Friday, December 24, 2010

Christ is born! Glorify Him! Christmas 2010

"Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord as we sing of this present mystery: the wall that divided God from man has been destroyed; the flaming sword withdraws from Eden’s gate; the Cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life; and I, who had been cast out through my disobedience, now feast on the food of Paradise: for today the Father’s perfect Image, marked with the stamp of His eternity, has taken the form of a servant. Without undergoing change He is born from an unwedded mother; He was true God, and He remains the same, but through His love for mankind, He has become what He never was: true man. Come, O faithful, let us cry to Him: 'O God, born of the Virgin, have mercy on us!” (Byzantine Rite)

Myself, Khouria Susan, and all the clergy and faithful of the Antiochian Catholic Church in America wish you a most blessed Christmas Day and Nativity season.

"May He who as born in a cave and lay in a manger for the sake of our salvation, Christ our true God, through the prayers of His most pure and holy Mother; of the holy, glorious, and all-laudable Apostles, of our holy and God-bearing Fathers and Mothers; of the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; and of all the Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and loveth humanity." (Byzantine Rite)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Update on the Pious Reader Timotheos

From Mar Michael, 7:10 AM EDT, this morning:

"Dear Friends: I am grateful to all for your prayers for Reader Timotheos. He remains in ICU. As of yesterday [Wednesday] he still was unable to breathe without a respirator, remains heavily sedated, and is receiving nourishment intravenously, and so in such respects he is no better; yet the doctors have, by means of various tests, eliminated the worst of the possibilities, and now think that a virus is the primary cause. The current plan is to simply provide continuing life support until the virus runs its course. In a few days he is expected to be able to breathe without assistance and begin making a full recovery. Do please continue to pray, both for Tim and for others in our fold that are in need, as "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (Jas 5:6)." Yours in Christ Jesus, Mar Michael"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Prayer Request

Please keep the Pious Reader Timotheos Coram in your prayers, He is in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital in Knoxville.

Mar Michael reports that he saw Tim this evening and prayed with him. Mar Michael states that Tim seemed responsive to prayer even though he remained sedated at that time. According to Mar Michael, Tim is now scheduled to be in the ICU for the next 3-5 days after having had a procedure this morning to remove fluid from his chest.

"Lord Jesus, have mercy on your servant, Timotheos."

Whatever it is...

It's all Anselm's fault.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day, 2010: An Op-Ed Piece and a Book Review

It’s Labor Day. Time to do this – finally. Time to review Tom Geoghegan's book Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life. I don’t know why it has been so hard. I’ve had this book for a couple of months, and I’ve read it twice, the second time with pen in hand, liberally underlining and starring and making multiple arrows.

Okay, first things first: buy this book and read it. “Read, mark, and inwardly digest.”

Yes, the review is coming, but let’s set the stage first. As we all know, the U.S. economy is NOT doing well, and for many of us in the lower 90% of income and wealth, has not been doing very well for the last 30 years. So read Robert Reich’s op-ed piece before proceding:

"How to End the Great Recession"

Got that? Except for those at the very top, perhaps the top 10%, we’ve all been receiving less and less in real wages while working harder and harder for longer and longer even though our productivity has continued to rise. To make up, we’ve been borrowing, usually against the value of our homes which were continually rising. Then the bubble burst and home prices plummeted. Further, all that capital going to the top has not, for the most part, been reinvested in the United States. Somewhere along the line, it became possible, both legally and electronically, to invest from the U.S. anywhere in the world.

Enter Tom Geoghegan. Tom is a “labor side” labor lawyer from Chicago. He is Irish Catholic (if that weren’t obvious). He ran for Congress in 2009 as a progressive Democrat, trying to win Rahm Emmanuel’s former seat. He lost the primary. He has written other books, including Which Side are You On? Trying to be for Labor When It’s Flat on its Back.

But to the present book: between 1997 and 2009, Geoghegan took several trips to Europe, especially Germany. At some point, he lived in Germany for a few months, teaching an American Labor Law course at university. The book, reminiscent in some ways of James Joyce, intersperses fact with history, travelogue, anecdote. Part of the problem for me has been I frankly didn’t know where to begin in reviewing it. Geoghegan has obviously written this book in order to advocate something in which I am in complete agreement: the ways in which national economies in Europe are structured, and especially in Germany, have much to commend themselves to the United States, especially since the U.S. is in an economic crisis that shows no sign of getting better any time soon, especially for those of us at the bottom.

What to write about this book? What facts to convey?

- Germany, a major player on the world economic stage, is doing better than the United States economically by almost any measure, especially unemployment. Germany always runs a trade surplus. However, forall that, people work little overtime, retire on time or earlier, and get six weeks of vacation each year, not to mention multiple four-day weekends, many of them tied to the Christian calendar, even though few Germans are church-goers.

- The German economic system, featuring worker “co-determination” at both the highest and the lowest levels in large and not-so-large enterprises, was created in the aftermath of World War II by a coalition of predominantly Roman Catholic Christian Democrats (the center-right "pro business" party); American New Dealers, including high-ranking military figures such as General Dwight Eisenhower; and UK Labour Party people. Thus, Germany is where “the New Deal went to live.” At the top, half of the board of directors is elected by rank-and-file workers. At each worksite, a “works council”, also elected by the workers, has a decisive voice in day-to-day matters such as working hours, who gets promoted, how layoffs are handled, etc. Because of the need for consensus, companies may find it harder to make decisions, but once made, they are easier to implement. In the United States, decisions are usually made unilaterally in a top-down fashion, so they are easily made, but much harder to put into effect.

Union membership is high, up to 60% of workers, depending on the industry. Labor organizations, such as IG Metall, focus on big picture issues, for example negotiating wages and benefits with large scale associations of employers. Thus, enterprises within the same industry tend not to compete with each other on the basis of a race to the bottom with regard to labor costs.

- Geoghegan argues convincingly that the system works better than that found in the United States, not only for blue collar working class people, but also for those, say, at the 90th percentile of income. This is the case because, while taxes overall are a bit higher (approximately 40% in the United States vs. 50% in Europe), the services received in return, such as free college education, for example, far outweigh the additional taxes. In making this comparision, Geoghegan writes of the hypothetical American “Barbara” and the European “Isabell”, both of whom are colleged-educated executives. Geoghegan writes:

“Really, Isabel is better off as a consumer because (1) she pays higher taxes and (2) the state controls her spending. It’s because she pays more in taxes that Isabel can save. While this sound paradoxical, it’s obvious in a way. A European-type social democracy is really a form of guided spending. The state taxes Isabel and spends her tax money on what Isabel really needs. Barbara, by contrast, is pretty much on her own. Think of what the state ‘buys’ for Isabel:

Child care

The state buys for Isabel, in bulk, in the most efficient way. This leaves her plenty of money to spend on her own. Barbara can’t buy these things for herself as cheaply or as efficiently as the state can.”
This comparison harks back to a major point of this book:

“…in a sense, the more we [in the United States] spend, the less socialist we become. For whether it is health care or education, we use the private market to pay for the distribution of public goods. In other words, we pay socialist-type taxes so that the private insurance companies, drug companies, and yes, doctors can profiteer.”
-While American capital has been flying around the world and being invested in derivatives and subprime securitized mortages during a free-for-all that has cost, so far, at least one trillion of American taxpayer dollars to clean up and to keep us from falling off the economic abyss, a system of government-owned banks in Germany kept enough capital in Germany to keep the system going.

-Perhaps the most important point: as Europe unites in the European Union, Germans say that one of their biggest exports, in an economy that is export-driven, is their corporate and economic structure.

In the end, Geoghegan decides that he was, in fact, born on the right continent. If he had been European, all he could do, he says, is “play defense” when it comes to maintaining the European model. Geoghegan wants, he writes, to continue to "play offense" in recreating the American economic system. Personally, I’m not so sure. Being able to play defense would be nice for a while.

Also, I don't care if the preferred label is "socialism," "social democracy," "social capitalism," "European capitalism" or what-have-you. It works. It creates economic justice (remember the Roman Catholic Christian Democrats?), and we need a much greater measure of it here in the United States.

Did I tell you to buy and read the book? Buy and read the book!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On A 15th Annivesary of Ordination

Saturday, August 26, 1995. Columbia, South Carolina. The midlands of South Carolina are being drenched by remnants of a tropical storm blown in from the Gulf of Mexico. At our home some miles East of Columbia, a ramshackle antebellum plantation house, the yard is flooding, our old car will not start, and the bishop needs to be picked up from the airport. This task is assigned to Rachel, a friend of our older daughter, Ryan.

When Rachel arrives with the bishop, Victor Mar Michael Herron, who has flown in from Knoxville, we jump our car and get it running. It is time to head into Columbia. We have arranged to use a large Lutheran sanctuary for the service. Lutherans are the best friends Independent Orthodox/Catholic jurisdictions have ever had when it comes to the use of worship space. This sanctuary dwarfs the few brave souls who venture out for the service. At some point, Mar Michael and I run to the store to pick up something or other. “You know you can still back out,” he says. He has to say that. He had also said it around a year earlier when, on September 18, 1994, our younger daughter’s birthday, I had been ordained a deacon. In both cases, I declined to back out.

We transferred the celebration of the Holy Apostle Titus from August 25 to August 26 for the ordination liturgy. We also commemorated Moses the Black, whose date on our calendar is August 28. Mar Michael presided at the Liturgy of the Word and I acted as his deacon. Our younger daughter, Cary, served as acolyte throughout the liturgy. Susan read the lesson from the Letter to Titus:
“…For a [presbyter], as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.”

Kyrie Eleison!

I led a responsive chanting of the psalm.

I do not recall if I or Mar Michael read the Gospel. The reading, Mark 10:32-38, records Jesus telling his disciples that he will be crucified and wondering if they “will be able to drink from the cup of which I will drink.”

All ordinations are another step on the road to Golgotha.

Mar Michael preached. I remember little of what he said except for some nice things about me and my family that, at least when it comes to myself, were not exactly accurate. We both then approached the altar, facing liturgical east, and I knelt, my head resting on my arms crossed on the altar. Using the Byzantine formula for ordination, he placed his pallium over my head, laid his hands upon my head, and cried aloud:

“The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking, ordains the most devout Deacon Gregory to the office of Priest. Let us therefore pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him!”

Mar Michael then offered the following prayers:

“O God without beginning or end, Thou who art before every created thing, and Who honors with the title of Presbyter those whom Thou deem worthy to serve the word of Thy truth in the divine ministry of this order: Thou, the same sovereign Master, preserve in purity of life and in unswerving faith this man whom Thou hast been pleased to ordain through me by the laying on of hands, graciously imparting to him the great grace of Thy Holy Spirit, making him wholly Thy servant, well-pleasing to Thee in all things, and worthily exercising this great honor of the Priesthood which Thou hast conferred upon him by the power of Thy wisdom. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in both worlds and unto the Aeon of aeons.”

“O God, great in might and inscrutable in wisdom, marvelous in counsel above the sons of men: Thous that self-same Lord, fill with the gift of Thy Holy Spirit this man whom it has pleased Thee to advance to the degree of Priest; that he may become worthy to stand in innocence before Thy altar, to proclaim the Gospel of Thy kingdom, to minister the word of Thy truth, to offer unto Thee spiritual gifts and sacrifices; to renew Thy people through the font of regeneration, that when he shall go to meet Thee, at the second coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Thine only-begotten Son, he may receive the reward of good stewardship in the order given to him, through the plenitude of Thy goodness. For blessed and glorified is Thine all-holy and majestic name, of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in both worlds unto the Aeon of aeons.”

Mar Michael then bade me rise, vested me as a priest, and led the congregation in proclaiming Axios! Axios! Axios!

I then celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the first time, Mar Michael presiding from the chair.

Afterward, we returned to our home for a small gathering of those who had attended and perhaps a few others. Mar Michael stayed the night, and before he left, I celebrated again for him and the family, this time in the chapel we had prepared in the house itself. He seemed satisfied that I knew what I was doing, at least technically.

Obviously, much has happened since then. There have been ups and downs. However, I have never doubted that I am called to the priesthood of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, and this calling has been affirmed by many people, both in and outside the ACCA. There has been little success as the world measures success, but God does not call us to be successful, only faithful. If I have been faithful, God is responsible. If not, then I am responsible. In any event, please keep this sinner, the most unworthy priest Gregory, in your prayers, and may our Lord continue to keep united in one heard and mind this little Church, the Antiochian Catholic Church in America, in which I serve as a priest, and may the Most Blessed Trinity unite us all in the Kingdom of Heaven. Unto Thee, O God, is due all glory, honor and worship, to the Father, and to the Son+, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, in both worlds and unto the Aeon of aeons. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Now ain't that ironic?

Long suspected, now confirmed by DNA: Hitler likely had Jewish ancestry. The possibility of relatively recent African ancestry, however, is an entirely new twist. Jesse Owens, ya gotta love it!

"Hitler DNA Tests Show He Likely Had Jewish, African Roots, Daily Mail Says"

"In Christ, we are reconciled, not only with God, but with each other"

Sermon for August 22, 2010, Third-to-Last Sunday after Pentecost on the ACCA Calendar.

Readings: Ephesians 2:11-22, Psalm 27:7-11, John 12:20-26.

The season of Pentecost is coming to a close for another year, and today, we celebrate the Holy Greek Doctors – that is, “teachers” of the early Church. Next week, we shall commemorate the Syriac Doctors: Mar Ephrem, Mar Isaac, Mar Severus of Antioch, and others. In two weeks, the Last Sunday of Pentecost, we will celebrate both the Latin Teachers and Trinity Sunday.

The Greek Doctors are men such as St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who vindicated the Church’s teaching on the incarnation of the eternal son and word of God, Jesus Christ, against the Arians. They are teachers like the Cappodocian Fathers, Gregory of Nazianzen, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nyssa, who clarified for all time the Church’s teaching on the Trinity, that God is a community of Three Divine Persons who are one in being, one in essence: the unoriginate, eternal Father who eternally generates the Son and Word and who simultaneously, eternally breathes forth the Holy Spirit, who “proceeds from the Father and rests upon the Son.”

Yes, our God is the eternal, archetypal community, a communion of Divine Persons who are “members one of another” and in whose image and likeness we who are human are created.

The Greek Doctors also include St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, who without fear spoke truth to power and died in exile as a result.

In the Gospel reading from the Preaching of St. John, “some Greeks”, presumably Jewish converts of Hellenic descent, want to “see Jesus”. They approach Philip, probably a Greek-speaker, and Philip and Andrew go to Jesus. Interestingly, it is not clear that the Greeks are present with Philip and Andrew.

In any event, Jesus replies: “The hour has come for the Son of Adam to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.”

Now Jesus is quoted in other contexts as saying that in order to have life, one must lose one’s life. Here, however, with “Greeks” in mind, he speaks first of a cycle of nature, and then applies the same principle to humanity. If I would live, I must die to myself. I must live for something bigger than myself, outside myself.

Jesus continues: "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name." And, a bit later: “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." And then, commentary from the gospel writer:“He said this to show by what death he was to die.”

In giving up his life to an unjust criminal execution, Jesus does many things. First and foremost, he defeats Satan, “the ruler of this world”. He defeats Satan, the master of death, by voluntarily submitting to death when He, being sinless, was in no way subject to death. He defeats Satan in this way by exposing Satan as the co-opter, the usurper, who uses good things, the State, culture, the divinely-revealed teaching in the Jewish law, as weapons by which to unjustly kill the Messiah. Jesus thereby exposes Satan as the thief who, upon entering the house and encountering the owner and the police, tries to convince the officers that the owner of the house should be arrested for trespassing!

Now the possibility that the state, the law, can be co-opted in this way is a stumbling block for all people. We really want to live by the law, by force. Why? So we, in fact, can justify protecting ourselves, secure in our possessions. For the Greeks, as for us, who are their heirs, this often takes the form, not of being afraid to die per se (although we are), but of inclining toward risking our lives in causes that are not worthy of self-sacrifice.

These causes are essentially oppressive of others but in them, we can glory because we think we are purifying, not ourselves, but the world around us and thereby protecting ourselves and all this is "true, good, and beautiful," etc. As Nietzsche pointed out, these are pagan values, the values of Greek philosophy. They are essentially the values of social Darwinism. Only the strong survive: only the strong SHOULD survive. I think of Naziism. Stalinism. The Confederacy and its desire to preserve slavery. I think of the neo-liberal approach to economics.

Yes, there may be a time and place where war is necessary. I think most agree that World War II, for example, was necessary. But in so many cases, people give up their lives for causes that lead, not to resurrection and life, but only to death. In any event, the great achievement of the Greek teachers was to use the language of Greek philosophy to express the Christian faith. In the West, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas attempted to use philosophy as the key to understand the Christian faith and in doing so, they distorted it. The Greek fathers used their Christian faith to understand and, where necessary, to critique philosophy. In essence, they nailed philosophy to the cross and when it was resurrected with Christ, it expressed a whole new reality but in the old, familiar language.

So then, if we wish to live, we too must die with Christ, along with our old presuppositions. If we do, we shall indeed also rise with him. As the reading from Ephesians explains, in dying with him, we are reconciled with all who follow him, regardless of ethnicity or culture, as we are all drawn to Christ, as He says in the gospel. We learn to appreciate the gifts that each group brings into the Church. In Christ, in his death and resurrection, the direct revelation given to Moses and the Hebrew prophets is fulfilled and completed as is the indirect revelation discerned by the Greeks and all paganisms. In both cases, the fulfillment is personal: the fulfillment is a person. The Eternal Son and Word of God-become-human, Jesus Christ.

Classical Greek philosophy is almost anti-personal (not unlike much of contemporary science). Why? In short, because personhood is unknowable. It cannot be reduced to something else. All we can discern of personhood is through its works, or energies.

A person is free. Free to transcend his or her human nature. Free to love. To love to the point of giving up one’s life for one’s friends. Free to be in communion with other persons. This is possible for us because we are becoming friends with him who gave up his life for us.

In so doing, we are also becoming friends with those who were previously enemies because they are different ethnically, or of the other gender, or because they are of a different socioeconomic class, and/or because we oppressed them or they oppressed us. No, in dying with Christ, in rising with him, all of that is irrelevant. We start to become true persons, in communion with others who are also becoming persons in Christ. We stop oppressing. We stop accepting oppression.

In Christ, we are reconciled, not only with God, but with each other.

Now, all who have been baptized and chrismated have begun this process. We continue it, at least weekly, by offering ourselves together to the Father in, with, and through the sacrifice of the Son in the sacrifice of the altar, as empowered by the eternal, all-holy, good, and lifegiving Spirit. Let us pray therefore that, in receiving in return the heavenly gifts of the body and blood of Christ, we may truly become what we are, one body and one spirit, members of Christ and therefore members one of another, for he is indeed Lord forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Feasts in Mid-August

Today, August 14, and tomorrow, August 15, mark two Christian celebrations, the first being primarily Roman Catholic (but commemorating a martyr who could well be celebrated by the universal Church) and the second being indeed a celebration of the Church throughout the whole world.

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom, the heavenly birthday, of a Polish Franciscan friar who sacrificed his life by way of the Nazi yoke in 1941. His name is Maximilian Kolbe. Briefly, after the Nazis divided Poland with the Soviets in September, 1940, Fr. Kolbe took up resistance activities, including sheltering refugees, Jews and others, from the Nazis. In February 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo and transferred to Auschwitz in late May of that same year. A little later, a prisoner disappeared and the Commandant, thinking that he had escaped, decreed that 10 prisoners would be starved to death in retaliation. One of these men cried out in distress for his wife and children and Fr. Kolbe, having not been initially chosen, volunteered to take this man's place.

Father and the other men were confined together in one cell. He celebrated Mass for them as long as he could, using unleavened bread and wine smuggled in by sympathetic guards, andvhe comforted the men with his words and presence, leading them in songs and prayers. He told them that they would soon be with the Blessed Virgin Mary in heaven. Fr. Kolbe had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, "the Immaculata" or "sinless one". Finally, he alone survived, and was then killed outright with an injection of carbolic acid. The full story, from Wikipedia, is found here. According to Jesus, "Greater love no one has than this, that one lays down their life for their friends."

August 15, of course, marks the dormition, the "falling asleep" and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin, body and soul, into heaven. This is indeed a celebration of the universal apostolic Church. The blessed Mother of our Lord, "the first of the redeemed," is first in all things after her Divine Son and completely shares in both his suffering and his glory. Thus, she is the first to experience the resurrection after him in that her soul and glorified body are reunited in heaven. A fuller account, from Orthodoxwiki, is found here.

From the Byzantine Rite, here is the Kontakian (Tone 2) for the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Mother of God:

"Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb."

"Through the prayers of the Theotokos, Oh Savior, save us!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fr. Ernesto on JetBlue Flight Attendant

"JetBlue folk hero flight attendant - but why?"

"Now be honest, when was the last time you heard a sermon, on practically expressing love, that called upon people to be good customers as a loving expression of God’s care for us? And, when was the last time you heard a sermon, calling upon those in our congregations who are masters, that called for employers or supervisors or chief executives, etc., to promote just, equitable, and yes, loving employee guidelines within their companies, as part of their duty to imitate the God who is also our Lord and our Master?"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fr. Stephen on Humility

This short piece, well worth the read, is here, but the most important thing that OCA priest Fr. Stephen writes concerning this is found in a comment that he makes in response to a question:

"We do not need to defend who we are. Such defense prevents us from becoming who we’re meant to be."

Let those who have ears hear and those who have eyes, see.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Various Posts Worth Reading

First, from Greek Orthodox scholar, Dr. Valerie Karras, who teaches at Southern Methodist University. In this article, Dr. Karras discussed the agreed statement on justification produced by a joint commission of Lutherans and Roman Catholic academics.

"Beyond Justification"

Next, Fr. Titus Fulcher is a Byzantine Rite Roman Catholic priest who lives here in Charleston, South Carolina. On his blog, "Byzantine Rambler" (linked on the right), he has posted an 8-part series of essays on the fall and its consequences. They are well worth the read and are all linked below:

"Image and Likeness: Installment One"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Two"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Three"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Four"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Five"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Six"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Seven"

"Image and Likeness: Installment Eight"

Finally, from Greek Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas (author of Being as Communion):

"Communion and Otherness"

Thanks to my friend, Archabbas Clement, aka "Mother Charlie" for referring me to the Karras and Zizioulas pieces. Amma's blog, "Anam Cara Dei" is linked at the right.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Transfiguration 2010

The story from the three synoptic gospels (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36) is familiar enough. Jesus takes his three key disciples, Peter, James, and John, to the top of the mountain. There, he is seen to be emitting dazzlingly bright light and to be speaking with Moses and Elijah. Peter makes an irrelevant suggestion. The disciples are overcome with fear. A cloud appears surrounding Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A voice speaks from the cloud, as at Jesus' baptism: "This is my beloved son. Hear him!" The cloud lifts and the disciples see Jesus alone. Jesus tells the disciples not to speak of this until after he has risen from the dead. They have little idea what this might mean.

For the disciples, the Transfiguration allows them to later experience Jesus' execution on the cross, knowing that he lays down his life voluntarily. For us, the Transfiguration speaks of the capacity of our humanity to be divinized in union with the humanity of Christ, provided that, as St. Paul writes, "we suffer with him."

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes, "Everybody wants to be transformed, but nobody wants to change." The Transfiguration assures us that we can be transformed, in union with Christ, if we are willing to "change," that is, to die with Christ. This process of dying and rising is what living in Christ is all about. No pain, no gain. That's the news, the bad news and the good news.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For Tax Day: April 15, 2010

1. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4. for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6. For the same reason you also PAY TAXES, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7. Pay all of them their dues, TAXES TO WHOM TAXES ARE DUE, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. 8. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:1-8 RSV Emphasis added)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Memory Eternal: the pious Subdeacon Eremya Jay King (Updated)

A photo, taken by Mother Charlie, from convocation several years ago. Subdeacon Eremya is on the left, Victor Mar Michael is on the right.

The following has been received from Andreas Mar Cassian, Eremya's brother-in-law:

The pious subdeacon Eremya Jere "Jay" Franklin King (17 July, 1950 - 15 March, 2010) fell asleep in the Lord this morning at about ten o'clock after a long illness. When asked earlier this morning, he was of good cheer and said that he was feeling better than he had for the last two days. His sister [Amma Caitlin Turner] heard him fall from the next room just two hours later and she went to see what was the matter. He was already gone, his long fight ended. An ambulance took his body to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville, Tennessee, for examination. It was there determined that his death was from heart failure.

In accordance with his wish, his body will be cremated. Although this is not our usual custom, he held the Orthodox Christian faith in the Resurrection and explained that God will raise ashes as well as dust on the Last Day.

His funeral will be Sunday, March 21,2010 at three o'clock in the afternoon at St. Demetrios Church in Knoxville.

Instead of flowers, donations may be made in Jay's memory to St. Demetrios Antiochian Catholic Church, 2001 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville TN 37921.

May Christ our God, who by His death hath destroyed death, grant memory eternal to His servant, the Pious Subdeacon Eremya and may his loved ones who remain in this life be comforted with the peace of God, the peace which passes all understanding.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Two Prayer Requests

Just when I thought I had a blogging/commenting plan/agenda in place, life intervened.

I have two relatively urgent prayer intentions over the next few days. If you pray, I would very much appreciate immediate prayer for these as soon as you read this, then again when you remember over the next several days. Please bring these intentions to the altar, whether as priest or lay person. Please ask the Blessed Virgin and the other Saints to intercede for me, my family, and these two intentions that I have.

Just when I thought I had a plan...

Monday, February 1, 2010

From Thomas Jefferson...

An Internet Chicago friend, Frank Avila, Jr., posts the following on Facebook:

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."- Thomas Jefferson

Personally, despite all disagreement, I value friendship very highly.

A Modest Proposal...

And now, something to raise the hair on the back of the necks of readers who are "strict constructionist" when it comes to the Constitution, who believe in the possibility of interpreting same according to "original intent", and who, of course, think that God somehow ordained unrestrained free market capitalism:

"Making globalisation pay: Big corporations are using the banking crisis as an excuse for exploiting cheap labour. Is it time for a global minimum wage?"

"Just as the vast majority of developed economies from which most multinationals hail have minimum wage systems in place, it's time global corporations were made to apply similar practices in their overseas operations in poorer countries.

"In addition to an absolute rock bottom wage which they cannot go below, multinationals should be obliged to implement an indexed salary system in which workers in their overseas operations cannot earn less than, say, half of what a worker doing a similar job in their home territory earns.

"Complaints are bound to be heard about how this interferes with the efficient functioning of the free market. But I doubt CEOs and top managers would be so blase if it was their own jobs that were to be outsourced. I'm sure India and other developing countries are teeming with intelligent, capable entrepreneurs who could probably do a better job than many of our current crop of avaricious business leaders, and at a fraction of the cost.

"Besides, the free market already functions inefficiently – the rich domestic markets of multinationals are still quite well-protected fortresses. And, though we may have freer movement of goods and services than in the past, the movement of labour is severely restricted. In a truly free market, workers would go where the best-paying jobs are, rather than the jobs going to where the worst-paid workers are.

"More importantly, at its core, economics is about human wellbeing and if free-market orthodoxy fails to deliver on this, then something needs to be done to balance efficiency against ethics." (emphasis added)

On Romans 13 and Government: a post in which Fr. Ernesto tropes me

Fr. Ernesto Obregon is Cuban-American. A former "Jesus Freak" and former Anglican priest, he is now a priest of the OTHER Antiochian jurisdiction, the byzantine Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, led by Metropolitan PHILIP. Fr. Ernesto is pastor of a parish in Florida. In the following, he speaks to comments I made on another post on his blog, in which I, on the basis of Romans 13, other scriptures, and the entire patristic tradition, defend the legitimacy of government as such, in that government is divinely-instituted.

"On Romans 13 and Government"

Obviously, Fr. Ernesto and I largely agree. I differ slightly with him on two points. On the first, I think it is possible and useful to think of the so-called "American Revolution" as a ("just") war for independence rather than as a revolution per se. Second, I do think it is possible, on the basis of Augustine's "just war" theory, to posit a theory of just revolution. From "the repository of all knowledge," Wikipedia, here are the criteria usually given for just war:
Just cause
The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life. A contemporary view of just cause was expressed in 1993 when the US Catholic Conference said: "Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations."

Comparative justice
While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other. Some theorists...omit this term, seeing it as fertile ground for exploitation by bellicose regimes.

Legitimate authority
Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war.

Right intention
Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.

Probability of success
Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.

Last resort
Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.

The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.
One large theoretical problem immediately pops out of the above: the matter of legitimate authority. Anyone seeking to justify a violent revolution on Christian grounds would immediately have to deal with this question. As to the rest of the criteria, it is also immediately clear that one could not, at least from a Christian perspective, justify the incitement of violent revolution in the United States at this time. As Fr. Ernesto rightly points out, revolution is a dangerous and unpredictable way of attempting to secure one's political aims.

For all that, as I said, Fr. Ernesto and I largely agree. I do wish to underscore one area of agreement here. Fr. Ernesto writes, "the Anabaptists remind us that verbal violence is just as bad as physical violence. This is why Our Lord said that to even call our brother a fool was tantamount to murder." There is also the matter, as highlighted by Fr. Ernesto, of accurately representing our opponents' positions on issues; Christians must not bear false witness.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fast of Nineveh 2010, January 25-27

This three-day fast, observed in both East and West Syrian traditions, commemorates the reluctant mission of Jonah to the city of Nineveh. In the story, Jonah spends three days and three nights in the belly of the "fish". Jesus refers to his own time in the tomb as "the sign of Jonah". Once Jonah gets it together and actually preaches to the Ninevites, they fast for three days and three nights in repentance, much to Jonah's chagrin. While the book of Jonah is inspired fiction, it is indeed INSPIRED, telling the story of an all-too-human prophet who is bound by the prejudices and cultural limitations of his time and place, but who is, nonetheless, a genuine prophet, and is used by God in spite of himself.

In the ACCA, the pre-Lenten season begins with the Fourth to Last Sunday of Theophany, which commemorates all departed priests. This year, this Sunday occurred yesterday. The Fast of Nineveh then occupies the next three days, Monday through Wednesday, so this Fast begins today and continues through Wednesday.

We in the ACCA have used this fast to pray especially for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who remain in the Middle East. This year, let us also pray for those who suffer in Haiti and let us assist both in any way we can. One easy way to help ease the suffering in Haiti is to text the word Haiti to 90999. This will donate 10 dollars to the Red Cross for Haitian relief which will be charged to your cell phone bill.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pastor John Roop writes...

...about a visit to St. Demetrios in Knoxville:

Sunday last I attended evening Divine Liturgy at a local Oriental Orthodox parish – one of a handful of places in this world I know myself truly loved in Christ. This congregation conducts a vibrant and challenging outreach ministry to the Knoxville inner-city homeless population; several dozen men and women receive physical and spiritual nourishment from the church each week.

Sunday was cold – brutally so – and several “children of the streets” sought the warmth of the church during service. One sat behind me, a chronically homeless man who has made some considerable progress in the years I’ve known him; he is now more often clean and sober than in the past. Pray God to have mercy on him. He commented –good-naturedly – on the late arrival of a homeless friend, "God, they’ll let anyone in here.” I looked around and thought, “God, he’s right. They will.” Quite a spectrum of people crowded the small church that night: politically, from far left to far right; economically, from middle class to homeless; intellectually, from sophisticated to simple and even damaged; spiritually – well, who am I to judge that? I know there were saints there, and I know there was at least one sinner, so the spectrum was represented. My friend was right: God – in God’s name – they’ll let anyone in here.
John is the pastor of Holy Trinity Ecumenical Orthodox Church, a nondenominational house church in Knoxville. The above opens a sermon he preached recently on the Baptism of the Lord - and by extension, baptism in general.

One of the aspects of baptism upon which John focuses has to do with its social implications. To be baptized into Christ means being baptized into Christ's body, "the family of God". Read it all here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Prophets of old continue to speak...

"Bourgeois Life and the Orthodox Mind: The Importance of the Prophets"

"The institutions of bourgeois capitalism are incompatible, at their root, with the life of Orthodox Christianity."


"In sum, the modern world is based on the essence of Baalism: the belief in epistemological nominalism, the manipulation of natural forces for personal gain (which, it might be added, includes both magic and science), the justification of radical class stratification, legalism and litigiousness, ecumenical religion, individualism (the necessary consequence of nominalism), “republican government,” centralization of political and financial power, the continued sacrifice of lives in the name of “progress,” the fetishization of commodities, deceit, secret societies, moral compartmentalization and luxury. This is the Enlightenment at its essence, which means it was merely a “renaissance” of ancient fertility paganism, though fetishized as progress and/or science."

and, from the Fathers:

"The Church Fathers on wealth, poverty, social justice, charity, and communitarianism"

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year! (and Circumcision of the Lord, and...

...Holy Name, and Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and St. Basil, and the Octave Day of Christmas.

Did I miss any?

Just in time for this Most Holy of Days (at least by number of celebrations), from Fr. Jonathan Tobias (who serves a jurisdiction for which today is Friday, December 19, still within the Nativity Fast):

"I saw Him coming"

"so did you"

"Baby God"