Thursday, January 31, 2008

Book Meme

Anastasia has tagged me to play the book meme (it's sort of a weird one!) Here are the rules:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

Disclaimer: I am at work, waiting for bulletin material. The books nearest me are my tools and there are only 5 books of over 123 pages in the same little rack - all are equi-distant in proximity. These books are: 2 synod handbooks, a Bible, and 2 hymnals. Now I'm sure at least some players of this meme will say that the Bible is the book nearest them (of course it is) - and so in the interest of variety, I reached first for Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the ELCA's new hymnal. Page 123 is all music. So I made another selection and reached for it's older green counterpart (a beloved friend to me anyway), The Lutheran Book of Worship. Here are the three sentences which follow the first 5 on the page 123:

"I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in God the Son?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord."

Wow - didn't even have to get into the sticky filioque stuff.

(I don't think there are 5 readers of this blog who haven't already been tagged).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

The temp here in the Twin Cities at the moment is -15, with a wind chill factor of -25 (and it's blowing hard outside). Wind chill overnight tonight is supposed to be between -25 and -40.

MINUS 25 to MINUS 40 degreees?

Come. On.

I'm beginning to lose my sense of humor about this cold weather.

If it weren't for work, I'd go into hibernation, I think.

Thoughts of a City Girl

I was sort of perplexed when I read this news yesterday.

Hmmm - I don't mean to be disrespectful here or anything ... and I'm no rocket scientist, but even I know that something as simple as a pair of gloves left in the front or back seat of my car while I am at work (especially in the cold weather we are having now!) might get me one smashed window.

I'm just sayin' ...

Monday, January 28, 2008

About Ash Wednesday - for Dixie

... and anyone else who cares to come into a discussion half-way through.

Our LCMS blogfriend, Emily, posted the other day on an ash-less Ash Wednesday. Both Dixie and I commented and I realized in the midst of my second comment to this post that I was hogging up Emily's combox, so I'll give you my comments here, Dixie!

Dixie: I could be wrong but I always got the impression the ELCA kept the liturgical traditions a bit more than the LCMS (i.e. looked more Roman Catholic!!! :P )--so it doesn't surprise me that you grew up with ashes. Do you miss it now? I did my first year but after experiencing Orthodox Holy Week its hard to feel like I am missing out--although it remains a practice in the Orthodox Western Rite.

Isn't that funny? As a former-ELCA Lutheran who came from the more pietistic Scandinavian ALC background, it always seemed to me that it was the former LCMS congregations of the ELCA which have done the best job of maintaining the integrity of the Lutheran liturgy! I often wonder if there would be any sort of a confessional Lutheran ELCA presence around here at all if it were not for those former LCMS parishes!

With regard to ashes on Ash Wednesday, I grew up in a pretty low-church ALC mission setting. It was a tiny parish without much money (still is!), but we always had the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, I think. Same with the church I attended during college, and the Lutheran congregations I have been part of as an adult. Ash Wednesday without ashes would have been like Palm Sunday without the palms! It's just what is done. I had never heard of parishes that held Ash Wednesday services and didn't do ashes. Maybe it's a regional thing or something.

Do I miss it?

I don't think so. I was a VERY new Orthodox Christian on Ash Wednesday last year and really didn't give it much thought, even though I work at a Lutheran parish which has an Ash Wednesday noon Eucharist (a service held while I was at work). I was a little dizzy with church things on the brain just then, so I think I did not miss it. I don't remember missing it.

Will I miss it now, a year later?

I don't think so. I always had a little trouble truly understanding some of the traditions surrounding western Ash Wednesday, even when I was a participant in them. (May God bless at least a couple of my very patient former pastors, who tried very hard to help me understand them better!).

On a very basic level, it always bothered me a little to walk around after that service with the image of a cross smudged onto my forehead, certainly not because I was ashamed of the cross, I wasn't at all. It was just the notion that it announced to the world in a very visible way that I had been to church that day. It felt somehow boastful and a little self-righteous. So the world can plainly see that I went to church that day - big deal. I should worship everyday, but should I wear a cross of ashes on my forehead so that everyone else knows it?

"Remember you are dust," the pastor said as he smeared the image of the cross onto my forehead, "and to dust you shall return." Well, true enough, I suppose. But, at least for the time being, I am more than dust, created in the image of God himself for relationship with him. I never had any problem with the notion of returning to dust - I know many who are returning to dust at this very moment. But the idea that I am dust now? I'm not so sure. God formed the first human from the dust of the earth for a reason - not just to be a breathing dustball. We were created for much more than this.

Also, the notion of confessing my sins on Ash Wednesday and then waiting until Maundy Thursday to receive absolution never sat all that well with me either. I understand the thought and emotional drive behind it, but for me it was not all that practical. "If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" they said ... but not until Holy Week? Something always felt not-quite-right about confessing those sins, and then waiting for nearly 40 days days for forgiveness.

(And don't even get me started about Shrove Tuesday. This is a tradition I did not know about as a child and only learned about as an adult. I have always been very uncomfortable with just about all aspects of the "Fat Tuesday" thing. One year I went, albeit suspiciously, to my former fellowship's Shrove Tuesday party and I was enormously uneasy the whole time. They certainly did it up right, I guess, but I felt the whole time like it was the last place I belonged. When we left, one of our boys just said, "That was really weird." How right he was!).

All this is not to say that these traditions are not valid (they may be or may not be), it is simply to state that some of these beginning-of-Lent western traditions never really made good sense to me all those years - but when I was a Lutheran Christian I tried to respond in faith anyway, doing what the church does whether it made sense to me or not. And in this way, little has changed now that I am an Orthodox Christian. I still do my best to respond in faith to what the Church and tradition teaches, doing what the church does whether or not I "get it."

It's just that there seems to be less that doesn't make good sense to me now.


O Lord, I do not know what to ask of you. You alone know what are my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask for either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You. Visit and help me, for the sake of your great mercy. Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Your holy will and Your unsearchable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to you. I have no other desire than to fulfill your will. Teach me to pray. Pray You Yourself in me."

- St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow

Thursday, January 24, 2008

No Name Meme, Pared-Down Version

OK, I'll play -

1. Do you wear a name tag at work?
One day per year.

2. What kind of car do you drive
'02 Ford Taurus

3. What do you order when you go to Taco Bell?
3 soft-shells with sour cream and a coke

4. Have you ever had a garage sale?
Lots of them

5. What color is your iPod?
What iPod?

6. What kind of dog do you have?
a giganormous collie-dog

7. What's for dinner tonight?
Pork roast, roasted potatoes& carrots and braised cabbage. Yum!

8. What is the last alcoholic beverage you had?
a glass of chardonnay

9. How long is your hair?
not very

10. Are you happy right now?
sure!

11. Who came over last?
Sis

12. Do you drink beer?
Occasionally

13. Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted?
Let's see: I'm the only one of nine kids who has green eyes and who is left-handed. You bet they told me I was adopted. And I believed them for awhile, too.

14. What did you get for graduation?
Luggage. (Hmmm...)

15. What DVD is in your DVD player?
It's empty (I just checked)

16. What's something fun you did today?
I picked out some FABULOUS cover stock for the cover of the Easter bulletins at the church where I work. Now I just gotta see if they want to pony up for it.

17. Who is/was the principal of your high school?
Gene Edwall (may his memory be eternal!).

18. Has your house ever been TP'd?
No (knock wood!)

19. What are you listening to right now?
*sigh* There's a hockey game on in the other room But for the record, I'm not listening to it.

20. When is your mom's birthday?
December 5

21. When is your birthday?
October 29

22. Where did you buy the shirt you're wearing now?
Savers (second hand store) - I LOVE this shirt!

23. Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror?
nope

24. What kind of milk do you drink?
Whole (moooooo)

25. What are you going to do after this?
fold some laundry (yee-haw!)

26. What is your favorite fruit?
bananas

27. What about your favorite dessert?
Whatever you're serving.

28. What is something you need to go shopping for?
paint, I'm afraid

29. Do you have the same name as one of your relatives?
nope

30. Do you like pickles?
Who doesn't?

31. Do you have any tan lines?
In Minnesota in the middle of winter? Right.


If you want to play, consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cute

For this almost one-year-old Orthodox Christian who is just starting to get the hang of how liturgical music works, this was a cute giggle.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Holy Apostle Timothy

Commemorated on January 22

The Holy Apostle Timothy was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor. St Timothy was converted to Christ in the year 52 by the holy Apostle Paul (June 29). When the Apostles Paul and Barnabas first visited the cities of Lycaonia, St Paul healed one crippled from birth. Many of the inhabitants of Lystra then believed in Christ, and among them was the future St Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother Loida (Lois) (Acts 14:6-12; 2 Tim. 1:5).

The seed of faith, planted in St Timothy's soul by the Apostle Paul, brought forth abundant fruit. He became St Paul's disciple, and later his constant companion and co-worker in the preaching of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul loved St Timothy and in his Epistles called him his beloved son, remembering his devotion and fidelity with gratitude.

He wrote to Timothy: "You have followed my teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, and patience" (2 Tim. 3:10-11). The Apostle Paul appointed St Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus, where the saint remained for fifteen years. Finally, when St Paul was in prison and awaiting martyrdom, summoned his faithful friend, St Timothy, for a last farewell (2 Tim. 4:9).

St Timothy ended his life as a martyr. The pagans of Ephesus celebrated a festival in honor of their idols, and used to carry them through the city, accompanied by impious ceremonies and songs. St Timothy, zealous for the glory of God, attempted to halt the procession and reason with the spiritually blind idol-worshipping people, by preaching the true faith in Christ.

The pagans angrily fell upon the holy apostle, they beat him, dragged him along the ground, and finally, they stoned him. St Timothy's martyrdom occurred in the year 93.

In the fourth century the holy relics of St Timothy were transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles near the tombs of St Andrew (November 30) and St Luke (October 18). The Church honors St Timothy as one of the Apostles of the Seventy.

In Russian practice, the back of a priest's cross is often inscribed with St Paul's words to St Timothy: "Be an example to the believers in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12).

Generation Orthodox?

I stumbled upon a website where you can purchase "Orthodox gear." (t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc.). I looked at all of the things which were for sale and wasn't particularly drawn to any of it, but this one image in particular I found a little troubling: The "Generation Orthodox" t-shirt with 4 fists raised in the air.

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but with all of the incredibly rich and beautiful visual imagery that Orthodox Christianity already has, why this?

What does this image suggest which relates to any truth about Orthodox Christianity? Is it a power thing (it sorta reminds me of the old "Black Power" t-shirts of the late 60s and early 70s - which, of course, I'm just barely able to remember). A pride thing?

If anyone can shed a little light on this for this simple Christian, I'm all ears.

Wow.



Sometimes a picture can be breathtakingly theological. This one is for me, at least, showing Fr. Patrick Reardon of All Saints Orthodox Church lifting a newly-baptized infant above the altar, as is the custom, while the congregation sings Simeon's Nunc Dimittis. The icon, of course, shows Christus Victor trampling down the gates of hell and grasping the hand of Adam, raising him up from the dead. Notice the baby's raised arm! Helpless Adam, helpless Man, helpless infant: but now our "eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." Alleluia.

HT to Deb via MereComments

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sneezing and Freezing

They go hand-in-hand, I suppose.

I've got a stupid cold. Thanks are due, I suspect, to colleagues at work, who came in all last week with bad colds.

On one hand, I'm grateful to have only a good head cold - it's often something much worse for me.

On the other hand, it's -17 degrees outside (without the wind chill!).

Shouldn't this be cold enough to freeze out all of the germs in these parts?

Also, under the category of Useful Things to Know and Tell:
A side-by-side comparison in an actual cold-weather test performed this very morning in sub-zero weather conditions proved that thermal underwear made of cotton is far superior than it's silk counterpart (no matter what the manufacturers of silk long-johns might say). While it is true that silk is very lightweight and may possess some insulating characteristics, it simply does not do the job in this sort of weather.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's Your Type(ing speed)?

64 words

Touch Typing


Nothing to brag about for someone who has been a church secretary for the last 22 years, I'm afraid. But not TOO bad considering I couldn't type at all when I took my first secretary job.

(I always have to ask myself why the kind and benevolent pastor who hired me for my first church office job even offered me the position in the first place when he knew I couldn't type? He did make me promise to take a class, though, which I did. So I suppose I have him to thank for the fact that I can even type this well! May God bless Pastor E.)

** I forgot to mention a HT to Elizabeth for the link to the little test!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bumper Snicker #2


This bumper sticker was on the back of a rusty, beat-up Honda that I followed for a bit on my way to work today.

At first I found this simply humorous, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that this is really pretty decent advice.

I'd do well to remember this.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quiet


It's been very quiet around the Transposzing house for the past four days.

Too quiet, actually.

This kid (who might look as if he's engaged in thoughtful prayer at church - but most likely is not) has been on his school's class trip to an environmental education center in northern MN.

I miss him. A lot.

They are due to return home this afternoon, and I'll be glad to have him home again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Reflections on Theophany

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan,
the worship of the Trinity was made manifest!
For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee,
and called Thee His beloved Son!
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself
and hast enlightened the world,
glory to Thee.


It was a wonderful Theophany weekend at my parish - my first as an Orthodox Christian. Here are some of the things I'll remember from it:

I was struck by the particular richness of the feast, liturgically. How beautiful it all was, I thought, and how full of symbolism and meaning. I often find myself wanting to go back and re-read what I just sang at liturgy - and this was especially true this past weekend.

I got to read the first of the six lessons we read at Vespers on Saturday night of Theophany. Each of the lessons were water related - my reading from Genesis was about creation, and God creating the waters and separating the waters and the dry land. This portion of Vespers felt for a couple of minutes a little like a portion of a well-done western Easter Vigil...an interesting and important connection (as Fr. Stephen Freeman mentioned in a recent post).

I was delighted and moved to see and hear just how wet it all was. The lessons, the Blessing of Water, the generosity with which water was used to bless us and other things, watching people drink the holy water and pour it into containers to take home - all provided a year's worth of imagery for me and has left me continuing to contemplate the role of water in God's covenant with his people - it's properties which are both life-giving and life-taking...

There was so much to see in the services this weekend! Actually, there's always much to see, but there seemed to be much more to see - and because I was trying to be a good choir member, too, I found myself trying to watch what was going on behind me and trying to sing what was in front of me at the same time. A challenge! (I don't think I did either one very well, actually, but I don't think I'd do it differently if I were to do it all over again this weekend).

I love how on the great feasts worshippers sing the troparion for the day over and over and over again. You might not know the troparion for a particular feast when you come into church that day, but you sure know it by the time you leave!

When I went up to kiss the cross following the liturgy on Sunday, Fr. Bill said to me, "Christ is in our midst!" and I looked right at him - knowing I was supposed to say something in response, but drawing a total blank. All I could say was, "ummmmmmm." He laughed and said, "Do you mean to say 'He is and ever shall be?'" "Yes!I I said, "He is and ever shall be - that is exactly what I meant to say." An awkward moment, but we both had a laugh about it. I am certain I will remember this, and hopeful that I will come to think it funny in years to come.

Having forgotten to bring a jar to church with me Sunday morning (even though I was reminded), I sent my son down to the church kitchen after Sunday liturgy for a large coffee cup in which to put some holy water to bring home. The trip home was a good excercise in vigilance, as we tried not to spill the large and full open cup of water in the car. We did pretty well (though the cup holder in my car did receive a small blessing) and while we don't have alot of holy water from this year, at least we have some.

The Prodigal Son icon I painted in my recent iconography class was blessed after liturgy on Sunday, along with several others. After the prayers, Fr. blessed it with water, picked it up and kissed it and held it for me to venerate also. I kissed it, noticing that it, too, was very wet - which made me smile (and caused me to be thankful that I'd put an extra coat of varnish on it). I am glad it is blessed, and it now hangs in our icon corner - looking extremely humble next to the others that are there.

It was a wonderful feast - a great blessing.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

On the Feast of Theophany



The Great Blessing of The Waters at New Jerusalem Monastery

"Praise the name of the Lord" (Cristov)

Praise ye the name of the Lord
Praise Him, O ye servants of the Lord
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
Blessed is the Lord from Zion
Who dwelleth in Jerusalem
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

O give thanks unto the Lord
For He is good
And His mercy endureth for ever
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

O give thanks unto the God of heaven
His mercy endureth for ever
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia


HT: Fr. Stephen Freeman

Calendar Confusion

The other day I was talking on the phone to my friend M, the secretary at my former Lutheran parish (as church secretaries do), when her supervising pastor - my former pastor - interrupted (as supervising pastors do).

"Ask her," I heard him say, "when her Christmas is."

"Pastor wants to know when you celebrate Christmas," M said.

"Tell him that we celebrated Christmas on December 25, just like you all did," I replied. "We've been over this before. I'm on the new calendar, so our Christmas is the same as yours."

She relayed the message.

(There was a little pause)

"Pastor said to tell you that maybe you aren't so weird after all."

Hmmm. Not so weird after all. I'll take that, I guess.

He may reconsider when it comes time to exchange greetings at Pascha/Easter.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Pins and Needles

DearHusband has been dealing with a nasty bout with gout in the last week. He gets very infrequent flare-ups of this malady, and keeps on hand a med from the doctor which normally nips the problem in the bud.

Except this time, it didn't.

After suffering with this for a week, DearHusband went yesterday to see an acupuncturist (at the recommentation of my sister, who had heard that this treatment might provide some immediate relief). I was completely skeptical about whether it would make any difference, but of course, he has a much more open mind than I do about such things. About most things, actually.

Anyway, he went. And it did help - alot!

So is it all in his head? Or is there really something to sticking a bunch of needles in various parts of your flesh which helps to provide healing and relief? Who cares?? He's better!

He's going back next week, too!

What's Beneath the Water?

Another good post today from Fr. Stephen Freeman, my favorite blogger. All of his posts are good, actually, and very helpful for me as I seek to grow in understanding of the Orthodox faith. I read Fr. Stephen's blog every morning even before I check my own email - and posts like this one are the reason why.

What's Beneath the Water? Crushed Dragons
"This coming Sunday (New Calendar) marks one of the greatest feasts of the Orthodox year, the Feast of Theophany, Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan river. Across the world Orthodox Christians will gather after the Liturgy to bless the waters: the ocean, a river, a spring, etc.

Every feast day in Orthodoxy is connected to the Feast of Pascha, because Pascha is God’s great act of salvation. However, some feasts show this connection more clearly than others. Three feasts in the year share the same pattern of services: Pascha, Nativity, and Theophany. Each has a Vesperal Liturgy on its Eve and a Vigil the night before (with occasional variances).

The icons of the three feasts are strikingly similar, with Christ descending into a background that is usually rendered with darkness. At Pascha the darkness is the darkness of death and Hell where Christ has gone to raise the dead. At Nativity the darkness is the cave in which he is born. This darkness is the darkness of the world that is caught in sin and death – but it is the same darkness as Hell. At Theophany the icon depicts Christ standing on the waters of the Jordan – but the waters themselves are depicted as dark, or at least highlighted with a dark background. The darkness at this feast is precisely the same darkness as that pictured in the icon of Pascha. For Theophany is the feast of Christ’s baptism – and baptism, St. Paul tells us is a baptism into the death of Christ. His Baptism is a prefigurement of His death.

Thus the waters of the Jordan become symbolic of Hades. Christ’s descent into the waters becomes his descent into Hades where he “leads captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8) and sets free those who have been held in bondage to death. The vigil of Theophany, like the vigil of Pascha, includes the reading of the book of the prophet Jonah – the reluctant messenger of God who was thrown overboard by his companions and swallowed by a great fish. This book is read because it contains the same image as the icons – the descent into the depths of Hades.

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

At the Vespers of Theophany we hear this phrase:

Thou hast bowed Thine head before the Forerunner and hast crushed the heads of the dragons. Thou hast descended into the waters and hast given light to all things, that they may glorify Thee, O Savior, the Enlightenment of our souls.

The phrase, “crushed the heads of the dragons,” comes from Psalm 74:

Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst divide the sea by thy might; thou didst break the heads of the dragons on the w aters. Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan, thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

In this Psalm, God is recalled both as Creator, but also as the one who has brought order into the chaos of the world. He not only creates the waters, but crushes the heads of the dragons that dwell there. The “dragons” in the Psalm are an old English translation of the Hebrew word for whales. But the word “dragon” is an apt description of the demonic forces that are defeated in Christ’s death and its prefigurement in Baptism.

In the prayer over the waters, the priest says:

Thou didst sanctify the streams of Jordan, sending down from heaven Thy Holy Spirit, and didst crush the heads of the dragons that lurked therein.

This same prayer is prayed over the waters blessed on the day of Theophany. The service for the blessing of the waters usually takes place by a local body of water.. At the very heart of the blessing a hand cross is thrown out into the water three times and retrieved with the singing of the festal troparion:

When Thou O Christ wast baptized in the Jordan,
the worship ofthe Trinity was made manifest.
For the voice of the Father bear witness to Thee,
and called Thee His beloved Son.
And the Spirit in the form of a dove,
confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God who hast revealed Thyself,
and hast enlightened the world glory to Thee!


The same troparion is sung throughout the homes of the faithful during the season after Theophany as the priest carries the same blessing into our homes.

Theophany is a proclamation to nature itself of Christ’s salvation. Our lives have plenty of “dragons,” in all shapes and sizes. But Christ is victorious over everything that would destroy his creation – particularly the people who are His own."