Monday, December 18, 2006

The Newly Illumined Handmaiden of God Valerie-Elizabeth

My beloved fiance Valerie being recieved into the church yesterday. She choose St. Elizabeth the New Martyr as her patron saint, and recieved a secondary relic from the casket of St. Elizabeth from our friends James and Susan, who recieved it from Fr. Christopher of St. Elizabeth church of Poulsbo. Needless to say we were all humbled by the gift.

Valerie recieving absolution.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What now?

Yesterday, at about mid-day, I finished the 20th Aubrey/Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian, Blue At The Mizzen. While the novel ends with Aubrey receiving news of his promotion to Rear Admiral of the Blue, a life-long dream and source of worry, the full tale of the two men remains woefully unfinished. I am of two minds about reading the fragment of the 21st book, left unwritten by Patrick O'Brian's untimely death. While the end of the 20th book left me hanging (as most of the Aubrey/Maturin novels tend to end a tad abruptly), reading only part of the 21st novel would be even worse. More importantly, where do I take my reading now? I had planned on reading my way through the Lord of the Rings over the Christmas break (I try to read the trilogy once a year), but I also promised my wife-to-be (exactly four weeks until the wedding) that I would read something new over the break instead. I have the first two Hornblower novels, but having thrown in my lot with Aubrey and Maturin over 20 books, I find myself strangely prejudiced against Mr. Forester's canon.
What to do? What to do?

Illiterate Christianity

Is it possible for someone who does not know how to read to be an Orthodox Christian (or any sort of Christian for that matter)? Occasionally when whenever I hear someone discoursing on an obscure matter of theology or expounding on the writings of one of the Fathers, I think of my grandfather, my father's father, who while functionally illiterate, lived a pious Orthodox life by all accounts. Was his Christianity somehow lacking by not having read any works of Orthodox theology? I don't know how much he read Scripture outside of church, but I guess the broader point is, can one be Christian with only that Scripture that is read in the church? I am not familiar with any Orthodox declaration about the necessity of the Holy Scripture for a layman. Certainly one can be fed as it were a great deal of Scripture by participating fully in the life of the Church.
I suppose for many Protestants, an illiterate Christianity is not possible, since without the Bible there is no Christianity. Yet there were Christians long before there was a Bible, and there were Christians long before literacy became a common trait in the late 19th century. Do not mistake my purpose in posing these questions. I am not looking to ditch Scripture or other writings (anyone who has been in my study will know that not to be the case), but I wonder how much reading and learning Christianity on an intellectual level can interfere with us being Christians. One can memorize the Bible front-to-back, as I am told Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Church has, and still remain beyond the pale of Christian belief. On the other hand I get the impression from some Orthodox I know that one can gauge their spiritual development in terms of how much Orthodox-related reading they have done.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Abbots, Sex, Crypto-Agrarianism, and non-Uberfrommity

I had the great pleasure this last Saturday to attend an all-day presentation (well I was there most of the day... My friend S and I were told by a fellow parishioner of a pawn shop having a 50% off sale on guns so we missed about an hour on our fool's errand- all the guns had sold out hours ago, aside from a couple exceedingly disreputable looking Turkish Mausers) by Abbot Jonah of the St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco Monastery, formerly at Point Reyes, CA, but recently relocated near Redding. My fiancee and I also attended a talk he gave at Fr. James house the night before about spiritual maturity. I was struck very much by Abbot Jonah's frequent denunciation of piety that is not judged in the light of love, God's love and our love for our neighbor. He also went into a lengthy discussion of how the dualistic and in some ways Gnostic errors of Origen had found there way down through the ages, tainting some of the writings of the Cappadocian Fathers, and generally contributing to the tendancy in Orthodox monasticism to despise the body, sexuality, and marriage. Abbot Jonah's honesty when confronting the errors of monasticism, and the way he exclaimed against Uberfrommity as I understand it, at one point saying, "All of this [indicating the iconostasis] and the Liturgy, and how we pray and cross ourselves will drag us to Hell if we don't love our neighbor.", were refreshing and surprising to say the least. Part of the morning session was on sexuality and family life. It warmed my heart to hear him explain how the collapse of the extended family which began after WWI and the collapse of the nuclear family that began in the 60's could really all be blamed on the Industrial Revolution. The full session was recorded and will be available as a podcast and MP3 download shortly, and I will provide the link as soon as it is available.

Choose your poison

Ultimately, the ills of this nation can be solved by either Secession or Monarchy
Take your pick.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fame of sorts

As of this morning, when you Google "crypto-monarchist" my blog is sixth from the top. Typing in "crypto monarchist" without the hyphen (and under-used piece of punctuation in this day and age), I'm only ninth. The New Relic will work hard to become Number One...