Saturday, December 29, 2007

Eating My Words

Let it not be said that I am not willing to eat my words (actually, there's very little I won't eat!).

I posted last weekend about making krumkake with DearHusband, noting that our krumkake turned out pretty well, colorless and tasteless, like all good Scandinavian foods.

Well, I had lunch with my friend Dwight the other day and he brought me a Vinarterta, an Icelandic dessert which he had made himself - to show me that not all Scandinavian desserts are tasteless and colorless. Vinarterta, Dwight said, means "vienna torte" - strange name, he said, for it's neither Viennese nor is it a torte. But it is - in fact - delicious. It is made of alternating layers of cardamom cookie and prune filling. We served it up for dessert and found it to be simply delicious.

So I'm willing to eat a little crow on this one - delighted to eat a little Vinarterta, too!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A White-Knuckled Christmas

Not exactly what we were dreaming of.

It was a busy Christmas for the Transposzing family, topped off on Christmas evening by an absolutely harrowing long drive home from southwest Minnesota on snowy and icy rural highways last night. At one point, I was certain we'd end up in the ditch on a remote and dark highway in southwest MN. DearHusband was certain, too - as we both simultaneously made the sign of the cross and audibly uttered the same one-line prayer: God help us.

While I am eternally grateful that this did not happen, I could not help but think what a fitting conclusion to Christmas Day this would have been. Run, run, run for an entire month. Then run faster, run faster, run faster during Christmas week, right up through Christmas night. If we had gone into the ditch, there we'd have sat in a motionless car. No longer able to run anywhere. Stopped. Stuck. An abrupt and ironic end to all the running.

Once we got to the outskirts of the Twin Cities, the driving was still treacherous and traffic was heavy - but at least there were lights on the highway. This, along with the knowledge that roadside assistance would be more immediately available (and the knowledge that we were once again close enough to home to have service on our cell phones) was at least a little bit comforting.

We arrived at Sis' place across town from our house to pick up our dog (who was having a play day with his adoptive canine cousin). There was a warm fire in their fireplace, a good, stiff hot brandy waiting, some nice munchies and great company - all combined to take the edge off my absolutely harried and completely stressed-out self and spouse. We stayed for a little bit, packed up the kids and the dog, and arrived at our own home about 20 minutes later.

An hour after that, I was in my jammies, konked out under a warm blanket in the recliner.

I can't help but be struck by how weird all of the month-long Christmas hubub is. We spend weeks endlessly going. Going to concerts, going to parties, going to programs, going shopping, going here and going there. This is how we modern Americans prepare for the celebration of God's coming to us. By going. It's an interesting juxtaposition.

Anyway, with God's help, we have safely arrived on the other side of December 25. My husband and children are safe and warm and sleeping peacefully in their beds. I need to get off the computer and get ready to go to work.

It is December 26, and just when things should be ramping up in celebration, they have wound completely down. Things are somehow magically back to normal.

Glory to God for all things.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Snowy Sunday Before Nativity

We've had a bout of lousy winter weather this weekend, which hasn't been the greatest asset for getting out and getting last minute Christmas things done. But it has allowed us to stay in and get some things done around home. (Sadly, what we've gotten done around home this weekend are the fun things, like cooking and wrapping presents, and not the more important things, like housecleaning!)

When we awoke this morning, it was cold (9 degrees the thermometer read), snowing and blowing like crazy. Not weather which is generally great for the 20 minute trip to church - but the drive wasn't as bad as we feared and many more than we anticipated made the trek to church today. It was a lovely liturgy, too (it always is!).

Once we got home from church we didn't feel like going out again, so we decided to do some Christmas baking. We didn't happen to have alot of Christmas baking supplies on hand, but we had enough to whip up a batch of krumkake, which ended up being sort of a fun thing to do on a snowy Sunday afternoon before Christmas.

We haven't made krumkake in a couple of years, and the iron we'd been using was an old cast-iron krumkake iron which was, sadly, just a wee bit warped. The old iron was given to us by a friend, who knew it was warped, but who also knew that it still worked pretty well, which it did. When we went down to look for the ancient and slightly-warped old iron (which we couldn't find), we saw on the shelf a krumkake iron we'd picked up at a yard sale a year ago and forgotten about. This iron - a genuine NordicWare krumkake iron, was used but still in the box when we bought it for only $3.50.

Turns out that the yard-sale iron was a great investment. It worked wonderfully - and we have a fine batch of krumkake for the holidays.

The treat with this confection is in the texture, which is very light and crisp. Like most Norwegian foods, krumkake is supposed to be very light in color and fairly tasteless. The whiter and less taste your Norwegian recipe comes out, it seems, the "nicer" it is. Now I happen to like my krumkake with just a little bit of color - a light golden brown (what can I say? I'm not Norwegian. Golden brown is the way the Irish prefer their krumkake - or at least the way this Irish person prefers it). Our batch today has a little something for everyone: some nice and white, and some just a bit golden brown, for those who are a little less Norwegian.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I just saw this link on the blog of someone I read all the time and now I can't find it again (or I'd link to that person's blog). But this is too good not to share.

Too fun!

(You'll notice after the first minute or so that there's a "nun" or two out of view on the left...)

Please stand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All I Want For Christmas

Each year we ask our boys to assemble a wish list for Christmas, in order that what we get for them can actually turn out to be something they want to receive as a gift. We let them know that they won't receive everything on their lists, but that the lists will help serve as a guide from which we can select some things. They usually work on this list for about a month, revising and reprinting it and posting it on the refrigerator - in very plain view.

Last night we began the annual Christmas shopping extravaganza. Part 2 of the experience (hopefully, the final chapter for this year) will be this evening.

This year their Christmas wish lists are at least practical - some years they haven't been.

ElderSon's list includes: "New Hockey Skates, with sharpening, $50 cash, A new bathrobe and slippers, Fishing Stuff, and Tickets to a Hockey Game (who is playing is not important)"

YoungerSon's List is as follows: "A red military watch from Sports Authority, lots of money - 45 dollars or more, ice fishing stuff, Spongebob slippers, a red zip-up sweatshirt, lots of string!!!!, mechanical pencils and some pens, a wallet that folds in half, and gum."

We should be able to work with this, I think.

Gotta wonder what he wants the string for, though ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Principals of Iconography - Class #6

This afternoon was our final session in the iconography class I've been taking this fall. We pretty much finished our icons, though the window is still open if we wish to touch up our work.

Today we finished blending the colors in the flesh areas, added small white lines (called "assist," she said) in various places on the flesh to help create dimension, added gold leaf to the nimbus of the father figure, and then spent awhile talking about our experience of the class.

So here's before and after, the last session of the iconography class. Before class today:

And at the end of class today:

Am I done with mine? I think I am - there are things I might like to alter, things I think I might do again better, things I'd change a bit - but I fear making it worse by messing with it. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

I have several observations and thoughts about the entire experience, and will attempt to form some cohesive thoughts about it and address at least some of them in an upcoming post.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This Made Me Laugh

Brought to you by the wonders of PhotoShop - I presume.

At least I hope so.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Good Recipe for the Fast

DearHusband made this dish for supper tonight and I thought it was wonderful! Unlike most fasting recipes, I'd eat this anytime! Awesome and pretty simple.

From A Lenten Cookbook for Orthodox Christians, St. Nectarios Press, Seattle (1982):

Cabbage Rice
3 cups chopped cabbage
3 T. tomato paste
1/4 cup olive or other oil
1-1/2 t. salt
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
2 t. chopped parsely
1/4 t. pepper

(He added a little shredded carrot and a bit of crushed red pepper flakes, to perk it up a bit).

Cook chopped cabbage and seasoning in oil over low hear for about 20 minutes. Add water and tomato paste; bring to a boil.
Add rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is light and fluffy.

And as if that weren't good enough, DearHusband also made a wonderful dessert - gingerbread (my favorite!) I didn't know there was a decent fasting gingerbread recipe out there. This recipe's from Food For Paradise (compiled, it says, by the Orthodox Church of St. John the Russian, Ipswich, MA - 1980):

Fasting Gingerbread
1 c. molasses
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3/4 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1/2 c. boiling water
2-1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
granulated sugar, optional

Combine molasses, brown sugar, oil and spices. Stir in boiling water. Mix in flour. Add baking soda and stir until mixed. Pour into well-greased 8x11 pan. Sprinkle the top with granulated sugar (or not) and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm.

(Disclaimer: The photographs which appear here were not taken of our supper. Didn't think to post these recipes until the leftovers were put away and dishes were done. But they look pretty close. Visual results may vary).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Fun Holiday Listen

Now I am generally no fan of listening to Christmas music until just about the week before Christmas, but I confess that I do listen to this recording during much of December most years. Sure, I suppose there are some churchy Christmas carols on it, but mostly it's just decent old jazz from the original movie, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Charlie Brown is certainly secular enough, so I put this recording more into the realm of nostalgia or just plain jazz than I do into the genre of Christmas music.

But one way or the other, it's a fun listen for those of us old enough to remember when this yearly special was fairly new!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Iconography Class - Session 5

Today was our fifth of the six sessions in the "Principals of Iconography" class I am currently taking.

Our class today began with a brief presentation on this icon, Pantocrator (which means Ruler of All). This particular Pantocrator (Sinai) was miraculously saved from the ravages of the iconoclastic period by St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai. It is reputed to be one of the oldest existing icons of Christ. A large copy of this icon was displayed during class.

Practically speaking, today we worked intensively on the faces and exposed flesh of the figures of father and son in our icons of the Prodigal Son. It was the session I anticipated with much fear and trembling - faces are so hard. They say so much without saying anything.

Once again we utilized the building up of color to form the depth of the facial structure of brow cheekbones and chin. We started with a solid dark sienna (brownish) tone on all exposed flesh and worked to add several layers, building it up in those areas to paint the face. We added the outlines of the faces, hands, legs and feet of the father and the son, which helped considerably. We also added the facial features. The exposed areas of flesh still look a little rough on my icon - particularly the faces, but the instructor said that we'll smooth that ourt next week, and also add the gold leaf to the nimbus of the father.

So here's today's progress. First, the icon before class today:

And then after class today:

Homework for next week is to paint the scarf/headcloth on the father, and to straighten the lines which frame the icon (which I meant to do before today).

Let's Go Band!

Tonight my family attended YougerSon's
"Winter Concert" at his elementary school. Both Younger and ElderSons are trumpeters in their respective school bands and while I always rather thought that ElderSon was the more musical of the two boys (YoungerSon being the more artistic), seems this low-key sort of kid had kept his musiciality under wraps!

He actually played a solo at this evening's performance and we were both delighted that he played his little bit marvelously. Some adults who weren't even his parents stopped him after the concert and commended him on the fine job he did.

While I will likely never again hear the beginning of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (you know the part I mean: "You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen...") without thinking of this concert, DearHusband and I mused about just how many more times we'd sit in a gym and listen to yet another rousing rendition of "Let's Go Band!" It was their finale this evening.

Of course it was.

It always is.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Visit from Saint Nicholas

My parish annually celebrates the Feast of St. Nicholas on the Saturday closest to December 6 (which, this year, was last night).

After Great Vespers, all the children remove their shoes and bring them to a designated place, and gather to learn a little about the life of St. Nicholas. All present are taught the following song:

O who loves Nicholas the saintly,
O who serves Nicholas the saintly,
Him will Nicholas receive,
And give help in time of need:
Holy Father Nicholas!

He who dwells in God's holy mansions,
Is our help on the land and oceans,
He will guard us from all ills,
Keep us pure and free from sins.
Holy Father Nicholas!

And each year at the singing of this little song, we are blessed with a visit from St. Nicholas "himself." During his brief visit with the children and adults gathered, the shoes of the children are "magically" filled with candy and he presents the parish with a gift - this year, an icon of St. Nicholas!

Following St. Nicholas' visit, we gathered for a great potluck supper together before heading home for the evening.

Even though our sons are getting a little older, they still look forward to this annual event at church.

A good time was had by all!

You Can Take the Protestant Church Musician Out of the Protestant Church ...

... but she may always think this Anglican Chant weather forecast is very funny!

(And she may always love Anglican chant - at least deep down inside).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Common Sense Wisdom

From Fr. Stephen's blogpost for today:

Love God. Say your prayers. Go to Church. Keep the commandments. Forgive everyone for everything...

Such important and common and wise advice. So simple and yet so difficult to do.

I once crabbed at a pastor for telling me this (only not in the same words).

Lord, have mercy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Darkness to Light

I saw this great video on YouTube which excellently (and speedily!) shows the building up of colors from dark to light, adding depth and dimension in iconography.I tried to describe it in previous posts, but this process is what I meant.

This is obviously a time-lapse photography sort of video, but it's a great 5-minute look at a process which takes a lot of time, and, in fact, much more than just time.

Lovely work - not sure I'd have set the little video to this music, but still well worth a look.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

St Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;
your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.
Hierarch Father Nicholas,
entreat Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest,
For you fulfilled the Gospel of Christ
By giving up your soul for your people,
And saving the innocent from death.
Therefore you are blessed as one become wise in the grace of God.

Who was St. Nicholas REALLY?

What has become of St. Nicholas in our consumerist American society?

There's a metaphor here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Hymn for Evening

I may be learning to sing in a new key and all, but there's still a few hymns in the old key that I hold dear. Here is one I think of often:

The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at thy behest;
To thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away;
Thy Kingdom stands, and grows for ever
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.

Seems that even though I learned to sing them in the old key, they are at least as rich in meaning as I learn to sing them in a new one. Sometimes even richer.

Principals of Iconography - Class #4

Today was our 4th of 6 sessions in the iconography class I've been taking during the past weeks. Class discussion today started with a presentation about icons of the Theotokos - this icon was displayed for the discussion.

Practically speaking, today we added the robe lines to the garment of the father. Garments are hard - at least I thought so. The fluidity of a garment in motion is important, yet difficult to depict. We used the same technique for the green robe as we used for the landscape last week, building the colors and giving the fabric depth by adding layers of paint in lighter and lighter hues.

It was important to note, our instructor said, that the lightness - the brightness - must come from within the person wearing the garments, not necessarily from a consistent angle of light from outside the person. And where the garments bunch, more light layers of lighter color are needed.

Also, I had apparently ommitted a little portion of homework from a previous week. At some point I was to have painted the garment of the son white. Because the board was white, it was easy to miss the fact that I hadn't painted it. In consultation with the class instructor, instead of just painting the son's garment white, I asked if I might do the color build up that we had done on other portions of the icon - it seems to add a great deal of depth to the colors. She encouraged me to do so, mentioning that she'd only omitted this step on the son's garment to save time (six class periods is not alot of time to paint an entire icon, even one as simple as this one). So with her permission, I started painting the sons garment with blue and got it built up to light blue. I have several layers to go until it's white, but I am glad to do them.

So here's this weeks progress. First, the icon as it was before class today:

And then after today's session:

Homework for next week is to finish building up the white garment of the son and to add the garment lines. At some point, either this week or next, I will need to straighten the lines which frame the icon, too - perhaps sooner is better than later.

Next week we will do the faces and the exposed flesh of both father and son. The instructor warned us that it will be an intensive week. Giving them faces is what has made me the most nervous of all, but with God's help and some extra prayers, I'll do it next Monday.

The final week will be adding the gold leaf to the nimbus of the father. But I have much work to do before then.

Pray for me!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Good Salad Recipe for a Sunday in the Advent Fast

... when oil is allowed.

(from Fresh and Fast Vegan Pleasures by Amanda Grant)

I personally thought this salad was a little heavy on the horseradish, but several from church, including DearHusband, disagreed. Also note that if you leave the salad sit for any length of time the rice turns a bit pink from the beets – not that there’s anything wrong with that…

10 T. (5 oz.) basmati rice (I used brown basmati)
4 T. (2 oz.) wild rice
7 radishes, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips (I used a half a pepper)
2 medium sized cooked beets, cut into small chunks
1 red onion, sliced (I used half an onion)
large handful of fresh chives, finely chopped (I used parsley because we had it on hand)

4 T. white wine vinegar
2 T. grated horseradish root
1 squirt of whole grain mustard (I used smooth dijon)
1 t. turbinado sugar ("Sugar in the Raw")
1 t. sea salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
4 T. extra virgin olive oil

Cook the rices according to the package instructions. Let cool, then transfer to a serving bowl.
Meanwhile, make the dressing - put all ingredients in a jar with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly blended.

Add the radishes, red pepper, beets and onion to the rice and mix well. Scatter the fresh chives (or parsley) over the top.

Pour the dressing over the rice mixture. Mix well, and serve.

The recipe says it serves 4, but I'd estimate it serves a lot more than 4. I doubled this recipe for the potluck at church and it made a very large bowlful.

Don't beets rock?

Heck, could we all not use a fresh fasting recipe or two? I'd like to start a meme (never done that, you know!). So for this first attempt, I'll tag Dixie, Mimi, and Deb. If you want to play, simply post a favorite fasting recipe to your blog and tag a couple of others to play along. If you don't want to play, the Transposzing family will stick with the same old tried and true fasting recipes. But remember, Lent is coming and such a meme might just come in handy later, if not sooner.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Angel Anxiety

Emily has a thoughtful post today on angels which brings to my mind all sorts of thoughts and interesting angelic things to ponder.

Can little children actually see their guardian angels? I don't remember ever having seen mine as a kid (as a little Lutheran I think that if I had, I would have been scared to death! The notion of angels always made me a little fearful when I was little). I certainly was never told that I had one.

All good Lutheran kids know that angels only come around once a year - at Christmas time. An angel appears to Mary to tell her that she will give birth to the Son of God, the Savior of the world (would this not be scary??). The angels are mentioned at church in the Gospel reading for Christmas Eve from Luke 2, when they appeared to the shepherds, telling them first not to be afraid (see? They were sore afraid, for crying out loud! If angels could scare some tough old grown-up shepherds, think how horrifying they'd be for a little Lutheran kid with an overactive imagination!) And finally, an angel appeared each year of my childhood on the top of our Christmas tree. This angel was scary in her own way:

Yep - this was her. Oh, every 4th or 5th year she'd fall apart and have to be replaced with another angel who might have had a different shade of blonde hair, or a different colored dress - but they were all alike. I suspected they were all angel sisters. Now if this is the imagery that came to mind when you thought about angels, would it not scare the bejeebers out of you if one actually appeared - full sized - in all of her lit-up, fluffy, plastic-y-faced, painted on lipstick-y perfection?? I don't think I'd care to be visited by an angel like her even as a grown up! But from the time I was very young, I always thought that if I ever saw an angel, the best thing for me to do would be to turn around and run away as fast as I could. I at least had a plan.

But artificial and glitzy as the angel on the top of our tree was, I suppose it would have been better to have seen a guardian angel that looked like her than one that looked like Jane West. I could run away all I wanted, but she could just capture me with her lasso:

or like her (she has no flesh on her arms!!!):

Well, maybe if I did see my guardian angel when I was a little child, my fearful brain suppressed it ... because I have no memory of it now.

I guess that I admit that I'm glad that our kids are growing up with this angel-imagery instead:

Funny. They don't seem to carry the strange angel-baggage I had when I was a kid.

I Think This is a Problem


How can anyone enter a church proudly?

I think this is a huge problem, actually.

I find it disturbing (and I find this image of Jesus Christ sort of disturbing as well).

Friday, November 30, 2007

St. Andrew, the First-Called

The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John 1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, St Andrew became his closest disciple. St John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, St Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.

He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: "See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches." The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.

On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistant disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.

The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness; he healed Maximilla, wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother Stratokles. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.

Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo St Andrew's preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.

St Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint's hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take St Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: "Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit." Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.

A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and St Paul's disciple St Timothy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On Eucharistic Bread

Another worthwhile post here, this time from the Ocholophobist on Eucharistic bread. I don't read this blog much as I think Owen and I come from such very different places. We are passionate about very different things, and we view the church in different ways. But every once in awhile, I take a look over there and this evening am glad I did. This post was interesting, I thought.

If it seems to you that those of us in Churches that have closed communion are required to endlessly repeat our reasons for this practice, you are quite correct in your assumption. So be it. As for this Orthodox layman, I have a reason for not taking communion anywhere other than an Orthodox church that, and while certainly not being at all as important as other arguments, is a lesser polemic of sorts which I offer for your consideration.

In almost any other type of Christian church, sect, house-church, association, or assembly the communion bread used will have been made by a process that is grossly automated, considering what it is that is being made. Most people do not know that one company makes the vast bulk of communion wafers used in most wafer using churches, and this company, of course, uses a very, very automated process. In 1974, “The Cavanagh Company held sixty percent of the Catholic market for altar bread.” Today, “the company now runs round-the-clock shifts to produce 20 million Communion wafers weekly, representing eighty-five percent of the U.S. and Canadian markets for the product and fifty percent of the market in the United Kingdom.” The ├╝berwafer production company now bakes most (by far) of Catholic wafers and Southern Baptist crackers. Strange bedfellows for such breadcrumbs. Well, except that the Cavanaghs manufacture "a sealed edge to prevent crumbs." As you might suspect, their much smaller competitors are automated as well. This means that the bread used in communion by any given church you might choose to attend other than an Orthodox church has been made by a machine, and not by human hands.

I believe that all Orthodox churches use as their prosphora (communion bread) that which has been prepared by an actual human being. Now, I must admit that when my wife makes prosphora, she uses her Kitchen Aid mixer. We are backslidden Luddites. But even with the help of such a machine, my wife still gets her hands on the bread. She combines each ingredient in tactile fashion, she rolls the bread with a roller (with hands, that is), and the rising and baking involve the attention of one human, who happens to be a communicant at the church where the bread will be used for holy Communion. Thus when we offer the bread and wine to God at Divine Liturgy, the bread has been baked by a member of our parish. While I have heard that a very few Orthodox churches buy their bread, I believe that this is done from a local monastery, and, to my knowledge, prosphora cannot be mass-produced and marketed [please correct if I am mistaken]. There are certain prayers and ritual that go along with the baking of it. One also needs a prosphora stamp in order to bake the bread, and one must have a basic knowledge of prosphora baking, a knowledge of both the material and devotional processes involved. I think it safe to say that nearly all Orthodox prosphora is prepared by a member of the parish in which it is offered to God.

Our theology of Communion should reflect itself down to even the most mundane details. In the Orthodox Church, thanks be to God, this is the case. Some will think that my point here is trivial. On the contrary, I believe that to offer to God a pile of pre-packaged wafers made in some other state by machines run by persons completely unknown to the parish shows a disrespect to God, and, in a certain subtle way, shows a disregard for creation. Any old wafer will do then, so long as we get it in a cheap and efficient manner. If the (machine packaged) package of fast food wafers advertises that they were made by nuns [when in fact made by machines owned by a convent] then this may help the buyer feel that the product is somehow more "authentic" or holy. Nonsense. The best thing that we can offer to God, and ultimately the only thing, is ourselves. Baking communion bread within the parish is a gift of self on the part of the baker and the parish community. Buying cheap pre-packaged bread (whether wafers, crackers, or store bought pita) is liturgically, and theologically disordered. The manner in which we get our communion bread is an icon of what we think of God, creation, and ourselves.

My Monastery

My friend Dwight shared this essay with me via email the other day. He managed to post it to his blog before I got it posted to mine, so I'll just direct any interested readers there.

I commend it to your interests. It's a wonderful reflection for the Nativity fast, I think.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Prodigal Son - Class Number 3

The Principals of Iconography course I've been taking resumed today after a one-week haitus for Thanksgiving break. This week's class began with an interesting presentation on Rublev's icon of the Trinity - a large-scale icon from the seminary's sacristy was displayed. There was some discussion about which figure in this famous icon is really the Father and which figure is the Son. The text we're reading suggests the exact opposite of what I'd always been told, and there seems to be compelling information to support different theories.

Would be interesting to get to the bottom of that somehow ... someday.

Anyway, today we worked on the detail of the landscape surrounding the figures of father and son. Now it doesn't look like I made alot of progress in this session, but I feel like I learned an enormous amount. We were taught today how to use multiple layers of paint in increasingly brighter shades of color to add texture and depth to what we are painting. It is a technique we will use again when it comes time to work on the faces of the father and the son (that's the part that scares me!!)

So using this technique we learned today, as it applies to the landscape, we added crags and texture to the opaque solid background of our icon by building portions of it up with lighter shades. Like this:

I also added a second coat of sienna to the exposed skin portions - it looks as though I will have to add several more coats until it is opaque. This will make the skin and faces very dark, but using some of the technique we learned today, the facial features and and flesh will brighten and take shape as additional lighter coats are added.

So here's the progress I made today. Before today's class:

and after today's class:

Homework for next week is to work on the hands, arms, legs, feet and faces of the figures, adding layers of paint until they are completely opaque - and to add the fold lines to the green portion of the father's garment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

His Voice

Cantor Colleague brought a new CD recording in to the office today for me to hear (he is most generous in this way and always shares the good stuff). I was reminded as I listened to it of what seems like a whole different lifetime ago, when I sang with this ensemble - it was a wonderful daylong stroll down memory lane for me.

And it was a blessing, too, as I heard this anthem ("His Voice" A teeny, weeny snippet of it is here.) which I've always loved and haven't actually heard in years. Though I haven't actually heard the song in a long time, I've thought about it often. In fact, its words were the very first thing that came to my mind when I first saw the face of Christ in my church's newly installed icon last spring.

His voice, as the sound of the dulcimer sweet,
Is heard through the shadows of death;
The cedars of Lebanon bow at his feet,
The air is perfum'd with his breath.
His lips as a fountain of righteousness flow,
That waters the garden of grace,
From which their salvation the people shall know,
And bask in the smile of his face.

Love sits on his eyelids, and scatters delight
Through all the bright mansions on high;
Their faces the cherubim veil in his sight,
And tremble with fullness of joy.
He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice,
And myriads wait for his word;
He speaks, and eternity, fill'd with His voice,
Re-echoes the praise of her Lord.

His voice, as the sound of the dulcimer sweet,
Is heard through the shadows of death;
The cedars of Lebanon bow at his feet,
The air is perfum'd with his breath.
O thou in whose presence my soul takes delight,
On whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all.

(adapted by Larry L. Fleming from a text of Joseph Swain, which was adapted from Song of Solomon. The text of the entire poem is here.)

Surely Joseph Swain was thinking of this icon when he wrote this text.

The Preparations Begin

Late last evening DearHusband made the Cranberry Chutney which will be part of the appetizer course for our Thanksgiving Meal tomorrow. The whole house still smells like cloves and cranberries - we should find a way to capture that fragrance in the house all year!

He also made the cranberry-orange relish and the potato mixture for the lefse which we will make tonight.

One thing for which I am grateful (all year long, actually, but especially this particular Thanksgiving) is a husband who loves to cook - and who is really good at it!

Another Important Anniversary

Yesterday was a different anniversary - one I also share with ElderSon - our baptism anniversaries. Seems only right, in a way, that I get to share at least something with this guy who not only looks just like his dad, but is so like him in many other ways.

I observed my own "baptism birthday"(as we used to call it) in a personal sort of way by singing the hymn which was sung at my baptism. Thanks to the decent little collection of Bach CDs that I own, I even had the luxury of singing it with a Bach setting:

All who believe and are baptized
Shall see the Lord's salvation;
Baptized into the death of Christ,
They are a new creation;
Through Christ's redemption they shall stand
Among the glorious heavenly band
Of every tribe and nation.

With one accord, O God, we pray;
Grant us Thy Holy Spirit;
Look Thou on our infirmity
Through Jesus' blood and merit;
Grant us to grow in grace each day
by Holy Baptism that we may
Eternal life inherit.

Our family observed ElderSon's baptism anniversary by watching the video taken of his baptismal liturgy. It was an important liturgy for both of us.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Holy Smoke - the Video!

So a very short time ago I mentioned in a comment that I'd love to see that big old censer in action and lo and behold, DearHusband sends a link to this!
He's so good to me!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fourteen Wonderful Years

Happy anniversary to us!

Actually, it's not today, it was last Wednesday - and - it is this coming Tuesday. In an unusual turn of events 14 years ago, DearHusband and I had two weddings - 6 days apart.

The first wedding was on Nov. 14 in an Orthodox Church in Sioux Falls, SD. The priest who did the service is from Canada and not licensed in the states to perform a marriage. The second wedding was 6 days later at a Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN. The officiant at that service IS licensed here in MN.

So - what date is our wedding anniversary? Well, in the eyes of the Church, we're thinking Nov. 14. In the eyes of the State of MN, it is most certainly Nov. 20. We have a weeklong wedding anniversary season I guess.

Highly romantic types that we are, we bought a cool new light fixture for the kitchen as our gift to each other.

Body Language Juxtaposition

I find it so interesting to note that the Orthodox use the same gesture to ask for a blessing as Protestants use to receive Holy Communion.

And similarly, the body language that Orthodox use as they approach the priest to receive Holy Communion is the same body language as is used in western churches to indicate that they would like only a blessing.

Isn't that curious?

Holy Smoke!

I've seen this picture out on the internet a couple of times, and it always makes me laugh. No one in this picture is even smiling - apparently they don't think it's as worthy of at least a good smile as I do. But I post it here to share with anyone who hasn't seen it.

Friday, November 16, 2007


A couple of notes with updates on a few prior posts:

His Big Fat German/Norwegian Finger is now back to a relatively normal size and is once again sporting his wedding ring. I'm not sure how long it was off - a week or two, I guess.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - My parish now has a photo gallery which is here. Modification of our current website to include a link to the gallery is in the works.

Back To School - We attended YoungerSon's parent/teacher conference last night and if I'd only actually sent my letter to YoungerSon's teacher, I could have spent most of the conference saying, "I told you so." He's doing OK, but could be trying harder, they say (except for his math teacher, who thinks he's a mathematical whiz-kid or something) ElderSon's conferences are coming up next week.

The Sunday Morning Headache - Most weeks I still get it. Really thinking about looking into that fetching headgear.

Pascha Project - is coming along v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y at the moment. Once the snow comes and the really cold weather sets in, I'm thinking my rate of progress should improve.

"Worship is the Point of Everything"

I'm not sure where online I read the following words of Fr. Gregory Mathewes- Green, but I remember thinking when I read them how profound they are. So I'll share them this morning just because it's what I'm thinking about at the moment.

There is a certain "given-ness” to our worship. As a former Episcopal priest, I am glad that in Orthodox worship we don’t have to pick and choose. If previously we were Episcopalian low- churchmen, we may have taken the Book of Common Prayer and cut it down; as high-churchmen, we may have taken the Book of Common Prayer and built it up with supplementary services like the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In Orthodoxy, however, the Typicos is simply given. There is joy and freedom in this changelessness, this timelessness.

We pay great attention to the holiness of God in the service, and this affects, for example, how we conduct a procession. But there is also resistance to obsessive over-attention to detail. We ought to feel at home in our Father’s house. That doesn’t mean leisureliness, but an ability to stop obsessing before the big picture gets lost.

One of my mentors as I journeyed into Orthodoxy was another former Episcopalian, Fr. Bill Olnhausen. One time I asked him, “What’s the difference for you, between worship as an Episcopalian and worship as an Orthodox? From the standpoint of a priest, how does it feel different?” And he said, “Well, back when I was an Episcopalian, if I was standing one place in the sanctuary and I realized I’d left my prayer book on the other side, I didn’t know how to get it. There wasn’t a choreography for crossing the sanctuary at a non-liturgical time. But as an Orthodox, I felt much more comfortable. And I figured out how to get my prayer book if I’d put it down out of reach. I’d walk over and pick it up.” How eminently sensible and yet, ultimately, worshipful. In the Orthodox liturgy, worship is the point of everything that is going on. The intent is not to display perfectly staged enactment of something in a book. The intent is to explore together the glory of being in God’s house.

At the heart of Orthodoxy is worship. We’re not a group of theologians who also worship, or social activists who also worship. We’re worshipping creatures whose whole reason for being is to make a glorious act of self-offering to God, for all eternity. And we begin doing that now. We also do works of charity in the community, reach out pastorally to one another, we offer Christian education, and the whole gamut of activities that ought to happen in parishes. But this activity must spring from that central reason for our being, our reconnecting with our Father who is in heaven. This is the reason that He made us. This is the reason that we exist. And we will discover our destiny only when we open ourselves to true worship.

Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Prodigal Son - Class #2

Today was our second iconography class. To begin this second session, Fr. John Magram from The Russian Orthodox Church and Skete of the Resurrection of Christ in Fridley (a Twin Cities suburb) joined us and presented a brief but insightful discussion of the parable ofthe Prodigal Son.

We also looked at a few other iconic depictions of this parable. The icon that our class is writing presents only portion of the whole parable. The portion we are writing is simply the embrace of the forgiving father and the repentant son.

Today we painted the base coats on the garment of the father - 2 colors: green and red. I've noticed that some colors cover more easily than others. The green covered in just 2 coats - the red has 3 coats of paint and, as you can see here, looks like it could use about 3 more coats. Here's my progress after today:

(Seems after close scrutiny, now that the background has completely dried, I see that I could use an additional coat or two on the sky also.)

I mentioned in a note to a friend today the difference in emphases in even just this little snippet of the parable. It speaks to some in different ways than others, it seems. As I read about and considered this portion of the parable (the embrace of the father and the son), I felt more drawn to consider the figure of the son - who "came to himself" - to an understanding of who he really was and who he was meant to be, to an understanding of his need to be in relationship with the father, and to knowledge of what it would take to mend the relationship he had broken. And the son's realization that he had no choice but to mend this relationship in order to live.

Others in the class were drawn to consider more the figure of the father. For them it was less about repentance and more about the father's desire to welcome and reconcile with the son, noting that the father had watched and waited for the son ("But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion").

It is, of course, both about repentance and reconciliation, but it was just interesting for me which elements and characters in the parable speak the clearest to different people.

Our homework for the next class: repaint all painted surfaces until they are completely opaque, and put a light (transparent) coat of paint on faces and all exposed skin. This will be done with a sienna (a darker brown color). In an upcoming class, the faces will be built up with lighter colored layers of paint, adding lighter layers in different places and then the facial features themselves.

The seminary is on Thanksgiving break next Monday and so there won't be class session for us - but I have plenty to do in the meantime with this work on the icon and also additional assigned reading.