Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fun Photo Meme

Deb has a photo meme she's continuing on her blog. The rules are: Find the fourth folder in your photos file and post the fourth photo listed in that folder. Lucky me, I got a picture of chickens hanging out on our lawnmower....could have been worse, actually... I do have pictures of the 4 and 5 yo's making letters out of their naked bodies (if they both bend over and put their butt cheeks together they make an adorable "X" - and make Daddy wish he'd gotten them in the tubby a bit faster).

Friday, October 24, 2008


Since our small mission congregation meets in rented space we occasionally have need to travel to other churches for Divine Liturgy when our own room is not available for our use. I can't remember for the life of me where we were visiting, then, when about three quarters of the way through liturgy I saw out of the corner of my eye what I swore was a duck suspended over the altar. Because of the iconostasis and our location in relation to it, I never actually got a good look at this flying anomaly but stored the information away in the recesses of my addled mind for questioning Fr. Greg on it later.

A few weeks ago it worked its way to the front of my brain and expressed itself as "What's up with the duck?"

Turns out it's not actually a duck but a dove (well...huh...that makes a little more sense) and some churches actually use it is a vessel for the consecrated elements in exchange for a more traditional tabernacle. Not to make light of anyone's tabernacle but my initial response was to find this idea a bit, well, tacky.

My understanding of the tabernacle (admittedly a primarily Roman Catholic one) is that it represents the holy womb of the Theotokos - containing within it the full humanity and full divinity of Christ as expressed in His holy Eucharist. So if we take the Eucharist out of the "womb" and place it within the Holy Spirit (is the dove not a representation of the person of the Trinity known to us as the Holy Spirit?) isn't this some kind of convoluted twist on the filioque clause? Instead of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son, He now *contains* the Son. That doesn't seem right either.

So unless someone can set me aright I will continue to think of this phenomenon as an oddity I've termed the duckernacle.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Want a treat?!

I just took a peek at the blog of Magda, another Orthodox blogger whose blog I *love*, and realized that she's had her baby. This little one is too adorable to keep to myself! Thanks for sharing him with us Magda!

Holy Observations

JT and Ben are my two eldest sons (well, developmentally anyway) and the two most enamored with Orthodoxy because they are at a great age to be able to make some serious observations and draw their own conclusions. I've had many a delightful conversation with them regarding our exodus from the CEC and entry into Eastern Orthodoxy. Yesterday we were discussing the altar arrangement. Ben commented that he feels like the altar is a much more personal and accessible place than it ever was for him in the CEC. I noted that this was an interesting observation since many on the outside would think the opposite to which he replied, "Yes, I know, because of the iconostasis. I know that it doesn't make sense because the people can't really even see what goes on but somehow it just seems a lot more personal to me." At that point we teased him a bit because he does serve on the altar now so he gets "good spot".

I agree with Ben and expecially cherish all the times the priest comes into our midst during the processions. In fact, I've noticed the 5 year old, John Michael, practically sitting on his hands when the priest comes by to avoid reaching out and touching him. I encouraged him to go ahead and touch the priest's vestments. If there is an urge so strong in him to touch the holy, to be part of the service of the Divine Liturgy, then I want him to feel, to smell, to kiss, to experience. How else will his 5 year old self ever come to love standing up for 2 hours of chanting and praying?

When I discussed it with Tad later he pointed out what we were all feeling intuitively, but had neglected to notice consicously - that the Orthodox priest stands with the people before the altar. In the CEC, modeled after the RC church, the priests gathered on the opposite side of the altar from the people. During the Eucharistic Liturgy this took on almost a feeling of a judge standing behind his bench, facing the people, ready to meet out judgement. In fact, Tad commented that, as a priest, he struggled to face the people throughout the liturgy. He felt almost as if he were some sort of director of a play trying to get his actors to perform for the Holy Spirit. With the priest facing the altar with us we all focus in the same direction. If it is anyone from whom we seek attention during the liturgy, it is God Himself, not the priest. All present, including the priest, present ourselves as a sacrifice to God, each on equal footing with the other.

It almost makes me weep to think of this. Something within me stands with John in wanting to reach out, to touch, to kiss, to experience the holy things of God for myself, unhindered by the priest's directorial assent.


I've heard the question posed many times as to why Jesus needed to be baptized. In all my years of Christianity, just now I stumbled across the only answer that has made sense summed up in these two paragraphs:

It is certainly the case that holy water is holy water - and yet when Christ entered the waters of the Jordan - we are not told that John prayed a blessing over the water. None was necessary. Christ is who He is, and the waters are what they are (and they are more than what many think the waters to be). The icon of the Theophany reveals the Jordan to be Hades itself, the chaos of darkness into which we had plunged ourselves. Christ enters the waters just as at the Cross He entered Hades. In the waters He “crushed the heads of the dragons” (quoting the psalm noted in the prayer of blessing), just as in Hades He crushed that old serpent, the enemy of man.

At Christ’s Baptism there is a Theophany, a revealing of God, but there is also an Epiphany, a revealing of the world in its greater meaning. Every tree, every rock, every word and action - all things have their meaning in relationship to God - not as things-in-themselves. And it is only as they are handled as having their meaning in relationship to God that they will be handled rightly. The earth itself bears the scars of man’s declaration of ordinariness. It is not a word of blessing but a curse.

I pulled this directly out of this post by one of my favorite Orthodox bloggers which I think everyone should read. The post is lengthy and I am still working my own way through it, but Fr. Stephen has a way of saying things so concisely that I think he cuts right through our preconceived notions and into the heart of every matter he discusses.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Wonder What the Martyrs Would Think

A priest friend of ours sends out Saints Lives posts a few times a week as he has the time I guess. This was today's post:
The Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in Syria were appointed to high positions in the army by the emperor Maximian (284-305), who did not know that they were Christians. Envious people informed Maximian that his two trusted counselors did not honor the pagan gods. This was considered to be a crime against the state.

The emperor, wanting to convince himself of the truth of the accusation, ordered Sergius and Bacchus to offer sacrifice to the idols, but they replied that they honored the One God and worshiped only Him.

Maximian commanded that the martyrs be stripped of the insignia of military rank (their belts, gold pendants, and rings), and then dressed them in feminine clothing. They were led through the city with an iron chains around their necks, and the people mocked them. Then he summoned Sergius and Bacchus to him again and in a friendly manner advised them not to be swayed by Christian fables, but to return to the Roman gods. The saints refuted the emperor's words, and demonstrated the folly of worshiping the pagan gods.

The emperor commanded that they be sent to the governor of the eastern part of Syria , Antiochus, a fierce hater of Christians. Antiochus had received his position with the help of Sergius and Bacchus. "My fathers and benefactors!" he said. "Have pity on yourselves, and also on me. I do not want to condemn my benefactors to cruel tortures." The holy martyrs replied, "For us life is Christ, and to die is gain." The enraged Antiochus ordered Bacchus to be mercilessly beaten, and the holy martyr surrendered his soul to the Lord. They shod Sergius with iron sandals with nails in their soles and sent him to another city, where he was beheaded with the sword.

As I read this, I was thinking how God placed these two men in high military/government positions to bring glory to His kingdom. There was no backing down for these guys and no hiding or waffling their faith. They had obviously earned the respect of their superiors in the difficult realm of politics (although that didn't stop those superiors from persecuting them...reluctantly...oh, sorry guys, I think you're really great but I'm gonna have to chop off your heads anyway, bummer). Then I was thinking, I wonder what those same martyrs think of our American "Christian" politicians. Just how transparent and committed are they when their lives *aren't* on the line? Our Christianity must look almost unrecognizable to the martyrs who died for their faith under persecutions such as wild animals and beheadings. We often talk in this nation how Christians are placed by God into positions of power but sometimes I have to wonder, are those politicians serving in the spirit of Sergius and Bacchus or Antiochus and Maximian?