Monday, February 25, 2013

Salvation in Christ?

I'm reading a book entitled No Other Name? by Dr. Paul Knitter, a Catholic theologian who many years ago became a professor and friend of mine.  His field is comparative religion.  I'm only about halfway through the book, but the main, recurrent question is whether there is any value in other relgions besides Christianity?  Is there any specifically salvific value?  Can non-Christians be saved?

Now this is no problem within Orthodox Christianity, where every set of prayers includes the prayer beginning, "O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth Who are everywhere and fill all things..."  the Spirit of Truth makes His earthly home in the Church, but is never confined to her; He is everywhere.  The Orthodox Church has no monopoly on Truth.  She has the fulless of Truth (Christ), but it's impossible for anyone, created in the Image of God, to be completely wrong about everything all the time.  Just because adherents of other religions are handicapped by errors doesn't mean there is no value in those religions; of course there can be!  (I do not say there necessarily always is.)  In Judaism for example, Christ is all over every page of their Scripture. 

As for the fate of the non-Orthodox, we leave that confidently in the hands of the all-righteous One, Whom we call all-righteous precisely because He is all-loving.  We do not feel the need to define who will be in and who will be out, and suspect the attempt may sometimes be presumptuous.  We understand that He Who promises to prune dead branches from His Church on the Last Day also has the power, the right, and the know-how to graft in new branches on the Last Day.

So does salvation necessarily have to be in Christ, as Dr. Knitter wonders?  Of course it does!  Because Christ Himself is salvation, is the very definition of it:  Christ is heaven, and heaven is Christ.  Forget the pearly gates and golden streets, the mansions and crowns, which apart from Him would be useless, empty, joyless!  He is what makes heaven to be heaven.  Communion with Him, and with each other in Him, is heaven.    Living His life together, sharing with Him in the very inner life of the Holy Trinity, is heaven, is joy, is love, is blessedness, is our ultimate fulfillment, meaning, and bliss.    Starting now.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Forgiving Made Much Easier

Our priest this morning, preaching about the Publican and the Pharisee, emphasized the phrase, "wounded by love".  To be wounded by God's love means, among other things, for Love to show you yourself as you really are, while still loving you as much as if you were perfect.

To see ourselves as we really are - and to realize we are not seeing the full, grotesque reality, either, because God is only showing us as much as we are able to bear! - is devastating and healing all at once.  We're wounded, but we wouldn't have it any other way; we weep and we pray we will never stop this weeping. 

And so appalled are we by our own sick and disfigured condition, and so overwhelmed by the flood of Love in the midst of it, that we quickly dismiss anyone else's transgressions.  They are truly of very little concern to us. 

This blessed wound of self-knowledge granted by the all-merciful God is what we're missing (or forgetting) when we find forgiving others to be difficult.

P.S.)  Yes, even if we do everything right, like the Pharisee, and even, like him, we give thanks to God for it instead of crediting ourselves, still when we glimpse our true inner condition, we see we are poor, wounded, ugly, and wretched.  Yet, simultaneously, paradoxically, we find ourselves on heaven's very doorstep, in company with angels and saints.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Double Birthdays

Mom and Wendy and I had a wonderful time visiting Mom's brother Bob in Naples, Florida and celebrating his birthday and Wendy's on Monday.  Mostly we enjoyed each other and the warm weather, but Uncle Bob also had things planned for us to do, which were great fun.  Monday, Uncle Gene came over, their younger brother, although even he is eighty-something.  I had not seen him in about 20 years, I think.  Wendy hadn't seen him since her teen years.  But he was always a favorite of ours.

Two Octogenarians, Mom and Her Brother, Gene

On Tuesday, we "went alligator-hunting", in Unhcle Bob's words.  Naples is on the Gulf Coast, and about as far south as you can get on that side of Florida, as everything south of is is pretty much swamp.  (Wetlands, I thihnk I am supposed to say nowadays.)  So we ventured into the Big Cypress National Preserveandf thence to Everglades City.  Here's some of what we saw on our adventure.
Cottonmouth, aka Water Moccasin.  A whole "nest" full of them is at upper left, out of focus.
Yes, they're poisonous.


Anhinge, having speared a fish, flips his head; the fish slides off his beak and into his mouth.

Anhinge, cousin to cormorant, drying his wings

Photo snapped an instant too late, but the water tells us something.  An alligator has just
leapt out of the water and pounced upon a fish.

On Wednesday afternoons, Uncle Bob Volunteers at a conservancy.  He pilots a tour boat and talks about the things the boat passes on the way.  So we took his 3:00 boat tour.  Mostly what we saw was mangroves and egrets. 
Snowy Egret


Uncle Bob, with Anna and Callie, granddaughters of a neighbor, in jacuzzi

We came home today, and I know Uncle Bob was glad to have his condo to himself again and relax.  For us, it's a memory to treasure!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Sorry for the longish silence.  I'm in south Florida with my mother and sister, visiting Uncle Bob.  Monday was his 86th birthday and Wendy's 62nd.  We've been having a very nice time, seeing alligators and cottonmouths and turtles and assorted birds we don't have further north.  Photos to follow in a day or two. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Scent of Holiness (Book Review)

The Scent of Holiness
Lessons from a Women's Monastery
By Matushka Constantina Palmer

This is a delightful book in every way!

First, it's easy to read; you don't need any theological background or anything.  There's even a glossary of Orthodox Christian terminology to consult whenever a word may be unfamiliar, although there aren't so many of those to lessen any reader's enjoyment at all.

Secondly, this book is very interesting, giving us many glimpses into the day-to-day life of the monastery and some of the life stories of the nuns of Constantina's favorite monastery in Greece.  The nuns written about are, of course, quite charming; you get to know them a little and wish you could know them better.  This alone would be enough to keep you turning the pages, but there's more.  There are little miracles recounted, and encounters with beautiful people in addition to the nuns.

Thirdly, as the subtitle implies, you learn many useful things - but so gently and so charmingly are the lessons taught that you hardly even realize that's what they are.   The main thing you learn, as Constantina did, is how little you know or understand of living the Christian life - but also what you can do to learn and understand more.  This makes the book more than delightful; it is also important.

Constantina's objective in writing the book was, she tells us, to share with us some of the precious gifts she was given, so that we may also enjoy them, and in this she completely succeeds.  The whole book contains the scent of holiness, breathes the perfume of the Holy Spirit.  Thank you, Matushka Constantina!  And thanks be to God.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Morning

Priest: And make this bread to be the precious Body of Your Christ.

People: Amen.

Priest: And that which is in this cup to be the precious Blood of Your Christ.

People: Amen.

Priest: Changing them by Your Holy Spirit.

People: Amen. Amen. Amen.

Toddler (barely) in back of church: AMEN!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Forgiveness Doesn't Mean What We Did is Okay.

It wasn't okay, is not now okay, and it never will be.  Nothing can ever make evil good.  that's not what forgiveness means.  It doesn't mean we're okay, either.

Forgiveness means God's love for us remains totally intact,  infinite, pure, uncompromised. 

Does that mean from now on our sin it won't affect our relationship with God?  No!  Of course it will.  Love is one thing and a relationship is another.  Now mattter how much and how perfectly God loves us, how can the relationship possibly same as it otherwise would be if there weren't this big, dark thing hanging between us?  Only repentance dissolves it and rinses it away.  Repentance allows us to turn a clear gaze toward the future, toward newness, toward hope and healing. 

Yes, healing will still be necessary.  That's part of what ascesis is for.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What I've Been Up To...

...instead of blogging!  These are my latest finished lace projects.

Shetland Shawl

Estonian Shawl

Harebell Lace Shawl