Friday, September 7, 2012

Memory Eternal!

My pious and God-loving grandmother Julia enterned into eternal life this morning at the age of 101.  She was the 6th of 8 children, but the first in her family to be born in the United States.  She and her pious husband John (d.1983) raised two children of their own, my mother and my uncle who himself entered into eternal life in 2010.

Julia was a tremendous cook and baker who faithfully served her home parish of Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church in Syracuse, NY with these talents until her early 90's when she began to slow down a bit.  She loved Our Lord Jesus and always spoke about "Our Lord this" and "Our Lord that" as if she knew Him quite closely (which she did!).  She loved all Christians but expressed to me once that she wished everyone would come to the Orthodox Church because of the beauty of the worship and that the expression of love to our Lord Jesus could not be found in any other place on earth.  About 8-9 years ago while she was still living in the home that my grandfather built, I accidently walked in on her saying her morning prayers.  Although a little bit hunched over, her arms were uplifted as high as she could as she stood praying.  I felt like I had walked into a private conversation and so I hurriedly backed out of the room and sat in awe.  I am unworthy to have had such a magnificent handmaiden of God as my grandmother.  To say that I feel blessed is an understatement. 

We love you Grandma.  What a joyous day to have been greeted by Our Saviour, His Mother, your parents, your husband, your seven siblings and your own son.  May your memory be eternal!

The following video was her favorite hymn.  It is from Psalm 77.  I can close my eyes and hear her singing this in her kitchen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A brief interruption on the Markides' postings

On the side bar over there on the right under "Places to Visit" is a link to the Orthodox Christian Quote of the Day. I rather enjoy it and some days it's seems to be just the right medicine for whatever I'm struggling with.

Today's quote comes from one of my all-time favorite saints, St. Seraphim of Sarov. I am dealing with some people that are being malicious and hurtful and hence making them quite unlovable. Thank you St. Seraphim for your wisdom. God-willing we shall meet someday. (and thank you to Adam who faithfully emails these out every day)

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil - for the devil is cold - let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance

It's not easy but I'm gonna try.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Markides' books - Part 1

Alrighty, it appears that whatever I'm doing with Blogger is sort of working so I'm just going for it. As I have mentioned probably ad nauseum on my blog, I'm just a regular person. I hold no theological degree, I'm not a PK (priest's kid), and heck, I'm not even married to an Orthodox person. I'm a cradle Orthodox woman who knew next to nothing about Orthodoxy as a child, pretty much abandoned the Church when I left home for college, and then returned almost 10 years ago at the age of 33. During the journey of the return which started in 2001 and finally *officially* occurred in February of 2003 when I stepped back into the Church, I read books. Lots of them. I started with the Orthodox Study Bible. If you are literate and call yourself a Christian, you have to have a Bible. IMHO, the OSB is a marvelous one and I recommend it to Christians of all flavors. After the Bible though, there are just so many things to read.

In the beginning I was choosing books without the advice of a spiritually mature person, so my choices were whatever I had heard of on BeliefNet or whatever was free. One of first books I picked up, because it was at my local library and hence free, was The Mountain of Silence, by Kyriacos Markides. Yes, I know, *some* people don't like Markides' books. The complaint is that Markides is too liberal in his beliefs, yada yada. That's fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. For me though, this book was a Godsend. It had nothing to do with miracles and such that are found throughout the book, although that stuff was fascinating and edifying. It had all to do with one chapter. The chapter was on logismoi. If you don't know what logismoi is, don't worry, I didn't know the word either, however I was all too familiar with it. I distinctly remember reading the chapter and saying to myself "OH.MY.GOD! There is a name for this?!!!" Here's an excerpt from the book which I conveniently found on another Orthodox blog called Orthodox Christian Medicine.
'Logismoi are much more intense than simple thoughts. They penetrate into the very depths of a human being. They have enormous power. Let us say,' Fr. Maximos went on to clarify, 'that a simple thought is a weak logismos. We need to realize, however, that certain thoughts, or logismoi, once inside a human being, can undermine every trace of a spiritual life in its very foundation. People who live in the world don't know about the nature and power of logismoi. That is, they don't have the experience of that reality. But as they proceed on their spiritual struggle, particularly through systematic prayer, then are they able to understand the true meaning and power of this reality. (pg 118).
"'I have noticed that some people, particularly young, oversensitive souls,' Fr. Maximos said, breaking the silence, 'suffer so much from these logismoi that it often leads them into psychopathological conditions. They reach such states partly because of their ignorance of the nature of logismoi. Such persons who may be attacked by a perverted, or let us say a sinful logismos, are unable to realize that such a logismos does not necessarily emanate from within themselves, but is directed toward them from the outside. They feel guilty and begin what the late Paisios used to call the 'the repetition of those whys.' They become obsessive. Oversensitive persons become even more sensitive and blame themselves with all kinds of questions: "Why do I have such a thought, why?" Such people are in dire need of proper instruction on how to handle the logismoi,' Fr. Maximos pointed out. He went on to say that the most dangerous logismoi are those sent by demonic spirits that get support and get activated by our own passions. Logismoi coming from demons are extremely devious and duplicitous" (pg. 120).

In all my life, I never had a single person ever talk to me about thoughts. I'm not blaming anyone, I'm pretty sure my own parents were not taught about logismoi and probably not my Sunday school teachers either. Or maybe they did teach about logismoi and I was sick that day. (Like I am convinced that I was home sick from school when they taught conversions of pints into quarts into liters. To this day I can't get any of that straight!) Whatever the case may be, THIS NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT TO EVERYONE! I have spoken with my eldest about logismoi (she's almost 14) and thankfully it has been discussed at summer camp as well. We deal with our thoughts 24/7 from birth to death. You would think this would be a topic to talk about.

I'll leave it at this for today. There will be at least one other post on Markides' books soon. The Mountain of Silence referenced above was followed up by Gifts of the Desert and then his latest which I have just finished called, The Inner River.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Okey Dokey let's try this once more

Okay, I have had some serious computer issues going on...For whatever reason I couldn't log onto Blogger unless I used Google Chrome. So I download Chrome, post that last entry, and then I try to post another entry, and Chrome doesn't show up anywhere. I've been trying and trying and nothing worked until I tried today and it works. So this is just a test post to see what happens. If it works, then hip hip hooray! If not, well then you'll never know that I tried. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hello. I'm back.

Well that was a long hiatus from blogging.  Lots of stuff going on here (all good thankfully!)  Kids are out of school now though, two are at summer camp and now I've got some free time to get back here.

When we last met I had done some posting on repentance.  Hope you found it was for me at least.  Sometimes I think this blog is really more for me than anything else. It helps me to think out loud and connect those proverbial dots. I'm hoping that if I post something really wacky that I'll get a comment from someone telling me that I've officially lost my mind.  I have had some people disagree with me on some stuff (privately not via the comment section).  Nothing huge like I'm spreading heresy or anything but more along the lines that I'm not hardcore Orthodox enough.  That's a fair assessment I think.  Oh well...let us move onward.

So where to start up again?  Yesterday, a good friend of mine suggested I do list of Orthodox Christian books that I like and maybe a little review of them.  I manage my parish's bookstore and am familiar with many titles so I'll give it a shot.  I was going to do a ranking but I have decided that can't rank them because I love many of them for different reasons.  Additionally, we are in the process of moving and most of my books are in a storage facility that is probably close to 150° F. Call me crazy, but I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to venture in there at this time.  I will start with the books that I either just purchased or I can borrow from our parish's library that I've already read.

Let me do some rummaging around and see what I can come up with.  See you in a day or so.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Forgiveness after Repentance

St. John the Baptist by the hand of Nicholas Papas.  This icon can be purchased at Come and See Icons.

 I am the lamest of lame of bloggers.  Sheesh...I haven't posted anything in over a month and now look where we are!  At the very threshold of Great Lent!  I really dropped the ball on these repentance posts, although how appropriate that I accidently picked today to post, a feast of St. John the Baptist.

I have always wondered (and probably should have taken the time to ask a priest or someone who would know) what the big deal was about St. John the Baptist and why we have so many days in the year that we remember him in the Church.  He has no less than 6 days (7 if you want to include the one in which we honor his parents Zachariah and Elizabeth) dedicated to him. Well it finally dawned on me that perhaps the reason we remember him so often is because of his core message of the Christian faith..."REPENT!"  (It's not a bad thing to be reminded to repent during the course of the year. Seven times is probably not enough for me actually.)

Anyhow, if you are familiar with St. John's story, you know that he was martyred by beheading for his message of repentance.   People generally don't like to be told to repent, although we all think we are St. John and ask others to repent all the time.  And then the crazy part of that is once people do repent, we still don't forgive them. Case in point, Michael Vick.  I just read an article last week of a poll taken that he is currently the most hated professional athlete in America.  If you are not familiar with Mr. Vick, do a quick google of Michael Vick and dog fighting.  He spent 548 days in a federal prison for some pretty heinous crimes involving dogs. However, since being released from prison in May of 2009, at least in the interviews I have seen/read, he seems to be a more mature and changed man. He returned to professional football after serving his time and was voted to the 2011 Pro Bowl (a big deal for an American football player).  And yet in 2012, people still want to hate him.  I'm not saying the guy is a saint, I don't know him personally, but what is it with people asking others to change and then not forgiving them once they do? (Here's a good article from Time U.S. about Michael Vick's journey if you are interested.) 

We all have things in our lives that we are ashamed of, have repented of and do not want to be reminded of because of the pain it causes to our hearts. We are not the same person today as we were yesterday, last year, 10, 20, 30 years ago.  And neither are the people around us.  As we have repented and been forgiven by God and those we have hurt, so must we respect that others have done the same.  Only God knows the sincerity of one's repentance, not you or me.  All I am asked to do is to forgive those who wish to be forgiven (and forgive those who haven't asked too!)  I'm not saying it's easy.  It can be a real struggle sometimes because we like re-live the hurt others have caused and either exalt ourselves over them or use it as an excuse for our behaviours.  Again, I know it's not always that simple, but it is a must-do if you consider yourself to be a Christian.  One of my favorite parables that Christ gives us is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  Read it here from Matthew 18:21-35.  Pretty sobering stuff don't you think?

This Sunday, the day before the Fast begins, is called Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church.  We ask forgiveness from God and each other. It allows us to start Great Lent with a clean slate and then step into the the Fast ready to repent, only focusing on our own failings and not that of others.  It is an essential step in the journey towards the Feast of the Ressurection of Christ.

Forgive me dear readers if I have offended you today or any day.  May you all have a blessed and fruitful Lenten journey.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Repentance Defined

Before I begin postings of reflections on repentance, I'd like to offer this definition of repentance from the OrthodoxWiki website:

Repentance is the feeling and act in which one recognizes and tries to right a wrong, or gain forgiveness from someone whom he wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to repenting for a sin against God. It always includes an admission of guilt, and also includes at least one of the following:  a solemn promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.

In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נח nicham (to feel sorrow).

In the New Testament, the word translated as 'repentance' is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), "after/behind one's mind," which is a compound word of the preposition 'meta' (after, with), and the verb 'noeo' (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by 'after' and 'different'; so that the whole compound means: 'to think differently after'. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, "change of mind and heart", or, "change of consciousness". One of the key descriptions of repentance in the New Testament is the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32.

Phew...that was so much easier than trying to explain it myself...I especially like that "change of consciousness" explanation.  It is kinda like "Wake up!  Look around! Think through your life and be honest with yourself and make a change!" Or as the parable linked to above says about the prodigal son "But when he came to himself..."(verse 17).  It seems to me that a life lived in repentance is one in which you become more and more awake, a coming to yourself.  Unfortunately, this current age in which we live has more and more in which to put us to sleep, more ways in which to distract ourselves from facing reality and to just float along at the surface.  To ease our pains, instead of turning to repentance from which we will find healing, we turn to the safety of entertainment in all of its various forms.  We have become a generation quite adept at pain avoidance. 

In every worship service in Orthodox Christianity we pray "that we may complete the remaining time of our life in peace and in repentance...".  Without repentance, salvation as defined by the Orthodox Church is unattainable, plain and simple.  You can't go around cheating people or gossiping or casting people into eternal torment and fully expect, because you call yourself a Christian and go to church and read your Bible, that you will find salvation. It is non-sensical to even suggest that this could be possible. 

"When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mark 2:17

And if the Apostle Paul can align himself with sinners, "this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." 1 Tim 1:15, then it goes without saying that I am too.   

So I think I've made my case about the importance of repentance.  Next up, quotes from those who have lived their lives in repentance and have run the race in such a way that they have received their prize. 1 Cor 9:24.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."

Quote in the title from Brooks Hatlen in a letter to Red from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.  This was Brooks' observation of the outside world after he had spent the majority of his life in prison. 

My goodness I haven't been here in awhile...Christmas and Theophany have passed and somehow we are already half way through the first month of 2012.  I don't know about you, but I feel like someone has slammed on the accelerator and suddenly we racing towards *something* at break-neck speed.   Something doesn't feel quite right, everything is maddeningly fast and angry .  To quote St. Anthony of the Desert, who we remember today:

"A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"
I've witnessed this first hand.  People are genuinely surprised when you "do the right thing". A few years ago, I noticed on the way back to my car from a grocery store that I had not been charged for 1/2 gallon of milk.  So, I did an about face and returned to the store to pay what I owed.  The guy behind the counter shook his head and spoke to me in a really demeaning manner like I was an ignorant person for coming back and paying for the milk. Now I wasn't expecting to receive a medal for paying what I owed (well...truth be told, a nod of thanks would have been nice), but I also didn't think I would be treated with contempt.  Crazy I tell you, just crazy.  Politicians are cheered for their excessive use of the death penalty, and others jeered for suggesting that we use the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) in our foreign policies.  Huh?

So back to the acceleration thing.  I don't know, maybe it's the constant inundation of information from TV and the Internet that makes things feel like we are in state of  perpetual hurried-ness.   There is no room for patience in this new world we find ourselves in.  There isn't even the time to practice patience, and anyhow, patience is for the weak.  We must frame an opinion or make judgment quickly on events. Your inability to do this in a "timely" manner must mean that you have a low IQ, or maybe you are depressed, or perhaps psychotic.  Whatever it is, you are not normal. Oh and by the way, there is no place for history now.  History is a waste of time!  Yesterday was version 2.0 and today is version 3.0 which obviously must mean that 2.0 is inferior and obsolete.   What's that?  You are still using the 1.0 version?  To your face, I'll call you quaint, but behind your back, loser.  You can only win with 3.0.  I may have to un-friend you for fear of being associated with a 1.0.  I could lose my job you know.

Sorry if this post (my 100th actually) was a bit of a bummer, but again, I don't have a very comfortable feeling about this year.  Neither seatbelts, nor airbags nor version 4.0 will not be enough to protect us from whatever it is this world is hurtling towards.  And as for this whole Mayan 2012 thing, which if I understand it correctly, the world will have some new "consciousness" and it will be all good, I don't buy it for a second.  This "universal influence" would be usurping a human being's ability to make decisions and exercise free will.   Sounds like a Hitler situation to me.  Or in biblical jargon, an Antichrist situation.  No thanks, I'll pass.  I'm sticking with 1.0. 

So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God." Matthew 19:17
Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Psalm 146: 2-4

I think my next bunch of posts will be on repentance.  Our whole life in the Orthodox Church is to be filled with this, so there is lots and lots to be quoted.