Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We're Home!

Demetrios said two days ago he thought he could feel the protective hand of God on him, and that certainly appears to be the case.  It's abundantly clear God guided him to the right surgeon, just for starters. 

Not five minutes after Demetrios had been taken into the Operating Room, Nick showed up on his way to work, just to lend me some moral support, and he hadn't been gone 10 minutes before Sharyn (his wife) arrived, and that angel sat with me all morning.  She brought me things to eat, too, correctly guessing I hadn't had any breakfast:  a tangerine, the best apple I ever ate, wheat crackers, and a granola bar.  Not ten minutes after Sharyn had arrived came Fr. David, and he, too, sat with me the entire morning!  Sharyn, bless her heart, almost immediately excused herself, on pretext of needing the restroom, and was gone 20 minutes, just in case I needed a private talk with Fr. David.  (I didn't, but wasn't that a delicate form of thoughtfulness?)

So we passed the morning in wonderful conversation and it all seemed to fly by and then Dr Hyslop came out to tell us all was well.  Demetrios had been out of surgery but still under the doctor's own close supervision for an hour.  Demetrios had passed all the tests, indicating he had not suffered any stroke, the main risk during this procedure. 

I introduced Dr.  Hyslop to Fr. David, and the surgeon said, "I'm glad to see you here.  I always say a prayer before each procedure for God's Hand to be at work."

"God's Hands through yours!"  I gushed, giving him a big hug.

Then I burst into tears.

It was past 1:00 by then, so Fr. David left as soon as I had dried my tears.  Sharyn stayed until 2:30, then went to work out at her club, and came back by 4:30, bringing more munchies. 

They finally let Sharyn and me see Demetrios in Intensive Care , and when we got there, Fr. John was already there.  Then Nick came, and we had an awful supper together in the hospital cafeteria.  Then came Stathis, and then our next-door neighbors, Frances and Dickie.   The patient was perfectly content not to get any rest; he would much rather talk with his friends. 

Visitors were officially sent away at 9:00 and I has extremely glad to get home.  I sent out e-mails, a Facebook status, and a blog post, then showered and went straight to bed. 

Today, Demetrios is exhausted, but has virtually no pain, except what Tylenol can relieve.  He's home now, snoozing on the sofa in the sunroom. 

Glory and thanks and praise to God, and thank you again and again for all your prayers!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


He came through the surgery beautifully. The pain in his neck is controlled by Tylenol alone, so he isn't even groggy, but alert and cheerful. And his left eye has been saved.

I'm sorry to wait so long to notify you, but I've been at the hospital since early this morning and just got home. Exhausted; more details later.

Monday, March 28, 2011

An Update

I should clarify that tomorrow's surgery is to be done on one of Demetrios' carotid arteries, so the surgeon will go in through the neck.  It's not like a coronary artery, in which the rib cage has to be sawn open to get to it.  It's just, well, as Demetrios puts it, a pain in the neck.  (He adds that the surgeon is a real cutthroat guy.)

All kinds of puns coming from him.  What did the heart transplant patient who chickened out just before the operation say to his doctor?  "Doctor, I'm having a change of heart."

Demetrios called up Fr. David (Deb, that's the same Fr. David ordained from your parish.) and asked if he would hear his confession.  So we went to meet him at the OCA church, and Fr. David, super kind, suggested we could both have Confession and then take Communion and then he would do an abbreviated form of the service of Holy Unction.  So we did, most gratefully.  Three sacraments in one evening!  We now feel well provisioned for facing tomorrow.

Demetrios' Surgery Rescheduled for Tomorrow

Demetrios went to his ophthalmologist, feeling suspicious about his left eye, which from time to time since Saturday has been gettling blurry. 

Sure enough, it was related to his blocked carotid artery:  the retina isn't getting enough blood.  Without enough blood, the retina is in danger of dying, and sooner, not later.  Or if it does't die, it may still become permanently damaged.

This makes an emergency, so the surgery is to be tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, in hopes of saving the eye.

They plan to keep Demetrios overnight and discharge him Wednesday morning. 

We are very, very glad for your prayers.

To Make My Heart Sing

Last night, we sat in our sunroom through the twilight and into the dark, just talking and looking back over our lives.  And Demetrios commented that, "I consider myself happier than most.  In fact, happier than anybody I know, and mind you, our friends are quite happy people."

Demetrios' Surgery

Today we met with the surgeon.  he's a very nice man and obviously a good and careful clinician.  His risk factor is below the national average, and he just plain inspires confidence.

The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, 05 April, early in the morning. 

We feel encouraged, and grateful.

Notice Anything Unusual About This Kitten?

 Have a closer look.

Yesterday this cat, being fostered by my friend Chris on behalf of the Richmond Animal League, gave birth, and all her kittens were born dead.  The same day, a Chihuahua died giving birth.  So Chris put the newborn puppy with the mother cat, and both are happy now.

Recent Snapshots of Two Grandchildren

Happy Boy

Jackson with Demetrios

Sydney Feeds Her Little Brother
  That kid's hair has finally curled up!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Ever notice the acute paraodox on this Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross when, as the Cross is being carried in procession, we sing:  "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy upon us?"

Holy God, really, on His way to be executed with criminals?

Mighty One, really, suffering at the hands of the wicked?

Immortal, on His way to die, oh, really?

Have mercy upon us, when He appears to be the One who needs rescuing, really now?

Yes.  Yes, really.

Because it is this kind of love that is the holiest in the holy, the mightiest of the mighty, divine, and the redemption of the human race.


How essential is every petition the Church prays!  Take the Lord's Prayer, for example.  It is necessary, for the good of the whole creation, that God's Name be hallowed.  We desperately need His Kingdom, and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, for that would make earth into another heaven.  We need our daily bread, and as grocery prices go up and up and up, we think about this more than we perhaps used to.  We so, so need forgiveness, and we can't benefit from it unless we forgive one another.  We need to be dlivered from evil, and not to be put to any test beyond our endurance.

With Demetrios' upcoming surgery (to be scheduled during his appointment tomorrow), the prayer for "an angel of peace, a guardian of our souls and bodies" takes on new urgency.  With age, so do the prayers for passing the rest of our lives in peace and repentance (which are actually the same thing), and for a Christian ending to our lives, painless and without shame or suffering, and a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ.  And how desperately we need a unified Church to minister to us!  And how we suffer from lack of peace in the world.

And so on.  Each and every prayer is so perfect!  And so urgent.  And so all-important!

Truly, these prayers could only have been written by saints, and this Church could only have been made by the Holy Spirit!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rejoice, Full of Grace!

Today is the beginning of our salvation
And the mystery from before all ages is manifest:
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
And Gabriel announces the grace.
Wherefore we, with him, cry out to the Theotokos,
"Rejoice, Full of Grace, The Lord is with Thee!"

-Troparion for the Annunciation

What We Know so Far

First, a heartfelt thanks to all of you who, whether here or on Facebook, have so kindly promised to be praying for us.  Knowing this helps us a lot.

Today, the surgeon called Demetrios here at home, even though their appointment is going to be Monday morning.  The radiologist, a Greek friend, who had read the angiogram results, also called, and between the two of them, we found out:

1.)  It usually takes a week to 10 days to get on the schedule for surgery, but if it were an emergency, it could be the same day.

2.)  Hospital stay is usually 3 days, give or take 24 hours.

3.)  Estimated recovery time is 6-8 weeks.  !!

4.)  Surgery is definitely called for.  Risk of stroke during surgery or within 3 days thereafter is 1% - 2%.  Risk of doing nothing is over 15% per year.  And increasing as the blockage continues to build.  So it's a no-brainer.  As Demetrios is fit and generally in good health, he is a good candidate.

Wish I could tell you more, but definitely will as soon as we know any more.  Meanwhile, our spirits are good, Demetrios is full of beans as usual; I feel tense but calm, if that makes any sense.  I just wish it were all over with.

The airline tickets will be refunded in full upon receipt of a certificate from the doctor, and we'll reschedule our trip, assuming all goes well, whenever the doctor gives us the okay.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Change of Plans

Demetrios came home from his annual checkup at the cardiologist's today with good news and bad.  The good news is, his heart is looking very good indeed.  The bad news is, his carotid artery is almost completely blocked.

Obviously, this means surgery, promptly, probably within the next several days. 

The main risk in this type of surgery is stroke, either during the procedure or in the next 2-3 days.  Please pray for us.  We are going to need an awful lot of prayers.

Our trip to Greece and England, scheduled for next week, is put off indefinitely.

Absolutely Important

"For whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord's."

In the past few years, Roman Catholics have taken up a new argument for unity with the Orthodox.  It is, in the words I read on a blog yesterday, that "we are mutually engaged in the same battle of survival", presumably against the double onslaught of materialism and Islam.

But the Orthodox most emphatically are not engaged in any such battle.  And here is a highly important point:  this battle is for the Holy Spirit to wage, Whose function it is to preserve His Church and Who alone can do it.  It's not our job.

The reason this is so utterly important is that historically, many crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by people who took it upon themselves to try to "preserve the Church," who regarded that as the highest good, higher even than love or compassion or kindness or any moral precept. 

The Holy Spirit keeps His Church, - yes, through every calamity - and He alone keeps Her. He will never forsake her even until the end of time, never leave us orphans, and He will not allow the gates of hell to prevail against His Church - guaranteed. For the Church is Christ's own Body. 

If He doesn't preserve a given denomination, it's because it is not of the Church after all, never was or through infidelity has not remained so.  In any case, God does not need us to engage in any battle to preserve His Church and we're only asking for trouble if we do it. 

(Even if this battle were ours, it would not be the right basis for Catholic-Orthodox unity.)

Our battle is to remain faithful to the end, entrusting the rest to His hands and trying to ready ourselves for martyrdom, praying it will not come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Passions Cause Idiocy

or, Grump, Grump, Grumble
(Let the reader be warned by the subtitle)

Today I spent an hour I didn't have in a doctor's waiting room for a consultation I didn't need and then stood up and walked out. Without a word. Leaving my forty-dollar co-payment behind.

Of course they had already phoned my house before I came back (having stopped at the grocery store) and Demetrios was all worried and waiting for me and late for a lunch date with a couple of social workers who used to work with him at the hospital.

So have I repented of my rudeness, wastefulness, rashness, and pride? Not yet. Right now all I have to say to the gastroenterologist is, leave me alone and go colonoscopize yourself.


On my way home today from yet another doctor (No! There's nothing new wrong with me!), I passed St. Joseph's, a Catholic parish of the Extraordinary (Tridentine) Rite. And I thought again, as I do every time I pass it, I can certainly understand why these people want their old rite back, because look at the insipid stuff they otherwise endure. Full sympathy on that point. But what I can't understand is why they want to keep it in Latin. Yes, their sign out front specifies it's in Latin. What for?

What's wrong with English, in good translation?

Is the sense of mystery, the sense of the holy, for Catholics really only preserved by using Latin? If so, this is only a gimmick and something deeper is wrong than merely which rite to use.

Why are People Forsaking Church in Droves?

One reason for people’s churchly severance
Is, they miss good old-fashioned reverence,
Which doesn’t fit well at services
With balloons and whirling dervishes.

To fix your soul you must face what’s wrong,
Which is hard to do to a happy-clappy song.
You won’t even see where you’re not so great
If all you do is celebrate, celebrate.

Celebrations will draw them for the short run,
For people love playing and music and fun.
But you need ever more to keep getting those highs,
Inevitably you crash, and what’s left but sighs?

Entertainment grows wearisome, feelings go flat,
You have to give people much more than that.
Sentiment sours and pleasures aren’t joys,
And church-going folk are not all girls and boys.

Adults want substance and not just feeling,
But wisdom and truth and meaning and healing
In short, they’re searching for things profound
That have little to do with clowning around.

Fun is for picnics, church camps, and youth meets,
Ditto, dancing and movies and magical feats.
In church, theoretically, God is right here;
If so, then with love, awe, and reverence draw near.

If not, there’s your trouble; go back to square one.
You’ve but ethics to offer, and feelings and fun,
And people will seek the deep Mystery elsewhere,
Or give up and pretend they no longer care.

The secret attraction is Himself, Jesus Christ,
By Whom, more than anything, folks are enticed.
Dearer than all else, all our Hope, all our Heart,
With decorum receive Him, before more depart!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kid Quotes

"So you went to a birthday party this afternoon?" I asked Sydney in the evening. "Whose birthday was it?"

"It was a boy named Nevin."

"And how old did Nevin turn?"

"He turned five."

"Oh, same age as you."

"No, Grandma, I'm five and a HALF!"

Then, after a moment for reflection, she added, "I could be six very easily."

P.S.) She was the only girl at the birthday party, too!

Take a LOT of Fiber

Because if you don't, then the samples the doctor takes from you (let the reader understand) are likely to contain blood. Blood where it doesn't belong alarms doctors. And THEN you're in for it. Then you are going to be told to have a catheterization, cystoscopy, colonoscopy, cytology tests, CAT-scan of your kidneys, and on and on, all from letting yourself become constipated. What a waste of time! What a lot of bother!

P.S.) First two of those tests are already done and all's normal.

Overweight is a Spiritual Problem

That's what I read in a magazine, Oprah's magazine, in the doctor's waiting room. How embarrassing to burst into tears right there, recognizing both the truth of the statement and what the content was, in my case. I've lost a pound a week since New Year's Day, but the article points out that whatever is amiss will only show up in other ways, if not in overeating.

Lent is such a great time for facing all these things.

Strange, how we fear so much to face ourselves and all our brokenness, yet the most blessed, most peaceful times of our lives are precisely when we do!

The Twins Get a Haircut

Here are the latest pictures of two of my 3 grandsons.



Friday, March 18, 2011

One Way to Drive Church-goers Away

Just preach a god like this one.

Luthardt: “A change of attitude on the part of God is meant.” 2 Cor. 5:19 furnishes additional proof that by the objective reconciliation which Christ has effected a change of heart took place, not in men, but in God.
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Volume II, p.346

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

The true God is and always has been perfect. Any change in Him would therefore be for the worse.  It is His constancy, His fidelity, His everlasting sameness, wherein lies our hope: “For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

His Mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm 103:17)

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's Puzzler

If Christ paid our debt to the Father, don't we now owe Christ?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Please, Please, Please Have a Look...

at s-p's latest cartoon here and have a good laugh - and/or a good cry.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kids Draw the Darndest Things

Sydney made a story book about the family going to Disney World.  On the front cover of it, she drew herself, her new baby brother, and her father.  I said I loved the picture and would like to keep it.  Sydney gave it to me, but first insisted upon adding shirt and trousers to the drawing of her father, which originally was drawn just like the baby only larger.

(Since little Jackson arrived, Sydney always signs both their names to her work.)

Monday, March 14, 2011


As the events in Japan appear to go from horrifying to worse and still orders of magnitude worse than that, we have to wonder what is God thinking, to permit these things to happen?  First, the earthquake, then the tsunami, whole towns afire, the volcano erupting in the south, and now the threat of total nuclear meltdown at no fewer than three reactors.

I suspect there is no human "explanation". We can say this much:  had man not sinned, he might by now have reached theosis, deification, and have become a sharer in God's own Immortal Life. That means he might not have been vulnerable to any natural disaster (and there wouldn't be any man-made ones).

So in that sense our sins bring it upon us.

I think we also have to remember Jesus' words when he said the 18 victims of a tower collapse were no more sinful than anybody else. "But unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish." We all sin, which is another way of saying we all die, since to sin is to cut off our Life.

So those may be some hints. Ultimately, though, I suspect the only "answer" we are going to get this side of the grave is the one God gave to Job, after all his incredible suffering. Here is the beginning of the dressing down, from Chapter 38:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

2 ​​"Who is this who darkens counsel
​​By words without knowledge?
3 ​​Now prepare yourself like a man;
​​I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

4 ​​"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
​​Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 ​​Who determined its measurements?
​​Surely you know!
​​Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 ​​To what were its foundations fastened?
​​Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 ​​When the morning stars sang together,
​​And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8 ​​"Or who shut in the sea with doors,
​​When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
9 ​​When I made the clouds its garment,
​​And thick darkness its swaddling band;
10 ​​When I fixed My limit for it,
​​And set bars and doors;
11 ​​When I said,
​'​This far you may come, but no farther,
​​And here your proud waves must stop!'

12 ​​"Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
​​And caused the dawn to know its place,
13 ​​That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
​​And the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 ​​It takes on form like clay under a seal,
​​And stands out like a garment.
15 ​​From the wicked their light is withheld,
​​And the upraised arm is broken.

16 ​​"Have you entered the springs of the sea?
​​Or have you walked in search of the depths?
17 ​​Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
​​Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?
18 ​​Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
​​Tell Me, if you know all this.

19 ​​"Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
​​And darkness, where is its place,
20 ​​That you may take it to its territory,
​​That you may know the paths to its home?
21 ​​Do you know it, because you were born then,
​​Or because the number of your days is great?

22 ​​"Have you entered the treasury of snow,
​​Or have you seen the treasury of hail,
23 ​​Which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
​​For the day of battle and war?
24 ​​By what way is light diffused,
​​Or the east wind scattered over the earth?

25 ​​"Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
​​Or a path for the thunderbolt,
26 ​​To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,
​​A wilderness in which there is no man;
27 ​​To satisfy the desolate waste,
​​And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?
28 ​​Has the rain a father?
​​Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 ​​From whose womb comes the ice?
​​And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth?
30 ​​The waters harden like stone,
​​And the surface of the deep is frozen.

31 ​​"Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades,
​​Or loose the belt of Orion?
32 ​​Can you bring out Mazzaroth [a constellation] in its season?
​​Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?
33 ​​Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
​​Can you set their dominion over the earth?

34 ​​"Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
​​That an abundance of water may cover you?
35 ​​Can you send out lightnings, that they may go,
​​And say to you, 'Here we are!'?
36 ​​Who has put wisdom in the mind?
​​Or who has given understanding to the heart?
37 ​​Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
​​Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
38 ​​When the dust hardens in clumps,
​​And the clods cling together?

39 ​​"Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
​​Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40 ​​When they crouch in their dens,
​​Or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait?
41 ​​Who provides food for the raven,
​​When its young ones cry to God,
​​And wander about for lack of food?

God's reprimand to Job for questioning Him continues through Chapter 39 and most of 40. Here is some more, from Chapter 40.

1 Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said:

2 ​​"Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
​​He who rebukes God, let him answer it."
3 Then Job answered the LORD and said:

4 ​​"Behold, I am vile;
​​What shall I answer You?
​​I lay my hand over my mouth.
5 ​​Once I have spoken, but I will not answer;
​​Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further."
6 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

7 ​​"Now prepare yourself like a man;
​​I will question you, and you shall answer Me:

8 ​​"Would you indeed annul My judgment?
​​Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?
9 ​​Have you an arm like God?
​​Or can you thunder with a voice like His?
10 ​​Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor,
​​And array yourself with glory and beauty.
11 ​​Disperse the rage of your wrath;
​​Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him.
12 ​​Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low;
​​Tread down the wicked in their place.
13 ​​Hide them in the dust together,
​​Bind their faces in hidden darkness.
14 ​​Then I will also confess to you
​​That your own right hand can save you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Kneeometer

We are just back from visiting children and grandchildren, and I have to tell you a some cute stories. This one is the story of Sydney and the Kneeometer.

A kindergarten classmate of Sydney's fell and broke her leg and came to class next day in a cast and wheelchair, garnering in the process a great deal of attention. That afternoon, Sydney took a minor fall at home, and groaning and wailing, told her mother, "You need to take me to Urgent Care right away, because I'm sure I have broken my knee. It hurts! OWWW!" And she went around limping for as long as she knew her mother was watching her, but walking normally when she didn't know Erin was looking.

Finally Erin said, "We'll wait until Daddy gets home because he has a kneeometer and he will be able to assess your injury."

When Daddy came home, he brought out his kneeometer from the garage, a device that looks remarkably like a giant wrench. This he placed either side of Sydney's knee and squeezed - only a little, of course.

"Does it hurt?" he asked.


"That's good!" said Jeffrey. "That means it isn't broken, because if it were broken, you wouldn't be able to feel anything."

Sydney almost wept from disappointment.


My fellow wildlife rehabber, Gudrun ("Goodie") has a squirrel that failed to grow. He seems in otherwise good health, but he's a midget. Goodie is keeping him and I thought you might like to see pictures of him. Here he is, eating an apple and posing with his Beanie Baby counterpart. His name is Parker and yes, he's an adult now.

P.S. I myself am not rehabbing this year, as I won't have time to raise anything before leaving for Greece.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Grant that I may Perceive My Own Transgressions..."

We aren't fully conscious of most of our sins, or of our true inner condition. This is (in part) because of God's never-ending mercy, Who will not allow us to perceive our own wretchedness in full, because it would crush us, send us reeling into despair.  God only shows us as much as He knows we can handle at any given moment - and that, barely, sometimes!

Most of the time, we don't even want Him to do that, do we?  We are reluctant to face the things we've done and failed to do; we persuade ourselves that our sins are really pretty trivial, after all. 

I remember once knowing a Catholic ex-priest, who must have weighed at least 400 pounds.  He suffered a heart attack and when I visited him in the hospital, he expressed his amazement that he was still alive.  Why, he wondered, had God allowed him to live a little longer?

"Probably for the same reason He lets all of us keep living," I said.

"And that is - ?"

"To give us time to repent!" 

"Repent?"  He looked genuinely bewildered.  "Repent of what?"

See?  Isn't that the attitude we all tend to adopt?  I'm a decent person, I pay my taxes, I try to help people when I can, I don't kick the dog, I don't need any repentance.

In reality, of course, most of us need to repent of virtually everything, but I laughed and only said to my friend, "For whatever."

Yet somewhere just below the horizon of our consciousness is the awareness of our sins, as a little niggling, nagging discomfort, such that when Christ comes to judge us, we will have to admit we knew all along everything He will tell us about ourselves.  As the Psalmist says, "Thou art vindicated in Thy judgment." 

Sometimes even a seemingly trivial commission or omission has appalling consequences we didn't think of or know about, or chose to ignore.

So how often do you floss your teeth?  (Did you know that your chances of a heart attack skyrocket if you don't do it faithfully?)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Star With Royal Beauty Bright

Thanks to a link supplied by Alice Linsley over at Just Genesis, I’ve discovered what I find an absolutely fascinating blog devoted mostly to the subject of the Star of Bethlehem. Although I will summarize one of the articles here, I recommend you read the whole thing for a wealth of explanatory details.

It's written by Rick Larson.  First, Larson identifies nine characteristics of the Star we can glean from the biblical narrative:

1. The heavenly phenomenon the Wise Men saw must have had some association with birth.
2. It must somehow signify kingship.
3. It must show a connection with the Jewish tribe of Judah (and prophecies of the Jewish Messiah).
4. It must rise in the east and set in the West.
5. It must appear at a precise, identifiable time.
6. It must be a heavenly happening not immediately obvious to everybody, but only to experts. (Herod was unaware of any great celestial portent).
7. The phenomenon must take place over a span of time sufficient for the Magi to see it both from the East and upon their arrival in Jerusalem.
8. It must have appeared ahead of the Magi as they journeyed toward Bethlehem.
9. It must have stopped when the Magi reached Bethlehem.

Rick Larson describes a heavenly phenomenon (actually a combination of astronomical events) accounting, he believes, for all these biblical data.

In September of the year B.C. 3 (which I shall write from now on as -3), The planet Jupiter came into conjunction with the Star Regulus. Read the article for further discussion of why the year -3 was important; it has to do with the probability that Herod died in -1. Larson also discusses in detail why both Jupiter and Regulus were associated, in ancient times, with kingship.

Jupiter passes Regulus, well, regularly, every 12 years, so this is nothing unusual. That it should come into conjunction with Regulus (appearing, to the naked eye, to touch the star) was a bit more unusual, and would certainly have been noted by ancient astronomers (Magi). But it was what happened next that really grabbed their attention. Jupiter passed on by Regulus, leaving it behind, but then it entered into retrograde, meaning that because of our planet’s movement, Jupiter appeared to be moving backward. So backward it moved, and came into conjunction with Regulus a second time. And then Jupiter went forward again, leaving Regulus behind a second time, and then it went into retrograde again and formed a third conjunction with Regulus! It appeared that Jupiter was dancing around Regulus, forming a sort of halo, or crown. This triple conjunction of the King Planet with the King Star would have given our wise men the notion that a king was being announced.

There’s more. All this began on or about the Jewish New Year. And it all took place (over months, of course) in the constellation Leo. And guess what Leo, the lion, was associated with? You guessed it: with Judah, whose symbol was and is the lion. In fact, from the east where the wise men were, as they observed these conjunctions, they were facing Judea.  This bright conjunction was setting over Judea.  It made sense to the ancient star-gazers that a king of Judea was being announced in the skies.

Next constellation over from Leo was, guess what? Virgo. The Virgin. And things were so positioned then (September of -3) that at the “feet” of the Virgin lay a new moon, which over the succeeding days was “born” into crescent moon, then a quarter moon, and so forth. Remember the pregnant Woman clothed with the Sun, with the moon at her feet? Right.

Skip forward nine months, on the theory that all the foregoing announced a royal conception and nine months later comes the birth. We’re now in June of -2. Rick Larson tells it better than I can:

Jupiter had finished crowning Regulus. The Planet of Kings traveled on through the star field toward another spectacular rendezvous, this time with Venus, the Mother Planet. This conjunction was so close and so bright that it is today displayed in hundreds of planetaria around the world by scientists who may know nothing of Messiah. They do it because what Jupiter did makes such a great planetarium show. Jupiter appeared to join Venus. The planets could not be distinguished with the naked eye. If our magus had had a telescope, he could have seen that the planets sat one atop the other, like a figure eight. Each contributed its full brightness to what became the most brilliant star our man had ever seen. Jupiter completed this step of the starry dance as it was setting in the west. That evening, our Babylonian magus would have seen the spectacle of his career while facing toward Judea.

No one alive had ever seen such a conjunction. If the Magi only began their travel plans in September, when they saw this sight nine months later, someone may have shouted "What are we waiting for? Mount up!"
The idea then, is that the September -3 events correlate with the conception of the mysterious King of the Jews, while the June -2 display announced His birth.

Some months later (presumably) the Magi arrived first in Jerusalem, the logical place to inquire where the King of the Jews had been born. Herod sent them on to Bethlehem because the Scriptures said that was where Messiah would be born.

We don’t know how long it took the Magi to arrive in Jerusalem, but we do know that in December of -2, if you were traveling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus would have been ahead of you.

And then:

On December 25 of 2 BC as it entered retrograde, Jupiter reached full stop in its travel through the fixed stars. Magi viewing from Jerusalem would have seen it stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem.

(The December 25 date is interesting, but by this theory Jesus would have been some 6 months old by then.)

Now I find this theory awe-inspiring and fun and to me, it seems to give scientific corroboration; it tells us the Star of Bethlehem wasn’t just some non-credible myth. This, even though we would never read into the stars what the ancient Magi did. So I rejoice to have found this information.

Demetrios, on the other hand, thinks we ought not to seek natural explanations for supernatural events. He says this theory contradicts “Orthodox theology”, which says the Star was an angel.
I think the angel bit is not theology proper, but a pious opinion.

We both agree that matters of faith do not require scientific confirmation. I think it’s always nice to have it, though.

If you read the article, I’ll be very interested in your point of view.

There are some companion articles in the same blog, one of which is about the heavenly and earthly occurrences that happened on the day of the Crucifixion. It’s very interesting, too.

Oh, and while I’m recommending things, check out this very good article by Fr. Andrew Damick on people who are “spiritual but not religious.”

UPDATE: Dr. Patrick Fodor has graciously provided a link you can use to see all these stellar movements in animation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Cousin Debbie Doing Her Thing

Or, The Suspended Senior Citizen

Okay, so she's actually my mother's cousin, but a year or two younger than I am.

Stuck in Prayer?

Don't know what to say to God?  Do you think about praying, but have no idea what to say? 

Well, you don't really have to SAY anything.  The main idea is just to be conscious of being in God's Presence. 

But a moment's thought will supply enough material for a very long prayer!

There's always the Lord's Prayer, for starters.  You can't go wrong with what Jesus Himself taught us to pray. 

There's always the prayer of the angels:  Holy, holy, holy!  Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are filled with Your glory.  Hosannah in the highest!

There's always, "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, to all the ages."

There's always the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me, the sinner."  But this very powerful prayer, even more perhaps than the others, needs to be guided by a spiritual father or mother, and not attempted on our own.

And there are Orthodox prayer books chalk full of the most wonderful prayers, both for regular use and for special occasions or needs.

In a Protestant Sunday School, I learned the acronym ACTS, which stands for what you do in prayer.

A was for "adoration".  We acknowledge God's greatness, His glory, His love, and that He is our Creator and Redeemer, our very Life, our God, worthy of all worship.

C was for "confession".  We look back over our day (or week or life!) and scrutinize it carefully for any sign of anything that tends to come between God and us, and then we ask His help to overcome those barriers and free ourselves for fuller union with Him.  And it's quite shocking, how many such things we discover if we are very honest with ourselves.  How many times did I judge my brother or sister?  How many times did I think harsh or unkind or just negative thoughts?  How many of my words were abrupt or contemptuous?  We ask God to forgive us, and to help us forgive others, since forgiveness will be of no effect for us until we can give it, as well as receive it.

T was for "thanksgiving."  We count our blessings and give thanks for each one we can think of, and that alone will be enough to fill our whole life with prayer.  (And let us not forget, when thanking God for our families, to pray He will make us worthier spouses, parents, children, sisters or brothers, etc.)

And "S" was for supplication, asking God for the things we need, such as our daily bread.  Under this title, though, can also come intercession.  We can just look around us at how many families have members in grave illness, or whose loved ones have recently died, or people who have asked us for our prayer for whatever reason.  We can pray for all the readers of our blogs (by name, when we know these).  We pray for all our families and friends, for those who have set themselves against us, for the jobless, the homeless, the hungry, the widows and orphans, our spiritual fathers or mothers, past and present and even future, for the departed, for the Church, for those who have left the Church and those about to enter her, for peace in the world... the list is literally endless.

No, there's no lack of stuff to say in prayer!  There's no problem getting the words started; it's getting them to stop.  Because when everything has been spoken and all the words have run out and there's only stillness left at the verbal level, that (generally) is when deeper, unspeakable prayer begins.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Glimpse of Heaven

Yesterday in church, while  I was pondering my sins, a baby girl of maybe 6 months found my little finger and grabbed it in her tiny hand for a couple of moments.  I wiggled it for her, and she looked up at me with the broadest smile, the sweetest, radiant, innocent, wondrous, happy, loving smile!  I remembered what Jesus said, that we must become as little children to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and then I thought to myself, "That's how everybody in heaven is going to look at us, and how we will look at them, when we behold one another's glory.  Only even better, far better."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mud Run, Again

Okay, so I still don't know what a mud run is, but my daughter tells me she and some of her girlfriends competed in the same event (last June) and beat Jeffrey's team.  Here are pictures of the ladies.  (That's Erin at top left of first photo, and second from left in the second picture.)

I Don't Know What This Is, Only Who

It's Jeffrey, my son-in-law, and the caption is "USMC Mud Run ".  But I just thought it was a picture to be shared!  Apparently this is an event in which he recently participated; he's been out of the Marines for 7 or 8 years now.

Here's a photo of him with his team, obviously after the competition.

Hey, Marathon Man, do I start calling you Mud Man now???

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Busy Week

For those of you who sometimes express worry if I don't post for a week, my apologies.  It's just been busy.

We bought our tickets to Greece this week and are very excited about that.  While we're there, I want to apply for Greek/EU citizenship.  No, I won't have to give up my U.S. citizenship or I wouldn't do it.  But this will simplify things by making me eligible for all sorts of things over there.  And who doesn't want to be at least an honorary Greek, anyway?  (Except on March 17, when everyone wants to be an honorary Irishman.) 

So then I had to dig up my birth certificate, marriage license, and so forth to submit for these proceedings.  I'd forgotten I took them out of the file cabinet and put them, for safekeeping, in a small fireproof box, so that meant going through my entire file cabinet for the first time in years... let's just say stacks of organized files are still sitting about, waiting to be put back.  In order, this time.

Meanwhile I found my children's birth and baptismal certificates, yes, the ones you've been asking about, my dears, but they're only copies, not notarized, so probably wouldn't have done you any good anyway.  Also found the letter from Met. Anthony of Sourozh to send to John.  (KONSTANTINA, if you are reading this, I've misplaced his/your e-mail address; help!)

Today was our annual Wild Animal Baby Shower in support ARK, the Area Rehabbers Klub.  It's our main annual fundraising event.  So I manned the registration desk, handing out information, registering people for door prizes, accepting donations, directing children to the animals and/or the face painting corner. 

The wild animals in attendance were:  an owl, a crow, an oppossum, a hawk (I think I saw), and two snakes.   Will post photos when I get them.

Demetrios has been planning the patio he wants to build outside our sun room in a part of the yard that is rather ugly right now, so he's been looking at paving options and measuring and getting opinions and estimates. 

He had a colonoscopy yesterday afternoon, so that kept us both busy (and hungry) all day.   In the afternoon? you ask.  Yes, because he couldn't get a morning appointment until long after we were already planning to be in Greece. 

And here's what happens when you leave poor Baby Brother alone for a moment with his Big Sister.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Very Important

If you are a U.S. citizen and you consider yourself a Christian (of any stripe), please read this post over at "The Daily Weaving."