Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

More on where the Liturgy comes from (Part II, continued)

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on May 28, 2008 at 8:36 pm

2.  The Liturgy is the product of divine revelation as well as the greatest human cultural achievement.

The Divine Liturgy comes to us from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and is celebrated by His Apostles and their successors, the Orthodox Catholic bishops, right down to our time, in an uninterrupted continuum. This living process will continue, without a doubt, by God’s holy providence, until the Lord appears again to raise the dead.  St Paul informs us, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, that he “received from the Lord” (11: 23) that which he passed on to the Corinthians; namely, the Eucharist in which bread and wine are offered. The bread becomes for us the Body, and the wine, the Blood of the New Testament. This practice of liturgizing was spread by all of the Apostles, throughout the ancient world. After their passing from this life, the liturgy was celebrated in every place with both exacting uniformity and marvelous diversity. The uniformity is expressed in the central act of calling down the Holy Spirit, a little Pentecost, in which Christ becomes present, making the Paschal mystery present for the faithful. This is the divine nature of the liturgy: changeless, mystical, transcendent, surpassing the understanding, pure prayer. The diversity is expressed by the out-growth of localized liturgical families. For example, the liturgy was celebrated in a certain precise way in Jerusalem and in Antioch. This Antiochene way of liturgizing was carried by St John Chrysostom to Constantinople, where it became the basis for the Constantinopolitan, or imperial, “Great Church,” liturgy. There was a different way of liturgizing in Alexandria; and yet different again in Rome, Lyons, and Milan. This is the human nature of the liturgy. Like Jesus our Lord Himself, Who possesses two natures “inseparable yet unconfused,” so the liturgy possesses both a divine, changeless aspect as well as a human, linguistic and cultural expression, which is subject to constant change.  These changes, however, do not touch upon the mystical unity of the liturgy, which is not subject to change; namely, the showing forth of the Body of Christ, the Salvation of the world.


What teenagers must endure… my Bio, Part III

In autobiography on May 27, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Life can be hell for teenagers. They aren’t children anymore; and neither are they adults. It is interesting that the very term, teenager, is of very late invention. Before the onset of the Industrial Age, under an agricultural or traditional economy, children “came of age.” Boys entered into their craft or estate and girls became marriageable. This coming of age was usually marked with some kind of cultural event. In fact, in Mexico, they still have the quincenero: the party for a 15-year old girl, setting her out as of marriageable age.  But in our day, in our urbanized, technological, post-industrial society, the delay of marriage for the purpose of lengthened schooling is the norm.

The body wants a wife or husband long before school is out, in the early to mid 20s! And, with the state of public schooling is such disrepair, much of the discipline needed to sustain this delayed gratification has fallen down. Teens get a bum rap out of all this. When I was a high-school teacher, one student told me, “high school is a warehouse for teenagers until we (society) can figure out what to do with them.” You say that is cynical? Of course it is. But I didn’t say it; a high schooler did, to many an “amen!”

I started high school in a fine Jesuit preparatory school, after having completed K-8 at St Cassian Elementary School, where I was schooled by Dominican nuns. Sr Mary Joseph was the principal.  Few applicants were accepted at St Peter’s where I went. There was a sense of being select, special, elite.  The 9th grade curriculum was 1st year Latin, Western Civilization, English, Advanced Algebra, Religion. Since the school was located in Jersey City, I had to ride a train and a bus every day, starting very early and coming home just before 5 PM. The stink of the Secaucus meadows and the air heavy with raw pollution from burning garbage piles prefaced every school day, as the train crossed the delta of the Passaic River. St Peter’s Prep was located near the west bank of the Hudson River, just a couple of blocks from the Colgate-Palmolive factory. Imagine learning the 1st conjugation to the overwhelming odor of toothpaste in the making! Laudo, laudas, laudat, laudamus, laudatis, laudant; did I brush my teeth this morning?

Life at St Peter’s was old-school jesuit discipline. The Jesuit fathers trace their roots back to the outbreak of the Lutheran revolt, in the early 16th century. There, in Germany, especially the southern portions: Bavaria, the Rhineland, these “the Pope’s shock troops” took back many areas from Luther and restored them to Rome. The Jesuits, members of “the Society of Jesus,” found their strength in intellectual achievements. They would practice the Counter-Reformation by out-smarting their Protestant rivals. We teens at St Peter’s would certainly be marked by that spirit. So, our teachers were dead set on showing us just who was in charge. There was a rule that frosh (freshmen, 9th graders) could not cross the street to the corner store during lunch or breaks. That was for upper-classmen only. A few of us put that to the test. We entered the store and purchased orange sodas. There, standing on the corner and swilling our orangeades and enjoying the sun, all seemed promising. We would finish our sodas and return to classes. All this fear-mongering by the upper-classmen was of no account. Until the black robe appeared. The father crossed the street, and without a word, seized our drinks from us and poured their contents into the sewer by the curb. We were duly detained after school for discipline. Yep, they meant what they said. Tow the line, or else. I took a late train that night…

Where does the Divine Liturgy come from? Part 2 of a series…

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on May 27, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Where does the Divine Liturgy come from?

1.  The Liturgy is the apex of the age-old tradition of worship:

“Thy processionals have been seen, O God, the processionals of my God, of my King Who is in His sanctuary. Princes went before, and after them the chanters, in the midst of timbrel-playing maidens. In the congregations bless ye God, the Lord from the well-springs of Israel”

(Psalm 67: 25-27, LXX; written about 3,000 years ago).

Immediately after the exile of our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, from the Eden of delight, men built altars and prayed to God, accompanied by sacrifices of various kinds. Noah built an altar after the great deluge, as did Abraham and the patriarchs, our forefathers who received the first promises from God. Moses was instructed to build a specific tent of worship, the tabernacle in the wilderness. Later, King David’s son, Solomon, received the command to build God a house of worship, the first Temple in Jerusalem. All this was to teach man that liturgical worship, under the direction of the ministers duly appointed by God, comprises the highest form of prayer—the acme of spiritual experience: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 121: 1, LXX).

The Holy and Divine Liturgy practiced by Orthodox Christians is the composite of the formal worship taught by God to Moses in the ancient covenant, augmented by the practice of interpreting Holy Scripture, dating back to the ministry of Ezra the scribe (sixth century before Christ), and fulfilled and completed by the direct instruction given by Our Lord Jesus Christ on the eve of His philanthropic Passion and Crucifixion.  After Christ’s glorious Resurrection on the third day (on Sunday), He appeared many times to His Apostles and taught them “concerning the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3). The Church has always understood this to mean direct instruction to them concerning the Liturgy, among other things. For example, in the Book of the Acts, we learn about the sending forth of St Paul in his apostolic journeys. He went out from Antioch, where the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, laid hands on him to commission him for that work. The text actually says “while they were celebrating the Liturgy [Greek, leitourgountes, “liturgizing”] unto the Lord, and praying and fasting” (Acts 13: 2, 3, my translation). So the Liturgy is the fundamental and most profound way in which the Church shows herself to be what she is: the New Israel, the Bride and Body of Christ.

the Presence of God in the Divine Services

In Orthodox Christianity: in general on May 27, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Many times we Orthodox place such emphasis on the Holy Eucharist, that we fail adequately to grasp the energizing power of the uncreated grace of God in the other services.  Frequently, I encourage new-comers to attend the service of Vespers. It is rather short, by Orthodox standards, rarely more than 50 minutes or so, and very musical, with lots of chant. The Psalms form the basis for the service of Vespers, and the oldest continually used hymn in all of Christendom is used as its centerpiece, “O Gladsome Light.” It was the service which I attended regularly for two years during my inquiry into Orthodoxy back in the early 90s.

And, now, a witness to that converting power. Go to:  http://shawnragan.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/father-patrick/

Pastor Shawn Ragan, an inquirer into Orthodoxy, is blogging!

In Orthodox Christianity: in general on May 27, 2008 at 4:32 am

Check it out:


Pastor Shawn used to be a Greek student of mine, at Boise State University. He and I have been in pretty constant contact over the last two years, or more, as he has sought the True Faith in the Holy Orthodox-Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I am glad that he is now blogging, since he has wonderful things to say. May the Lord grant him, his wife, Tori, and their dear children, a beautiful and gracious entry into His holy Church!

Southern California and snow–in May!

In reflections, ephemera on May 27, 2008 at 3:44 am

Christina and I went for a walk in the snow. It’s May 26th; we are in Los Angeles County; it was over 100 degrees last week. And there is snow only 20 minutes drive and a mile-walk up Ice House Canyon in the San Gabriels.

The beautiful spring flowers have blossomed everywhere. Tall yucca flower spikes adorn the mountain sides and canyons. Running creek water offers the proper woodland ambience, in concert with the vigorous mating of birds in full song.  And all this with the adornment of a fresh carpet of snow, heavy, wet, melting and white. You’d think that the flowers were out of place–stuck there out of season. But, no, nature is playing the weather backwards these past 7 days.

Sometimes backwards weather occurs in our spiritual lives. We think the order of events ought to be 1, 2, 3, and then followed by 4. But 4 first? and then a 1?  Even in the Bible, in God’s plan this happens now and again. You know the story of the conversion of Cornelius the pious pagan? Here is his spiritual history: first, deep prayer; second, apostolic visit; third, divine illumination; fourth, holy baptism; and fifth, apostolic laying-on-of-hands. Usually we expect this order: 2, 4, 5, 3, 1. Hey, what gives?

We are always trying to contextualize God. We read our Bible, our theology books, and think we get the picture. And God is free. He does “whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115). This is the One Who offers to enlighten our path in life, to BE our life. If we are in Him, then, what gives?

The Life-Giver, He is what gives!

What is the Divine Liturgy? the first of a series on this theme.

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on May 26, 2008 at 2:34 am

The Divine Liturgy is the highest form of prayer in which a sacred exchange takes place.  Mankind offers to God “his temporal and limited life (in exchange) for the eternal and infinite life of God” (Elder Zacharias of Essex).

The Liturgy is the common prayer of Christians

Christians have gathered together on the first day of the week, and at other special times, to offer their prayers in common and to bring gifts of bread and wine, according to the commandment of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Liturgy is the holy tradition of worship, the “sacrifice of praise,” which accomplishes these things.

When an Orthodox Christian places his first priority on the remembrance of God, he begins the new week by attending the service of Vespers on the eve before the first day of the week, keeps a holy silence in his heart until the Liturgy “on the morning of the Day of the Sun” and defers all other obligations in his life until after accomplishing the mystical sacrifice. By putting God first he finds meaning in all his labors in the new week now unfolding before him. As the Apostle James teaches us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all liberally…” (James 1: 5).  Every one of us needs wisdom to face the myriad problems which present themselves to us every day: personal, familial, work- or school-related. If God comes first, then we can meet every problem with confidence, knowing that His merciful grace will guide us toward what is pleasing to Him and good for our salvation.

Why must one pray at church? Why not pray alone, in one’s home, or in the woodlands, or in any beautiful place indoors or out? Why must a person pray at a certain place? Does not the Bible say that “God does not live in houses made by man”? These questions are constantly posed by many in our times. And, to tell the truth, the answer is simply that one may pray to God in any place, at any time, and under any circumstances. However, God has always summoned man to pray to Him and to offer Him due worship at specific times and in specific places for specific purposes. Not all prayer is of the same depth—or height. Our Lord told us through his disciples, “For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18: 20).

The Liturgy is better experienced than understood

Above all, the Liturgy is known through experience. Jesus said to His very first followers, in response to their inquiry, “Come, and see!”  Our Lord did not engage them in a theological dispute or a long-winded talk; rather, He invited them to experience Him, the Life. However, St Peter, one of those early followers, also admonished us to “add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge” (2 Peter 1: 5). So it helps a great deal if one attends the Liturgy with some knowledge of what is going on. The posts bearing this category (Orthodox Christian liturgics) will attempt to provide you interested readers with basic information about the Liturgy, as an aid in participating in it with deeper awareness.

Ask the Lord to help you to put into practice the holy things taught here and to be obedient to these exhortations.  If you do so, you will find “the peace which passeth understanding” in all that you do.

This post will be followed by many others on this theme. Taken together, they will form a small book to be published, should our Bishop grant the blessing. In the meantime, I humbly solicit your comments, both critical and commendatory, as the case may be, in order to improve my work for the edification of the Orthodox Christian faithful.

To be continued…

Greet the most precious person in my life’s journey…

In autobiography on May 26, 2008 at 2:24 am

Here is my wife, without whose loving, patient, and enduring friendship, I could not become something more than I am.  We endured many trials and afflictions and the Lord delivered us out of them all. Christina is the accompaniment to the song of love for God in my soul.

When I am full of myself, she gently points me out, away from myself.

When I am depressed, she brightens my eyes and delivers me from my greyness.

When I am lonely, she takes me by the hand, and we go for a walk.

When I am confused, she shows me what to focus on.

As we approach our 33rd wedding anniversary, I say to my bride: God grant you many years!


Baptism: act of violence?

In Orthodox Christianity: in general on May 26, 2008 at 2:08 am

Yesterday I was privileged to exercise my holy office as a Orthodox Christian priest and pastor in performing the sacrament of baptism. Traditionally, baptizands are stripped of all clothing and immersed into the Font thrice, in the Name of the Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We Orthodox Christians still observe the full traditional, ancient way of baptism in every respect in the case of infant children. (With adults, we let them keep some clothing on.)

Some on-lookers appeared shocked as I stripped the infant, seized him in my hands and immersed him fully within the sanctified waters–not just once, but three times, fully underwater, this little two-month old! This has happened to me before. The look says, “What are you doing to my baby?” “Why are you trying to drown my child?” And, in every case, the baby does fine and, frankly, I get crying less often from the baby than what you might expect. A priest friend of mine said that once the mother screamed and tried to take the baby away from the priest after the first immersion! (Evidently, he was able to convince her that it was ok, because I know that the baptism was completed. Turns out, she was Romanian from the communist era and had never seen a baptism before).  It seems that we adults are more worried, lest something untoward happen to a babe. But infants handle immersion into water far better than we might think. Don’t forget, they still have the proximate memory of that 9-month period in the water of the womb! Their first birth is violent, to say the least, and they pulled through. Now, with the second birth unto eternal life, much more will they pull through. “Unless you are born of water & the Spirit, you will not see the Kingdom of God” (John 3). So it takes a momentary drowning, accompanied by the bestowal of the Spirit to enter the Kingdom everlasting.

So, is this momentary drowning of infants violent? You betcha! In the Name of the Lord, action is being taken to put the old man to death, to drown sin and darkness in the noetic flood of baptismal water. Just as Noah had to endure the ark over the flood waters which cleansed the earth of old, so also now, the new flood waters of mystical baptism act violently to rub out the old death in us. “You were buried with Him in baptism, and raised in the newness of life.” Jesus said, “the Kingdom of Heaven cometh violently, and the violent take it by force.” What is more threatening than to plunge a human being under the waters?

Over the centuries, in Christian groups separated from Orthodoxy, baptism was tamed down and lost its energy to save. In some groups, they made it a rule simply to pour water over the head. In others, the person stood in the baptismal pool and the minister splashed some water over the candidate with cupped hands or a small dipping utensil. In yet others, the candidate was sprinkled with water while he lay in the arms of the sponsor or parent. And, even in others by my own experience, it is expected that the minister will use the specially donated rose to administer the baptismal blessing. In this last case, the image of the mystery is completely absent.

To on-lookers unaware of the vital, rugged, all-embracing and staggering simplicity and unembarrassed fullness of Orthodox sacramental practice, it can all seem so scary.  Yeah, scary to sin, the devil, and death; but life to the newly-baptized. “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. Alleluia.” Why would anyone want to don tattered clothing?

You don’t learn how to ride a bicycle by reading books

In Orthodox Christianity: in general on May 25, 2008 at 12:32 am

I can’t remember the exact day I rode a two-wheeler without training wheels. I do remember the day my son learned how to ride a bike. We lived in a little town called Mount Shasta, in far northern California. This town counts as the actual place where, in the city park, the source of the Sacramento River springs out of the ground. We used to live at the end of a rather rough dirt road, overlooking a canyon. One day, I was guiding Christopher on the bike and I let go. He rode, wobbly, almost a crash to the left, almost a crash to the right; yikes, it’s good the road is so wide… and, hey, he’s GOT IT! From then on it was free and easy: more bicycling, sudden freedom to go to a friend’s house; WHEELS.

Christopher never read a book about balance, the gyroscopic effect, steering, and the like. It would be pleasing to types like me to learn about all those things. Indeed, when I was a young bike rider, I actually thought about how it was easier to balance while moving, than when stationary. But, in the end, the act of mastering the riding of a bicycle comes only with the trial and error of guided attempts–or sheer, terror-inducing experimentation! Parents hope that the new bike they bought for their child will survive the initial crashes during the discovery phase of learning, and then have that scratched-up bike go on to serve for some wonderful childhood years.  I think that was how it was for my son.

Many things in life are like learning to ride a bike.  Succeeding in marriage, or in any significant and deep human relationship, is like that. Learning to be a good pastor and curator animarum, for me, a priest, is like that. One can find many books and pay many thousands of dollars on counselors to find out how human relationships work. There are tomes aplenty to train priests on pastoral care. Much to be learned, and a great deal of wisdom in such resources, and yet… Something is always missing. The point is, we learn by fits and starts. We misunderstand each other, we argue, we get intransigent, we accuse, we weep with anger and self-deprecation over failures.  The good news is that God gives us the single necessary ingredient to ensure that those who are faithful in their attempts will not fail: FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness is the living grace of the *gyroscopic effect* in personal relationships: with God, and with our neighbors.

By faith, we receive the forgiveness of sins, which is the very BASIS for all other virtues, leading ultimately to love which is forever (“God is love,” I John 4: 8).  But faith means something very particular; it is not vague or foggy.  First of all, faith is the organic, inner, living light which makes the human heart sing again. Faith is the noetic light, the return to purity, the bastion of the soul. Faith is “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2: 8). Faith is in itself something substantial, without which God cannot be known, or even be sensed. Just as blindness renders a man unaware of his visible surroundings, so un-faith; i.e., unbelief, renders a man unaware of his spiritual surroundings. When a man believes, he truly sees! This latter teaching was given to us in our Orthodox Christian Sunday Gospel lectionary last week (see Gospel acc. to John, chapter 5). Faith in this sense comes into our heart freely, but only as a result of struggle and a cry out for it. At every Orthodox Christian Vespers (evening) service of prayer, we sing very deliberately the first two verses of Psalm 140, “O Lord, I have cried out unto Thee…”  Without a cry, there is no answer. Get faith by seeking faith, and you will not be disappointed: “and they shall find Me, if they seek for me with all their heart” (the holy prophet Jeremiah, 6th century BC)

And, second, faith is something I have to get from others. I cannot find it in a pure way alone. “Contend for the Faith which is once and for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 4). This is teaching, apostolic instruction, preaching, churchly gifting, and is perfected through obedience to spiritual authority and the practice of love. I must have faith in this objective way from the Church, lest I be led by a surfeit of egocentrism or the bent of my life unknown to me into some delusion.  The Orthodox-Catholic and Apostolic Church is the guarantor of saving faith! She is the storehouse or treasury of sane spirituality, without which a man flounders in error, no matter his intent. Think of the first, subjective dimension of faith as the perfection of balance in the bike rider, and the second, objective dimension of faith as the proper functioning of the bicycle as a piece of equipment.

AS I BELIEVE, I LIVE! Faith is in itself the very life of Christ at work in me, in communion with the Body of Christ, His holy Church. What a fortification! What a sublime bestowal! What a wondrous deliverance! What an escape from ego and depression! What joy untrammeled! What unseen vision, unheard counsel, untasted Manna, intangible meat for the weary soul!

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God (=Jesus Christ, the Logos).  When we read the Bible, or some other book about faith, we can lose heart as we find it all so impossible to live. But, learning to ride bikes doesn’t come by books, but rather in the doing. The first step in faith is undergoing the process of repentance, leading to baptism, and entry into the Holy Community of Mother Church. In the atmosphere of love and forgiveness, all things are then possible. We enjoy the comfort of love when we crash in this holy “bike riding,” knowing that we shall surely learn, since the One Who invited us said, “those whom the Father hath placed into my Hand, no one shall ever take away.”

Are you ready to make the attempt? God invites…

I am a dyophisite!

In Orthodox Christianity: in general on May 21, 2008 at 11:40 pm

I love 50-dollar words, especially if they are barely English, foreign words with a little spin to render them officially English. Our mother tongue offers this largesse of loquacity precisely because it is the product of a mingling of tongues: Latin, through Norman French mostly, and Anglo-Saxon. The latter is the twig from the Old High German branch while the former is the remnant of the medieval lingua franca, Latin as spoken by the Normans. So, English possesses a wonderful ability to adapt foreign words to its use. And, my big word today is dyophisitism (the belief) or dyophisite (the adherent of such belief). Like most such naturalized Greek citizens in our language, these Greek words had to pay homage to Latin first, before being admitted into the hallowed halls of our English lexicon. Consider: Iesous (Greek, from Hebrew yeshu^ah) to Iesus (Latin, with a consonantal initial I, written in the Middle Ages as Jesus) and then pronounced with the characteristic vowel shift in English in our common way now. Or: arithmetikon (Greek, “having to do with numbers”) to Latin arithmeticum, and so on.

Well, then, so what of this dyophisitism? The Orthodox Christian belief that the Savior of the world possesses TWO (dyo) NATURES (physis), one created, human, consubstantial with us, changeable, and the other uncreated, divine, beyond all suffering (impassible, if you want the fancy word). These two natures stand in Jesus Christ in what we call a hypostatic union (hypostasis, “person” or “substance”). This is in opposition to the false, heretical belief, called monophysitism. Monophysites affirm that Christ possesses one nature, thus confusing the human and the divine. The historical monophysites refused to accept the teaching of the 4th oecumenical synod, thus they are not Orthodox Christians, no matter what their modern apologists may say.  In effect, the Savior is not like Clark Kent / Superman, or the Hulk, or more of a parody, Dr Jekyl / Mr Hyde.  Rather, He is truly God, but suffers as a man. “He thought it not robbery (arpagmon, something to be grasped in a haughty way) to be equal to God, but He emptied Himself by taking on the form (morphe, stronger than mere appearance) of a slave” (Philippians 2: 6-7).  We say in one of our hymns, “In the grave with the body but in Hades with the soul as God; in paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou, O Christ, filling all things, Thyself uncircumscribed” (used in the Divine Liturgy, as the presider places the offered bread and wine upon the Holy Table in the Great Entrance).  By the way, that last word is another fifty-dollar word, and it means…  but wait… Hey, let me know, if you want to know!

And the point? He became FULLY what I am–yet without sin (“He learned obedience through the things which He suffered, that He might become the captain of our salvation” –Hebrews 2), so that I may become FULLY what He is, by divine grace! This is the Hope of man, the thirsting of our race.

so here is another, for those who didn’t like the first photo

In autobiography on May 20, 2008 at 10:05 pm

yes, here I am, without the luminosity of my wife. Now you can offer a prayer for the unworthy presbyter, Patrick!

Fr Patrick bio, Part II: the power of the angelic salutation

In autobiography on May 20, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I was eight years old and it was a typical evening at home, probably a school night. As was typical in those days, the late 50s, in another cultural world now all but gone, a Catholic family would place a crucifix in each room of their house. I had one over my bed and could easily look at it to my right, as I lay in bed preparing for sleep. We were never taught to pray at home. In fact, my family was not at all religious beyond the Sunday mass attendance in common practice. In fact, I never saw my parents pray outside of Mass (the Roman Catholic nickname given to their liturgy). My father would attend the parish church for morning prayers during weekdays in Lent–as I remember in my small boy’s memory, since he would arouse me from sleep to accompany him there before going to school.

So, there I am, the 8 year old, awaiting sleep. I sensed being called. What is this? Who is in the room with me here? Who is summoning? I lay there, aware of a presence. Again, a call. The heart is a mystery; it breathes for, aspires to, and does not rest short of, the Voice. The ancient Hebrews called it the Qol Yhwh: the Voice of the LORD.  When God speaks, “let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Everything in the mind and heart trembles and grows still: “the Voice of the LORD is upon the waters, the Voice of the LORD shatters cedars,… grinds the cedars of Lebanon to powder, the Voice of the Lord cuts through fiery flames; … shakes the desert of Kadesh… and in His temple, everyone says ‘Glory!'” (Ps 28). I lay there in fear and wonderment, perplexed as to how to respond. What answer can I give? What is His Name?

I rolled out of bed, dropped to my knees and took up these words, “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Ok, so that is what the nuns who were my school teachers taught us to pray. It was awkward and I felt embarrassed. The moment passed. I lay in bed and fell asleep and did not awake again for 11 long, painful years.  But I said the NAME; Jesus. She taught me to do that, “whatever He tells you, do it!” (Mary to the servants at the wedding in Cana, the first of Jesus’ miracles: John 2: 5).  And that ONE who carries the Name of salvation, Jesus, would call me again, for keeps…

In the Orthodox Church, we use the angelic salutation as a way to stand with the Virgin and share in her holy moment when the uncreated Master of the Ages overshadowed her. With these words, the Angel announced the conception of God to become man. He announced it: Annunciation, Evangelismos, in Greek.  The event and the feast is the Evangelism of God-become-man! Mary is the select vessel: pure, obedient, ready to serve God. “The angels offer a hymn; the heavens, a star; the Magi, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder; the earth, a cave; the wilderness, a manger; and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother. O Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!” (prosomoion for Vespers, Feast of Nativity).

Fr Patrick B. O’Grady–an introduction to friends and foes: Part I

In autobiography on May 20, 2008 at 4:17 am

As I grasp this medium, you will witness all sorts of flailings and false starts. As with any new mode of communication, experimentation provides the best learning.  To set the stage, it seems a short bio might be in order. This is the first of several parts.  I will attempt to include a gem from the Holy Scriptures or the sacred writings of the Fathers of the Church with each post.

I am a native of New Jersey, USA.  I grew up, second of seven children, in a typical post WWII suburban large family. Unfortunately, my father died young, leaving my mother with the seven of us, 1 month old up to 11 years old. That led to a state of affairs consisting of general familial chaos, out of which I survived to seek my way in life.  Having been raised Roman Catholic and attending Catholic school up through the 9th grade, I was unprepared for the cultural decadence which struck in 1967: the “summer of love” in San Francisco, the full-on effect of the reforms of Vatican II desecrating the old Roman Mass (who wants to go to church anymore?), the Six-Day War in Palestine, along with all of its apocalyptic portendings, and that lining up with adolescence and coming-of-age. Yikes! I actually lived through that.  To be continued…

photo break for the family: The lady next to me in the picture above, Christina–properly, Khouria (see NOTE below, on this title) Christina–is my beloved wife, with whom I have journeyed in this life for now approaching 33 years in marriage (our anniversary is on May 31st).  By the way, rejoice with us: our only son, Christopher (Reader John) O’Grady, of Boise, Idaho, is engaged to be married this summer!

NOTE: “Khouria” (Arabic, with no direct equivalent in English), pronounced “hoo-REE-ah” (a heavy initial H sound), is the title appropriate for the priest’s wife.  So, in Orthodox Christianity, we call the priest “father” and his wife “khouria.”  In our sister churches, the Greeks call her “presvytera” [prez-vee-TEH-rah], and the Russians, “matushka” [MAH-toosh-kah].

“We do not seek conquest, but rather the return of brethren, the separation of whom is tearing us”–St Gregory of Nazianzen (4th century).

So, just what kind of writing is this, anyway?

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2008 at 4:41 am

Christ is risen!

With these first three words, I enter the world of blogging–whatever that is. Before I can constructively write anything, I must know for whom I am writing:

1. Is this going to be read only by me? In such a case, this is on-line diary keeping, and inherently private matter, and a way to track my thinking about various and sundry.

2. Is a select group of persons going to read this, a restriction gated by some sort of login? In that case, I need to know who those are, so that I may establish our common frame of reference and write accordingly.

3. Is it a general readership, made up of those who seek what I have to say, along with others who may find this blog by some kind of internet search? I hope so, because I would like to know that I could write on a multitude of themes, trusting that someone out there may find it of interest and respond.

So, right now, I am just here to… SHOUT HOWDY!  (thanks to my brother-in-law, Ralph Spangler, for that!)