tomb." The center is based on a more ancient icon, and shows the long, pale body of Jesus lying very straight on a terracotta patterned platform. His little bent feet bear dots of shocking crimson. Mary is sitting on an inlaid wooden stool and cradling his head, and she is bent so nearly double so that they are almost face-to-face. It is a sad echo of the "Sweet-Kissing" Virgin; her face is pink, but Jesus's is a mix of pearl gray and yellow.

St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. John also hover over the body, similarly bent double. St. Joseph clutches the edge of the white shroud in both hands, and stares at the body in sorrow; St. John has characteristically cradled his cheek in his palm, and looks on with a distracted gaze.

Sheila had sketched the design full-size on white paper then, laying 16-squares-to-the-inch needlepoint fabric on top of it, carefully daubed the color on dot by dot. From there the project had gone to Joan, our champion needlepointer. Joan is a stylish, trim woman with silver hair and unerring classic taste; today she wears a toast-yellow wool suit, black sweater and gold jewelry. She and Sheila demonstrate vivid fashion alternatives. So far, Joan has worked the figure of Mary and the face of Jesus; "I had a terrible time doing this," she says, "because I was so drawn up in the pain and agony." She shows us how she taped the church's intercessory prayer list to the edge of the canvas as a constant reminder. She handles the project with evident awe.

"Jesus looks so 'dead'," Rose blurts.

"Yes, isn't it marvelous?" Joan responds.

We invite anyone who knows how to needlepoint, or would like to learn, to take part in the project. Sheila had initially projected three years of work, but perhaps it could even be ready next Lent; this year we will once again borrow a spare epitaphion from another church. Sheila begins rolling up the work; I see that her hands, like Carolyn's, are strong, and she grips the piece firmly. "My heart is in this," she says.

Sunday of Orthodoxy concludes each year with a Vespers service that brings together all the Orthodox parishes in the area. Greek, Antiochian, Russian, and other Orthodox jurisdictions are not separate denominations, but different geographical expressions of the same world-wide Church. They hold the same beliefs and use the same liturgy; the chief difference, as far as I can tell, is the kind of pastries served at coffee hour. Logically, all Orthodox living in America should constitute an American Orthodox Church, and Russian missionaries came across the Bering Strait to Alaska in 1793, intending to evangelize and provide just such structure. The Russian Revolution eventually disrupted that, at a time when a flood of Orthodox immigrants from many lands was arriving and seeking services in their different languages. Parallel church structures were then set up, almost as an emergency measure. The multiplicity of hyphenated-Orthodox churches in America is something of an anomaly, and there is a movement to unite them.

Tonight we gathered at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, a beautiful new complex of buildings on a wooded hilltop just north of Baltimore. The members of Holy Cross who attend look around a little enviously. But the airy, spacious church doesn't quite please; it has pews, and even an organ. Too Western for us. When we get our building, we want it to look like an Orthodox church.

This phenomenon might fall under the heading, "No zealot like a convert." But a more subtle dynamic is also at play. I keep finding that those Orthodox still close to their immigrant roots are most inclined to want to look like ordinary Americans. A woman raised in the Greek church or immigrant parents explained to me that, as a child, she found it embarrassing when people noticed she was fasting; she wished she could pass as Episcopalian. On the other hand, fed-up American converts (many of whom used to be Episcoplian) gladly embrace Orthodox distinctives as a way of challenging the status quo. Born and bred in the culture, we're eager to look countercultural. While the members of Holy Cross are dazzled by St. Demetrios' size and grandeur, more than one fellow-parishoner whispers to me, "But in 'our' church, we aren't going to have pews!"

The nine priests line up for the procession, each one holding the icon that represents his church. As they pass by, I can recognize them: there's St. Matthew, with his best-selling book; St. Andrew, with his X-shaped cross; and two churches named after the Theotokos, or Virgin Mary: Annunciation and Nativity of the Virgin. My husband holds the icon of the elevation of the Holy Cross, and walks at the head of the line, as the priest most recently ordained. As the last he goes first.

This year only the priests process, but at my first Sunday of Orthodoxy all worshippers were invited to join. Everyone had brought the icon of his name-saint, and we shuffled in a long procession around the interior of the dark church. I saw near me a little boy of three, waiting to join the line. He held in one drooping hand his icon, and in the other gripped a small figure of Batman. He had brought both of his personal action figures, the main one and a spare. I'm glad no one asked him which was which.

Woooo Hooooo!!!!!!! We have coments operating again! (And no I wasn't around for George's GARLIC!!!! Chicken. But it sounds like fun. What kind of wine do you drink with that? Listerine?)
Jeff, this is a fascinating article on Marian apparitions. It might be kinda long for your tastes but it is very interesting. I don't know enough to say what parts of it I agree with or disagree with. Buy you ought to read it.

I totally understand not having a working computer at home. No hurry. Blog when you can.
Jeff, this post on Erica's blog reminded me of our conversation at PacBell Park when you told me that you don't think of yourself as protestant. (Is tht still the case? Do you not think of your self as Protestant?)

"A Christian by Any Other Name…

Yesterday, I found myself in a religious conversation with a coworker who happens to be a PK (pastor’s kid). Her dad is the pastor at a local Calvary Chapel, called (irreverently) “The Barn.” There are about 300 people, and he has been the pastor there for a while. She is my age, and attends a Calvary Chapel Bible College. She is not stupid, but she has not studied any theology; she studies the Bible exclusively.

She had overheard an Eretrian-Orthodox coworker and me discussing our church, and asked if we were was Catholic. I smiled and answered that we’re Orthodox. She had never heard of Orthodoxy, and asked how it was different from Roman Catholicism. I went into my brief, usual description: If the Protestant and Roman Churches split only 500 years ago, and she was familiar with their differences, imagine the difference between the Roman and Orthodox Churches that split 1000 years ago.

She replied: “Well, I’ve never been to a Protestant or a Catholic church, so I don’t really about either of them. My dad’s the pastor at a Christian church, not a Protestant church.” When I continued to ask her, she continued, “I’m sure, we aren’t Protestants, or someone would have told me by now. I’m a Christian, not a Protestant.”

She doesn’t think of herself as a Protestant. I explained in simple language the Protestant Reformation, and how the ideas on which her church was founded came directly from Reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. Of course she didn’t believe in things like saints, the Pope, Mary, or any of that tradition stuff. But, ya know, no Christians believe in those things. The only people who believe in those are superstitious people, or misguided people, but not Christians!

Here, I am the sectarian; I am one who divides. Heck, I am not even a Christian! I am “Orthodox.” It’s like being Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or even Pentecostal. It is a division of another religion; if you are one of these, you are not “Christian.” The idea has moved from the grounds of “Can a Roman Catholic be a Christian?” (one I have wrestled with many times over) to the grounds of “A Roman Catholic is not a Christian; he is a Roman Catholic, and therefore not a Christian.” It was baffling hearing her say this. I could not convince her that she was a Protestant. The roots of Christendom have been so overlooked, and the focus narrowed to a point where she couldn’t even imagine it being another way than a non-denominational Protestant world. Especially with this “non-denominational” denominational movement (of which Calvary Chapel is the prime example), the idea of being anything other than “a believer” automatically means you are not one.

My coworker is not the only one who holds to this rather odd idea of Christianity. My older brother also denies being a Protestant, claiming rather to just be “Christian.” Why are Protestants not admitting to being as such? Even in my most ardent Protestant days, I knew what I was! Is it out of ignorance to their roots? Is it because of shame of others, like the Liberal churches, which claim the same title? Is it out of a weird sense of ecumenism? “If I call myself a Christian, and you call yourself a Christian, we must believe the same thing.”? Thoughts?

Forgive me,

O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou doest as Thou wilt: Thy will be done also in me a sinner"

Today is the anniversary of Ronald Reagan's 1st inauguration (1981) as President of the U.S. What a glorious day that was.
Things have been hugely hectic here at work for the past couple of weeks and show no signs of letting up. Until I get a new computer set up at home, I don't know how much I'm going to be able blog in-depth rather than just pithy comments and Democratic-aimed barbs. I do want to get to some of the stuff, but right now i cant' do it at work.
Speaking of your dinner with the chicken and garlic...were you around the time George made dinner and didn't know the difference between a clove of garlic and a head? The recipe he made called for a clove of garlic. Pretty nasty stuff.
I don't want to gather with the Deanery. I'm a Bush man (no jokes, please)
Good, I'm glad you are back.
The thing on the 29th is a gathering of the deanery. (And you are getting the Romulans confused with the Original Klingons). You'll hear a lot of theology (expressed in poetry and song) about the incarnation. I think there is a meal, too.
I'll find out what is going on and email you details.

My CEO and I just prayed the 3rd Hour service. I brought in an Icon (Christ Pantocrater), a candle, and the texts for the service. It was really cool. He said he wants to do it every week. I am amazed.

I came across this really neat thing. It is a ton of different different Bibles available for download to PCs. Check it out.
Cyndi sent me an email inviting me to an Orthodox thing on Feb 29, but didn't really give a description of what it was. She said it was for when you defeated the Iconoclasts at Nicea II. Didn't the Romulans then come by and wipe out the Iconoclasts at Athanasius IV???
Meal of the weekend...

Pancetta-wrapped monkfish, served on pearls of barley with sauteed artichokes. Rat bastard good. If it wasn't considered rude, I would have licked the plate. We were at Prima in Walnut Creek on Sat night.
Our computer at home is doing its impression of the Hindenburg, so i can't get much of anything done on it. We should be getting a new one soon, and then I can blog from home. In the meantime, I'm really hoping to get to some stuff today.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Wow What a long day it has been. We thought my Mom was having another heart attack. Turns out she has a virus in the muscles of her neck, shoulder and chest. She is on morphine, vicadin, and steroids. If the diagnosis is correct she will start to improve in a about three days. An intersting thing happened while praying for her. I lit the candle and the frankincense and began praying for my Mom and all of a sudden on the floor next to me was my son doing a full prostration.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Well, I just finished dinner and put away the oragami paper so I thought I would finish the list of best 10 books I have read.

But before I do that I'll talk a little bit about dinner. As you know we are doing the Southbeach Diet. But this is a meal that meets all the requirements of the diet:

2 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
One large onion chopped
4 cloves carlic chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
1/2 cup non-fat chicke broth
t tbsp good olive oil
salt and pepper.

put the oil in a large skillet, med-high heat. brown the chickn breast on one side, turn over and add the onions. salt and black pepper. Cook four minutes, add the garlic and rosemary, turn over again. ad the chicken broth and cover. Cover. Cook until the broth/oil mixture is almost completely reduced. With this we roasted summer squash, zucchini, red bell peppers, and red onion. It was all very yummy. And it was nice to use my rosemary bushes.

Anyway, Back to the Ten Best Books I Have Read.

Now it is getting hard because I am running out of spaces on my list.

Early Christian Writings published by Penguin deserves a place on this list. It is a collection of various documents produced by the early church, some before St. John died, but most just a few years after. It contains the letters of the holy martyr and hierarch Ignatius, The letter of St. Barnabas, the Didache, and many other works. It is the book which, more than any other, convinced me that the Reformation had failed, that the Church I was attending was not the same Church Jesus established. This book is on the list because it showed me that where I was was wrong.

The next book on my list has to be At the Corner of East and Now by Frederica Mathews-Green. This is the book that showed me that the Church I read about in "Early Christian Writings" might still exist.

Well, I think I have one slot left to fill on my list. The problem is that I have about half a dozen books to put in that slot. I'll have to give it some more thought.

Just got home from Church (Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday) and thought I would try to knock out some fore of my top 10 book list. (I can't believe you brought up a new subject when we have so many going on already!) Nonetheless, here is the fourth book of my list: Homer's The Oddysey: Never before or since has such an adventure risien to such heights. Read this passage taken from near the end of the book, when Odysseus arrives at his home after long wars and many adventures, only to find all the young nobles after his wife.

"He spoke, and aimed a bitter arrow at Antinous. Now he was on the point of raising to his lips a fair goblet, a two-eared cup of gold, and was even now handling it, that he might drink of the wine, and death was not in his thoughts. For who among men that sat at meat could think that one man among many, how strong soever he were, would bring upon himself evil death and black fate? But Odysseus took aim, and smote him with an arrow in the throat, and clean out through the tender neck passed the point; he sank to one side, and the cup fell from his hand as he was smitten, and straightway up through his nostrils there came a thick jet of the blood of man; and quickly he thrust the table from him with a kick of his foot, and spilled all the food on the floor, and the bread and roast flesh were befouled. Then into uproar broke the wooers through the halls, as they saw the man fallen, and from their high seats they sprang, driven in fear through the hall, gazing everywhere along the well-built walls; but nowhere was there a shield or mighty spear to seize."

This is such a good book I do not know how to praise it enough. After years and years away from home his dog, Argus is the only one to recognize him! What a great touch! And then there is all that stuff about the lotus eaters, the cyclops, the dead... It is such a great book!

There are three books on American history that I am going to include on my list. The first is Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution by Forest McDonald. This book traces the various ideas of Christianity, the common law of England, enlightenment philosophy, and the practical "on the ground" experience of the Americans and shows how these various streams of knowledge all fed into the pool from which was drawn the the Constitution.

The next book on my list is Patriots by A.J. Langguth. This is a thrilling account of the men who started a revolution, fought an 8 year war, and established a new form of government. I do not understand why it isn't used as a textbook in schools. Instead of something that will capture the imagination kids are given textbooks that so denature history that it is like the poor students are being force fed Big Macs instead of being invited to dine at a fine steak house such as Alfred's or Harris's.

And of course, what is the point of stopping at the Revolution. We must go on to the Civil War and hear The Battle Cry of Freedom. This book, by James M. McPhearson, obout our Nation's expiation for slavery had me weeping.

Well, I have stuff to do. I'll try to finish my list for you tonight. And of course I am still looking forward to what you have to say about my other posts.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Just got back from Vigil. We couldn't stay for the whole service because I had to pick Cyndi up from work. But I got to go to confession, hear the Gospel, venerate the Icons. Lots of good stuff about how Ss. Athanasius and Cyril defeated the heretic Arius. I love the smells: Incense in our clothes, holy oil on our heads. It lingers. Tomorrow morning when I wake up I will still smell like church.

So, why are those your favoreite books? Actually you didn't say that, did you. You said they are the 10 best books you've read. So, what is it about them that makes them best?

I've only read three of the authors on your list: Dumas, Tozer and Steinbeck. But I haven't read the books by them that are on your list. I suppose I would put Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy" and Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" on my list. (I read Dumas' Three Muskateers" when I was 9, but I've seen so many movie versions of that book that I get them all mixed up.) So, I'll start there, and excepting the Bible, which is really the only book that matters, I suppose this is the 10 Best Book's I Have Read (in no particular order)

In Dubious Battle, by John Steinbeck
I read this book while on a field exercise in the Army. It was Spring time in Kentucky. And on this particular excercise I had a lot of free time. My job was to keep quiet and invisible and to keep all the maps updated in case my location became the fall-back HQ. Mostly, I sat by a radio in a camoflaged tent, and relayed messages between units. So, inbetween bursts of activity I read to keep form being bored. And the book was spledid. It was about a lot of things - California agriculture, the Depression, the labor movement, life in camps for migrant farm workers, etc. But what it was really about was how people in various movements manipulate others to achieve their own ends. I highly recommend it.

Back in October of 1998, when I had whooping cough (That reminds me of Zack. He and I were such good friends. Did you know that he took me to the doctor and paid for it? I might have died had he not done that. It makes me so sad that he has cut all his friends off. I worry that I offended him in some way. But I know you and George and Keith did notheing to him, yet he has cut you off, too.) I read A.W. Tozer's "Knowledge of the Holy". There are two things about this book that I remember more than anything else. First, the introduction. In it Tozer said we can't really know God, we can't really talk about God. Yet we attribute certain characteristics to Him. The attributes are not accurate descriptions of God's nature but are merely the vaguest sort of thing we can say about God. What we attribute to him is just a shadow of the reality. For instance, we say He is infinite, but what can we who are finite know about infinity? To us it is only a concept, not an experience. And even if our conception of infinity is correct it is only the tip of the iceberg of God's experience of Infinity, for His experience of Infinity is really His experience of Himself. For us, infinity is just math.
The other thing about his book that I loved was that every chapter ended with prayer. What else is there to do when one has contemplated Divinity? Do the angels and saints in Heaven stand around talking about God's attributes? No. Crowns come off, knees bend, incense goes up, and God's creation that sees Him better than us directs all words to Him who is the Word.

When I was 14 and being home-schooled by my parents (At the time, my parents were breaking the law in order to teach me at home.) I was given to read "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat. This book must be included in my list. Bastiat was a brilliant French economist. One concept of his stands out in my mind, and has guided my hand in the voting booth ever since: "Socialism is legalized theft".

Well, the hour is late, and I have work to do before I can go to bed. I'll try to finish my list later.

Friday, January 16, 2004

oh, here's a new question. What are the 10 best books you have ever read? Here's my list below, in no particular order. This might stimulate discussion.

THE DRIFTERS James Michener
CATCH-22 Joseph Heller
CANNERY ROW John Steinbeck
Okay, it's been a couple of days. Business has been fantastically busy, but I'll try to get a response to some of your things tonite (as this point, not even having read them!)

Do you know a good place for Martinis in San Jose? I'm going to be down there in a couple of weeks and it wuld be great if we could get together after work for martinis and cigars.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Jeff, what classes are you taking at Fuller this semester? I'm taking this super lame courese called into to health technologies, but it is a required course and is a prereq to about 1/2 the other courses I need to take. In two sesions I haven't learned one thing. And I just want to gripe a little bit here. I am sick of hearing about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. (I actually had one psych prof tell me that Ghandi and MLK are examples of self-actualized people. She didn't appreciate it when I pointed out that Gandhi was guilty of spousal abuse and that MLK was an adulterer.) It is my opinion that the heirarchy of needs is one of the most over-emphasized theories ever. I would be happy if, just once, I took a class that spends some time talking about Aristotle's Law of Identity.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Well, Our comments host has not come back. Therefore, I have removed their script from our pages of code. I'll try to find a new comments host over the next few days.

Went to dinner with my CEO tonight. FYI: If you are Orthodox and it is a fast day AND you are doing the Southbeach diet Chinese food is the only way to go. Broccoli and tofu in bean sauce. Yum!

This is the response to your post of 12:05 on Jan 13. I’m still trying to get a handle on what you think did not exist, or now what you are saying existed but has changed over 2,000 years. On Dec 20 you wrote: “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. Such institutions did not exist in N.T. times and only developed later, although there are hints of this in the Pastoral Epistles.”

It looks to me like you are talking about the clergy and the liturgy. So those are the two things I will try to show did exist in the New Testament times.

Both are easy to show from scripture and the first several decades after Revelation was written.

First, let’s look at the liturgy.

A. If you read the little article on the book of Revelation that I posted yesterday you will see that the Revelation,written late in the first Century, and not even recognized by the Eastern part of the Church until long after lectionary was established, is heavily influenced by the liturgy
B. Look at Acts 13:2 and break out a dictionary of New Testament words. The Apostles were doing the liturgy.
C. You can accept or reject this as you please but has it occurred to you that when the Evangelists put the Our Father into their texts, or when they and St. Paul used the words “Take, eat…” that they were explainging the origins of practices and words that already existed in the liturgy, and with which their audiences were familiar?
D. Have you read St. Justin Martyr yet? (I gave you his works about 2 years ago.) He describes the liturgy as it existed in Rome in the first century.
E. Have you read the Didache yet? (I gave it to you about 2 years ago.) It describes some aspects of the liturgy as the Apostles instituted it in Jerusalem.

Now, has the liturgy grown? In some ways, yes. In other ways it has shrunk. We read many fewer passages from the Old Testament than we did back in the 1st century. Also, from the 4th through 8th centuries, we have added tons of invocations of the Holy Trinity all through the liturgy to combat Arianism. Also there are some prayers that were written in the 4th century that have been added. And in the 20th century we began praying for those traveling by air, and not just those traveling by land or sea. The liturgy does change, we adapt it to what is needed. But because the cup of blessing is one cup, it is the same liturgy as the one St. James presided over in Jerusalem.

Now the clergy:

You do not deny that the offices of Bishop, Deacon, and Presbyter are New Testament offices so I am not entirely sure what do say to you about the clergy. Hmmm. I think I will wait for clarification from you before I address this. Could you give me more info on what you are claiming has changed since the 1st century? From past conversations it seems like you object to the role of bishops. And since you were a deacon in the EV Free church but are no longer you seem to be opposed to the idea of the office being a life-long appointment. Do you think you could write on exactly you think the clergy was in the first century and how the Orthodox Church has diverged from that? That would be very helpful to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Here is the Greek shrimp recipe I was telling you about

4 tbs olive oil
1 chopped onion
3/4 cup scallions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup parsley
1 tbs oregano
2 lb shrimp
4 oz crumbled Feta

1. Heat the ol adn saute the onion about 5 minutes

2. Add the garlic and scallions for another 2 minutes

3. Add tomatoes, wine, most of parsley, oregano, salt/pepper and simmer for 30 minutes

4. Spread half of tomato mixture in bottom of baking pan. Add shrimp on top, pour rest of sauce on and top with Feta.

5. Bake at 500 for 12 minutes and top with remaining parsley.
Wow! So you really believe that Ss. Jerome, Augustine, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Basil and Gregory, and every Christian who ever lived up to and including Luther and Zwingli, are wrong? You even think Wesley and other 17th century Protestants are wrong? Wow! I am amazed. So why do you believe the Bible is true? If you think all of these men were prone to error and that even their unanimous declaration is in error, how can you trust anything they say? And do you feel okay with everyone from Athanasius to Zwingli labeling you a heretic? Are you setting yourself up as the final authority of what is true and what is false? This is not a rhetorical question.

I am not saying I am right, by the way. I am saying, the Church has always taught this and if I am going to be a Christian I should stick with the Church. It is not that I figured something out, it is that I surrendered to the Body of Christ.

Now as for brothers meaning brothers. There was disagreement on this in the fourth century. Everyone was clear on the fact that the Theotokos remained virgin her whole life, but they were not sure what to do with Scriptures that said Jesus had brothers and sisters. Some of the 4th century writers said that brothers meant cousins. And that is entirely possible:Biblical languages allow it and there is precedent in the Nephew-Uncle relationship of Lot-Abraham being called brotherly. Others, however, thought that at least St. James was Jesus older step brother. (This is the teaching of the Orthodox iconography.) Actually, all of those referred to as Jesus brothers could be St. Joseph’s children but not Marys, and still legally be Jesus siblings.

So, there are two ways, either one being sufficient for explaining how Jesus has brothers and yet His Mother remains virginal.

I guess I am wondering why this little thing about the Theotokos being ever-virgin is such a big deal for you. The tradition often seems to disagree with itself or to be unclear but those other instances of difficulty don’t annoy you as much as the Marian doctrines do. For instance, what was written above Jesus head when he was crucified? There is disagreement and obscurity here. The Gospel of Matthew does not agree with the Gospel of John, and both disagree with the Iconography. Also, you brought up the Rock that followed Israel around in the wilderness. The meaning of that was at onetime obscure to you. It wasn’t until you heard the whole tradition that it made sence to you. A similar thing is true regarding how the Tabernacle was built. Some of the instructions were written down and became part of the Bible. Other instructions were never written down. I kind of get the feeling that you are reacting against your youthful Catholicism and taking offense at any doctrine that involves Mary. Am I wrong? (Probably, I am. I don’t even believe in psychology. I shouldn’t try to practice it.)

Also. I am super busy right now (negotiating with a large luggage company) but will answer your post of 12:05 later tonight.

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