Sunday, March 30, 2008

suit up!

Maybe there is some hope that Ian's friend David can rub off on him in a positive way. His lesson on quiet signals during church didn't seem to take, but it looks like the wardrobe is showing some promise. With his well-placed hand-me-down jacket, when David says to "suit up," Ian will be ready! Now we just need to get him to take more interest in the service, stop harassing Mommy, obey when we give him directions . . . but the clothes make the man, right?

Friday, March 14, 2008

get in shape, the Orthodox way!

You too can get in shape, with our patented, simple regimen:
  1. Don't eat anything. Don't drink anything either, if it can be avoided.
  2. Spend a couple of hours each night in church,
    • standing more or less continually (no whining about feeling weak from #1)
    • prostrating often (ditto)
    • bowing to the floor incessantly (what, you were already feeling light-headed?)
    • singing almost non-stop (dry throat? what dry throat?)
  3. Also extend your private prayer times at home, with any or all of the elements from #2.
  4. Which means, of course, that you should be getting less sleep. (Feeling drowsy? Try standing . . . or bowing . . . or prostrating . . . )
  5. Oh, you can eat on Wednesday night, but late, and you'll need two services to make up for it. And don't eat too much (not that you can, with a stomach shrunken from three days without food and a throat so dry that well-cooked pasta can feel like broken glass).
  6. Don't worry--it gets much better after the first week (seriously).
I say this, knowing myself to be a world-class wuss (huh--no flags in the spell-checker on that word), who didn't make it the full three days without food, who attended only one service all week and still fidgeted, rolled my feet on their sides to ease the soreness, and had to resist looking at my watch. But what's the point of having standards, if they don't give you something to work up to, right?

I also say it, wishing I could have done more with the first week of Lent. I discovered that I have too much anger. (This is one of my favorite scenes from the Joan Cusack movie High Fidelity. [PROFANITY WARNING: There are a few instances of the dreaded f-word in this clip; if that bothers you, don't play it.]

While it didn't go anywhere near as far into absurdity, I had my own mock confrontation play out in my head earlier this week, which I suppose wasn't anything terribly new, but it surprised me to realize it had happened.) G. I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle," but I'm not sure I've moved on to the other half.

I also wish I could have prayed more, been in more services, paid more attention to the needs of those around me, etc. Five more weeks to get it right, I guess.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moscow Patriarchate endorses the Simpsons

Interfax quotes Moscow Patriarchate spokesman Fr. Mikhail Prokopenko:
I would not say that absolutely all cartoons shown on 2x2 are immoral and offensive. In fact, some of the cartoons shown there can even be called Christian and promoting family values - take, for instance, The Simpsons, a cartoon series that I, for one, really like.
Finally! Vindication from an official religious body. This is what I've been harping on for years. I knew there was something I liked about this Church :-)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wurmbrand on Orthodoxy

Funny how things come at once. I posted yesterday on Fr. George Calciu's remark about American Christians. This morning I listened to Kh. Frederica''s podcast about another clergyman who suffered under the Communist persecution in Romania--Richard Wurmbrand, a Jewish convert and Lutheran pastor. Wurmbrand will be known to many Evangelical readers as the author of Tortured for Christ, about his experience in Romania, and the founder of Voice of the Martyrs--a publication that brings to light the continuing experiences of Christians under persecution around the world. Here, the tables are turned, and Wurmbrand--who remained a Protestant until his death in 2001--comments on his experience with Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Most of the material in the podcast comes from a pair of Again articles that can be downloaded in a Word doc from Ancient Faith Radio, or read online here and here. The first article refers to a recorded conversation between Hieromonks Damascene and Gerasim of St. Herman Monastery in Platina, CA, Mother Nina, and Pastor Wurmbrand; the podcast contains clips from that recording, including Wurmbrand singing his own arrangement of "Ave Maria" in English and Hebrew.

Wurmbrand speaks with respect of the Orthodox individuals he met, and the monks speak with respect as well of their encounter with him. His stories of these Orthodox confessors are touching and should encourage Orthodox and Protestants alike.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Calciu on America

I just got the July-August 2007 issue of The Orthodox Word. (I recently subscribed, so I don't know if they're just behind schedule or still sending me free back issues.) This issue is devoted to Fr. George Calciu, of blessed memory--a Romanian confessor who suffered under Communist persecution and died a little over a year ago of pancreatic cancer. I never met Fr. George, but he was the spiritual father of my spiritual father and of some of my friends. For the last several years of his life, he pastored a Romanian parish in Northern Virginia. I can't recall exactly if I've ever heard the term "saint" applied to Fr. George, but the sentiment seems to be there in those who knew him.

The issue contains two previously unpublished talks by Fr. George, as well as a brief biography and an account of his final days. There's a lot of good material here, but I thought the last paragraph, from a Q&A session that followed his talk on "The Inner Church" (2001), was particularly noteworthy. After describing France as a "lost country," he continues:
When I returned to America from France, I took a cab from the airport to my house, and the driver started to talk to me about God, about the Bible. In shops people often start talking to me about God, about the Bible. As long as simple people speak about God, as long as simple people read the Bible, America is saved. For despite all the mistakes America has made, despite the war against Yugoslavia, despite all the killings of people, despite everything, America is blessed by God--not because Clinton or another president says, "God bless America," but because of these simple people who speak of God, worship God, read the Bible, and preserve America against every evil and every attack of the devil.
I should add that Fr. George in his other talk does not shy away from criticizing "the invasion of American and Protestant-style 'evangelization'" in Romania. He is no ecumenist, and he clearly sees Protestantism as deficient, if not at times downright anti-Christian. But note the contrast when it comes to talking about American people, most of whom are not Orthodox. He does not say they are perfect, he does not say their theology is altogether right, he does not say they have nothing important to learn. But he does say that they are good, that they have faith, that they genuinely worship God, and that they are instrumental in the spiritual war. And all this, without being Orthodox!

I don't know where we would be without persecution in the world, because it seems that without it we would lack the perspective of those, like Fr. George, who have walked through the very depths of hell. Persecution solidified his faith into something that could not keep silent (so much so, that he was re-imprisoned and after Western pressure was exiled from his homeland), but it also softened his heart toward broken humanity. Here was a man who learned to love his God-hating torturers; it does not seem so surprising that he could also see in the "simple people" of America a goodness and genuine spirit that survives, even amidst sectarianism, heresy, and imperialism. I know I, for one, need voices like his to remind me every now and then.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

" . . . and call him George"

I've long used a vaguely-remembered quote from Looney Tunes to harass Ian. It's about the only memorable line from Marvin the Martian's abominable snowman Hugo, which is better watched in context than written out. If you want to skip to the relevant part, start around 3:30:

You have my permission to use it with your loved ones as well!