Thursday, December 31, 2009

White Lies

Have you ever told a white lie? You are going to love this, especially all you ladies who bake for church events.

Alice was to bake a cake for the her church's Ladies' Group in Tuscaloosa, but forgot to do it until the last minute. She remembered it the morning of the bake sale and after rummaging through cabinets, found an angel food cake mix, quickly made it while drying her hair, dressing, and helping her son pack up for Scout camp.

When she took the cake from the oven, the center had dropped flat and the cake was horribly disfigured. There was no time to bake another cake. This cake was important to Alice because she did so want to fit in at her new church, and in her new community of friends.

So, being inventive, she looked around the house for something to build up the center of the cake... She found it in the bathroom - a roll of toilet paper. She plunked it in and then covered it with icing. The finished product looked perfect.

Before she left the house to drop the cake by the church and head for work, Alice woke her daughter, gave her some money and specific instructions to be at the bake sale the moment it opened at 9:30 and to buy the cake and bring it home.

When the daughter arrived at the sale, she found the attractive, perfect cake had already been sold. Amanda grabbed her cell phone and called her mom.

Alice was horrified-she was beside herself! Everyone would know! What would they think?

All night, Alice lay awake in bed thinking about people pointing fingers at her and talking about her behind her back.

The next day, Alice promised herself she would try not to think about the cake and would attend the fancy bridal shower at the home of a fellow church member and try to have a good time.

She did not really want to attend because the hostess more than once had looked down her nose at the fact that Alice was a single parent and not from the founding families of Tuscaloosa, but having already RSVP'd, she couldn't think of a believable excuse to stay home.

The meal was elegant, the company was definitely upper crust Old South, and to Alice’s horror, the cake she had baked was presented for dessert!

Alice started out of her chair to tell the hostess all about it, but before she could get to her feet, the Mayor's wife said, "What a beautiful cake!"

Alice, still stunned, sat back in her chair when she heard the hostess say, "Thank you, I baked it myself."

God is good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Word Became Flesh

When you take fallen, sinful human nature and unite it in a single person with divine nature, what happens? Here's what you may suppose happened, as expressed on a minister's blog a few days ago.

It is the fact that God has sullied Himself with the filth of the human race and bound Himself to us for all eternity: "The Word became flesh."

But as we sing every Sunday, Christ "without change became man and was crucified..." That's an echo of the Council of Chalcedon, which decreed that divine and human nature were united in Christ without change, without confusion, without separation, and without compartmentalization.

That's to say, the Divine Nature was in no way compromised. There's just no way poor human nature has any ability to sully the infinitely good and holy God even in the least degree. Our darkness can never even partially overcome His Light, or our weakness overpower His might.

No, the reverse happened: human nature was purified, sanctified, and made fit to dwell in one Person with the Divine. This, by the way, is the pattern we see over and over again in the Lord's encounters with sinners. He isn't possessed by their demons but casts them out. He doesn't become sick, but makes the sick well. He doesn't contract sin, but sinners become holy.

Christ, at His conception, re-created human nature within Himself. That's the meaning of the Incarnation.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Tale I Can't Verify

Neither has Snopes been able to prove or disprove it.

So for whatever it's worth (a smile maybe?), here it is.

Could you imagine coming home from work to find this tiny creature napping on your couch with your dog? Guess who came home for dinner? It followed this beagle home, right through the doggy door This happened in Maryland recently. The owner came home to find the visitor had made himself right at home.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Baby" Squirrels Report

Sunday afternoon we drove out into the country to pick up my three squirrels from Chris. Finally. She'd been babysitting them nearly two weeks. By Sunday, though, the roads were clear (although her long driveway was still hazardous) and the cold that had kept me mostly in bed over Christmas was mostly gone. So the time had come to resume my squirrel responsibilities.

The squirrels aren't exactly babies anymore; they're juveniles, and nearly full-grown.

They're weaned now, too. Chris said she put a bowl of formula in their cage the first day (when I went to Fort Wayne) and they never came out of their nest bag to eat it, so she said that was enough of that, and only put solids in afterward.

So from now on, it's going to be easy to take care of them. Lift their wire cage onto new sheets of newspaper every day (with a plastic sheet between newspaper and floor). Roll up the newspapers with the shells and scraps and smelly stuff and dispose of the whole package. Fill up their water bottle, put a fresh bowl of food in the cage, wash old bowl.

They won't go outdoors for a while yet, as it tends to be bitter cold at night. Need to acclimate them gradually. So they're back in the sunroom for now, which is toasty warm during the day and chilly or even rather cold at night.

Once they're outside, it will be easier in some ways. That is, the wire floor of the cage will be directly over the ground, so won't need daily cleaning. Just lift up the cage and shift it to a slightly different spot.

On the other hand, the water bottle will freeze and need replacing at least once a day. And of course there will be the winter weather to slog through.

I had spent most of a morning last year cutting a large hole in the top of their cage, which I cover with a sheet of metal, weighted down. The hole matches one in the bottom of another cage. I usually put the two holes together eventually, and with the help of several bungee cords, make a double-tall cage for the squirrels' winter quarters. But I don't do this until after the squirrels have gotten well accustomed to being in the smaller cage. That's frightening enough for them at first.

Well, Chris has very kindly mended that hole for me with a big square of hardcloth. She did a very thorough, professional job, too. Must've taken her an hour and a half, at least. Looks like it'll take me at least that long to undo it!

Squirrels are bouncing fearlessly all over this cage.

On Feeling Bad About Sin, Part 2 of 2

As I said last time, religions that center around relieving our shame and guilt are dealing with the wrong problem. The problem is a deeper one: how to cure the passions infecting our hearts. Those are what produce the guilt and shame, as well as the sinful acts we commit.

Quite a few religions have not only the wrong diagnosis, but also the wrong cure, even supposing the diagnosis were correct. They tell you to keep your eyes focused upon the Cross, where you see Jesus taking your punishment vicariously and as thoroughly as ever your heart could wish. Such a denomination will probably provide you very gruesome portraits of that suffering, both visual and verbal, for you to contemplate to alleviate your guilt and shame. Well, it won’t. Okay, it will – briefly. Like aspirin, it will take the pain away for a while, but without treating the cause of it; so, very shortly, it will all come back again. And again, and again. Both the objective and the subjective guilt will still be in place as long as the attitudes underlying our sins are in place.

You can't cure a toothache by calculus, because a toothache is a medical problem and needs a medical solution. You can't solve a quadratic equation by baking a cake, because the problem is mathematical and needs a mathematical solution. Trying to take away guilt and shame by an executive decision (“I will believe Christ took my punishment”) or a legal proceeding (God declares you Not Guilty) is a similar use of wrong categories. Guilt and shame, besides being objectively true, are things we experience. Those experiences can only be taken away by a countervailing experience, namely of that sweet sorrow I’ve tried to describe called contrition, bringing with it experience of God’s tender forgiveness and of new hope that we can become better. Absent that, and we shall never be rid of the subjective guilt, because deep down we know we aren't rid of the objective guilt, either.

(And lest anyone be tempted to think, "Oh, but we need the guilt, to keep us on the straight and narrow," no, we serve God much more selflessly, much more effectively, much more to His liking, when we do so in freedom and love rather than from guilt. What we DO need, always, is contritition, repentance.)

Of course true contrition is a gift of God. Have you never experienced it and you wonder why not? I suppose there are numerous possible answers. NOT among them is the pernicious idea that it's because you are one of those God has chosen to damn, or at least has not elected to save (which amounts to the same thing). God elects, according to His foreknowledge, whoever is willing (Romans 8:29). If you don’t believe that, you have been taught to interpret this verse differently, let's not waste time debating the theology; just do the practical thing: make sure you really ARE among the willing and the theological issue will become moot.

If you find yourself (perhaps to your own surprise!) unwilling, perhaps it’s because the god you’ve been taught is inherently very difficult to love. This is because although He is said to be very, very loving, at the same time, certain behaviors are ascribed to Him which cannot be reconciled with love. Even if you think He has every right to commit atrocities, or even a duty to commit them, in the name of justice, that still makes it very difficult to love Him wholeheartedly. In fact, to make it all the more complicated, disapproving of such a god is the morally correct stance!

Or perhaps you’ve been taught that who you are can’t really change much, which to say the least is a bit discouraging. So perhaps you haven’t actually tried yet to overcome the inner attitudes which are producing the objective and subjective guilt and shame, as well as the misdeeds.

I don’t know. You, however, do need to know, if you suffer from chronic guilt and shame and would be cured. Please find out what the blockage is, and let us all pray together, again and again: "Open to me the doors of repentance!"

My most merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and take flesh to save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee, for if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty. Indeed, in Thy infinite compassion and unspeakable mercy, Thou O my Christ hast said: Whoever believes in Me shall live and never see death. If faith in Thee saves the desperate, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Impute my faith instead of deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds which could justify me, but may my faith suffice for all my deeds. May it answer for and acquit me, and may it make me a partaker of Thy eternal glory. And may satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that he has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ, my Saviour, whether I will or not, save me. Make haste, quick, quick, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother's womb. Grant me, O Lord, to love Thee now as once I loved sin, and also to work for Thee without idleness, as I worked before for deceptive satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

-- from the Orthodox morning prayers

Sunday, December 27, 2009

All My (Grand)children

Kelly, top; Connor, left; Ryan, right; Kelly, bottom

Okay, no, that's Sydney at the bottom.  It's just that she so admires her older cousin (You can see why.) that half the time she will tell you she is Kelly.  Oh, and she only simpers like this around boys, especially her handsome boy cousins.

Aren't they all just ADORABLE?!!!

On Feeling Bad About Sin, Part 1 of 2

Cain, from malice, killed Abel his brother, and what immediately happened to him? From Genesis, Chapter 4:

13 And Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me."
15 And the Lord said to him, "No so; whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." [More nearly literally: seven vengeances shall paralyze him.] And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

Cain felt (and objectively was) guilty, and guilt, as always, brought fear of punishment with it. Notice, please, that there is no record of Cain repenting. He simply complains about his punishment. (Nevertheless, our all-merciful, compassionate and kind Lord places a mark on him to serve notice to others not to kill him.)

When Adam and Eve sinned, there was a difference. They, from distrust of God and from pride stirred up by the serpent, ate of the forbidden tree. And their reaction? They didn’t repent, either; they tried to hide themselves from God. They were ashamed, and indeed had done a shameful thing.

Adam and Eve experienced shame. Cain experienced guilt.

They aren't the same, although it's common to experience shame and guilt both together. But guilt feels like squirming little worms gnawing at your soul, whereas shame makes you want to run and hide. Shame makes you embarrassed, while guilt makes you want to kick yourself, or flagellate or starve or otherwise deprive yourself. Martin Luther famously tried this approach, performing all sorts of ascetical tasks in fullest measure, and found out self-punishment really does not help. See Footnote 1.

Most sins, the ones proceeding from lust, pride, gluttony, sloth, or greed, bring forth shame. People fornicate or overeat secretly. It’s the sins proceeding from hostility toward God and man (i.e., envy or anger) that produce the experience of guilt. That is, it is not the specific behaviors that bring shame or guilt; it’s mostly the “sin behind the sin,” the attitudes giving birth to those misdeeds. If you merely feel sorry for specific acts, yet hold on to the pride or hostility or whatever was behind them, your feelings of shame or guilt will persist and even Confession of the particular misdeeds won’t help.  Both the objective and the subjective guilt will remain.  (And failure to give up the underlying wrong attitudes is the ONLY reason shame or guilt persists even when you regret the specific things you've done.) See Footnote 2.

This is why neither shame nor guilt is an appropriate reaction to sin. They are both forms of wounded pride, both ego-centric, both are unhealthy, morbid. Worst of all, both are (highly unsuccessful) substitutes for what’s really needed.

What is the right reaction to sin? For anyone who loves God, it is sorrow. Sorrow that has nothing to do with embarrassment and is equally free of self-loathing. Sorrow is not wounded ego, but wounded love. It’s a cherished relationship disrupted, a love betrayed (in fact, THE Love of all loves betrayed), and not a wish to hurt yourself, but a recognition of the hurt already done to your innermost self, as well as to others.

It’s a sweet sorrow, too, for at least two reasons; first, because it immediately brings with it not fear of punishment, as guilt does, but profound and joyous awareness of God’s tender mercy. (“Perfect love throws out fear.”) And secondly, because this sorrow brings not only fresh joy but also new hope: yes, God has granted me a change of mind; now He will help me change, truly change, everything else: heart, attitudes, behaviors, everything, from the inside out! Starting right now. See Footnote 3.

Guilt and shame, then, are false postures, failures or even evasions of true contrition, for which there really is no substitute. Implication: religions that center around relieving our shame and guilt are dealing with the wrong problem! The problem is how to cure the passions infecting our hearts.  Then all the rest will follow.

Kyrie, eleison!  Open unto me the doors of repentance!


1.) Pseudo-ascetical tasks Luther did, really. True asceticism is not an effort to punish oneself for ones sins. It is rather an effort to wean oneself from addiction to the things of this world, to achieve greater inner freedom to offer God in His service. It is, in other words, a labor of love.

2.) Some degree of hostility toward God is going to be extremely tough to get over, maybe even impossible, if you believe in God as He is usually preached outside of Holy Orthodoxy, Who commits what you'd call atrocities if anyone else did them.  Hostility toward that kind of deity is only natural in us, as those very religions also admit and teach; thus, it is absolutely persistent. Nevertheless, unless we get over that remnant of hostility lurking in some dark corner of our hearts, we will never get past the subjective guilt, nor indeed the objective guilt, either.

I'm sorry, but only Holy Orthodoxy consistently teaches you about the God Who is entirely loveable, entirely delightful, “in Whom there is no darkness at all,” the God you can love unambivalently from the core of your being.

3.) If you belong to a religion that teaches you can never really change appreciably this side of the grave, that says at best you can only be like a manure pile covered with snow, then I suppose you’re deprived of this blessed Hope of renewal, and with it, of any genuine, lasting, or non-superficial relief from guilt. You just really do need to become Orthodox.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why are Saints Depicted with Halos?

Because they have 'em!  Halos don't appear all the time, and when they do, they  may not be visible to every single person around.  But saints are filled with the Uncreated Light and from time to time, not all that infrequently, it shines forth from them.

St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco (I LOVE to say that; it sounds so incongruous!) lived from 1896 to 1966.  He was glorified nearly 30 years later, in 1994.  In preparation for his glorification, his grave was exhumed and his unembalmed body was found to be incorrupt and exuding a sweet fragrance.

This picture of the saint is from the website of a parish named for St. John.  I found  that website via my new godson's blog.  St. John appears to be reading the Gospel.

Here is an icon of St. John, who also served Washington, D.C. Here he is shown holding a replica of the Cathedral of St. John and Baptist, which he once served, and in which church I was baptized, chrismated, first communed, and married to Demetrios.

This icon is also the only one I know of that depicts automobiles. I've forgotten the story, but he disrupted Washington traffic for a while (on Dupont Circle, I beleive) in protest of something or other, and this is what is being commemorated in that scene at the bottom of the icon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Miracle

"So how are you today, Kevin?"

Kevin (not his real name) motioned for the other to wait until Kevin had finished swallowing his food.  That took about two minutes, after which Kevin suddenly said, "I'm fine, thank you."

"Did you have a good day?"

"I had a very good day."

"What did you do today?  I heard you had a Christmas party."

"Yes, a party."

"Did you enjoy it?"

"Oh, yes, enjoyed it very much."

"Did you sing?"

"No, no, I didn't sing."

"Did you dance?"

"Yes, I did dance."

You may not think this is very much of a conversation, and you'd be right.  Except for one thing.  It was a whole conversation, which lasted another minute or so, between Demetrios and one of his most severely ill mental patients - who until now had not said a single word in more than 20 years.


More of the Conversation:

"What else did you do today?"

"I watched TV."

"Anything good on?"

"No, nothing important." 

"So what did you watch?"

"Soap operas."

Question to Night Nurse:

"Why are you giving me the extra pill?  Is it because I told you last night to check the file cabinet where my tax information was?"  (There was no file cabinet, and the patient now realized his mistake.  But no, the increase in medication is what has helped him this much.)

Motor capabilities re speech:  check.
Ability to speak in whole sentences:  check.
Coherent speech, making sense:  check.
Short-term memory:  check.
Ability sometimes to make appropriate value judgments (soap operas):  check.
Some insight into his condition:  check.
Willingness to interact with another person for a few minutes:  check.

How many valuable things one small conversation reveals!  Not to mention he has been able, all this time, to keep track of his medications, knowing when an extra pill was added.

Glory, glory, glory!

Not a Creature Was Stirring

...because my animal nursery is empty this Christmas Eve!  The kittens have gone back to the shelter to be neutered and spayed and put up for adoption after the holidays.  The squirrels are with Chris, who took them before I went away last weekend.  I haven't been able to pick them up from her because she keeps calling me and saying, "My road is a solid sheet of ice.  You ain't gonna get down it, so just wait and come when it melts."  And yesterday, I declined to take two 8-week old Airedale mix puppies from the shelter.

It's a good thing, with all the other hustle and bustle, to have a break from animal babies.  Once the new year gets here, I'm finally going to relax some.  I'm going to be a couch potato for about a month, watching movies on TV, knitting, sipping my hot chocolate, and maybe snuggling some kittens or puppies.  But not now.  Too, too busy.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone!  No matter where you are, no matter how much stress, distress or sorrow you're in (especially then), celebrate with deep joy and awe, because the eternal God of all the Universe becomes Man, born in time, in order to make us gods forever with and in Him. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Glory: The Song of the Christmas Angels

Whenever we are blessed with a glimpse, however small, of True Love, it makes everything else in life seem easy. Fasting? Oh, but certainly; anything Love asks of me seems but a small task. Dying? No problem, because in the depth of the grave I will find Love bidding me, "Come, receive the Light…” Forgiving others? That’s ridiculous; I am not worthy to forgive anyone else, having so many sins myself. I have been forgiven so much I couldn’t dare hold anything against someone else in the first place. Loving others? That's so obvious! There’s just no room for anything less, is there, in all this Glory?

And then the glimpse fades, and things seem hard again and we know we will keep failing and have to keep putting our shoulders back into the task, back into the drudgery.

No, but wait! That’s not how it’s supposed to be and not how it IS. We aren’t laboring to clear out the junk in our souls in order to make room for the Babe to be born in us. He already is born in all the baptized.

All we have to do is keep our eyes on His Glory, the glory of His miraculous Love, keep praying to know it better, and little by little, or perhaps one big chunk after another, that Glory, that Light, that Joy, will displace everything in us incompatible with It.

Glory to God in the highest!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Miss Compassion

For the third year in a row, my eldest granddaughter, Kelly, is the recipient of a Good Citizenship Award at her school. Last year, she was Miss Generosity. This year, she received the Compassion award. Kelly, dear, I'm SO happy you are such a wonderful girl!

That's Kelly on the Right; I Don't Know Who the Other Girl Is

Adults, Left to Right:  Auntie Erin, Dad (Mark), Mom (Katherine) Gigi (Gail, Kelly's Other Grandmother)
Children:  Kelly, Center; Connor, Cousin Sydney, and Ryan

The Genealogy of the Messiah

Who in the world can make a sermon that brings tears to your eyes from, of all texts, the genealogy of Christ? A genealogical list! So-and-so was the father of so-and-so, and he was the father of…”

Fr. Anthony can, that’s who, the priest at St. John Chrysostom parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He simply reminded us who some of these people were. King David, who sinned with Bathsheba. (And yet, from that union was born, by God’s mercy, King Solomon - who in turn sinned grievously.)  Rehoboam, who split David's Kingdom in half and it was never the same again. Rahab.  The prostitute, but he didn’t say that in front of the children.  And others whose lives read like soap operas, says Fr. Anthony, crossing himself as if asking forgiveness for pointing out someone else’s faults, and adding, “You really ought to read these stories, read the Bible sometime…” These are people whose lives make our own look pretty routine. “So, you know what?” he asks, with a shrug. “If these people could make it [crossing himself again ], even becoming ancestors of the Christ, then you can make it, too. Don’t give up on yourself.”

I turned to Rose with outspread hands in amazement. We both had tears in our eyes. Oh, yes, there’s hope for you and me, and that Hope was born in Bethlehem. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa Claus ... and Santa Claus

Suddenly, Santa Appeared at the Party

Look Who's Here!  Sydney, Neighbor Anna, and Kelly are Amazed.  Anna looks especially amazed, perhaps because underneath those whiskers, Santa somehow looks awfully familiar...

Mark , Connor (L) and Ryan (R) Can't Believe it:  Santa's Here!

Connor and Sydney Sit in Santa's Lap

Santa with Sydney and Ryan

And then there was the Polar Express, where Santa showed up again.

Sydney Tells Santa All About Everything

Christmas Came Early This Year

...for those of us who were blessed to be present at the Chrismation of Ben, Emily, Evelyn, and Dominic.  See photographs on their blogs, here and here.

I thought I saw Ben, then Emily, choke up as they were being anointed, and that in turn brought me to tears.  Little Evelyn saved the day by giggling because the small brush used to put on the oil was tickling her.

These people truly have sold everything they had to buy the Pearl of Great Price. 

They were no strangers to the Holy Spirit before Christmation; in fact, they were already on intimate terms with Him for I don't know how long, perhaps all their lives.  But now  and evermore, the Holy Spirit deals with them from inside their own innermost beings, instead of from outside, for that is what Chrismation is.  (It is no coming of age ceremony or merely an "I've finished my catechism" rite.)

Another huge joy this weekend was meeting the Harjus and their other sponsors in person instead of just via Internet and/or telephone.  It seemed miraculous that few of us had ever met each other in person before, yet the love began to flow immediately and our cups kept on overflowing.  To me, Fr. Gregory and Fr. John and Julia and Ben and Emily are all awesome examples of faith and courage and integrity.  (Do not believe any of the slanders you may have read about any of them on the Internet.)  And Rosemarie, you ROCK!  I expected to like all these people, of course; but I didn't expect to fall in love with each of them, as I have, and the children, too.  We have promised to have reunions now and then.

The whole weekend, it seems, was spiced with smiles and watered by tears.  And of course made glittery by snow, befitting the scene as the parish of St. John Chrysostom became Bethlehem for Ben and Emily and Evelyn and Dominic.

Glory to God for all things!

God grant them and you many years!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Answers to Tad's Question

In discussions with the non-Orthodox, one often hears, "We need each other." This raises the question, "For what?" Tad, commenting here a day or so ago, expressed great curiosity about how a Catholic might answer that.

So last night, at a meeting (party, really) of the Sts. Cyril & Methodius Society, I asked that question for Tad - and me.

The Society, despite it's grand sounding name, is a handful of Catholics and Orthodox here in Richmond who meet once a month for ecumenical dialogue. It isn't a particularly successful group, having never figured out its reason for being, and having already had every available theological debate several times over. I very seldom attend, but my husband attends every month, so I always go to the Christmas/Advent party with him.

So I asked, "What, in your view, do you need from us, and what, in your view, do we need from you?"

Well, that discussion, as it turned out, occupied the whole evening. I never offered any opinion, being there just for listening. I only tried to keep the group on topic.

The first answer was that we Orthodox need the Catholics to solve our messy jurisdictional issues. They have a central authority that would have taken care of all that years ago. They have, in other words, the pope. That's what we need from them.

The second answer was, "It's not a matter of what we need, but of what Christ wants, and of obedience to Him." Which is true, but instead of being an answer to my question, this response rejects its premise.

Third answer: "I'm not sure anybody official on either side feels his side needs anything from the other - unfortunately." Another non-acceptance of the premise.

Fourth answer: What with the rise of secularism and of Islam, we are very soon no longer going to be able to afford the luxury of schism. We must band together to present a united front to common threats. In other words, we have more clout together than separately.

My husband pointed out that the issue is never how to benefit the Church, but how to bring a human being into Christ, and nobody knew what to say to that.

What the Catholics present last night thought they needed from us was liturgical renewal. They said their mass has become "mundane".

Anyway, apparently the discussion made some of the participants (exactly 4 Catholics and 12 Orthodox) feel more bonded or something, and they thanked me for bringing up such an excellent topic - for which Tad, of course, gets the credit. It literally did make the whole evening, Tad.

Now galvanized, they've decided to have another Party during Bright Week, and have asked me to come up with "another brilliant question."

Er... um... Tad?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Role of the Papacy According to Malachi Martin

or, Yes, the Popes' Goal Always was and Still is to be Your Boss

This is from Malachi Martin’s Book, The Keys of This Blood, pages 373-375. Numbers in parentheses are footnotes.

”You must now realize,” [St. Paul] wrote to the inhabitants of Colossae … that you have become new men on account of the enlightenment you now have about your Creator and his preferred world, in which there is to be no distinction between Jew and non-Jew, Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian, fellow citizen and foreigner, known and unknown people, slave and freeman. For, now, Christ is all of us, and Christ is in all of us.” (1) Paul’s inventory of differences and divisions that separated the people of his day into different and warring systems and groups finds exact parallels in our modern society of nations, states, and peoples. According to Paul, all differences and divisions have been transcended by a new unity.

Nor was Paul speaking in a purely spiritual unity. He was laying down a blueprint for a new society of peoples and nations undivided by nationalism, racial origin, cultural diversity, wealth or poverty, political systems or religious hatred. Nor did he envisage the goal of that society of peoples to be a balance of power maintaining the equilibrium of greater and lesser. In his pregnant phrase, it is full-scale unity in Christ. A georeligion centered and dependent on Christ: This is what Paul presented as the underlying framework for the ideal internationalism. In his context, Paul could have justifiably used that hybrid word “geopolitics,” for he was speaking of a geopoliteia, one truly geopolitical structure for all mankind as one race.

Paul, as often happened, was the intelligent and perceptive formulator of a doctrine that would be taught and propagated to all peoples and nations by another man, Peter the Great Fisherman, and by his successors over in Rome. Despite his obscurity and cruel death, Peter had been given the Keys of authority to teach all men and women, and to establish thus the geopoliteia Paul had announced as God’s plan for all men. That authority was guaranteed by the blood Christ shed. (2) Within the span of some three hundred years and the pontificates of thirty-two successors to Peter as Bishop of Rome and official holder of the Keys of this blood, the initial obscurity of the Holder's office had been shed; Peter's papacy now assumed an increasingly dominant role in the development of nations. The Pauline goal, the Christian geopoliteia, was the goal of that papacy.

It took that papacy and its institutional organization, the Roman Catholic Church, almost the whole of two thousand years to attain, in the concrete order, its status and condition of a georeligion. It took all that time and the ups and downs of 264 pontificates for the political philosophy and goals of that georeligion to be purified and purged of our cultural and civilizational accretions that along the road impeded the development of papal and Roman Catholic geopolitics.

At the close of two thousand years since Paul expressed the worldview of a genuine georeligion, the 263rd successor to the obscure Great Fisherman reigns and governs in Rome as the titular head of that georeligion housed in a genuinely geopolitical structure. For John Paul II is not only the spiritual head of a worldwide corpus of believers but also the chief executive of a sovereign state that is a recognized member of our late-twentieth-century society of states. With a political goal and structure? Yes, with a geopolitical goal and structure. For, in the final analysis, John Paul II as the claimant Vicar of Christ does claim to be the ultimate court of judgment on the society of states as a society.


(1) This rather tortured rendition of Colossians 3:9-11 appears to be the author's own. I can't find it anywhere else. The New King James reads: "9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ [is] all and in all."

(2) The title of this book is derived from this unique take on the purpose and meaning of Christ's blood.

Sous-chefs at Thanksgiving

Connor, in Blue, and Ryan, in Red. Master Chef in background is Poppa, their maternal grandfather.

Sous-chef Kelly

Rock Star? or, Beware Small Children, Part II

Note from my son-in-law, Jeff: This is why we now check on her when it's too quiet upstairs. Sydney took EVERY single pair of Erin's undergarments and put them on.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Animal Nursery Doings


The four kittens had vet appointments today, during which I learned what I usually do from vets - that I've mis-sexed my critters.  Or rather, I just took someone else's word for it, who told me they were all girls.  So I didn't bother checking it out for myself.  (Why do I keep doing this?  When will I learn?)  Anyway, Miss Fortune is now Blackie, and Aurora is now Rory!  That also explains why they are the more affectionate cats; males usually are.

They had their temperatures taken and were wormed and had their first vaccinations and were tested for feline leukemia and HIV.  All tests negative. 

They are all very tame now, enjoying human company, and they've had exposure to children and dogs, too.  They're ready to be adopted, and tomorrow they go back to the agency whence they came. 

They're also quite a handful, and I'll be relieved when they're gone, even though I'll miss those purring furballs in my lap and climbing all over me.


The three squirrels are being ninnies.  They hide in their bag all day and all night.  They not only do not come out to find food, preferring to starve; they don't even come out to do their business; instead, they just soak the baby blanket I've put in there.  My idea was they should snuggle underneath it for warmth, not sit on top of a cold, wet, odiferous wad!  This keeps my washing machine busy.  And my sunroom a bit smelly.

They're well old enough to be weaned, and I've checked that they all do have bottom teeth of sufficient size.  (Top teeth they will have had for weeks now.)  So yesterday I just stopped bottle-feeding them.  Instead, I poured their formula into three little bowls (heavy ashtrays, really) and set those on the floor of their cage.  Nothing, no response.  They didn't even come out to investigate.

I hauled each baby out of the bag and dipped its nose in the warm formula, and they finally got the idea.  Of course they also stuck their front paws in it and got it all over themselves, necessitating a thorough wipe-off for each one with a warm, damp rag. 

And that's where we stand today.  I put out the formula, they still don't come out for it on their own.  I pull them out of their bag.  They drink and I clean up each of them.  I do not put them back in their nest bag, but on the cage floor.  If they want to go hide in their bag, they have to climb to get to it, at which they are, of course, very adept.

I also keep solid food in their cage - peanuts, dried corn, sunflower seeds, fresh veggies, Cheerios - and today one of them chewed on a peanut in its shell, but quit before discovering the treat inside.  (Peanuts are to squirrels as candy is to children.)  Tomorrow I'll break open several of them myself to show them what they're looking for. 

Thursday I take them back to Chris, who will keep them for me over the weekend, because I'm going out of town.  She's the one who raised them the first couple of weeks; maybe they'll do better for her, be less frightened. 

I get back Sunday night and pick up the squirrels again on Monday.

Not that there's any hurry; they will be with me all winter, but I was rather hoping to have them functioning on their own and outdoors by now.

Wonderful News

Check out what Erin and Jeff, my daughter and son-in-law, are up to, here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Heartbreak :-)

Yesterday, I came across this photo, taken at my sister Barbara's wedding in 1980, when she tossed her bouquet. It looked certain that little Tisho (my sister Wendy's daughter) had it, but then it landed straight in Erin's face (my daughter). Tisho let out a howl of agony.

That's Laurel behind them, a daughter of my very colorful Great Aunt Dorothy, and behind her, her older sister, Debbie.

Our family, including Tisho, have chuckled over this ever since.

Have a Few Chuckles

Here are three of our favorite children's poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. I doubt the poet meant these to be funny, but we always laugh out loud when we read them. Besides having a great deal of charm, they are so very English, you know! (Never mind the poet was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.) "The English are best, the English are best!"

Foreign Children

Little Indian, Sioux, or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
Oh! don't you wish that you were me?

You have seen the scarlet trees
And the lions over seas;
You have eaten ostrich eggs,
And turned the turtle off their legs.

Such a life is very fine,
But it's not so nice as mine:
You must often as you trod,
Have wearied NOT to be abroad.

You have curious things to eat,
I am fed on proper meat;
You must dwell upon the foam,
But I am safe and live at home.
Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
Oh! don't you wish that you were me?

Marching Song

Bring the comb and play upon it!
Marching, here we come!
Willie cocks his highland bonnet,
Johnnie beats the drum.

Mary Jane commands the party,
Peter leads the rear;
Feet in time, alert and hearty,
Each a Grenadier!

All in the most martial manner
Marching double-quick;
While the napkin, like a banner,
Waves upon the stick!

Here's enough of fame and pillage,
Great commander Jane!
Now that we've been round the village,
Let's go home again.

There we go: pillage and fame. That's what it's all about.

The Unseen Playmate

When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him, and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw,
But he's sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.

He lies in the laurels, he runs on the grass,
He sings when you tinkle the musical glass;
Whene'er you are happy and cannot tell why,
The Friend of the Children is sure to be by!

He loves to be little, he hates to be big,
'Tis he that inhabits the caves that you dig;
'Tis he when you play with your soldiers of tin
That sides with the Frenchmen and never can win.

'Tis he, when at night you go off to your bed,
Bids you go to sleep and not trouble your head;
For wherever they're lying, in cupboard or shelf,
'Tis he will take care of your playthings himself!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Various Updates

Katherine is home and resting well after her emergency appendectomy. She's still planning to go with her family and Erin's to Bristol, Tennessee, tomorrow and ride on the Polar Express.

* * *

Another Sydneyism: "How did Jesus get my hair to stick to my head?"

* * *

Here are some pictures of a huge bitch (Rhodesian Ridgeback) who adopted a tiny piglet. These have been circulating on the Internet and I do not know their origin.

The Story:

Surrogate mum Katjinga, an eight-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, took on motherly duties for grunter Paulinchen - a tiny pot-bellied pig - and seems to be taking the adoption in her stride.

Lonely Paulinchen was luckily discovered moments from death and placed in the care of the dog who gladly accepted it as one of her own. Thankfully for the two-week old mini porker, Katjinga fell in love with her at first sight and saved her bacon.

The two animals live together on a huge 20-acre farm in Hoerstel, Germany, where Katjinga's owners Roland Adam, 54, and his wife Edit, 44, a bank worker, keep a pair of breeding Vietnamese pigs.

Roland found the weak and struggling piglet after she was abandoned by the rest of her family one evening after she was born.

He said: "The pigs run wild on our land and the sow had given birth to a litter of five in our forest. I found Paulinchen all alone and when I lifted her up she was really cold. I felt sure some local foxes would have taken the little pig that very night so I took it into my house and gave her to Katjinga. She had just finished with a litter of her own, who are now 10 months, so I thought there was a chance she might take on the duties of looking after her. Katjinga is the best mother you can imagine. She immediately fell in love with the piggy. Straight away she started to clean it like it was one of her own puppies. Days later she started lactating again and giving milk for the piggy. She obviously regards it now as her own baby."

Mum of the year? Quite possibly.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Orthodox Response

There are, so far as I can tell, 3 major religions and 1 major ideology that consider themselves destined and/or entitled to rule the whole world. Roman Catholicism is only one of them. The others are: Islam, Judaism when Messiah comes, and Communism.

What ought the rest of us to do about it? The same things we're supposed to be doing anyway, I suppose. Pray, pray, and pray some more. Fast, be vigilant. Love. Never stop loving. Get ready to die.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Orthodox Through Catholic Eyes

Part V from the book I’m reading, The Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1990, p 288).

This is remarkable, although, I've been finding out, typical. We are viewed in such thoroughly secular terms that Catholics think if we don't have their idea of enough political clout, then our "ancient tradition ... today avails them not."  

For John Paul, the pathos of their [Orthodox] position is accentuated by the fact that these groups are heirs to an ancient tradition that today avails them not. Within that tradition, they have an instinct for the georeligious and, therefore, for the geopolitical. But the passage of time and the development of circumstances exclude them from that georeligious and geopolitical stance they feel in their bones as part of their heritage, part of their mandate and part of their reason for existence as religious groups.

Because they climbed into their positions by breaking with the Roman papacy and so abandoned their only realistic hope of georeligious status, John Paul looks upon them with a special solicitude. But he knows that as they now stand, their future lies down one of two pathways. Either they will remain lodged in relative isolation in their historical crevasses, holding on to their traditions. Or, as some of them have already shown an inclination to do, they will decide to accept some forms of merger with the various tides advancing on their positions. Beyond that, any final and satisfactory relief of their pathos must await near-future historical events of a worldwide magnitude.

In the meantime, because of their past they exercise a certain political influence of a localized nature, with which John Paul must reckon. The Russian Orthodox Church centered in the Patriarchate of Moscow not only wields considerable influence over some 100 million members, it also becomes the consenting, if unwilling, handmaiden of the Soviet Party-State. Its major officials accepted positions in the KGB. Its authorities acquiesced in the massacre of thousands of Roman Catholic clergy and accepted —as spoils of war — many Roman Catholic churches and institutions. Indeed, today, at least one solid faction in the Patriarchal Church is virulently antipapal. Throughout the remaining branches of Eastern Orthodoxy there persists a deeply buried antipapal and anti-Roman prejudice; it is felt that any aggrandizement of the papacy can only come at the cost of Orthodox dignity and privilege.

Dear Catholics:

We do not see any pathos at all in our situation.  In fact, we rejoice to be in much better circumstances, currently, than we usually have been throughout our history.   (This was less so when the book was published, 1990.) 

Granted, there are few Greeks who wouldn't like to see a new Byzantium of some sort.  But this is definitely not any part of the Orthodox Faith, much less any part of our reason for existing.   There is no such thing as any "mandate" in our religion either, to acquire political power.  In fact, quite the opposite; our mandate is to divest ourselves of eveything worldly.  We pray for any bishop who develops a lust for political power or any other fleshly ambition; and we seek to correct him, whether by admonition or (in extreme cases) by demonstration. He ceases to carry much weight with us. He may even find himself the object of ridicule.

No, really, for the Orthodox, it is not about "dignity and privilege" and never has been.   Please, God, let it never be.

No, it is not prejudice that causes us to reject papal supremacy.  (Why would you promote such a slur?)  The issue is primarily theological.

But yes, there are also some bad feelings, reinforced by very sad experience.   Forget dignity and privilege; historically, it's our homes and/or our lives have been at stake.  (Pun intended.)  And we're not speaking only of ancient experience, either, so please skip the uncharitable part about us nursing ancient grudges.  No, we're talking also about what is happening up to and including the present day. For only one example, didn't I just post a description of how Pope John Paul II planned to subvert the Orthodox Church and culture and use her people as political pawns?  All in the name of fostering closer ties with us.  If that's what "closer ties" means, how can you expect us not to shy away?

Finally, here's a puzzle for you: we find our ancient tradition avails us everything; yes, everything.  If this surprises you, please go and try to find out what it means.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

E-mail received this morning from my daughter, Erin:

This morning Sydney woke me up and said, "My nose has stopped breathing." I said, "Really?" She said, "Yes, my nose is stuck and it won't smell ANYthing!"

More Babies

The Richmond Animal League has received from various "kill shelters" 36 puppies ranging in age from 4-8 weeks and has put out an SOS. So I've made them a deal. They promise to take back all 4 kittens next Thursday (the day before I leave town for the weekend) and I'll take 2 of the youngest puppies, possibly three if it's necessary to avoid having an odd one left over with no siblings. Which they will keep for me over the weekend I'm gone and then return to my care.

Puppies are harder than kittens because once they're up and running, they have to be taken outdoors to do their jobbies. (No, I will NOT paper-train any puppy in my house; I find that too disgusting.)

Do you suppose a puppy could be trained to use a litter box?

Breaking News...

Katherine, my daughter-in-law, is recovering nicely from an emergency appendectomy late this afternoon. As it was a laparoscopic procedure, she may even go home tomorrow, if she continues doing as well as she is now.

Her mother, who lives a bare mile or so away, has been caring for the three children (Kelly, age 8, Ryan and Connor, age 5). Mark, my son, nevertheless reports being "tired." Yup, hospitals will do that to you.

Looks like Erin (my daughter) and Jeff and little Sydney will be hosting Kelly and the twins tomorrow. There's going to a Christmas parade in their town, followed by a neighborhood pizza party, which Santa always visits, complete with a little gift for each child.

Get Mommed!

Even if you already have the most wonderful Mom in the world, who can't use some extra mothering?  Get yourself a cyber-Mom to tide you over the cold and flu season, courtesy of Kleenex.

You get your choice of several moms, including a Southern Mom, Hispanic Mom, Countercultural Mom, Prim and Proper Mom, African-American Mom, Jewish Mom, Asian Mom.  (That's in order, from left to right.) You can "interview" each of them. Or you can take a quiz and let the website recommend a Mom based upon your answers.

You can check items on a list you'd like your cyber-Mom to do for you, such as wake you up on a given morning or mornings (or after your nap in the afternoon), telepone you at bedtime and tell you a bedtime story, send you an e-mail about this morning's weather conditions, give you daily advice, etc. 

It's fun!  If you adopt one of these extra Moms, let me know which one, and then I'll tell you whether we are cyber-siblings!

A Graduation

The three baby squirrels have now graduated from the cat carrier to a wire cage.  I laid a sheet of plastic in a corner of the sunroom, with newspaper on top of that, to put under the cage.  Inside the cage I put a hanging water bottle, a mineral block, some apple chunks and rodent chow and a nest bag.  The nest bag consists of three king-sized, flannel pillowcases each inside the other.  It's hung in a corner of the cage with three large safety pins, so it has a triangular opening.

When I put the babies in the cage, they just froze in place from fright.  So I put them in the nest bag, where they are currently hiding.  Hunger will bring them out in due course, because although their size is increasing, the amount I formula I give them is not.  Hunger and curiosity will prod them to explore their new surroundings.  Oh, I should mention, there's a cover over their cage, so they don't feel so out in the open and exposed.

After they've learned to be at home in their new cage for three days or so, I'll move the cage, with an even warmer nest bag, outdoors.  The weather here is still in the upper 60's most days, in the afternoons, at least, so the change shouldn't be much of a shock. 

The four little kittens went with me this morning for a visit next door, to the day care center.  There, under close superivision, the children held them and petted them and two small dogs thoroughly sniffed them.  I'll try to repeat this exercise tomorrow and a bit next week, so these furballs will become good pets for homes with dogs and children.

Their own graduation is near; they are now nearly 8 weeks old, and at 9 weeks, they'll be put up for adoption.  I hope somebody takes them home for Christmas.

The Orthodox as the Pope’s Political Pawns

Part IV from the book I’m reading, The Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1990).

Pope John Paul had a two-pronged approach toward the Soviet Union. One was political; the other was to foment sociocultural change within it. This is from pages 43-44:

…there was nothing in the Vatican’s Ostpolitik, and nothing in the Vatican protocols, to keep [the Pope] from attempting an end run around the Soviet Party-State. In precisely such a move, the New Holy Father set about building closer and ever closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church and with Eastern Orthodoxy in general.

This papal end run included overt moves – John Paul visiting the Greek Orthodox center in Instanbul, for example; and he received and openly favored visits to the Vatican by Orthodox prelates. But there were also constant covert moves originating in Poland and radiating into western parts of the USSR, moves that fostered a common religious bond between Eastern European roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox communities.

Later historians with access to records unavailable today will document the successes of John Paul’s end-run policies and their basic premise. Suffice it to say now that, in spite of the official prostitution of the Russian Orthodox Church to the ideological policies of the Party-State, John Paul’s efforts nourished within that Church a genuinely Christian core of prelates and people eager once and for all to reenter the mainstream of European Christianity as vindicated by papal Rome; and eager as well to renounce the role, accepted once upon a time by Russian Orthodox Church authorities, as servants of the Soviet Party-State in the fomentation of worldwide revolution.

By the opening of the eighties, about half of the Orthodox prelates were already secretly prepared, if the opportunity were afforded, to place themselves under the ecclesiastical unity of the Roman Pope.

Martin Malachi remarks a couple of paragraphs later (p. 45) that this "end run around Soviet officaldom was not a religious gambit, but a geopolitical strategy."

So much for the self-congratulatory talk one sometimes hears in Orthodox circles about the pope: He's afraid of us because he knows we have the true Faith. He dares not deny our doctrine, because the Catholics themselves once taught it. So since he cannot deny our doctrine, yet it is differenct from his, he feels the only thing left is, he has to get rid of us.

Nnnnnnno. Theology and spirituality don't enter into it. The Pope isn’t even interested in us religiously at all. Only in whatever political power or influence the Orthodox Church may have.   It is our misfortune, you see, to occupy, in Europe, a place of great strategic importance.  "In John Paul’s geopolitical analysis, Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals is a giant seesaw of power. Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea is the center of that power. The Holy Father’s battle was to control that center."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby Squirrels

The squirrels have become used to me, and have made the association between me and food.  So now I put my hand in their box and they all compete to be the first to climb into it.  Nobody offers to bite anymore.

I don't even have to keep track anymore of which one/s I've fed; the hungry one/s will climb aboard eagerly.

Within a day or two, I shall remove them from the cat carrier in which they now reside and put them into a wire cage.  Easier to keep clean, and it will give them a chance to learn to climb. 

Kittens, meanwhile, have learned they can get over the barrier I've put at the kitchen door.  They don't much care to, but any day now I'm going to have a problem.  Guess I'll have to devise some sort of better top for their playpen.  They learned 3 days ago they could get out of the existing one.

You Can’t Really Root for Any Side

Part III of exerpts from The Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1990

If you are hoping the Western alliance will win the competition for ruling the New World Order, think again.

In the first place, these people are not religion-friendly. Or if they are, most of them are Jews, among the entrepreneurs, the global executives, the shakers and movers, even among the heads of State. Mr. Obama, of course, is not Jewish, but his top advisors are: David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Emmanual Rahm. Read The Israel Lobby for much more and valuable information.

Moreover, a global government is not going to look anything like a traditional, American, Jeffersonian democracy. Here’s a sober reminder from the book I’m reading (pp. 15-16).

The fundamental idea of democracy – government of, for and by the people, with its ancillary institutions guaranteeing both continuity in government and fundamental rights on the person and civic levels of life – is inviolable in its structural elements. Take away any element – the right to vote, say, or the right of free association – and the entire structure loses its integrity. Tip the balance in favor of one institutional arm, executive over legislative, or legislative over judicial – and the orderly system is jiggered. Adopt only one provision of democracy – take the right of free association again – or even three or four, and as Mr. Gorbachev is presently learning the hard way, you will not have anything like the democratic egalitarianism of the United States or Great Britain.

The fact of the matter is, however, that any geopolitical structure worthy of the name would necessitate an entirely different regime of rights and duties. In a truly one-world order, it would not be possible to regulate an election of high officials in the same manner as democratic egalitarianism requires. General referenda would also be impossible.

So obvious has this difficulty been … that warning scenarios have long been prepared in the democratic capitalist camp itself. Scenarios that show in considerable detail just how and why, in the transition to a world order, the various processes of democracy would have to be shouldered by select groups, themselves picked by other select groups.

It takes little imagination to see that such a situation is not likely to lead to egalitarianism, democratic or otherwise. Nor is it likely to lead to wide rolling plains and smiling upland meadows of popular contentment.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Animal Nursery Report

The three little squirrels are still terrified of me. They were used to Chris, of course, and she has more kittens and cats than I have, so she must have had as much of their scent as I do, but that doesn't seem to be the overriding factor. It's MY scent that scares them. The smallest, the male, is the least scared. The largest, a female, has twice nipped me, without breaking the skin. Now I don't give her that opportunity any more. I still wrap their heads with a corner of the baby blanket so they can't see me, at least at first, until they are already hungrily sucking away. Then I let them see me. Then it seems okay.

They're munching on Cheerios, walnuts, broccoli, and carrots in between bottle feedings. The two smaller ones are taking 12 ccs of formula per feeding; the largest is taking 14-15.

The male is an aspirator. You have to feed him twice as slowly as his sisters, lest he get the formula up his nose and choke on it.

They're about a third of their adult size. Tails already rather fluffy.

Kittens are doing very well. We spent about an hour snuggling this morning, on the sofa in the sunroom.

That sunroom, by the way, is even more important to us in Winter than in Summer. Sitting in its bright light, especially during these shortest days of the year, takes away my winter blahs (Seasonal Affective Disorder) almost entirely. I hardly mind winter now, as long as I can be in that room for at least an hour or so each day.

On the Vatican's Role in Geopolitics

When I first began reading The Keys of This Blood by Malachi Martin (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1990), I took it as an indictment of the Vatican. Upon re-reading the first chapter (Yes, it’s worth more than one reading!), I now find it all full of breathless admiration. Well, it’s a bit difficult to tell, as if Malachi Martin himself were ambivalent about it.

At any rate, most of us never attributed nearly as much importance as this author does to the pope’s role in the geopolitical arena.

In any case, though, it’s alarming to think of the papacy now once again imagining itself in such a role, seeking to control the world and considering this its rightful place. Here’s another couple of excerpts from the book to make us ponder. I’ve put into boldface the phrases I find most troubling, although all of it is.

In October of 1978, when [Korol Wojtyla] emerged from the Sistine Chapel in Rome as Pope John Paul II, the 263rd successor to Peter the Apostle, he was himself the head of the most extensive and deeply experienced of the three global powers that would, within a short time, set about ending the nation system of world politics that has defined human society for over a thousand years.

It is not too much to say, in fact, that the chosen purpose of John Paul’s pontificate – the engine that drives his papal grand policy and that determines his day-to-day, year-by-year strategies – is to be the victor in that competition, now well under way.

(p. 17)

In a move that was so totally unexpected at that moment…that it was misread by most of the world – but a move that was characteristic in its display of his independence of both East and West – Pope John Paul embarked without delay on his papal gamble to force the hand of geopolitical change.

In the late spring of 1979, he made an official visit as newly elected Roman Pope to his Soviet-run homeland of Poland. There, he defined [the issues of the day] again and again in terms based solely and solidly on Roman Catholic principles…

It is a measure of the frozen mentalities of that time that few in the West understood the enormous leap John Paul accomplished in that first of his many papal travels. Mot observers took it as the return of a religious leader to his beloved Poland, as an emotional but otherwise unremarkable apostolic visit, complete with sermons and ceremonies and excited, weeping throngs.

Presciently as well as by planned design, the Pontiff’s first step into the geopolitical arena was eastward into Poland, the underbelly of the Soviet Union. In John Paul’s geopolitical analysis, Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals is a giant seesaw of power. Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea is the center of that power. The Holy Father’s battle was to control that center.)

ANASTASIA’S NOTE: That center includes Greece and several other Orthodox nations.

World commentary and opinion aside, therefore, the point of John Paul’s foray into Poland was not merely that he was a religious leader. The point was that he was more. He was a geopolitical pope. … Now he served notice that he intended to take up and effectively exercise once more the international role that had been central to the tradition of Rome, and to the very mandate Catholics maintain was conferred by Christ upon Peter and upon each of his successors.

(p. 21-22)

On his trip to Poland in 1979, barely eight months after his election, he signaled the opening of the millennium endgame. He became the first of the three players to enter the new geopolitical arena.

(p. 23)

ANASTASIA’S NOTES: If this is true and if the author's earlier statement is also true, that "now that it [the competition] has started, there is no way it can be reversed or called off," then the Pope did us no favor in initiating it.

But it seems to me the Pope was the last of the three competitors to enter the arena. The United States and the Soviet Union had been at it since the end of World War II. Cold War, and all; anybody remember that?

Monday, December 7, 2009

New World Order

Willing or not, ready or not, we are all involved in an all-out, no-holds-barred three-way global competition. Most of us are not competitors, however. We are the stakes. For the competition is about who will establish the first one-world system of government that has ever existed in the society of nations. It is about who will hold and wield the dual power of authority and control over each of us as individuals and over all of us together as a community; over the entire six billion people expected by demographers to inhabit the earth by early in the third millennium.

The competition is all-out because, now that it has started, there is no way it can be reversed or called off.

No holds are barred because, once the competition has been decided, the world and all that’s in it – our way of life as individuals and as citizens of the nations; our families and our jobs; our trade and commerce and money; our educational systems and our religions and our cultures; even the badges of our national identity, which most of us have always taken for granted – all will have been powerfully and radically altered forever. No one can be exempted from its effects. No sector of our lives will remain untouched.

The competition began and continues as a three-way affair because that is the number of rivals with sufficient resources to establish and maintain a new world order.

Nobody who is acquainted with the plans of these three rivals has any doubt but that only one of them can win. Each expects the other two to be overwhelmed and swallowed up in the coming maelstrom of change. That being the case, it would appear inescapable that their competition will end up as a confrontation.

As for the time factor involved, those of us who are under seventy [in 1990] will see at least the basic structures of the new world government installed. Those of us under forty will surely live under its legislative, executive, and judiciary authority and control. Indeed, the three rivals themselves – and many more besides as time goes on – speak about this new world order not as something around a distant corner of time, but as something that is imminent.

These are the opening words of The Keys of This Blood, a non-fiction work by the former Jesuit, Malachi Martin. Martin was a long-time Vatican insider; his book details the role of the Vatican in this three-way struggle. What role? The Vatican, he says, was first in the arena, initiating the competition. And the Vatican is one of the three competitors. The other two, says Martin, writing in 1990, are the Soviet Union and certain allied Western interests, namely, global corporations and their political lackeys, presidents, senators, congressmen, etc.

Today, 20 years later, we'd probably say the Soviet Union has been replaced in the arena by China. And perhaps the Vatican has been eclipsed by Islam.

But the competition is still on, and it's the real reason for so much of what governments do, including our own, that otherwise seems to make so little sense.

No, this competition didn't start under President Obama, but in the late 1970s. And it has been joined by every President since, Republican or Democrat. With the possible exception of Bill Clinton, whose administration was too scandal-ridden to deal with much else. And - biggest scandal of all, though it received less attention - who actually sold himself to China.

No, our politicians aren't stupid. They're just out to rule the world. Or at least to prevent their rivals from doing it, which amounts to the same thing.

This is going to be a fascinating book. I can hardly wait to read the rest.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Animal Nursery, December Report

The four kittens have been here nearly two and a half weeks now. It took most of that time to get them healthy. They turned out to have clostridium, a nasty bacterium, one strain of which is botulism and another, tetanus. My theory is that the canned food the agency gave me was bad. It certainly stank horribly. But I'd never used that brand before, or ever heard of it, so I assumed it was supposed to...

Anyway, they are on Day 7 of a 10-day course of amoxycillin. Kitties are bouncy once again, chasing each other around, having mock fights. They're on a different brand of canned food, and only as a supplement to the dry.

The best socialized of the bunch is Miss Fortune, the all-black one. Next comes Mittens. She was originally named something else, but "Mittens" is what stuck, because of her four white paws and white chin and tummy. Mittens will nibble your ear. Or chin, or will suck upon anything she can. Then comes Aurora, the biggest, twice the weight of Miss Fortune, with the longest hair, very silky. The least socialized is Tinkerbelle, the one I thought would turn out to be the runt, but she isn't; Miss Fortune is. Tinkerbelle does not like to be picked up! She will, however, come to you and climb all over you and snuggle after a while.

They're nearly 7 weeks old now; two more weeks and they'll graduate from my nursery and be put up for adoption.

Also, St. Nicholas left me a gift today. It's three baby squirrels! Squirrels are not, not, not supposed to have babies this time of year, but they do anyway, occasionally. These are 5 weeks old, eyes opened a week ago, according to Chris, who had them 2 and a half weeks but needed to pass them on. They are just starting to nibble on solids and meanwhile are still bottle-fed, three times a day. Yay!! They will have to be wintered over; that's the bad part. It isn't much fun traipsing outside in the winter weather to keep them fed and supplied with non-frozen water. Well, that's a few weeks away, yet. No point worrying about it now. For now, I'm just going to enjoy having some warm furballs to bottle feed. Thank you, St. Nicholas!

Riddle: What's nicer than three kittens snuggling with you, all purring?

Answer: Four.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Beware Your Small Children

You already know to be careful what you say around them. But what you do can also come back to bite you. As in the time I innocently asked a little girl next door how her mother was, and the five-year-old replied, "Well, right now she's in her room with the door locked, which probably means she has stress. Or else migraine."

My daughter's friend was mortified last week when her kindergartner came home with the picture she had drawn to share with the class. It showed Mommy and Daddy in the shower.

Hint for teachers and neighbors: Just do not say a single word. Anything whatsoever you say is apt to be quoted back to the parents, or worse yet, misquoted to them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Anthropic Coincidence, Part 2 of 2

Here are several more conditions necessary for the emergence of complex, intelligent life, taken from this web site. I do not necessarily understand all of them, but here they are, in case you do. Or you can just skim or even skip this list and go to the comments at the end of this post.

The Big-bang

• The explosive-force of the big-bang had to be fine-tuned to match the strength of gravity to one part in 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000.

• This is one part in 10^60. The number 10^60 = 1 followed by 60 zeros.

• This precision is the same as the odds of a random shot (bullet from a gun) hitting a one-inch target from a distance of 20 billion light-years.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00001

Density-of-matter in the Big-bang

• In the big-bang, the density-of-matter in the universe after Planck time (fraction of a second after the big-bang) had to be matched to the critical-density to better than one part in 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000.

• This is one part in 10^50, which is 1 followed by 50 zeros.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00001

The inflationary Big-bang

• In the inflationary big-bang, the cosmological constant and a particular force need to be fine-tuned for galaxies and planets to form.

• The net result is a situation with an epistemic-probability of one part in 10^81, which is 1 followed by 81 zeros.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 1

Lambda in the inflationary Big-bang

• In the inflationary big-bang, bare-lambda and quantum-lambda (two components of the cosmological constant) had to be fine-tuned to cancel each other to better than one part in 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000, for galaxies and planets to form.

• This is one part in 10^50, which is 1 followed by 50 zeros.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00001

The Strong Force

• The strong-force (which binds particles in atomic nuclei) had to be balanced with the weak-nuclear-force to about one part in 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000.

• This is one part in 10^60, which is 1 followed by 60 zeros.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00001


• The force of gravity had to be tuned to one part in 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000, for stars capable of supporting-life to exist (based on balancing electromagnetic forces with gravitational forces).

• This is one part in 10^40, which is 1 followed by 40 zeros.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00001

Electrons & Protons

• The number of electrons had to be matched to the number of protons to one part in 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00, for formation of stars and planets.

• This is one part in 10^37, which is 1 followed by 37 zeros.

• Epistemic probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 01

Carbon Resonance

• A nuclear resonance had to be created for formation of carbon (via alpha particle collision with Beryllium-8) and then tuned to close to a specific energy, to enable a brief window of opportunity for formation of carbon.

• Without this, there would be negligible carbon in the universe.

• Carbon is the only element designed to be capable of forming the long molecular-chains necessary for the complexity required by life (silicon for instance forms much shorter and less versatile chains that are not specified-complex enough).

Oxygen Resonance

• A nuclear resonance for formation of oxygen had to be tuned to prevent complete cannibalization of carbon (via alpha-particle collision with carbon, resulting in oxygen).

• If the oxygen-resonance were half a percent higher, there would be negligible carbon in the universe and on earth. Carbon is the only element designed to be capable of forming the long molecular-chains necessary for the complexity required by life.

Particle masses

• Proton, neutron and electron masses had to be fine-tuned to enable life.

• For instance, free neutrons decay to form protons. If the proton mass were slightly higher, the opposite would happen, resulting in a universe full of neutronium.

• There would be no elements (no hydrogen, oxygen, carbon) and no way to create the molecular-complexity required for life.

Weak Nuclear Force

• The weak-nuclear force had to be fine-tuned to enable life.

• Slightly stronger, and no helium or heavier elements would form. And there would be no means to create the molecular-complexity required for life.

• Slightly weaker, and no hydrogen would remain (to provide fuel for steady-burning stars needed as sources of energy for life).

• Also, supernova explosions would not be able to disperse the medium-to-heavy elements created in stars.

• Elements such as carbon (for molecular chains basic to life), iron (for hemoglobin), copper and other elements used in life-forms were originally created in stars, then dispersed by supernova explosions, to finally reach/coalesce into earth…


• The number of dimensions in our universe had to be fine-tuned to enable life.

• The topological, and physical laws of the universe need more than two spatial-dimensions, and less than five extended-dimensions for stability and the complexity required for life…

• This requirement is met in our universe, with 3 extended spatial-dimensions and 1 temporal dimension.

Carbon chemistry

• Lee Smolin (a world-class physicist and a leader in quantum gravity) estimates that if the physical constants of the universe were chosen randomly, the epistemic-probability of ending up with a world with carbon chemistry is less than one part in 10^220.

• This epistemic-probability is one part in: 10000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 0.

• Epistemic Probability: 0.0000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 1
Cosmological Flatness

• Lee Smolin (physicist) estimates the epistemic-probability for the "equivalent-temperature" of the universe being such as to enable cosmological flatness, to be one part in 10^32.
• Epistemic Probability: 0.00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 01

Quantum Gravity & Cosmological Flatness

• Looking at Quantum Gravity and what it would take to obtain Flat Euclidean 3D space upto cosmological scales (as observed in our universe) …
• Calculating the epistemic probability of this occurring by random chance, using spin-networks from Roger Penrose, applied to quantum gravity by Lee Smolin and co-scientists. The number of predicted spin-network nodes in our universe would be at least 10^180. And allowing a 10% deviation from cosmological flatness, we end up with an epistemic-probability of less than one part in 10^(10^180).

• This is one part in 10^(10^180), which is 10 followed by 10^180 zeros.

• Epistemic Probability: 0.0000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 00000 … … … … … 00001

• If I were to write this number out, as 0.0000 0000 …, with all of its zeros, we would need a computer hard-drive much larger than the size of our entire universe, just to hold all of the zeros that I would have to write out.

The big-bang (reprise)

• The big-bang had to result in a universe with relatively low-entropy (a high degree of thermodynamic-order), which could then proceed to increase in entropy with time, thus enabling formation of galaxies, stars, planets and ultimately enabling life to function once it was created.

• In 1989 Roger Penrose (a world-class mathematician) calculated the precision required to create our universe with the necessary thermodynamic-order and to send it on its way (to develop in a manner compatible with life). His calculated precision was one part in 10^(10^123).


Now these lists I’ve shared with you are by no means exhaustive. There are lots more factors. If you combine all the probabilities, you get a probability of it all happening that is incomprehensibly small.

Can we get from this type of data to God? Yes and no.

What we can’t get to from here is the Christian God, the Holy Trinity, the good God, the Only Lover of Mankind. We can’t arrive at that from here because Christian theology doesn't work that way. Christian theology begins and ends with Jesus Christ; it arises from the lived encounter His followers have with Jesus, from the beginning of His earthly ministry down to today. So we mustn’t make too much of an argument from Anthropic Coincidence.

Nevertheless, as St. Paul writes, "what may be known of God is manifest in them [the unrighteous], for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, namely His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) That much we can get to: we can understand that God (some sort of God) exists and has eternal power.

Atheists have some remarkable ways of trying to get around this, of denying that the universe is fine-tuned (designed intentionally) for life. One way they seek to avoid this conclusion is to theorize that not all life must necessarily be anything like what we know as life. Perhaps there is such a thing, for example, as silicon-based life, rather than carbon-based. Computer chips, after all, are silicon. Could they evolve to intelligent life forms? (I told you this was remarkable stuff!) Or could the Web morph into a living being?

Or perhaps life somewhere is made of something else altogether other than chemicals, other than molecules. (Such as what? Angels?)

Ultimately fatal to the design argument is the unwarranted assumption that only one type of life is possible--a chemistry-based life such as we have here on earth. This would not exist except for the narrow range of parameters in our universe … We have no basis for ruling out other forms of matter than molecules in the universe as building blocks of complex systems. From TalkReason.

But of course these argument fail to address the known data, shifting instead to daydreams. If you don’t like the data, invent some imaginary data. But we’re not speaking of anybody’s fantasy. The debate concerns life as we know it.

Another “out” atheists like, the most common one apparently, is to speculate that our universe is actually one of many. Perhaps in other universes, the laws of nature don't hold. And what's a "law of nature" anyway?

Prior to these recent developments, the physicist's conception of the laws of nature was pretty much that of most lay people: those laws were assumed to be rules for the behavior of matter and energy that are part of the very structure of the universe, laid out at the creation. However, in the past several decades we have gradually come to understand that what we call "laws of physics" are basically our own descriptions of certain symmetries observed in nature and the way in which these symmetries, in some cases, happen to be broken.

Yup, "laws of nature" don't always hold, as the Orthodox will readily agree. But other universes, operating on different principles?

Even if the same laws of physics hold true in every universe, say atheists, maybe there are so many universes that, however small the chances, the conditions for life were bound to be right, eventually, just by chance, in at least one of them. And our universe, unsurprisingly, is merely that one. This is really the only way to go (so far as I can see)if you want to insist this universe is random.

Of course there is not a shred, not an iota, of evidence for all these hypothetical other universes, or even for just one of them. Much less for universes with different "laws of nature." Suddenly, scientists become highly unscientific! Suddenly, they've left science behind altogether.

Once we do that, then frankly, it seems not only easier, but also more reasonable, more intelligent, even more nearly scientific, just to believe in God.