Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christ Is Born!

What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sakes has appeared on earth as a man?
Every creature made by You offers You thanks:
the Angels offer a hymn;
the heavens, a star;
the Wise Men, gifts;
the shepherds, their wonder;
the earth, its cave;
the wilderness, a manger,
and we offer You a virgin Mother!
O Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Misstep

... in the constant Christian quest for an "authentic" faith:

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Coincidentally cool moment from liturgy today:

Just as we were finishing up singing the Theotokion before communion at liturgy this morning, the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and a ray of sunlight streamed into the window in the altar, reflected off the chalice which was on the altar, and made a very cool spotlight right on the face of the Theotokos in our beautiful platytera (pictured here without the reflection, as I had no camera with me at church today).

I happened to be standing near the back of the church at that moment and thought that perhaps I was the only one who noticed it - but I learned after church that at least a couple of others had, too.

Sort of a nice little blessing ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Insightful Thoughts on Sadness

Even though I'm generally a glass-half-full type, I thought this reflection on sadness were quite thought-provoking.

(I'm not so sure, however, that I'd be so quick to make examples only out of those in the Protestant west. Seems I know at least a couple in the non-Protestant east who fit the stereotype he suggests, too.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our "Fantasy of Well-Formed Ideas"

"... To believe the truth is to venture onto the holy ground of reality and not the fantasy of well-formed ideas. On holy ground we remove our shoes and remain silent – giving voice to words of praise letting words possess integrity. It is a very difficult thing indeed."

From a longer post, every word of which is well-worth the read.

Would that bloggers across the Christian spectrum cared more about truth and less about the fantasy of their own well-formed ideas, (and about the importance of publishing these ideas), I might have a renewed interest in reading again some of the blogs I've long ago abandoned.

Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Awareness-Raising Rant

I'm not unaware - and I'm wagering that most sensible Americans are not unaware either.

Today is the third time I saw this post on Facebook (or a post very similar to this):

Okay, folks---I have finally had enough. God doesn't give a flying rats ass who slept with whom last night--what I think really pisses God off is that 30,000 CHILDREN died of malnutrition last night, and most of us are so busy worrying about whose sleeping with who, that we don't give a shit. And what's REALLY pissing God off right now is that many people who are reading this are more shocked by my language than they are that 30,000 CHILDREN DIED LAST NIGHT OF HUNGER! (and, by the way, another 30,000 children will die of hunger tonight)

And many of my well-meaning FB women friends have posted (ad nauseum) a simple line stating "where they like to put their purse" when they come home (intended to be read as a provocative metaphor for where they like to have sex) - or better yet, last year's titilating meme about what color the bra that they are wearing is - all posted in the name of "breast cancer awareness."

Who is not aware that many die of hunger in this country and around the world every day?
Whose life has not been affected in some way by cancer? Who is unaware of it?
And most importantly, what makes well-meaning people feel that they have really done anything to help solve these problems by "raising awareness" of that which everyone is already aware?

As far as I can tell, such memes and posts and "awareness-raising" exercises do absolutely nothing to help anyone who is hungry or who has breast cancer. All such things do is raise awareness of the person who posted it.

Really want to do something concrete to help with the problem of hunger or breast cancer? Put away your righteous indignation and your junior-high-locker-room-mentality fixation on sex and get your wallet out - or step up to the plate to volunteer your time to agencies who are always in need of hands on help. Buy a bag of groceries or two for your local food shelf and bring them there. Contact the American Cancer Society and be a neighborhood door-to-door collector for the cause. Leave the FB "share" button unclicked and the worthless memes without comment and do something real.

The "awareness-raising" blather and sharing is useless and meaningless.

(BTW - my 16 year-old son has one of the wrist bands in the photo above. Think it's because of his great concern for the problem of breast cancer?)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Segregated Peace

It's now been over a week since I was at the height of frustration with our flock's one year old monarch, and I'm pleased to report that things have settled down considerably out in the yard. I'm not sure why, but I'll take it.

Seems we have reached a stage of relative segregated peace. That is to say that the chicks stay together and together they spend all of their time staying out of the way of the older hens. They are like a couple of shadows darting around in tandem, trying to stay two steps ahead of the other three. And the older hens seem less interested in tormenting them. They seem to have gotten the drift that the chicks aren't going anywhere, so they've resigned themselves to mostly ignoring them now. Oh there's still the occasional nip and peck, but nothing like the constant oppression of their first two weeks together.

And while the chicks spent the first week in the henhouse sleeping WAYYY on the other end of the roost on the opposite side of the house, one day last week they decided that they deserved a spot by the door, too, - it's cooler there - and because they are always the first ones to go to bed, they took over the hens' roosting spot (which I was sure would mean a new kind of trouble). And though the hens loudly protested, they squeezed in right next to the chicks for sleep (Miss Lucy provides and excellent buffer between the chicks and Betty.)

The hours (and I mean hours!) of daybreak squawking is suddenly reduced to 5 or 10 minutes - and with the recent heat and humidity we are thankful for the closed windows and doors of ourselves and our neighbors. Hopefully, we can soon return to squawking only when laying.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Trouble with Betty

There was a quiet takeover in our backyard chicken coop sometime early this spring. When spring arrived and the ladies were spending a lot more time in the yard, it soon became obvious that Lucy was no longer our Alpha hen - that position had been assumed by Miss Betty, large and in-charge.

Henhouse dynamics can change over time, but we suspected that the death of Betty's sister was the trigger for the hierarchical upheaval. We lost Wilma early this spring (we suspect it was due to a neighbor's weedkiller overspray on a windy day, which landed the poison on our yard right next to the coop). Whatever the cause, it is now very plain to see that there's a new queen in town - and it seems she's a bit of a tyrant. Whoever said Orpingtons were a docile and quiet breed of chicken has not met our Betty!

Our red hens are getting older and one of them has all but stopped laying. Without Wilma, we were down to only two laying hens. So early this summer, some handy friends added a dormer to our henhouse and we expanded our little flock by adding a couple of young black australorp chicks, LoisandMarge - identical "twins" - (10 weeks old then). And, of course, that's when the trouble started.

We kept them separated for the first month, the chicks having their own small brooder coop and separate run, but once they got fairly close in size to the hens, it was time to put them all together. Integrating new chickens into an existing flock rarely goes off without a hitch, and there is usually a bit of biting and chasing and pecking until everyone finds their place in the henhouse hierarchy. So when we added the younguns to the coop, we expected a bit of trouble, but there has been much. It has been a long week.

The older hens have terrorized the poor chicks all day every day - particularly tyrannical, of course, has been alpha Betty. By Thursday, the chicks had taken to spending their days in the henhouse (where the hens only go to sleep at night and to lay in the morning), depriving themselves of fresh air and sunlight - and food and water - for the sake of security. We intervened and sectioned off a portion of the run, giving them protection from the other hens and access to their own food and water. And for the last couple of days, we have tried leaving them together for awhile, and separating them only when there's a lot of trouble. It seems that the chicks and the older reds get along pretty well when Betty's up in the house, so it's obvious that Betty is the instigator of aggression, and that it's only the crowd mentality which encourages the older hens in that behavior.

But now in these last days, a new problem has emerged - it's the racket. Early in the morning. Very early.

Seems Betty is no longer willing to share the nesting box with anyone else. And she's no longer willing to let anyone into the house when she is laying. So when it's time for her to lay, if there's anyone else in the nesting box, she stands next to the box and squawks - loudly and incessantly - until the box is free (it can take a long time for a hen to lay an egg!). Now I get that when a girl's gotta go a girl's gotta go, but I don't think any amount or increased volume in squawking is going to hasten the amount of time it takes for another hen to lay an egg. And now she also wants her privacy, it seems. If the box is open but the chicks are up in the henhouse, she stands next to the box and squawks - loudly and incessantly - until they go down to the run. But the chicks won't leave the henhouse because they are terrorized in the run. You see where this is going, don't you?

For the last week - beginning at daybreak, Betty has been down in the yard screaming her beak off about something - either someone's in the house when she wants to lay or someone's in the box when she wants to lay. And she just. won't. shut. up. It goes on for a long time, and my going down there and telling her to can it seems to only make it worse. Putting the chicks down into the run helps for about 2 minutes, but that's all, because sometimes she screams and squawks for no apparent reason at all ... just because she can, I guess. Maybe she thinks she is a rooster now.

I'm usually up before 5 anyway, so she's not depriving me of any sleep. But we have neighbors close by, at least one of whom is not at all excited to have 5 chickens living next door. And we also have noise ordinances here in suburbia - which I am sure are being violated. (YoungerSon has been awakened several times this week, coming out into the kitchen at about 6 am all droopy-eyed, saying, "What is her PROBLEM?")

So what to do?

I didn't want to have to do this, but it seems that Miss Betty needs a bit of a timeout. Sometimes when there are such problems, they say that it is best to remove the troublesome hen from the flock for a while, allowing the flock to establish a new hierarchy. Then after awhile, re-integrate the problem girl, who will then be seen by the rest of the flock as someone new, and newbies are always at the bottom of the pecking order (just ask LoisandMarge).

DearHusband says that if it comes to that, perhaps we shouldn't look at it as putting her in solitary confinement (i.e. jail) for awhile as much as giving her a "private suite" for a couple of weeks.

I don't want to rehome her - she's a good layer, only one year old, and drop-dead gorgeous to boot. I'll try putting a second nesting box in the henhouse and give her one more day before we separate her.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Striking a Pose?

There was a nurse's strike at Twin Cities Minnesota hospitals yesterday. Some twelve thousand nurses from 14 area hospitals walked off their jobs for a planned 24 hour strike. The issue, as I understand it, is patient load. Nurses have to care for too many patients at once and this means less quality care for all patients when nurses are spread too thin, trying to take care of too many at the same time.

The nurses claimed they were striking because they care about their patients, and about what is best for them.

The strike had been planned for some time, hospitals had plenty of time to recruit enough temporary nurses to meet their needs for this one day. And thankfully they did find plenty of nurses from all over the state (and other surrounding areas) to work in local hospitals yesterday.

I guess I'm sort of conflicted about labor unions and strikes and all of that. I see some benefit to having labor unions - for some professions - but ultimately I find myself glad not to be part of one. (I realize that this is also not the politically correct position to take, but really, political correctness is so overrated.)

The strike received extensive coverage on the evening news last night. Several striking nurses were interviewed, all of them saying that they were taking this action solely out of concern for their patients. Still, when the video footage showed the temporary nurses reporting for their one day of work, all of the striking nurses were standing at the buses shouting at them, "Go home, scabs! Shame on you!"

Now I get that the impact of the nurses who walked out was decreased because an adequate number of replacement workers were hired that day to do their work. I understand the desire of the striking nurses to show the hospitals and everyone else how important their work is and how overworked they are. I get all that. But we aren't talking about striking paper manufacturers or striking mechanics here. We are talking about those who care for human beings in frail or even life-threatening condition. So as I watched the news coverage last night I couldn't help but wonder why, if the nurse's primary concern is really the welfare of patients, why they wouldn't be supporting the replacement nurses who were willing to come and care for "their" patients while they were picketing. Someone had to come and care for them. Why weren't they shouting, "Thank God for you!"?

I'm sure the hospital patients were.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An American Tragedy

... from the mailbag at work today.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Camouflage Watermelon

In my recent blogging haitus, I've been learning a bit of needlecraft - knitting and crocheting (and finding that crocheting is alot easier and less frustrating!)

I've made lots and lots of scarves and most recently have been working on afghans. My first couple of afghans taught me some important lessons in what not to do when you crochet an afghan.

My first one was made in a variety of blues and greens. Started out with a skein of practice yarn in variegated blue/green. Once I got good and going on it, I thought it was going so well that it seemed a shame to pull it all out just because it was practice, so I just kept adding to it, purchasing a skein of solid colored yard for each of the colors in the variegated pattern, which amounted to 4, if I remember. So when it was all done, it ended up being a big thing with fat stripes in different complimentary colors. And though it all sort of went together color-wise, it needed a little something to tie it all together, so I added a big, fat, navy blue border to the whole thing. In the end it was pretty big, and very, very busy. And because not all of the complimentary yarns were the same brand or kind of yarn, some of it was soft, some of it was stiff, some was heavier or lighter weight. In the end I thought my first big completed afghan was quite ugly - and it was mostly BLUE to boot (and I just don't really like the color blue). But Sis liked it enough to take it home and let it be a functional eyesore in her living room, so I was happy to give it to her. (No photo provided because I really didn't like it enough to take a photo of it before it left the house.)

So when I started my second afghan, I put to use a couple of the lessons I learned from the first one: use all the same brand and weight of yarn, and really, a couple of colors is plenty. So I stocked up on 2 colors I like alot and got busy on afghan number two. The yarn I chose was called "thick and quick," an enticing name for an impatient person like, me! And it was thick, and indeed, pretty quick, too. But the important lesson I learned from this second afghan is to use an appropriate sized hook, because a hook that's too small leads to a VERY dense weave. So even though the second afghan looks pretty good, it weighs about 40 pounds. But it's very, very warm and looks OK on the chair in the living room, so I kept that one, at least for now.

So with all of this knowledge about what NOT to do when crocheting an afghan, I started a third one. This one is for YoungerSon, so I let him pick out the yarn. When I saw the yarn he picked I thought it was very cool - looks like the colors of a watermelon, I thought. But by the time I got a half dozen rows done, I realized that it looks less like a watermelon and more like camouflage (not a patten I'm particularly fond of). Even though I'm not real wild about the pattern, YoungerSon likes it alot, and I guess that's what counts. And the weight seems just about perfect for the yarn.

So I'll keep plugging away, hoping that the third time's the charm.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And From Another Excellent Post

by iconographer Matthew Garrett:

"... It seems to me that this is precisely why icons are important. One could easily assume that icons are a way of making the invisible visible. But this is not accurate. Icons are allowable, and in fact necessary, precisely because they make the visible visible. In a sense, they operate in much the same way as a microscope or a telescope does. One would be wrong to suggest that a very small cell or a very distant planet was invisible. They are fully visible, they are every bit as real as the things that we see with the naked unassisted eye, but they cannot be perceived without assistance. Icons help us to see what is visible, but not always perceived."

An Excellent Post

One of the best I've read in a very long time.
From Fr. Stephen Freeman of Glory to God for All Things:

The Church at a Crossroads

This week, canonical Orthodox bishops across North America are meeting in New York to begin conversations towards greater Orthodox unity. Many Orthodox hope for an eventual, single autocephalous Orthodox jurisdiction on the American continent. This may yet be years away. For myself, I rejoice that the conversation has moved to this next level. In light of the meeting, I offer these few thoughts on “ecclesiology” – the doctrine of the Church. It is not the way the ecclesiology of the Church is formally stated – but it seems a worthwhile way to think about the subject.


Writing to the young Timothy (first letter) St. Paul gives this homey admonition:

"These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

Paul does not then go on to give us several chapters’ explanation of ecclesiology, expounding and unpacking the phrase, “pillar and ground of the truth.” The phrase simply hovers as a statement of fact beckoning the brave to “come up higher.”

Some have done so over the years: most famously in modern times Paul Florensky’s book by that very title - a massive tome of writing by the mathematician/mystic/theologian who is himself often as enigmatic as he is interesting.

Being Orthodox means living with words like “pillar and ground of truth.” Or singing gleefully in a liturgy, “We have seen the True Light, we have found the true faith.” In the wrong hands such words can be dangerous indeed. They are true enough, but such truth can be uttered well only as praise to the Living God, rarely as apologetics or as “war words” in our confused scene of Christianity. Uttered in “battle” (if the little dust-ups that occur hither and yon can be called such) these words take on the fearful character of “that by which we will be judged” (Matthew 12:36).

The insanity of modern American Christianity is the product of sola scriptura, poor or no ecclesiology, and the entrepreneurship of the American spirit. Thus almost every Christian group that exists has something excellent to say about itself (like so many car dealerships). The perfect ratiocination of Reform theology, an Infallible Pope with a Magisterium, or the perfections of an invisible Church (really, how can you discuss an invisible Church?) Even Anglicans, born of divorce and compromise (I know they don’t like to say it like that in Anglican seminaries, but it’s history), can brag about Via Media, or today, “Inclusivity.”

Into this playing field of discussion come the Orthodox. We are familiar with Pillar and Ground of Truth, True Light, True Faith, Fullness, etc., words of excellence and perfection. Of course, as soon as they are uttered, gainsayers will point to everything about us that appears less – and there is so much at which to point (our messy jurisdictionalism, internal arguments, etc.) People who have mastered cut-and-paste functions on their computer can quote concatenations of the fathers proving that our Pillar and Ground of Truth was always sitting in Rome. What’s an Orthodox boy (or girl) to do?

I do not think we give up conversation, but we have to be aware of the nature of our conversation. We utter “Pillar and Ground of Truth,” etc. “in a sacred mystery.” Pulled out of its context (that is the living Church) and placed in argument, the phrase becomes words weakened by every other word we have ever spoken, and particularly the actions we have performed or failed to perform. Such phrases are no less true, but they were never meant as offensive weapons (except perhaps in spiritual warfare).

I would start, as an Orthodox boy, with the fact that everyone who is Orthodox has agreed to “deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ.” The ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church, the Pillar and Ground of Truth, is found precisely in its weakness and is found there because God wants it that way. If salvation means loving my enemies like God loves His enemies, then I am far better served by my weakness than my excellence. If humility draws the Holy Spirit, then my weakness is far more useful than any excellence I may possess.

The Orthodox Church has perhaps the weakest ecclesiology of all, because it depends, moment by moment, on the love and forgiveness of each by all and of all by each. Either the Bishops of the Church love and forgive each other or the whole thing falls apart. “Brethren, let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” These are the words that introduce the Creed each Sunday, and they are the words that are the bedrock of our ecclesiology.

We live in a wondrous age of the Church. Having suffered terrible blows at the hands of the Bolsheviks, we were smashed into jurisdictions (they don’t really start until the 1920′s), and often turned on one another in our rage. Today, the Bolshevik has been consigned “to the dustbin of history.” Moscow and the Russian Church Outside of Russia are actually reunited. We still have the spectre of a powerful Patriarch of Constantinople bumping into a powerful Patriarch of Moscow here and there, although this week Patriarch Bartholomew is meeting in Moscow with Patriarch Kyrill. We live in interesting times.

But in each and every case the only ecclesiology that will work, that will reveal the Church to be the Pillar and Ground of the Truth will be an ecclesiology of the Cross: mutual forgiveness and abiding in the truth in love. This will be the Church’s boast: that it became like Christ in all ways; or it will have no boast at all.

I rejoice that I am alive in such a time as this. We stand at the edge of an abyss. We can embrace each other in joy and forgiveness or fall into the abyss itself (I trust Christ’s promise to keep us from such a misstep – though He has pulled us out of such places more than once). I rejoice because I don’t want anything other than to be conformed to the image of the crucified Christ. Let everybody else be excellent if they need to be. I need to die.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Face-Brightener

Here are a few good thoughts about fasting from the introduction to our recently published church cookbook, written by our priest:

"Jesus did not say 'if you fast', but 'when you fast.' And that means, basically, eating humbly according to a norm set by the church for the day or the season.

The Spirit may always lead members of the church to radical acts of fasting (and don't make the mistake of thinking that modern people are not up to the task ... in our day in the midst of so much indulgence, asceticism is alive ... usually in secret where it belongs). But the 'norms' of fasting are not intended to be radical. They are intended to free us from overwrought preoccupations with what is on the table, and from spiritual self-absorption, by providing us a simple, external guide. Then we can stop fussing over what is on the plate, and get on with the rest of what a fasting season wants us to experience.

So does fasting mean not enjoying food? Far from it. Many of us have been at monasteries in Lent where simplicity of ingredients and moderation in how much you eat are a positive culinary joy, and the gifts of the community's chef are much delighted in..."

And in this note he also encouraged us to enjoy the fast. "After all," he writes, "Jesus taught that when you fast your face should be bright ... and not because you are faking it."

So having come from the supper table this evening with a nice, bright face from a delicious Lenten meal, I'm going to re-post a recipe I posted last Lent. We tweaked it a bit tonight (and by "we" I mean "he") to make it personal-preference-specific. It was a wonderful meal - and a good reminder to me that there is joy in the disciplines of the church.

Here's the link to the recipe.

And here are the Transposzing tweaks:

  • he eliminated the orange juice and replaced it with vegetable stock (and the ginger flavor just soared!)
  • he cut the soy sauce from 6 tsp. to 3 tsp. Next time we'll cut it back a bit further yet and add some at the table if we need it.
  • he gave it a squeeze of fresh lime, which just generally perked everything up a notch.
  • we threw in a handful of roasted peanuts at the table (which we throw into every stir-fried dish we make)
So if you are observing the lenten fast - go ahead and give it a try!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Great Lent

It's not about the food.

Wisdom from Bonhoeffer

Some helpful thoughts on Christian community from Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusonment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together - the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Never Say Never

In autumn of 1993 as DearHusband and I were preparing for marriage, his then-priest told this then-good-Lutheran that because their jurisdiction did not permit members to marry outside the faith, if we were to be married then I had to become an Orthodox catechumen (close enough, I guess.)

Not completely ignorant of church history, I knew that a catechumen is one who is preparing for entrance into the church, and I balked. While I loved DearHubandToBe and certainly wanted to be married to him, I told this priest that I had no plans to become an Orthodox Christian. He calmed me by telling me that being a catechumen means simply that I am a learner, one who has set out to learn about the faith. This seemed harmless enough as I hoped to be someone who is always seeking to learn more about the faith. But just to avoid unmet expectations down the road, I remember telling him very plainly, "Just so we are clear - I am fine with becoming a catechumen, but I will never become an Orthodox Christian."

"I'm not asking for promises," he said. "I'm only asking that you remain open to going wherever God leads you."

Fair enough.

And for the next few years, on the occasions we saw this priest, he never mentioned it again.

So today, on the anniversary of my reception into the Orthodox Church, I find myself thankful to God for many things and many people, but I remember especially today this priest, Fr. Bohdan Borody (pictured here years ago with toddler ElderSon who adored him), and am especially thankful for him, too.

And today I also remember that famous adage (not from a church father, I don't think): "Want to make God laugh? Tell him what your life is going to be like in in a few years."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Must-Serve for Cheesefare Week

This is one of our very favorite recipes for Cheesefare week! Oh, we have it occasionally at other times, too - but it's one we always try to serve during this week.

Stuffed Pasta Shells
(The recipe USED to be right on the box of pasta, but they changed that recipe long ago. So we're glad we hung on to it!)

1-12 ounce package of jumbo pasta shells, cooked.
1 jar of your favorite prepared spaghetti sauce

1-16 ounce container of ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 T. parsley flakes
1 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. pepper

(We also thaw 1/2 package of frozen spinach, squeeze it dry, and mix in with cheese mixture).

Pour a small amount of sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 pan, and spoon filling ingredients into cooked shells. Place filled shells into the pan on top of the sauce. Pour additional spaghetti sauce (as much as you like) over the top of the shells.

Grate additional mozzarella cheese and sprinkle over the top of shells (Sprinkle additional parmesan cheese over the top, too, if you like).

Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until all is bubbly.

Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes and serve with (even more!) grated parmesan cheese on top.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thoughts on Theophany

Here's a cross-post from May of 2006, from a blog I used to read alot back when it was fairly helpful to me. The blog is somewhat less helpful to me these days, so I read it less often, but I will always be particularly grateful for this post - and I go back to it often.

Much of what is said here was said in a different way to the children of our parish (by the same priest at the same parish he mentions, now my parish) at the Great Blessing of Waters, which was held just prior to church school last night.

12 May 2006
the God for Whom the waters do not part

"... I was attending, off and on, a little Orthodox parish in St. Paul, Holy Trinity. The priest, Father Jonathan Proctor, had been a friend to me over several years, and had seen me through some difficult personal messes and my on again, off again flirtation with Orthodoxy. His place in life at this time was different than mine. He and his wife had just lost a one month old child. When she was born they were told she would not live long. The best series of sermons I have ever heard in my life came from Fr. Jonathan over the course of 2 to three months after the death of his little one. Please do not think me crass for saying this. A sermon is just a sermon. It is not a human life. All decent men would rather have the little girl than the great sermons. Also, please don't think that I suggest that there is a causal relationship between suffering and wisdom. Some suffer for nothing. The death of a human being is always tragic. Nothing good comes from it. Though good may come from the virtues found in suffering through it. But Orthodox are not spiritual pragmatists. Give us the child, we will worry about lessons later. But the fact is that children die, and Christians suffer, and the suffering of one priest bore messages about Christianity which will shape me for the rest of my life.

On a Sunday after Theophany, I heard Fr. Jonathan give a homily that has rarely left my mind since then. I will not go into all the details here, but I will cover the central detail, it goes something like this:

Father Jonathan asked us to consider Jesus' baptism. Consider who Jesus is. We know that He is fully God. We know that He is rightly called prophet, priest, and king. We know that He not only represents, but in a certain sense is the true and holy Israel of God. It should not be lost on us that God's people are now called "the Body of Christ." This Man who is God walks up to the River Jordan. And what happens? What should we expect to happen? Well, a man who is versed in the Old Testament and who also knows Who this Jesus is might have a very reasonable expectation. In the Old Testament when the people of God, the Israel of God, come up to the waters while running from pharaoh, the waters part. In the OT when the prophet of God comes up to the river Jordan, the waters part. In the OT when the ark of the covenant, which was God present to His people, came to the river Jordan, the waters part. This man well versed in the OT, when seeing Jesus come to the waters should have every expectation that they too will part. Jesus is the fullness of the presence of God, He is the fulfillment of all prophecy, He is the true Israel of God, all people of God are in Him. But the waters do not part. Instead, God enters into the chaos and death of the water, and He is covered. With Christ, all bets are off, the rules of the game have changed. God is now not seeking a people for whom to part waters. He is seeking a community of the drowned.

When you enter through baptism and chrismation the Orthodox faith, and are therefore baptized into Christ, do not think that God is in the business of going about separating waters for you. No, this is not the path you have chosen. You have chosen to hold fast to the One for whom the waters do not part. You die with Him, in Him, through Him, as Him, for Him. Orthodox Christianity is the exact opposite of "health and wealth" spiritual economics, which infects not just Pentecostalism, but much of American Christianity. God will heal whom He will, God will allow the deaths of those whom He will, but in a real and certain sense, friends of God, as those who are the dead in Christ, you have given up any right to claim that God must part waters for you. As Bonhoeffer said, "when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." A dead man can claim nothing as his own.

The mystery takes us further. That day not only does Jesus come up to the water and the waters stay still to swallow Him up, but it is this very day that for the first time God reveals Himself in His fullness: Father, Son, Holy Spirit to humankind. The threefold nature of the Godhead is revealed to us at the moment in which God reveals Himself as the God for Whom the waters do not part. In the feast of Theophany we learn that God reveals Himself formally and most clearly, in the very midst of human suffering. Indeed, we may even speak with St. Cyril of this mystery of the suffering of the impassible God.

Throughout Christian history so many faithful have been led to seek some sort of magic help potion from God or his agents, or at the very least thought that God would give them a statistical advantage, as if they were a bit more likely to have things go well if God were in their corner. Both are lies. Of course we pray that God bless us, and we have faith that he will. But we may seek blessing in a different spirit when the waters have already passed over our heads. Most Holy Theotokos, joy of all who sorrow, pray for us.