Monday, March 31, 2008

Poor Beethoven!

I was wrong when I said Mozart and Beethoven (squirrels) were both eating solid foods. Mozart is. On closer observation, he's the only one of the two. Beethoven still won't even take his formula from a bowl. He still insists on being hand fed. Jumps into my hand every time I come near, asking to be fed. All weekend I tried taking the "tough love" approach: let him learn to eat solids or go hungry! Well, fortunately, tough love is hard for me, and I gave in now and then and fed him, albeit with diluted formula.

Today I had a ridiculous thought: what if he still doesn't have his top teeth? NAW! I hadn't even bothered checking, the idea was so outlandish. A big squirrel like Beethoven! But I stuck my finger in his mouth to check anyway, because the poor baby was all skin and bones, and -- no top teeth! Just two hard little bumps where they have barely begun to come in.

I cried. It was that kind of a day anyway. I woke up crying -- and thinking if only I could just get back to feeling snarky that would be great progress. I cried over Beethoven and asked his forgiveness. I promised him I'd hand-feed him all his life if that's what he wanted.

I've added peanut butter to his formula now (along with the usual baby cereal and applesauce), for the extra calories, and he's eating like a little pig. He'll be nice and fat in a few days.

And one day, he won't want to be bottle-fed any more, and another day I will release him after all and he will like it much better, living the way God intended him to, instead of in a cage.

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A Blog I Already Know I'm Going to Enjoy!

Dear Deb put me onto this one. Check out this blog, Thoughts From the Other Side of the Mountain, if you

* are interested in vicariously sharing a catechumen's journey, especially if you're thinking of undertaking that journey yourself; and/or if you

* would like some wonderful glimpses of life in a charming and talented family with ten children (some adopted, some "home-baked"), plus another on the way, plus a single mom and her son, plus assorted feathered and furry pets!

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An Instant Diagnosis

Demetrios tells me a certain young friend of ours is almost certainly pregnant.

“How wonderful!” I exclaimed. Did she tell you?”

“No, I observed it.”

“Observed it how? If she’s pregnant, she isn’t showing.”

“Well, perhaps not exactly. She has put on a little weight, you may have noticed.”

“Okay…”

“Her breasts are twice their former size…”

“Aha! No, that I did not notice. That probably takes a man to notice.”

“A doctor. With enough experience to recognize a pregnant woman when he sees one.”

“I did notice she has a certain glow. I attributed it to being madly in love with that nice husband of hers. But perhaps that glow is from happy anticipation…”

“And from prenatal vitamins. And did you notice, her face has taken on a sort of roundedness. That isn’t from the weight gain. That’s pregnancy.”

Well, Demetrios is seldom wrong about these things. He notices everything. I remember once in church hearing him sigh, “Poor Father, with that painful right knee!” The priest was fully vested! But floor-length robes notwithstanding, Demetrios had noticed a slight limp. He'll see some commentator on TV whose mouth is a little crooked, and say, "Bell's Palsy." He notices that Vladimir Putin of Russia walks strangely, allowing one arm to swing more or less freely as he walks, while holding the other straight down at his side. “And what’s very odd is, the man who is his successor does the very same thing!”

Perhaps eager for confirmation of his diagnosis, Demetrios wishes I would ask the woman, which I shall not. "I try to keep my clinical skills sharp," he says, then confesses, a bit sheepishly, “and although you may not be aware of it, I take a certain satisfaction in being right about such things.”

I couldn’t resist reminding him of the time in Ireland when he and a carload of other doctors passed a farmer in the road and were debating what that large, dark spot might be they noticed on his temple. They stopped the car, the better to observe. Each doctor had a different opinion. Then Demetrios decided, in case it were a skin cancer, to approach the man and just mention it. Perhaps closer inspection, or questioning, could resolve the issue.

“Ow,” said the fellow, “we’re all dairy farmers here. ‘Tis only cow s___!” Whereupon Demetrios noticed there were several spots of it on the man’s shirt, as well.

But I do hope he’s right this time! Stay tuned.


UPDATE, 05 April: Last night when I saw this friend, she was wearing the same jacket as last week, but this time, unbuttoned. (Last week the buttons were about to, er, bust.) With the jacket open, I could clearly see her tummy, and sure enough, there was a large bulge, just in the right place. Not fat. So I am encouraged to hope.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sympathy Cards

Yesterday, when we went to visit Mom and Dad, Mom had a big box full of sympathy cards from relatives, friends, church members, members of her various organizations. All of them are deeply appreciated; all of them are going into a "Memory Book" for Barbara's children to cherish.

I've rarely sent sympathy cards; I try to comfort my friends in person, mostly because I don't know what to say in a card. But having now read close to a hundred of them, I've learned a thing or two about that. If you care for any tips, here are mine.

* "My heart goes out to you," will do very nicely. It's the main thing we want to know. It doesn't need embroidering.

* "You are in my thoughts and prayers" is also just right, providing the assurance we need. It's enough.

* If you want to add, "May God comfort you in this difficult time," those are very welcome words, as well (unless, of course, you intend to refer the bereaved to God for comfort instead of comforting him yourself).

* If you, too, are grieving the loss of our family member (as distinct from sharing our grief), by all means, say that, too; that's enormously comforting.

* Sentimentality won't add anything.

* Well-intended, loving advice on how to take care of myself or work through my grief just isn't my concern right now.

* Kindly-meant preaching may even backfire.

* The best cards are those that share a good memory of the deceased:

"I was a classmate of hers at Virginia Tech and she helped and supported all of us struggling through vet school."

"I never got to meet her, but I felt she was a good friend over the Internet and telephone, because we both had the same disease."



The very best card of all was from a friend of my sister Wendy's since they were both nine years old. She had telephoned recently and when my mother answered, Kathy said, "Mom?"

"I think you have the wrong 'Mom'," our Mom said.

"No, I haven't!" was her reply. "It's Kathy!"

And Kathy's card, telling of her own memories and sharing her own tears, was addressed, "Mom".


Thanks, everybody!

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"Is What I Experience(d) Really the Holy Spirit?"

This is one of countless areas in which we need a spiritual father or mother. He or she will know far better than we if what we have experienced is the Holy Spirit or is from Him. Here are a few guidelines that may be helpful, but they must never replace being mentored by someone who is already a close friend of the Holy Spirit.

Flee! Run; do not walk, if what happened to you involved:

-- paying any money for it, even indirectly, for tickets or seats. Conferences, involving fees for food, transportation, lodging, or study materials, are not included in this warning. But we should never have to pay just to hear a Christian preacher preach.

-- any whiff of showmanship.

-- insults to your human dignity, such as groveling on the floor or making animal noises.

-- loss of self-control. The Spirit of the true God does not do that to us.

-- contradictions of Holy Scripture, the Creed, or the prayers and worship of the Church.

-- pointless, meaningless happenings.

We should be suspicious if:

-- we think we were cured. Consult your doctor before throwing away crutches or discontinuing medications!

-- we think we were given a glimpse of the future. Acting upon false premonitions of the future obviously can have unfortunate consequences. Consult your spiritual father.

-- the experience involved high emotions and bodily sensations. Spiritual realities cannot be discerned except by spiritual means. Emotional/bodily “highs” are pleasant, often thrilling, and may even help a person get through the week, but they are not what the Holy Spirit is all about. In fact, their presence makes spiritual discernment more difficult than it is in their absence; their presence obscures the Holy Spirit.

-- we think we have received the Holy Spirit in other than an Orthodox setting. It can happen, for the Spirit blows free and certainly isn’t confined to the Church, but such an experience should raise some red flags in our minds.

-- the alleged spiritual experience leaves us feeling satisfied or pleased with our spiritual condition. A true visitation of the Holy Spirit invariably shows us how very far we still have to go.

-- we were seeking an exotic experience. Such seeking is self-serving. Moreover, as Metropolitan Kallistos reminds us,

Direct experience can exist without necessarily being accompanied by specific experiences. There are indeed many who have come to believe in God because of some voice or vision, such as St. Paul received on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). There are many others, however, who have never undergone particular experiences of this type, but why can yet affirm that, present throughout their life as a whole, there is a total experience of the living God, a conviction existing on a level more fundamental than all their doubts. Even though they cannot point to a precise place or moment in the way that St. Augustine, Pascal or Wesley could, they can claim with confidence: I know God personally.
(The Orthodox Way, St. Vladimir’s Seminary press, Crestwood, New York, 1990, p. 22)


It’s an encouraging sign if our experience bears spiritual fruit (as distinct from emotional fruit) such as:

-- new insight into our true spiritual condition, insight otherwise known as humility

-- repentance, meaning sorrow over the ways we have “grieved” God, turning from those ways, and having faith in and rejoicing in His measureless forgiveness. True contrition, turning, and faith are all works of the Holy Spirit. (But subtle counterfeits abound.)

-- ability to forgive someone we couldn’t forgive before

-- liberation, as when an issue that had blocked our prayer is resolved

-- receiving understandings we needed, answers that are suddenly so obvious we marvel we couldn’t see them before

-- courage to do the right thing, of which we were incapable before

-- seeing the right course to take, the right way to resolve an issue, which wasn’t apparent before because it required humility from us

-- a doctrine of the Church or passage of Scripture suddenly making clear, immediate, obvious, perfect, practical sense


Again, we should never try to discern these things alone, whether by these few guidelines or any others you may find elsewhere. There are always exceptions and evil is often very subtle indeed. We should always check everything with a wise and mature spiritual father (or mother).

Snarky

"Snarky" is a new word for me. I'm not sure what it means. Sometimes it seems to mean any public criticism of a person, as in, "If Hillary can't figure out what's happening in broad daylight [at the airport in Bosnia], how [expletive deleted] is she going to know what's happening at three a.m.?" Is that snarky?

Sometimes it seems to mean arguing publicly against another person's belief, or even his unbelief. Is that snarky?

St. Irenaeus did that.

These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth. (Irenaeus, Against Heretics, Preface)


Is that snarky? How about this? Some people consider it downright anti-Semitic. (But it isn't; it's against the Judaizers in the Church.)

Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion. I said that the synagogue is no better than a theater and I bring forward a prophet as my witness. Surely the Jews are not more deserving of belief than their prophets. "You had a harlot's brow; you became shameless before all". Where a harlot has set herself up, that place is a brothel. But the synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. Jeremiah said: "Your house has become for me the den of a hyena". He does not simply say "of wild beast", but "of a filthy wild beast", and again: "I have abandoned my house, I have cast off my inheritance". But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When God forsakes a place, that place becomes the dwelling of demons. (St. John Chrysostom: Adversus Judaeos, HOMILY I)


St. Photios could be tough, too:

But you still do not wish to perceive over what sort of abyss into which you are cast and into what pits of the soul's corruption you are buried because you are not willing to be persuaded by Christ, or His disciples, or the Ecumenical Synods, or a rational method of reasoning, or by sacred and eloquent testimonies to humble your mind. You are buried. Rather, you reproach the common Lord. You accuse the noble mind of Paul, but you accuse falsely. You incite rebellion against the Holy and Ecumenical Synods. You ridicule the Fathers. You banish the true thoughts and the true intentions of your bishops and Fathers and consign them to the devil. You dismiss any remedy, are dumb to rational thought. Indeed, you completely overwhelm your salvation with dubious and passionate preconceptions. (St. Photios the Great, The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 94)


Is that snarky?

Even the Apostles could write very harsh things. Does this qualify as snarky?

They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Peter 2:10-22)


Or this?

For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:10-16)


How about St. Paul's wish in Galatians, a double-entendre, that those who were demanding Christians be circumcized would "cut themselves off"?

But to encounter snarkiness par excellence, excoriation, condemnation, harshness unparalled, you have to read the letters Bernard of Clairvaux sent to the Pope concerning Peter Abelard. (I can't find them on the Internet, and no wonder. If anybody can, they're choice!)

I don't know. All I know is, whatever "snarky" may mean, he exemplified it. And, today, so do I.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Who's This Good-looking Someone...

...in clothing (Army uniform shirt?) that looks distinctly antique?




Why, it's DAD, that's who! In about the early 1940's. He's twenty-something.

What's that you're holding, soldier? A kitten!

But Dad never liked cats. So he said.

Until Toby chose him as his special friend. How do cats DO that? They pick out the person who likes them least and love that one the most. Toby did that. Dad could never take a nap without Toby napping on Dad's stomach.

It was always Dad's job to herd the cats into the laundry room late at night. They all learned that resistance was futile, and went when told to. Not Toby. Dad always carried Toby into the laundry room. Why? "Toby prefers to be carried."

I remember once when Mom was in Florida, and an ice storm hit the D.C. area, knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes. I telephoned Dad to be sure he was okay.

"I'm fine," he said. "I pulled a table and chair up to the fireplace and sat there and paid bills. I had a cold supper, and I slept on the couch near the fire."

"Where'd the cats sleep, in the laundry room?"

"Oh, no, it was far too cold for them in there! They slept with me, on the couch."

Oh-h-h--kay!

HT: Grace

Holy Trinity Questions

Anne, the “Weekend Fisher,” whose posts are always thoughtful and thought-provoking, has some fascinating questions on her blog about the Holy Trinity. I commend her for posting them. If you aren’t Orthodox, you really need to ask these questions she poses:

1. Seeking to know "God in Himself" may be misguided. Do we know anything definitive about God in Himself? Did God choose to be known in that way or remain that way?

2. Speaking of "God in Himself", do we actually know whether the Son and the Spirit, apart from creation, were meaningfully distinct from the Father?

3. The phrase "God in three persons" has at least the potential to be misleading, even given the changes in language and meaning over time. To what extent is it possible to complete the phrase "God in three ______" (insert noun) without obscuring the unity of God or obscuring the origins of Son and Spirit from the Father or obscuring the differences between Father, Son, and Spirit? To be sure, additional explanations have been added and the phrase does not stand alone. But have the additional explanations been adequate? If not, then filling in that blank is not a helpful move and may be an unhelpful move.

4. When we call the Holy Spirit a "person" (even granted the shifts in the meaning of words over the different times and languages involved), does considering the Spirit as Person prevent us from considering the Spirit as Spirit? Is Spirit in a different category than Person, so that a Spirit belongs to a Person (in the more modern sense at this point) and is rightly known as the Spirit of that Person? When we consider the Holy Spirit as Person do we lose sight of the Spirit as the Spirit of God?

5. I consider it likely that the Son (the Word of God, the Christ) is an intermediary not only in his role but also in his essential nature.


Here’s how it looks from the Orthodox side:

1. God cannot be known as He is in Himself; or, in Orthodox parlance, cannot be known in His Essence (Being). We have no clue what God’s Essence is. We know a few things about it, such as that it is eternal and that it is shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but what that is, which is eternal and is shared by the Three, we do not know.

This is not due to any choice God made. It’s due just to His being that way inherently. He is inherently infinite, eternal, unspeakable, beyond comprehension, beyond speech or thought, dwelling “in light inaccessible”. It isn't because we aren't smart enough to figure out God, although that is also true; it's because to know God's Being, one would have to be God.

We can know God, though, insofar as God is as God does. We can know His love, His will, His knowledge, His creativity, His goodness, and all the other characteristics of what He does. What God does is just as truly and fully God as what God is. More accurately, His Powers are fully as divine as His Essence.

Above all, we can see Jesus, the perfect “imprint” of God, (Hebrews 12:3), "the brightness of God’s glory."

2. Who God Is, of course, is only manifest in the creation; otherwise there is nobody to whom He can be manifest, and nothing through or by which He could manifest Himself. But yes, Son and Holy Spirit were “meaningfully distinct from the Father” before God created anything. They belong to the category of Who God Is, while Creation belongs to the category of What God Does. The Son and the Holy Spirit were already, from eternity, other “Persons”, other centers of awareness, of freedom, of goodness, of truth, and already in relationship with each other. We say of the Son (Nicene Creed), eternally begotten "before all the ages."

3. The phrase “God in three persons” is distinctively Western. The Orthodox say it the other way around: Three Persons in one God. We begin with the Three because we begin with concrete experience (revelation in history) and historically, the Church encountered Three concrete Persons, not One mysterious, nebulous Essence. It’s the Three we were given to deal with, and for us the theological problem is how to explain that in the Church's experience of these Three, we still discover and know only One God.

This is vastly more important than it appears at first blush, because it turns out to be the difference between two whole theologies, the one built upon what for us must remain an abstraction (Essence) and the other built upon revelation, upon "that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled." (I John 1:1)

The Greek term, “Hypostasis” helps us. It isn’t really “person” but “subsistence.” Much as a biologist might say, “The genus Hyperflatulosoma subsists in three species, namely, H. optima, H. maxima, and H. minima,” we can say God subsists in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Okay, so no biologist would say that, because I invented the names, but you get the point, don’t you?) "Hypostasis" is a term that, unlike “person,” does seem to wear well with time.

4. Spirit is the very essence of what a person is. A man’s spirit is his deepest, innermost self; all the rest is outgrowth of that in the material world, or appendage. (Usually, these days, we in the West are scarcely able to discern our own spirits, so identified and preoccupied are we with body and mind. To rediscover our own spirit can be an exhilarating, if sometimes puzzling, adventure for a person en route to Orthodoxy!)

5. God the Son is in every way equal to God the Father, except as to origin. (While the Father is unoriginate, the Son has His timeless, eternal origin from the Father.) The Son is, in His own Being, a Person (or Hypostasis), not a function. Not an intermediary.

Ditto, the Holy Spirit: a Person, not to be reduced to a function. Not, for example, the love between the Father and the Son.

These questions are wonderful examples of issues that simply do not (and cannot) appear in Orthodoxy. That’s because they are based upon premises foreign to Orthodoxy. A solid Orthodox Christian anthropology, plus appreciating the distinction between God’s Essence and His Energy, plus a firm rejection of that error called Filioque, will together keep such issues as these from arising.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wildlife Updates

Archie (5-6 week-old squirrel): Today I transferred her to a big cage and began deleting her noontime serving (in a dish) of formula. She only gets it for breakfast and supper now. The rest of the time, she has solid foods to choose from, and I'm hoping she will very soon discover her water bottle. Release date will probably be mid-April, before my trip to North Carolina.

Mozart and Beethoven (4-5 week-old squirrels): I put them in Archie's old cage this morning. Now they, too, have a water bottle. They both eat solid foods. Mozart slurps formula from a bowl; I just have to wash his chin and paws afterward. Beethoven just can't seem to figure out the bowl. I have had to wash him all over when he tries. After he's clean, I feed him from the bottle as usual. They will go outside as soon as the weather stays consistently warm.

Puer and Puella (2.5-week-old squirrels): They now take 6 ccs of formula each, 4 times a day. Their eyes are still closed, but not for long. They probably won't be ready to live outside by time I go to North Carolina in mid-April; someone else from ARK will babysit them for me.

Opossums: didn't make it. Tough to keep 'em alive when they're really fetuses who should still be in mama's pocket.

Cedar Waxwings: 27 have survived and appear to be doing very well. Just waiting now for them to molt, so they will have enough feathers. It would be nice if they could be released before their upcoming breeding season. If not, then we're in uncharted territory.

A man called our wildlife hotline to say he had found and rescued four little, furry somethings. He didn't know what. He felt fairly sure they were canine, though. Yup. Tiny Red Fox kits, they are. Susan has them. Anastasia is jealous. She's not alone, either.

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King David Wants to Know -- and so do we

Here’s an interesting story. King David decides to take a census. “But why?” they ask him. "What does it matter how many of us there are?" There are two main reasons a ruler usually wishes to take a census, and neither of them is good news for the populace. One has taxation in view; the other, a military draft. David appears to have been thinking of the latter.

God is not pleased. David needs to rely on God, not numbers, to win his battles, just as he has been doing up to now.

When we work at cross-purposes with the Almighty, we can expect to lose. David does, and the people do. Of course, since this is the true God at work, even their loss is ultimately their gain, for that is the purpose of chastisement, as every loving parent knows.

God offers King David three forms of chastisement, from which he may have his choice. David chooses three days of pestilence upon the kingdom. Tens of thousands of people die. Then God says “Enough,” and the plague ends. Then the King offers God a sacrifice.

The same story is recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and in 1 Chronicles 21. A comparison of the two accounts raises some questions, both textual and moral.

The textual questions:

1.) Who instigated this whole incident? In one account, it’s the Lord. “And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. (2 Samuel 24:1) In the other account, it’s the devil. “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." (I Chronicles 21:1)

2.) What was the result of the census? In 2 Samuel 24:9, “there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah [were] five hundred thousand men. But I Chronicles 21:5 tells us, “And all [they of] Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword [1,100,000]: and Judah [was] four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword [470,000].

3.) God offers David a choice of punishments: famine, defeat in battle for three months, or plague for three days. But the length of the famine differs in the two tellings. In 2 Samuel, it’s seven years; in 1 Chronicles, it’s three.

One interesting point in which the two accounts agree is David’s choice: “let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great [are] his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man." (1 Chronicles 21: 13; 2 Samuel 14:13-14) To fall into the hands of the Lord may be a fearsome thing, but not nearly as fearsome as falling into human hands!

Another point not in dispute is the number who died: Seventy thousand, in three days.

The moral questions:

1.) If the Lord moves David to take a census, as the 2 Samuel account has it, why is doing so a sin? Shouldn't we rather call it obedience? If it was wrong, why did the Lord move David to do it? Isn't "wrong" defined as an infraction of God's Will?

2.) King David himself asked the next moral question, saying to God, “It is I that have sinned and done evil indeed; but [as for] these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. ( I Chronicles 21:17; 2 Samuel 24:17) Why should the people suffer for what David has done?

“And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.” (1 Chronicles 21:15; 2 Samuel 24:16)

3.) Does God ever do evil?

4.) Does God ever repent? If so, in what sense?


What do you think?

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday of the Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:1-12; see also Matthew 9:2-8, Luke 5:17-26)


To prove He has forgiven the paralytic, our Lord heals him. Clearly God does not work a miracle of healing for anyone He has not forgiven! It really is a only matter of which is easier to say. To heal is to forgive. Six of one, half dozen of the other.

The same principle is at work when St. Paul tells the Galatians, (3:21) “If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” To give life is to make righteous, or in other words, to justify. God would never give His own life (His own being the only eternal life) to anyone He has not forgiven.

Therefore, when a Christian sees the blood of Christ pouring forth from the Cross onto the world, understanding that in His Blood is His Life, given for us, what the Christian understands is forgiveness streaming down. To prove He has forgiven us, our Lord sheds upon us the Blood of Immortality. To justify us, He gives us Life. He "was delivered for our offenses [i.e., to free us from their consequences], and was raised again for our justification." (Romans 4:25) If He gives us Life, and it's His own, immortal life He gives, what can the Law do? Of what force is the Law's death sentence against us? Christ has done an end run around it! Or, better, has broken through the scrimmage line to score a touchdown, to bring us all home.

But doesn’t the Law of Moses have to be fulfilled to perfection in order for me to be saved? Yes, and Jesus Christ did that for you. He obeyed in every point unto death – and it does take dying not only to demonstrate perfect obedience, but to elicit it, in practice. "Though He was Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." (Hebrews 5:8) By His perfect obedience, the Law is forever satisfied, on behalf of everyone.

What about all these bad things I’ve done, and all these good things I’ve failed to do? These unworthy thoughts, words, deeds? What about those? Doesn’t God take those into account before simply flooding me with forgiveness? No. Not if, by faith in Him, you repent. To repent means to turn your heart toward God. Having your heart toward God is what He cares about. That was the aim of the Law all along. That’s what all the rules were designed to simulate, to teach us about, to train us toward. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Doesn’t God require payback for all my sins? No. That’s what forgiveness means, that the price is rescinded, the debt is cancelled. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But isn’t that wrong of God, just to forgive sins outright, let people get away with them? Isn’t that condoning evil? No and no.

It is entirely right for God to do whatever He pleases with what (and who) are His. (Matthew 20:15) It is never wrong for God to be more magnanimous that He need be.

And people who repent have not gotten away with a thing, as their bittersweet tears will attest. They have paid a steep price (even if it were a secret, hidden one) all their lives.

And for God to forgive does not mean He is condoning sin, He Who has fought sin tooth and nail (so to speak) since the first sin was committed, who died to conquer death and sin, who vanquished Hades. On the contrary, to forgive sin is a major means of healing it, a giant component of the process of ridding the world of it. Forgiveness is not how sin is overlooked, but how it is effectively fought! Forgiveness, not retaliation.

And the paralytic? That’s you and I, paralyzed in heart, mind, and spirit. And of course that’s Barbara, too, my sister, paralyzed in the flesh the last three months of her life. It’s to all of us He says, “Get up!” Why lie around in sloth, or in despondency, or in despair? “Carry your bed and go Home.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Participants of Christ's Suffering

Some denominations have a strict division between what Christ does and what we do. According to them, Christ does everything necessary for our salvation, while we only receive the finished product.

We should recognize that this strict separation arises from a certain humility; that is, not wanting man to have any share in the glory that belongs to Christ. This humility ought to move us deeply, and we should honor it. Yet, from an Orthodox point of view, such a strict separation, by definition, is the very opposite of salvation!

What does Christ Himself say? “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22) He wants to share His own glory, the very glory the Father gave Him, with those who are His own!

In Orthodox teaching, salvation = communion with Christ. (The Greek word koinonia is communion, not “fellowship”!) Communion with Christ means we share by grace all that He is by nature; in our flesh thinking His thoughts, speaking His words, and doing His deeds. We let Him live His life in our flesh. “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20. This is too often an aspiration more than current fact.) There is no greater intimacy with someone else than to let Him live His life through our minds and bodies. This is the sense in which we are quite literally His body: His Spirit operates in our flesh. And this glorifies Him. “And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:10)

This communion with Christ is not a means to some other end (such as getting into heaven). We aren’t made one with Christ in order to become eligible to receive eternal life, but the other way around: God bestows eternal life upon us, unworthy though we be, that we may be completely one with Him Who IS life and resurrection, because as long as death lurks in our members, we are incompatible with Him. Christ is the end, the goal, the Alpha and Omega. Yes, He is the Door into heaven, but He also IS heaven. He Himself is our paradise, and we go there for the sake of being with Him (rather than going to Him for the sake of getting there).

Being made one with Him in Holy Baptism means sharing in His life and in His death. (Romans 6:3) It means being “partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” (I Peter 4:13) St. Paul counts everything but loss “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the communion of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” And in fact, the chief glory of the Christian’s suffering is precisely that it is Christ suffering in him. “For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) Yes, He is still able and willing to suffer for our sake, not in the body that was crucified, but in Christians’ bodies, as St. John Chrysostom says. As Christ Himself put it, ”Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.” And on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus heard Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:3)

As St. John Chrysostom said, ”Look how He hath knitted us unto Himself.” !!!

That is why everything the Christian does is (supposed to be) a sacrifice to God. We are called to give up living according to the promptings of our own flesh, and instead live according to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to express Himself in our flesh (or rather, to express Christ, for the Spirit always expresses the Son, rather than Himself).

Philippians 2:17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.


And the Holy Communion is where, most of all, we are made participants of Christ’s suffering. NOT that His once-for-all sacrifice was in any way incomplete or deficient! But, for another reason altogether: that, for love's sake, we may join Him in this, too, as in all else. Time and space are transcended as, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we stand at the foot of His cross, eyewitnesses no less than those who were historically present, and participants with Him as we offer with Him His all-sufficient and once-for-all sacrifice and join to it our own sacrifice, of our selves, of our lives, of our deaths, of our love, obedience, thanks, and praise.

Christ wants to have with us not simply communion, but that very communion of mutual indwelling that He has with the Father:

John 17:21-26 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

That Which is Lacking in the Afflictions of Christ?

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church.” Colossians 1:24

WHAT? Is Christ's suffering on our behalf in any way insufficient or lacking?

The Greek perhaps ought better be translated, "...and fill up on my part the remainer of the afflictions of Christ..." but that still could leave a person very puzzled!

Here is what St. John Chrysostom had to say about this verse. As I understand what St. John is saying, it does NOT mean Christ's suffering and death were actually deficient for what they set out to accomplish! But that, in spreading the Gospel and establishing the Church, more suffering is encountered, and it is St. Paul's intent to show that the suffering occurring in his flesh is not his own, but Christ's. He is both humbly giving the glory to Christ and pointing out how much Christ loves His Church, to be willing STILL to suffer, in St. Paul's flesh, for her sake. (It's a beautiful example of what Orthodox call synergy.)

“And fill up,” he saith, “that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” It seems indeed to be a great thing he has said; but it is not of arrogancy, far be it, but even of much tender love towards Christ; for he will not have the sufferings to be his own, but His, through desire of conciliating these persons to Him. And what things I suffer, I suffer, he saith, on His account: not to me, therefore, express your gratitude, but to him, for it is He Himself who suffers. Just as if one, when sent to a person, should make request to another, saying, I beseech thee, go for me to this person, then the other should say, “it is on his account I am doing it.” So that He is not ashamed to call these sufferings also his own. For He did not only die for us, but even after His death He is ready to be afflicted for your sakes. He is eagerly and vehemently set upon showing that He is even now exposed to peril in His own Body for the Church’s sake, and he aims at this point, namely, ye are not brought unto God by us, but by Him, even though we do these things, for we have not undertaken a work of our own, but His. And it is the same as if there were a band which had its allotted leader to protect it, and it should stand in battle, and then when he was gone, his lieutenant should succeed to his wounds until the battle were brought to a close.

Next, that for His sake also he doeth these things, hearken: “For His Body’s sake,” he saith, assuredly meaning to say this: “I pleasure not you, but Christ: for what things He should have suffered, I suffer instead of Him.” See how many things he establishes. Great, he shows, is the claim upon their love. As in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, he wrote, saying, “he committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. v. 20.); and again, “We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ; as though God were entreating by us.” So also here he saith, “For his sake I suffer,” that he may the more draw them to Him. That is, though He who is your debtor is gone away, yet I repay. For, on this account he also said, “that which is lacking,” to show that not even yet does he consider Him to have suffered all. “For your sake,” he saith, and even after His death He suffers; seeing that still there remains a deficiency. The same thing he doeth in another way in the Epistle to the Romans, saying, “Who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. viii. 34.), showing that He was not satisfied with His death alone, but even afterwards He doeth countless things.

He does not then say this to exalt himself, but through a desire to show that Christ is even yet caring for them. And he shows what he says to be credible, by adding, “for His Body’s sake.” For that so it is, and that there is no unlikelihood in it, is plain from these things being done for His body’s sake. Look how He hath knitted us unto Himself.


(My emphasis at the end.)

.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kindness Happens

We had been married six weeks when they invited us to spend a weekend with them, she having declined to attend our wedding. They had known Demetrios for something like thirty years. Of course we went.

I brought her a loaf of homemade bread. She didn’t thank me; she said, “Oh, you must have one of those bread making machines.” She sliced it for the dinner she gave in our honor and covered it with a pretty linen cloth and set it near her on the table. But she never passed it around.

She introduced Demetrios to her guests as, “our very special, very dear friend” and glowed. About thirty awkward seconds later, after everyone had begun staring at me, she added, “And this is his lovely wife, Anastasia.”

She offered me housekeeping lessons, explaining such things as that she moves her furniture by a half inch or so every day to keep the carpet from becoming dented and uses chlorine bleach on the brick sidewalk to get the green off.

She proposed to teach me all about Demetrios, but I said if there was still anything I didn’t already know about my bridegroom, I’d really get more enjoyment out of learning it from him, so she more or less desisted.

She offered us separate bedrooms, or we could use the sleeper sofa, except that it was barely wider than a twin bed. We chose it anyway.

And then before we departed, they both presented us with a large, wrapped wedding gift. “You open it,” she said, handing it to me with what looked like a smirk. “Tell us what you think before you show it to Demetrios.”

It was two framed prints. “Do you like them?” they both demanded to know.

I said they were lovely.

“Let Demetrios see them!” they urged, giggling. “Let’s see what he thinks!” More glee.

So I turned the prints toward my new husband and his face fell. They shrieked with laughter, clapping their hands and leaning backwards; it was all too funny for words!

Nobody explained the joke to me. He told me a little later, in private, he had given them those prints once for Christmas.

I forgot to take them with us when we loaded up the car, but she brought them out to us.

She had made me promise to arrange for us all to spend New Year’s Eve together at the Jefferson Hotel. We would all dance the night away and have a champagne breakfast, and sleep there. So when the end of the year drew near, I made the reservations.

Demetrios cancelled those reservations the same day. And we never saw them again for some ten years. Demetrios never returned their calls or answered their letters. Their letters were almost always in Greek, although his mother tongue is English and hers is German.

Six months or so after our weekend with them, Demetrios asked me what had become of those prints? I said they were still in the trunk of the car. He said, “I think I might take them to the [mental] hospital and hang them there.” I said I thought that would be the perfect spot for them.

He left them there when he retired.



Then, one year, their son got married. He is Demetrios’ godson, so we attended the wedding. After that, we exchanged visits with these people perhaps once or twice a year, for they live an hour and a half from us.

His manners improved greatly. Her rudeness continued, on each occasion, without fail. It was always aimed at me, not Demetrios, and was carried out in ways he wasn’t likely to recognize (and indeed didn’t) because it was all quite petty and because it probably would take another woman to understand these sorts of little insults and humiliations.

Last night, she called. When I saw on the Caller ID who it was, I took one phone and handed Demetrios the other. I had a theory I wanted to test, which was that if I weren’t present, she might not pull any shenanigans. If that were the case, if she would behave herself in my absence, then the solution would be simple: he could go to their birthdays and weddings and wine tastings without me from now on. Otherwise I'd have a problem with that. So I pressed the “Mute” button and went into another room to find out.

There were about 20 minutes of chit-chat as she told him all about her latest doings. Demetrios asked a question about one of her sons and his situation, and she replied, "I don't know. I don't ask those questions. It's his marriage; I don't worry about it."

And then she added, "Just like I don't worry about your marriage any more."

Had she stopped right there, I would have been glad to hear it, but she added, "I used to. I worried a lot that you had made such a huge mistake. Now I just say to myself, 'Oh, well, he screwed up and now he's living with it.'"

There was this stunned silence, while Demetrios fished around for what to say. She filled the silence with a playful, "Am I bad, or am I BAD?"

Finally he spluttered something lame about our marriage being just fine, and the conversation moved on.

After another 10 minutes, having run out of news about herself, and having diligently inquired and been told all about his broken foot, she asked, "How's – um – how's – your wife?" avoiding to use my name.

"She's okay," said Demetrios. "Did you know she lost her sister a few days ago?"

"Yes," was her reply; her husband had told her.

By now, 30 minutes had passed without her extending her condolences to me – or to him, for he loved my sister as well. I waited, but she still didn't. She said, "But it was expected, wasn't it?" as if that made it of very little consequence, and then she asked other questions, such as the ages of the motherless girls. And as he answered the questions, she never said anything like, "How awful!" or, "I'm so sorry!" It was, "Oh..." and, "Uh-huh..." and, “I see…”

And I’m so pleased! I hope I would never presume to demand my husband cut off long-time friends (?), any more than I would expect him to demand that of me. But the beauty of it is, she has now done it for me. At last, although unwittingly, she has shown me a kindness. And I value it rather highly. Or I would, at least, if Demetrios' disillusionment weren't somewhat painful for him.

Lord, have mercy!

.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rehabilitation Updates

Demetrios (husband): Had his cast removed, x-ray made. It showed, after 5 weeks, some healing, but not very much, due to his age and diabetes. Doctor put on a new cast, complimented Demetrios for having been compliant about not putting any weight on the broken foot, and said, "See you in four weeks." So we are hoping the healing will continue and he will not need surgery. Meanwhile, he sort of half stands in front of his walker (on his right leg) and half kneels on the cushioned seat of the walker (with his left leg) and rolls it along and keeps us both hopping!

Mozart and Beethoven (squirrels): Mozart's eyes came open on Sunday and Beethoven's will open any time now. Their feedings have increased in amount to 8 ccs and have been reduced in number to 4 per day, at 7 a.m., 12 noon, 5 p.m., and 11:30 p.m. Baby cereal, rice, has been added to their formula. Their tails, although fully furred, are only about as big around as a pencil, maybe slightly thicker.

Puer and Puella (squirrels): It seems to me they have about doubled in size. They no longer fit entirely within my hand. Instead, their heads stick out one end of my hand and their feet stick out the other end. They are beginning to get fur, although right now it's so short it looks more like a dark gloss. They suckle very, very eagerly; whichever one has to come second roots around frantically in his box to see where his formula is.

Archie (another squirrel): Archie came to me from a neighbor on the block, who actually witnessed part of her nest blow down. Her mother never came to retrieve her. Well, she's too big for that, too heavy. (Yes, Archie is a girl, the neighbors having named her before they were aware of her gender.) She came with her eyes already open, her tail fur already fluffed out to about the diameter of a man's thumb, and terrified of absolutely everything. It took her 48 hours to learn to take a mixture of formula, applesauce, and baby cereal from a bottle; now she takes it eagerly. Too eagerly. She should be nearly weaned by now. Once she is better acclimated to captivity, I will have to use some "tough love" on her, that hunger may induce her to explore her cage instead of hiding under her blanket all day and all night, and find the goodies I've put there for her: cheerios, peanuts, sunflower seeds, apple chunks, and other munchies.

My neighbors who rescued her were at first keen to keep her for a pet, but when they saw how much work it would entail, and how much expense, they wisely changed their mind. Archie will be released back into the wild when she is ready, which is the right and legal course of action.

Unnamed Baby Opossums: No, I don't have them. I arranged their rescue. Their mother died on a man's back porch last night, leaving three live babies. This morning, when they were still there, the man filled a ziplock bag with hot water, wrapped some towels around it, laid the babies atop it to keep warm, phoned us at ARK (Area Rehabbers Klub), and went to work. I got the call. None of us was immediately available to go pick up the babies. Finally one of our transportation volunteers, Veronica, did, and took them to Chris. Probably Colleen the Possum Queen will end up with them because she is our top expert on this species, but she wasn't home when all this went down. Two babies of three have survived, a boy and a girl, each weighing 18 grams. Their mouths are mostly sealed shut at this stage. They have to be fed by snaking a tube directly into their stomachs, as in the photo below.


Just Drop the Tolls and Break Even

The Richmond Metropolitan Authority voted Tuesday to raise the tolls from 50 to 70 cents. Twenty more cents is what drivers will need to come up with by September. The increase is happening at the Powhite Plaza and at the Lumbardi Plaza on 195. Seventy cents is what motorist will have to shell out come this fall. It's the first increase to the tolls in 10 years. RMA chairman James Jenkins says, "It was an action the board regretted having to take." It was a vote that barely passed, 7 to 6 in favor of the hike. Board members say inflation caused the increase. Jenkins says, "We found it necessary in order to meet the higher cost of operating and maintaining the toll system."

St. John Chrysostom on The Epistle to the Hebrews

“And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives. Whereupon neither the first [testament] was dedicated without blood.” Hebrews 9:15–18

William Weedon, in view of one of my posts or comments, has asked me whether I would see Lutherans “as reading penal substitution into these words of St. John Chrysostom's homily on Hebrews 9."

The first thing to do in responding is to quote the passage in question within its slightly larger setting. Here it is, together with the material immediately preceding and following it. I have put the portion Pr. Weedon originally asked about in boldface:

[1.] It was probable that many of those who were more weakly would especially distrust the promises of Christ because He had died. Paul accordingly out of a superabundance introduced this illustration, deriving it from common custom. Of what kind is it? He says, “indeed, on this very account we ought to be of good courage.” On what account? Because testaments are established and obtain their force when those who have made them are not living, but dead. “And for this cause,” he says, “He is the Mediator of the New Testament.” A Testament is made towards the last day, [the day] of death.

[2.] “And for this cause” (he says) “He is the Mediator of the New Testament.” What is a “Mediator”? A mediator is not lord of the thing of which he is mediator, but the thing belongs to one person, and the mediator is another: as for instance, the mediator of a marriage is not the bridegroom, but one who aids him who is about to be married. So then also here: The Son became Mediator between the Father and us. The Father willed not to leave us this inheritance, but was wroth against us, and was displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He accordingly became Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him.

And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him] and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament.
By this is the Testament secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy. At the beginning indeed, He made His dispositions as a father for sons; but after we had become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but of punishment.

Why then (he would say) dost thou think upon the law? For it placed us in a condition of so great sin, that we could never have been saved, if our Lord had not died for us; the law would not have had power, for it is weak.

[3.] And he established this no longer from common custom only, but also from what happened under the old [Testament], which especially influenced them. There was no one who died there: how then could that [Testament] be firm? In the same way (he says). How? For blood was there also, as there is blood here. And if it was not the blood of the Christ, do not be surprised; for it was a type. “Whereupon,” he says, “neither was the first [Testament] dedicated without blood.”

What is “was dedicated”? was confirmed, was ratified. The word “whereupon” means “for this cause.” It was needful that the symbol of the Testament should be also that of death.


The author of Hebrews has presented us with an analogy: the promise of eternal life is like a legacy left to us by a man who has made a will naming his disobedient children as beneficiaries; and Christ, as Man, is analogous to the executor of the deceased’s estate, while as God, He is analogous to the deceased testator. Hebrews is thus employing a figure of speech, a mixed metaphor.

St. John is explicit in pointing out that this is, indeed, analogical rather than literal speech [1.]: “Paul accordingly out of a superabundance introduced this illustration, deriving it from common custom.” [St. John is attributing Hebrews to St. Paul.]

St. John proceeds to explicate this illustration, using various other figures of speech to do it. In this analogy, says St. John, “testaments are established and obtain their force when those who have made them are not living, but dead. ‘And for this cause,’ he says, ‘He is the Mediator of the New Testament.’” [1.] Christ died to put our legacy into effect; nothing, so far, having been said about dying to be punished in our stead.

“A mediator,” says St. John [2.], “is not lord of the thing of which he is mediator, but the thing belongs to one person, and the mediator is another: as for instance, the mediator of a marriage is not the bridegroom, but one who aids him who is about to be married. So then also here: The Son became Mediator between the Father and us.” That is, Christ, like the ancient bridegroom's best man, is an Arranger, a Fixer-upper, which as applied to a person's last will and testament, corresponds to the Attorney who drew it up.

In the Hebrews mixed metaphor, “The Father willed not to leave us this inheritance, but was wroth against us, and was displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He [Christ] accordingly became Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him.”

Again, none of this is literal! Or does anyone, more dour than the staunchest Calvinist, wish to assert literally that the Father did not will to bequeath us this new legacy of eternal life? (Or that God is thus mutable?) If so, he will have to buck all the prophets, especially Jeremiah, who in his Chapter 31:31, quoted in the previous chapter of Hebrews, proclaimed to sinners, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” If the Father literally had not wanted to give us the inheritance of eternal life, He would obviously not have sent His Son to do just that. But the prophets make clear that this is exactly what the Father always planned to do, in due course. This is what St. Paul terms, “the mystery which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God…” (Ephesians 3:9; see also Colossians 1:26) St. John, of course, very well knows all this.

The fact that the language is not literal does not imply, by the way, that it has no meaning. On the contrary! When anyone uses metaphorical or analogical language, he does so always because it carries more freight than the literal can.

Remember that the inheritance is eternal life, immortality. The most literal meaning of the illustration of the father who has changed his mind about leaving his children anything is that we, having been made mortal by our sins, became simply incompatible with God, the Immortal One. We were incompatible with life. And even if that had not been so, God, in His love, was not about to compound the human tragedy and make it irreversible by allowing the wicked to stalk this earth immortally! But that technical-sounding stuff just doesn’t bring the matter alive like the analogy of the father making out his will, does it? It has no color, no pizzazz, no spark. Analogy gives the words a sort of double force.

St. John continues: “How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him] and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto.” He first brought us the Gospel, for our repentance, and then died – why? – to inaugurate God’s Last Will and Testament.

“We had offended: we ought to have died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament. By this is the Testament secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy.” He makes us worthy, who ourselves ought to have died, by His Blood, the Fountain of Immortality. When we share it, it purges the death from us and makes us able once more to taste of blessed immortality.

“At the beginning indeed, He made His bequests as a father for sons; but after we had become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but of punishment.” In this analogy, when a father sets out to write a will for his disobedient children, what he ought to write in, for their own good, is punishment rather than an inheritance. Yet Christ, in fact, provided both – still figuratively. (At the literal level, as we know, what He provided was perfect obedience, meaning obedience at all costs, on behalf of all, obviating any reason to punish.)

Next, [3.] St. John, following Hebrews, moves to another form of non-literal speech; namely, the types and symbols of the Old Testament. He calls them such, too: “For blood was there also, as there is blood here. And if it was not the blood of the Christ, do not be surprised; for it was a type. 'Whereupon,' he says, 'neither was the first [Testament] dedicated without blood.'

“What is ‘was dedicated’? was confirmed, was ratified. The word ‘whereupon’ means ‘for this cause.’ It was needful that the symbol of the Testament should be also that of death.”

In summary, the gist of what St. John is saying is that Christ died to put our inheritance into effect, since a person’s will does not come into effect until after the death of the testator. That this is a mixed metaphor is another way we can tell it is metaphor: in modern terms, Christ is not only the Lawyer and Executor of the will, but also the Testator who has passed away, thereby both implementing and sealing the will. Christ’s death, St. John wants to say, secures our legacy of eternal life rather than casting doubt upon it, since His Blood has purified us, making us worthy of such an inheritance, and since the deceased can no longer change the terms of his will.

No, just because St. John uses words such as “wroth” and “punishment” and “offended” does not mean he is teaching Penal Substitutionary Atonement . It just means that certain elements, from which among others that theory was constructed, do appear here, but in a different context (probate court rather than criminal court) and as parts of an extended, mixed metaphor.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
–from The Breastplate of St. Patrick

Here is my all-time favorite St. Patrick story!

We are told that often Patrick baptized hundreds on a single day. He would come to a place, a crowd would gather, and when he told them about the true God, the people would cry out from all sides that they wanted to become Christians. Then they would move to the nearest water to be baptized.

On such a day Aengus, a prince of Munster, was baptized. When Patrick had finished preaching, Aengus was longing with all his heart to become a Christian. The crowd surrounded the two because Aengus was such an important person. Patrick got out his book and began to look for the place of the baptismal rite but his crozier got in the way.

As you know, the bishop's crozier often has a spike at the bottom end, probably to allow the bishop to set it into the ground to free his hands. So, when Patrick fumbled searching for the right spot in the book so that he could baptize Aengus, he absent-mindedly stuck his crosier into the ground just beside him--and accidentally through the foot of poor Aengus!

Patrick, concentrating on the sacrament, never noticed what he had done and proceeded with the baptism. The prince never cried out, nor moaned; he simply went very white. Patrick poured water over his bowed head at the simple words of the rite. Then it was completed. Aengus was a Christian. Patrick turned to take up his crozier and was horrified to find that he had driven it through the prince's foot!

"But why didn't you say something? This is terrible. Your foot is bleeding and you'll be lame. . . ." Poor Patrick was very unhappy to have hurt another.

Then Aengus said in a low voice that he thought having a spike driven through his foot was part of the ceremony. He added something that must have brought joy to the whole court of heaven and blessings on Ireland: "Christ," he said slowly, "shed His blood for me, and I am glad to suffer a little pain at baptism to be like Our Lord."

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Yesterday was the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy over the heresy of iconoclasm (and over all other heresies).

I grew up an iconoclast. I just know that had I lived back then, I would have been an iconoclast. There were such heavy abuses going on, not taught by the Church, but nevertheless engaged in by the populace. I would surely have wished to “destroy the idols,” oblivious to the fact that you can’t just destroy whatever is abused or you’d rid yourself of absolutely everything.

A saint is someone who has outstandingly succeeded in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and thus allowing God to live the Divine Life in his body. Each saint, therefore, is a unique and precious expression of God. Each is a prism reflecting the Divine Light in a unique way. That is why we honor and love the saints.

And that is why we venerate their icons; each one is in reality an icon of Christ with a different face. And as we believe He is always with us, so in Him are all the saints with us.

If I wish to kiss St. Paul in greeting on a Sunday morning, as I greet other fellow-worshipers, well, St. Paul is not here in the body for me to do it. If I want to weep all over the Lord’s feet like that other sinful woman, well, His feet are not visible to me. But His icon is, and St. Paul’s icon is. So I kiss them both to satisfy love’s promptings.

The Lord is glorious in His saints. And that this is true should surprise nobody, for it is as He Himself wished and prayed, “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I am glorified in them.” and again, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one:” (John 17:10, 22)

So on this Sunday we carry almost as many icons as possible in procession, and we read portions of The Synodicon (decree of the Holy Synod, 7th Ecumenical Council) including this favorite excerpt:

As the prophets have seen,
as the apostles have taught,
as the Church has received
as the teachers have set forth in dogmas,
as the whole world has understood,
as Grace has shone forth,
as the truth was demonstrated,
as falsehood was banished,
as wisdom was emboldened,
as Christ has awarded;
thus do we believe, thus we speak,
thus we preach Christ our true God and His saints,
honoring them in words, in writings, in thoughts,
in sacrifices, in temples, and in icons,
worshipping and respecting the One as God and Master,
and honoring the others,
and apportioning veneration to them,
because of our common Master
for they are His genuine servants,
This is the Faith of the apostles,
this is the Faith of the fathers,
this is the Faith of the Orthodox,
this is the Faith that sustains the whole world.



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The Fathers of the Church Were --

– Lutherans!

My wonderful friend, Pr. William Weedon recently published on his blog a selection of quotes from the Fathers of the Church which, in his opinion, showed them upholding Lutheran doctrines such as Sola Scriptura and Penal Substitutionary Atonement. While I disagree with this opinion, I can see how one could arrive at it. After all, one reads the Fathers much as one reads Holy Scripture: through whatever lens one happens to be wearing. (I once knew a woman who thought selling dogs was a sin, based upon Deuteronomy 23:18, which I think is probably more about dog fighting.)

Then Pr. Weedon’s list of quotes was published by another blog,
under the heading of “Where Were the Lutherans Before Luther?” and this goes way too far. There is no way in the world one could draw an informed and honest conclusion that the Fathers of the Church were Lutheran. Most of them were bishops; that alone ought to be enough to tell us they weren’t Lutherans, since Lutherans don’t have bishops.

Moreover, when we read the Fathers, it is not necessarily legitimate to assume they meant the same things Lutherans do by the same words. St. Augustine, for example, when appearing to support Sola Scriptura, has a different Scriptura in mind. Here is a partial listing of the books he recognizes as canonical:

The whole canon of the scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . . Then there are the prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David, and three of Solomon. . . . But as to those two books, one of which is entitled Wisdom and the other of which is entitled Ecclesiasticus and which are called 'of Solomon' because of a certain similarity to his books, it is held most certainly that they were written by Jesus Sirach. They must, however, be accounted among the prophetic books, because of the authority which is deservedly accredited to them. (St. Augustine Christian Instruction 2:8:13)


Similarly, when the Fathers speak of faith, they mean a faith that by definition includes faith’s inside, trust, and its outside, faith’s works. “Justification,” for them, is not basically or primarily a legal declaration. And so forth. Part of the necessary context for the Fathers is their own understanding of their terms.

Another part of the context needed properly to understand the Fathers is the rest of what they wrote. For example, St. John Chrysostom, quoted in support of Sola Scriptura, comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “Hence it is manifest, that they [the Apostles] did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.”

St. Augustine, in Against the letter of Mani, famously said, "I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

He also said (Letter to Januarius, 54.1.1):

As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established.


What the Fathers do not say is as important as what they do say. For example, St. Basil, quoted by Pr. Weedon, says the Lord is faithful in all His words; who wishes to disagree with that? He says to delete or add anything to Holy Writ is unacceptable, and who would take exception to that? The sacred text of Holy Scripture (like that of the Creed) is to remain unaltered. We Orthodox emphatically agree. He quotes, “My sheep hear my voice,” and to this we uniformly assent. But St. Basil does not say this Voice is only reliably to be found in Holy Scripture. He does not say the source of doctrine or practice is the Holy Scripture alone. He does not say something is to be judged by Scripture alone. He does not say Scripture is always and everywhere self interpreting. In short, he does not advocate any form of Sola Scriptura. If we read his works more comprehensively, this becomes clear, as when he says (The Holy Spirit, 27,66)

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;--no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching.


As for St. Gregory of Nyssa, also quoted in support of Sola Scriptura, I very much doubt Lutherans would want to interpret Scripture as he did, sometimes allegorizing the literal meaning away entirely!

The proper context for reading the Fathers of the Church must also include what they themselves did (besides having and/or being monks, bishops, and patriarchs) and how they worshiped. They invoked saints, venerated relics, and engaged in all manner of un-Lutheran behavior.

The same St. Cyril of Jerusalem who urged his catechumens to check all he said against Scripture also taught them in detail (Lecture III) about Holy Chrismation; that is, Confirmation using holy oil – quoting Scripture copiously all the while.

St. Ambrose, on martyrs and relics and miracles associated with them, can be found here.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture 23:5:9) says:

Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out.


In Lecture 23:9, St. Cyril adds: “Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition . . .

St. Gregory of Nyssa (Sermon on Ephraim the Syrian) prayed to St. Ephraim: “[Ephraim], you who are standing at the divine altar [in heaven] . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom.” And St. Ephraim himself (Commentary on St. Mark) prayed, “You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him." Here are some other examples:

St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Orations 17[24]): "May you [Cyprian] look down from above propitiously upon us, and guide our word and life; and shepherd this sacred flock . . . gladden the Holy Trinity, before which you stand."

St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on Second Corinthians 26) says, "He that wears the purple [i.e., a royal man] . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tentmaker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead."

St. Augustine (Homilies on John 84): "At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps."

St. John Chrysostom (on John, Homily lxxxviii, n. 1, tom. Viii) even appears to support the claims of the pope to universal supremacy:

And why, then, passing by the others, does He converse with Peter on these things? (John 21:15). He was the chosen one of the Apostles, and the mouth of the disciples, and the leader of the choir. On this account, Paul also went up on a time to see him rather than the others (Galatians 1:18). And withal, to show him that he must thenceforward have confidence, as the denial was done away with, He puts into his hands the presidency over the brethren. And He brings not forward the denial, nor reproaches him with what had past, but says, 'If you love me, preside over the brethren,' ...and the third time He gives him the same injunction, showing what a price He sets the presidency over His own sheep. And if one should say, 'How then did James receive the throne of Jerusalem?,' this I would answer that He appointed this man [Peter] teacher, not of that throne, but of the whole world.


And this is no wonder, for I took most of these quotes from a website whose mission is to prove conclusively that the Fathers of the Church were – Roman Catholics!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

From my Niece's Blog (Grace)

STUPID CANCER, WE HATES IT.

The world lost a special knitter. My aunt lost her battle with cancer last week. It seems trite to even mention it here, in the same post where I am about to discuss pillow shams. At the same time, it would sound cliché to go on and on, because she really was everything we say about people when they're gone, even if they weren't... like funny, kind, brilliant, beautiful. It would in fact be the world’s easiest eulogy, if it wasn’t so damn unfair for someone like that to die so early.

When I think of Aunt Barbara, I see her with a grin and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Hers was one of the first few smiles I saw when I came into the world! Here she is on the left, with her two daughters, and my mom on the right. This was taken two years ago. See? Too early.




Blogs are funny that way. You can’t say too much; you can’t say nothing. Maybe the most important thing to say is this: PLEASE GET MAMMOGRAMS.

My uncle said he would send me her unfinished knitting to finish up. I hope he does.

(What does one say after that? Let's go with a joke. She wouldn't mind.)


“YOUR BIGGEST OBSTICLE COULD BE YOU”
So says the local church sign. For some people, specifically, it’s their spelling that’s the problem.


Aw, shucks. I was hoping I'd get to finish up that knitting. But it's a Christmas stocking for her employer's daughter and I do realize Grace has much more practice than I have in turning a heel.

Grace, your mom got her mammogram earlier this week, and mine is set for Monday morning!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Heartwarming Video

This has got to be a wildlife rehabilitator's dream.

Closest thing to this I ever had happen to me was when a gorgeous, sleek, adult mockingbird flew down from the roof of my house and landed on my shoulder; only then did I realize it was one I had raised.

It was gone again in two or three seconds.

Oh, and I once found a huge, male raccoon asleep on my back porch, in the cat bed where he had slept as a baby with sealed-shut eyes. He had actually opened the screen door to get there.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Barbara Memories

The nurses at the rehab facility where Barbara spent her last three months told us that many pet-owners, telephoning Barbara, would first tell the nurses wonderful stories about what she had done for their little Fluffy or Snookie. Barbara herself had so many stories about her work as a veterinarian that she could have written a book, like one of those by Dr. James Herriott.

Some of my favorites can't really be published here, but at least two little vignettes can.

Once, a woman brought Barbara a parrot in a box. When Barbara opened the box, the bird shrieked, "Help, help!" and when she took it out, it looked up at her (all six feet, four inches of her) and exclaimed, "Oh, Lordie!"

Another time a motorcylcist came in wearing typical bikers' attire: tattoos, boots, bandanna, black belt with big, shiny buckle. Out of his big leather jacket he pulled a tiny, orange kitten. He set it down on the examining table and said, "Ma'am, this here's Brutus."

Six months later, he was back with Brutus. "It's time," the biker announced.

"Time?" asked Barbara.

"Time."

There was a short silence before he added, "You know. He's six months old now."

"Oh!" said the doctor. "Yes. You just leave Brutus here with me, pick him up in the morning, and afterward, he'll be a much better house cat."

* * *

A woman who worked at the vet clinic told me, at the funeral, that once when she had gone to visit Barbara at the rehab center, she found a nurses' aide, "who couldn't have been more than about 20 years old," had crawled into the bed beside Barbara and was crying her eyes out. "And Barbara was patting her on the back, comforting her!"

Typical.


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Cultured Squirrels

Mozart the squirrel has a foster brother now, very nearly his own age (stage of development), even though smaller. We obviously had to name him Beethoven. They snuggle up to each other and both are doing very well.

In the process of picking out Beethoven, I also relieved my fellow rehabber Angela (who by then had a dozen of them) of two 7-day-old squirrels, about the size of my thumb. They are doing less well. So far, I can’t seem to keep them properly hydrated. I’m giving ‘em all they can eat (almost 1 cc) every 2 hours, and just now I injected IV fluids under their skin. I’ll be too worried to sleep tonight until this problem clears up.

At least they have learned to accept the formula well, and suck at the nipple eagerly.

My young helper, Emily, named them Puer and Puella, which she says is the Latin for “boy” and “girl.”

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Ancient-Future Worship"

Here are excerpts from what I think a very interesting article. The Washington Post ran this last week in the same section (Metro) as the obituaries, where Barbara’s appeared. The piece fairly screams for comment, but I've interspersed only the comments I couldn’t resist. You can add the rest, if you like.

FEELING RENEWED BY ANCIENT TRADITIONS

Evangelicals observing Lent?

Fasting, and giving up chocolate and favorite pastimes like watching TV during the 40 days before Easter are practices many evangelical Protestants have long rejected as too Catholic and unbiblical.

But Lent – a time of inner cleansing and reflection upon Jesus Christ’s sufferings before his resurrection – is one of many ancient church practices being embraced by an increasing number of evangelicals, sometimes with a modern twist. The National Community Church, which has three locations in the District and one in Arlington County, updated the Lenten fast by adding a Web component: a 40-day blog, where participants from as far away as Australia, Korea and Mexico discuss their spiritual cleansing.

Discuss their spiritual cleansing? “I’m really making wonderful progress with my humility; how is yours coming?”

This increasing connection with Christianity’s classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent calendars at Christmastime.

(Surely they light Advent candles, rather than calendars.)

This represents a “major sea change in evangelical life,” according to D. H. Williams, professor of patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. “Evangelicalism is coming to [the] point where the early church has become the newest staple of its diet.”

Experts say most who have taken on such practices have grown disillusioned with the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches embraced by baby boomers, with their casually dressed ministers and rock-band praise music.
Instead, evangelicals – many of them young – are adopting a trend that has come to be known as “worship renewal” or “ancient-future worship.”

Those familiar with the trend say it is practiced mostly by small, avant-garde evangelical churches, though not always.

So Orthodoxy is avant-garde!

Last summer, the national convention of the 2.5 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, an evangelical wing of the Lutheran denomination, voted to revive private confession.

Lutherans are avant-garde, too! It’s just that, um, well, being called that is not something the Orthodox or the Lutherans are used to...

Not to worry. Lutherans will have to speak for themselves in defending against this charge, but not the Orthodox. No, ancient stuff is only avant-garde when it’s Evangelicals doing it! It’s just stuffy when we do it.

At Common Table, a weekly lay-led church that gathers at a Vienna coffeehouse for an unconventional service that features skits, group discussion and Quaker-style silence, worshipers line up to take communion from bread purchased at a nearby grocery story and sip wine out of a pottery chalice or grape juice from plastic cups.

Grape juice just doesn’t command the same respect as wine, does it?

First Baptist Church of the City of Washington D.C. follows the liturgical calendar observed by Catholic churches. It lights candles at Advent, and observes Epiphany Sunday and the remainder of the traditional cycle of liturgical celebrations.

“We find that following the seasons of the Christian year adds a lot of richness to our experience of worship, said the Rev. James Somerville, the church’s pastor, adding: “We wouldn’t want the Catholics to get all the good stuff.”

He obviously said that last part with a twinkle in his eye, but the first part was quite serious. It’s about our worship experience. It’s about US.

For the most part, though, young evangelicals aren’t just reviving ancient traditions. They are stamping them with their own updated brand.

Confession – a staple of Catholicism – is appearing in different formats. Thousands of people, for example, have posted anonymous online confessions on church-run Web sites like myseret.tv, and ivescrewedup.com. ...

“We do believe there is value in confessing our sins to each other,” said Bobby Gruenwald, pastor at Lifechurch.tv, an Oklahoma-based megachurch that runs mysecret.tv, which has received 7,500 confessions since it started in 2006. Ministers and volunteers pray over the confessions as they come in. “This process may be a more modern way of people discovering the value of that tradition.”


-by Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer


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And Then There's Some GOOD News...

My sister, Wendy, has announced that she is getting back together with her husband, Roy, after some years' separation. Hooray!

Not everybody thinks that's good news, but I do. I always like to see love triumph. Even if it doesn't work out, at this point Wendy has nothing to lose and everything to gain. But I'm really hoping and praying it works.

The children and grandchildren living with her will have to leave the nest now. So it will be good for them, too, to graduate and be out on their own.

It means she will be moving from California to Arkansas, and that's more good news, as it puts her a lot closer to the rest of her family here on the East Coast!

Kudos, Wendy and Roy! And many prayers!

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A New Life

Yesterday I set out to begin overcoming my exhaustion built up over the past three months. I slept until ten o’clock. Then I got up and ate an orange, and went back to bed until 11:00. Then I spent a good half hour soaking in a tall tub full of hot water and fragrant bubbles.

In the afternoon I resumed the avocation I’ve had to give up for the past two or three years, due to various family crises: wildlife rehabilitation. I took in a 10-day-old squirrel. He has fur, but only a velvety fuzz. His eyes are still sealed shut.

Emily, the 13(?)-year-old who lives next door, expressed a desire several months ago to be my assistant this summer, so she came over for her first lesson.

She saw a CD of Mozart music lying on the kitchen counter and said, “What if we name him Mozart?” So we did.

We gave him some warm Pedialyte to drink and injected some IV solution under his skin to rehydrate him, and checked him all over, and weighed him, and set up a warm place for him to live until he is old enough for a cage.

Later this morning I will start him on full-strength formula. I will also pick up a buddy for him from a fellow wildlife rehabber who has 14 to choose from. Wild animals should always be raised with others of their own kind.

I look at him and my heart feels warm and happy. He will be as therapeutic for me as I hope to be for him.

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