The Power of Confession in Community

Saturday, November 28, 2020
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church

In this season of hope and expectation of deliverance, I saw a film about the power of confession within community. Words on Bathroom Walls tells the story of a young man named Adam diagnosed with schizophrenia during his senior year in high school and how he copes with this very difficult mental illness. He hears and sometimes sees characters and voices that severely distract and sometimes rip apart his soul. His first instinct is to try to pretend that he can hide it from friends and those beyond his immediate family circle. When that plan backfires, he is expelled from school for being too much of a danger to others. His mother and stepfather enroll him in a private Catholic school where he is given a second chance and encounters an extraordinary young lady named Maya whose love begins to chip away at his defensive and ultimately harmful facade.

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An Eternal Circle of Reciprocal Thanks

a stained glass window of the saint

November 13/26, St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople

American Thanksgiving Day

Despair is a temptation when life loses its purpose and the threat of an untimely death threatens to shorten that purposeless existence. As the worldwide coronavirus continues to rage with the possible hope for medical relief still months away, it is difficult to find cause to give thanks. Yet the lives of the saints show us how to find joy under all circumstances and the saint we remember this year on the feast of American Thanksgiving especially teaches how to give glory to God for all things.

Saint John Chrysostom the Golden-mouthed Archbishop of Constantinople (347-407) not only lived a life of thanksgiving, he is the principle author of the Divine Liturgy, the means by which the Church communes the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the medicine of immortality and the mystical union of humanity with God. The Liturgy is also called the Eucharist from the Greek verb eucharisto which literally means “to give thanks” or to say thank you. When the church celebrates the Liturgy, She is thanking God, returning the gift received to the Giver of all good things in an eternal circle of reciprocal thanks.

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First Snow

Nothing is as magical this time of year as the first serious snowfall. Our kids took full advantage of the 3 plus inches of snow that fell and lingered for at least a day. We parents are blessed that the usual difficulty of getting the tikes outside to breath fresh air is no longer a chore. They literally chomp at the bit to get on gloves, hats, scarves, boots and be rollicking in fluffy white creations of their own design. Here is just a sample of the fun!

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Another Downton Abbey

Fans of the now concluded Downton Abbey have been looking for sometime for the next creation of director Julian Fellowes. I am pleased to say that his latest creation Belgravia, now available on DVD or through a subscription to EPIX, more than fits the bill.

I just finished watching this six episode mini-drama about a self-made businessman named James Trenchard who makes his way into London society via marriage with his eligible daughter Sophia. All the usual pretensions of true and not-so-true aristocracy play out in this wonderful tale of love, betrayal, and everlasting integrity. So order your copy of the drama wherever you find good British period pieces. You won’t be sorry you did!

Mathematical Theology and Dialectic

I had my first full week of teaching this past week. After over six months of pandemic restrictions of various degrees, it was invigorating to see several classrooms full of eager faces, albeit masked and socially distant faces. Our family continues the same hybrid model of classroom and at-home education which now, strangely enough, has become almost the norm under COVID-19. As classical Christian educators, we continue with an ancient method of learning that has been baptized and re-contextualized in the light of divine revelation. It is the relationship between these two terms, classical and Christian, which I propose as my topic for this year’s back to school post.

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Reluctant Conversions

Just watched via Hoopla an off-Broadway production I have wanted to see for some time. Seems it is becoming the custom in this pandemic to place any number of good Broadway shows online where they can be streamed on demand (I confess a recent subscription to Disney plus just so that I could see the musical Hamilton).

Max McClean as C.S. Lewis

This show that I saw on hoopla from a Broadway company I have long admired features a bright light of the 20th century who combined with a handful of others saved my spiritual life from bankruptcy. C.S. Lewis the Most Reluctant Convert in England is a crisp monologue performed by the director of an organization called the Fellowship of the Performing Arts. The show logs in at a crisp hour and 15 minutes and packs more deep philosophical yearning and profound spiritual insight than anything Broadway has cooked up for some time.

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The Builder of Aghia Sophia

The following is a repost of an article that appeared on our Diocesan website concerning Aghia Sophia, the ancient Christian temple which for a whole millennium stood for worship of the true and living God worshipped in Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When it was conquered in 1543, it was viciously ransacked, desecrated then rededicated as a mosque for several hundred years. In the past century or so it has served simply as a museum; now by decree of Turkey’s current president, it is reverting again to a mosque. Please pray with me for peace and wisdom to know the proper response to such an important decision.

The Holy Right-Believing King Upravda-Justinian – The Builder of Hagia Sophia

20 July, 2020.  † Metropolitan of the United States, Canada and Australia – Joseph

With the title of Holy Right-Believing King, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has added Emperor Upravda-Justinian in its Calendar of Saints on the date of November 14th.

We recall his life and achievements on the occasion of the recent conversion of the church he built “Hagia Sophia” to a mosque by the Turkish authorities. We ask our readers to pray from the heart to St. Right-Believing Upravda-Justinian to help us in our efforts and struggles. He knows how to do that.

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Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives

The following is a pastoral email shared by the Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Tishel of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. I find it to be a prime example of the command from the Scriptures to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”. It is republished here with permission.

Stay Within, Seek the Lord, Save Your Soul.

Spider webs can be used to stop bullets; they also can entrap a fly for dinner. The slogan: stay home, stay safe, save lives is a brilliantly effective slogan, but as a simplistic slogan, it can be misguided unless we unravel it and find its proper spiritual application. Unless we parse it a little: expose it to the UV Light of Christ, boil it to disinfect and analyze its DNA structure, we can’t be sure when it will protect and when it will entrap.

 As a universal command STAY HOME does not work for everyone, of course. People who are sick or immuno-compromised should take this advise to heart. For this idea to be effective for everyone, we should see its application in the monastic sense as it is given to hermits: Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything. This is a good idea while we are staying home more. Use the time to go within, pay attention to the inner person, our heart and mind, do more spiritual reading, especially read the Scriptures, repent as the Lord commanded and practice ascetic feats to accomplish this. Practice more interior prayer; spend more time with our families and care for our relations.

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A Living Link to the Apostles

June 30, 2020: 6th anniversary of the repose of Fr. Herman Podmoshensky

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to Reliable men who may also teach others.” St Paul’s letter to Timothy

The famous saying that Christian Life is caught not simply taught relates to this injunction from the apostle to his disciple. I remember a time in my life when I had just graduated college that I eagerly desired to receive such a transmission. Oh, to be entrusted with the sacred kerygma of the living and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ from someone in that line of succession: a man who had heard it from a man who had heard it from another all the way back to the Lord himself. My own fathers In the flesh had all but denied this possibility. A writer of the book called The History of the Evangelical Association, a German pietistic confession that my ancestors followed in the mid-nineteenth century proclaimed about the historical apostolic succession “There remains an unbridgeable chasm between the Roman Catholic Church and our own Protestant one, and who can bridge this unbridgeable chasm?”

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Fishing Stories

Day 3 of our vacation at Cape Cod and by all accounts this was a very good idea. The house we rented from a Family friend is extraordinarily well-organized, with drawers and even light switches labeled. Situated in Chatham Massachusetts, our lodgings sit in proximity to several good beaches, a private freshwater lake, and bikeable roads leading to dedicated rail trails. It is the perfect cure for families tired of being cooped up in quarantine. We simply take our quarantine somewhere else with only a few more added to the mix.

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