The weather is getting fierce again. Blizzards and whiteouts (a whiteout occurs when the wind blows snow and drastically reduces visibility) with temperatures dropping down to -15 or more farenheit with windchills (windspeed increasing the impact of the cold on skin) dropping down to -40 and more. Highways have been closed and National Guard armories opened to accomodate the stranded travelers.

One of the interesting things in all of this is that despite LaCrosse being several hours south of the Twin Cities the weather in winter is often more difficult. Cold winds blowing down from Canada meet warm air coming the southwest US in Iowa and southern Minnesota / Wisconsin. The result is snow and while there wasn't a bit of it here just an hour south of us roads were closed because people couldn't see. Add the hills, valleys, and generally rural topography around LaCrosse and things can grind to a standstill quite quickly.

Of course there's very little to be done. Everyone just needs to be careful and wait for things to blow over. This is the least charming part of winter. There's nothing of the Currier and Ives gentle winter scenes in all of this. It's just flat out cold and brutal. I wonder on days like this how the first people to live in this area ever survived things like this and the settlers who followed as well.

What else can be said? It's just a good day to be somewhere else.

Middle age most depressing.,..

It seems the experts now think that your 40's are the most depressing time of your life.

I'm 47 so I'm apparently working my way out!

A short piece on stress...

On which I myself must resonate...


Missing church...

For the first time in some time I will miss church today. The sinus infection I've been working though this past week, and perhaps for some weeks prior to that, has won this round and I'll be at home with the cats on Sunday morning.

From the time I was a child I remember going to church, without fail, every Sunday morning. For want of a better term it has been the one consistent habit, excluding sin, of my life, transcending all the years and with me wherever in the geographical, spiritual, and social sense of that word I have lived. Being in church on Sunday is like a metronome in my life, setting the rhythm every seven days and allowing me to keep a steady pace.

Of course its not always been as ideal as that. I remember coming to church, especially as a teenager, in what I would've described in those days as "duress" which really meant, in retrospect, any situation that disallowed the full flourishing of primal selfishness. I've also been to church hungover on a number of times in those 'glory days" if not from Saturday night at least from the truth of what I had done. But I still showed up, without a wedding garment of virtues for sure, but at the door of the feast hoping, I guess, to slip in unnoticed.

In my charismatic days I remember going to church hoping for something, that mystical connection that everyone else seemed to be having but eluded me. I would stand silent and wondering as a sea of glossalalia ebbed and flowed about me wishing for a bit of that rapture for myself. Alas, it was not to be and rightly so. Looking back I could see myself just stuck in that place going from week to week looking for the "buzz". Intoxicants, spiritual or otherwise, seem to keep people as children in the worst sense of that word.

In these last years the rhythm and habit have taken over again. I realize I simply have to be there, to acknowledge at least once a week that I am not God and there is much in this universe larger than me. My mood at any given day matters little, although I should strive to be at peace within and without. Whether I am charming or profound means basically nothing, that I am tied into the eternal pace of the presence of God means everything. Whatever state I find myself in I need to at least be present to holy things and in doing so my life is changed for the better whether I immediately see it or not.

But today I will not be there. And perhaps this is to teach me, to call to my mind the longing of every heart to be with God and make next Sunday, presuming good health, more precious. I'm still pondering this, and may be for some time.

Utopian evolutionary psychology...

An article worth reading.


A weekend off...

I don't like this but I think my body is telling me to rest. I have a sinus infection and the antibiotics are just starting to work and more are on their way. If I don't stop, rest, and let this thing run its course it just won't go away. Looks like a weekend in the house, blankets and recliner. Sigh.

Parts that don't work

I think the hardest thing about getting older is that your parts start breaking down. There are distinct advantages to age. Time and experience are tremendously valuable and very few people would like to have an 18 year old's maturity. But a lot of folks want an 18 year old's body, firm of skin, easily recovering from injury, and slim of figure. That seems to be the ideal combination, an 80 year old soul in an 18 year old body. I'm working on the soul thing, but sadly I think the body is beyond hope.


Some Middle Eastern stuff...

An interesting article on Iraq from Atlantic magazine.

For some time now I've posited that the single largest failure of our efforts in Iraq was not about military strategy. We really did "win" for want of a better word the major military portion of the war, and quite easily for that matter with, in military terms, a very low rate of casualty. Where we have failed is in the cultural part of the battle, failing to take in to sufficient considerations the full measure of the social, political, and religious fabric of the societies where we chose to insert ourselves.

My feeling, and its just an opinion, is that we were very much involved in how to get division a to point b to the extent that we didn't even consider factors such as clan, tribe, religion, culture, and the effect our incursion would have on these relationships. We seemed genuinely suprised when all of the sudden Sunnis and Shiites, freed from the strong arm of Saddam Hussein, would use that freedom to settle centuries old grudges. And wouldn't just a bit of study have quickly revealed that Kurds, and Iranians for that matter, aren't Arabs and may have little in common with "Arabs" even if they shared the same religion? Is there even such a thing as a central casting "Arab" at all? Like Gulliver we are being held down by thousands of tiny threads, the threads of the tapestry of culture, religion, and history we ignored for the "big picture" of our own understandings of how things should be projected on to a part of the world that, despite our hopes, is rooted in understandings of faith, culture, and humanity that are sometimes very different from our own.

Perhaps in the future it would be good for our leaders, thinking about war and peace and foreign policy, to have not just generals and politicians in the loop when decisions are made but also experts in religion, culture, language, and history as well. Had people such as these been given a real voice we might have made different choices about Iraq or not made the mistakes we did in the former Yugoslavia or saved ourselves a world of hurt in who knows what other places where we've acted as world police. Knowing the cultural/spiritual/social map of a place seems to be at least as important as the physical map, and perhaps in the long run, as we seem to be discovering, even more valuable.

Clergy bless Planned Parenthood building...

Story here...

Every once in a while you need to see a story like this to remind you of how good you have it even on the worst day of being Orthodox.



It's been the coldest weekend in a while in this part of the world with temperatures in LaCrosse dipping close to -20 Fahrenheit. It looks like we're getting real winter back and even as I type away the temperature is sipping back below zero again.

I admit I'm kind of a fanatic about caring for my car. I wash it, alot, and keep everything in the best possible form. But in times like this it can mean the difference between being stopped on the side of the road hoping for help to arrive before frostbite or making it home safe and warm. It's amazing what just a slight drop of temperature can do to the various pieces of metal, plastic, glass, cloth, and rubber that make up a car. It's also amazing at how well it will respond with just a little bit of care.

I'm also feeling a bit better. The headaches I wrote about earlier, thanks to the chiropractor and some exercises / cold packs / aspirin are not as frequent and I'm starting to get over being dizzy all the time. I have an appointment with the chiropractor tomorrow and I'll be seeing an MD early next week. I still don't feel up to snuff and the truth is at least part of it has to do with just being flat our exhausted. Another part is weaning myself off a medication I was taking. I loved how it helped me but I couldn't take the side affects. It's so hard to find a medication that does good without making you pay for it somewhere else and it seems that often you to negotiate how much good is balanced by the negative.

The one thing about this time of feeling unwell is that I've been trying to pray more. Being ill makes me think about things and that usually draws my mind to God. I try to pray more, I need to, and I've become aware, again, of how this body is wearing out over time no matter how well I care for it. I work among older people and as I get older I get more of a taste of what they must go through as age takes its toll. Being ill reminds me that I won't be living forever, at least not in this present form, and even as my head sometimes aches and I feel like I've just gotten off a carnival ride other things have become more precious.

I feel, too, an urgency of time. Some of this, of course, is pride, my thinking that what I do and who I am is so important that time has to accommodate it all. But most of it, I think, is about my being a person of the horizon. I hate to sleep because I think of the things I'll miss and I don't like the thought of one day dying because even with all its struggles there is still a sweetness about life and the potential of discovery that fascinates me. I think about the places I've not gone and dream remaining to come true and a certain sadness sets in.

As messed up as life can be sometimes I have come, over the years, to understand that it is still a gift of God and something to be enjoyed whenever possible. All of the good things in life are a foretaste of even better things to come and sometimes I drive and see great beauty in nature and think of what it will one day be like when it is finally freed from its mortality. I think about that for me as well. I'm a messed up sinner, I've done some terrible things and a whole lot of tiny terrible things as it were, and I hate everything I've done wrong even when I find myself doing it again and again. I just pray that God will have mercy on me at some future time and see that inside of this messy broken frame there is a heart that, however imperfectly , still desires Him.

One day I will have to stand before Christ and it will be a painful exposure at times, to see my life recalled in detail beyond my imagination and there will be times when I will be deeply ashamed. There will be only one thing to say "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner..." But I believe it will be enough, not because of me, but because of Him. Even now it is often the only prayer I can say in my weakness and I trust that God, the lover of mankind, will be able to fill in the details in ways only He knows.

It's still cold outside and the snow is falling. There's a cat on my bed and even though its early I feel like I need to read a little and get some sleep. Imagine that! There will be enough things to do tomorrow and God will be there when I wake up to face the new day.

An article on the origins of the Koran...

An article about the rediscovery of an archive of documents purporting to provide evidence of the development of the text of the Koran over time.

Why is this important?

For over a century the Bible has been subjected to many different kinds of analysis as to sources, historical settings, literary forms, and language. In some cases this has been helpful providing insight into the truths of Scripture that had not been explored before such as the relation of the wording of a text to its cultural setting. In others it has been used as a tool by skeptics to dispute the truths of Scripture by viewing them simply as cultural or linguistic constructs unattached to any larger or transcending reality.

For the most part Christians understand that there has been a certain development of the text in the sense that God inspired writers who used the words and images of their times to communicated larger truths. There is an interplay, in the Christian understanding, of God, the author of a Scriptural text, and the times in which they lived. Not so with the Koran.

The prevailing understanding of the Koran among Muslims is that it is a direct dictation to Mohammed and word for word a replica of the perfect word of God. If it can be shown that the text of the Koran has undergone revisions, compilations, or other kinds of adjustments over time it would be a crucial readjustment of what is probably the central tenet of Islam, that Mohammed was a direct revelator of God's word. The implications could be staggering.

Keep your eyes open for this story.

An interview with Metropolitan Kyrill...

An interview with Metropolitan KYRILL. Thanks to Paradosis.


I couldn't resist...

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, 'Would you like to say the blessing?' 'I wouldn't know what to say,' the girl replied. 'Just say what you hear Mommy say,' the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, 'Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?'

Left, Right, and hate...

A study of who "hates" more, those on the political left or the right.

I think the results extend to the theological as well. From my own experience going through seminary with the evangelical/liberal American Baptist Churches and then moving towards historic Christian faith while in Clinical Pastoral Education I can at least anecdotally say that I have encountered more derision from those who claim a theology of "tolerance" than any other kind of person, even those who weren't Christian. I suspect that many conservative or traditional Christian students who have run the gauntlet of life in a mainline seminary or CPE would say a silent "amen" as well.

I remember Clinical Pastoral Education and a discussion about the historic position of the Church regarding gender and ordination. I explained where I was moving and began to explain some of the reasons when a UCC student got a snarl on her face and said "That's just bull****"." So much for listening and responding to ideas with ideas. What was worse was that the director of the CPE program, a Lutheran clergy, was too cowardly to intervene, having been so cowed by years of feminist rhetoric that he could not even stand up for civility in disagreement.

In seminary I remember being called out by a female professor for the crime of not adding the word "sisters" to a Bible passage that read ironically, "How good it is for brothers to dwell together in unity..." Never mind that as Baptists we were supposed to have the freedom of handling the Scriptures for ourselves, or even that it was clear, and had been since those words were first penned that they included everyone. Those were logical, thoughtful, arguments that were met with anger justified (from a white woman who had graduated from both Wheaton and Harvard) by her "oppression. "

The truth is when people come to Orthodoxy they often discover the first place in their whole careers where they can breathe free air and not have to tip toe around the politically correct and emotionally brittle hardliners that dominate so many Christian communities today. It can be just a relief to hear God described as "Father" without anyone scrunching up their faces. Imagine believing what the Church has always taught without fear of a hysterical attack. It's why so many have come, why it takes them a while to understand they have nothing to fear, and why they think they've discovered the haven of their souls after years of voyaging on stormy seas.

Bible accurate again...

Here's a link to another article about historic information in the Bible validated by archaeological discovery. The list just keeps on growing as does the list of 1800's vintage "higher critics" of scripture spinning in their graves.


Watching over you...

Our current director of the CIA is proposing having our government expand its capacity and gain the ability to monitor all US internet traffic. Is anyone getting the irony of such things?

We always, as Christians, strive to be loyal to our government, to pay our taxes and give honor to its laws. But it's never an unthinking allegiance, an allegiance without understanding. The threat of terror is real, but is expanding the reach of the government into every nook and cranny of our lives the solution? Can one defend a society by ignoring, even betraying, its original principles?

These are important questions that even Christians, who in this country are often inclined to give our government the benefit of the doubt, need to ask. Like those who designed this country we need to trust those who lead, but with our eyes wide open.

Headaches, pt. 2...

I had the day off to visit the chiropractor regarding my headaches and discovered the return of an old acquaintance from 2000.

That was the year I was struck by a drunk driver and thrown off from my motorcycle while it was stopped at a traffic light. For the most part the injuries have subsided but every now and then a reminder from that time returns in the form of neck pains, headaches, numbness in the arms, random pain. They gave me money in the settlement but I would rather have never been there in the first place and avoided all of this.

Anyway, it looks like aspirin and ice packs on the neck with special exercises for a while to get all of this under control. It also means an extra wide strap for my mandolin and a reminder for me every time I look at a motorcycle with that old familiar longing.



The day after Christmas I began to have headaches, migraine type headaches, and off and on they've been with me since then with the added touch of nausea and dizziness. At first I thought it was about a change in diet and then perhaps about a side affect of medication. Not so, apparently, as I've made the investigatory changes and the headaches continue. Tomorrow I'll be off from work and visiting various medical folks to check up on things.

This is not the first time I've had a series of headaches. In 2000 I was on a motorcycle at a stop light and a drunken driver hit me and sent me to the pavement. On occasion after that I've had times when a cluster of headaches has hit and I either ride it out or go to the chiropractor and get my neck adjusted. Perhaps this is another of these times.

Regardless tomorrow will be a day of rest, a sabbath for someone who should probably have a few more of them. I need it to find out what's making my head hurt and get some rest.

Good luck Packers!!


Images of controversy...

These are the images, published some time ago in Denmark that have spawned riots around the world and have at least one person in Canada brought before a "human rights tribunal" in Alberta for publishing them. People have died because of these images. In some places in the world I could be killed simply for posting them.

Christians around the world, of course, will be suprised at how tame these pictures actually are compared to the constant barrage of pornographic images of Christ and Christianity regularly presented in all kinds of media and sometimes supported by government agencies funding the "arts". Caricatures of Christians, obscene works of art based on Christian themes, jokes and put downs directed at things we as Christians hold sacred are more common then ever and in certain parts of our culture are considered evidence of spohistication and educated cynicism.

So why did I post those pictures?

I don't hate Muslims. I disagree with some of the claims of Islam but I don't hate those who practice the faith and have interacted with Muslims all my life without incident. I plan to keep it that way. This is America and people have the right to practice any religion or none and to convince others, if they can, to do the same. This is how it should be in all the world.

And part of that freedom is that sometimes faith is ridiculed and people and things close to us are held up to critique and mockery. I don't enjoy it when people say ridiculous things about Jesus and make fun of my Savior. It hurts. But the freedom that allows this to happen is still important. For every unkind word said about Jesus I can counter because I have the freedom to speak a rebuttal. Freedom is messy sometimes, rough and tumble, and people and feeling get damaged. Outrages happen and we all, in some ways, have to swallow and take it for the sake of the larger principle. Frankly, as well, there are times when our critics are actually more honest about us then we are and their arrows stick in us because they reflect a truth we'd rather not see. But even if they're just malicious fools I'd still rather put up with them and preserve basic freedom then live in a world where only one idea was allowed and all dissent was crushed. After all, no one is ever in charge of anything forever, and today's emperor is tomorrow's slave.

Now I would like to speak to those who are Muslim and may view this blog from places around the world. You may be very offended by those pictures or you may care less. But to be in a free society means that you'll sometimes have to face uncomfortable things. Freedom comes with the risk of being offended, sometimes daily, and sometimes by people who are just doing it because they get their kicks that way.

But it's still good to be free. We have discovered in this country that faith unconstrained by the state is actually deeper and more fervent then faith coerced by the authorities or maintained by social fear. People in this country, with all its faults, still have the right to choose their belief and because they do its often more precious to them because it belongs to them by a commitment of their will.

Yet in some places in the world there are people who want to control you, to gain power and influence by pandering to your basest fears, by exagerating and demagoguing and playing your emotions so they will have what they crave. It happens everywhere, even among Christians, but right now in the Islamic world they have, in some places, tremendous authority. They want to rule you and use your faith as a tool to bend you towards their dreams. And you have a choice to make.

If you are confident in your faith and its values then all the critique in the world, whether justified or not, won't make a difference, in fact it can't make a difference. You may not like the pictures I've posted any more than I would enjoy looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary covered with feces but the truth is that such a thing has no effect on my faith, not even a bit, and never will, and I refuse to give power to any man who would use such a thing for his own aggrandizement.

If you truly believe that Mohammed was a prophet of God then what difference does what some person puts in a paper make in relation to that belief? Does it change it? Is he less of who you believe he is simply because somebody drew a cartoon image of him? Is the deepest belief of your heart so flimsy that one man in Denmark can unsettle it? What could that man do that would threaten God? And what idolatry is it to give him that power by virtue of your response?

The truth is that you and I and every person of faith can choose what we do when faced with provocative, even offensive, words, images, and ideas directed at us and at our God. And when you or I or anyone else succumbs to violence we reveal that our faith is shallow, our belief brittle, and our actions unworthy of the higher good we claim to seek in our faith. In fact the person who makes such scandalous things actually achieves victory because of our reaction.

Right now its a pretty chaotic world out there and we're in desperate need of clearer and calmer heads to keep us from turning our earth into a never ending conflagration. We will probably never agree on the details of theology, but if we do agree, whatever faith we have, to not give way to our darker sides, even if provoked, we will go a long way towards making the peace and sending those whould manipulate us for their own ends into history's rubbish.


Orthodox resources re pornogrpahy...

From the Greek Archdiocese, a list of resources for people seeking help dealing with pornography.

Women stuff...

My "other" work, as it were, is in the health care field providing services to seniors in an assisted living setting. It's a largely matriarchal culture and so the odd male working in my field gets some real insight into the lives of women as we spend the greater portion of our day in and among them.

Now I may be getting skewed feedback but it seems like its an emotional, physical, and spiritual minefield out there for the single woman living in this time and place. The need seems to have remained the same over time, to be authentically loved and give love in return. The achieving of that ideal, though, seems ever more elusive because the rules have changed and women seem to be getting the short end of it.

I wonder about the cause of it all sometimes. Is it feminism gone awry? Moral decline leading to an "everyone for themselves" attitude that leaves women more vulnerable? Some other thing that I can't possibly know because I'm a male? I wish I knew for sure.

What seems to be happening, though, at least from my point of view is a kind of "Hugh Hefner has hijacked the women's movement" sort of thing. Let me explain. It seems like today's women have been indoctrinated into the idea that sluttiness is part of being equal with men. Casual sex, with all its potential physical, emotional, and spiritual harms, seems to be part of the required items women must carry in their portfolio. Now please understand that casual sex is dangerous for men as well, but men don't get pregnant, and men give more than they get with women in the STD arena, and let's not even get into heartbreak.

Women are looking for real love but the prevailing cultural ethos of easy sexuality and its demands that women emulate all of their male counterparts worst attributes in this makes war against that basic hunger. Putting out is expected and right now there are millions of women all over the country on their backs hoping that the guy on top of them may the one, or perhaps they've already just given up and hope he's good for whatever they need for the moment. The result always seems to be the same, women growing cynical and bitter about men, the natural and created complement of the genders poisoned by repeated let downs. Women who want to love men and be loved by them start to think of them as jerks looking for nothing more than a place to get off.

We, and especially women, have been lied to. We've been given an image of our sexuality and how we are to relate to each other as men and women that is literally killing us body and soul. The bill of goods we've been sold has not produced what we deeply desire, true love and has given us a hellish oversupply of what we do not need, heartache, loneliness, illness, and just plain messed up lives.

What to do?

At this point I suppose the reader is looking for a brief lecture on a return to Christian values in love and marriage. That would be a good place to get to, the destination of it all. But I think first a revolution is in order, a revolution led by women. Behind the scenes, out of the sex obsessed media's eye there are growing number of women who realize that something is dreadfully wrong and in their pain are having their eyes opened to the great lies of our time. Somewhere along the line those small fires will kindle into a conflagration and more and more women, even if its just for the sake of avoiding disease and emotional destruction, will begin to say "I want love, the real thing, the kind that respects my dignity and reflects more of the great human desire for two souls merging and a whole lot less of our society's vision of two people bumping in the night. I want someone to know me in every real sense before they "know" me in the Biblical one. I want men to see me for everything I am and not just as the life support system for my genitals. And I'm not going to be lied to again."

And when women want, yes even demand something better and refuse to accept anything less men will follow. We may howl and protest at the dying of a falsehood that allowed us easy access to unconditional orgasms via women conditioned to believe that being a whore was being liberated, but we will follow. When women in large numbers demand higher standards from men they will get them.

You see men desire real love as well. We, too, are caught up in the endless cycle of one nighters, victims of the cynicism and jaded reflexes that so characterize the relationships between the sexes. We may not know because we've bought into the whole thing even more then most women have, but somewhere inside of us we know something is really messed up about the way things are and we need some help, your help, finding our way back.

A quote from G.K. Chesterton...

"Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern." - The New Name, Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays, 1917

This is why you should read Chesterton, if you haven't already.

More wisdom from Dawn Eden...

From Canada's National Post.



Some political thoughts...

An article from Breitbart about abortion politics in New Hampshire where, when you read the article, it is revealed (in the third paragraph) that Sen. Barack Obama voted AGAINST a bill requiring medical care for, as the article states, "aborted fetuses that survive." (Usually they're called "infants")

Assuming the information is true, why post this? Simple. Vigilant Christians need to read between the lines and get all the details when they make choices for political office. Right now the media frenzy is all about Sen. Obama, and who knows where it will be in a few weeks. But before we give our heart away we need to use our head.

No one is perfect. No one ever will be. But measured against a traditional Christian vision is ANY legislator who votes against mandating health care for babies who somehow survived an attempt to abort them worthy of the highest office in our country?

You decide.


Worth the read...

A short article on the Orthodox view of Baptism from Antiochian.org.


Happiness is good for you...

The article is here.

But of course people of faith have known this for a whole bunch of centuries (Proverbs 17:22).


Some Thoughts on Baptism...

I had the privilege to serve at a Baptism in the later part of last year, just before Nativity (Christmas). It was a conditional baptism for the sake of a person who , because of Soviet oppression and the resulting incomplete record keeping for such things, desired the comfort and surety of knowing for certain that this was done.

As an aside I suspect that as more of these good people from the former Societ bloc come to our shores, people who have no recollection of baptism other then whispered tales of grandmothers sneaking them into churches in the dead of night or faithful visiting clergy smuggled into homes, we will see more of this practice, those words "If you have not already been baptized..." And we as Priests should be ready for them.

And while the details of the circumstances change I remain in complete and utter awe about the holy things that God in mercy allows to happen through my hands. This isn't about the normal required humility of Priests because it is both real and transcends language at the same time. I cannot believe that God would allow these amazing and holy things, this transaction from death to eternal life, happen in my presence let alone, as it were, through me.

I stumble in the words. I have to focus very clearly to make sure everything which needs to be said is spoken and all that is required is done as it should be and even then I'm sure I've made a mistake somewhere. On top of that I know enough of myself to know that all of this happens despite me, not because of me. I could probably write a list without much effort of a hundred sets of hands that are more clearly suited for this work, any number of people for whom the "axios" is more certain and sure. There should be a rope always tied, as it was for the Jewish Priests, about my ankle to remove me from the altar in the case of my demise before heavenly things.

And yet by grace I have survived and so have the people I have baptized and God finds a way to do His great work in it all. What more can be said? As messed up as I can be, and believe me it can get bad, I am allowed to do what angels cannot and hold holy fire in my hand without being consumed.

I do not understand and perhaps I never will. I just do what needs to be done.

Theophany Poem...

The Theophany Poem of Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Trinity above being, above goodness, above divinity, all-powerful, all-seeing, invisible, incomprehensible, creator of all spiritual beings and rational natures; goodness itself, the inaccessible light enlightening all who come into the world, shine in me, Your unworthy servant, and enlighten the eyes of my understanding, that I may make bold to praise Your infinite benevolence and power. May my prayer for the people here present be well-pleasing; may my offenses not impede the coming of the Holy Spirit among us, but judge me uncondemned as I cry to You now and say of Your surpassing goodness:

We glorify You, loving Master, almighty, king from everlasting. We glorify You, creator and author of all.

We glorify You, only begotten Son of God, born of the Father without a mother, and of a mother without father. For in the previous feast we saw You an infant; in this present one we see You complete, perfect, manifested from the perfect God. For today the time for feasting has come and the choir of the saints holds assembly with us, and angels celebrate with men.

Today the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came upon the waters. Today the unwaning sun has dawned, and the world is lit up with the light of the Lord. Today the moon with its brilliant rays shares its light with the earth. Today the luminous stars embellish the universe with their joyous luster. Today the clouds refresh humanity with a rain of justice from above.

Today the uncreated One is by His own will touched by the creature. Today the prophet and forerunner approaches the Master, but pauses in awe, seeing God's condescension towards us.

Today the waters of the Jordan are turned into healing by the presence of the Lord. Today all creation is watered by mystical waters. Today men's sins are washed away in the waters of the Jordan. Today Paradise is thrown open to humankind, and the sun of righteousness shines upon us. Today the water that the people under Moses found bitter, is turned into sweetness at the Lord's presence.

Today we are free of the ancient grief, and like a new Israel have been redeemed. Today we are delivered from the darkness and are bathed in the light of the knowledge of God. Today the world's gloom is dispersed in the epiphany of our God. Today the entire universe is lit as by a heavenly torch. Today error is abolished and the coming of the Lord opens the way to salvation.

Today the heavenly joins the earthly in celebration, and that which is below holds discourse with that which is above. Today the holy and vibrant assembly of the Orthodox rejoices. Today the Master hastens towards baptism so as to raise humankind to the heights. Today He Who bends to none, bows before His own servant, so as to free us from bondage. Today heaven has been deeded to us, for of the Lord's kingdom there shall be no end. Today the earth and the sky have divided the world's joy, and the world is filled with gladness.

The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You and were afraid. The Jordan reversed its flow when it saw the fire of divinity descending bodily and entering it. The Jordan turned back seeing the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and hovering about You. The Jordan turned back seeing the invisible become visible, the creator made flesh, the Master in the form of servant.

The Jordan turned back and the mountains leapt, seeing God in the flesh, and the clouds gave voice, marveling at the One present, light of light, true God of true God, Who submerged in the Jordan the death of disobedience and the sting of error and the bond of Hades, giving to the world a baptism of salvation.

Wherefore I your sinful and unworthy servant, recounting the greatness of Your wonders, seized with dread, in deepest awe cry out to You:

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your works, and no word will suffice to praise Your wonders.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your works, and no word will suffice to praise Your wonders.

Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your works, and no word will suffice to praise Your wonders.

For by Your will You brought all things into being out of nothingness, and in Your might You sustain creation, and in Your providence govern the universe. Once You had shaped creation out of four elements, You crowned the cycle of the year with four seasons. All intelligent life trembles before You. The Sun praises You. The moon sings Your glory. The stars come together around You. The light heeds Your command. The deeps quiver at Your presence. The wellsprings are at Your service. You have stretched out the heavens like a tent; You have made the earth firm upon the waters; You have contained the seas with sands; You have poured forth the air for breathing. The Angelic Powers minister to You; the Choirs of the Archangels pay You homage; the Cherubim of many eyes and the six-winged Seraphim circling and hovering about You, veil themselves in awe of Your surpassing glory.

For though You are God, without beginning, beyond describing or expressing, You came to earth, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. For in the tenderness of Your mercy, You could not endure to see humankind under the devil's sway, but came and saved us. We confess Your grace. We proclaim Your mercy. We do not conceal the great kindness. You have set free the generations of our race, You hallowed the Virgin womb by Your birth. All creation magnified Your appearing. For You our God were seen on earth and dwelt among men. You also sanctified the streams of the Jordan, sending down upon them from heaven Your Holy Spirit, crushing the heads of dragons that lurked there.

Will You also now, Loving King, be present through the descent of Your Holy Spirit and sanctify this water.

Will You also now, Loving King, be present through the descent of Your Holy Spirit and sanctify this water.

Will You also now, Loving King, be present through the descent of Your Holy Spirit and sanctify this water.

And give to it the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it a fountain of immortality, a gift of sanctification, for the remission of sins, protection against infirmities, destructive to evil forces, inaccessible to opposing powers, filled with angelic might.

That all who draw from it or partake of it may find in it purification of souls and bodies, healing of infirmities, sanctification of houses, every fit benefit. For You are our God, Who through water and the Spirit renewed our nature corrupted by sin. You are our God, Who in the time of Noah washed away sin in the waters.

You are our God, Who at the hand of Moses brought the Hebrew nation to freedom by the sea. You are our God, Who split the rock in the wilderness and waters flowed and streams were filled and You satisfied Your thirsting people. You are our God, Who at the time of Elijah by water and fire delivered Israel from the falsehood of Baal.

Will You now, Master, sanctify this water by Your Holy Spirit.
Will You now, Master, sanctify this water by Your Holy Spirit.
Will You now, Master, sanctify this water by Your Holy Spirit.

And grant to all, whether they touch it or are anointed by or partake of it, sanctification, blessing, cleansing, health.

Poem from www.antiochian.org

The icon from this page can be found at: http://www.goarch.org/en/special/listen_learn_share/epiphany/learn/

New Year's Resolutions...

It's 2008, day two, and I've got a few resolutions.

I'd like to lose some more weight. I've got a case of the usual American gluttony and really need to drop about 20 more pounds or so (I've lost about 25 since October).

I need to get to confession at least once a month. You'd be suprised at how hard it is for a Priest to get to confession especially if they're the only Orthodox Priest in town!

This year I'm going to get at the mandolin and really make the time to practice it and gain expertise.

Oh yes, get organized, always get organized. And turn off the TV because some days it can be like having the spiritual equivalent of an open sewer in your home.

Now I don't know exactly how I'll do on some or all of these. All I can say is that I feel motivated in a way I haven't before. Midlife crisis? Best laid plans of mice and men?

We'll see.

Some wisdom from the Wall Street Journal...

An article on deconstruction, gender, and culture. A reminder, as well, about why what we beleive and practice makes so much of a difference in the face of a culture embracing its own death wish.