31 August 2007

brain pollution

Tonight for the first time in a while, I was surfing radio channels looking for a fun song to blast while I was alone in the car (no little ears to nurture). All I got was a weird RHCP remix of 'Rollercoaster of Love', then cheesy 'Born in the USA' and unfortunately I even heard a bit of some sappy church song sung in bad soprano. To top if off I caught the tail-end of a commercial--all I heard was "Better sex is just a discreet phone call away..." ?!? Our culture is going down the crapper, no denying it after that ad.

This reminds me of my last tv experience. We don't have our tv plugged in (though we're still forced to pay for cable!), so I am totally out of the loop as far as shows go. But a while back I went to the gym (like, one time) and the tv was on--I felt so...naughty!--and the season premier of "The Bachelor' started. The twist this time was that the women were all beautiful, successful 40-somethings, and the bachelor looked a bit younger than all of them. OOH. Then the real twist was revealed when a group of beautiful 20-somethings walked in, like, move over old ladies! OOOH AAAHH. I couldn't stop laughing! It was the most ridiculous thing I'd seen in ages. I think that since I hadn't watched any tv in so long, I had long recovered from being desensitized by all this kind of junk. Before, I'm sure I would have watched it every week and talked about the candidates--"Can you believe how fake she is?!" I was a reality show junkie for a while there, I'm embarassed to admit. That time in the gym really made me realize how good it is to ban the tv from our home completely. Honestly, it was my husband's idea, and at first I only half-heartedly agreed. But it didn't take long to realize the benefit of not having it even available. Good job, honey.

Well, that's all the ranting for now.

19 August 2007

a recent thought on prayer to the Saints

Prayer to the Saints. I'm having trouble verbalizing what's in my head on this topic, so bear with me. If it's too bad, just stop reading and forget about it :) I'll understand.

As I lay next to Taisia, kissing her head, I asked the Theotokos to raise her up in the ways of God and to be ever near to her, praying for her. As I prayed, trusting she hears me and is offering her intercessions to her Son, I still felt a tug of doubt--doubt about why I am praying to her. I don't have any emotional connection with Mother Mary as of yet, but that is okay because neither do I always have some feeling about God; yet I know He is here and that His existence is independent of my feelings, obviously. Despite all that I have come to understand about the Saints and their mighty intercessions for us, and despite my own prayers to the Saints, I still feel like something is blocking me from really embracing the heavenly Church. I think the doubt continues to creep in over the issue of who is this between me and God? I cannot get the catch-phrase "It's just me and Jesus" out of my head.

What I realized as I lay there with Taisia is that I am used to attributing my virtues and good actions to, well, me. Yes, all good things come from God, but I have free choice and nothing good will come if I do not choose it first. Therefore, I have a piece in the pie of praise (pie of praise...nice!), though most of it belongs to God, of course. I think that this has been my general mindset, if mostly unconscious, over the years.

This mindset plagues me as I try to venerate God's Saints and ask for their intercessions. I imagine that, like me, they accept praise (or the Church gives them praise) for their holy prayers, miracles and so forth. Even more, it even sounds like in this place of elevation they have been placed between me and God.

The truth is that the Orthodox mindset is to give glory to God in ALL things. If I manage to develop a virtue, it is God who has given me the desire, strength and opportunities to do so (this goes back to my previous post on wealth, poverty and praise). The power of the Saints is nothing more (or less) than the power of Almighty God, with Whom they have been united. What have they that they have not received? (1 Cor. 4:7) In akathists we extol their virtues, and in so doing the whole Church glorifies God, for He is the embodiment of the virtues.

As for their place, I must consider them to be like the prophets of the Old Testament who pleaded with God to have mercy on the sinful cities, rather than delivering His terrible justice. Would God had heard the cities' own pleas for mercy? Of course, but they were too prideful and ignorant to ask. I am the same as the cities, and what I do pray is littered with self-love and worldly cares.

Anyway, I guess the main thing I'm trying to say is that if I'd stop projecting my own sin of pride on the Church and her Saints, there would be a lot less hindering me from stepping further into the circle of love within the Church (angels, Saints, and her earthly congregation).

18 August 2007

on wealth, poverty and praise

Some reading I've been doing during the fast. It is from the book "How to Live a Holy Life" by Met. Gregory Postnikov. I read these parts just yesterday, and already I have had some situations and conversations through which I have been able to experience some of these lessons, praise God. I feel like I am peering through a tiny crack in a door which leads to a place far beyond my understanding and even beyond my dreams: it is so bright and new. If I keep looking, praying and pushing forward, perhaps God will open it a little further for me. "Thy Kingdom come!"

on wealth:

"Never think, as many foolish people among the rich do, that you owe your wealth to your intelligence, your cleverness, or your energy. Although you, perhaps, really are intelligent, clever, and energetic, never attribute the acquisition of your wealth only to these attributes; for consider, who gave you your intelligence? Who gave and gives you health and strength, so that you can work? Who blesses your labors with the success you desire, while many other people no less intelligent and hardworking than you are hardly able to get their daily piece of bread? And who looks after your wealth, which you could lose at any moment from any number of circumstances? Is is not God, your Creator, Who does this? Remember the word of the Spirit of God, The Lord...maketh rich (1 Kings 2:7) and so do not take pride in your wealth, but be humble when you are rich, consider it a gift from God, and fervently thank the Lord God for it.

"When you pray, never in your prayer ask the Lord God for permanent continuation of your earthly plenty, and especially do not ask for increase of wealth, because, although the Lord God does give wealth to some people, nowhere is it commanded for us to ask for wealth, but it is said that even when, so to speak, it "flows in" to us by itself, we should set not [our] hearts thereon (Psalm 61:11).

"If you become attached to wealth, it will immediately draw you towards countless vices and put you in an extremely dangerous state of soul. Jesus Christ says that wealth can be very perilous for the soul: a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23), and they that will be rich fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition, as the holy Apostle says (1 Tim 6:9)."

on poverty:

"If you are poor, that is, if you are hardworking and in spite of all your labors you barely get enough to provide daily bread for you and your children, then bear your poverty with equanimity...until the time that it is pleasing to the Lord God to take it from you; bear it to death itself, if it is pleasing to Him. Always be cheerful, do not grieve, do not grumble, and especially do not become despondent, no matter how your poverty deepens and how long it lasts.

"Continuously remember the words of the Holy Spirit, The Lord maketh poor (1 Sam. 2:7). But when the Lord God places any of us in some condition, He places him in that condition because that person can always be saved much more easily in the condition appointed to him. Because the Lord God has no other desire concerning us except that we be saved (1 Tim 2:4), whatever He may do with us He does to facilitate our salvation.

"As often as possible, remember the earthly poverty of our Savior. He is God; everything is His: both what is in the heavens, and what is on earth, in the earth, and beneath the earth, but He lived on earth in complete poverty, as He Himself said, foxes have holes, and birds have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head (Luke 9:58). For what purpose did He live so poorly? Of course, not for any other purpose than to incline all of us to accept poverty with equanimity and to be satisfied with what is most necessary for sustaining life; for poverty, as St John Chrysostom says, leads to piety more easily than wealth."

on praise:

"When people praise you, be very circumspect, because then you are in a dangerous situation.

"Many people do not know the true virtue of things and of actions, and therefore they value and praise things that in the sight of the Lord God and of sensible people are worth nothing. And because praise is pleasing to our self-esteem and vainglory, and self-esteem and vainglory are gullible, we eagerly accept another's false praise as true praise, put a halt to seeking perfection, become more imperfect, die unreformed, and perish. Therefore, consider as impartially as possible whether what others praise in you deserves praise from the Lord and from prudent people, because only that which is worthy of praise from the Lord God and from people devoted to Him should be important for us. What does praise from people matter, when we are unworthy of praise from the Lord God?

"That you may not fall into pride, vainglory, carelessness, or other ruinous delusion in the face either of deserved or, especially, undeserved praise, as unfortunately so often happens: ...Remember well that what is worthy of praise in you is not yours, but God's. It was, indeed, something we acquired because we tried to acquire it, but who gave us the disposition, ability, strength, desire, and opportunity to obtain it, if not God? What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? the Holy Apostle Paul tells the man with self-esteem (1 Cor. 4:7). So, when you perceive in yourself something worthy of praise, immediately ascribe it not to yourself, but to the Lord God, saying with the Psalmist, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory (Ps 113:9)."

(How to Live a Holy Life by Metropolitan Gregory Postnikov, published by Holy Trinity Monastery)

While you're here... I know that praying is the most important thing I can do at any given moment, and yet I choose to do everything but. So I ask you all to please pray for me, for God's mercy and for the strength and desire to be more diligent in my prayers.

Love you all!

12 August 2007

podcast junkie

Recently, in order to keep me sane, my husband has been encouraging me to go on a walk as soon as Taisia is in bed. So I download the latest podcasts from AFR and head out in the perfect 7pm weather. I get teased that podcasts on religion are my favorite workout 'tunes'; but this way my body gets a workout and so does my mind. I love it. What can I say, I'm just a podcast junkie.

The most recent podcast I listened to was great. It is part 9 of a series entitled "Imputed Righteousness", by Matthew Gallatin on his Pilgrims from Paradise podcast. It may seem a bit out of context to quote one of my favorite parts, but if it leaves you wondering I guess you can listen to it yourself :) I recommend it if you want the Orthodox perspective on the "dance" of faith and works in our relationship with God. So here is a quick look into what I've been listening to:

"Everything starts with faith. By faith we enter into the waters of baptism. By faith we receive the Holy Spirit. But once we've received the Holy Spirit, God expects it to make a difference in how we act. It must. If we want to be saved, if we want to live in perfect, loving union with God, we actually have to be what God wants us to be. It's not enough just to imagine ourselves as what He wants us to be, or hope that He sees us the way He wants us to be. No, we must dance the divine dance. No longer can we live the sinful life of those who dance without God. Putting to death our sinfulness through the power of the Indwelling Spirit is not easy...Thankfully our compassionate God is thoroughly, lovingly, divinely and eternally committed to the success of our relationship with Him. He is always by our side to forgive us, teach us, encourage us. Yes, real life with God, real love with God is a lot of work. But it is the only existence to which we are called..."

I particularly like the end "real life with God, real love with God is a lot of work," or as Fr Boris wisely said, "Welcome to the struggle" (see sidebar).

11 August 2007

banana robot

Me and our awesome banana tree robot. This is our new painting from Anya Lincoln. Please take a look at her artwork by clicking the link in the sidebar; she is a wonderful artist.

02 August 2007


Adventures in New Testament Greek: Mysterion
by Scott Cairns

What our habit has obtained for us appears
a somewhat meager view of mystery.
And Latinate equivalents have fared
no better tendering the palpable
proximity of dense noetic pressure.

More familiar, glib, and gnostic bullshit
aside, the loss the body suffers when
sacrament is pared into a tidy
picture postcard of absent circumstance
starves the matter to a moot result, no?

Mysterion is of a piece, enormous
enough to span the reach of what we see
and what we don't. The problem at the heart
of metaphor is how neatly it breaks down
to this and that. Imagine one that held

entirely across the play of image
and its likenesses. Mysterion is
never elsewhere, ever looms, indivisible
and here, and compasses a journey one
assumes as it is tendered on a spoon.

Receiving it, you apprehend how near
the Holy bides. You cannot know how far.

From his book Philokalia: New and Selected Poems. Reprinted with permission.
(So I guess this book is out of print, but he has a new one entitled Compass of Affection. Can't wait to read it!)