Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

: O

What's Latin for "Irretrievably Silly?"

I grew up with this. As a kid I enjoyed the bouncy music and the smiley, happy, clappy people. That I was led to Orthodoxy because it is a rejection of the happy-clappies, I don’t know.

I do have two questions about this video, however.

1) Why does the congregation stand up for the priest if they haven’t already stood up for the gigantic, creepy, black totem-heads?

2) Does a good swishing and shaking of the Gospel Book make it easier to swallow? (fast forward to 3:40 and beyond).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lazarus & a Lizard's Tail

Max is a 5 year-old version of the Crocodile Hunter. He can catch almost any lizard he sees. If someone says, “Ooh a lizard!” he drops everything until he catches it. The other day at Miss Jennifer’s house he caught a big green lizard even though it bit him three times. The next day he pulled the tail off a skink as it skittered into our garage. He presented this jewel to me on a napkin and searched the garage the rest of the day till his father told him to get out.

During supper he was fiddling with something and not eating his food. I looked up and he had the tail dangling out of his mouth. All the representatives of the female sex sitting at the table squealed. Little Mark sat quietly with a queer look on his face that seemed to ask, “How can I get that tail into my mouth?” So I took it from Max and put it out of reach. I’m not sure why I didn’t throw it out; maybe there is a drop of tomboy left in me that still thinks of a lizard’s tail as a prize worth keeping.

My grown-up self returned a few minutes after Max left the room, and mentioned to Ella that perhaps we should throw it outside. The tail might start to stink. Recalling the children’s sermon her father gave on Lazarus Saturday, she said, “We can keep it four days—it’s won’t stink till it’s four days old, right?”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Guest Post: Fr Mark, Fr Wally, and Two Metropolitans

I had the good fortune this past Sunday of attending the enthronement Liturgy of the First-Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Hilarion. There is so much that I observed and wish to share, but I am going to confine these notes to the three things that stood out the most in my mind.

First, was my encounter with my dear friend Fr Vladimir Boikov from New Zealand. He is quite an interesting man and a good priest. Fr Vladimir – or “Fr Wally” as some call him (Walter is a form of Vladimir) – is half Chinese (Mongolian, I think), half Russian, and speaks English with an “Aussie” accent. If you were to hear him speak, you could easily mistake his voice for that of the “Crocodile Hunter,”Steve Irwin. Almost instantly upon greeting him, he took me into the altar to introduce me to the priests and bishops that he thought I didn’t know personally.

This meant speaking with mostly Russian and European clergy. With delight Fr Vladimir would explain to the priest or bishop we were speaking with that I was an American convert to the Church, spoke very little Russian, that our parish had many converts, and that our church was dedicated to St Elizabeth the New Martyr. Without exception, every priest and bishop listened attentively, seemed fascinated at our parish, asked many questions, and was enthralled with my Southern accent. It was interesting as this happened over and over again. As I approached the end of this series of meetings I realized that I wasn’t just Fr Vladimir’s “show and tell” prop, but was an example of the universality of the Church. The Orthodox Church is not just for Russians, but is for everyone. It is the mystical body of Christ to which all of us are called.

I thought immediately of Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky), the First-Hierarch of ROCOR from 1936-1964 who said that the ROCOR has two missions: 1) to preserve the Faith for the Fatherland (Russia) and 2) to bring the Faith to those in the lands of the Diaspora. So, the purpose of ROCOR was not only to preserve the Faith for Russia, but also to fulfill the words of the Lord “go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded…(Matt. 28:19-20).” In his own way and unique style, Fr Vladimir was showing me and the other clergy this reality: that the Church is indeed universal.

The second thing that stood out to me was my conversation with Metropolitan Hilarion. While the laity was communing and the clergy who were not involved in giving out Communion were together waiting in the altar, I approached the Metropolitan. He saw me coming and warmly greeted me in English, “Christ is risen!” He immediately asked me, “how are you, Fr Mark” (he remembered me). I saw great warmth in his eyes and during our conversation I perceived the love of Christ exuding from him. We spoke about the possibility of his visiting St Elizabeth’s in the near future and about a time before then that I could come to New York and have an audience with him. The Metropolitan rattled off his schedule from the next five minutes to the end of September telling me where he would be and when he would be there. It was an impressive schedule and I jokingly said to him, “apart from that, you’re really not busy at all!” I asked for his blessing and apologized for not being able to stay for the banquet, as we had to catch our flight back to South Carolina. He then encouraged coming and seeing him soon, before Pentecost if I could. My heart was filled with joy, as I knew that our new Metropolitan was not only a true monk, but also a true archpastor.

Although my encounter with Metropolitan Hilarion was so moving, I forever will remember my conversation with Metropolitan Onuphry of Chernovitsk and Bukovinsk (he’s a permanent member of The Holy Synod of The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate). I had seen pictures of him and had heard that he was a saintly man and how he immediately became friends with our recently reposed Metropolitan Laurus when Laurus traveled in the Ukraine last year. I saw Metropolitan Onuphry at Metropolitan Laurus’ funeral in March but didn’t get a chance to speak with him. This time I got the opportunity. Fr Vladimir introduced me to him before the Liturgy and we had a conversation in English, as the Metropolitan seemed delighted to be able to speak to me in my mother tongue. Everything about this bishop seemed so right: he at once comported himself in a very orderly way and seemed very neat of habit, but at the same time his eyes at once burned with the love of Christ while being very gentle. As we spoke, he asked me about how I became Orthodox and about our parish. When I told him that I thought that St Elizabeth was such a good patron for our parish since she too was a convert and we have so many converts in the parish, he said to me in a very compelling way, “not only that, Father, but she’s a saint!” He said that I should never myself forget that and never stop teaching it to the parish. The Metropolitan then spoke about our calling to sainthood and that is precisely what the Church is for: to lead us to sainthood. His words to me were simple and direct, but the manner in which he delivered them was almost indescribable; all I can say is that they were uttered from a saintly man.

As I reflected on my experience of the enthronement, I realized I got more than I had bargained for. I had every expectation that I would see my friends in the priesthood, be able to speak to a few of the bishops, hear a wonderful and incredibly skilled choir, and witness an historic event in the life of the Church. I indeed got those things along with reinforcement that the Church is truly universal, an example of a true and loving archpastor in Metropolitan Hilarion, and the essential teaching about our vocation to become one with Christ and be saints as St Elizabeth the New Martyr. Especially with these two Metropolitans (with special thanks to “Fr Wally”), I saw meekness, humility, and love, the virtues of St Elizabeth herself which we sing about so often, and how following her example, we are to be saints: “Wondrous is God in His saints” (Psalm 67:35 – Septuagint).

Fr Mark +

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blame it on Hillary

There was an amusing mosaic on the Drudge Report a few days ago of Hillary Clinton’s worst faces of all time. It was a block of small, black and white photos of her face: eight columns across and five rows down. Rose saw it and thought it would be funny to set this image as the wallpaper on my PC. She didn’t just set the image in the middle; she tiled it so that the entire 19” screen was plastered with ½” photos of Hillary Clinton. It was horrible, but it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did on my computer if the children had not found it so amusing. “Ooo look at that one, she’s picking her nose!!” “She looks like she just ate a lemon!” and “What on earth could make a person’s face look like that??”

Almost the very moment she pasted the photo on my screen, the computer began running at a slug-like speed. What befuddled me was that it seemed to be doing what it was supposed to do, and going through all the stages at start-up, but doing them such that it would take 45 to 90 minutes just to load the desktop.

I spent a few days trying to shut down the computer properly, reload it, and then work out a few things in the Safe Mode. But nothing worked. Finally, after letting it sit out all night and waiting till morning to click anything, it opened up a file. It took forever to type the letter T, so I decided to give up and shut it down for good. We’ll see if it ever returns.

Since that day I have been using Fr Mark’s laptop. He loves to share, so I know it isn’t a problem.

Anyway there are a few things I want to record.

Friday we had the Achievement Night for our home school group. This is an evening of food, entertainment, and an opportunity for the parents the students to show off what they were able to accomplish during the year with display boards, charts, hand-knitted sweaters, poems, Lego sculptures, and more.

While we have been members of this home school group for almost six years, we have never attended one of these nights. My first interaction with this larger group (minus the individuals in my “Purple Group”) made me realize that they weren’t ready for a bearded, long-haired man in black robes, a big silver cross, and a funny hat. I don’t think they would be ready for him, nor would he be ready for them!

There was an hour of entertainment including a wide array for every taste. There were soloists in every realm of music, including several tone-deaf trombonists and violinists whose parents must be either deaf or more long-suffering than I could ever be.

Saturday, Max had his first T-ball game. He doesn’t know first rule of baseball, nor do many of his teammates, so the resulting display is a contact sport with gloves, balls, bats, and coaches who are humorously cautious of getting hit with something. During the game the kids on the team are allowed to bat twice and to play defense twice. If they played more than two “innings” we would be at the YMCA all day. At this pace we were there only 90 minutes.

When Max had his turn at bat he was allowed to take one base for each batter who hit. On his run from third to home, the ball was hit down the third-base line. As Max was being urged by the coaches and the fans to run home, he realized the rest of the boys on the opposing team were jumping on the ball. He slowed down—and leaped onto the pile of the other team’s boys! If we hadn’t been laughing so hard we would have seen whether he actually got the ball!* I think he might have if the coach hadn’t pulled him out of the pile and made him run home.

The days have been beautiful recently. Mother's Day was very nice. We flew a kite and made ice cream in my new ice cream maker.

Tomorrow we head to the Charleston area for a field trip to the Tea Plantation and the Birds of Prey Center. We’ll see if the beach is a possibility. I might not be allowed to leave town without letting the kids get wet and sandy.

*Update (5/15): Fr Mark said he got the ball and threw it to first base.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dealing the Cards

I bought some mother's day cards today for the grandmothers in our lives. The best one I found was sweet, funny, and sentimental. But the line about Grandma being nicest and the best made me put it down. If I bought this card for one grandma, and not the other two, or the same cards for all of three, someone might find out. I can see Ella reciting to Grandma #2 what we said to Grandma #3; or announcing to Grandma #1 that we bought the exact same card for Grandmas #2 & #3. That would be very, very bad. So I settled for some less superlative, but still very nice cards.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bright Week and an Earthworm

Bright Monday morning Rose and I completed a chapter in our Biology book on the phylum Annelida. As we worked through the various systems, we discovered the earthworm is a hermaphrodite, but reproduces sexually. The description was fascinating, but to a fifteen year old, the discussion of slime tubes and seminal vesicles was a source of both shudders and uncomfortable smiles.

We dissected our earthworm in the afternoon. As Rose identified all the parts and pieces, she and the children agreed the specimen had a distinct aroma of peach cobbler.

I don’t think I can remember a time when I was so grateful I can’t smell.

I won’t contradict them—nor will I have conflicting memories in years to come. In my day, peach cobbler smelled like peach cobbler (and my grandmother’s house) while a pickled earthworm in Biology class smelled exactly like any other nasty creature pickled in formaldehyde. My teachers didn’t have to candy-coat (or peach-flavor) science to sell it to kids.

The lab work took a while for Rose to complete so I sent the children outside. As she was finishing her lab sheet, LMark woke up from his nap and trotted into the room ready for an adventure. Little did he know what he would find.

Since an earthworm’s only biologically-abundant part is his anterior end, Rose gave LMark three inches of his posterior end, that is, his intestine. He had a good time imitating his sister, but appeared to suspect he was missing out on something more interesting going on at the anterior end.

as I made meatloaf for supper, Rose decided it would be funny to put a worm-ovary on a probe and poke it in my face. If I hadn't been more afraid she was going to poke out my eye, I would have reacted more quickly. I stood transfixed in fear at having the needle-like probe and a reproductive organ dancing so close to my face. Rose complained I was “acting like such a girl.”

No, it didn’t fall in the meatloaf--but it would have made for an amusing story if it did.

Especially when I made her eat it.