Our Patriarch, IGNATIUS IV, has arrived in the United States for a visit. I have had the distinct pleasure of both meeting and serving as Deacon with His Holiness and he is a remarkable man. We wish him many years, safe travels, and many good things as he travels among us.
Patriarch IGNATIUS is on the right (as you face the picture) and His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP is on the left.
As members of the Church and as citizens of this great land, we cannot withdraw from the society in which we live. Our parishes and our faithful are called upon to be “salt and light,” to paraphrase Christ, and as such, they engage with their neighbors in acts of charity and love. We will continue our charitable works, and our engagement with society — including to faithfully teach the truth about Christian principles of living...
At approximately 2:00 AM this morning I received a call from the LaCrosse Police Department stating that windows had been broken at St. Elias. When I arrived at the church the police were there and had a young man, very intoxicated, in custody. At the present we have no idea behind his motivation but apparently he decided to throw objects at and into the church. Inside the church there was glass everywhere, a vodka bottle, an iron, and household garbage. Outside the church there was litter on the lawn, various objects including bottles, a pumpkin, stove parts, and other items that had been thrown at or against the church. Two large windows were broken and two smaller glass block windows suffered damage. There was also damage to the siding. We had no Orthros this morning as that time was dedicated to clean up but we patched up and served the Divine Liturgy.
Please remember the young man alleged to be the perpetrator in your prayers.
But now we see Christians hedging and trimming and tying themselves into intellectual and moral knots in order to support candidates, including a presidential candidate, who explicitly and adamantly support an unlimited legal license to kill the unborn. They are fearful lest they be perceived as “one-issue” voters, although the one issue is the greatest human rights question of our time. Namely, should it be permissible to kill human beings because of their location, dependency, stage of development, or burdensomeness to others? To his great credit, Stanley Hauerwas has consistently answered that question in the negative. Behind that answer are many reasons—scientific, political, theological, and moral. Behind that answer is a conviction about what kind of people the Church is called to be.
This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn't believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal God of the Bible was just like believing in fairies. Nevertheless, to acknowledge that ‘a serious case could be made for a deistic god’ is to undermine his previous categorical assertion that
...all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection...Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.
hat tip to mindful hack
Read the whole article here...
Here is a picture of St. Martin from St. Martin of Porres School
Perhaps someone noticed the similarity and superimposed the Senator's face on St. Martin's body? They say that everyone has a double, perhaps Sen. Obama's is St. Martin? Interesting to note as well that his day is November 3rd, one day before election day.
It should also be noted that a fair number of folks have put the Senator's face on religious gear as part of their critique of what they believe to be his overarching sense of himself.
Click the link here for the story of the Obama votive candle, with the Senator in the guise of a saint.
Some of you may wonder why I keep an eye on the Obama as "messiah" thing. I find it curious for two reasons. First it shows that some people, even people who would probably reject Christ, still have an innate need for a savior, a desire for saints, and the belief there is something greater then themselves to which they can be vicariously attached. Second it shows these folks are willing to use historic and traditional trappings to understand their sensibilities. The votive candle with Senator Obama on it uses very traditional Catholic imagery and there may be an icon of the Senator somewhere even now.
Some will dismiss this all as well, "That's just San Francisco..." but whether we agree with the politics of the Senator or not his presence has brought out a hunger for a savior in many people a hunger sometimes expressed in Christian traditional language and images. It will be interesting to see, of course, how these people react when they discover their saint and savior is just a human being but discerning Orthodox will see in these demonstrations of a secular piety a kind of opening through which we can present an authentic Savior and an authentic faith.
Thoughtful and insightful. Read more here...
October 19, 2008
As I grow older I have come to realize that I don’t belong in this world and probably never will.
It’s a feeling like knowing the girl you’re dating, as pleasant as she may be, is not the one and sooner or later you’ll have to move on. I find myself looking at the world as if I’m present but not attached, observing everything and even taking part but knowing I was designed for something else, somewhere else.
I watch the world and its troubles and I care, and I try to do what I can to make things better, but I know this is just a place in the timeline and eternity is what ultimately matters. There is something else and as I move closer to the horizon I realize that something else is what this part of the journey is all about.
That’s the gift of traumatic times, they provide that most precious commodity, focus, the ability to see clearly unencumbered by the distortions of comfort and success. They strip away pretense and level all false gods at the knees. Those who understand this rise above and those who can’t or won’t are condemned to the panic of the herd.
The pundits ask what these times are all about, the confusion, the strength of the rich and powerful being flexed against the weak, the shallow moral waters, and the sense of foreboding that permeates throughout. They wonder what it means but those of us who follow Christ already understand.
Nothing of this world lasts forever. Every house, save one, is made of sand and every dream is twisted by mortality before it closes its eyes in death. Everyone seems to be shouting all at once but the discerning, the illumined, will understand.
It is not for us to make this world, its life, its values, and its impermanence, our final destination. We are here, for sure, called to live in and among and do our best to be light and salt and yeast for the sake of love but we belong, as the Scriptures says, to a city whose foundation is built by God, a new Jerusalem where the tree of life, uprooted in Eden, again yields its leaves for the healing of the nations. Wherever we may find ourselves here we belong to a place where God dwells with us and every human tear is wiped from our faces.
Knowing that we can live in the present and for whatever future may come and live fully, truly, and with purpose. Those things a passing world values may elude us but we never ultimately belonged here in the first place. We can have a true sense of things because while we care for this place and this moment we realize there is more and we live with that more present in our hearts.
That is what I wish for you today, a spark of something that reminds you not be troubled. Our Lord has gone before us, to, as the Scriptures say, prepare a place for us and every day we’re closer to home. The world has many troubles, Jesus told his followers, but he wanted them to understand that he had overcome them so they would not lose hope.
Open your eyes and see. Open your heart and receive. It’s glorious and when you do, nothing, not even this world, will ever be the same.
I've officially been saved, and soon, whether they like it or not, the rest of the country will be too. I will follow him, all the way to the White House, and I'll be standing there in our nation's capital in January 2009, when Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States of America. In the name of Obama, Amen.
And Jesus saw the multitudes and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shpherd...
It is long past time to get back to basics — to faith, to church, to principles, to relationships, to integrity. We are, I believe, about to be tested in a most difficult and frightening way — a darkness the likes of which we have not seen before, and may never see again. The provocation may be known, or unknown, be it nuclear terrorism, or some yet-unseen financial collapse; a cataclysmic natural disaster; or a butterfly in some unknown location flapping its wings and setting off a chain reaction which ignites the world in conflagration.
I have shared, with more or less intensity some of the sentiments of the author of this post, the sense we're on the edge of a very dark and hard era. And as a child of my culture I sometimes fear the things I may have to face, the loss of my comforts, the pain of losing my soul's flabbiness, the uncertainty of whether I will have what it takes to endure.
Yet at the same time I feel very free and this is one thing I wish the author would have addressed. These hard times are distilling the extraneous from me. I'm far from where I need to be but at the same time I sense a clarity about who I am and should be and more important "whose" I am. Despair leads to questions which lead to searching and then to discovery and rest. I hate the thought of what these times may be like but I feel closer to all the things that matter in ways that I never have in fatter times.
Going beyond the art of looking good on television (anybody but me seem to notice that Sen. Obama seems to be going "grayer" in the hair over the past months?) were the words themselves and for those of us who value, as the Roman Church has called it, the "culture of life" those words are foreboding. Sen. Obama is basically and profoundly "pro-choice" and it was clear in the debate that position would the policy of his presidency. Certainly it will influence the laws he signs and the judges he appoints. Combined with the possibility of a Democrat "super-majority" in Congress the pro-life cause will take a beating in the next four to eight years if Sen. Obama is elected. No amount of calm TV presence can obscure this central truth. Despite the Senator's non partisan rhetoric pro-lifers will have no place at the table or even in the room of an Obama administration.
And in one sense this will be an enormous setback. The small and reasonable restrictions on abortion, the product of years of hard political work, will be swept away, the freedom of protest will be curtailed, and more millions will pour into agencies and groups that support abortion. This is what we face. Yet at the same time we who believe in the sanctity of life will need to do what we should have been doing all along, focusing not just on the larger picture of laws and public policy but on each individual person who has a crisis pregnancy, each person who struggles with their sexuality, and each family that needs help. We need no laws to do this and there are no laws that can effectively forbid it.
This also underscores a central challenge for our call to be salt and light in this culture. For too long we have focused on the larger world of politics and structures to support our vision of what society should be and in doing so we have ignored a central truth of our Faith, that the world is changed as each individual is changed by the reality of Jesus Christ. For too long we have asked the government, the structures of our culture, to do what we should have been doing all along. Now faced with the possibility of a government hostile to much of what traditional Christian faith would espouse in the area of life, the failure of that policy has also been exposed. Yet even that exposure, that vulnerability, has the potential to turn, again, our hearts, our efforts, and our lives to both the message and the method of the Gospel. How ironic would it be if we, stripped of our temporal power, discover again the fullness of the Gospel and the Senator's claims of hope and change find themselves realized not in the government, but in the Church.
When that happens the real revolution will begin.
As a former chaplain in health care I've had the chance to see the enormous devastation caused by spinal cord injuries. In my particular circumstances, working in a number of inner city nursing homes, the injuries were often related to gun shot wounds. When you see young men in wheelchairs in the inner city the chances of their being there due to diving accidents is generally pretty slim.
And the devastation these injuries cause is profound and expensive, regardless of the cause. People with spinal cord injuries can require permanent attendants, expensive mobility and medical devices, and constant medical care. With spinal cord injuries there is only a matter of degrees, even those who have the smallest amount of injury will still have their life permanently changed. Being a 20 year old man facing a lifetime in a wheelchair is a prison all by itself.
Through the years living with and serving the ill and struggling I've had a dream for this country, a dream that somehow we could use our tremendous wealth for the alleviation of disease and human suffering. As I've watched over the years I've seen my country spend billions in aid for countries that repress their citizens and never support our ideals. I've seen even more billions spent on ever more expensive tools of war. I've paid attention as money has been thrown in piles at utopian social engineering schemes, ineffective wars on poverty, and thousands of useless pet projects. And I imagine what could be different, what could be better, if that money, or even a portion of it, would have been used for the elimination of illness and disease. Why is it that a country that can put human beings on the moon with computers less powerful than my laptop seems unable to find a cure for cancer, eliminate malaria, or do the research needed to treat spinal cord injuries.
I'm still asking those questions, probably always will. Hey, a guy can dream can't he?
150 AD Didache
"The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (Didache 2:1)
250 AD Diognetus
(a likely reference to both exposure of infants to die and abortion): "(Christians) marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring." (Letter of Diognetus (late 2nd or 3rd century; ch.5, vs.6)
314 AD Council of Ancyra
"Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees" (canon 21).
374 AD Basil the Great
"He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it die upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees" ((First Canonical Letter, canon 8).
374 AD Basil the Great
"Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years' penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not" (First Canonical Letter, canon 2).
391 AD John Chrysostom
"Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication . . . Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit?--where there are many efforts at abortion?--where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine" (Homilies on Romans 24).
400 AD The Apostolic Constitutions
"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for He says, 'You shall not suffer a witch to live' [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten; for "everything that is shaped, and has received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed." (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3).
Most of the older small churches in Orthodoxy are that way for a reason. Perhaps they had a small immigrant base upon which to build and demographics took their toll. Sometimes these churches were planted in places without the population to truly grow a sustainable church. There may also have been a good chance of pathology in their past, hurts, pains, struggles, and conflict that drove people away and diverted vital energy. Often, too, there was a simple lack of planning and proactive management in the development of churches, skills lost in the state church / persecuted church heritage of the Orthodox who came to this land.
Regardless there are any number of parishes out there, too small to be sustainable, too large or too stubborn to die, and a handful of folks trying to make a go of it. St. Elias is one of those churches and we're fighting to save it. We have to deal with the reality of where we are, the work we must do, and the fact that there will be no help for us coming from anywhere. The money for missions is, sadly, pitiful, and big churches largely have no interest in helping the stragglers. The diocese sends a Priest and hopes something might happen. The bottom line is that we're all alone.
Yet we're slowly crawling out from under. Visitors are coming, a trickle now, but still some. The core is largely holding steady. We're building and repairing, taking care of those things that couldn't be done when there was a full time Priest with a salary. The kitchen is next to be fixed and my hope is that a winning attitude will come with the renewal of the building. Yes, we've got a ways to go. We need to relearn our faith, and learn how to evangelize. We still need to see ourselves as a people with a call from God on our lives and a vital mission in LaCrosse. The task list is long.
But the garage will be done by the end of the month and the kitchen hopefully by the end of the year and its a proud moment as we claw our way out into the sun. Pray for us.
Read more here...
This article reflects what I've experienced in over two decades of ministry. At the heart of, much (but not all), atheism are painful experiences or painful emotions. One of the men I remember most was a gentleman who billed himself as the "resident atheist" at a nursing facility where I served as Chaplain. What most distinguished him was not the depth of his arguments or his winsome demeanor but the deep anger and pain that radiated from him. He disbelieved in God not on the facts but on a hurt that I could not reach even though we had a cordial relationship.
This speaks to us as Christians as well because this culture has many people who've been mistreated, even devastated, by people and structures in their church. I'm not talking about the faux outrage of the kind where people are angry the church won't affirm their personal sexual proclivities. I'm talking about people who really have been hurt by others who are rude, arrogant, and just plain mean all within the walls of the church. There's a lot of those folks around and their actions plant the seeds of future "atheists".
Read the rest of the article here.
Contrasted against the background of a culture gone crazy through its self inflicted illnesses the light of Christ shines brighter still. If we, you, me, I, are going to make it through we're going to need to see that light and head for it as best we can through the night.
We in the Orthodox Church have our work cut out for us. Perhaps after a century or so of dithering around now would be a good time to get our act, and our jurisdictions, together so we can try to help a world where a former night club singer turned religious leader can call a guy from Chicago the "Messiah" and have people actually believe it?
Or am I just engaged in wishful thinking?
I had a hard time watching the debate yesterday as well. It seemed like it was about two millionaires talking about how much they cared for me in the hope that I'd give them the vote they need to have me pay for their food, utilities, medical care, and an airplane for the next four years. I wasn't impressed.
Both candidates spoke about spending more money and neither really addressed the entitlement mentality that has gripped this country. Whether its folks on Wall Street playing games with the market to use ours to get theirs or folks on Main Street looking for the Feds to do something like that for them the mentality is the same. I want mine but I don't want to work for it, save for it, be honest for it, or think about others in my plans to get it.
Here's something I would have liked to have heard from either of the candidates but i won't hold my breath. "My fellow Americans. Times are tough and the first thing I plan to do after taking office is refuse my salary as President. I'm already wealthy and can afford to live with my room and board at the White House. In addition I plan to ask Congress to take a pay cut and cut staff and privileges until this crisis is over..." Then I'd like to hear something about the Federal government getting out of the mortgage business, the earmark business, the arts business, anything that's not specifically assigned to it in the Constitution. Finally I'd like to hear about how the financial services industries will be monitored to ensure that the hard lessons we learned from the Depression of the 30's and crashes of recent decades won't be repeated.
Last of all I would like to hear this from either candidate. "I have come to understand that at the core of our financial problems is a matter of attitude. We've lived as Americans with the idea that we are entitled to ever increasing levels of wealth and financial success, that we can expect prosperity without thrift, pay without work, and reward at the expense of others. Tonight this ends. Nothing we do as a government will matter if you and I do not fundamentally change our attitude about what we consider to be our birthright, the entitlement to ever increasing wealth. We learning some hard lessons in these days about the costs of living as if tomorrow and our neighbors don't matter and nothing will change until we personally change."
I'm not holding my breath...
Perhaps the most compelling explanation for the rising divorce rates, however, comes from religious quarters. According to this viewpoint, it is the increasing secularization of American society that accounts for so many divorces. The quest for personal satisfaction and gratification is no longer considered egocentric, and self-sacrifice is increasingly seen as an anachronism, along with the religious beliefs that once informed it. Countless studies show that religious practice strengthens marital stability, while others indicate that a loss of religious belief can weaken marriage beyond repair. Moreover, a team of sociologists at Nassau Community College found that children are more likely to lose their faith following a divorce than they were before, which means that divorce itself can be the cause of the unbelief that leads to further divorce.
I can't tell you if the Senator had botox or some sort of lift and for the most part I don't really care. I just find it very puzzling that in this culture we have people who seem to be willing to basically disfigure themselves for the illusion of looking "younger". I envision one day we'll be able to know who's old not by the wrinkles but rather by the artificially tightened look of their faces.
I guess, at least, it'll save the undertaker some work. Sigh!
No matter how hard they try to protect the gospel from corruption, ministers who focus on politics and politicians as a means of redemption must minimize their ultimate calling and message. The road to redemption does not run through Washington, D.C. Politicians can't redeem themselves from the temptations of Washington. What makes anyone think they can redeem the rest of us?
Yesterday, my homily focused on how the surest way to change the sickness of our society lies not in electing a man who couldn't change his own city or one who has been in the center of governing for years but rather for us to simply be Christians. If you're tired of all this, be as Jesus says "Light, salt, and yeast", in this dark culture. If you're looking for meaning follow Him. If you're overworked and stressed out by it all, take on His yoke, an easy and light thing compared to the weight of a sinful world.
Right away you need to know that I'm not crazy about these "debates". I'm not convinced they're debates at all but rather question and answer sessions where, more often than not, the emphasis is on answers and not questions. "Senator Smith what do you think about energy policy?" "Well, thank you for asking, as I've said before we need to provide health care for every American..." And I think, as well, that most people watch them like they watch car races, that is they put up with the going around in circles in the hope they may witness a crash.
But I did notice a couple of things. Sen. Biden has spooky eyes. I don't know who did his makeup but when he looked at the camera he often looked like the grumpy old man who used to live down the street and yell at kids when they came on his lawn. I know he didn't intend that but it was the first thing I picked up on. And Gov. Palin came awful close, at times, to sounding like "church lady" from the old Saturday Night Live. Again, I don't think she was trying but it did come out that way.
I thought Sen. Biden was at his best when he spoke of the loss of his wife in the automobile accident. It was a very human moment and for me I wish we would get to see more of the person behind the persona in these debates so we can make a better choice. I thought Gov. Palin showed that she was up to the job. She didn't obviously have the broad depth of detail in her responses that comes with being in the Senate for decades but she did evoke confidence and the sense that she could quickly fill in the gaps. For a person who has been mercilessly hatcheted by the mainstream press in a way that would and never have happened for Sens. Obama and Biden it was a positive opportunity to present herself unedited and without National Enquirer type filters.
The problem for me in surveying these debates is that I don't fit in a single category. I'm sure those on the Left will say Sen. Biden won and those on the Right will give the nod to Gov. Palin. But in rough terms I'm a social conservative and a fiscal liberal. I believe in traditional faith, traditional values, and traditional culture and as part of that I see the need for the power of the state to be used, at times, to assist the poor, protect the environment, and use its wealth for the common good. I believe in neither the hyper or the laisze faire state. I believe that personal morality and decency is what keeps us from tyranny or anarchy. I'm pro life but i know it means more then just being against the injustice of abortion. I sometimes think the Democrat party has abandoned me on the fronts of faith and morality and the Republican party on the questions of the larger social contract.
In the past I've used the issue of abortion as a kind of litmus test in the belief that a person who supports the fundamental right to life can, at least, be drawn to better things based on that understanding but a person who believes that the State and not God is the source of human rights (and this is a core of the abortion argument) has the potential to do great harm. I've also looked at how they would appoint judges because I believe in the current political climate the freedom to practice my faith can be changed in an instant depending on who sits on any given court. So I sit back and digest it all knowing that one person will never fit all my criteria and they and I will be making imperfect choices.
Having said all that I will go to bed. I know which of the two human beings I will be voting for and the debate didn't reverse that choice. But I'm glad for the fact that we still have the right to debate and make the choice.
I pray I make a good one.
"Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest..." When you and I are done placing all our hopes and labors into politicians, the market, our careers, our dreams, or whatever else is taking up our time there is God, still waiting and watching for his prodigal children to discover again that true rest is found not in the transitory things of the world but in the quiet peace of the Father's house.
When Christians, who have for so long bought into the empty promises of the world they are basically indistinguishable from it, rediscover this the real revolution will begin.