Saturday, March 29, 2008

Random Tales

We have been out of Band Aids for a several days. When we went to WalMart Saturday I told Ella to remind me to get them. She forgot and I forgot. Not long after we returned she triumphantly handed me a Band Aid she found in the freezer. I told her I forgot to look there. It was a bit of a letdown that no one had a cut or something. However, in our house, one needn't wait long.

Max has been learning his letter sounds using a DVD I bought recently at Wal Mart. It was recommended to me. I was surprised that it is pretty good. I am able to work with the older kids, while Max and Mark quietly sit and learn something without much effort.

Homeschooling purists might object that the boys are being taught by a television, and not "at home."


Prior to watching the DVD Max never
completely understood the concept of letters having sounds. After an hour of working with Max in his workbook on the letter "F," we would run our fingers on a pathway from the letter F to a picture of a fish: "Fuh Fuh Fuh Fuh Fish!" or to a frog: "Fuh Fuh Fuh Fuh Frog!" and then to a fan: "Fuh Fuh Fuh Fuh Air Conditioner!"

S
o, today Max and I were talking about the letter D. He gave me a few good D-words. I came up with a few. Then I said, thinking about the word "
Die," and how he and LMark attack everyone in the family with their Nerf-guns: "What do you do when someone shoots you with a gun?" He thought for a minute. As I waited for the answer, I figured the answer was an obvious one and the educational method we used had failed me yet again.

Then he yelled: "
DUCK!"

I laughed.

Perhaps he is learning more than I expected.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Freedom and the Supression Thereof

At Pre-sanctified Liturgy it can be hard to keep children in one place since there are a lot of prostrations. Because our church doesn’t have pews, one or two of the more unruly children might use the opportunity of a prostration to giggle, poke, peep, or crawl away from their mother or caregiver. It might take the responsible adult two or three prostrations to discover a seemingly quiet child is actually licking the bottom of her sister’s bare foot during a prostration.

So one needs to be diligent and lay out the boundaries before the situations occur--but of course there are some situations one can't usually foresee (foot-licking, I think, is one).

Anyway, I usually I try to keep Little Mark right in front of me so I can tell him to cross himself or bow or whatever. If he tries to walk off, I hold onto his earlobe(s) and he doesn’t get very far. But tonight, every time we would go down for a prostration, he would get up and trot away before my creaky bones could stand up to grab him. I’m not sure where he was trying to go, but he was attempting to assert some misguided notion of freedom which, in my little government we suppress with an iron fist.

I’m just kidding. We use a plastic switch.

Anyway, tonight I decided to explain to LMark what I wanted him to do. He was standing with his back at my legs, and I tilted his head up to me (using the earlobes). I bent over and whispered to him, “Little Mark, you have to stay with Mama. You’re not allowed to go wherever you want in church. You can’t just walk off. You have to ask Mama permission if you want to go somewhere. Ok?”

So he replied in the same whisper: “Ok.” Then he tilted his head back up at me: “Mama, I wanna walk off…Ok?”

Monday, March 24, 2008

Orthodox Home Economics 101

We are beginning to think about classes for our next school year. I was talking to Rose today about how Orthodox homeschoolers must have an entirely different approach to their home economics studies than regular folks. It opened up to my mind a thoroughly humorous class description.

ORTHODOX HOME ECONOMICS 101: "The Spirit of Fasting"

PRE-REQUISITES: This is class assumes the student is a married male and baptized Orthodox. Very zealous single male and female Orthodox and catechumens will be admitted but only if they participate volubly in international Orthodox List Servers. Orthodox wives and women with children may audit the class, but absolutely no credit will be given for the work.

SYLLABUS:

FIRST WEEK OF LENT:
Learn how to eat absolutely nothing. Then, around Wednesday, learn how to modify the fast according to the Lenten Triodion. Memorize and learn how to piously use the phrase, “Well, according to the Lenten Triodion I can eat _____ today--no, really, look at page ___.”

SECOND WEEK OF LENT:
Acquire the spirit of fasting. Realize that starvation is pretty good for the waistline.

THIRD WEEK OF LENT:
Talk about how St Basil ate sausage on the steps of the cathedral because he wanted to teach the brethren that they should not fast, and yet devour the auditing students. Need to get some sausage to prove it. Eat sausage.

FOURTH WEEK OF LENT:
Shouldn’t have eaten the sausage. Go to confession. Get fake sausage. Discuss whey. Tell auditing students to learn how to make Lenten chocolate chip cookies.

FIFTH WEEK OF LENT:
Decide egg substitute could open up endless possibilities for Week Five and Six. Discuss fish with professor: new calendar or old calendar (same recipes can be used for Annunciation—don’t forget the lemon.) New Calendar should avoid Old Calendar students as there could be the 13-day-fish-resentment-issue. Otherwise refer to fish-counselor.

SIXTH WEEK OF LENT:
Lenten chocolate chip cookies are no better on the waistline than real ones. Tell auditing students to get Oreos. It’s getting close to Pascha. Start thinking about how you’re going to get the auditing students to cook the leg of lamb.

HOLY WEEK:
Reacquire the spirit of fasting. Get discount palms and full-priced fish for Palm Sunday. Tell auditing students to start the Pascha Cheese and go to eighteen different grocery stores to find a leg of lamb that they had during Western Easter, but they don’t have now.

PASCHA:
Get a good, long nap before Paschal services. Before doing so, make sure auditing students have the bratwurst, brownies and basket ready before the service. Make sure leg of lamb is still hot by the end of the service (approximately 2 AM--or later depending on the jurisdictional proclivities of the student--refer to counselor).

Prepare for Orthodox Home Economics 102: "Next Lent: Cookin' the Passions"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Observers

This is a photo taken by Fr Mark at the funeral of Metropolitan Laurus on Friday. It's not very good quality, but I like that in the icon directly over his body, the saints appear to be watching the event and talking among themselves.

An Obituary

When he began to appear on television screens four years ago, he seemed a strange man for the Russian public. Bearing the high title of Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, he was dressed accordingly. He met with President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Alexy II and then signed on May 17, 2007 the historical act on communion of the Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad, thus putting an end to the tragic division of the Russian people in the 20th century. He was ceremoniously met around the country and showered with orders and prizes. But his image starkly contrasted with the image of a church authority or, for that matter, any other leader that we are used to.

The apparently feeble old man was inarticulate and barely audible. During solemn services, he moved around without due pomp. He constantly seemed pensive or sleepy. Receiving awards from top Russian leaders, when it’s just about time for a high-flown patriotic speech, he would say modest thanks, but mainly a homily – on the Holy Trinity, for example, or on Divine Love...

Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Memory Eternal

Today, on the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, reposed in the Lord.

The late Vladyka Laurus "fought the good fight, completed the course, preserved inviolate the faith," and conquered the long division in the Russian Church.

May His Eminence abide in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Memory eternal to him!

Biography

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Symbolism of Color in Orthodox Iconography: The Theotokos and the Rainbow (Pt. 6)

“Two-Worlds in Old Russian Icon Painting” from Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi.

To conclude this discussion, it remains to be said that the icon painters were also fully aware of the most beautiful of all the manifestations of solar light, the rainbow. I have mentioned…that in the Novgorod icons of the Virgin the creatures united around her in Christ form a many hued rainbow. A remarkable treatment of this rainbow, showing deep insight into its mystical essence, can be found in the icons “The Virgin of the Burning Bush…” Here a single ray of God’s sun is refracted into a multicolored hierarchy of angels gathered around the Virgin and ruling the earthly elements through her. In this aura every spirit has its own distinct color; but the single ray associated with the Mother of God, the flame that shines through her, unites in her the entire spiritual range of the heavenly spectrum: the entire many-colored angelic and human world burns with that flame. Thus the Burning Bush stands for the ideal of the “enlightened,” glorified creatures—a world that has come to embrace the Divine Word and burns in its fire without being consumed.

The Symbolism of Color in Orthodox Iconography: Dawn (Pt. 5)

“Two-Worlds in Old Russian Icon Painting” from Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi.

We hear in our churches, “In wisdom hast thou made them all” [Psalm 104:24]. This means that the Wisdom embodied in Sophia is the design of God that preceded creation and called all celestial and earthly creatures forth from non-being into being, out of the darkness of night. That is why Sophia appears against a background of night. And this dark background makes her brilliant celestial red from the night of non-being; it is the eternal sun rising over all living things. Sophia is what precedes the days of creation….

The painter’s deep knowledge and love of the sky—in both senses of the word—told him that when the sun rises out of darkness, or comes into contact with darkness, it inevitably turns red. He saw and felt this every day, he was used to it. Does it matter whether he consciously painted dawn, or whether unconscious reminiscence influenced his art? In either case, Sophia for him took on the color of dawn. He saw the dawn of the world and he painted what he saw….

One more detail in these icons confirms the solar nature of “Sophia.” I have already mentioned the fine cobweb of assist that covers her. Clearly her fiery visage appears to the artist in the brilliance of sunrays.

Let us compare this image with that of Christ enthroned in glory. Obviously it would be sacrilegious to paint a red Christ! Why is it that the color that would be so wrong for Christ is fitting and beautiful for Sophia? Because in the solar sphere of the icon’s mysticism only one color befits the Lord, the one that stands highest in the hierarchy of colors, the royal light of eternal day. For Sophia on the other hand, in view of her subordinate place in the heavenly hierarchy, the suitable color is red since it heralds the sun’s supreme revelation.

This is not the only instance in Russian icon painting where red marks the contact of sunlight with darkness. The same can be observed in an icon…[of the] “Transfiguration.” Usually the Transfiguration is painted against a daylight background, but in this icon the ground is a starry sky; the light of Tabor wakes the apostles sleeping in the dark [Luke 9: 32]. In this night picture the colors are different from those used in day icons of the Transfiguration. Novgorod icons always depict the light of Tabor in the shape of a star around Christ. At its center, Christ is always bathed in the golden light of assist, in accordance with the Gospel’s words, “And his face did shine as the sun” (Mat. 17:2), but the edges of the star are usually filled with other colors of the sky—dark and light blue, greenish and orange…The light of Tabor turns red and not blue as it touches the surrounding darkness. This expresses a bold and profound conception of the artist’s: In the symbolic darkness of night that envelops the universe, the lightning that wakes the apostles announces the dawn of God’s day and thus puts and end to the heavy sleep of sin.

This dawn differs, however, from “Sophia’s” in one notable way: the red that colors her face, hands and wins expresses her very essence; in the Transfiguration icon, the red appears only in the star around Christ, and then only at its edges: it is but one of the background colors of the Transfiguration.

Part 6: The Rainbow

The Symbolism of Color in Orthodox Iconography: Red (Pt. 4)

“Two-Worlds in Old Russian Icon Painting” from Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi.

The blues animated by the winged bodiless angel heads are a relatively simple mystery, compared with the bright celestial red [purpur] that makes the Novgorod icons so beautiful. Here the mystery is much more complex, and perhaps much deeper, compounded as it is by the extraordinary variety of reds. As we have seen, the artist knows the red of the storm spiritualized by the figure of Elijah hurling down thunderbolts; he knows the red skyglow above a fire at night and uses it to light the abysmal darkness of hell; he places a flaming cherub at the gates of paradise. In ancient Novgorod icons of the Last Judgment we even see a whole fiery barrier of cherubim directly under the image of the future world and above the heads of the seated apostles. These images of heavenly fire are still fairly easy to interpret. The question becomes much harder and more involved when we consider the mystical implications of the red of Saint Sophia the Divine Wisdom.

Why did our icon painters use this bright paint for the face, hands, wings, and often the garment, of the eternal Wisdom that has created the world? No one so far has given a satisfactory answer. It is often said that Sophia’s red represents a flame, but this does not really explain anything. As we have seen, there are many kinds, and therefore many meanings, of otherwordly flame, from the sunny radiance of assist to the sinister glow above the fires of hell. Which specific flame is meant here? What is the fire with which Sophia flames, and how does it differ from the other mystic revelations painted in the same red color?

The answer can be found only in the solar mysticism of colors described above, through which the otherwordly mysteries are symbolically expressed. A study of the best Novgorod images of Sophia leaves no doubt about this…they all have one thing in common: Sophia always appears against the dark blue background of a starry night sky. This contact with the dark of night lends the heavenly red its surpassing beauty—and explains its symbolic meaning.

Part 5: Dawn

The Symbolism of Color in Orthodox Iconography: Blue (Pt. 3)

“Two-Worlds in Old Russian Icon Painting” from Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi.

In other icons of the Dormition, other colors of the celestial range are used to achieve the effect of separation of the two planes. Christ standing behind the deathbed is separated from the Virgin not only by assist but also by a special coloration of the celestial sphere surrounding him. Sometimes a single sphere forms around him a dark blue oval in which cherubim are seen. All these cherubim seem too drown in the blueness—except one, flaming red at the apex of the oval above the Saviour’s head. Sometimes…the oval contains many celestial spheres, one above the other, distinguished from one another by a multitude of shadings of light blue, including some incredible greenish-turquoise tints. The impression of something literally “out of this world” is overwhelming. For a long time I worried over the question of where the artist could have observed such colors in nature—until I saw them myself, after sundown, in the northern Petrograd sky.

Part 4: Red

The Symbolism of Color in Orthodox Iconography: Gold (Pt. 2)

“Two-Worlds in Old Russian Icon Painting” from Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi.

In our icon painting this divine gold has a special name, assist, and is used in a special way. It never looks like solid gold; it resembles, rather, an ethereal, airy cobweb of fine rays emitted by God and lighting everything around. When it appears in an icon, God is always suggested as its source. However, in the presence of divine illumination assist often glorifies also the part of the environment that has already entered divine life and is seen as touching it very closely. For instance, it covers the throne and the brilliant mantle of Sophia the Divine Wisdom, and the mantle of the Virgin as she ascends to heaven. Angel wings and the tops of paradisial trees are often touched with it. In some icons, assist appears on the pointed domes of churches, never covering them but, rather, making them glitter with sparks and rays. The ethereal quality of these rays gives the domes an air of live, glowing, moving light. The garments of Christ in glory glitter with sparks; the throne and mantle of Sophia glow like fire; church domes burn to the sky. This sparkle and fire separate the otherwordly glory from the unglorious, the here-below. Our world merely aspires to the heights, imitates a flame, but becomes truly illumined by it only at the utmost heights that only the peaks of church life can attain. The trembling ethereal gold gives these peaks, too, a look of otherworldly brilliance.

In general the otherworldly colors were used with remarkable tact, especially by our Novgorod painters. Assist does not appear in the icons where Christ’s humanity is stressed, where he “took upon him the form of a servant.” But as soon as the artist sees Christ in glory, or wants to convey his imminent glorification, he introduces assist. Christ as an infant often glows with it when the artist needs to emphasize the eternal nature of the child. This fine gold covers the garments of Christ in icons of the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. He shines with the same specific divine brilliance when he is shown leading human souls out of hell, or in paradise with the thief.

The strongest impact is achieved by the use of assist where the artist needs to contrast the two worlds, put a distance between the divine and the earthly. We can see this for instance, in the very old icons of the Dormition. One glance at the best of them makes it clear that the Virgin reclining on her deathbed, in her dark clothes, with all the familiars surrounding her, remains corporeally on this plane of being, the one we can touch and can see with our earthly eyes. But the figure of Christ in light raiment, standing behind the bed with the Virgin’s soul in the guise of an infant in his arms, is clearly an otherworldly vision. The whole figure shines and sparkles, separated from the intentionally heavy colors of the earthly plane by the ethereal weightlessness of its assist-covered lines...

Some icons…show in addition the Virgin already glorified, high in the sky, in that same golden brilliance, among angels also shining with assist.

Part 3: Blue

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Symbolism of Color in Orthodox Iconography (Pt. 1)

“Two-Worlds in Old Russian Icon Painting” from Icons: Theology in Color by Eugene Trubetskoi.

We have seen just seen from several examples how the artists used color to separate the two planes of being, the heavenly and the earthly.

We have seen that these colors come in a great variety, from the red of the storm to the dazzling sunlight to the brilliance of a luminous apparition. But no matter how variegated the colors that separate the two worlds, they are always celestial colors, in both the direct and the symbolic sense. They are the colors of the real, visible sky, but they have acquired conventional symbolic meanings of signs from the other-worldly sky, that is, heaven.

The great icon painters of our antiquity, as well as the Greek masters with whom this symbolism originated, must have been profound and sensitive observers of the sky in both senses. They saw one sky with their bodily eyes; they contemplated the other with their mind’s eye, and it lived in their intimate religious experiences. Their creative art linked them together. The otherworldly sky took on the many hues of the sky we know. Nothing in this process was arbitrary or accidental. Every shade had its place, its reason, its meaning. If we are not always able to see the meaning, this is because we have lost it. We have lost the key to the understanding of this unique art.

The range of meanings is as infinite as the natural range of colors we see in the sky. First come the blues, of which the icon painter knows a great many—the dark blue of a starry night, the bright blue of day, and a multitude of light blue, turquoise, even greenish shades that pale toward sundown. We northerners often see these greenish blues after the sun has set. However only the background is seen as blue; against it unfolds an infinity of the sky’s other colors: the glitter of stars, the red of dawn, the reds of nocturnal storms or distant fires; and also the rainbow’s many hues; and finally, the gold of the midday sun.

In old-Russian icons we find all these colors in their symbolic, otherworldly meaning. All are used by the artist to divide the empyrean from our terrestrial plane of being. This is the key to the ineffable beauty of the icon’s color symbolism.

Apparently its guiding idea is this: the mysticism of icon painting is primarily solar, in that word’s highest spiritual sense. However beautiful the sky’s other colors may be, the gold of the midday sun remains the color of colors and the miracle of miracles. All the others are, so to speak, of subordinate rank, [and] form a hierarchy around it. In its presence, the nocturnal blue disappears; the stars pale, and so does the glow from a fire at night. Even the red of dawn is merely a harbinger of sunrise. Finally the play of sunrays produces every color of the rainbow, for the sun is the source of all color and all light in the sky and below it.

Such is the hierarchy of colors around the “sun that never sets.” Not one color of the rainbow is denied a place in these images of divine glory, but only the solar gold symbolizes the center of divine life. All the rest are its environment. Only God, “brighter than the sun,” emits this royal light. The surrounding colors express the nature of the glorified celestial and earthly creatures that form his living, miraculously created church. It is as if the icon painter by some mystic intuition had divined the secret of the solar spectrum discovered centuries later; as if he perceived all the hues of the rainbow as multicolored refractions of a single ray of divine life.

Part 2: Gold

The Colors of the Son

One of my many modern tendencies is to expect that anything, vast spiritual truths included, can be summed up in a spreadsheet or a simple chart. Teachers and professors use these methods as aids in understanding or remembering complicated concepts. My failure is that I both look for and am satisfied with quick, E-Z explanations, often forgetting that there is much more to these truths than what the chart conveys.

I used to think the symbolism of color in iconography was this simple. While perhaps there is a chart somewhere in a book I don’t own, I discovered something which made me realize two things. First, that a chart might have grossly circumscribed what to the Orthodox is a majestic and cosmic symbolism of colors in icons. Second, compared to what I have read in Eugene Trubetskoi’s book, Iconography: Theology in Color, any spreadsheet or simplified understanding would have been immensely dissatisfying.

I first learned of Trubetskoi’s book in a footnote on page 40 of The Meaning of Icons, Ouspensky & Lossky’s well-known book:

Although the icon is above all a language of colours, which are as symbolical as the form and the lines, we do not touch here upon their symbolism and deal very little with it in the accounts of individual icons because, with the exception of some fundamental colours, its meaning has been almost entirely lost in the centuries. Consequently there is a danger of individual arbitrary interpretations, which lead to the realm of conjectures, at times very tempting, but deprived of authenticity and therefore not always, or rather never convincing, although E. Trubetskoy has succeeded in noting down some general principals.

I have tried to find out more information about this author but nothing has been satisfactory. He was a Russian Prince (1863-1920) who wrote in the early 20th Century at a time when the Russian icon was being rediscovered. This was also a time when icons were being cleaned so that their original brilliance, previously hidden under the darkness of age and rizas (something Trubetskoi calls an “invention of pious bad taste”), was being revealed.

I want to share from this book what I discovered about the symbolism of colors. Icons: Theology in Color was published by SVS Press in 1973 and translated by Gertrude Vakar. I don’t think it is still in print, which is a pity. One more thing about what I plan to copy: Trubetskoi refers to particular icons in certain private collections which, as noted in the appendix, were later put into museums. As I read this part of the book I found the references to the collection to be repetitive and somewhat tedious. I’m just going to skip over them here.

This will probably take several posts to complete, but I believe it will be well worth reading. I will set them off on their own so if someone wants to Google “Eugene Trubetskoi,” he won’t have to read my drivel.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sweet Confidence

Routine on weekends is more free than on weeknights. Tonight I told the girls they could read longer than they usually do. LMark missed his nap because he went with Ella, Meggy & Max to an afternoon birthday party. Consequently he was nodding off like a drunk at 6:30 PM.

Max wanted to cuddle in his bunk bed at bedtime. On special occasions I climb in bed with him, but typically I climb the ladder to talk and snuggle.

After all the nighttime whatnots, I said goodnight and added, “Max, you’re great.”

He replied, “I know.”

“Max, you’re brave.”

“I know.”

"Max, you’re smart."

“I know.”

I kissed him and left.

I started working out nighttime stuff with the girls: clearing Ella’s bed of paper scraps, pencils, and a plastic castle; a light bulb for Margaret. A kiss, a kiss.

Then I thought. What is any of the other stuff worth if he doesn't love Jesus?

I went back in Max’s room.

“Max, Jesus loves you.”

“You too, Mom.”

Kiss.

Goodnight.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Homeschooling Illegal in California

A California state appellate court ruled last week that it is illegal for parents in California to home school their children without the appropriate state teaching credentials. If this ruling stands, home-schooling parents could, in effect, become guilty of a criminal offense. You can oppose this decision--one that could have nationwide consequences by signing this petition. Listen to an interview with Michael Farris, the head of the Home School Legal Defense Association on Dr Dobson’s broadcast here.

Here's an article found on Drudge.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Meat-Soup & Cake

Fr Mark & I recently did a house-blessing of a newly baptized member of our church. He is a single man in his mid-fifties who grew up in Fairfield County in SC. He made us some delicious Southern food: chili, mustard greens, home-made corn bread and an apple cake like nothing I ever expected to taste this side of heaven. Something I didn’t know, having grown up the child of mid-Westerners, is that Southern chili doesn’t have beans in it. So Southern chili more nearly resembles meat-soup than anything that I am used to.

But back to the apple cake. It was made in a bundt pan, and when it was turned over, the crust had a candied-sugar texture. It was a recipe of his mother’s. It wasn’t super-sweet, but so moist I could taste every ingredient: coconut, walnuts, apples—and lots of butter.

As we talked he told us about removing things from his boyhood home after his mother passed away. The one thing he wanted more than anything was her cookbook. He pulled it out to show us. It had a black cover and a red inscription (I can’t recall the title) but what it contained was more valued than the book.

He pulled out recipes, yellowed, spotted with gravy or sauce, and creased with age. He showed me one after the other, and told me the tale of each one. It was curious to look on the back of each recipe: one was a receipt for 300# of fertilizer (probably manure); one was on the back of a prescription for something covered up with an orange stain; other recipes were on the backs of bits of paper with phone numbers or addresses of people who are probably long gone (or maybe relocated).

Each one I mentioned to him, either by the title or name of the person associated with the recipe ('Vivalia’s Biscuits,' 'Buns from Miss Marie') he would announce how each one would have been considered a treasure by any lady in Fairfield County in his mother’s day. For instance, Miss Marie was the school cook and every child growing up in Fairfield County knew and loved her food as much as or more than their own mother's—especially her baking.

I also thought it was unusual to look at the recipes for biscuits, spaghetti sauce, buns, or gravy and see it was simpler than anything found in recipes these days. Each one assumed you knew what to do with a biscuits or buns, so it didn’t bother to tell you to cut the butter into the flour or dissolve the yeast. They were all “Two cups this. 1 ½ cup that. A tablespoon a teaspoon. 350 degrees 45 minutes.” Undoubtedly the scribe knew her craft.

He said, “Back in my mother’s day, you couldn’t swing your arms around in a circle and not hit a great cook.”



If I ever get that apple cake recipe I will post it here. It deserves to be known to all of posterity.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Church Family

My husband has been serializing an article in our church bulletin for Orthodox parents on raising children in the Orthodox Church.

It is a thoroughly no-nonsense approach to child-training and the rearing of children to be Orthodox Christians. By "training and rearing" I don't mean the nebulous "moral," "fair to others," and the "doing unto others as you would dooblydoo" found on godless public television and elsewhere. What I am talking about is the raising of children in the Church: being fully mindful of the fasts, head-coverings, standing, sitting, standing, modesty, and how it all involves the submission of the will in an Orthodox context.

On Holy Friday last year, I stood on the "women's side" of the church. As we sang the Lamentations together as a community, I heard only the voices of the women next to me. The melody and the words, as well as my own weariness brought into perfect clarity the mourning of the myrrh-bearing women as they stood at the tomb of Our Lord. It was a group of sisters, mourning in unison with our saintly sisters, Susanna, Joanna, Mary, Mary, Mary, Martha and Salome.

Something published in the bulletin last week confirmed a notion I have held for a long time. It was this:

But when we go to church, we enter into a bigger community and a larger family. We do not in our churches have family pews, or even stand apart as families, leaving those without families even more alone and isolated. In this context our particular family has less significance, and we adopt all those present as our brothers and sisters, our family, in the Faith. (The Shepherd, Vol. XV, Number 9, p. 17.)

In my early days I would recoil at the words, but in Orthodoxy, "Brothers and Sisters in Christ" is a reality. In Orthodoxy this brotherhood is not a clubbish, sentimental, self-congratulatory exclusivity that looks to the inside. Rather it is a unity that stands together reaching towards one another, towards the outside, and together towards heaven.

As my dear C. S. Lewis puts it, "though something goes from man to God, yet all, including this something comes from God to man. If he rises, he does so lifted on a wave of the incoming tide of God's love for him. He becomes nothing in that ascension. His love is perfected by becoming, in a sense, nothing. He is less than a mote in that sunbeam. He vanishes not from God's sight but from ours and his own, into the nuptual solitude of the Love that Loves Love, and in Love, all things.
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