1 - The last time we met I posted about my grandmother's departure from this life to the next. Her funeral was a beautiful occasion and when you compare it to those outside of Orthodoxy, there simply is nothing to compare. If you have the inkling to do so, I suggest you find the service online and read through it. An Orthodox Christian's death is a feast of love. I walked away from my grandmother's funeral with a refreshing perspective on death. It "reminded" me how much I am loved from birth to death by not only God and my immediate family, but also by the entire Church, both triumphant and militant. And it wasn't a mental reminder either. It was more like a transformation that didn't come from rational thinking like "Be happy! She's in a better place and I can go there too!" It is something much more sublime and indescribable. Sort of how you really can't describe that state of being after the Orthodox Paschal (Easter) service. Actually I feel it more acutely on Bright Monday after I have finished cooking/cleaning and had some sleep. The world is illumined and you feel exceedingly hopeful in all things and the boundaries between heaven and earth seemingly don't exist. Blessed are those who have attained the ability to walk around this world perpetually in this state!
And then there is this:
2 - Prior to that post about my grandmother's death, I had been giving my own thoughts on Markides' book, The Mountain of Silence. All in all, I liked the book and found it to be edifying and you can read through the comments for a little more discussion between myself and an anonymous poster. I don't think I'm going to comment anymore on his books only to say that I quite liked his latest, Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christian Spirituality, especially Fr. Maximos' conversation about the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). His teaching was that these fruits were listed in a hierarchical order and that without the one listed last, self-control, that the others are not truly attainable. I suppose that is why the Church has such an emphasis (almost daily) on fasting, the tool to self-control when practiced correctly. Obviously the book goes into more more depth than my two sentence synopsis. There is also a chapter on Markides' journey to St. Katherine's Monastery at the foot Mount Sinai in Egypt. As someone who has very little chance of visiting the Sinai desert, I rather enjoyed that chapter. To wrap it up, like I wrote in my prior post, not everyone likes Markides' books. For me, however, the first book really had a positive effect on my life and perhaps that's why I have enjoyed the two that followed.
So now what's in store for 2013 for Desert Deliberations? I don't know really. Maybe just random ramblings that I come across. I did just read a lovely little book called Crazy John, which recounts the life a modern day Fool-for-Christ in Greece. It can be purchased here through St. Barbara's Monastery bookstore.
Here's an excerpt:
In this particular neighborhood that may not differ from all others, not even from our own--whether we live in the city or in a village-- the foolishness of a single person, a model of Jesus Christ, was enough to provoke a pleasant revolution. It is pleasant because it is unique, one of a kind, a novelty through time. This revolution breaks the demonic bonds of souls admittedly captured and attached to ephemeral and inferior things. It restores them to the frequency of heaven and to the invigorating, salutary, doxological pulses of the Holy Trinity. It attires them with the sense of the Greek "philotimo" and unselfishness, honesty and purity, patience and perseverance, sacrifice and love, humility and repentance. It is only with this attire that the soul can attend the unceasing everyday table, which God gives us bounteously.It's a refreshing read for sure.
Wishing you all a marvelous New Year that brings transformations that you never thought possible!