Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cheese Straws Are Nasty*

* - Ian, in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

"Christos Anesti!" "Alithos Anesti!"

"Christos Voskrese!" "Voistinue Voskrese!"

"Al Masseh Qam!" "Haqqan Qam!"

Christ is risen and here in the heart of midwest USA, Orthodox Christians exclaim the news in lots of different languages from the other side of the world. If they are anything like me, at their first Pascha the newly enlightened hear the beginning of the greeting in these various languages and heartily reply, "blah, blah, blah!" or "grimfischku vukonki! or (my favorite, the response to the Arabic), "honk, honk, honk!"

Deep down inside this newbie was a little jealous at my first Pascha as an Orthodox Christian of those worshipping around me who "just knew" how to respond with gusto to the Paschal greeting regardless of the language in which it is proclaimed. It felt a little at the time like a series of spy passwords - and you are only "in" if you know the secret password and response. "The eagle lands at midnight ..." You know what I mean.

How does everyone else seem to "just know" this stuff, I wondered. Someone had to tell them once upon a time - why wasn't I told, too?

And while there was the part of me that wanted to be "in" and know that stuff, too, another part of me was sort of frustrated about it. Why, I wondered, here in the middle of Minnesota USA, are Christians exchanging the paschal greeting in Slavonic? Or in Arabic or Greek? Is there anyone here who does not understand English? And are there not many of us here who don't speak or understand any of these other languages? What is the value of this practice here and now?

But as I have considered this a bit, and my initial reactions to this custom, I think maybe there's something to be learned from Ian (from the movie). "Cheese straws are nasty!" (well it sounds like Christos Anesti!) he said - not to make fun of the ethnic religious traditions of the one he loved - but as an act of love for her, as a way to try to enter into her life and her world, to participate in her history and traditions, and to become a part of her family.

Perhaps Ian has helped to answer my questions.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sister, Sister

The little girls in our chick brooder have been getting along famously, and life has been happy and playful and peaceful down there for the past several days. They are growing fast and getting more and more feathers every day (Check out Wilma's new wing feathers!).

Our priest, from whom we borrowed the "loaner chick" dropped a note to us today. He's been contemplating his new coop, which he thinks is perhaps just a wee bit tight for 5 hens, and trying to decide what modifications to make to allow for a bit more room. He decided that the best and easiest way to make more room in his coop would be to house one less hen in it.

So in his note today he asked whether we might consider adopting Flora the Loaner Chick, so that she could stay with Wilma, and so there would be a bit more breathing room in his coop once everyone is grown up and in there.

Of course we were only too happy to keep her. Deep down inside I wonder if this wasn't his plan from the moment he agreed to let us take her "for awhile."

But whether his kind offer was a matter of geniune practicality or of pastoral care or a bit of both, it's a win-win situation - and Wilma has a sister.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Well ...

... here's how it went down:

Three tiny chicks were delivered to us this past cold and rainy Sunday morning at church. Adorable, all of them. Our busy morning meant bringing the babies along with us, in a box which dear husband had rigged up with a warmer light in the back of the van (plugged into an adapter which plugged into a receptacle) to keep them as warm as possible until we could get them home and into our makeshift brooder.

Once we got them home, it quickly became apparent that 2 of them weren't doing well at all, and sadly, we lost those two within only a couple of hours of being home. Not sure what happened to them, but we assume it was the stress of traveling and being cold, then warm, then cold, then warm. We were heartbroken - and so was our remaining girl, who cheeped and cheeped loudly for hours once she was alone. YoungerSon put a little teddy bear in the box with her to keep her company (we'd seen this online as a help for lonely chicks), and we hung out with her as much as we could until bedtime. DearHusband got up to check on her a couple of times at night, and to talk to her, which seeemed to soothe her a little. He found her cuddled up next to the little teddy bear.

As it happened, when our friends from church brought our 3 chicks, they also delivered 5 additional chicks (and a cute coop!) to our priest's house just before liturgy - they were his wife's surprise birthday gift to him. We learned only on Saturday that he would be getting chicks the next day, too. So this morning, DearHusband called Fr. and asked if we might borrow a "loaner chick" for a little while, as our girl was so sad and lonely, to which he graciously agreed. Life in the brooder is much happier now - at least for the time being.

So we are currently parenting one chick (Wilma) and one foster chick (Flora).

We called DearHusband's brother that first night to ask about next steps, and he told us that he has to give away 2 of his 4 one-year-old laying hens, because they are drowning in eggs. His chickens are illegal aliens which he is keeping at his house despite city regulations prohibiting them within the city limits. So he can't really give his eggs away in their small town without alot of questions (if you know what I mean). Since he's going to have to re-home two of them anyway, he suggested that they be re-homed with us. And since our coop is ready, DeaHusband is fashioning a pick-up plan for his brother's two girls.

Once we get them and the weather warms up and our Wilma has some feathers on, we'll return Father's loaner chick to his flock, make the appropriate introductions and hope they all get along and get busy!

As promised, a photo of the finished house and the babies in our brooder:



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Getting Ready for the Girls

We got the inside of the henhouse painted this evening, plus two coats of paint on the the outside. Tomorrow I'll put on the last coat on the outside and then paint the trim. After that, I think we will be about ready.

A family from church (who come a LONG way to church!), have a small flock at their house and they graciously agreed to pick up our chickens for us at their local farm supply and bring them to us this weekend, making the exchange at church on Sunday. I called them today to see if they were really OK with getting them and bringing them along to church this weekend, and was told that they'd already gotten them! No pullets were available, so they got chicks for us (chicks which will, soon enough, be pullets). So it looks like we're getting chicks, which is what DearHusband wanted all along, anyway.

We're putting together a makeshift brooder for them and will keep the babies in the garage until they get their feathers on in a few short weeks. Then they will move into their new accomodations in the yard.

Monday, April 20, 2009

They're Coming ...

Al the chicken guy came this morning to assemble our henhouse. He said he has about another half-day of work to finish it. Hopefully, by the time I come home from work tomorrow, the weather will be a little more cooperative and I can get some paint on the inside of house (the portions made with green treated wood will have to wait awhile until the wood dries out).

Here's hoping that soon ...













Sunday, April 19, 2009

Let Us Not Seek to Make it Less Monstrous

Seven Stanzas at Easter
by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Last Minute Preparations

It has been a wild few days for the Transposzing family - church, church, and more church (besides our regular work and school obligations). Some of our Pascha preparations have been put off until the last minute. But in these few hours we have been able to accomplish a bunch!

This morning: Vesperal Divine liturgy at church. A beautiful celebration, immediately after which we ran to the closest coffee shop and grabbed a cup of strong coffee to go, and then returned to church to see that appropriate preparations were being made for liturgy tonight.

Then, home to change clothes, drop ElderSon off at his best friend's birthday gathering, hit the grocery store to buy fixins for our Pascha basket, to the liquor store to buy additional fixins (and supplemental refreshments for supper tomorrow night), to the local department store to buy a replacement shirt for DearHusband, whose white shirt I accidentally pitched into the trash about a month ago in a tale too long to tell here. Then home to get some fast-drying varnish on a couple of eggs I made for folks at church to give to them tonight, and to dye our eggs - which should have been done on Thursday or Friday, to bake this year's kulich imposter (blueberry bread which will be all dressed up to look exactly like kulich and which will be part of our Sunday morning breakfast before Agape Vespers), and to do a load or two of laundry.

Now the bread is in the oven, the laundry and varnish on the last pysanky are drying, the beer is chilling, the eggs are dyed and cooling, and DearHusband has found a few minutes to take a nice spring ride on his scooter.

Hoping to get a nap in before we leave for church at about 11 tonight!

Here are a few photos I'll share of the last day or so ...



Here's a photo of the flower-enshrined tomb of Christ, upon which today's liturgy was served, as we met it when we came into church this morning.




For years now I have tried to get a decent photo of the moment at the Saturday liturgy (a liturgy much like western Easter Vigil in some ways) when the priests come through with handfuls of rose petals and bay leaves, throwing them about in a celebratory representation of Christ's victorious triumph over death and the grave. I have yet to get a good shot of this, but you can see here what it looked like afterward... (I am hoping others taking photos at church today got a decent shot, which I'll eventually upload to my church's website photo gallery).



My last pysanky of the year, varnish drying and ready to be blown before tonight.



Our cheese selections for this year's Transposzing Pascha basket. We limited it to 5 varieties this year. We also included a nice hunk of summer sausage, chocolate, some beef jerky for the boys, red eggs, a couple of beers, and some nice crackers.



This year we tried dying our eggs with onion skins that we'd saved up all during Lent, as I mentioned here. And it worked wonderfully! As Deb mentioned, they aren't fire-engine red, but rather a deep, natural red. I love the color! On brown eggs, it's quite like the red used in iconography for the garments of the Theotokos.

I still have a few things to take care of before church tonight, which I hope will include about 20 winks.

I'll try to post soon about our Pascha weekend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How?



















How could any Christian chastise another Christian for venerating the cross?

That's all. Just this question.

I'm not providing a link to the conversation which provoked the question (though I know some of my regular visitors have seen it), I just want to ask.

How?

So if anyone has a GOOD answer to this, I'd love to hear it.

In My Head at the Moment

Except that, in my head, it's in English.



Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight,

And blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching,

And again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep,

Lest you be given up to death, and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.

But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God,

Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.


Troparion of Bridegroom Matins
HT: David Bryan of Oh Taste and See

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Palm Weaving

Blogpal Deb asked about the Palm fans used in the Palm Sunday procession at our church today, and I promised to post a couple of photos of that. As I explained to her on FB, we are blessed to have some members who know their way around palm branches! And I am fascinated to watch them weave these fans every year.

Next year I have vowed to put the camera down and try to make one of these myself! My friend Phyl made one this year and it looks like she got the hang of it!







Scenes from a Palm Sunday

Here are some shots of the Palm Sunday procession at my church this year:











Alleluia

For my friends in the Christian west who celebrate our Lord's resurrection this day I post (Bach's Choral Prelude on) my favorite western Easter hymn (which I still love).



(Ignore the photo of the church, ignore the ornate cabinetry on the organ's pipework, ignore the organ specs - ignore the video altogether - that's all completely beside the point, which is the beauty of the music and text. But I don't know how to post the audio without the video).

So for my western Christian friends and family, Happy Easter. Next year we will celebrate the resurrection on the same day (I love that!)


Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands for our offenses given;
But now at God's right hand he stands and brings us life from heaven.
Therefore let us joyful be and sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of hallelujah! Hallellujah!

Our Savior Jesus, God's own Son, here in our stead descended;
The knot of sin has been undone, the claim of death is ended.
Christ has crushed to power of hell; now there is naught but death's gray shell -
It's sting is lost forever. Hallelujah!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see, whom God so freely gave us,
Who died on the accursed tree - so strong God's love - to save us!
See, his blood now marks our door; faith points to it; death passes o'er,
And Satan cannot harm us. Hallelujah!

So let us keep the festival to which the Lord invites us;
Christ is the very joy of all, the sun that warms and lights us.
Now his grace to us imparts eternal sunshine to our hearts;
the night of sin is ended. Hallelujah!

Then let us feast this Easter day on Christ the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace has purged away the old and evil leaven.
Christ alone, our holy meal, the hungry soul will feed and heal;
faith lives upon no other! Hallelujah!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reason #134 Why I Don't Belong On Facebook

134. "Christian flair" (whatever "flair" is)

































*sigh*

Chicken Run

It arrived this morning.



We hired Al the Chicken Guy to build our chicken coop and run for us. Al is the fellow that taught the Urban Chicken farming class we attended a few weeks ago at a local co-op.

When we sat down and did the math with materials, plan (who knew they cost money?), the time we don't have to build our own chicken coop, our complete lack of knowledge about what we'd be doing in building our own, and just the hassle factor that we have come to expect whenever we take on such projects, we figured we'd be money and time ahead to just pay someone to do this for us. Someone who knows what he's doing. Someone who has done this before and has chickens of his own.

So he delivered the run this morning - and also a nice fresh dozen eggs for us. In return, we let him choose one of our finished pysanky.

The henhouse is scheduled to arrive next Wednesday.

Seeing that we have lots and lots of church next week, we will probably have to wait until the weekend after Pascha to get some inhabitants for it. Now all we have to do is come to agreement on whether to get chicks or pullets.

We have a little over a week to get that sorted out.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Understanding

In the few moments I had on Friday to check my regular blog reads, I noticed that Benjamin Harju announced publicly that he has left the LCMS to unite with the Orthodox Church.

Having watched the painful online train wrecks which have occurred when other LCMS clergy have left the Lutheran Church for Orthodoxy, I wondered if I should bother looking in on the comments of the posts from the various folks who addressed this particular family's decision. In one sense I have seen it before and so nothing said by anyone about this was likely to shock me (again). Yet in another sense, I also know that reading such stuff deeply affects me and causes me great despair.

But since I have remembered this family in prayer in recent weeks, I did read most of the comments I saw. Oh sure, those notorious for their attacks upon those who have struggled and left the LCMS showed up for this, in the name of "defending the faith," or whatever, to have their say. And their say is the same old schtick I've read various other times that this has come up. While their "say" often comes under the guise of defending the denomination, it clearly comes at the expense of Christian witness. Commenters who react and accuse those whose actions they do not understand seem to think that by their comments they have won a battle of sorts, but of course, by these comments and accusations they lose the war - missing the bigger picture completely. So it was fairly easy for me to just blow these predictable reactions off when I saw them this time. Yet there were others who obviously care who honestly said, "I just can't understand how you could do this."

For those who are sincerely trying to understand, it's difficult to live with the notion that you may NEVER understand why someone would leave the Lutheran faith for Orthodoxy (and by the way, that's not always an easy thing for those of us who have left, either, for many of us continue to love many Lutherans). But perhaps it's best to consider that understanding why someone does what they do isn't what's really important here. What's really important, I think, is our response.

I was greatly moved and encouraged to note that some do understand the bigger picture. For example, the first comment to Benjamin Harju's post, from Pr. Christopher Hall:
"I know this was difficult for you, and no doubt you will lose many "friends" because of this decision, but not this one."

May God bless your simple witness, Pr. Hall. For whether or not you understand the decision of your former colleague, I think you clearly understand something much more important.

I was also pleased to note that Pr. Hall wasn't the only one who understands the bigger point.