Archive for April, 2009

Mel and his Russian (Orthodox) girlfriend

April 29, 2009

meloksana

Mel, Mel, Mel… couldn’t you just hide her in the closet  until the paperwork was signed?  Or better yet, why couldn’t you have fallen down on your knees and begged forgiveness from your long-suffering wife and gone to confession in your own hand-built church?   7 or 8 months ought to tell us whether this Oksana chick will accept the teachings of this branch of Traditional Catholicism or whether Mel will come over to the light and baptize his next progeny in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic faith of Orthodoxy.  My bets on the former since she certainly has more to “gain” by it.  

Let’s all remember that no matter what a mess this man’s life is, we are all sinners and fail every day.  (Just not so publicly or stupidly)

Swine Flu Report #2

April 29, 2009

It’s a bad day to be a pig in Egypt.   This is just the kind of overreactionary effort that isn’t going to help anything.    I wasn’t aware that a predominantly muslim country had a large swine production capacity, but 300,000 of the critters are ironically marked for extermination because of who and what they are.    A lot of Coptic pig farmers just got put out of business.

Meanwhile, muslim lawmakers in Kuwait and Bahrain are pressing the case that if only they’d been following a pig-free policy all along, swine flu would be restricted to the infidel, pig-eating countries.

“The outbreak of this flu, which has killed dozens, will make our case stronger to outlaw pork from the kingdom,” lawmaker Sheikh Adel Al-Moawada, who heads the Bahrain parliamentary foreign affairs and security committee, was quoted by local media as saying.

And who gave this guy a passing grade in his infectious disease studies at medical school? 

“We are unlikely to have an outbreak since we don’t have pig farms here. We don’t have pig products and [the region where the strain emerged] is miles away from Kuwait,” said Dr. Khalid Al-Hasawi, deputy director-general of Kuwait’s Infectious Disease Hospital.

My kids know more about the infectious spread of Swine Flu, Mexico Flu, North American Flu, Non-Kosher/Non-Koranic Flu, or whatever the heck PC name you give this thing.   Pigs are not direct infectious vectors now.  You cannot get sick from eating pork.  For that matter, you could kiss a pig and not get infected.     (By the way, have you ever seen so much hoopla over the naming of a disease  ?   This ranks right up there with the re-naming of French fries to “Freedom” fries by some uber-patriotic idiots in the Congressional cafeteria back in the early days of the Iraq War.)

It’s Wednesday here, which for us Orthodox Christians is a fasting day, pork and pork products included.  But first thing I’m gonna do tomorrow morning is have a bacon and egg breakfast taco, then a delicious ‘Hog Dog’ from a stand down the block (a grilled, bacon-wrapped hot dog with grilled onions and peppers), finally completing my porcine palate at dinnertime with the last of the Pascha ham in a big pot of slow-cooked lima beans.  (Tomorrow my ankles are gonna be as big as ham hocks!)

UPDATE:   It didn’t take the Coptic Christians of Egypt long to react to this ridiculousness.   The Copts have been taking it for a long time by the muslim majority in Egypt.   Churches burned, murders, arrests, forced conversion, but it takes hurting someone’s livelihood to finally cause the pot to boil over.   I hope the Coptic community doesn’t suffer personal and governmental reprisals, but people can only be pushed around for so long.

Swine Flu Report #1

April 28, 2009

 test

 This has been a test of the Blogosphere Emergency Alert System (BLERT).  If this had been an actual emergency you would have been instructed……  

swineflu

 If you found this post with a Google search using the terms “swine flu”, “global pandemic”, “quarantine”, or “apocalypse + plague”, I do not have anything useful to report or suggestions for survival.   For some strange and inexplicable reason, I am not at this point totally freaked out, even though I live almost at ground zero from the initial Texas outbreak.   Steele High School is just 15 miles away, right over in the next community.   So, it’s practically in our own backyard.

What’s the difference in my panic level now than from what I felt over the bird flu infections?   Simple – all of the US infections have been non-fatal so far.   It’s horribly xenocentric, but it seems it takes the death of some otherwise healthy American to jolt us from our complacency – not just the poor victims right across the border.

It’s not too early to make some mental check lists of things to do – contingencies.   For me that’s wondering what to do when the first cases hit my kids’ school and the district shuts down as it did over the weekend in the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City school district.

I am not old enough (well, I am older) to remember or maybe it wasn’t on my radar screen in 1968 or 1976 when the last swine flu scares came along.   What stands out in my memory is President Gerald Ford being mercilessly skewered on Saturday Night Live for what some people believed was the Great Swine Flu failure of 1976.  It seems the virus could not be predicted and several million people didn’t die as predicted.   I don’t think anyone’s going to get all riled up over emergency preparedness this time around.

What did the churches, particularly Orthodox Churches, do back in ’76 about liturgical services?  Were some cancelled or did they go on a usual?   What about our practice of communing from a common chalice?  I’m inclined to say, “God will take care of us since it is the Body and Blood of His Son”, we’re communing.  I bet that doesn’t assauage the paranoia though.  Church attendance and frequent communion are going to surely take a hit over the next few weeks or months.

What interesting and scary times we live in!   I know one thing, if we do have to go into lock down mode and the kids are sent home, I need to make sure chocolate and Blue Bell ice cream are on my list of essentials.  There’s no way I’m spending a week or two shut up in the house  with two wild boys without some basic comfort foods. 

Greyson’s Law Headed for Senate Committee

April 27, 2009

greyson

The Morris Family’s unrelenting determination and faith have brought them one step closer to ensuring newborns in Texas receive the best possible future.  Greyson’s Law, now being considered in both the Texas House (Bill 1795) and the Senate (Senate Bill 1720) would mandate  more comprehensive medical screening for every newborn in Texas.  Currently in Texas, only 27 diseases are on the screening profile although the American College of Medical Genetics recommends testing for 54 treatable disorders; Greyson’s Law would raise that to 47, at a minimum of cost to the State of Texas.   This won’t put us at the forefront of progressiveness, but I think most Texans would agree we just can’t accept being ‘fair to middlin’ anymore on issues of public health.  

On Tuesday, April 21st the first committee hearing for HB 1795 was held in front of the House Public Health Services Committee, and Bill and Nicole Morris were there  to ‘put a face’ on the cost of inadequate newborn screening.  It is Greyson’s beautiful face that has, unfortunately, become the image of children loved and lost to genetic illnesses.

While House Bill 1795 is now under consideration, the identical, companion bill in the Senate, Bill 1720, is now also set for its first hearing  tomorrow,  April 28th, before the Health and Human Services Committee.   It is vital that members of the Committee understand the widespread support this bill is gaining among the public and why it is so important that it be favorably considered on Tuesday.   A well-informed and well-attended Committee meeting will be a huge boost to the eventual passage of Greyson’s Law.  I am encouraging everyone to contact the members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and let them know how you feel about Greyson’s Law.  Committee members can be contacted by a very easy to fill-out email form at the links below: 

Committee Chair, Senator Jane Nelson, District 12

Vice Chair, Senator Bob Deuell, District 2

Member, Senator Joan Huffman, District 17

Member, Senator Robert Nichols, District 3

Member, Senator Dan Patrick, District 7

Member,  Senator Eliot Shapleigh, District 29

Member, Senator Carlos Uresti, District 9

Member, Senator Royce West, District 23

Member, Senator Judith Zaffirini, District 31

To learn more about Greyson Morris and his amazing life, visit Bill and Nicole’sblogs or go to Hunter’s Hopefor samples of emails (right hand links section) you can send to both the House and Senate Committees to encourage them to vote for Greyson’s Law.  It’s easy and it won’t take long for you to make an impact.   (15 minutes – that’s all it took for me to email each of the Senate Committee members at the links above.   That’s 3 games of Snood;  that’s time better spent than watching You Tube videos or reading silly blogs)

Holy Friday and Saturday 2009

April 24, 2009

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I realize it’s the end of Bright Week, but I just figured out how to download the photos on my camera.  1400 of ’em takes up a lot of room.  Now that I’ve figured that out, the quality of the graphics should improve on this site.

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I won’t swear to the chronological order of these photos.  You know how it is after 6 straight days of lenten services – they all sort of start to flow one into the other, and it’s hard to keep them straight. 

"Kiss the Gospel, kiss the face, kiss the feet"   Fr. L instructing my 7 yo

"Kiss the Gospel, kiss the face, kiss the feet" Fr. L instructing my 7 yo

 

HolySat

Liturgy Holy Saturday

The Lamentations

The Lamentations

I always forget just how long the Holy Friday Lamentations services are.   9 year old still willingly served….not joyfully, but as you can see below, that is just not the look of a serious dedicated altar boy – that look says “my feet are killing me… when is this going to be over?…I’m bored”.

lamentations

"Mom....(insert whine here)...this is taking foreeeevvverrrrr!"

 

The length of Holy Friday Lamentations is only exceeded by the Holy Saturday Liturgy (add a couple chrismations and you’ve got 3 hours).  But it’s an important and special service that I think too many people neglect to come to.  They’re home sleeping in or getting their Pascha baskets ready or cooking, and they miss out on the message and spiritual benefit of the service, as Christ descends into Hades and releases the souls from their imprisonment by Satan.  It is the end of the Old Testament bondage and the beginning of the new life in Christ. 

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Orthodox Internet Radio Ministries In the News

April 23, 2009

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It’s been my belief that the newly emerging Orthodox Internet radio ministries of Ancient Faith Radio  and Orthodox Christian Network  are one of the most dramatic and relevant forces for change, growth and unity in American Orthodoxy today.  Here’s a very nice piece by Amy Rogers  at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the phenomenon of Orthodox Internet media.  Poor Amy seems to have been knocked around a teeny bit  over her one sentence history of Orthodoxy when she boiled down the Great Schism to “Orthodoxy developed in Eastern Europe and Asia when Christianity split into Orthodoxy and Catholicism in 1054, primarily due to conflict over papal authority”.   Well, I’ll take exception to the characterization of the Orthodox Church “developing” only after the split.  I think we were pretty well formed in  AD 33 and only improved with age, but really, it’s nothing we all haven’t done trying to give the condensed version of Orthodoxy to an inquirer.  If we’re Orthodox, though, I think our take on it is that ‘the Roman Catholic Church split from us primarily over the issue of papal authority’.    Amy does what a good journalist should do – she tries to relay the story with a minimum of bias.   If she was writing about Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, she couldn’t very well say “founded on false historical premises by nut jobs” or “not Christian despite their claims to the contrary”. 

Whoever left whom, that’s what makes a schism.  As a very devout Roman Catholic friend and former co-worker told me on more than one occasion, “You’re not a heretic, you’re just a schismatic”.   Woohooo!  I love being a schismatic.

Go listen to some good Orthodox Internet radio today.  And while you’re at it, if you feel it’s done you some good and you can help financially with their ministries, please think about making a donation.  For the good of the American Orthodox Church, these are resources we can’t afford to neglect.

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The Fiesta Shoe Box Float

April 22, 2009

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There…..it’s finished.   This may have been my last shoe box float ever, and from the looks of it, I don’t think I had any intention of going out on a high note.   Thank you to my sister who took her lunch hour yesterday to run over to Fiesta on Main  and get the Fiesta-y nick nacks  (It’s a great store – I get our Pascha piñatas there every year.  The website just doesn’t give you the idea of the amount of cool stuff they have – lots of artwork, Mexican crafts and the best Dia de los Muertos figures and skulls too.)

It’s my opinion, but I believe the greatest, most useful parenting tool isn’t communication or empathy, it’s the hot glue gun.

The Bad Side of Fiesta

April 21, 2009

battle-of-flower-parade

It’s Fiesta week in San Antonio!  Who doesn’t love lots of parades, a gazillion special events, people breaking cascarones over each others’ heads, tons of  food, crazy local royalty whizzing around town with police escorts, the music, just everything.  It’s sometimes a problem though when Fiesta coincides with Orthodox Holy Week and Pascha.  This year’s Fiesta  started on Thursday, April 16th and will continue through Sunday, April 26th, so us local Orthodox Christians only missed out on a couple of days.   A fast free Bright Week is perfect for Fiesta.  In ten days, about 3.5 million people attend multiple events and generally the whole of San Antonio is affected to one degree or another.  Working downtown, I’m right in the thick of it and I’m so glad!

kingantonio

However, one Fiesta event I absolutely detest and procrastinate about and wish could be killed forever,  is the dreaded, headache-inducing, stress-filled FIESTA SHOE BOX FLOAT PARADE!  If you’re a parent you know about this concept.  Schools, preschools and daycare centers feel it must be a fun and educational experience for their children to participate in the local parade madness with their very own, customized, personally decorated, and themed shoe boxes to pull around the school in a mini-parade with strings, mount on little wheels, or pull around in mini wagons.  Who makes the floats?  Certainly not the kids. 

My kids I have been making shoe box floats for Fiesta for 8 years.  Every April I’m caught unaware because of the selective amnesia problem I’ve developed about this project.  Fiesta celebrations have been happening around San Antonio since the first Battle of Flowers Parade in 1891, so you’d think I’d be prepared.  When did I realize I had to make this year’s Fiesta float for my 7 year old?  6:30 am this morning as I cleaned out his backpack.  When is the float due?  Tomorrow morning.   When am I going to run screaming into the street, babbling like an idiot, covered in confetti and gluey tissue paper?  About 10:30 pm tonight.   Watch the news tomorrow morning.  It should be a pretty scary sight.

san-antonio-fiesta-cavalier-parade-queens-float-full1

Metropolitan Jonah Apologizes

April 20, 2009

Hmmm….  I’m not sure what to make of this, but I think my take would be it’s an apology from the messenger, but not an apology about the message.   I concede that my recent hot-headed remarks  were much less charitable than Metropolitan Jonah’s original comments made at St. Seraphim Cathedral, but I hope you will see them in the same light – messenger vs. message.   I can’t change my fervent opinion that American Orthodoxy will ever achieve its full potential under foreign control.  Besides, I can shoot my mouth off with much less effect than a Metropolitan whose every word is weighed on the scales of diplomatic correctness.   Strong wording and you’ve got somebody’s under-riassa in a big wedgie.

Bright Week and Pascha Address of Metropolitan Jonah

April 20, 2009

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Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

I’m spending Bright Monday under the influence of sleep deprivation and a meat-induced food hangover, due to my gluttonous consumption of meat, cheese, sausage, paska, ham, chocolate…did I say meat already?  

It’s hard to write when you’re just emotionally and physically burned-out with the anticipation, joy, stress and type-A busyness of this over-achieving Orthodox Christian who’s just celebrated Pascha.  I shouldn’t complain nearly so much, considering how tired all the priests and deacons must be today.  I always imagined there’d be a market for a Bright Week Clergy Carnival cruise.    An aircraft carrier-sized cruise ship  leaving port in Florida with a boatload of tired clergy wearing Hawaiian print riassas, ordering umbrella drinks and skipping the salads and veggies on the buffet line.

freedom_seas_ship

Well, now for something more edifying, here’s the Paschal address of Metropolitan Jonah.  You’ll notice that I didn’t read his homily before I pigged out the past two days.   After reading this, I am wondering ‘what was the purpose of my lenten journey’?  Did I get so wrapped up at the end with the preparations for a big parish Pascha picnic, or with putting together a Pascha basket of goodies that I had craved and drooled over for 5 weeks?   Busyness, even church busyness, is not Christ’s business.  While he was busy dying on the Cross for my sins and lying in a tomb, I was busy cooking, rushing around to the grocery stores and doing errands in between Holy Friday and Holy Saturday services, and on Pascha morning itself.   Makes you think before you stuff another piece of ham in your mouth, doesn’t it?

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful
of The Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Beloved, let us greet one another with Paschal Joy, and exchange the kiss of peace.

Let us feast soberly, that our joy may be full. Let us not stuff ourselves to satiety with feasting, nor indulge our passions to insensibility. Most of all, let us not give ourselves over to the darkness of the fallen world from which we have sought to purify ourselves, lack of forgiveness, anger and judgment, bitterness and hatred.

Rather, let us allow our old selves to remain crucified and buried, that the New Man may live, resurrected in and with Christ. Let us live according to the Kingdom, in communion with the Holy Spirit, so that we may be renewed by the Resurrection.

Our Pascha is not simply the beautiful services and the good food. It is not just family and Easter bunnies. It is not just the fellowship and familiar old customs.

Pascha is the dawn of the Age to Come, the Kingdom of God radiating into our souls and minds and hearts. Pascha is the experience of salvation itself, the foretaste of the Messianic Banquet, and the transformation of our lives. In Pascha we behold Christ, Risen from the dead, the revelation of the Second Coming.

We have gone with Christ to His Passion, but have we been crucified with Him?

We have held vigil at His Tomb, but were we asleep, and missed Him? Did our minds betray us and we doubt His Resurrection?

Let the fruit of our Lenten efforts be the enlightenment of our minds and the renewal of our hearts that our repentance not be in vain.

Let us sing with joy together with the Angels and Archangels, and all creation which has groaned awaiting the revelation of the Son of Man. With all creation, the living and dead, the spiritual and material, and with all the saints, let us cry:

Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Христос Воскресе из мертвых, смертию смерть поправ, и сущим во гробех живот даровав!

Χριστος ανεστη εκ νεκρων, θανατο θανατον πατησας και της εν τοις μνημασι ζωην χαρισαμενος.

With love and joy in the Risen Christ,

+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South