Sunday, August 28, 2011

About How Ugliness Comes With Sin

Yesterday, before leaving for the vigil and Lamentations for Dormition of the Most-Holy Theotokos, I was flipping towards the reading for the day in the Prologue, and ran across this homily by St Nikolai.

I don't want to presume anything about anyone else, knowing it applies to my own soul primarily. All the same, it should be required reading for every Orthodox woman.

About how ugliness comes with sin

"Instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness …and burning instead of beauty" (Isaiah 3:24).

This is the word about extravagant and wayward women, about the daughters of Zion who have become haughty and "walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go and making a tinkling with their feet" (Isaiah 3:16). What was it that made the Hebrew women proud? Was it virtue? Virtue never made anyone proud for, in fact, virtue is a cure against pride. Was it the strength of a people and the stability of the State? No, on the contrary, the prophet exactly foretells the imminent bondage of the people and the destruction of the State. And, as one of the main causes for slavery and destruction, the prophet cites vain extravagance, spiritual nothingness and wayward women. What, therefore, made them so proud and haughty? Ornaments and embroideries stranded beads and necklaces, trinkets and hairpins, garters and girdles, perfumes and rings, quivers and mirrors. Behold, this is what made them proud and haughty! Exactly, all of this is an expression of their ignorant pride but the true cause of their pride is spiritual nothingness.

From spiritual nothingness comes pride and that external melange of colors which women drape over their bodies is only an obvious manifestation of their ignorant pride. What will become of all this in the end? Stench, disheveledness, baldness and burning. This will occur when the people fall into bondage. As usually happens: first, the spirit is enslaved by the body and then the body is enslaved by an external enemy.

Thus, that will be even then when the inescapable conqueror of our bodies comes death. Sweet smells will not help in the grave, the kingdom of stench. Neither will there be a need for girdles for a naked spine (skeleton). Neither will braided hair save the skull from baldness nor all the beauty from the black remains of burning. This is the inescapable fate of the most beautiful, the healthiest the wealthiest and the most extravagant women. But this is not the greatest misfortune. The greatest misfortune is that the souls of these women with their stench, disheveledness, baldness, and burning will come before God and before the heavenly hosts of the most beautiful of God's angels and righteous ones. For the stench of the body connotes the stench of the soul from depraved vices; a disheveled body connotes the insatiability of the soul for bodily pleasures; the baldness of the body connotes the baldness of the soul of good works and pure thoughts; burning of the body connotes the burning of the conscience and the mind.

O, how dreadful is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos; dreadful then and even dreadful today; dreadful, because it is true.

O, Lord Holy and All-pure, help the women who make the sign with Your Cross, that they may remember their souls and to cleanse their souls before Your Righteous Judgment, so that their souls, together, with their bodies do not become eternal stench.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Fr Mark and The Dove

My husband was interviewed yesterday by a Christian radio station in Oregon. I think he did a wonderful job. He's a great public speaker about the Faith, but even better in a Q&A context with a sincere questioner.

This writeup is from the website of our Eastern American Diocese in English and Russian. Here's a link to the introduction to St Athanasius' On the Incarnation by C. S. Lewis which my husband mentions in the interview.

August 20, 2011
Columbia, SC: Priest Mark Mancuso gave an interview to The Dove radio show about the significance of the Transfiguration in the Orthodox Church

On Friday, August 19th, on the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord, Priest Mark Mancuso (rector of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Church in Columbia, SC) gave an interview to Steve Johnson on The Dove radio show about the significance of the Transfiguration. In this fascinating interview, Fr. Mark explains to a Protestant audience how the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration, and how this important biblical event foreshadows our own Resurrection. Fr. Mark also gave the listeners some critical insight into the teachings of the Holy Fathers and recommended they read the writings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius the Great. Click here to listen to the full interview (23 min.).

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The More Things Change...

This is a re-post from four years ago. Reading it, I realize not much has changed in our family birthday tradition from when the children were little. Today I went to the girls room and woke Margaret so we could watch the sun rise together. We used the same present/breakfast plan, and had a few manipulative tears over Margaret's sharing her roller skates with one of the boys. But for the most part life is still, happily, the same. Geoffrey from Toys R Us always calls us twice in the middle of our breakfast, and we dismiss him ("It's Geoffrey calling--again!) like he's some pathetic giraffe-faced stalker. Margaret wanted her cousin, Hadley, for her birthday, so my sister and I met halfway between our houses, and spent an hour (or was it 2 hours...) in a Hardee's chatting our hearts out. It was a good day, despite having to retrieve the boys from the Men's room 20 or more times.

Which reminds me how when Margaret was finished potty training and we would go to any public location with her, she would announce with the dearest cluck of her tongue and honey-voice, "I think I have to go to the bathroom..." And she would turn her head back and forth as if she were in a
lovely flower garden, and all she needed to find was a sweet daisy. After a while, knowing she was just wanting to use the bathroom like a big girl, we would say she was going "on tour."

Now she has transferred her love for public bathrooms to pushing shopping carts every where we go. She has preferred stores because of their shopping cart quality. The other day she said in an ordinary voice, "Pushing shopping carts. It's my passion."

Which means my little girl needs a hobby, and probably needs to get out more--into the non-retail world.

* * *

So today is Margaret's sixth birthday. For sentimental reasons I try to wake up before sunrise because the sunrise was the most memorable moment of her actual birthday (apart from the birth itself). I looked out my bedroom window mere moments after she was born, and saw the sun peeking over the tops of the trees on the horizon. I called everyone's attention to it at the time, because it was such a beautiful welcome. I wanted to nickname her "Sunny" because of it, but apparently there's some Italian tradition that a man calls his eldest son, "Sonny." At the time we didn't have any boys, and didn't seem to have any prospects for more children, but we didn't call her "Sunny" just the same. We don't call Max "Sonny" either, but at least we allowed for the possibility, which might satisfy the 25% of Fr Mark's Italian blood.

This morning the children came down, as they do on every birthday, ready to help Margaret find her hidden presents in the den. I discovered some new hiding places, so she didn't find them as quickly as the kids usually do. There are only so many places to hide something in a 12x20 foot space.

Then, as part of the tradition, after Papa leaves for work, we make pancakes in the shape of the birthday-child's name. We light candles, sing Happy Birthday, and then eat. So this morning, I accidentally sang "Happy birthday dear Ella...uh...Meggy...happy birthday to you!" Margaret was patient with me and gave me a weak smile. Rose said, "Make a wish!" But in the ensuing seconds where Meggy was getting a big breath to blow out the candles, Little Mark blew out one and Max blew out three. That left a two pathetic flames sitting unceremoniously amid five smoking pink & yellow candle butts. That was all Meggy could handle and she stormed out. She came back a few minutes later and she tried it again, but the magic was obviously gone.

Which is why I consider this our run-through for birthday cake tonight. I can't remember how many times I have come close to spanking a child over birthday cake. Several times they have become suddenly shy and withdrawn and have refused to blow. Grandparents and cousins sit and wait with bated breath for the big moment. The "Happy Birthday" melody fades into the ether, the moment arrives, and the child slaps a hand over her mouth and runs from the room.

Also part of the tradition, is my wishing that I had never given a single gift. If I don't monitor all of the activity, someone falls or runs over somebody else's fingers. This morning all was well until they began "taking turns" to ride the scooter around the house. If I don't use a timer, there's bound to be an argument. But then there's the added element of the scooter actually belonging to Margaret which throws a monkey wrench into all of the turns and sharing. Meanwhile Little Mark is walking around the house with the voice modulator repeating some gobbledegook in a high-pitched Munchkin Land voice over and over and over and over. Apparently if you hold down the "play" button, you can make it repeat the phrase until kingdom-come or someone throws it out the window.

I didn't realize until I saw the photo up close that I accidentally put 7 candles on her cake. What a mother I am.