December 29/January 11, 2019
4th Day of Christmas, Old Style
He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it had cost a fortune.
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Our yearly visits to friends during the 12 days of Old Style Christmas always bring us to the apartment of some dear parishioners whom our children have nicknamed stari babushka and dedushka (older grandma and grandpa). They are both emigres from Russia and at least one is nearing his last days on this earth. In our society that tends to exile the elderly and idolize youth, it is easy to forget such precious people who live in subsidized senior housing and hardly possess enough resources to exist. Yet, as St. Paul says, “Out of their deep poverty wells up rich generosity.”
December 6/19, St. Nicholas
Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the Wonderworker
Whose Relics Lie Principally in Bari, Italy
And Whose Legendary Brother Santa Claus Lives in the North Pole
I was asked to play Santa Claus today for our Parish School but not the legendary one that poses for pictures at shopping malls and lives at the North Pole. I was asked to play the real one that lived and reposed in the 4th century, worked and continues to work wonders, and is loved the world over as Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. Trying to live like a Saint is hard enough; imagine trying to play one live. The task was daunting but there is a way to study for the part.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church
By an uncommon occurrence, the beginning of our Orthodox Advent Fast this year coincides with the 4th Thursday of November, otherwise known in America as Thanksgiving. I have blogged before about my annoyance at reducing this great holiday to its chief dish. This year we received an opportunity to practice giving thanks without the turkey, and you know, I think we all felt quite a bit lighter.
Every year at this time, when most children are deciding what costume to wear for a feast that toys with evil, our family gathers for the more serious fun of a Harvest Festival. It is a fitting tribute to our God the creator as we the sub-creators bring the intelligent fruit of our labours together. The students of Saint Herman of Alaska Christian School for over 2 decades of its existence have every year gathered for this festival at the end of October closed to the 28th, the feast day of the Mother of God, “She Who Ripens the Grain”.
Festivities begin with several recitations from the different classes. Poems are declaimed, stories are portrayed, and all people remember to thank the God who gives us life. Headmaster Father Patrick Tishel spoke of how the Mother of God ripened the figurative grain of the Lord Jesus in her womb. Similarly, we offer back to the Lord of life the fruits of our minds and hands. Continue reading
April 28, 2019
Bright and Saving PASCHA
of our Lord Jesus Christ
I love how the character of Christ is portrayed in the 2016 film Risen. In the movie, a Roman tribune is assigned by Pilate to investigate the alleged theft of the body of one late Hebrew rabbi who claimed to be the Messiah. This same tribune had witnessed Christ’s crucifixion himself, so he knew his man. But upon his first encounter of the risen Lord, he was taken aback. This mighty Roman tribune who had commanded legions of soldiers and put down entire insurrections against Caesar was terrified not so much by Jesus’ resurrectional power, but by the way in which it was manifest: an uncanny sober levity and a peculiar nonchalance. He was smirking like one who had pulled off the most enormous con game ever played. Continue reading
April 26, 2019
Great & Holy Friday
I am an art collector. A good painting with an equally good story has a way of catching my eye and heart. But because I have neither the time nor the pocketbook, most of my collecting happens online via Google image searches. And once I find an image that means something particular to me, I like to hunt it down to its source, where it lives, usually in a museum or sometimes in a church.
When I was recently in Chicago for a clergy retreat, I felt compelled to visit that fine city’s Art Institute. I remembered it to be the home for at least one or two of my favorite works. But as I neared the marble steps, I was racking my brain to remember the particular painting there that had stolen my heart the most. It wasn’t Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks or Wood’s American Gothic; neither was it the Paris Street; Rainy Day or any of the museum’s excellent collection of Rembrandt. All of these are undoubted masterpieces, but they don’t tell a story that speaks directly to me. Continue reading
It always comes as a bit of a shock that morphs quickly into mild panic when we hear, Let us set out with joy upon the season of the fast and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; as we fast from food let us abstain also from every passion. (From Lord I Have Cried verses, Sunday of Forgiveness)
I think to myself, “Great Lent is already here? I barely just finished my Christmas ham, and my taxes aren’t done.” Lent seems at first like the last and most recent thing on a very long to-do list, another obligation in a never-ending stream of necessary tasks. Continue reading