Just finished Dicken’s Great Expectations with our older girls as an evening read aloud, a project which has lasted two years for us. It is hard to have patience in our age of soundbites with an author who was paid by the word and often seemed to multiply characters needlessly. But any reader who has spent time with his tomes and become acquainted with his universe of characters knows the power they have of teaching charity and a host of other virtues to hearts grown cold with indifference and self-centeredness. Continue reading
I would like to dedicate our annual back-to-school post to our new community of Classical Conversations gathered in Newton, MA. Good strength and success to students and teachers everywhere, and may God grant us all a good and prosperous school year.
“I mean, like, with culturally relevant teaching…[?]…” her high-pitched voice droned, lilting upwards at the end of the phrase as if everything said was more of a question than a statement. Was she really that unsure of what she was saying or was it a habit learned from an academy which no longer believed truth to be something definitive? I was sitting through yet another required teacher training seminar wondering if I was the only one in the room more interested in the message than in these interminable lectures on teaching methods. Yet this particular post-modern drill sergeant took the message/method dichotomy a step further than I had ever heard it taken. She delivered a conclusion to her talk that can only make sense to a brain thoroughly washed in ideology and completely abandoned by common sense: “It doesn’t matter what we teach our students…[?] as long as we teach them with the right method.” Continue reading
Test thyself, who thou art; come to know thy nature; come to know that thy body is mortal, while thy soul is immortal, that our life is two-sided: one side, proper to the flesh, is transitory, while the other, related to the soul, does not admit limitation. Therefore, take heed to thyself, do not dwell on the mortal as eternal, and do not disdain the eternal as transitory. Do not care about the flesh, because it passes away; take care for the soul, a thing immortal.
— Saint Basil the Great
Fr. Herman (Podmoshesky), sometime abbot of St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, died today after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes. While his wish was for his body to lie in the ground close to his friend and co-struggler in the monastic life, Fr. Seraphim Rose, his precious soul, which he poured out on behalf of so many, will still be alive in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved him. He is one of the first Orthodox pastors to teach me the true place of beauty in the spiritual life and how important it is to feed one’s soul with truth, beauty, and goodness before ever aspiring to things of the spirit. Continue reading
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
The senseless murder of innocents has often in history followed godless greed and unholy desire for personal gain. Midway through the 20th century experiment of atheist communism in Russia, Joseph Stalin felt the need to purify the system and find new sources of blame for his failing policies. Finding no blame in himself, he and his minions sought secretly and indiscriminately to purge undesired members of society in numbers before unimagined. Continue reading
Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian… I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality [of the Lord] a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
—Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, Chapter 9 conclusion
Thus ends the reverently joyful tome of Orthodoxy that led me to the true Church. And thus begins my discovery of the best kept secret of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is not found in austerity or great sacrifice, deeds of great reknown:
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
And what could be more humbling than a grown man making a fool of himself, or rather a grown man revealing the wisdom of God through the foolishness of this world? Continue reading
Every year faithful Christians struggle with the rush and distraction of holiday preparations and long to take a moment to slow down and reflect on the real meaning of the season. It is an especially difficult struggle for Orthodox Christians as we are prescribed by Mother Church to fast in our preparation to meet the newborn King in his Nativity. The Lenten Fast by comparison is somewhat easier in the sense that the season is already more austere in the wider culture (everyone fasting in the springtime, if for no other religious reason, so that they can fit into summertime bathing suits). The weeks leading up to Christmas in America are anything but austere. Between Christmas parties at work, holiday concerts galore, and the extra latte at Starbucks to keep up our shopping stamina, few things in the broader culture give us pause to stop and reflect on our eternal destiny with one amazing exception, Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas ghost story, A Christmas Carol. Continue reading
Here is a small composition I made about the character of Scrooge in Dicken’s Christmas Carol. We are reading it in our Home School. Enjoy! Continue reading
On this Clean Tuesday of the first week of Great & Holy Lent, I would like to share with you three things that have helped me in the work of repentance. The first two are quotes from my favorite writers, both of which make me choke up whenever I remember them. The last is a sermon I delivered a few years back on the liturgical anniversary of this day. It speaks mostly of the Canon of St. Andrew which the Church gives us as an aid for compunction. Continue reading
There are many great classic Christmas specials I remember growing up. Most of them now are available on DVD or on some form of online streaming. I introduced my own children recently to one of my favorites, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this particular story, there is a scene in which a distressed Santa Claus makes an announcement to all of his North Pole staff that due to inclement weather, Christmas this year would have to be cancelled. Of course, Rudolph with his nose so bright, saves the day and gets Santa to put his game face back on, but the thought that someone, even of Santa’s caliber, had the authority to cancel such an extraordinary feast sent shivers down my prepubescent spine. Continue reading
Today we celebrate simultaneously the birthday of my father-in-law and the anniversary of the day he first met his future wife and our baba so many years ago. I hear a toast this evening at dinner that I have never heard before: “Here’s to finding or discovering a path/road for our life.” (za zheezin na darogu in Russian) Continue reading