Thursday, March 31, 2011

I found out today that I lost the baby about a week ago. They weren't able to find a heartbeat at my appt on Tuesday, I had an ultrasound yesterday, and they told me today. I haven't had any physical signs. I'm planning medical rather than surgical management so we will be able to have a funeral. Please keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

1...2...3...4...5...

6!


We're so thrilled to announce the upcoming addition to our family!
I'm 13+ weeks now and we're hoping baby comes not too long after the end of September.
Please keep us in your prayers!

Veneration of the Holy Cross

Third Sunday in Lent: Veneration of the Holy Cross


Troparion of the Cross

O Lord save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance!
Grant victory to Orthodox Christians over their adversaries;
and by virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Joyous Feastday!!!

Today is the Annunciation. I could say so much, but words are inadequate. Well, my words are. Mary said yes. None of the rest, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension, could have happened without that.


(available here from Uncut Mountain Supply)
Troparion - Tone 4

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee!

Kontakion - Tone 8

O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
We, thy servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to thee, O Theotokos!
As thou dost posses invincible might, set us free from every calamity
So that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

And, to make my heart even more full, Baby Leo's scans came back, and, well, miracles still happen...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feline addendum to the photo shoot

The cats were frolicking about when I was taking pictures this morning. The first indication I had that they were sort of following me around was an Indiana-sized "thump!" on the roof of the shed.




Then he decided to scramble down a convenient tree...


Sometime later he played hide-and-seek in a leaf pile...





Genevieve, meanwhile, behaved much more sedately
and graciously posed in front of some azaleas...

Spring Photo Shoot












 
See the cardinal?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Six quick takes (couldn't think of seven)

1. I was reading Goodnight Moon tonight to Pickles (doesn't everyone have that book?). My technique to encourage reading is to leave blanks for the child to fill in. This works with picture books and very, very familiar books. Since Goodnight Moon rhymes it's particularly easy. Unless...

"Goodnight.....kittens"
"and goodnight.....gloves."

Oh well.

2. Legos have taken over the house. At night, it behooves me to slither* across the floor rather than walk, especially if I have to go into one of the children's rooms. Yes, I've learned this the hard way. It doesn't matter if the floor looks clean at bedtime, you know there's always one tiny grey lego out there with your name on it. Kind of the way your floor looks immaculate until your 7 month old scoots across it at the speed of light to retrieve a dropped cheerio seen at a distance of 15 feet.

3. Everything, well almost, is blooming! I haven't actually gone out to take pictures yet, but I will soon. The weather has been so warm that things just popped out seemingly overnight. The azaleas are going to be gorgeous this year. As usual.

4. I'm working on something using the angora/silk/bamboo yarn. It's delicious. The drape is out of this world. When it's done I'll put up pictures of it.

5. A couple weeks ago Father got a non-motorized lawn mower. To be honest, it doesn't cut in the same way that a motorized one does (duh) but it's so nice to be able to smell cut grass and not smell exhaust. The sound is significantly reduced as well. It's pretty neat. Even the older girls have been able to use it (with supervision).

6. My father will be having a procedure done this Friday. Please keep him in your prayers.

*Every time I do this I remember my grandmother hollering from the shore, "Drag your feet!" when we were out in the surf. That way you'd just bump into a stingray on the bottom which would (hopefully) encourage it to swim off, instead of coming down squarely upon it which would encourage it to stab its stinger into your leg. This kind of sticks with you. Especially when you watch someone step on one.

Destinations

Overheard at any funeral:

"Henry was such a good man. He is in Heaven with Aunt Rosie right now, smiling down on us."
"Oh yes, don't weep for him, he's in God's arms, no longer suffering."
"His race is run and his crown is won - the only sorrow is for the ones that are left behind."

How many times have we heard something along these lines? Well, how many funerals have you been to? This is typically the comfort we hear given to the bereaved. They are to picture their loved one rising straight to heaven, borne by angels, to eternal peace. People hasten to give examples of the person's saintliness to bolster this view. If the person had a rather salty wit then humor is injected, the person having taken a prominent seat in Heaven to give everyone a good dose of laughter.

Some people have just as assured a permanent destination, in the eyes of the world, but in the "other direction". You know, Hell. But it only seems to hold people like Stalin, Hitler, maybe even that mean old man down the street who always yelled at your kids. Hell must be awfully small. Check any cemetery: they're full of saints. In the words of the (possibly fictional) little girl to her mother, "Mommy, where are all the bad people buried?"

[side note: You never see sympathy cards printed with anything other than these assurances. Wouldn't it be hilarious if they expressed reasonable doubt? Ok, back to seriousness.]

Now, there may be expressions of outrage by this point (my specialty). How can we suggest that dear old Uncle Henry might not be in heaven?

It is necessary to inject here some historical background. Back in the "unenlightened" Middle Ages (but beginning well before that), the Roman Catholic church had a practice of saying masses for the soul of the deceased. Typically people left money in their wills for such a purpose and family would supplement this. Such a fund (which might include land - especially for building chapels - and lavish altar appointments) was called a "chantry". Thus, the dead would be rescued out of Purgatory by the prayers of the faithful. This is oversimplifying it, but that's the gist of it anyhow. Today masses are still said for the dead in the RC church but the chantries are no more, because...

...Along came the Protestant Reformation in England:
When Henry VIII initiated the Reformation in England, Parliament passed an Act in 1545 that defined chantries as representing misapplied funds and misappropriated lands. The Act stated that all chantries and their properties would belong to the King for as long as he should live. Along with the dispersal of the monasteries, the act was designed to help Henry relieve the monetary pressures of the war with France. Because Henry did not live long after the act's passage, few chantries were closed or given over to him. His successor, Edward VI, had a new Act issued in 1547, which completely suppressed 2,374 chantries and guild chapels; it also authorized inquiries to determine all of their possessions. Although the act called for the monies to go to "charitable" ends and the "public good," most of it appeared to have gone to Edward VI's advisers.
So you had a double whammy: the extinction of the chantries and the theology of the Reformation itself which championed "justification by faith alone". So, you ask, why does this matter? Well, it's not only nature that abhors a vacuum.

Fr. Hunwicke:
The common unacademic folk...will replace [the idea that humans are in need of God's mercy for salvation] in their own minds with the assumption that since the recently departed Mary Smith doesn't need masses said for her soul - the government has just declared this and has sequestrated all the assets of all the chantries - ergo if we love Ms Smith we need to be convinced that her good deeds outweigh any sins. It becomes psychologically important to shy away in our minds from the disturbing consequence that, if this is not so, then she is, er, in Hell. Moreover, if there is no Purgatory, then she is already in Heaven ... or Hell.
Ah ha!

Amazingly, there is actually a word for this: Pelagianism. Pelagianism doesn't date back to the Protestant Reformation however. Like most heresies, it's as old as the hills (the 4th-5th century hills anyway). What is it? Basically it denies original sin and ascribes total free will to humans who are saved by their own efforts, not by the mercy of God. This may not be exactly what the reformers had in mind, but that was the practical result. It became such a popular and unquestioned way of thinking that even today, some Catholics who do pray for the souls of the deceased and have masses offered for them unconsciously espouse it. However, in those cases, it is really more a matter of unexamined beliefs rather than a deliberate embrace of heresy. Anyway, you're more likely to hear this from Protestants.

So what about the Orthodox Church? From the OCA website:
Orthodox Christians pray for the dead so that the Lord will have mercy on their souls, that He will grant them eternal rest "in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," that He will extend His unfathomable love upon them, and that He will receive them into that state "in which there is neither sickness, nor sighing, nor sorrow, but life everlasting." Saint Paul clearly teaches that those who have gone before us are still members of the Body of Christ, the Church. And it is the duty of the members of the Church to pray for one another. Just as the living continually beseech God to have mercy on them ­and may rightly offer prayers to God on behalf of their living spiritual sisters and brothers as well as request prayers on their own behalf from others ­so too we have the duty to pray for all members of the Body of Christ, even those who have departed this life and still "belong to Christ." One will find that the early Christians, surrounded as they were by death as a result of official persecution on the part of the Roman Empire, took great care to honor the dead, to bury them with great care and reverence -­ to the point of offering the Eucharistic celebration on their graves, which is one of the earliest indications of the veneration of their relics! -­ and to remember them especially on the anniversary of their deaths which were seen as "birthdays" into eternal life. In asking God to have mercy on the souls of the departed, we also ask God to have mercy on us who are still in this life, and we recognize that we too shall die. All members of the Church, living as well as faithful departed, cry before the throne of God, "Lord, have mercy on us."
Now, let me say unequivocally that no one has the market cornered on getting into Heaven. I've had street evangelists ask me, "if you died today do you know for sure that you would go to Heaven?" The answer being, of course not. By the same token, I can't judge the eventual resting place of any soul. Just because you're (fill in the blank) doesn't mean you've got a "get out of Hell free" card in your back pocket. Everyone has to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, trusting in the mercy of God.
"Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes."
-St. John Climacus

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.
—St. John Chrysostom

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[The meat of this post (except for the Orthodox bits) is taken directly from Fr. Hunwicke's post on "The suppression of the chantries". I've tried to make it more comprehensible to those (like me) without a doctorate in medieval theology. He really makes a fantastic point and I encourage you, if you're brave, to read the original article.]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Update on Japanese Orthodox Church

Japanese Orthodox Church reports that priest, wife safe


Posted 03/17

SYOSSET, NY [OCA] -- According to a communique posted by the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan on March 17, 2011, contact has been made with Father Basil and Matushka Mary Taguchi of Saint John Church in the East Japan Diocese, who had not been heard from since the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami hit the northeastern part of the country. The first floor of their church and meeting hall were flooded, as was their rectory, but the second floor is usable.

In the same communique, His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Sendai, said "we are so grateful to the many letters and e-mails from inside and outside Japan." He also offers an updated report on the situation of various parishes in the East Japan Diocese, which may be accessed at http://www.orthodox-jp.com/westjapan/earthquake/message_Bp.html.

The web site of the Japanese Orthodox Church -- http://www.orthodoxjapan.jp/ -- has been experiencing difficulties, as has the web site of the East Japan Diocese. Updates are being posted on the web site of the West Japan Diocese at http://www.orthodox-jp.com/westjapan which has an English language section.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

We had our first Presanctified Liturgy last night and while the music was a little bit rough in spots (after all, it's been a year) everything started coming back. Some of the year's most beautiful hymns are sung at Presanctified. I was unable to find clips of most of them, but here is one particularly beautiful one that is sung all through Lent.


And tomorrow is the Sunday of Orthodoxy! (I'll talk more about this tomorrow and hopefully will get some pictures.) The children are excited, choosing which icons they'll carry around the church in procession. Thank goodness the weather is supposed to be nice.

Lent is rigorous. The Church, in her wisdom, supports us throughout with special services and gives us the strength we need through communion in the form of the Presancified Gifts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Congrats Fr. Benedict!

Maybe I'm a little biased, but I was tickled that Fr. Benedict's caption was chosen for the photo caption contest on Pithless Thoughts. His original caption (it had to be edited for space) was: "Fido, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: STAY OUT OF THE OSSUARY!"


The original picture is here.

(On a more sober, Lenten note, the recent post on "Lent in Narnia" is very good.)

Quake and Tsunami alert and prayer request

Having not looked at the news this morning I found out about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and tsunamis in Hawaii and Alaska (and perhaps the pacific coast by now) just a moment ago on Ad Orientem. There is expected to be great loss of life. Please pray for all those affected and those who are about to be. Lord have mercy!

(I'm not going to link anywhere - go to any news station and it will be all over it.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Boy, isn't that the truth. Obviously this doesn't apply in some situations as when you're giving a deposition, correcting a child, etc. However, even if you must say something unpleasant, you can say it objectively without pulling your own emotions into it. I got good at charting "just the facts and nothing but the facts" in patients' charts and incident reports over the years.

Gossip fits into this category. [Before anyone starts thinking this is a sermon, it isn't. If I were going to preach one I'd have to start with myself. Seriously.] I wonder what percentage of gossip is the exchange of negative things, not positive? I've always, rightly or wrongly, thought gossip was mostly about the negative statement. I mean, if you say something to someone like, "Hey, so-and-so found a job! Isn't that wonderful?" or "I was so excited to hear the so-and-so's are expecting another baby!" it doesn't seem too bad. Now, if you said, "So-and-so found a job. I hope he is finally going to get off his duff and do some work for a change." or "I can't believe the so-and-so's are having another baby! Four is just too many!" then, well, I think we might credit that as being nasty whether or not you might think it is gossip.

We get into the habit of gossip so easily and I've had an unbelievably hard time breaking the habit. It's so easy to cross over from "getting the news" over the phone from a long-distance friend to gossiping about others. I remember the first time I started paying attention to it. I couldn't believe the number of times I was either getting pulled into gossip or starting it myself! What an eye-opener.

Maybe that's something to work on this Lent.

*After the Canon tonight a friend alerted me to the fact that I left out an important kind of gossip: the "prayer group gossip". You know, "We need to pray for Jim because Mary told me he left his wife after they had a fight about his drinking problem." *Snort*

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On Confession

Originally written by Met. Anthony of Sourezh and sent out by:

+Mark
Bishop of Baltimore and Administrator of the Diocese of the South
Orthodox Church in America
*********************************************************************

12th September 1999

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I was asked to give a certain number of sermons on Confession; because many come to Confession and repeat only things which they have read in manuals of devotion or which other people have told them about. And I would like to start where I start with a child and attract your attention to the fact that our situation is the same.

When a child comes to Confession, usually he brings either on paper or by memory a long list, or a short list, of sins. And when he has finished, I always say, ‘Are these things which break your heart? Are these things which you feel are wrong in you? Did you invent for yourself this confession?’ And most of the time the answer is, ‘No, my mother gave me this list because that makes her cross!’ After that I usually have a conversation with the mother. But as far as the child is concerned, it has nothing to do with him, it is not his confession. It is the

judgement which the parents have established, accusations against him. And the same could be asked about grown-up people who come with lists of sins which they have found in manuals, or been told to consider by their spiritual fathers. And the answer is always the same: it is not my confession, yet it is a challenge which I was given.

And then, the next move, indeed, is to ask, ‘What do you know of Christ? Does He attract you? Do you like Him? Does He mean anything to you? And the answer is varied. Some say, ‘No, I know Him from afar off, I know Him from the Church, from what I was taught, but I never had a personal attitude to Him.’ Then the answer is, ‘Find out. Read the Gospel and try to find out what Christ is like.’

And the next move: ask yourself, ‘Do I like Him? Would I wish to be His disciple, His friend? If the answer is ‘no’, then begin to think about your whole situation, because if Christ means nothing, if you dislike Him, if He is no image of what you would like to be, then you must start a long, long way away. But if you can say, ‘Yes! I like Him, I can respect Him, I can admire Him. Yes, I would like to be His personal friend if He was here,’ then my next question will be, ‘Do you know what friendship is?’

Friendship consists most of all in choosing someone among all the people to be to you the one you treasure above all, whom you admire, by whom you are prepared to stand in case of danger or unpleasantness; one to whom you wish to give joy.

Ask yourself these questions with regard to Christ; and ask yourself, in what way have you tried in the past week to give some joy to the Lord Jesus Christ, or in what way have you been for Him a cause of pain. ‘I have loved him to the point of giving My life and My death to him and he does not care at all. Not for My suffering or My death, but for Me’.

If that is the conclusion, begin to re-examine all your status as a Christian. If you can say, ‘yes, I choose Him as a friend,’ begin to ask yourself every day, every day: what have I done, said, thought, felt, been, which can be to Him a joy or a pain?

And when you will come to Confession that is what you must bring to Confession; between the last Confession and today’s Confession this is what I have been: an unfaithful friend, an indifferent friend, a cowardly friend, or on the contrary, no, I have chosen Him for my friend and I stood by Him . . .

Think in those terms; and we will see in the following sermons of mine what else we can think and do, and prepare, to pronounce a Confession that will be your own; the truth, the rock bottom of your life and heart, the truth about your relationship with Christ. Amen.

* All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony

(h/t Fr. Alexander Fecanin's daily e-mail)

Today's Forecast: Dense Fog

I'm finally coming out of the fog today. We (like lots of people in the SE) had strong storms yesterday and last night and some people are still getting them. As I wrote before, we actually cancelled the Great Canon last night because we didn't want people on the roads in dangerous conditions. That made for a fairly relaxing evening at home which was made better by the power staying on. We've got lots of candles, but it's a little hard to read for any length of time by candlelight. I also didn't have to come up with an uncooked supper. Anyway.

We had an odd pause in the storms in the late evening. Looking at the radar it was hard to believe the forecast which continued to call for severe storms overnight. Everything seemed to have passed us. We went to bed at a normal time and I read until 11 (big mistake).

At about 3:50 the sirens woke us up. We pulled up the radar on the laptop and were stunned at the massive clots of red and yellow heading for us. Adding in the storm tracks made it worse because there were so many overlapping cones that you could hardly see anything else (like where you live). It wasn't quite close enough to get dressed and start getting people out of bed and yet too worrisome to go back to sleep. We watched the radar for another thirty minutes until the most threatening storms had passed. Even though there were more coming we figured we had at least another hour before they arrived. Father went back to sleep. I couldn't.

I have major problems getting back to sleep after having been really woken up. Adding to the problem was the steady lightning. I finally got out my prayer rope (found it under the covers this morning) and stopped trying to get back to sleep. I'm guessing I fell asleep between 5 and 5:30.

Then Pickles put his icy little fingers on my arm and took me from sound sleep to shrieking awake (literally) in about a second. I could tell dawn was coming so I gave up and just plopped him between us and rolled back over. Pickles wanted company more than sleep so I think I only dozed off again for a few minutes before Father's alarm went off at 6:25. Sigh.

I had more or less given up (even though Pickles was asleep) and stayed in bed simply because I was too tired to get up. Against all odds I actually went back to sleep and had about a twenty minute nap before there was a demand for breakfast chirped into my right ear.

The forecast for tonight is clear, cooler and with more sleep. I hope.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Forgiveness Sunday

Badlands National Park, Feb. 2003
 At Forgiveness Sunday Vespers I'll be asking forgiveness of everyone who is there. For all of you who live afar, I ask forgiveness now for anything I've written or said that has hurt or offended you.

Forgive me a sinner!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More martyrs at the hands of the Muslims...as usual.

CAIRO (AsiaNews/Agencies) 3/5/11 – A priest and three deacons are missing following an attack last night by about 4,000 Muslims in the town of Soul (30 kilometres south of Cairo) against the local Coptic community. The mob attacked Christian homes and set fire to the Saints Mina and George Coptic Church, ostensibly because of a relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.


Witnesses report the mob prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. Father Yosha, the priest of the small parish, and three deacons have been reported missing with different accounts of their fate. Some believe they died in the fire that devastated the church building. Others say they are still held by Muslims in one of the parish buildings.

When the Muslim mob attacked the church, they exploded five or six gas cylinders inside the church, desecrated the cross and pulled down the domes.

Soldiers stationed in the village of Bromil, seven kilometres from Soul, initially refused to go into Soul. When the army finally sent troops to the village, Muslim elders sent them away, saying that everything was "in order now." A curfew was imposed on the 12,000 Christians of the town.

The incident was sparked by the involvement of a Coptic man, Ashraf Iskander, with a Muslim woman. The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family's honour. This in turn led the woman's brother to avenge the death of their father by killing the cousin. Muslims then blamed the murders on Christians.
Of course, I'm sure these were, you know, "radical" Muslims.

Lord have mercy!

(h/t Jodie Anna)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Barley??

I made a very interesting discovery today.

The vast majority of commercially produced flour contains barley flour. Even those that say "organic" or "pure" or "unmolested" or whatever. The barley is supposed to improve the yeast action. I couldn't believe it and started checking brands. All of the following contain barley flour*:

Pillsbury
Martha White
Gold Medal
King Arthur
White Lily
Probably any store brand

Now, this mostly likely doesn't matter a whit but if you think you have mild issues with wheat, you might have some issues with barley instead. I read of a case in which the barley induced migraines. Interesting. I also heard (very unofficially) that only 100% wheat flour (white), with no added barley, is supposed to be used to make prosphora. I can see why this would be the case, but I haven't heard any directives from bishops on this as of yet.

In looking around for a non-barley-containing brand of flour I did find one: Hodgson Mill. The All-Purpose, Unbleached, Naturally White Flour contains only wheat - nothing else. And (unbelievably) it's only $3.75 for a 5 lb bag ($19.12 for a case of 6) if you order from their online store. I don't have any hope of finding it locally but you might, depending on what you have available. In case you're interested they also make soy, rye, buckwheat, whole wheat, brown rice, gluten-free and semolina flour. And a LOT more.


*I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere, grocery store speaking, so this is by no means a complete list of flours. If you're lucky enough to live near a Winn Dixie, Publix or Costco (or Wegmans - lucky you!!!), etc.,  then you probably have access to many additional brands of flour. I can't speak for all of those. However added barley flour seems to be really common.