Saturday, August 31, 2002

Rebecca Poe died today after a long battle with cancer. She was nobody famous, though if you have lived more than a few years in Warren County, you knew her, or at least had read her work in the local papers. Becky devoted her life to recording the comings and goings of our community. In later years she took up the mantle of local historian, and became the keeper of our memories. If you wanted to know where the creek that flowed past your farm got its name, Becky could tell you. She knew the old census records, newspaper files, and the few formal works of history our community produced. More importantly, she knew stories. She was related to most of the old-timers, had talked to all of them and remembered everything. She wrote down much, but the loss of what she held in her own heart and head is immeasurable.

Becky spent most of her working life as a journalist, reporting, writing, editing; doing at one time or another every job that can be done on a small town paper. She retired when her health got bad. After an unexpected remission from the first bout with cancer, she treated her reprieve as a gift and decided it was time to do whatever her heart truly desired. She discovered that what gave her the greatest pleasure was what she had done for all those years, running a small town newspaper. She wanted to do it on her own terms though, and started the Warren Times, a small paper produced weekly from her kitchen table. My wife Susan, who was a cousin to Becky on her father's side, helped out by selling and designing ads for the Times. I grew used to seeing oversize sheets spread across the table in Susan's study, ready for advertising copy and last minute stories, before being returned to Becky and the printers. The paper thrived for several years, breaking even and even making a little money on occasion, until Becky's health began to fail again. The paper has been dormant for a while now, and with Becky gone, will not likely see print again.

We will miss her. She had a quick mind and a great heart, a love of family and a love of community. In any place, large or small, there are a few souls who do more than their share to see that what is good survives, and that what is wrong gets fixed. Most of these folks are unknown outside their own town or neighborhood, sometimes not well known within it. Becky Poe was one such person. Her time among us left us richer, her passing will leave us that much poorer.
Tomorrow (September 1) is the beginning of the Church year on the Orthodox calendar. My own Church, the Orthodox Church in America, follows a revised Julian calendar which tracks the civil calendar for most dates, but calculates the timing of Pascha (Easter) according to the traditional reckoning. (For those Orthodox Churches that use the traditional Julian calendar, September 1 is still thirteen days away. Orthodoxy being conservative in all things, many Churches have declined to use the revised, or "New" Calendar and, in some circles, the change is viewed as the first step of a descent into secularism and relativism.)

The custom of starting the Church year at the beginning of September dates back to the times when Orthodoxy was the official faith of the Eastern Roman Empire. Even in these more secular times, it is still the custom of Orthodox hierarchs to send a word of greeting and encouragement to their flocks at the beginning of the new Church year. The message of Metropolitan Herman, new chief hierarch of the OCA can be found here. Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Archdiocese, sends his greetings here.

Friday, August 30, 2002

While unloading groceries this afternoon, I saw a very large bird walking by the roses along the back fence. Since the (still unnamed) peacock was over by the small sheep shed, I assumed it was one of the vultures I had seen this morning, sitting out on fence posts at the far end of the feed lot for the ram lambs. Walking closer, I could see my mistake and the reason for my confusion. It was not a turkey vulture, but an actual wild turkey. For several years there has been a good sized flock living in the National Park above us on the mountain. Usually shy, wary birds, they sometimes come down to the pasture by the house to feed in the early morning. I am used to seeing them from some 100 yards distance, not 10 feet away, walking in my own backyard. This fellow (I say "fellow" because he had the Tom turkey's characteristic beard, a long tuft of feathers dangling down in front) panicked when he saw me, tried to find an opening in the wire fence, and then flew off into a tree on the property line. I lost sight of him in the foliage, and with frozen foods thawing in the truck bed, could not stay to watch.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

What's Coming Through the Speakers:

Tonight's soundtrack is a RealAudio stream of June Tabor's album, Rosa Mundi, courtesy of Green Linnet Records. A veteran of the British folk scene, she has a dark, haunting voice, capable of crystalline beauty in the midst of heartbreaking pathos. Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello both write for her. In a better world, June Tabor would be selling out stadiums, while Madonna, Brittany, Christina et al would be reduced to strutting their stuff in front of a few drunken Shriners in the lounge of a Holiday Inn outside of Trenton, New Jersey.

Green Linnet provides complete streams of four of her albums for the curious. While this is generous of them, RealAudio, even over broadband, doesn't do justice to the quality of her singing. Grab a CD if you can find one. You can read more about her here and here.
The Suburban Ascetic

Back in June I started this feature, intending it to be a regular series on living a basic Orthodox spiritual life in a consumer culture. The first two installments, on the Jesus prayer, can be found here and here in the archives. As you can see, I now have to refer to it as a series of irregularly appearing essays on Orthodox topics. This installment has some thoughts on iconography, though I still intend to get back to the promised piece on fasting and present a basic bibliography on prayer.

Someone coming from a secular or Protestant background cannot help but be struck by the role icons play in Orthodox life and worship. If you enter an Orthodox Church, the first thing you see is the iconostasis or icon screen, at the front of the Church, between the congregation and the altar. Some may be modest and open, others reach from floor to ceiling in the traditional manner, forming a wall covered with images of Jesus, Saints, Angels and the Virgin Mary. In some Churches, the images spill out over the entire sanctuary, leaving no surface unpainted. In a devout Orthodox home, somewhere there will be a corner with small icons, and perhaps a prayer book and oil lamp. These are more than just decorations. To the horror of some protestants, icons are venerated; they are kissed, parishioners cross themselves before them, the priest censes them, they are carried in processions. It is hard to think of an act of Orthodox worship which does not involve icons in some way, shape or form. This strikes secular and protestant souls alike as superfluous and superstitious. I have heard protestants exclaim, even after a lengthy theological and Christological explanation of the basis for icons, that it still feels like idolatry. Why, if the heart of the faith is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, would anyone need these peculiar artworks as part of their life?

To give a full answer to the question is beyond the scope of my abilities, and certainly beyond the limits of what can be jammed into a weblog. The classic apologia for images was written by St. John of Damascus. The best translation of his work is published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, but an earlier translation can be found online here. St. John's argument is wide ranging, covering Old Testament precedents, discussing the worship of the Church, analyzing the role of tradition and, most importantly, exploring the centrality of the incarnation in our redemption. With the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, everything has changed. Even matter itself is charged with the possibility of bearing the Kingdom of God. Redemption does not happen simply in the mind, nor is some disembodied soul the subject of redemption. Just as Christ was raised in a body, so shall we be. The earth is not merely doomed to destruction, but will become a new earth, with a new heaven. Icons are a foretaste of this. They teach us that men and women can become transfigured in Christ. We live in the midst of glory, even in this fallen world. The Saints are part of this: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2) The images of Jesus, the Saints and the Virgin remind us of this "cloud of witnesses" and show us the goal of our race.

Orthodoxy asserts against the materialist that there is a spiritual world. It asserts against the Gnostic and Manichean that the spiritual is linked to the material and that the material, though at times dangerous, is fundamentally good. Seeing the spiritual in and through the material is one of the goals of Orthodox spiritual life. For those of us who are a long way from sainthood, icons provide a way of seeing we could not achieve on our own. Technology has shown us that much of reality exists beyond the visible spectrum. Pick up any issue of National Geographic and you will see photographs of earth or the stars enhanced in what is sometimes called "false color" to show realities hidden from the narrow band of energy our eyes can see. Infrared pictures show the heat plumes from towns and factories, x-rays show stars invisible to the naked eye. Even radio waves tell stories of pulsars and quasars inaccessible in visible light. The iconostasis, or icon screen, does not hide the altar from the people, it reveals it. The liturgy tells us that we celebrate together with Saints and Angels, that Christ is present and that His Mother is there, interceding. The iconostasis shows this to us, revealing a hidden spiritual reality, just as the "false color" of an infrared or computer enhanced photograph reveals a hidden earthly one.

The "cloud of witnesses" commemorated in icons is particularly important in Orthodox life. In Orthodoxy, no one is saved alone. Orthodoxy is not opposed to knowing Jesus as one's "personal" Savior as long as that does not mean merely personal, as if our Lord could be someone's private possession. To be redeemed is to enter into a communion that extends to both the living and the dead, to angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, as well as to earthbound men and women. A "personal" relationship with Jesus that does not involve this is unthinkable. It is as if a man or woman were to turn to their beloved and say, "I want a personal relationship with you. Your parents, your family, your friends, the people in your past, I don't want to hear about any of them, I just want you. The beloved (unless their friends and family are horrible indeed) might reply, "If that is so, you don't want me at all. All those people are part of who I am, and you cannot truly know me without them." Orthodoxy asserts that the figures pictured in icons are the friends and family of our Lord. They are part of His story and His story in turn encompasses all that is and ever will be. If we bow before an icon, or say our prayers before it, we are not worshipping an idol, but merely taking our place within that story, as part of that great company.
There is a welcome break today in our summer-long drought. Steady, soft rain has been falling all afternoon. I was trying to get one of the fool house cats to come inside out of the weather, when my youngest explained the problem: "You have to open the door real wide. Cats like to think that they're royal . . ."
I was unloading thirty bales of hay from the farm truck Monday when one of the ewes came over to scratch her back on the frame of the truck. Sheep being into groupthink at a genetic level, this resulted in a half-dozen other ewes under the truck, stretching and scratching. They had the thing (a battered battleship gray Dodge Ram with an oversize hay rack on the back) popping up and down like a low rider on an L.A. street corner. I'm glad it was the smaller commercial ewes. The Hampshires might have flipped it. I can see the pictures now; rioting sheep turning over vehicles and smashing windows!

Monday, August 26, 2002

Fred First at Fragments From Floyd blogs on the topic of vultures today. We get more than our share around here. They fly the thermals coming off the ridge line of Skyline Drive back behind the house, circling for road kill on Browntown Road, or letting us know that one of our older sheep has gone on to her last reward. The native turkey vultures are with us all year. We are on a migration route for black vultures. It is not unusual to have a tree full next to the driveway, roosting until the air warms up on spring mornings.

Last summer we had a young black vulture with an injured wing on the farm. He would never let you get close enough to catch him, but he had the run of the place for the month or so he was here. An odd sight, a giant ugly black bird running through Susan's rose garden. I used to see him standing on a large rock in the pasture, looking for something dead. I always wondered, if he did find food, would he walk around it in big circles first? I never did find out what happened to him; did he heal and fly off, get caught by something larger and meaner than he was, or just simply hike over the next hill, hissing and snapping on his way?
I read James Lilek's Bleat with the morning coffee. He is always worth a minute of my time, but today's piece is exceptional. He takes on the case of the radio "shock jocks" who encouraged a (embarrassingly enough) couple from Virginia to have sex during mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Or more to the point, he takes on those who think the swift response of the radio station was a bad thing. He goes on to confront the entire modern genre of "transgressive" art:

It’s the work of people so jaded they think that intellectual bravery is defined not by the traditions you honor, but the ones you debase.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

My father-in-law keeps a floating population of peafowl on the farm. I haven't done a head count recently, so I can't give an accurate figure. At one time there were over a dozen peacocks and peahens strutting around the place, shrieking and stealing cat food off of the in-law's kitchen porch. Their numbers are somewhat reduced, but they are still a visible and audible presence. Our house is about forty acres north of theirs and we have been spared the peafowl infestation, until now. First, the five geese that are the remainder of my father-in-law's more traditional poultry flock moved down to our barnyard. (They sneak in and eat the spilled grain from the sheep troughs when they are not honking and squawking like old church ladies mad at the minister.) Now one of the peacocks, apparently unhappy with his standing in this year's mating competition, has joined them on our side of the farm. We first realized he was over here when we began finding shed tail-feathers around the place. He has tried to move into the yard, much to Charlie, the house dog's disgust. Sheep he is used to. Llamas, he has adapted to. Peacocks are just too much. At the moment they are in a kind of stalemate, the peacock coming in under the fence rails when Charlie is inside, retreating down the hill to the barn when he is out.

Peacocks are remarkable creatures, hardy, but weirdly impractical. They grow those giant tails every year for mating displays, only to shed them at the end of the summer and start the whole process over. My boys have grown up gathering two and three foot long radiant rainbow-touched tail feathers off the ground every August. We have bundles of them stashed around, like summer sunlight stored in quills. It almost makes up for the trial of living with them. One would think, after seeing a male in full display, that these birds must have the most beautiful of all calls. Wrong. Imagine, if you will, the sound of someone crushing a cat under a giant rusty hinge, echoing off the hillside. Multiply that by the total number of nesting peafowl and you have our night time music when they are disturbed. Makes a great alarm system though.

Our friend is an India Blue Peacock, the kind usually raised domestically, but still found in the wilds of Southeast Asia. Susan commented today that, since he seems determined to stay, he should have a name. Being fresh out of ideas, I am taking suggestions. Drop me a line or leave your pick in the comments section!

Thursday, August 22, 2002

We just returned from the Page County Fair where we finally succeeded in our quest to buy a steer. The auction in Page is in a covered building, the heat kept just on the near side of bearable by strategically placed fans. Good people though, and the kids did a great job with the livestock. The auctioneer was the same fellow who worked our Warren County sale. He has the classic high speed sing-song patter, broken by the staccato cries of the guys taking the bids ( A dollar ten, dollar twenty, dollar twenty?, Yep!, A dollar thirty? . . .) At Page he cautioned the crowd that all animals were sold by the pound, recalling the case of the suburbanite in Warren County this year who thought she had bought a sheep for three dollars, fifty cents. Multiply that by 110 pounds and you get the shock she had when time came to settle up. And they say us country folk are ignorant . . .

We ended up buying a nice Hereford steer raised by a little girl who came up to about my elbow. She had a little trouble in the ring persuading her 1235 pound charge to stand still, but you had to admire her pluck. She didn't name the animal, which is just as well. It disturbs some of our dinner guests when we can tell them who they are eating. The steer now goes to Gore's Custom Slaughter & Processing, where he joins the hog from the Warren County sale. (Yes, I know, a meatpacker named Gore is right up there with a Dentist named Gum, or an Osteopath named Bones. They do a great job nonetheless.)

If you have the time and inclination, go find yourself a rural County Fair and stop on in. Nothing fancy, just real folks doing things most Americans have forgotten. And if you are in the area, give us a call. We'll throw a steak on the grill.

Monday, August 19, 2002

On Friday night Susan and I went to the Clarke County Fair, where we know a few folks, in an attempt to buy a steer at the 4-H Auction. My father-in-law picked up a hog at the Warren County auction the previous week. He was a stout fellow (the hog, that is) and is now on his way to becoming pork loin and sausage. The 4-H kids got good prices for their animals, good enough that we were priced out of the steer market. The irony is is that we have a few cattle here on the place and sell feeder calves. We don't have the facilities or the temperament to raise them up to the 1,000 pound plus size for slaughter, so we buy our beef from the local 4-H sales. The quality of the meat is better than anything you will find in the grocery store and the money goes straight to the kid who raised the steer. I often say that the purpose of 4-H auctions is to give young people the illusion that there is money in farming, in the hopes that some will be foolish enough to give it a try. Clark County's prices were lower than Warren's, but still higher than our budget allowed. We had a good time nonetheless. A few Warren County Deputies moonlight as security there for the week. We ran into one, an investigator whom Susan had spoken to many times, but had never met. (The phone is on her side of the bed - the Sheriff's Department wakes her first, then she wakes me.) He took a good look at her (a former Miss Warren County), looked closely at me, noted the contrast, then asked her, "Did you used to drink a lot?"

This week we try again at the Page County Fair.
Here is a link I misplaced when I switched computers last year; Inner Light Productions, Michael McClellan's web site and online gallery devoted to the Desert Fathers and his own remarkable photographs of Eastern Orthodox and Coptic monks and monasteries.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

One of the more pleasant surprises in writing this blog has been my introduction to some of the many articulate and creative Calvinist bloggers out there. My guess is that I owe my Reformed links to Wayne Olsen, who left Calvinism for Orthodoxy, but seems to have kept all his friends along the way.

I attended (ironically enough) an Orthodox Presbyterian Church during my college years, and still have copies of Calvin's Institutes and Berkhof's Systematic Theology in the bookcase. My friend David Yeago (now a systematic theologian at the Lutheran Seminary in Columbia South Carolina) and I used to delve into the arcana of Reformed theology until the early morning hours during our undergraduate years. Eventually we began to notice a certain procrustean quality in Calvinist scholasticism and turned to the Catholic and Patristic traditions of the Church for balance. In my case after many years the process led me to Orthodoxy. I still remember the moment when I realized that I could not be a classic TULIP Calvinist. I was up late one night listening to Patti Smith singing on (the original) Saturday Night Live, deconstructing the Van Morrison tune, "Gloria." She opened her version by chanting "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine ." The doctrine of the Limited Atonement, (in the admittedly simplistic way I was introduced to it) would have required me to respond, "Well, probably so." This struck me as just wrong at a gut level. The intellectual dissatisfaction followed closely thereafter.

Nonetheless, I still retain an affection and respect for the Reformed Tradition and enjoy listening in on the conversations going in the Calvinist blogging world. Joel Garver's reflections on the atonement and the discussions they have provoked have been particularly interesting.

For those who have never heard of Patti Smith, go here for a piece at that tries to explain why she seemed so important to those of us around at the time.
Huw at has some good thoughts on the rhythms of feasting and fasting today in his post on the Feast of the Dormition.
NPR presents this fictional tale of the anonymous soul who began the practice of shouting out requests for "Freebird" at concerts. Actually, in this town when people call out for Freebird, they mean it, without a shred of irony. Making fun of Lynyrd Skynyrd around here is a good way to have yourself an educational experience out in the parking lot. Give it a listen anyhow, just for the free jazz version of the song at the end. (RealPlayer needed)

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

We added a new stud ram to our flock this week. We are breeding for genetic resistance to scrapie, a neurological disease which can afflict black-faced sheep. The new acquisition has the genetics we want, as well as being a showy young sheep. Susan made the mistake of asking her former English major husband for a name for him. Being that our current stud ram is named Pride, the new arrival now goes by Prejudice. Expect a crop of Jane Austen-themed lamb names this winter.
Like any other job, farming has its good moments and bad. Sometimes it is hard to tell which is which. It is all a matter of perspective. Night before last I went down to the barn to feed and found that one of the lambs had wedged his head through a wire panel separating the feed sacks from the rest of the barn. Since his head was larger than the opening in the panel, this was an accomplishment. One of the feed sacks was barely within reach, but reached it he had, torn it open with his teeth and chowed down on a small river of spilled grain. This was a bad thing for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that overeating can actually kill a sheep. Their system is designed for grass and foliage; bulky food and not too rich. Too much grain will actually cause ruptures as it works through their very intricate (and surprisingly delicate) digestive tract. I moved the sack out of the way, much to his displeasure. Since he had eaten more than enough, I left him wedged while I fed the other, less creative, lambs. After everyone else was cared for, I turned back to our greedy friend and started working him free, a process not unlike getting a ship out of the bottle. While I was pushing him back, he was pressing forward, still fixated on the remaining spilled grain with the kind of dumbstruck intensity seen only in crack-heads, rare book collectors, porn addicts and boy band fans. Needless to say, we were not experiencing a high point in human-ovine relations. After much effort, and a total loss of composure on both our parts, he came loose, but not before I had speculated on his chances of eternal salvation and commented, at length, on his personal hygiene, the character of his mother, and his reproductive preferences. This was one of those bad moments, unless of course you were anyone but me, in which case it would have been both amusing and instructive. As I said, it's all a matter of perspective.
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Dormition, or "Falling Asleep" of the Virgin Mary. David Melling's Anastasis site is displaying the icon for the feast and has links to Patristic texts and sermons. Archimandrite Ephrem's translation of the Vespers and Matins services for the Feast can be found here.

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

I have been linked by another talented Calvinist blogger; Gideon Strauss. His interests range from poetry to architecture to African monastic chant. He blogs from the intersection of faith with culture, always an interesting place.
James Ferrenberg hosts a wonderful meditation on fairy-tales, childhood, and the gospel at his Paradosis blog today. Well worth a read.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

I cited a passage from the Japanese poet Basho last week. His great work "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" is available in a useful hypertext edition at Basho's World. Not only are there photographs and illustrations of the places Basho visited, but you can read each entry in Basho's travelogue in up to five different translations. The Japanese text is also linked for those more linguistically gifted than I am.
Many of the hits I get on this site are referrals from a search request on Google. It is always interesting to see what people are looking for when they come by. I'm not sure I want to know what page this surfer was expecting to find with the following search: watch me i am a beautiful farm girl. The really odd part is that the referring Google search page was in Finnish. Backtracking though the search, I discovered that it had linked to the post where I told the story of meeting my own beautiful farm girl.
The Warren County Fair wraps up tonight. The 4-H Auction last night went well, and both my sons were pleased with the sale prices for their lambs. Susan, who made sure that sheep got fed, boys got to shows on time, and that difficulties both usual and unusual were dealt with quickly and (relatively) calmly, is recovering with a long afternoon nap. By tomorrow afternoon, everything should be cleared out and the space returned to empty fields with a few permanent display and show buildings near the roadway. The lights from the midway, the music from the ampitheatre and the sounds of animals from the show barn have brought a little life to a part of the County that is increasingly industrial. Across the street from the Fairgrounds is the Family Dollar Store Distibution Center, a single building the size of downtown Front Royal. The jobs it provides are welcome, but I miss the open fields that were there before.
Father Nectarios at Orthopraxis and Gerard Serafin at A Catholic Blog For Lovers have both posted recently on Orthodox-Catholic relations, though from very different perspectives. Father Nectarios links to some interesting and irenic remarks about Eastern Rite Catholics from Metropolitan Nicholas, the hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese which he had posted earlier. The status of the Eastern Rite, or "Uniates" is a sore point in current Orthodox-Catholic dialogues. Most of today's Eastern Rite Catholics are former Orthodox, brought back into communion with Rome through means which have been the source of centuries-long controversy. The ongoing existence and post-cold war expansion of the Eastern Rite Catholic churches has disrupted dialogue between Rome and several local Orthodox Churches. Most Catholics seem baffled by the vehemence of otherwise ecumenically oriented Orthodox on this point. This situation is, to say the least, complicated, and I would recommend Metropolitan Nicholas' remarks for a fresh perspective.

I once tried to explain the problem to a sympathetic Catholic by suggesting an analogy to the world of business and corporate mergers and acquisitions. For nearly a thousand years Rome approached the East as a kind of corporate raider, attempting to pick up the Orthodox Churches cheap in a series of forced buy outs and hostile takeovers. Since the sixties, Rome has shifted goals, and seems sincerely interested in a negotiated merger with the East. From the Roman standpoint, the Catholic Eastern Rite is a situation that will take care of itself once full communion is restored, much the way overlapping departments are gradually combined and reorganized in any merger. The Patriarch of Constantinople is the prime mover in dialogue with Rome from the Orthodox side. The Patriarchate sees Orthodoxy as living in a hostile environment, troubled by rising secularism on the one hand, and resurgent Islam on the other. While not adverse to merger, that is, to restoration of full communion on proper terms, the Patriarch is more interested in finding support for the survival of Orthodox Christianity in an increasingly hostile world. To follow through with the business metaphor, he is not seeking a merger but rather is trying to negotiate a strategic alliance to reduce competition and preserve market share. From this perspective, the Eastern Rite Catholics are not a problem to be dealt with later, but a chief item on the agenda. If Rome really accepts the Orthodox as "Sister Churches," why are they marketing a competing product in traditionally Orthodox territories? If they continue to do so, does this suggest that talk of merger is really just a cover for yet another takeover attempt?

Needless to say, this explanation of the situation is my own eccentric perspective and should in no way be taken as the "Orthodox" view!
Wayne Olsen, whose weblog is linked over at the left, has started a new blog; The Fathers of the Christian Church: A Weblog . He is inviting contributors to post their favorite excerpts from the Fathers.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story in their Gospels. The Gospel writers felt great freedom to arrange the particulars of Jesus' teachings and actions to suit the purposes of their own particular Gospel. Here, though, they all follow the same sequence of events. You have Peter's confession, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, and Jesus' revelation that he will be killed in Jerusalem and be raised on the third day. And after this (and after rebuking Peter), in all three Gospels, he tell the disciples that "there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." What comes next is the Transfiguration on the mountain. Moses and Elijah stand with Jesus. Peter, James and John stand looking on, and God's glory comes overshadowing all. The law, in the person of Moses, the prophets, in the person of Elijah, the apostles, present, but bewildered, all witnessing the Reign of God revealed in the Uncreated Light shining forth from Jesus. This image, which hearkens back to Moses on Sinai and looks forward to the radiance of the New Jerusalem, is key to understanding Orthodox spirituality.

Here is a hymn from Ephraim the Syrian on the feast, from Anastasis, the web page of Archimandrite Ephraim of the Monastery of Saint Andrew:

He led them up the mountain to show them the glory of the godhead and to make known to them that he is the redeemer of Israel, as he had shown through the Prophets, and that they should not be scandalised in him when they saw his voluntary sufferings, that as man he was about to suffer for us. For they knew him as a man, but did not know that he was God. They knew him as son of Mary, going about with them in the world, and he made known to them on the mountain that he was Son of God and God.

The troparian and kontakian (special hymns) for the feast follow:

Thou wast transfigured on the mount, O Christ God,/ revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it./ Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners/ through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee.

Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God,/ and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they were capable,/ that when they should see Thee crucified,/ they might know that Thy suffering was voluntary/ and might proclaim to the world/ that Thou art indeed the reflection of the Father.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Tomorrow is the commemoration of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, one of the odder tales in Orthodox hagiography. Recountings of it can be found at this page from St. John's Cathedral of the Russian Church Abroad and on this page from the OCA website. The story of the Seven Sleepers was popular in both Eastern and Western Christendom and a version of it can be found in the Koran. For the skeptic, it is an interesting folktale. For the believer, it is a story of faithfulness in persecution, and a living parable of the Resurrection.

The cave where the Seven slept was later turned into a pilgrimage site. The ruins of the site remain today and pictures of it can be found here.
Monday is the start of the week long Warren County Fair. Both of the boys are showing sheep at the 4H Market Lamb show, so someone from the family where be there every day for the duration. If you want to put in a bid on a sheep, goat, hog or steer at the 4H auction, just stop on by Friday evening at 6:30. I'll be the middle-aged man in the Glenrose Hampshires ball cap. Come on by and say hello.

If you are in the area tomorrow night, come to the fairgrounds before 7:00 p.m. for a special show by Loretta Lynn.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

In Court yesterday I was prosecuting a former resident of Floyd County, Virginia, and was reminded that I had been meaning to link to this site: Fragments from Floyd (Virginia). This is one of my favorite rural blogs, and well worth a visit.