Monday, May 31, 2010

We're Off!

...God willing and the volcano don't blow (in our direction)

It's seven o'clock in the morning and so far, I'm the only one awake here. I'll wake up Demetrios and Lizzie in another hour, and we'll eat breakfast and change the beds and depart to meet Elizabeth's dad. He will drive us to the airport and keep our car until our return. Tonight, we'll be heading out over the Atlantic.

I'll try to write in my travel journal every day, but it will be a few days before my laptop has Internet access.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two of my Sweeties

Last night my Number One Sweetie came home from New Orleans. Overall, he enjoyed his trip and his conference. And though he didn't care for Bourbon Street or gumbo, he did enjoy having Bananas Foster in the restaurant where they were invented; said they were the best Bs.F. he ever ate.

This morning I went up to my mother's place to meet Daniel, who had brought me my niece Elizabeth for the weekend. She's going to turn 10 on June 2. Daniel is going to take his older daughter, Madison, to a volleyball tournament at Penn State. Lizzie didn't want to go; she becomes bored with so many volleyball games.

We had lunch with Mom and then departed.

On our way home, I told Elizabeth all about the Battle of Fredericksburg and then asked whether she might share my interest in stopping by the Fredericksburg Battlefield, and she said yes.   So we did.

I think I may have recounted that story before in this blog, but here's the gist of it. Fredericksburg is halfway between Washington and Richmond, the two warring capitals during the Civil War. It was a major transportation hub, sitting on the Rappahannock River and having a major railroad junction nearby. So here came the Army of the Potomac, in December, camping out on the east side of the River.  On the west side was the town. Past the town, a small, open field affording no cover. In the middle of the open field, a deep ditch. On the far (west) side of the field, a sunken road bordered by a stone wall facing the field. Above the sunken road, a ridgeline called Marye's Heights.  (You can enlarge this map by clicking on it if you have that much interest in the American Civil War.)

General Lee rushed his army to the defense, situating heavy artillery along the ridge line and infantry behind the stone wall. As one confederate put it, "Not even a chicken could have lived on that field" once the Rebels opened fire, The Rebs had 10 days in which to reinforce their position and dig in, because due to someone's horrendous mistake, that's how long it took for the Union pontoons to arrive, allowing the Northerners to construct from them a bridge over the river. This they did under heavy fire and with high casualties.

Then Gen. Burnside ordered the first attack. Predictably enough, the Union soldiers were mowed down. Burnside ordered a second attack, with the same result, and a third, and a fourth and a fifth. Men were dying at the rate of 1,000 per hour. My reference book I'm pretty sure said there were 14 such doomed assaults in all, but the film we watched said 18. Burnside's junior officers had to talk him out of ordering more the next day.

President Lincoln, when he heard of this insantiy, fired Gen. Burnside.

I thought the battlefield itself was disappointing.  The open field has largely disappeared from new construction; we never located the ditch; and Marye's Heights were not nearly as high as I had imagined.  Elizabeth showed more interest than I did.  She wanted to stop and read the plaques and to walk through the cemetery, and in general, to see the whole thing, whereas I would've been happy to walk half as far.

This is supposed to be a hill? Well, it is a bit higher, in places, than it looks.

Afterward, back in the car, I said, "Well, that hill wasn't even high enough to make me out of breath when I got to the top of it.  Well, maybe just a little bit.  Were you even out of breath at all?"

And dear, sweet, wonderful Lizzie replied:  "I was maybe a little out of breath, but not enough to get the tears out."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pentecost Homily of Pope Benedict

Kontakion of Pentecost, Tone 8
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the all-holy Spirit.

Here is Pope Benedict’s remarkable Pentecost homily for this year. Until I read this, I shared with many of my fellow Orthodox Christians the impression that this pope might be a pretty good theologian.

The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages.

The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states nor with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always confront itself with the path of the one and catholic Church, and harmonize with it.

This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenization. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we could call “technological.” The Bible, in fact, tells us (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.

“The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality.” Notice how this diverges from the ancient and Orthodox doctrine, in which the entire Church is fully present in each local church, and therefore no "universal Church" can preceed a local one in any sense. I’m not sure, but it even sounds as though Pope Benedict may be contradicting his own Catechism, as well. The latter is too vague, as usual, to be sure of this, but here is a relevant section of it:

832 "The Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called Churches in the New Testament. . . . In them the faithful are gathered together through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated. . . . In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or existing in the diaspora, Christ is present, through whose power and influence the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is constituted."312

833 The phrase "particular Church," which is first of all the diocese (or eparchy), refers to a community of the Christian faithful in communion of faith and sacraments with their bishop ordained in apostolic succession.313 These particular Churches "are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists."314

834 Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome "which presides in charity."315 "For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord."316 Indeed, "from the incarnate Word's descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior's promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her."317

835 "Let us be very careful not to conceive of the universal Church as the simple sum, or . . . the more or less anomalous federation of essentially different particular churches. In the mind of the Lord the Church is universal by vocation and mission, but when she put down her roots in a variety of cultural, social, and human terrains, she takes on different external expressions and appearances in each part of the world."318 The rich variety of ecclesiastical disciplines, liturgical rites, and theological and spiritual heritages proper to the local churches "unified in a common effort, shows all the more resplendently the catholicity of the undivided Church."319

“From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit.” Well, how about our own way of thinking about, say, abortion? Or homosexuality?  Diversity is good in many things, but not in Christian doctrine or ways of life.  St. Peter says (Galatians 1:8,) “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Now - most remarkably of all - notice how the Pope has completely reversed the biblical and o/Orthodox meaning of Babel in relation to Pentecost. In the Scriptures, the confusion of tongues was a punishment, a chastisement, for man’s arrogance; and Pentecost was the healing of that confusion and division, when the Apostles spoke in ONE tongue, which was nevertheless understood by each person in his own language. “The unity of the Spirit” is not “manifested in the plurality of understanding”, but in oneness of mind and heart and doctrine; see Romans 15;6, II Corinthians 1: 10 and 13:11, Philippians 1:27 and 2:2, I Peter 3:8, and multitudes of other biblical passages. To an oft-burned, more than twice suspicious person such as me, the pope is sounding very much as if he meant, “Believe in your own way, so long as you are subject to me.”

“[The Church] responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.”  This would sound pretty good, in parts, if it weren’t coming from a pope. That is, yes, the Church must never be defined by nor subject to any state or any particular culture. Phyletism is a curse, and one to which the Orthodox are prone. But one can only find it strange when the pope, himself head of a state, says the Church must be free from every state. Again, the homily sounds like a speech in support of One World Religion, where “each one can find a place,” meaning each person, retaining his own culture and his own understandings of things, can find some agreeable way of submitting to the pope. 

This pope, my dear Orthodox brothers and sisters, is not showing himself to be who we had hoped he was.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bits of News

Demetrios is off in New Orleans attending the annual APA Meeting (American Psychiatric Association). He is not impressed by the local cuisine. Last night finally resorted to a MacDonald's.

He has received some very positive feedback on the theory he has spent his life working on, and some encouragement to get it published. We've made more than one false start on his book, but for about 10 days now he's had the outline that seems to work, that so far stands up to scrutiny. I'm so scared something may happen to him before he can get this stuff written that I am going to "interview" him about his theory, starting on the plane ride Monday, and I'm going to write down all the basics of it.

I keep telling him if he publishes this, then, just as Freud is the Father of Psychiatry, Demetrios will be the Father of Modern Psychiatry, which I believe is absolutely true.

"And if I don't?" he asks.

"Then you'll still be the Father of Modern Psychiatry, but nobody will know it!"

I've been all caught up getting us and the house ready to leave for England next Monday. That's God willing and the cloud of volcanic ash stays out of our way. Literally, it all depends upon which way the wind is blowing.

It seems there are hundreds of errands.  Cancel trash pick-up.  Put cars into "storage status" with auto insurance company.  Have cable cut off; have telephone and internet service pared down to the "basic" level until further notice.  Take stuff for dry cleaning.  Arrange for neighborhood kid to mow lawn and water the new grass in the back yard and get the mail.  Arrange for medical insurance to allow us extra amounts of all our prescription medicines.  Get mammogram.  Clean out fridge and freezer. 

In the past few days, I've TWICE received a Blast from the Past. One was from my old friend Gloria. (Type her name in the search box I've added to the top of my sidebar to read about our adventures together.)   She reminded me of a very silly incident, among the many we had.  It was the time she came over to keep me company once when my husband was out of town.  We had to share a bed, and "because of that whole gay thing," as she put it, referring to one of our pranks, story here), we were each afraid of giving the other the wrong impression.  So each tried very hard to stay on her own side of the bed, with the result that we got no sleep at all and were miserable by morning.  Served us right, I suppose.

The other Blast from the Even More Distant Past was Cathy, a friend from my college days. I think I was only 20 last time I saw her, and she was 22. Here she is as a grandma; so hard to believe. We shared an apartment for one, highly eventful summer.

"Do you remember the time you had Gordie [guy I was dating] lie down on the side of the road and we poured ketchup all over him to look like blood?" Well, no, I don't remember, but it has to be true; it sounds too like me in those days not to be.

"Do you remember the time we went to hear Martin Luther King speak?" Oh, yes. There were big crowds there in Raleigh, so we thought we'd be safe, which meant anonymous, but no such luck. Obviously the event drew the press, and those cameras zoomed right in on the white faces and blonde hair, picking us out of that crowd, and there we were on the front page of the Raleigh News and Observer.  Cathy's father, publicly humiliated, threw her out of the house, which is how she came to live with me in the first place.

"Do you remember when we went to the Ku Klux Klan rally?" I certainly do. The Klan came to town and Father Kendall had organized a counter-march. The Klan marched down one street and we marched up the other side of it with "Love Thy Brother" signs. And after that, we thought it would be of some interest to see what the KKK did in public rallies. "We should be safe," said Cathy. "Lots of police here."

I said, "Look again. Not police. Klan toughies in security guard uniforms." We did not stay long.

"And do you remember the time we had an intruder in the middle of the night?" she asked.   "I heard glass breaking, and came running into your room, and you grabbed your hairspray.  And you whispered, "When he steps on the heating grate in the hallway, we'll hear it squeak and we'll know where he is and we'll aim at his face."

"And it turned out to be some sort of mistake, didn't it?"

"Yes, just our landlady's fiance, who didn't realize we were still there and needed to come get something.  But he did get a big faceful of hairspray."

I don't know what would have happened had it been a real burglar, but I do remember having an inflated opinion of hairspray as a weapon.

And so it went, sharing tons more memories from that wild summer, two crazy young girls out on their own for the first time... very silly!  Which is what makes it extra fun to remember.

Knitting Humor

I received this ad today and thought it was so funny others might enjoy it, too.  The ad is real.

Start your day with knitting wit and wisdom from Franklin Habit

The calendar for knitters!

Missed Worldwide Knit in Public Day last year? Intended to celebrate Elizabeth Zimmermann's birthday but forgot? [Anastasia's note: Zimmermann is a celebrated designer of knitting patterns, especially lace.)

Make sure you don't miss out on these important dates again, with Franklin Habit's Stash of Knitting Cartoons 2011 calendar! Keep track of all the noteworthy dates in the knitter's year, from festivals and retreats to the birthdays of knitting luminaries. And of course, plan out your holiday and gift knitting in advance, all on one calendar.

With wit as sharp as The New Yorker, Franklin affectionately tunes into the knitter's sense of humor, presenting thirteen hilarious, favorite cartoons from It Itches. Knitters will easily relate to the situations and characteristics of knitters that Franklin illustrates, be it from the compulsive yarn buyer to the mottephobic (fear of moths), to missing the holiday knitting deadline and the constant conundrum of just where to stash all that yarn.

Franklin Habit's Stash of Knitting Cartoons 2011 Calendar will not only help you keep your knitting organized for the year, it will also keep you laughing every month.

* * *

Oh, and while we're at it, I found another knitting cartoon I love.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Multiculturalism (With a Sigh...)

This year's Good Humor Man isn't from anywhere within a thousand miles of here. He has no idea what his little truck is going around playing over its loudspeaker:   Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, and O Tannenbaum, mixed right in with Yankee Doodle and Turkey in the Straw.

On "Enemies"

Many years ago, I met a wonderful woman from Beirut, Lebanon, named Houda, who has since (I am told) become an abbess. Back then, she told me over lunch, she was the catechist for her parish, what we would probably call the director of Christian education. So, as the civil war in the Lebanon was then raging, I asked her, somewhat sardonically, "So when people's homes are bombed and their daughters raped, do you teach them to love their enemies?" (I can't remember why I felt I should take such an attitude about it.)

"No," she said.


"No. I teach them that the Christian has no enemies."

I gasped in amazement as she went on: "It's all about love, isn't it? That's the whole thing, love. How can we regard anyone as an enemy?"

Well, yes... But -

"I tell the children to be brave and not to worry, because somewhere, someone is praying for us."

By this time my soup was being salted by my tears; this was one of those defining moments in my life, at a time when I had only recently resolved to become Orthodox. The words that came out of my mouth amazed us both: "I want to come to Beirut with you and share in your work there!"

She stared at me long and hard and finally said, "Your destiny awaits you back in Washington." Which was true, my destiny being Demetrios, to whom I was not yet married, nor even engaged.

I've been praying for Houda and her people ever since, and hoping to have the huge blessing of meeting this saint again before I die.

And yes, hers most definitely is the Christian attitude toward "enemies": To love all, and in equal measure. More precisely, to love without measure, for true love has no measure.

However, this remains: it is stupid and dangerous to fail to recognize when people are moving against you. And pointing it out is a good thing; never mind it may not be politically correct. You can't know how to proceed, other than keeping on loving, if you are blissfully unaware where danger lies. Jesus exhorted us not simply to be "harmless as doves", but also "wise as serpents".   And all this applies even if the one setting himself against you is the pope, as in approving the bombing of Kosovo, or certain Muslims, as in killing Christian priests.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Out of the Ballpark

Margaret has hit another home run, bases loaded, with her latest post on modesty (and Islam) here.  It's on the subject of what modesty really means, and whether it involves looking like a Muslim woman.

A couple of tidbits to whet your appetite:

Christian women are endlessly told to be modest so that we don’t incite our brothers to lust but no-one ever tells a Christian woman not to dress like a walking laundry basket because she’ll incite her sister to derision.

Muslims are Christ-deniers and that’s all that matters about Islam and sadly also about Judaism which I love; the part of Jewry that didn’t accept Him developed in to Judaism which can be yet strangely beautiful and evocative because despite every effort Christ will not be expunged; no-one can read the Jewish service books and not see Christ, no Christian that is. Islam is different. The Jews say Christ was a charlatan, a rebel, a madman, yes, but it’s not in the Torah; the Muslims say he was an ordinary human being, not God, no more than a prophet, that he did not die for our sins, that he did not die at all, that he made another man die a gruesome death in his stead and married Mary Magdalene. I have more time for a Jew who says that Christ was a rebel who went too far and that His followers were heretics than I have for a Muslim who says He was a liar, a coward and a murderer.

There is not a country in the world where Islam has the upper hand that Christians are not persecuted. [Anastasia's note:  and never has been.]  Look at Egypt and the ‘marriage by rape’ of Christian girls to Muslim men (according to various Coptic websites it is relatively common for teenage Christian girls to be kidnapped and then raped, perhaps even gang raped, and for it to be filmed whereupon the girl has a choice between the film being sent to her family/church or marrying one of the rapists), crucifixion of priests on church doors, martyrdom of children ... and then say Islam respects Christ. I saw on a blog a while back the suggestion that the ‘hijab look’ might be particularly appropriate for middle-eastern Christian women but oddly enough hijaberie isn’t too common amongst those whose sisters and daughters are the target of rapists because no-one in their right mind wants to look like the women who raise these men.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Delicate Legal Matter

The following remarkable correspondence has come into my possession from a never-to-be named source; and as it appears to be nearly two decades old, I think no harm will come from my sharing it with you.  Here it is, with minor editing to protect the parties concerned, assuming they may still be alive.

Henry R. Roote
1000 Kabrich Street
Blacksburg, VA 24060
December 12, 1992

Mr.  Phineas Flopadopoulos, Esq., P.A.
Law Firm of Flopadopoulos & Flopadopoulos
P.O. Box 7336
Richmond, VA 23204

Dear Mr. Flopadopoulos:

Here's five dollars toward the cost of having you represent my former - and hopefully, future- friend, Mr. Jason Quincy Limpett, who wants to sue me.

The dispute concerns an unsolicited so-called poem he submitted to me, which I refused to publish in the monthly community newspaper of which I am editor and publisher.

To give you an idea, he rhymed "Clinton" with "badminton," "Perot" with "afterglow," and "Bush" with "tush." 

Also included in his envelope, together with the poem, was an invoice for $100.00, if you can imagine.

I told him it was trash.  Of course I didn't actually say "trash."  I simply wrote, "It is no good."  Then I added, "In cold type, it would make the angels weep and the immortal gods go out into the woods and kick themselves."

Obviously, he could not take the hint.  He threatened to sue me for the $100.  When I heard that, I was so mad I published a few choice words about him in the next issue, which I admit was an inadvisable thing to do, and now he wants damages as well as a hundred dollars.

A mutual friend, hearing of all this, told me that the best thing for me would be to get you, Mr. Phineas Flopadopoulos, and none other, to represent Mr. Jason Quincy Limpett.  He therefore kindly recommended you to Quince, without mentioning me.

One thing I should confide to you from the outset, Mr. Flopadopoulos, is that I am a blunt man.  So to come to the point without further ado, what I want you to do in representing that skunk, Jason Quincy Limpett, is absolutely nothing.  Listen to him with apparent concern, take notes if you like, and then stall, stall, stall!  You have been recommended to me as an expert and if you succeed in stringing him along for a sufficient period of time, I feel confident that Mr. Limpett eventually will give up, admit he was wrong, beg my forgiveness, and we shall once more be fast friends.  And if people call you "the do-nothing lawyer," so what?  You will have gotten paid, and by helping heal this rift, will have done a good deed, too.

Speaking of pay, I understand of course that a mere five dollars is but a tiny fraction of the actual cost of retaining you.  Mr. Limpett will bring the rest when he stops by your office next Tuesday or Wednesday.  Meanwhile, I heard somewhere than even one dollar is enough to "seal the deal" legally, and that is why I enclose the fiver.  Quince, by the way, is swimming in money, so don't hesitate to sock it to him.  After all, you'll have to listen to his snivelling for heaven knows how long, and will have to read his doggerel besides.

You can also bill me a reasonable amount over and above what you charge him, since you are representing the bests interests of both of us.  Plus, I figure this deal will save me hiring a separate lawyer.  Of course, since what I'm hiring you to do is nothing, I don't expect that will cost me very much!

Thank you, Mr. Flopadopoulos, for helping two old friends end this sorry dispute.  I already feel easier in my soul.  Should you fail to grasp any of these instructions, do not hesitate to write me at the above address.

Yours very truly,

Henry R. Roote

P.S.  Do not mention to Mr. Limpett anything about this arrangement between you and me.

Mr. Jason Quincy Limpett III, Director
Institute for the Advancement of Virginia Poetry
Shenandoah, Virginia 25031
03 January, 1993

Mr. Phineas Flopadopoulos, Esq., P.A.
Law Firm of Flopadopoulos & Flopadopoulos
P.O. Box 7336
Richmond, VA 23204

Dear Mr. Flopadopoulos:

Say it ain't so!  Did you really accept a bribe from Henry Roote to submarine my case?  That's what he told everybody at the New Year's party.  He even admitted it to me when I cornered him.  Which means he is in even worse trouble now.

And just as I had instructed my secretary to make an appointment with you. 

Well, the clock is ticking and I've got to start kicking ass before the Statue of L. runs out for slander.  So here's what I need to know from you:  is the guy lying, as usual, or not?  He says he can prove you did accept his bribe.  Please let me hear from you pronto.

Sincerely yours,

J. Quincy Limpett, III

Saturday, May 15, 2010

St. Mark's

Last Sunday I was up in Northern Virginia to see my mother, and had the too-infrequent privilege of worshipping at St. Mark's Church, Deb's church, across the river in Maryland. And it seemed so wondrous I thought I should write a whole, long post about it. But when I sat down to put it on paper, it really came down to just a couple of things: peace and joy.

Worship at St. Mark's, unlike worship in some places, is not just an exercise in piety. Nor is it (still worse) something to be got through. I wouldn't want to reduce it to anything as banal as a "celebration," but it was indeed a joyous offering to God from His children. And even though the Divine Liturgy structures this offering in detail, it is somehow the perfect vessel for worship that is joyous, heartfelt,and -yes! - spontaneous. And just natural.

Oh, yes, and it was especially wonderful to see Deb again, and to get at least part-way caught up with one another afterward.


With some trepidation, we have booked a flight to Manchester, England, leaving here at the end of May. Manchester is about 30 miles from Ormskirk, where our flat is.

Anybody know how to get a volcano to cooperate, other than throwing virgins into the crater? Elizabeth, at The Garden Window, has been keeping us up to date on the ash cloud. Many, many thanks to you, Elizabeth!

We'll go from there to Greece along about the middle of August, my idea being to get there in time for the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos on August 15. However, we didn't buy the tickets; Demetrios wants to, um, wing it. Decide later on exact plans.

Return flight to the USA is mid-November.

Our good neighbors will be looking after our house and collecting our mail.  By the way, Dickie, the one with hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver, is doing better.  Thanks again for your prayers and for the offers of help.  He still going to have to pay $689 for next month's pills, but after that, Medicare will be covering everything.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

From Margaret: Deaconesses or Female Diaconate?

Margaret has a wonderful post today about women deacons v. deaconesses.  (Yes to deaconesses, no to "women deacons.")  As always, her writing is witty and wise, entertaining and educational. 

Here's my favorite passage, to whet your appetite, but do go and read the whole.

...forget lay leadership, we don’t need more leaders, all that does is encourage the people to think that it is someone else’s job. It isn’t. This idea is obviously not shared by Orthodox feminists who worry about women who ‘feel’ they have a ‘calling’, who are ignored by horrid priests, who need other women to tell them how to exercise said calling and have mentoring programmes, etc. I can’t help but think that anyone who needs to be told how to comfort the lonely, feed the hungry and visit the shut-ins is not fit to do it. If someone feels she wants to ‘do something’ she doesn’t need paired up with another woman in another state or country, she needs to walk up to her parish priest and say, “I have time on my hands, what can I do?” Of course the feminists want us to believe that priests being male (and men are the enemy, remember) will scourge her out of the church after which she will crawl home to have a big glass of Chardonnay and call her mentor in California to sob about how her calling has been denied. And that is the second prong of feminism, after stabbing everyone with the idea that men are the enemy, it proceeds to how women are victims and that victims ought to stick together and share their Kleenex. And we’d better stock up on Kleenex because gays, the transgendered, people who think altar rails were for the gentry to tether horses to (the ecclesiastical equivalent of flat-earthers) and nuts channelling Kim Michaels are all victims too.

Love you, Margaret!

Kid Quips

Here are some of the latest cute things my grandchildren have come up with, from the facebook pages of their mothers.

From Katherine:

The boys came home with a "Guess Whose Mom I am " book, filled with answers written by all of the kids in their class. They had to say their mom's age favorite food, etc.. According to Ryan I am 15! Go Ryan! According to Connor, I am 81! On the upside he said that he wouldn't trade me for anything, not even mac-n-cheese!

From Erin:

My 4-year old [Sydney] told me she wanted to be homeless. When asked why, she told me she wanted me to teach her at home. "Oh", I said, "You mean home-schooled!" Yep, that was it!

* * *

We ordered Chinese takeout the other night and of course we got fortune cookies with our order. I explained to Sydney that the little piece of paper inside the cookie is supposed to tell you what is going to happen to you and that it was just for fun. She asked me if she ate the cookie, would it come true? I told her I didn't know, we'd have to see... She opened her cookie and her fortune said something like "You will lead a happy life." Sydney took a bite of the cookie, paused for a moment, and exclaimed, "It worked! It worked!!"

* * *

Sydney was visiting our neighbors Donna and Charlie and another little neighbor girl was there too. The two girls started pretending to sell cookies and asked Donna if she wanted to buy some. Donna said she didn't have any money. Sydney told her, "That's OK. Here you go. It's a credit card application!"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Evolutionary Grumblings

"This is not only the most unscientific stuff I've ever read, it's actually anti-scientific, in claiming that basically everything in nature happens by chance."

"Well, it's against science as you and I have always known it...What I mean is, there are trends in science, and the trend back when was to pre-suppose order in nature. Now the presupposition is that order is only an illusion, super-imposed upon the reality, which is chaos."

"No, that's anti-scientific! That brings science to a halt. If it's all chaos underlying everything, then there's nothing to investigate or learn about. It's also irrational. What could be more irrational than to try to discover and look into the "laws of nature" while denying that there really are any?"

Come to Think of It...

"Saving Faith" is not quite an accurate phrase, is it? I mean, if, for some odd reason, we should wish to be very technically correct, we all know faith doesn't save us. Grace does. Through faith. Just not necessarily through everything that sometimes passes as faith.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Saving Faith"

No denomination I know of says we are saved by intellectual assent to some clear (or even unclear) statement(s). All the ones I know of think more in terms of trust. It’s usually still trust in some proposition, however, such as: “I repent from the idea that I can save myself. From now on I rely solely upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus to save me.” (I made that up as a kind of generic example.)  This kind of "conversion", by itself, is still a matter of switching concepts. The only practical ramification it has is to relieve us from the burden (and/or arrogance) and the uselessness of trying to earn heaven.

On the car radio today, I heard a preacher speak of trusting Christ “for your eternal salvation.” Even that is still just a concept to be embraced.  I trust  Christ.  That is my concept.

"Saving faith" means trusting God not only regarding my final destination, but with my here and now, my every hour and every day, entrusting to Him my soul and my body, my time, treasure, and talent, sacrificing to Him all my own conveniences, preferences, attitudes and ambitions, for Him to do with me whatsoever He will, however and whenever He will. Faith is to put myself and everything under my control at His disposal. Faith is the trust that He is a good God Who knows best what is good for me, both for me to do and for me to experience, right now and tomorrow and always - even if I don't want to - and that He will never give me more than I can bear, and that when my own strength runs out He will lend me His, and that He loves me (the Cross, the Cross!) even if all appearances are to the contrary. And that He will bring me safely to the other side of death. Faith, in short, is a lifestyle. You can live and move and breathe outside of communion with God, in which case everything you do, even just breathing, is spoilt, broken, and misshapen, or you can live and move and breathe in communion with God (i.e., by faith), and then every breath can be an act of holiness.

There’s nothing mysterious about what makes faith saving. It’s not some inscrutable decree of God’s. Nor is salvation something that follows as a result of faith, or as a reward for it. No, the very phrase, “saving faith” is actually a tautology. It’s redundant. To be faithful is to live in and with Christ His own Life ( = to be holy) and that's also what salvation is. To be faithful is to be saved, and to be saved is to be faithful.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Katherine is Better

Thanks to all of you for your prayers for my dear daughter-in-law. She writes that after 48 hours of sleeping, her spine has been "returned from that of an 80-year-old to that of a 60-year-old." She's still in her thirties, so that's not great, but it is her pre-accident condition. She has returned to what for her is a "normal" level of constant pain, and will continue to need prayers.

P.S. Yesterday, she was spotted shopping at a mall!

On Saving Faith

Fr. Stephen has an outstanding post, here, on saving faith (as distinguished from its counterfeits).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vada's Funeral

So Demetrios rose to give a eulogy, and just the sight of him brought us all to tears, because you could see his tears, and hear the strain in his voice as he spoke of Vada. "Vada had three sons," said. "But in a way, I was her fourth son." And her (other) three sons and their wives all nodded.

Yes, that about summed it up. He told how he had met Vada and Sloan forty years ago, "When I was alone, without family, without country, without future and without hope," and they took him under wing.

Later, Vada's daughters-in-law told us such things as, "Through Vada, I knew Demetrios long before I actually met him" and, "I used to wonder, 'Who IS this man my husband keeps telling me of?' but I didn't have to wonder for long."

Other people told us Vada had been like a mother to them, too, when they needed it most.

The service was surprisingly religious, given that Vada, although she went to church sometimes, was highly critical of organized religion. There was a minister who read from the Bible, and there were songs for the congregation to sing: Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, and - of all things! - my very least favorite, In the Garden. Somebody among her sons or daughters-in-law must be secretly religious. The only one I know of who is, is Claudia, and she's Catholic. Or maybe these were just songs Vada still liked.

Today, for the first time, I understood what people mean when they describe themselves as "not religious, but spiritual." I used to think, oh, give me a break! What does that mean? That's a perfectly meaningless statement. But no, it isn't. What I wrote here last night clicked into place, and I remembered, it is NOT with the cognitive mind one apprehends God. It is with the soul, a.k.a. the nous. Therefore, it is perfectly possible, in fact, normal, to be aware of God in your soul, even if you are unable to accomodate your concept of Him in your cognition. Every concept is an idol anyway.

That was Vada. If she never found God, it wasn't for lack of trying. She had read the Bible, most recently from cover to cover in French, as a refresher in that language; and she had studied Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion assiduously, both as a child and as an adult. (There was nothing else she was allowed to do on Sundays, in her father's household, in between church services.) No, it wasn't from lack of trying. It was because she rejected every religion she knew as narrow, restrictive, oppressive, and illogical.   And dangerous.

She didn't know Holy Orthodoxy and wasn't terribly open to learning about it, assuming it was basically the same as the others.

She did not accept her own concept of God, yet she sought God and prayed to Him.

Her next door neighbors sat next to us at the reception luncheon afterwards; Mr. Banks is the one who found Vada. She had slidden all the way down between the door and the steering wheel, and he firmly believes she was already dead when he found her, and stiff, too, given the enormous difficulty the emergency team had removing her from her car and the way she lay on the guerney.

She had run over one sapling, which had bent down under her car, no doubt slowing it considerably, and had run into another, somewhat larger tree, not very hard. Not hard enough to cause the airbags to deploy, much less hard enough to kill her. Demetrios said the medical examiner probably wrote, "broken neck" just to close out the case and avoid having to do a full autopsy, since there was never really any question of foul play. We all choose to believe she had a heart attack or stroke before the crash and died very quickly. She remained conscious, according to our theory, long enough to undo her seatbelt, but not long enough to remove the keys from the ignition and unlock the locks, which eventually had to be broken to reach her.

I hope she was right when she told me that although she still couldn't find God, she was sure He had at last found her.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More on the Story of the Woman at the Well

There's more I wanted to say about the story of the Samaritan Woman, before events intervened. Now that I have a few moments, I'll at least list them, although there isn't time to discuss them all.

So many striking things about this story: that Jesus should allow Himself to be alone with a woman, and should speak to her!  (Rabbis of His days did NOT do that.)  That He should speak to a Samaritan, a heretic! That He knew all about her! That he stayed in Samaria, of all places, two days, preaching and teaching them! That these heretics, in contrast to so many Jews, believed! It's all amazing, through and through.

There are liberal scholars who tell us Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. It isn't true; He does make the claim, sometimes implicitly. And here, in this incident, He is at least explicitly claiming to be Messiah. (These same scholars will tell you this hardly counts, as John's Gospel is only a "mytho-poetic" account of the life of Jesus. They don't understand what spiritual is, so all they can come up with is "mytho-poetic.")

But what I wanted to point out especially, in view of recent posts and comments about the nous, is what the townsfolk told the woman: Now we believe not because of what you told us, but because we ourselves have heard Jesus. The Apostles also said this.  What we have seen, heard, handled, is what we proclaim to you.  Orthodox Christians also say this. At first, we believed for assorted reasons, but now, we do not believe upon anybody else's word or authority. We do not believe "for the Bible tells me so." Nor because a pope tells us so, or a patriarch or bishop. No, now we believe because we ourselves, in mystical, spiritual, and very real fashion, have been made first-hand witnesses of Grace and Truth. The revelation is not merely stories or doctrines or confessions or Bible verses passed down to us (although passed down to us they are), but revelation granted, knowledge bestowed, directly by the Holy Spirit in us, in rather the same manner as He gives us to know that we exist and that God exists. That is why we can never be Sola Scripturists; our faith comes not from the Scripture, but from the Source of the Scripture.

Latest News

I've arrived home. We are going out to supper with Vada's family this evening. Demetrios has known her three sons since they were small boys.

Meanwhile, my daughter-in-law, Katherine, is still sleeping virtually all the time, being awakened only long enough to eat and drink. For now, it's a blessing her medications make her so groggy. Erin (my daughter) is taking supper to their family.

I did get to see Katherine and Mark's children yesterday. Their other grandmother, Gail, picked them up from school and brought them to her apartment, where I joined them, and we all got to play for a couple of hours before they had to go home.

Kelly, 8, is going to be in her second-grade play tomorrow night and has a speaking part. I am very sorry to be missing it. Oh, well.

Sydney, 4, watched me knitting my latest blanket and said, "That's VERY BEAUTIFUL, Grandma! Who is it for?"

"Well, I don't know yet."

"Could it be for me?"

"You want it?"

"Yes, I DO!"

"Okay, sweetheart, it will be yours when I finish knitting it."

"I want to help you knit it!"

So into my lap she climbed, and with my hands guiding hers, she knitted about a dozen stitches. This morning she was all eager to knit some more, but there was no time; I had to get on the road. I promised to send her some knitting needles and yarn of her very own. I will buy her some fatter needles than she was using yesterday, and of wood or acrylic, because the metal ones are so slippery, and I'll rummage around my stash for some heavyweight yarn for her.

Another knitter! Prospectively, anyway. I'm so thrilled!

P.S.) Erin asked me, "Do you think that, except for you, I mean, Vada was the person closest to Demetrios?" and I thought about that a moment and realized, yes, she was - among Americans, anyway.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Events have made my course clear.

First, Katherine does not need surgery. She is, in her mother's words, "in the arms of Morpheus," groggy day and night from her pain medication.

Her mother, Gail ("Gigi," to our common grandchildren), who lives 5 minutes from Katherine and Mark, has canceled her trip to Florida, and will stay here to care for Katherine and the little ones. Mark's regular day off is tomorrow, so he will be home all day to give Gail a break, and my daughter, Erin, has offered to help with the children, as well.  (She lives 15 minutes away.)

So I'm going home tomorrow morning. Vada's funeral is Thursday; I don't yet know what time.

It turns out that the early information about her death was incorrect. She did not fall. She lost control of her car while pulling into her driveway and smashed into a neighbor's tree. We do not know whether the crash killed her or whether she died first (from, for example, a heart attack or stroke) and then crashed. Perhaps she put her foot on the accelerator when she meant to put in on the brake; nobody knows. It does appear that her neck was broken, although there was no autopsy to confirm that.

She was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

We will miss her very much.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Living and the Dead - and the Living

The living: Saturday night at a party, my daughter-in-law suffered a bad accident. Leaving the details and cutting to the chase, Katherine was sitting under a granite shelf when it fell. It came tumbling down, end over end, and the first end struck her hard in the head. She ducked, and the second end struck her hard in the neck.

Now Katherine was already in constant pain, day and night, from her neck. She has degenerative disk disease. She's still in her thirties, and this is an old persons' disease, in which the disks of the spine degenerate. So her already-damaged neck was the last place in the world she needed to be injured.

X-rays have revealed no fractures; that is the main thing. Her muscles, though, are all knotted up and traumatized, and she is in a great deal of pain.

I came down to North Carolina today to help her with the three children.

The dead: Tonight Demetrios called me to report that our dear friend Vada is dead, just a few weeks short of her 93rd birthday. Apparently she took a fall in her back yard yesterday afternoon, and died yesterday evening. It's ironic, because falling was something she always feared, and about which she was always extra careful. Her motto was, "Safety first."

She was definitely not a Christian, but in her own fashion, she did believe in God. She told me not long ago she had always tried to find God, and never had, but now she felt certain He had somehow found her. I think she knew Him in her spirit, although she could never reconcile Him with her cognitive thinking.

She has been a close friend of Demetrios' since the early 1970's. When Demetrios first came to America, it was Vada met him at the airport, drove him to his new home, lent him $200 until his first payday. When we became engaged, Vada and her husband were the very first people we told.

I need to be at my husband's side at her funeral. (I couldn't make her husband's funeral, due to family obligations.) AND I need to be by my daughter-in-law's side...

Advice gladly accepted. Prayers requested, for wisdom in this double emergency.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Woman at the Well

When I lived in Texarkana, in my mid-twenties, and hung out with the very small, huddled-together, liberal crowd there, I knew a woman with a name very similar to my own, who often entertained us. She belonged to some church that had been formed from a mixture of Presbyterians, I think, and some Missouri Synod Lutherans. They met in some bare room with folding chairs and their minister used to wear a stole with, well, you know, modern art on it. We attended a couple of times. At parties, that minister used to play, "Jesus Met the Woman at the Well" on his guitar (sung above by Peter, Paul, and Mary) and he and the hostess would sing it. We all used to sing some of the old-timey Evangelical hymns, too, mainly, I suppose, from nostalgia but partly, God forgive us, as a sort of mockery.

Well, one bright morning, the town of Texarkana awoke to find that minister gone, leaving behind his wife and small children. And our frequent hostess had gone with him, leaving her husband behind.

So I always associated her with the Woman at the Well.

It wasn't until much later in life I learned to see myself in her.

And every year, it seems, something else strikes me about this story, which was our Gospel lesson today. Last year it was how the woman left her water jug and went back into the city. She left her water jug. In her excitement, in her joy, she had forgotten all about why she had come to the well in the first place.

This year, what struck me is what happened after Jesus told her, "You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband." That's stripping her naked, spiritually, exposing the full truth about her in a few words. What would you do, in her place? Melt? Fall at His knees in repentance?

What she did was begin a theological conversation! Where ought we to worship? A theological conversation! Changing the subject. Yup. I know all about that...

Of course, she repented, too, joyously, and ran back to tell the whole town. And she went on to become St. Photini, Equal to the Apostles. A woman, Equal to the Apostles! (Not that she's the only female bearer of that title.) A Samaritan woman, yet. Amazing. And her sons were bishops and saints.

There's hope for all of us.

TROPARION Hymn in tone 3
All illuminated by the Holy Spirit, you drank with great and ardent longing of the waters Christ the Savior gave to you; and with the streams of salvation you were refreshed, which you abundantly gave to those athirst. O Great Martyr and true peer of the Apostles, Photini, entreat Christ God to grant mercy to us.