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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

1. I would go to Church more often
2. I would pray more and complain less
3. I would go to an engineering school and then to medical school – becoming a biomedical engineer
4. I would study more and play less
5. I would have more children
6. I would love more people and dislike fewer
7. I would work on being more organized
8. I would bake more bread and fewer cakes
9. I would still marry the Ol’ Curmudgeon
10. I would still become Orthodox

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Last year I turned 66, and today I am 67. I’m on Medicare and Social Security. Guess I’m officially “old” by societal standards.

Now I have to try to be a “wise” resource for family and friends rather than a burden.

I’m partially disabled, so I could be considered a burden, but I’m still working (part-time from home), and I still have the same ADD mind I’ve always had. The kids always said they would never know if I developed dementia – because I’ve always been ADD and have always had memory problems for nouns – especially people’s names. I can’t help worrying about it, though. Seems like I’m having a few more problems than before. May have to do with my very sedentary life-style, however. Hard to be very active when you have AR and fibromyalgia, though.

I tend to be chronically cheerful, and optimistic, so I just think like that irritating Energizer Bunny and keep going-and going-and going…

May the Lord have mercy upon this sinner!

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St. Cosmas the Hymnographer, bishop of Maiuma (787)

Commemorated on October 14

He was from Jerusalem. An orphan, he was adopted into the family of St John of Damascus (commemorated December 4). He became Bishop of Maiuma, a city on the coast of Palestine, which was later named Constantia. Like his adoptive brother he became a noted hymnographer.

The Canon of the Cross (Sept. 14) and the Canon for Christ’s Nativity, “Christ is born, give ye glory…” are his compositions.

Canon of the Exaltation of the Cross
St.Cosmas of Maium
Irmosi (theme songs)
I. Moses, having with his rod made a long line, divided the Red Sea for Israel journeying on foot; and having again struck the same with a transverse blow, thus tracing the Cross which is the weapon invincible, he united it against the armies of Pharaoh. Wherefore we sing unto Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.
III The Rod is accepted as the symbol of a mystery; for by its budding-forth it designated the Priest; and in the Church,which of late was barren, there now hath budded forth the tree of the Cross for herpower and strengthening.
IV I have given heed to the mystery of thy dispensation, O Lord, I have understood thy works, and have glorified Thy Divinity.
V O Tree thrice blessed, whereon was crucified Christour King and our Lord! Through thee he is fallen who by a tree did beguile, having himself been beguiled by Him who was nailed upon thee in the flesh, even God, who granteth peace unto our souls.
VI. Jonah, when he stretched forth his arms in the form of a cross within the belly of the sea-monster, did clearly typify the Redeeming Suffering; and when he came forth thence after 3 days, he imaged forth by anticipation the supernatural Resurrection of Christ our God Who was crucified in the flesh, and hath illumined the world by His rising on the third day.
VII. The mad behest of the impious tyrant breathing forth threats and horrible blasphemies troubled the people; yet neither the brutal rage nor the roaring fire terrified the Three Children; but when, as they stood amid the flames, a dew-bearing breath was wafted against it, they sang: Blessed be Thou, O God of our fathers, exceedingly praised, and our God!
VIII. O Children, in number equal to the Trinity! Bless ye God the Father, the Creator; sing ye the word who came down and turned the fire into dew; and magnify ye the Spirit all-holy, who giveth life unto all men, unto all the ages.
In place of: My soul doth magnify the Lord: The refrains:
Magnify, O my soul, the all-precious Cross of the Lord.
Magnify, O my soul, the elevation of the life-giving Cross of the Lord.
IX. Thou art the mystical Paradise, O Birth-giver of God, who though untilled dodst bud forth Christ, by whom the life-bearing Tree of the Cross was planted upon earth. for which cause, now, at its Elevation, adoring it, we magnify Thee.

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Protection of the Theotokos at Blanchernae

Protection of the Theotokos at Blanchernae

The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos

“Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them go away from my icon unheard.”

Saints Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

Church of the Protection of the Theotokkos on the Nerl - Russia

Church of the Protection of the Theotokkos on the Nerl - Bogolyubovo, Russia

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin Monastery of the Intercession of Our Lady). In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).

Cathedral of the Protection of the Theotokos AKA St. Basils Cathedral, Moscow Russia

Cathedral of the Protection of the Theotokos AKA St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow Russia

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”
Adapted from the website of the Protection of the Theotokos Orthodox Church; Billings MT

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord our God, Save and Protect us!

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St. Ephraim the Syrian

Whither wilt thou mount, feeble man? Thou dust that art flung upon dust, let thy conversation be in the dust! Even the dust which is beneath thee is above thee, to search into. If that beneath be too high for thee, how wilt thou attain to Him who is above? If the small dust thy kinsman, from which thou art, is yet hidden from thee, how wilt thou search out the Majesty too high for any to search out?

That dust is in appearance one: it is little and yet great upon searching into it. The dust is one and yet not one, since in its severally it is manifold. One mean bosom generates tastes that can not be numbered; one little treasury sendeth forth ornaments that can not be reckoned….How much can vile dust do which giveth to each of them its increase? To the fruits it giveth their tastes, and with their tastes their colors; to the flowers it giveth their odors, and with their odors their ornaments; flavors it giveth to the fruits, and to the roots aromas; it giveth beauty to the blossoms, the flowers it clothes with adornment. It is the seed’s handicraftsman, it bringeth up the wheat in the ears; the stem is strengthened with knots as a building with bond-timbers, that it may sustain and bear up the fruit, and hold out against the winds….If the dust thou tramplest perplexeth thee in thy search into it, how wilt thou search out the Majesty of Him who with contemptible things maketh thee perplexed?
– From Homily, Concerning the Faith.

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Tony Snow

Tony Snow

The death of Tony Snow has left me shaken. I didn’t “know” him – never met him, never talked to him, never corresponded with him. Yet when I heard he had lost his long battle with colon cancer I cried. Many other people have spoken of him much more eloquently than I can – people who knew him personally and professionally.

Tony Snow represented to me the possibility of a “newsie” being calm, kind and {brace yourself} “fair and balanced” in his approach and reporting. He didn’t sink to name calling or to nastiness. He was conservative, but was also a gentleman. He never took politics personally, nor did he take the raucous White House news corps remarks and rambunctiousness personally. He did his job with humor and aplomb.

He loved his wife and children and wasn’t reluctant to say so on national TV. He wasn’t afraid of that  4-letter word – L-O-V-E. He loved the USA. He loved his family. He loved his friends.

This was one of life’s good guys. Only 53.

When things like this happen, we may wonder, “Why would God ‘take’ him?” God doesn’t “take” people. He allows us to make choices and to live or die by the consequences of those choices. The choices of other people affect us. And the genetics we bring to the table affect us, also. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and their children’s teeth are set on edge” [Ezekial 18:2]. Also, Exod.20:5 “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” Could these verses be construed to refer to things like DNA-altering viruses and diseases like rubella and alcohol abuse in pregnancy? Certainly, there are familial diseases. Breast cancer and colon cancer are two of them. Diabetes is another. They run in families.

God didn’t “take” Tony Snow. Tony Snow’s family history of colon cancer “took” him. Tony fought against that cancer as hard as he could. He lost the battle. But he will be remembered – and missed – by the “biggies” but also by the little people like me. And missed terribly.

Memory Eternal!

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We have to renounce iconoclasm. In so doing, we inherently set ourselves against certain forces within modernity. The truth is eschatological, that is, it lies in the future, but we also believe that this eschatological reality was incarnate in Christ, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. We do not oppose the future in embracing the Tradition we have received. We embrace the future that is coming in Truth, rather than the false utopias of modern man’s imagination.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

Iconoclasm isn’t “just” the destruction of icons that took place in the 9th century and was ended with the Triumph of Orthodoxy, proclaimed by Empress Theodora in 843. Iconoclasm also involves rejecting and destroying accepted social norms, mores, and those examples we hold up for younger generations to follow.

It seems that each new generation is more iconoclastic than the one before – less  respectful, less willing even to try to understand why certain polite actions are appropriate. A quote attributed to Socrates shows how ancient such problems are:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
~SOCRATES (469–399 B.C.)

This quote may or may not be accurate, and may or may not actually be from Socrates. But it reflects the ongoing problem of dealing with the younger generation. They need limits, but, especially as they grow older, they need explanations. This means that parenting is really, really, REALLY hard work! We have a lot of responsibility – to our children, to the people around us, and to the future generations.

When we speak of the Church, we should be especially careful. There is a “slippery slope” that can lead to iconoclasm and the entire spectrum of heresy that follows. And, using the Church as an example, it begins with small breakings of the old “icons” of tradition.

The first to go usually is FASTING. It is too hard. It isn’t “healthy” for growing children. I can’t eat soy products. I’m traveling. I was invited somewhere and served non-fasting foods. The excuses go on and on and on. But when you come right down to it, avoiding fasting, not doing it, is purely and simply destruction of an Icon – an image that teaches us how to become closer to God.

It may be that the first to go is regular PRAYER and then Fasting follows. But a regular prayer life is necessary to lead us to God. Avoiding Prayer, forgetting Prayer, procrastinating about Prayer – all lead us down the slippery slope to iconoclasm. It is the destruction of another icon – an image that teaches us how to grow closer to God.

Without the support of Fasting and Prayer, it becomes too hard to ATTEND SERVICES. For Orthodox, attendance is not enough. One must partake of the Sacraments regularly. The Sacraments provide us the Food of Life and the Medicine of Immortality. Without them, we begin to die inside. When we destroy the Icon of the Services, we have then lost one of the last things that sustain our Faith.

Similarly, when we lose the small amenities of politeness, we begin to lose the structure that supports our society. Iconoclasm. Breaking Icons. It starts a slide down a slippery slope. Ask the Roman Empire about it. Ask the Episcopal Church about it.

Now you know why the Orthodox Church is so strict about not changing traditions.

Now you know why the older generation is – or should be – strict about adhering to etiquette and politeness, to industry, moderation, patience, self-reliance, and independence; patriotism and modern republicanism; the civic virtues of vigilance and spirited participation; the Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation transcribed by George Washington – all those virtues so beloved of and upheld by the founders of our country. In our own generation, William Bennett, in his Book of Virtues, listed Self-Discipline, Compassion, Responsibility, Friendship, Work, Courage, Perseverance, Honesty, Loyalty, and Faith as those things we need to preserve in our everyday life. The Orthodox would say that Faith requires the support of Fasting, Prayer, Almsgiving and the Divine Services in order to maintain it as a living part of ourselves.

So just maybe we need to look back as well as forward and teach or children civil behavior in social situations and to respect the Icons – both of Church and of society.

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