Thursday, May 30, 2002

I am experimenting with a comments feature. Give it a try!

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Archimandrite Ephrem of the Monastery of St Andrew the Apostle in Manchester England maintains Anastasis, an invaluable site which includes a wealth of newly translated liturgical material. Here is his rendition of the verses from Vespers which introduce today's commemoration of Mid-Pentecost, the halfway point between Pascha and the feast of Pentecost:

The mid-point of the days is here, which begin with the saving Resurrection and are sealed by the divine Pentecost. It shines for it shares the brilliance of them both and unites the two, and it is honoured for it reveals in advance the coming glory of the Master’s Assumption.

Sion heard and was glad, when the good tidings of the Resurrection were proclaimed. Her faithful offspring rejoiced when they saw him also washing away by the Spirit the stain of the murder of Christ. Keeping festival she makes ready the joyful mid-point of them both.

The abundant outpouring of the divine Spirit upon all is near, as it is written. The herald is the day that forms the half-way mark of the certain promise which was given by Christ to his Disciples after his death and burial and Resurrection, and shows the manifestation of the Comforter.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Walker Percy would have been 86 today. If you have never read his work, you are missing one of the great observers of the modern circus. Try any of the novels or Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book.

Monday, May 27, 2002

Our family spent the Memorial Day weekend alternating rest and farm work. For a reminder of why we have a long weekend this time of year, go to Victor Davis Hanson's (himself a family farmer) moving story of a family member who gave all for his country.
Father Nectarios at Orthopraxis has been linking coverage of the Pope's trip to Bulgaria. One of the articles states "Now, John Paul has returned to the road to pursue what he views as a last piece of unfinished business: ending the 1,000-year schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy." A noble ambition, to say the least. This Pope has addressed the Orthodox Churches with more sympathy for, and understanding of, Orthodoxy than have virtually any of his predecessors. Nonetheless the schism persists and shows no signs of healing in his lifetime.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things magazine has commented on the impasse in Catholic/Orthodox relations in the March issue and again in May. It appears to be a source of some frustration for him, as if he were wondering, "How can they disappoint this good man, this great Pope, at the end of his days?" He quotes some words of veteran Catholic ecumenist Walter Cardinal Kasper which reveal the frustration from Rome's end and unwittingly highlight the problem from the Orthodox perspective: “We are increasingly conscious of the fact that an Orthodox Church does not really exist. At the present stage, it does not seem that Constantinople is yet capable of integrating the different autocephalous Orthodox churches. There are doubts about its primacy of honor, especially in Moscow.” Neuhaus goes on to say that "The unhappy truth, however, is that probably most Orthodox in the world do not believe that Catholics, never mind Protestants, are even validly baptized".

The Cardinal's remarks and Neuhaus' show that, at a gut level, Rome still doesn't "get" it. To grossly oversimplify, Kasper is saying that the schism will not end until the Orthodox become more like Rome, that is, until there is a command structure over all Orthodox Churches that can make binding decisions and with whom there can be dialog. Over against this is the Orthodox insistence on the ecclesiastic primacy of the local bishop, which persists despite any primacy of honor given to any one particular bishop. As Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) put it:

All eucharists and all bishops are local in character -- at least in their primary sense. In a eucharistic view of the Church this means that the local Church . . . is the only form of ecclesial existence which can be properly called Church. All structures aiming at facilitating the universality of the Church create a network of communion of Churches, not a new form of Church. (italics in original) (From Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church)

The Orthodox suspicion is that Rome has taken its traditional primacy of honor and turned it into a new form of Church, one which we cannot recognize as true to the Scriptures and to the Fathers. Granted that relations between the local Orthodox Churches appear to be in a perpetual state of crisis, but underneath the nationalistic politics and arguments over precedence, there is a profound unity in faith. The Orthodox do not at this time feel the same unity of faith with the Roman Church. This accounts for the difficulty Neuhaus notes over baptism. "Validity" of baptism is not one item on an ecumenical agenda that can be dissected and discussed in isolation from other issues. When the monastics of Mount Athos were asked to explain their reluctance to support the official dialogues with the Roman Church, Archimandrite Vasileios, then abbot of Stavronikita monastery, responded, not with a treatise on ecumenical dialogue, but with his luminous work Hymn of Entry, an extended meditation on the Liturgy. The question from the Orthodox side is not, do we recognize the baptismal practices of this community, but rather, do we recognize the fullness of the Orthodox faith in this community, however strangely expressed. If full mutual recognition of faith is there, then recognition of baptism, and all other sacraments, is a housekeeping matter, or, in Greek, economia.

It may well be that the current ecumenical dialogue is dead. Or it could be that the impasse will inspire in both sides that deeper apprehension of faith which alone will result in true unity.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

I discovered there is another Glenrose Farm in the sheep business. They have Dorset Sheep and Angora goats rather than Hampshires. You can find their farm in East San Diego County, on the other side of the continent. You can find their web site here.
While searching for other Orthodox weblogs I came across and Rien d'Importance. They would come under the heading of blogs by Orthodox people rather than blogs about Orthodoxy. Katie at Rien d'Importance writes poetry and does Web design. Rachel at Crayon Box takes photographs and works with the local music scene in Tennessee. Interestingly enough, both are daughters of Orthodox Priests. Their sites are well made and very personal in outlook and expression. Wonder if they know each other's work?

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Winter and early spring are lambing season. Now as warm weather arrives, we are shearing the flock. Shearing is the hardest work in the seasonal round. Hot, backbreaking labor. Our sheep are not raised for wool, but they still need shearing. Hampshire wool is short and coarse compared to other breeds, suitable for carpets and socks. We sell it in a co-op pool where it brings only pennies a pound. Not enough to pay someone else to do the work, so we do it ourselves. Still, there is a great satisfaction in seeing clean newly shorn sheep in the field. Our co-op required wool bags are now clear plastic and stand taller than I do. Some of the black sheep on the place have plenty of wool, but no more can you say Yes sir, Yes sir, three bags full! Here is a song on shearing from the British Folk tradition courtesy of the folks at Thistledown Croft, farmers and crafters in New York. I found this chorus at the same site:

Bonnie lassie, will ye gang
And shear wi' me the whole day lang?
And love will cheer us as we gang
Tae join the band o' shearers

Perhaps I can sing this to Susan as we walk to the barn tonight.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

The family went to see Star Wars Episode II last night in Front Royal. We have an old movie house on Main street reopened by local folk. The balcony has been turned into a separate theatre, but the main part is still there with a traditional (meaning large) screen. My wife is a loyal fan, as are my two boys, ages 9 and 12. Hard to believe that the first installment (now called Episode IV) came out in 1977. Seems a lifetime ago, watching it on a date the summer between college and law school. Never imagined then that I would be taking my own children to the fifth in the series. I liked this one, which is more than I can say for Episode I. I will grant you that the double sided light saber was cool, but it, and a few other bright spots, were not nearly enough to compensate for the leaden pace and the execrable Jar Jar Binks. I never knew it was possible to actually loath a purely digital creation.

The new film, coming in at a bladder bursting two and half hours, has flashes of the old Star Wars magic. The city of Coruscant is wonderful, a filmed version of the 1950's city of the future that we were all supposed to be living in by now. The diner may have been a little over the top, but the reference was fun, much like the swing band in the cantina scene. The plot returns to a little of the darkness and complexity of The Empire Strikes Back, my own favorite in the series. The dialogue is still wooden, the acting leaves something to be desired, but it gets the job done. Digital technology has allowed Lucas to do things he couldn't have dreamed about in '77, but at a cost. The digital effects look like digital effects. We've all been trained well enough to suspend disbelief, but somehow the new effects are less real than the old hokey miniatures and masks. Some of the action sequences show the effect of the digital age. The action in the original Star Wars was a homage to old war movies, Saturday serials, westerns and adventure films. In this one the points of reference are video games. In the sequence on the droid assembly line, I kept waiting for "Next Level" or "Game Over" to flash on the screen. I never had the feeling in the original Star Wars that anyone was thinking during filming "This will make a great merchandising tie in. Give me a mock up for an action figure." Can't say the same about this one.

The boys each gave it a "10." I probably won't watch it again in the theatre, but will grab the DVD when it comes out.

Friday, May 17, 2002

While western Christians are preparing for Pentecost, Orthodox folk are still in midst of the Paschal season. The always edifying has a page with the traditional Paschal greeting set out in 58 languages. Christ is Risen!; or as the Yupik speaking Orthodox in Alaska would say, Xris-tusaq Ung-uixtuq!
Gerard Serafin, who was kind enough to link me on his list of Catholic and Orthodox blogs, has started a blog of his own.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Some beautiful photographs from the beleagured Serbian Orthodox Decani Monastery in Kosovo are showing up on a number of sites. You can find them here. The monks of Decani fed, housed and protected Kosovo Albanians who were under assault by the Serbian government. They now in turn stand by the remaining Serbs who live in fear under the new Albanian majority government.
There seems to be a trickle of young Calvinists heading toward Orthodoxy. Latest exhibit, The Illuminator, a nice site from a student at the University of North Carolina.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

William Sulik, a Christian blogger and fellow member of the Virginia Bar, comments on the phenomenon of evangelicals converting to Orthodoxy. He links to this article.
Nursing a scraped leg tonight, the result of herding a llama in the dark. "Tippy the Toolman" (he came with the name) had gotten into the yard somehow when the sheep dislodged a fence rail. My youngest had replaced the rail without getting the llama out. Not wanting a llama on the lawn overnight, I took down two rails and set about persuading him to leave. I sent the older son to the right. I cut left across the driveway and took a header on the gravel, ripping out the right leg of my pants and scouring a patch off my knee the size of an old British penny. I had just enough breath left to speculate on the chances of eternal salvation for anything in the surrounding area. Tippy snuck out during the excitement, leaving me to reassemble my trousers, my dignity and the fence.
The "Dance of the Planets" continues. Tonight, riding westward from an appointment, a thin crescent moon was highlighted in the deep blue of dusk; Venus, in conjunction, floating above and to the right.

Monday, May 13, 2002

After twelve hours of traveling time from Venice to Sarasota to Newark to Dulles to Front Royal, I am home. As much as I enjoyed the time with my parents, there are few pleasures better than a night's sleep in one's own bed. We had rain while I was gone, and the fields are lusher than when I left. I judge the progress of spring by the line of green creeping of the mountainside. It was three quarters the way up the ridge line when I left in April. Now the crest is in leaf. In celebration of homecoming, here is the poet, essayist and novelist Wendell Berry's riff off a classic by Robert Frost:


I will wait here in the fields
to see how well the rain
brings on the grass.
In the labor of the fields
longer than a man's life
I am at home. Don't come with me.
You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods
where the old trees
move only with the wind
and then with gravity.
In the stillness of the trees
I am at home. Don't come with me.
You stay home too.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Here is a link to my old vanished webpage courtesy of the folks at The Wayback Machine, web archivists extraordinaire. The background has gone, but the picture of the farm is still there, and the link to the archived Christmas page.

I am not, by nature, a beach person. Too many ancestors from the the north of the British Isles have left me with skin that steadfastly refuses to tan. I flash bright red, then peel in a fashion that would do a reptile proud, leaving me back to my original fishbelly white. Don't get started on how I look in a bathing suit. All that aside, the beaches south of Venice here are lovely. Casperson Beach has miles of sand with few people. A good number of visitors are there hunting for fossilized shark's teeth. The tooth fairy dumped 5 million year's worth in offshore phosphate deposits. Many find their way up onto the shoreline. Seventy-five years worth of gathering has made it hard to find the giant Jaws style prehistoric monster specimens. Smaller ones are still plentiful if you are patient, especially if you can get out early after a storm. I went out before dusk a few days ago to take pictures for Susan and the boys, do a little sky-watching, and hunt a few teeth myself.

There has been a wonderful gathering of the planets visible in early evening the last few weeks. I missed part of it at home because of the surrounding mountains. The horizon to the west is blocked by Buck mountain, to the south by the ridgeline of Hogback and Little Hogback, to the north and east by Skyline drive and the lights of town. Looking west from the Gulf beaches, there is nothing but ocean all the way to Mexico. Red-tinged clouds on the horizon blocked Mercury, but I did see Venus, Mars and Saturn and, much higher in the sky, Jupiter. Even viewing with bifocals, rather than binoculars or telescope, it was impressive.

With much tinkering, the digital camera gave a few good views of the sunset, one nice shot of the curving beach, and a few pictures of a very patient heron. I did spend some time looking for teeth and found a few. They were so small that I felt a little guilty picking them up, like a man stooping for a penny for it's cash value rather than for luck.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you; dance now and be glad, O Sion, and you too rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of him to whom you gave birth.

Today is Pascha, Orthodox Easter. Last night we stood in a darkened church as the Paschal flame was passed among the congregation. What this means for Orthodox people can be put no better than it is in words of St. John Chrysostom, read in all Orthodox Churches accross the world after midnight this morning:

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.

The day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O peoples! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has brought us from death to life, and from earth to heaven, as we sing the triumphal song. Christ has risen from the dead, by death he has trampled on death, and to those in the graves given life

Thursday, May 02, 2002

As we move closer to Pascha, here is a page from with helpful information on Holy Week services.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

A link to what appears to be another Orthodox weblogger:
An interesting article on the rediscovery of the Lenten fast in post-Soviet Russia. The link comes from Joyce Garcia's Holy Weblog.
I have been having technical difficulties with blogger for the past few days. Any attempt to change my template results in corruption of the page and the link to the archives. Since I am not using my own computer, I am assuming the problem may be unique to the set-up here in Florida. If you have visited here before you will notice that my links and contact info are gone. I am afraid they will stay gone until I get home and (I hope) fix the problem. Until it gets posted back on the left, you can contact me here or here