Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

«— PO;DR—Pop-over; Didn’t Read.
—» The Real Point of “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,” Part I

The Cross is a Time Machine (and It’s Bigger on the Inside)

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Good evening.[1] I have been asked to speak to you today about the Eucharist as sacrifice—something of a daunting prospect for an Orthodox speaker in front of a hall of mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran Christians. So instead, I am going to talk about the Doctor.

Earls Court Police Box.jpg
Earls Court Police Box” by User:Canley – Photographer: User:Canley. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My patristics professor, Fr John Behr, told students in our first year at seminary that we have to learn to think about time in ways that seem more like science fiction than what we are used to.[2] So allow me to begin with this quote from Doctor Who: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint—it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… timey wimey… stuff.”[3]

We tend to think of time as a linear progression. There’s no rewind or fast-forward. I have no access to the Battle of Okinawa, because 70 years intervene between it and my present existence. When I lived on the island as a teenager, I could visit various monuments to those momentous events, but I had no access to the battle itself. Moreover, even though I lived on Okinawa as a youth, I longer have any access to Okinawa except as a memory. From our limited perspective within the system of time and space, subject to its constraints, as participants in it, we can only call to mind past events and imagine future possibilities.

Understandably, we bring this limited perspective to salvation history. The perspective of an observer outside this system (of which we know only one) would see things quite a bit differently. Classical theism and classical Judaeo-Christian faith both hold that God exists outside of the time-space system. With no frame of reference except that of our existence within time, so we tend to think of God’s eternity as merely extension in time—time, only longer. In fact, this is the quality of everlastingness, not eternity. Eternity is to be outside of time, unbound by it, time-less.

This insight has several implications for our theology. The most important for us this evening is that God’s acts or operations within creation will appear to us as discrete moments in time and will seem like separate acts or events, but in fact they are a single divine action. The cross stands at the center of the Big Bang.

This brings me to one more quote, which will require a bit of explaining: “The TARDIS is …burning. It’s exploding at every moment in history”[4] The TARDIS is the Doctor’s almost sentient time machine/spaceship, famously “larger on the inside than the outside,” an almost infinite amount of space and time crammed into the space of a 1960s London police box via the dimensional magic of television science fiction. As a space-time machine, its destruction in one episode occurs “at every moment in history.” A complete synopsis of the story is too complex to undertake tonight, but I think you can imagine what I’m driving at.

The execution of God on a cross does not simply occur on a hillside outside the walls of Jerusalem in first century Palestine. It is the eternal Word of God voluntarily sacrificing himself on the cross; the crucifixion exists eternally in the life of God. The cross stands at the center of all time and space. The Lamb of God is slain for the life of the world and its salvation “at every moment in history.”

Notice that this is not about repeating the Lamb’s sacrifice. The Apostle makes this clear in his letter to the Hebrews: “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9.24–26 ESV). The sacrifice is not repeated; it is the single divine self-sacrifice that stands at the center of creation. The cross creates the world.

Now, finally, we can look at the Lord’s Supper in a new light. When we speak of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, it is not a new sacrifice or a repeated sacrifice. Martin Luther correctly opposed the idea that Christ was crucified again in the Mass, as did the Council of Trent. His sensitivity to scripture as a unique source of authority made such an interpretation of the “perpetual sacrifice” abhorrent, and he said so in very colorful language. To understand how the Lord’s Supper can be a perpetual sacrifice without “they are crucifying once again the Son of God to [our] own harm and holding him up to contempt,” we must understand the biblical concept of memorial.

The Israelites were instructed to keep the memorial of the Passover yearly. In this ritual (which continues to be remembered among Jews in the seder meal), the exodus from Egypt is not merely recalled. Let me read you a passage from Kevin Irwin’s Models of the Eucharist:

For the Jews the Passover is considered as much more than a past event that occurred once and for all. The Passover is also an event that is a present, effective reality. And in being commemorated (literally remembered together) in the present, it also necessarily leads to its fulfillment in the future. In biblical phraseology, saving events like the Passover and the death and resurrection of Christ [that is, the Christian Passover] are events that occurred “once for all (time)” (from the Greek term ephapax in Hebrews 7:27). The Passover of Israel and the paschal mystery of Christ are both events that occurred once and for all and yet they are also events that by their very nature occur still, here and now, in the unique moment of liturgical commemoration.[5]

So, the Doctor Who version of time and space actually takes on biblical proportions.

Thus, in the Lord’s Supper, it is the Lamb of God who offers and is offered on the altar, and the offering is the same offering he makes on the cross. The priest acts under the authority of Christ, making Christ present by his action—or rather, revealing the sacramental presence of Christ by his submission to Christ’s command, summed up in the Latin phrase in persona Christi. The Lord offers himself, a human being, through the action of offering the gifts of bread and wine and the gifts of the people which are his body and are made to be his body by the eucharistic action. Indeed, the priest acts on behalf of the people who corporately act in persona Christi to offer themselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12.1).[6]

Linknotes:
  1. In this post, I give you my answer for a take-home exam. The question asked the student to address an inter-faith gathering of Catholic and Lutheran Christians, speaking about the idea of sacrifice in the Eucharist—a notion notoriously hated by Martin Luther.
  2. He alludes to some of this in his book The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death. (Crestwood, NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004).Behr talked much more extensively about this approach to time in class.
  3. “Blink,”Doctor Who, series 3, episode 10.
  4. “The Big Bang,”Doctor Who, series 5, episode 13.
  5. Kevin Irwin, Models of the Eucharist. (New York: Paulist Press, 2004), Kindle Locations 1590-1594.
  6. Ibid., Kindle Locations 2912–2937.
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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:14 pm

«— When in Rome, Do What St Ambrose Does
—» Beautiful Websites Will Save the World

Hatteras-style Clam Chowder

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You have heard, no doubt, of New England-style clam chowder. You may have heard of Manhattan-style clam chowder. I had not heard, until yesterday, of Hatteras-style clam chowder.

Hatteras-style chowder uses a clear broth, salt and pepper to taste for seasoning, and typically flour to thicken it. I made some today using some canned ingredients. You could just as easily use fresh ingredients, and it would work fine.

Ingredients:
2 cans minced clams (not drained)
1 8 oz bottle clam juice
1 can diced potatoes
1 can kernel corn
1 can mixed vegetables (or diced carrots)
2 tbsp coconut oil (or some other vegetable oil)
1–2 cups potato flakes (ie, dry mashed potato mix)
salt and pepper to taste
dried minced onion, to taste

Most recipes I’ve seen online include chopped bacon. I did not include this for obvious reasons.[1] If you want to include it, cook it beforehand and add it with the other ingredients at the end, before simmering.

Directions:
Combine clam juice, coconut oil and juice from one or both cans of clams in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Add potato flakes to desired thickness (it should be thicker at this point than desired finished product). Combine remaining contents. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or so.

The corn is my own take: I really like for my chowder to have corn. If you have dietary issues with corn, just omit it. Also, you’ll notice I used pototo flakes instead of flour to thicken it.

Linknotes:
  1. I’m an Orthodox Christian. For fasting days — like Lent — we are allowed shellfish, but virtually any other animal product is, technically, supposed to be avoided, technically. Flesh meats like beef, poultry or pork (bacon) are forbidden. “Obvious,” because most of my readers know this part.
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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:01 pm

«— The Crucial Cure
—» The Roots of This Tree Go Deep

Warning: These 3 things could ruin your Valentine’s Day

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Photo credit: Kevin Basil Fritts

Love is a wonderful thing. On Valentine’s Day, many people typically publish statements of affection on the social media of their choice, usually trying to outstrip the expressions of their friends. Here a few timely facts to consider:

  1. 43% of all Americans are not married. (Source: CNN)
  2. 60% of marriages experience domestic violence. (Source: US DOJ)
  3. Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted. (Source: RAINN)

All around you (and reading your status updates), people experience Valentine’s Day as a cruel form of torture. How might you be more considerate of them?

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:50 am

«— Prayer of Saint Ephrem
—» Veneration of the Happy Joy

Holy Patrick of Ireland

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Our father among the saints, Patrick, archbishop of Armagh and all Ireland, wonderworker.

Troparion, Tone I
Today, Armagh rejoices with Antrim and Mayo, * and all Ireland praises the illustrious apostle, Patrick. * On all he met he made a deep and lasting impression, * for the grace of God overflowed his noble and sensitive nature. * With the Lord Christ as his breastplate and the undying lamp of the Spirit in his hand, * he went forth to make the Irish people children of the font,
*** baptizing them into Christ, the only lover of mankind.

Kondakion, Tone IV
The evil one is ever on the watch to carry off entire nations as booty, * viciously plundering their spirit and leading the minds of the people into error. * For this, you wisely spurned the world as a passing dream prone to destruction, O holy Patrick, * preferring to be a merchant of that which lasts forever. * Thus, you led the Irish nation to worship Christ, our God, * becoming the blessed father of a multitude of sons and daughters in the Lord.
*** Beg him now to save our souls.

From The Monks of New Skete, Troparia and Kondakia.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:48 am

«— Readers’ Aid
—» Holiday Songs after Epiphany

How my day was made & then ruined in less than 30 seconds

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The following interchange took place as I purchased beer at a convenience store on my way home from my extended family’s Christmas party tonight. The cashier was a cute brunette who sold me beer, so she was at least eighteen years old.

Cashier: May I see your ID?
Me (getting ID): You just made my day.
Cashier (looking at ID): Oh, you were born the same year as my mom!
Me (laughing) You just ruined my day.
Cashier: You’re still young.

Yeah. Right.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:54 am

«— The Coming One
—» Readers’ Aid

The Graveyard

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“Seminary is where blogs go to die.”

Someone posted that on the true blog-killer, Facebook, and I laughed. I almost wrote, right here in the space where you’re reading these words instead of what I wanted to write, “And something clicked inside me.” But that something clicks a lot and not a damn thing ever happens.

Take, for example, my Greek studies; I’m probably going to fail that class. Am I having trouble understanding what the aorist is, you ask? Or perhaps getting moods mixed up: Confusing the subperative and the injunctive? Nope. The problem is that I’m not memorizing a damn thing. That’s my problem. I know this. Something inside me keeps on clicking, and nothing changes. Click. See? Nothing. Click-click-clicklicklicklicklicklick. Not. A. Damn. Thing.

Something else needs to start clicking deep down inside me.

I might rename this old beast. I named it Decimation and Reconstruction around seven years ago. The blog was itself only a few months old, a little over a year. The webserver hosting my blog (and those of several other men in my parish) was cracked and everyone’s blog was down for about a week. At the time I thought Decimation and Reconstruction nicely summarized what happened and coincidentally served as a nice metaphor for our lives. I have left the title in place for seven years now.

I think perhaps I should rename the blog. Something like “The Abomination of Desolation,” or “Desolation and Recrimination,” or some other play on a Latinate “-tion” ending. Something that reflects that reconstruction never really happens: What is happening is always destruction. Even when we think we’re rebuilding after a massive decimation, we are either deluding ourselves or we are just building another Babel for the next act of God to destroy.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:47 pm

«— You Are My Sunshine
—» A Beautiful Vigil

Jokers

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Who wins the clown of the day award? The two a——clowns that unnecessarily honked at me while I waited for a tow on a residential street. I had my hazard lights on, so no one else found such meanness necessary. Here’s to you, jerkoffs; you’re real cool. I hope someone honks in your ear next.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:42 pm

«— The Alienation of Captitalism and Marxism
—» Jokers

You Are My Sunshine

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“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.”

Well, actually old Sol is shining rather brightly in fair Yonkers this day; he must not be too full of sorrow. Nature, unlike the implied stage directions in the Bard, usually continues blithely on, reminding us that our lives, too, go on, whatever our joys and sorrows may be.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:00 am

«— Sleep Soundly, Rough Men
—» You Are My Sunshine

The Alienation of Captitalism and Marxism

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“Bulgakov’s rejection of Marxism had a great deal to do with …the inadequacy of homo economicus [humanity defined by the economy]…. An account of human needs in terms of [economic determinism] leads — paradoxically — to an alienation… since it seeks a way out of personal struggle and growth, out of the risks of creativity. It sets up a mechanical opposition of economic interests, to be settled either by the logic of history (Marxism) or by the laws of the market (capitalism); but both resolutions sidestep the specifically human task of transfiguring the material world in and through the creation of community.” Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, on Fr Sergius Bulgakov

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:45 am

«— John Wesley’s Directions for Singing
—» The Alienation of Captitalism and Marxism

Sleep Soundly, Rough Men

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People sleep soundly in their beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do them harm.

I finally got tired of seeing this quoted (without irony). I decided to track it down. Here’s the skinny: It’s often attributed to George Orwell, a political observer and novelist, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, two novels about totalitarian regimes. That’s why I was suspicious. Orwell said that? I was thinking one of those two novels might be the source, meaning its context would be deeply ironic. As it turns out, Orwell didn’t say it. The other candidate, Winston Churchill, likely didn’t say it either.

  • “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
    • Alternative: “We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.”
    • In his 1945 “Notes on Nationalism”, Orwell claimed that the statement, “Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf” was a “grossly obvious” fact. “Notes on Nationalism”
    • Notes: allegedly said by George Orwell although there is no evidence that Orwell ever wrote or uttered either of these versions of this idea. They do bear some similarity to comments made in an essay that Orwell wrote on Rudyard Kipling, when quoting from one of his poems. Orwell did write, in his essay on Kipling, that the latter’s “grasp of function, of who protects whom, is very sound. He sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.” (1942)
      • “Yes, making mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep” – Rudyard Kipling (Tommy)
      • “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.” – Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men)
    • Alternative: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” – Winston Churchill (miscellaneous quotation, no date)

Source: Wikiquote

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:57 pm

«— Apocalypse
—» Sleep Soundly, Rough Men

John Wesley’s Directions for Singing

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These will go a long way to explain why Wesleyans (including Methodists, Nazarenes, Wesleyans, and others) consider it a religious duty to sing (and almost a sin not to).

  1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
  2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
  3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  4. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
  5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

From John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761

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Filed under: — Basil @ 7:06 pm

«— Chrysostom on marriage
—» John Wesley’s Directions for Singing

Apocalypse

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Last night, I dreamed a bizarre and frightening end. I don’t usually remember my dreams (though psychologists tell us we are always dreaming, even when we don’t remember). Of course, what I do remember is fragmentary.

I remember someone saying something about a nuclear blast. So I look up at the sky, and see what look like clouds in the shape of a mushroom cloud, much like all those films of above ground nuclear testing in the South Pacific. I said, “They’re just clouds!” Then there was a flash of light, and my heart started palpitating.

Next I recall huddling up close to the foundation of a house, while the firestorm of the explosion rushed by. Everything gets blurry at this point. Did any of my friends survive? No one who was with me at the moment of the explosion survived, but eventually there were other people, I think.

Was the explosion a single bomb over New York City, or had other cities been affected or attacked? Was only New York destroyed, was the entire world in ruins? These questions were never answered in my dream, but it seemed like everyone wanted to know, and no one did.

There were questions about what to eat, whether things were poisoned with radiation. Eventually, everyone decided that everything had been tainted, so there was no point in trying to meticulously ferret out safe foodstuffs. I guess it was a matter of eat the poison or starve to death, though no one ever said this out loud, that I recall.

Finally, I was alone, swimming naked in cold, clear water; the light refracted along the bottom was the color of the sky. I knew it was contaminated with radiation, but I dove in anyway and swam among ice formations that looked like human skulls.

That’s when I woke up and wondered why I keep dreaming of nuclear holocausts.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:47 pm

«— Brand Failure
—» Chrysostom on marriage

Lousy Limerick #1

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A jester with a very large bauble
once tried to settle a squabble.
He laughed at the king,
and danced with the queen,
and now owns a penthouse in Kabul.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:01 pm

«— Fasting’s Backstory
—» Lousy Limerick #1

Brand Failure

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Several years ago, British Petroleum (BP) completely changed their branding. They stopped using a recognizable, if uncreative, shield emblazoned with “BP” which was readily identified as their trademark. They shifted to an unrecognizable poly-shape — what is it? a flower? a starburst? an explosion? (Good association for an oil corporation, that last one.) It seemed less creative, and no one ever identified the new branding scheme with the product: British Petroleum (or, more precisely, BP gas stations). It has been a decade since this branding shift, designed to imply that the company is green. Apparently, the image of BP as green has worked.

The brand still fails, however: Foreign Policy’s image of the multi-foliate jabberwocky becoming covered in oil did not immediately bring to my mind associations of BP until I had laboriously read through the text of the advert.

And this is before we get to the damning text of FP’s article. Green is the new black, apparently.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:35 pm

«— Lenten Meditation I: On the purpose of the fast
—» Fasting’s Backstory

Expulsion

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We have been thrust out of the garden of paradise for our failure to see God through his creation. The world was meant to be transparent, a crystal clear window through which we saw God in all his splendor. Instead, we made the world an idol, and it became opaque. We can no longer see God through it.

Let us cleanse our minds through fasting.

Please forgive me, brothers and sisters, for all the evil I have committed against you.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:04 pm