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Archive for March, 2004

[A]lthough we must not despair of the possibility for our conversion and salvation no matter how weak [because previously ignored] is the call for conversion to a virtuous life, we must always think timidly and fearfully of our weak condition. Might we have sunk so far that we have reached the final opportunity to receive a grace-filled awakening? Could we have barred all inroads that divine grace, ever desiring our salvation, might take to act upon us? Is this the last time that grace may be drawing nigh unto us with the aim of bringing us to our senses and putting a stop to our disgraceful condition? Thus, as weak as such a call may be, we must ever more speedily rush to make use of it with all firmness of intention, though this may require more discernment, and intensify it to the fullest extent of human freedom. Obviously, such intensification is nothing other than the opening up of ourselves to this seeking and sought-for grace. We must open up, for through our falls we have become more and more hardened and closed to grace, in first one and then another respect.

The Path to Salvation, p. 125

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As everyone pretty well knows, trademarks exist to guard the rights of the trademark holder and to ensure the consumer that the article with said trademark is, indeed, authentic. Trademarks exist to eliminate confusion. When Anna and I moved to Illinois more than ten years ago, one of the then-recent news stories in Wichita was about some vendors selling knock-off Gucci, Dooney & Burke and Coach purses. These knock-offs looked an awful lot like the real thing, but they lacked the trademark, that is to say, the genuine characteristics necessary to authenticate themselves. The vendors were busted, of course. But not before they had sold these items literally right across the street from Towne East Mall wherein lay the then-upscale Dillards, itself an purveyor of authentic Gucci, Dooney & Burke and Coach purses.

With all the claims and counterclaims by Christians being thrown about in the media with regard to issues like gay marriage, not to mention the Current Unpleasantness going on the ECUSA, and so forth, one begins to wonder which voice is the authentic voice of Christianity? A lot of people are claiming to be “the real Christians” preaching “the real Gospel” but how is one to know? Who are the knockoffs and who are the genuine articles?
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In a USAToday article from more than a year ago, the “common sense” notion in our throw away society is proven empirically false:

Divorce doesn’t necessarily make adults happy. But toughing it out in an unhappy marriage until it turns around just might, a new study says.

The research identified happy and unhappy spouses, culled from a national database. Of the unhappy partners who divorced, about half were happy five years later. But unhappy spouses who stuck it out often did better. About two-thirds were happy five years later. . . .

”In popular discussion, in scholarly literature, the assumption has always been that if a marriage is unhappy, if you get a divorce, it is likely you will be happier than if you stayed married,” Blankenhorn says. ”This is the first time this has been tested empirically, and there is no evidence to support this assumption.”

About 19% of the divorced had happily remarried within five years.

The most troubled marriages reported the biggest turn-arounds. Of the most discontented, about 80% were happy five years later, says Linda Waite, a University of Chicago sociologist who headed the research team.

The study can be found here.

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3. Orthodox Encounters June 2002 to September 2003 (Part F)

I have, to this point, lingered quite a bit over the half-year period from June to December 2002. This has mainly been because this was perhaps the most important several months yet in my inquiry about Orthodoxy. During this time I had settled important questions in my mind regarding the biblical nature of the place of Tradition, of bishops, of the tranformation of the Eucharistic elements, and of the implications in terms of salvation and sanctification, of visible unity and historic continuity, resulting from the Church’s being the Body of Christ. I had “discovered” the reality and aid of the intercessions of the saints on our behalf, particularly of the Theotokos. And I had become a (soon-to-be) father. Mind, worship, heart and family had been radically re-formed in just over two hundred days.

The living into that reality, however, even now has only barely just begun.
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Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

Since our parish church is under renovation, the entire All Saints congregation worshipped at our sister church, St. George’s, site of the miraculous weeping icon of the Theotokos. The interior of the church, having been completely renovated after a devastating fire in 1997, is absolutely amazing. The iconography is most definitely inspiring. And the iconastasis and other woodwork, only serve to highlight the icons even more.

Our own parish is being worked on. Gone will be the pews and the stadium-style slanted floor. The floor will be leveled, and there will be chairs around the perimeter of the nave, otherwise there will be the traditional open space. Anna and I are looking forward to it, as we will be able to move out of the “parents-with-small-children” area at the back of the nave, and mingle once more among the other parishioners.

The service today was half in Arabic, so although I’m familiar enough with the Liturgy to have had an idea where we were at, otherwise, I was doing more spectating than engaging in worship. If I were to make St. George’s, or another ethnic-language parish, my home church, I’d definitely have to learn the language. I couldn’t imagine going through services just watching.

I didn’t have time to find out much about the miraculous icon. I know that Khouria Frederica mentions it in one of her books. And I’ve read the proclamation from His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, declaring the icon a miracle, but I don’t know much more about it. Anna, when told about the icon after we got home, remained skeptical. I, myself, certainly can’t argue with those who know better than me about the history of the icon and the manifestation of its tears. And in any case, it’s not about my sifting through every single thing that comes my way. I should be able to trust the Church. And I do.

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3. Orthodox Encounters June 2002 to September 2003 (Part E)

Anna was pregnant. This was joyous news. Though at first, the transition in our lives from ten years of family as couple to family as mommy, daddy and child, was emotionally tough, especially for Anna. She was smack-dab in the midst of rapid career development, and looking forward to continuing her education either in writing or in studying children’s literature. Now she was a momma. For my part, all I could see at first was the economic need to suspend, if not cancel altogether, the doctoral program I was so close to finishing.

As it turned out, those first misgivings, natural as they were, soon gave way to undiluted joy, acceptance and anticipation. Sofie took us out of ourselves and gave us a greater love to share.

I got the news on Monday, 2 December. The next Sunday I was back at All Saints to offer my thanksgiving to God, and to seek his strength. It was clear to me, almost from the beginning, that Sofie’s advent was in part, an answer to the prayers of the Theotokos for us which I’d been praying now for a couple of months. At first I had to take this somewhat on faith, though the conviction was strong. But as the months have unfolded since then, events have seemed to bear this out.
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3. Orthodox Encounters June 2002 to September 2003 (Part D)

I arrived a few minutes late for dinner at St. Gregory’s Abbey on that October Friday, the eleventh. Arriving late is not a good thing at a monastery, but being Benedictines they were unfailingly gracious and served me a heaping plate of food nonetheless. St. Gregory’s observes the canonical offices of Matins (4:00 am), Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. So after a brief opportunity to unload the car and unpack, it was time to head to the abbey church for Compline. I wandered around a bit in the monastery library, then headed back to the guest house, did some journaling and headed to bed.

The weekend was the wonderful Benedictine dance between work, study and prayer, though as a guest I was left to my own devices during the community work hours. I did some reading and journaling between offices. I ate with the brothers and other guests. I rested.

I came to the abbey with no real agenda, other than knowing I needed to go there. I’d been to the abbey on a couple of other occasions (though the last visit had been four years before), each visit of which was an intense time of prayerful consideration of a vocation and the seeking of some confirmation of its certainty. On the drive over to the abbey this time, however, I simply told God I had no agenda other than the one he had for me. If “nothing happened” that would be fine. I would just trust in him.
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