Friday, February 27, 2009

Remembering A Writer

I was saddened to hear today of the death of Minnesota author, Bill Holm.

I first met Bill while visiting friends in his hometown, Minneota, MN. The friend I was visiting was then the pastor at a local church that Bill attended from time to time. He told me that a first visit to Minneota wouldn't be complete without meeting Bill Holm - and though I'd never heard of Bill Holm at the time, I trusted that he was right. So we "popped by" his house and were fortunate to find him at home. A home that was jam-packed full of books - stacks and stacks of them - books about every subject imagineable. And I remember thinking as we sat around his kitchen table all afternoon how amazing it was that he could speak so knowledgably and eloquently about every topic that came up - and how amazing it was that hours had flown by as if they were seconds.

A year later, when Bill was the speaker at my church's anniversary banquet, he stayed at our home (which was then the church apartment, a former pastor's residence), and we were delighted to enjoy the company and conversation of this incredibly insightful and larger-than-life sort of man again.

He was simply one of those people you never forget once you've met him.

An excerpt from his 2006 holiday letter: "I recommend a half hour a day of Bach for the entire human race. Might save us."

And a quote from the local evening news last night:

"The world of letters has suffered a devastating loss today, with the death of Bill Holm ... Bill was that rarest of combinations: devastating in his critique of provincialism, militarism, and the abuse of power in all forms; but also profoundly tender, musical, and filled with compassion for all living creatures. His work will live on -- in Chinese, Icelandic, and Italian editions, not to mention ours -- but we will miss him deeply."


I'm not old yet!

Train Horns

Created by Train Horns

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Favorite Lenten Activity

Lent is upon us once again, and I always look forward to working on pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) during these weeks.

I got a bit of an early start this year and have managed to get a few simple ones done already.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fifth of the Fifth

Blogpal Dixie tagged me for the "Fifth of the Fifth" meme - meaning that those who are tagged are supposed to post the fifth photo from the fifth folder of photos from our computers. Not all that long ago, I played the Fourth Photo meme and landed on a photo of my chrismation. Since my 4th folder was called "Chrismation," I feared the next folder was going to be "Church" and that, like YoungerSon, the few readers I have would think that my life is "all Church all the time." (Uh, it's not.).

Fortunately, my fifth photo folder is "Family." But I must confess to a little fudging on this one. The fifth photo in the folder is a photo of DearHusband, and he was less than enthused about my use of this particular photo for this meme. So I went to the end of the folder and counted back to the fifth-last one.

And here it is: the fifth-last photo from my fifth photo of photos. It's YoungerSon, who loved everything snowman when he was a pee-wee. Here he is on a winter's day about 8 years ago when he was 3.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Plan Is Hatching

I feel a pre-meditated Vespers-skipping coming on ...

A friend just told me about this class coming up at a local coop on March 12.

Urban Chicken 101 - Albert Bourgeois, Urban Chicken Farmer.
Here is a class for all of you who are interested in, or just curious about the logistics of raising a small flock of chickens, here in the city. Mr Bourgeois also builds chicken coops and composting systems and can give you all the information on raising chickens that you might need.

We are so there.

Friday, February 13, 2009

From the Church Secretary's Desk

So what's a church secretary to think when she comes to work on a Thursday morning and she finds this on her desk - right next to the computer monitor? (I had to move it out of the way so that I didn't have some sort of a seizure).

"Please, God," I prayed, "let this have been left here by someone who knew that I would laugh at it and not someone who thought I might be moved to venerate it."

(Turns out it was left by someone who knew I'd laugh at it - whew! In a church setting, you can never be sure...)

Video credit goes to my friend Kate, a member of this parish and one of those I first suspected of leaving this on my desk. It wasn't Kate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

House Blessing

The Transposzing family had a lovely houseblessing this past Sunday afternoon.

I love the brief rite of houseblessing, as the family (and all present) proceed from room to room singing the Theophany troparion as holy water is splashed lavishly on our stuff (kitchen counters, the beds, icons, workspaces, and various other things throughout the house.) It was particularly nice for this church music-oriented Christian as we got to sing the troparion in 4-part harmony for the first time this year, thanks to ElderSon's newly-changed baritone voice and the presence this year of my godmother - a soprano!

Even though we just had houseblessing last year, I wanted to do it again already this year in order that my newly-set aside and fairly humble little painting workshop in the corner of the basement could be blessed this year...and so it was.

I recently read in a priest's comments on the church website of another local Orthodox parish that it was his intention to visit every household in his parish for houseblessing, whether or not he was invited to come and bless it. I'm not quite sure what I'd think of this if I were a member of his church. Would one have to use the days between Christmas and Theophany to "Flip This House" and then try to keep it "flipped" until the priest shows up to bless it - which might not be until just before Lent begins? Or does one take the "Bless This Mess" sort of approach and let him bless the house in whatever condition it happens to be in at the time? (Does one make their priest kick the clothes lying on the floor in the children's room aside in order to bless their room? And then after blessing when it comes time for weekend chores, does one simply suck up random dog hair which has been blessed into one's vacuum cleaner???)

One way or another, I'm glad we got to arrange the date of our houseblessing ahead of time.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Biggest Fan of My Blog

She can't even wait until it's published!

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

Or your automatic admiration, either ...

I read with interest Steve Robinson's very sensible approach to Orthodox Celebrities, written just after the Polamalu-hype in the Orthodox blogosphere. His take makes such good sense to me and put words on exactly why I thought it was so weird. (Perhaps this makes me a curmudgeon, too).

Here's one good reason to think twice about making some sort of American Orthodox idol out of folks in the limelight who happen to be Orthodox:

(It seems that I have seen virtually nothing in the Orthodox blogosphere about him recently.)

The truth is that whether we are professional athletes or famous actors or rock stars, or whether we are the butcher, the baker, or even certain candlestick makers, all are strugglers ... me, you, A-Rod, Polamalu ... everyone. It's just that some of us have the luxury of keeping our struggles out of the newspapers.

Lots of famous people are Orthodox. It's best to keep things in perspective.

(Blogger note: I totally love that Ortho-blogger Christopher Orr is on this list! Our boys kids have watched "The Mighty Ducks" a million times and I have yet to see it even once. But I'll be watching the next time it's on for sure!)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Vesperal Reflection

"Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin," we sang last night near the end of Vespers.

When am I going to learn that to even have a remote shot at this, I must stay away from the computer after Vespers?

And probably before Vespers, too.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fun to See

Looking through my regular reads this morning, I saw that Deb had a post appropriate for this day, the Meeting of Our Lord in the Temple.

Looking farther down the page, she embedded a little video of a churching - and only upon closer inspection did I notice it was from my own church!

How fun to be surprised by such familiarity on the web!

(I think this little one turned 1 year old yesterday!)

This Child Has Established Heaven and Earth

Today the Church commemorates an important event in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:22-40).

Forty days after His birth the God-Infant was taken to the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the nation's religious life. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. At the end of this time the mother came to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb or pigeon to the Lord as a purification sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity without defilement. However, she humbly fulfilled the requirements of the Law.

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he should behold the promised Messiah. By inspiration from above, St Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and St Joseph had brought the Infant Jesus to fulfill the Law. The God-Receiver Simeon took the divine Child in his arms, and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). St Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was the 84-year-old widow Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel (February 3), "who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. She arrived just when St Simeon met the divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:37-38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: "This Child has established Heaven and earth."

Before Christ was born, righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous people of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet the Savior in the Temple.

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church.
From Feasts and Saints, the Orthodox Church in America

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Not Completely Unrelated

To my previous post ...

Here's a worth-reading comment from a Q & A-type forum, Orthodox Christianity's LiveJournal. I lift it here out of context (the context being answering questions about certain Orthodox traditions that the "asker" did not understand - and perhaps did not really want to understand.) It is worth noting that further into the discussion, he discourages the"asker" from seeking spiritual counsel and guidance on the internet...which is, of course, the wisest spiritual advice any priest could offer.

"This may be hard to hear for some, but I think it's worth saying: When searching for truth, it is not we who are the measure of what is true. That is, what I think, what I feel, what I perceive, what I believe, what I desire—these are not proper criteria for determining the truth. The reason for this is that human beings are so very capable of self-delusion. This is not something we want to hear, especially in this age and culture which has taught us that everything we encounter should be judged not by timeless and universal principles, but rather by what we ourselves prefer and perceive. We never stop to think that perhaps our preferences and perceptions may be sorely mistaken.

The Orthodox Church will not "reform" any of its dogma or moral teachings, because they are based on timeless, universal revelation from God, not on social constructions and human design. As such, becoming Orthodox means submitting to Christ in His Church, not sifting the Church for elements we like and don't like. Often, someone who encounters the Church will find things that call to them and draw them in, but perhaps may not wish to submit to certain moral teachings or dogma. But the truth is that all of it is a whole—Orthodoxy is not a movement, a set of teachings, a philosophy, an institution or ideology, subject to the whims of history and human corruption. The Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ, a divine-human organism of which He is the Head and first member. Our response to Him should be one of embrace, obedience and humility, which includes being willing to change our actions, beliefs, preferences, desires and perceptions.

Life in the Church is for the purpose of transforming human beings into what they should be, not what they want to be. In short: it's about Him changing us in the Church, not about our determining what we like about Him or His Church. If there's something in Orthodoxy I don't like or don't want to accept, it is I who need to be changed. That's really of the essence of the Gospel. Without humility, we cannot be saved. If we don't want to be saved and prefer to keep our own desires, well, Christ will not force salvation on us. It's each of our choice."

The writer of these comments is an Orthodox priest in Charleston WV who uses the online handle, Skeuphylakion. Seems he prefers to be otherwise anonymous. His blog is open to invited readers only, which he describes pretty clearly as folks he already knows. Too bad - I'd like to read more of what he has to say.