Orthodoxy is the best-kept secret in America, and it is our fault — we Orthodox. For too long we have been concerned with maintaining our little ethnic ghettos. America needs the Orthodox faith.
Metropolitan Philip, Antiochian Archdiocese

«— The Death of a Child
—» The Western Front

It’s Funny. Laugh.

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Dr. Bacchus invites geocachers to a party after they rear-end his Jeep®. “I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve invited someone to a party after they have crashed into me. I somehow guess this is rather uncommon.”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:49 pm

«— Taizé, Orthodoxy, and Ecumenism
—» It’s Funny. Laugh.

The Death of a Child

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In January of 2002, Vera Faith Lord testified before the senate about her experience with abortion, and Archpriest John Breck dedicated his latest Life in Christ article to reproducing it. Transcript of Presentation in Dirksen Senate Hearing Room #106, Jan 22, 2002 details the experience of a woman who has suffered for the past nineteen years with grief over the child she killed by abortion. Lord leads the Orthodox pro-life effort — both in action and in reputation. In another article on the same subject, she further expresses the sufferings of post-abortive mothers.

I’m not asking you to march in parades and wave placards and sign petitions or even to put a bumper sticker on your car. I can’t do any of those things. I am not a placard-waving-in-your-face activist. Here it is: The next time anyone, even a dearly valued friend or family member tells you, “It’s a woman’s choice,” don’t say anything. Just give them a copy of this article. If reading this can make one person even just begin to reconsider their “Pro-Choice” position, I have succeeded.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:20 pm

«— The Return of the King?
—» The Death of a Child

Taizé, Orthodoxy, and Ecumenism

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Edited: This post has been edited from its original form, to correct innaccuracies. See the comments by other readers for more details.

Earlier today, I was listening to a wonderful CD produced by the ecumenical monastery at Taizé, France, Alleluia. This thoroughly beautiful album of liturgical music in the Western tradition infuses Gregorianesque chant with very light intrumentation. Instruments like oboes, piccoloes, trumpets and horns, play spritely, modal melodies that blend with the simplified chant to recreate the sound of Renaissance sacred chamber music.

To hear some of my coreligionists yell about the unmitigated evils of ecumenism, you might think that we are all insular, provincial fundamentalists. But the heart of Orthodoxy is theosis — deification, a union of the person with the person of Christ, so that my human nature is interpenetrated with the divine energies just as Christ’s human nature was. I become filled with Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Although some are ready to restrict the Holy Spirit to only working through the sacraments of the Church, the mainline of Orthodox doctrine has recognized that the Holy Spirit — like the wind (gr. pneuma) — blows where he wills, as our Lord said in his discourse with St. Nicodemus. This is sometimes expressed, as Bp. Kallistos once said (writing as Timothy Ware in The Orthodox Church), “We know where the Church is; we can never be sure where it is not.”

Looking at the history and principles of Taizé, I noted the utter simplicity of its rule. I recalled the positive experience Bp. Seraphim (Sigrist) had with Br. Roger and the Taizé Community. Truth cannot be divided. It is one. And Truth is one, just as the Church is one, because Christ is one!

In perhaps the most memorable and important of the great “I AMs” of St. John’s gospel, our Lord announces to his friends, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

I am the truth! Wherever we come upon the Truth, we have hit upon the rock of Christ himself. All that is true is orthodox; all that is false is anathema.

Classically, Truth, Beauty and Goodness have been considered a triumvirate called the “Transcendentals.” They are all related to one another in some way. That relation is Christ — Christ is Truth, Christ is Goodness, Christ is Beauty. They are all simply various facets of his revelation to us. This is why ethics have no meaning for us outside of our sacramental union as Christians with Christ. That is why Orthodoxy places such emphasis on beauty — why the icons are in wood and paint what the Gospels are in word (cf. Seventh Ecumenical Council).

I have been reading, and I’m almost finished, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. Fr. Alexander repeats often how tired he became of Orthodox provincialism — the tendency to eschew everything that doesn’t have an Orthodox-capital-O label, or to accept without question everything that refers back to old Russia, or Byzantium. He praised simplicity and joy without qualification. He denounced complication and sophistication, and he always returned to the Church as the Sacrament of Christ’s Body in the world.

Orthodoxy always brings us back to this union with Christ. Even when the image of Christ becomes mottled with Byzantine acretions, it is only insofar as we become united to Christ that we have anything to offer the world. It is only insofar as we become filled with him — as the chalice is filled with his body and blood — that we are able to bear witness of him to the lonely, hurting, world that continually alienates herself from her Lord, God, creator, and lover — the “only lover of mankind” (gr. philanthropos).

Conversely, everywhere we meet Christ in all of his many disguises, we owe him our humble worship and acknowledgement as our Lord and God and savior. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” It is only in blessing the Lord Jesus in those we meet that they can see in the Church the fullness of him whom they have already grasped ahold of as best as they can.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:06 pm

«— Saint Vladimir, Equal to the Apostles, in Baptism Called “Basil”
—» Taizé, Orthodoxy, and Ecumenism

The Return of the King?

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With the recent developments in the Mozilla community, I have to ask with baited breath: Will users everywhere be blessed with the return of usability prodigy mpt? Or has Mozilla really lost forever one of the brightest lights in its tragic, torpid history?

I really wish I had time to work on Mozilla again. Perhaps mpt does, too.

The release of Mozilla from the stranglehold of Netscape/AOL could be perhaps the best news about the internet application suite in years. It has been slowly building a rock-solid codebase — literally under everone’s noses. The final judgment of this moment will elude all but the most prophetic technologists, because Mozilla’s success depends entirely on the support, without chains, of many wealthy patrons.

This means that it must become more attractive than it currently is for these patrons to pledge their support for the foundation. These next few months hold the possibility of proving or disproving the viability of a N/AOL-free Mozilla. We have been given what we wished for — a Bastille Day of sorts for Mozilla. Now, let us hope that we do not find the anarchy that followed upon the historical Bastille Day.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:21 pm

«— Odds & Ends
—» The Return of the King?

Saint Vladimir, Equal to the Apostles, in Baptism Called “Basil”

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How many peoples owe their knowledge of the Orthodox faith to the great prince St. Vladimir, equal to the apostles? The Russian Church gave birth to missions in Finland, Alaska, Shanghai, and Japan; to these we can add the mission in San Francisco and America, the emigre communities in Paris and Great Britain, and missions in a panoply of other nations throughout the world. Even in the multiethnic context of the Americas, where no one Church may claim sole responsibility for evangelization, the Church of Russia is given pride of place. She established the mission in Alaska and the original, multiethnic mission diocese as it existed prior to the nationalistic chaos that followed the Godless “revolution” of the Bolsheviks.

Even if we allow for the ethical ambiguities of St. Vladimir’s life, his conversion and baptism is a watershed in the history of Christianity in Russia. The conversion of the imperial family to Christianity meant that an entire nation of people was caught in the net of the apostolic fishermen.

Holy Vladimir, grreat prince of all Russia and equal to the apostles, pray for your homeland and ours, that our souls may be saved.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:13 pm

«— The Dynamics of Change: A Lament
—» Saint Vladimir, Equal to the Apostles, in Baptism Called “Basil”

Odds & Ends

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First, a bit of housekeeping. The rest of my site is back up after the great and hideous script kiddie decimation of Aught Three. The menu to the left should work again.

Also, Dmitri and Heather have closed on their new house and are moving into it. I helped them move some of their things last night. If you are available in the evenings this week, give them a holler and see if they need further assistance. Glory to God for their new house in answer to their prayers.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:25 pm

«— (Not Quite) Roughing It
—» Odds & Ends

The Dynamics of Change: A Lament

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I would like to apologize at the outset of this post that I continue to be at the ebb of my biorhythm or something. I keep hitting really low points and deciding that my melancholy makes for really interesting writing. Well, perhaps ejaculating my bilious thoughts is a catharsis of sorts. But I’m sure you, dear reader, tire of reading it. So, I’m sorry. Here I go again.

I have been contemplating how the dynamics of communities change. In the United States, we just celebrated Independence Day on July 4. This was once an oppurtunity for our parish to gather and celebrate. I have fond memories of those celebrations, and I miss the people that populate these memories. In recent years, there has been no parish celebration on July 4.

This is the result of the influx into our parish of a well-defined bloc of people who have their own, long-established July 4 celebration, mixed with the destabilization of the original membership and the loss of all but a handful of the original members — myself, one other man, and the priest and his family. Nothing diabolical there: The membership was unstable before; the addition of the new bloc of members — existing as a defined group of friends before and outside of their affiliation with the parish — was simply a catalyst in the destabilization of an inherently unstable situation.

The exclusive nature of this new bloc means that the participation of others in their parties is quite arbitrary, subject entirely to the particular event’s host. This leads to some parties where the entire parish membership is invited, and others, like this past July 4, where some are invited and others are not.

Since these people are now my closest friends, I try not to begrudge them their clique. But, since I’ve always been on the excluded end of just about every clique I’ve ever known, most times I just try not to think about it. But sometimes, like on a July 4 when I leave work at six and spend the rest of the night trying not to think of the fun my friends are having without me, it gets damned hard.

Then I think about the celebrations we used to have as a parish and the people I used to know, and the grief overwhelms me.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:17 pm

«— On Finishing Last
—» The Dynamics of Change: A Lament

(Not Quite) Roughing It

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My vision of camping is rough. You hike out to a secluded forest, pitch a tent, build a fire, and rough it for a few days. There are no porta-potties. You have what you can carry with you or catch, kill or pick to eat. You might even make your own tent with rope and a tarp.

I went “camping” this past weekend, and it was not rough. We had running water nearby. There were toilets and a shower. There was a wash-basin. There were flat, finely-gravelled areas for pitching tents. There were large areas for fires, wreathed in metal, with grills for cooking. Had I known that camping was like this for most Americans, I would have camped a lot more all my life. Yes, I know this means I’m lazy. But I’m now looking forward to a life full of camping. And I think that can only be a good thing for me.

Camping, even in the lazified form I just described, necessarily means living a little closer to nature than usual. Perhaps it’s because, like most Westerners living now, I’m really more post-Romantic than post-Modern, but I think that getting closer to nature is more spiritual, if one is alert to spiritual reality. Perhaps this is an unexamined sentimentality that I continue to cherish, but I tend to think there is basically a Christian reason for thinking this.

Christos Yannaras, in The Freedom of Morality, talks about living eucharistically. Let me try an overly simplistic summary of his points on eucharistic living: More primitive peoples, such as nomadic and agrarian societies, live eucharistically because they are able to see the essential link between their work and their sustenance. A farmer grows wheat, which he cuts down and puts on his own table. In giving thanks (gr. eucharistia) for it, he has a very particular, tangible idea of how it is the fruit of his labor. When he prays with the church at the Divine Liturgy and gives a tithe of what his labor has produced, prayers about labor and the fruits of the earth have an immediate impact for him — which they do not for a technological society, often several steps removed from the source of our sustenance. For example, when I work, the fruits of my labor are sore legs and feet and a grumpy disposition at the end of the day. Then, every two weeks, money magically appears in my checking account. The connection between the two is abstract in the extreme. When I give my tithe, it is a slip of paper. It simply does not have the sense of eucharistic gift that an offering has for a farmer or a nomad.

So, camping involves a return, for a short amount of time, to a eucharistic style of life wherein giving thanks is much more concretely tied to our labor. Even if this only means, “I cut this firewood and built this fire. Thank you, O most holy Trinity, for this your gift of fire.”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:05 pm

«— Tomato Catch-up Part II
—» (Not Quite) Roughing It

On Finishing Last

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Recently, I was thinking of an old classmate from my dorm in college. He was perhaps the most antisocial man I knew, with the exception of myself and my roommate. And we were not really antisocial; we were just introverts with a familiar cadre of friends. This man, I swear, had no friends. Except one.

In addition to being antisocial, he disrespected women at every opening. If an opening to be lewd, crass, and denigrating of women did not immediately present itself, he would twist the conversation around until it did, or else he would make an obscene interjection about his animal desires. It seemed he thought the only purpose of a woman was to fulfill his lusts.

For this reason, we all avoided him. Conversations with him were annoying and a waste of time, because he was so filthy and base. He would appear at your dorm room door, and you would steel yourself against the onslaught for the next few minutes; then, he would eventually realize you didn’t want to talk with him and leave. The sole difference between him and myself, it would appear, is that I always tried to have a deep and abiding respect for women, and he apparently had none.

In spite of all this, he had one friend. Somehow he managed to win the affection of a young girl, the daughter of missionaries. She was a very nice girl, too — kind, generous, friendly, in a shy sort of way; she was not at all the kind of girl that I thought would alone be attracted to such a person. They married — to the bewilderment of her friends and family. I probably would never have thought of him again after leaving college, except that this woman is best friends with a very close friend of mine who is a member of our parish. I remembered him recently, and it struck me as deeply ironic that he is married and I am not. He has a son, and I still sleep alone.

Nice guys, it seems, truly do finish last.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:04 pm

«— Tomato Catch-up
—» On Finishing Last

Tomato Catch-up Part II

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As you may have already read, the server on which this blog is hosted was cracked. It took nearly a week of hacking by others to get the webserver back up, plus half a week of my hacking to get my blog back in decent shape using new software. It’s good to be back.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:18 pm