The truth will make you odd.
Flannery O’Connor

«— Advent or Not-Advent
—» On Discernment: Truly Finding God

Why I Am Not a Very Good Christian, Really

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My roommate hums. Not tunes you can recognize, but a sort of indefinable tonality at a very low volume that occasionally breaks out into two or three notes before returning to the low buzzing. It drives me nuts.

Perhaps more annoying is that when he is not humming, he wants to talk to me. Not about anything that I want to talk to him about, really. Rather, he just opens his mouth and whatever happens to be upstairs at the time comes tumbling down and out the front door.

If I walk in and he is watching a video, he takes my transfixation on the screen as interest, and proceeds to tell me everything I really did not care to know about whatever it is. Which is usually some drivel on the WB or a nearly-constant stream of anime. I find anime interesting only when done exquisitely by masters. Most of it you can take out the door when you leave, thank you. Which could not be soon enough.

If I were a real Christian, I would take this as an opportunity to find grace and show him love and…. Instead, I usually ignore him. After all, nearly anything else would encourage the behavior, right? Damn you, B. F. Skinner!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:38 pm

«— Alabama Votes Reveal Complex Southern Values
—» Why I Am Not a Very Good Christian, Really

Advent or Not-Advent

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On the OrthodoxPSALM mailing list, a particpant writes, “Isn’t this Advent?”

This is perhaps an eccentric thorn for me, but I would be interested to hear the opinions of others, especially opinions that consider translation issues.

No, it is not Advent. It is variously termed “the Nativity fast,” “the Christmas fast,” “the Winter fast,” “Winter lent,” or “St. Philip’s fast.”

Advent is a season that begins the first Sunday after the Sunday of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year in the West. Advent, then, marks the beginning of the Church calendar in the West.

The calendars of the Orthodox Church begin on September 1.

Advent is made up of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. (Christ the King thus falls on the Fifth Sunday before Christmas every year.) The themes of the four Sundays are taken from the readings for that day (which include an Old Testament lection which is often key in understanding the day). The second Sunday before Christmas focuses on St. John the Baptist, the last on the Mother of God.

The Christmas fast begins on November 15, and thus includes a total of six Sundays. The second Sunday before Christmas is the Feast of the Fathers, the last is the Feast of the Fore-fathers. The readings for the other four Sundays are drawn from the post-Pentecostal cycle and are unrelated to Christmas. Orthodox lectionaries do not include Old Testament readings for the Divine Liturgy.

One of the central liturgical rites of Advent is the Advent Wreath: three purple candles, one rose, and one white. The three purple candles are lit on the first three Sundays of Advent, the rose on the last (rose having been chosen to symbolize the Mother of God). The white candle rests in the center and is lit on Christmas day. The candles remain lit throughout the Christmas season (Dec. 25-Jan. 5, Epiphany eve).

The Christmas fast has no similar rite, except when it is borrowed. The resulting wreath is either four candles or six. If four, what does one do with the previous two Sundays, and how does one explain why there are only four? If six, it looks dreadful compared with the symmetry and simplicity of the Advent Wreath.

Advent is a completely different season, and it is not the Christmas fast liturgically. (Most Western Christians do not fast during Advent, needless to say.) I love Advent, myself, and I miss it a great deal. But it helps no one to make a hybrid of the two when they are so totally dissimilar. It is even less helpful to call one season by a name that describes another. They are not even remotely similar. They both precede Christmas; there the similarity ends.

What say you?

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:04 am

«— Cosmology
—» Advent or Not-Advent

Alabama Votes Reveal Complex Southern Values

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In a recent vote to amend their agéd constitution, Alabama citizens revealed that the issues which birthed the War Between the States still drive the children of the South. A proposed amendment would have removed controversial and archaic wording refering to separate schools for “white and colored children,” as well as a passage that affirms that “Alabama’s constitution does not guarantee a right to a public education.”

A Washington Post article on the vote interpreted the amendment’s failure to pass in a fashion typical of the post-bellum Union: It’s about race, and the underlying constitutional issue is a smoke-screen. Though the author tries to show both sides equally, he reveals his misunderstanding of Southern culture with passages like the following:

The argument plays to Alabama’s primal fear of federal control, a fear born of years of resentment over U.S. courts’ ordering the desegregation of schools and the creation of black-majority legislative districts.

It is born of a primal fear, but that fear is not born from resentment over federal efforts to force desegregation on the South. It is deeper than that. It is the same fear that gave birth to the War.

According to the minority report on the War, Confederates believed that states are just that: states, not provinces or prefectures. Furthermore, they believed in the Constitution, whose tenth amendment guarantees that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” According to the minority opinion, this is the issue which gave birth to the War. But the victors, as the cliché goes, write the history books.

The article further reveals that Southerners are not incapable of learning to live together in a multiethnic society: Another recent vote repealed a ban on inter-racial marriage. So, if the same constituency voted to repeal a ban on inter-racial marriages, would not a reasonable person recognize that the failure of the present amendment is not about race but something more fundamental?

Perhaps saddest of all is that black Alabamans accept the Union line as canon:

“There are people here who are still fighting the Civil War,” said Tommy Woods, 63, a deacon at Bethel and a retired school administrator. “They’re holding on to things that are long since past. It’s almost like a religion.”

Yes, they are still fighting the War, but the issues are not past; they are very much present. The issues are not race and freedom and civil liberties for minorities; they are a right reading of the Constitution versus an overweening, unconstitutional centralism that was martially imposed by President Lincoln’s war.

And wars often linger for many, many generations. Just ask the Orthodox about Constantinople.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:56 pm

«— Saint Emily
—» Alabama Votes Reveal Complex Southern Values

Cosmology

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Raphael has a good article on the need for a traditional cosmology in modern society. Although I take issue with his easy dismissal of seratonin reuptake inhibitors (like Zoloft), the main thrust of the article is spot-on. I kept expecting it to devolve into a rant against science, and it doesn’t. Taken in the context of sound Orthodox teaching — that is, not fundamentalist Orthodox teaching — it is a very accurate prescription for the malaise of modernism.

However, I have to wonder what he means when he talks about addiction to PHP. Is there a twelve-step program for webmasters? Nevermind. It’s not an addiction. I… can… stop… at… any… time…. Eh, pardon me while work on a server script for a minute or two.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:33 pm

«— Eucharist 2004
—» Cosmology

Saint Emily

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There are precious few descriptions of St. Emily’s life. The following is drawn from various sources, including the lives of her mother-in-law, St. Macrina the Elder, her eldest daughter, St. Macrina the Younger, and her most famous son, St. Basil the Great. Churches of the Russian tradition keep her feast on January 1, along with her son Basil. Greek churches keep her feast on May 30, along with her husband St. Basil the Elder.

St. Emily was the daughter of a martyr and the daughter-in-law of St. Macrina the Elder. Along with her husband St. Basil the Elder, she gave birth to ten children. She instilled the orthodox faith in her children, teaching them to pray and devote their lives to the service of the Church. As a result of her zealous yet maternal instruction of her children, five of them are commemorated as saints on the calendar of the Church: Ss. Macrina, Basil, Peter of Sebaste, Gregory of Nyssa, and Theosebia, a deaconess. Therefore, St. Emily is often called without exaggeration “the mother of saints.”

When her son Naucratius suddenly died at the age of twenty-seven, she was consoled by her eldest daughter Macrina. St. Macrina reminded her that it is not befitting to a Christian to “mourn as those who have no hope” and inspired her to hope courageously in the resurrection vouchsafed to us by the Pascha of the Lord.

After her children left home, St. Emily was persuaded by Macrina to forsake the world. Together they founded a monastery for women. Emily divided the family property among her children and freed her slaves. Retaining only some meager possessions, she and Macrina withdrew to a secluded family property in Pontus, picturesquely located on the banks of the Iris River and not far from St. Basil’s wilderness abode. A number of liberated female slaves desired to join the pair, and a convent was formed. They lived under one roof and held everything in common: They ate, worked, and prayed together, serving the Lord in with a singular purpose. They were so eager to advance in virtue that they regarded fasting as food and poverty as riches. The harmony of this model community of women was unspoiled by anger, jealousy, hatred, or pride. Indeed, as the church sings of monastics, they lived like angels in the flesh.

Living in this manner for many years, Emily reached old age. When an illness signalled her departure from this world, her son Peter came to her side. Together with Macrina, he tended to his mother in her last days. As the oldest and the youngest, Macrina and Peter held a special place in Emily’s heart.

Before committing her soul to the Lord, she raised her voice to heaven, saying, “To you, O Lord, I give the first fruits and the tithe of the fruit of my womb. The first fruit is my first-born daughter, and the tithe is this, my youngest son. Let these be for you a rightlytruly acceptable sacrifice, and let your holiness descend upon them!” St. Emily was buried as she had requested, with her husband in the chapel of their estate in Annesi, where Naucratius had also been laid to rest.

St. Emily is also known by the names Emmelia and Emilia.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:22 am

«— Online Church
—» Saint Emily

Eucharist 2004

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This Thanksgiving I have some things for which I am truly thankful.

Thanks to the Lord for my girlfriend and her beautiful little girl who serve as a constant reminder that I should pray for “mercy, life, peace, health, salvation and visitation, and pardon and remission of sins” for them and myself. They are indeed the greatest gift God has bestowed upon me this year.

rating patchThis week I was frocked Petty Officer Third Class. Frocking is an advancement prior to one’s actual advancement in paygrade. From the frocking letter I received:

  1. Under reference (a), you are hereby authorized to assume the title and wear the uniform of a Petty Officer Third Class effective immediately.
  2. Your appointment carries with it the obligation that you exercise increased authority and willingly accept greater responsibility. Occupying now a position of greater authority, you must strive with a renewed dedication toward the valued ideal of service with honor.
  3. Under reference (a), you will not be entitled to pay and other monetary allowances of a Petty Officer Third Class until actually advanced to the pay grade for which you have been selected.
  4. Congratulations!

I am thankful for the prayers of my brothers and sisters at St. Athanasius and St. Nicholas parishes.

I am thankful for the lessons I have learned through military service in the world’s strongest and finest Navy, primarily those of obedience and organization.

We give you thanks, Christ God, for all your earthly gifts. Do not deprive us of your heavenly kingdom, but, as you came among your disciples, O savior, granting them your peace, come also among us, and save us.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:22 pm

«— Vertigo for the Lost
—» Eucharist 2004

Online Church

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This one belongs in its own category — “You can’t make this s—— up!”

Cyberspace Church Experiment Ends After Four Months:

“Methodism’s 18th century founder, John Wesley, said, ‘The world is my parish,’� Jenkins says. “And 300 years later, that parish includes cyberspace as well.�

Goddard drew upon the writing and experience of the apostle Paul when he delivered the Church of Fools’ final sermon. In “I Long to See You,� Goddard told the virtual congregants that he felt as Paul did when writing to the Romans, many of whom he had never seen yet felt he knew well.

“Never having met someone, not seeing them, not being physically with them, doesn’t imply lack of reality, depth and care as far as Paul is concerned,â€? Goddard typed that day for worshippers to read.

The “fool-for-Christ’s-sake” in me wants to plant a cross in their front yard. Since they’re Methodists, we’ll naturally want to give it some flame, too.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:31 pm

«— Just To Settle the Question
—» Online Church

Vertigo for the Lost

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It was a little disorienting to listen to “Vertigo” by U2, with its allusions to Christ’s Temptation in the Desert, while I searched the Way Back Machine for lost documents from our parish website. It caused a minor context shear. Then, quite randomly, iTunes pulls up some Divine Liturgy settings by Tchaikovsky. Hey, look at me! I’m a whirling dervish. I almost fell out of my chair.

The most recent archiving of St. Athanasius’ website was back in January, and it looks like it didn’t change very much in the intervening time. Which is to say that most of the content I was looking for was archived.

Good information that I want to be able to find again:

  • Orthodox Resources: Links to some good documents, like the one by Albert Rossi on the Jesus Prayer, and the one on Tradition by Bishop Maximos of Pittsburgh (Greek archdiocese).
  • Who is Saint Athanasius?: a set of links to various resources on the Alexandrian bishop best known for vigorously opposing Arianism and ensuring the survival of Nicene Christianity.
  • Music files: PDFs and midi files of some cool pieces we used to do in the choir.

As of this writing, the pictures of the ordinations of the Priest David Rucker are still at AthanasiusOCA.org, though one should probably take nothing on that site to be permanent until the current redesign is finished. Unfortunately, the glossary of musical and liturgical terms I compiled was not archived by the Way Back Machine. I have an old backup of the parish’s website; I’ll see if I can find it and post it.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:28 am

«— Bloglets for 22 November
—» Vertigo for the Lost

Just To Settle the Question

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Asking for BrBourbon to chime in:

True or False: Jim Beam is a bourbon. Explain your answer.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:57 pm

«— Mutterings for November 21
—» Just To Settle the Question

Bloglets for 22 November

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  • “Scattered Prose for a Little Rose”: Xenia Kathryn at The Daily Grab Bag with a powerful little bit on the Mystery of the Eucharist: “He marched up to the Chalice, little man. / Oh, he knew what he was doing, and he didn’t need my guidance. / I needed his.”
  • The Pontificator has been putting us into a marital state of mind recently. Yesterday, he quoted St. John Chrysostom: “Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children.” Today, he has an interesting discourse on the meaning of “one flesh” by Rabbi Manis Friedman: “Yet if God was trying to tell Adam and Eve that He intended marriage to be intimate, why didn’t He say, ‘Become one heart, one mind, and one soul’? Because becoming one flesh refers to an intimacy even greater than that of being of one heart, one mind, and one soul.”
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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:52 am

«— A Difficult Obedience
—» Bloglets for 22 November

Mutterings for November 21

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Time for that weekly stroll down Rue des associations libres.
Read the rest of “Mutterings for November 21”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:01 pm

«— On the Dogma of Creation
—» Mutterings for November 21

A Difficult Obedience

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My letter to the monks:

The Entry into the Temple of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos, and Ever-virgin, Mary.
21 November 2004

Br Stavros and all the brothers,

It saddens me greatly to cancel my appointment with you for the Thanksgiving weekend.

The Naval Education and Training Command (under which I am a student) recently instituted a policy whereby students on liberty must be accompanied by at least one “buddy.” This policy responds to the actions of many student Sailors who are usually very young, actions which endanger themselves and others. The buddy program hopes to curb these activities — most of which center around the immoderate use of alcohol —- as well as train sailors in the buddy program policy which they will follow as Sailors in foreign ports.

Unfortunately, I simply do not know any shipmates who would want to spend Thanksgiving weekend at a monastery, even one as wonderful yours. It is truly their loss, but given the policy outlined above, it is also my loss.

This policy does not apply when a sailor is on leave, only on liberty, so I will look for such an opportunity to visit you and the brothers in the future. I was very much looking forward to a retreat, but it is apparently not the right time.

But there is good work to be found in simple obedience.

May the prayers of our Lady, whose entry into the temple we celebrate today, be with all of you. Please continue to remember me in your prayers.

Your unworthy servant,
Basil, a sinner

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:27 pm

«— Propagating a Plain Untruth
—» A Difficult Obedience

On the Dogma of Creation

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Note: This series of articles has been compiled into a single article entitled “On the Dogma of Creation.” These articles remain in place for the sake of the conversations that occurred in the comments.

Note: This essay is already at 1295 words (according to wc), and I’m only getting started. However, if you’ve suffered through all the so-called “modernism” of this blog but wondered about my orthodoxy — if I’m still on your daily reading list, not to mention your blogroll — then this one is probably worth the effort. I’ll probably not convince you of my position, but at least you’ll know where I’m coming from.

In the beginning God created heaven and earth. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Gn 1.1,31a (NJB)

The doctrine of creation is that God created everything, both the visible worlds and the invisible, out of nothing. Without the continuing creative activity of God at every moment, the cosmos would not be; it would be naught. Speaking of the Logos-Word of God, holy John the Theologian writes, “Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him.” (Jn 1.3 [NJB])

Moreover, the creation is good because it is created by God, who is the author of good. He is, himself, good and goodness, light and life, and so the work of his hands is innately good for that very reason.

God creates the cosmos out of nothing, and it is very good. That is the essential dogma of creation.

How, then, do we interpret the initial chapters of Genesis, with their wonderful stories of creation and fall?
Read the rest of “On the Dogma of Creation”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:11 pm

«— Forgive Me, Father….
—» On the Dogma of Creation

Propagating a Plain Untruth

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The evolution of life, and the evolutionary origin of mankind, are scientifically established as firmly and completely as any historical event not witnessed by human observers. Any concession to anti-evolutionists, suggesting that there are scientific reasons to doubt the facticity of evolution, would be propagating a plain untruth.
Theodosius Dobzhansky, in a 1972 letter to J. Kunamoto

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:03 am

«— AP News Coverage of Firefox
—» Propagating a Plain Untruth

Forgive Me, Father….

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Since when is TextEdit an HTML viewer? I’ve never before had difficulty opening and editing an HTML file in Mac’s graphical “text editor.” I assume there’s been an update that’s added functionality that I neither needed nor wanted. It must be admitted, it’s no longer really very useful as a text editor, is it? Might as well change the name, Steve.

I guess I should go to confession and repent of my unfaithfulness to vi.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:26 pm