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.

On Extremity

My family watched "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" last night. Oh, we've watched it lots of times before, but last night I was sort of overwhelmed by just how "extreme" it is.

Too extreme, I think.

And it serves as an interesting commentary about the difference between wants and needs in American culture today.

"What they really need is a 72" plasma screen TV." "What this kid needs is his own recording studio in his bedroom." "What this family really needs is a special room for 'chillin'.'" (this room complete with another 72" plasma screen TV and theatre seating, billiards table, etc.).

I don't know. I just found it particularly troubling last evening.

The premise is great - helping those in need. This family was truly in need. They now have a great house full of everything in the world they could possibly want. But even if the house is given to the family mortgage-free, how will they pay the heat bill for their new hotel-sized home? How will they pay for the electricity needed to run this house full of everything they could possibly want? For many of these needy families, how will they be able to pay for the maintenance on their new pool or for their new car/cars (not to mention insurance and gas, etc.).

Seems a more practical premise - a truly helpful gesture - would not be an extreme makeover, but a modest and maintainable makeover...but then I suppose a show called "Practical Makeover: Home Edition" just wouldn't draw the same viewership.

How much is enough? How much is too much?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thought-Provoking Link

During my morning surf, I was directed by Michelle to this humbling link which describes what typical families in various parts of the world spend each week on food for their families, and what their money buys.

This is fairly helpful for me as I contemplate the Nativity Fast which begins next week.

Prodigal Child

No, I haven’t prepared a meditation on the meaning of this parable from the Gospel of Luke. But in preparation for my continuing work on the icon of this parable, I have spent a bit of time this week reading from many sources (and hearing) various sermons and essays on the parable and thinking about it quite a bit.

As I consider what I’ve read and what I’ve heard, I realize that at different times in my life I have seen myself in all of the players of this parable to some degree: the prodigal, the older brother, the father, even in the friends of the younger son who come to celebrate and enjoy a serving or two of fatted calf at the return of their friend.

But it seems that in the characters of the two sons in particular, I find myself in a revolving door of identification with them. I am, from day to day - or even hour to hour - both of these characters ...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Big and Little "O/o"

Fr. John Parker at Ascent has a fine post today on "Orthodoxy and orthoxies." The whole article is a good read and was helpful for me as I struggle to understand the nature of division in the church.

Particularly helpful for me was this portion:

"Though not always, the heterodox and heretical views of Christianity often start with questions about me or my rights. For Christians, to start with the individual is a dangerous endeavor. “What will make me happy?” “What is my right as a human being?” “If I am like this, what must God be like?” “Why don’t you believe what I believe?”

Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, takes God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, holds tightly onto it, and seeks to live it in every possible scenario, public and private. It begins something like this: “If God is whom he has revealed himself to be, what will make me genuinely me?” “If God is whom he has shown himself to be when he took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, what is my responsibility as a human being?”

Heterodox Christianity and heretical views often take our present (read ‘fallen’) human existence as “the way we were created” and start there. Orthodox Christianity understands that God became man not only to conquer sin and death, but to show us what it truly means to be human. We understand that how we were born and how we are now are *not* necessarily what or who we were created to be.

Orthodox Christianity stands, as the Church, already united in fullness of faith and shared belief. Receiving communion within the Orthodox Church is, in addition to its essential meanings, the outward sign of commonly holding these ancient beliefs about Jesus Christ and sharing a fullness of the faith. Within Orthodox Christianity, community is truly our common unity, and communion is our common union."

Now I admit that I don't really care much for the words "heretic" and "heterodox" (I suppose it's because when I was still a Protestant I found them so off-putting that I rarely took the time to read or hear the words which came after them), but I think Fr. John makes some very valid points about the divisions in the church, and this post helped me to understand why, though such division is ultimately sad and tragic, it is important and necessary.

Lord, have mercy.

Who You Callin' Clueless?

This just in from a local seminary's email bulletin ...

"'I think people are largely clueless about what most pastors are trying to do with their sermons,' says Pastor John Johnson (not his real name), D.Min. student.

For pastors who spend hours each week in efforts to be relevant, interesting, creative and faithful, this isn't good news..."

Hmmm. I'm thinking that if these preachers spent less time trying to be relevant, interesting, and creative and more time in trying to be faithful, they might have better luck.

What really "isn't good news" is that "faithful" is last on their list of sermon criteria to be met.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Principals of Iconography

This is the name of a class that I am auditing at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. The class is a half-term course offered annually, and has met with much enthusiasm by those who have taken it in the past. The class instructor is Deb Korluka, a local iconographer and teacher.

My friend Dash took this course last year, when they wrote an icon of St. Nicholas. Her progress and reflections on the class are well-documented not only on her blog, but here. And Dash encouraged me to blog my own progress as well. I thought it was a great idea, and then realized that I hadn't brought a camera to the first class, which would have been helpful for this. So at least to begin with, I brought the icon and other materials home (there was homework anyway) and did my best to photograph the first couple of steps in less than ideal lighting conditions. These images are ultimately not as bright or clear as they could be, but if I remember to bring the camera next week, any images which follow should be better.

We are writing The Prodigal Son. Here's the prototype of the icon that the 6 of us in the class are writing.

After a verbal introduction to iconography in general and a brief introduction to each other, we began with a prayer...for which I was incredibly grateful.

The format of the class is sort of a learn-while-you-work thing. It's an interesting way to learn - the instructor gave us tasks, and then while we were doing the tasks, she lectured (though it was less like a lecture and more like a discussion) about the various important aspects of iconography - fasting, the importance of maintaining tradition, the significance of the colors used, and the deeper meaning and symbolism in each of the steps we are to undertake in writing this icon.

The first step was to trace on tracing film the image we were going to write. We were asked to trace the image just as it appeared, without enhancement of any sort, noting that to change or modify the iconography from what has been given to us is to alter the meaning of it and to distort the tradition. Tracing on such film was challenging for this southpaw, as I ended up a little smudgy from dragging my hand along the film as I traced (turns out that I'm the only lefty in the small class - and the only Orthodox Christian). Here's what my traced image of the original prototype looked like:

The next step after tracing the image was to transfer the traced image via carbon paper on to the white Gesso board. This re-tracing was not to be a detailed and exact tracing of all lines, but more of an outline of the image, including only some important inner lines, but not facial features or garment definitions, etc.

Once the image was on the board (if I'd had my camera, I'd have taken a photo of this - but alas...), we applied the base coats to the background, mixing the colors to attain hues for the sky and the ground behind the figures of father and son.

Each class period is about 3 hours long, and this is as far as we got in the first session. Our homework for this first week was to apply additional coats to the background until those sections are translucent, with no light from the board showing through. Also, we were to paint the trim around the outer edges, the sides, and the back of the icon - oh, yes, and do a bunch of reading. I brought my icon home last night after class to apply the additional coats to the background and to do the trim, sides, and back. At the end of the evening, when most of this part of my homework was complete, this is what my icon progress looked like:

I did a bit of this homework last evening, while the class was still fresh in my mind. One important thing I did come to understand a little is why such important work is often done by monks in a monestery.

Now on to the reading material for the week.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The View From the Pew

I visited my former church this morning for their All Saints observance. I'd let the pastor know several weeks ago that I'd be visiting today (told him that I just had a hankering to sing "For All the Saints" - but I really just wanted to be sure that he'd be in town so that I could see him, too).

When I was a member of this church, I had a favorite place in the church from which to worship (and, like several others there, I usually arrived early enough to make sure I got it!). It's a spot on the aisle, pulpit side, about halfway up the nave.

The first time I sat right in that place, I remember vividly when the Gospel Procession came down the aisle to stop right in front of me as I faced it. At first I was almost uncomfortable with just how close I was, and my inclination was to step back - but the pew was full and I couldn't. During the end of the Acclamation I noticed just how close I really was - that I was near enough to be able to read the words on the page, to feel the warmth of the candle, to hear the rustle of vestments, to smell that wonderful smell that is the combination of church garments and book and candle and sanctuary. I was close enough to reach right out and touch it. I will never forget how alive the Gospel reading seemed that day, how much a part of it I felt, how I heard it in a way that was somehow different this time - somehow more real, how all of my senses were awakened for those couple of minutes during the Gosepl reading. So as the liturgical party made their way back to the chancel that day, I made a mental note of where I was, thankful that on the floor right next to the pew where I was standing was a very pale wax-stain. And for the remainder of my months as a member of that parish, I sought out that stain on the floor and the pew right next to it for worship every week - and every week (at least the weeks that there was a Gospel procession) I experienced the Gospel reading in this same way...invited into it not only by hearing the words that were read, but by the nuances of nearness.

And I remember equally well the very next time I felt such a connection in the liturgy at worship - this time it was at an Orthodox church. The feeling was much the same, but here it wasn't limited to the reading of the Gospel - it was the sense I had during the entire liturgy. Each part of the service came alive in new ways and invited me not just to listen and to look, but to be an active part. It's a hard thing to explain, and I realize that this might be something unique to me (and so, though it was sort of a big thing for me, I mentioned it once only in passing in a meeting with the man who would soon become my priest - though I didn't know it at the time. While he seemed to get what I was describing, he didn't seem very surprised).

But when I visited my former parish today, some things about this experience began to make a little sense to me for the first time.

ElderSon accompanied me this morning on my visit, and I was delighted to see when we arrived that my favorite spot in the nave was still open, so we went in and sat. When it came time for the Gospel reading, the procession came down from the chancel and again landed right smack in front of me - and as the reading was begun, there was that same sense. Except this time the feeling of involvement in it was somehow very familiar. After the reading as the liturgical party returned to the chancel, it occurred to me that this feeling of closeness, of being drawn into liturgy through the senses of sight, sound, and smell is what I now experience during the entirety of every liturgy. The sense isn't so shockingly new anymore - but it remains undeniably real.

I recently read a blogpost where the Orthodox blogger said something like, "there's just so much going on during liturgy - what am I supposed to pay attention to?" And all I could think to say in response was, "All of it!" Maybe it's just this easily distracted worshipper who needs constant reminders of what I'm to be doing, but in the Orthodox liturgy, all things cry out for my attention - grabbing me by the ears and saying, "Look at this! - Listen to this! - Do this! Sing this! Touch this! Smell this! Taste this!" And in the seeing, hearing, doing, singing, touching, smelling and tasting, I am given a foretaste of heaven. It reminds me that worship is the work for which I was created, for which all of humankind was created, and that in the doing of this work we are blessed and filled to overflowing.

So ElderSon and I had a good visit to my former church today. I was glad to see some of those I love and miss, I heard a fine sermon and got to sing a couple of hymns I love. And I came away from this service thankful for that spot in the pew on the aisle in the center of the nave - pulpit side - at Resurrection.

Fall Back, Indeed!

A crisp, gorgeous fall weekend proved very productive for the Transposzing family! On Saturday we raked, mowed the back yard, pulled up the garden, made a couple of trips to the compost site with our yard waste, DearHusband got up on the roof and blew the gutters out, we put away all of our summer yard-things, removed the pump from the ground, grocery shopped and ran a couple of other errands, washed some windows, finished the laundry, vacuumed the house, groomed the dog (no small undertaking - and no small dog, either!), then off to choir rehearsal, Vespers, and a concert.

And this morning: Church - and then on to the front yard. Mowing, trimming all the bushes back (except for the Burning Bush - burning just too brilliantly at the moment to cut), cutting the perennials back, cleaning out the flower beds, and bagging the whole kit and kaboodle. One more trip to the compost site tomorrow and we should be ready for winter ... unless the few leaves left on the trees decide to fall before the snow does.

Thanks be to God for the gift of cooperative and beautiful weather in which to do these fall chores - and for the extra hour of sleep, which came in handy for most of our family.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

You Want Fries With That?

OK, I'm no huge promoter of all things Halloween (though my kids sure think it's great!), but I am a huge fan of collie dogs.

So I'm putting this out here because it's too funny not to.

(I don't think our collie dog would put up with this for one minute - but this almost makes me wish he would!)