Archive for September, 2009

Monday Smile and Parish History

September 28, 2009

Hierarchy_and_dog

I love this photo!  It was posted on Interfax News last week and simply titled “Meeting of the Honorary Guest”.   No story or information of any kind, just a photo of a dog that showed up at some fancy Russian church function.   I can’t imagine a cat getting the kind of smiles this earnest, jovial looking dog gets from the assembled clergy (and I’m a cat lover!).   

This reminds me of a story that I heard about my own parish.  I first showed up at the mission parish of St. Anthony’s in August 1990 (and just never left!).   St. Anthony’s had purchased the rundown, ramshackle historic church building in 1982; a building that our long-time priest affectionately said had all “the charm of a VFW hall”.  You had to really be called by the Holy Spirit to find Orthodoxy in that building.   Cracked, green linoleum floors, a dropped and drooping suspended tile ceiling (covering the 17 ft. high barrel ceiling hidden above), and floors that were not supported by the rotted pier and beam foundation.  This was after the initial, bare bones conversion of the historic Alfred Giles church from its years of neglect and decline.  The previous owners, a holy roller, pentecostal group, had even covered up the walls and windows with cheap, painted panelling. 

Anyway, the story goes that one  hot evening during Saturday Vespers, all the doors and windows of the church had been opened up to catch any slight, cooling breeze.  Mind you, this building was so old that it did not have any air-conditioning or heating aside from a couple of window units and space heaters that could not possibly do the job.   On this hot, South Texas evening, in walked a lanky, stray dog that casually sauntered into the nave, walked around to all the icon stands, then just as casually walked right back out the open door.    It seemed so natural that no one either had the presence of mind to shoo out the dog or stop him from venerating the icons.  He was respectful and well-behaved and just stopping by to pay a visit. 

This past weekend’s festivities reminded me of this story and so many more.   I spent the past three days attending St. Anthony’s 30th Anniversary Celebration.   It was 30 years ago, in the month of September 1979, that the first organized Liturgy was celebrated  by the core group that formed our parish.   I’ve been privileged to witness the last 19 of those 30 years, and there’s no end of the stories we spent reminiscing about this weekend – funny, sad, maddening, and inspiring.  It was 19 years ago last month that I showed up at Saint Anthony’s for my first ever Orthodox Liturgy in that less-than grandiose space, but I knew immediately that God and his Holy Church were there.  The Liturgy was the worship of heaven and no amount of VFW Hall character could hide that beauty.  I was home and in God’s own time I will die in “my home”.   There is no substitute for the peace of knowing where you belong in life.

God bless Saint Anthony Orthodox Church, its mission in San Antonio, Texas, its priests and the parishioners who have been my friends, my family and my examples of Christ-like behavior.

 Saint Anthony

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The Life in Print of a Self-Professed Abortion Addict

September 21, 2009

Irene Vilar

There are no words to describe how disturbing and disturbed this woman’s life is.  I had a hard time just getting through the news article (in part, because there seemed to be so little horror associated with the actions taken by Irene Vilar and the other women described).   If you read it strictly from a pro-life point of view, you will be shocked at the sheer number of dead children sacrificed at this woman’s altar of self-deceit and neuroses.  

Is it any wonder that a woman this screwed up was unable to break the cycle of violence against her own children?   The sheer disfunctionality and self-professed psychological disturbance of Irene Vilar does not make her actions excusable but it does make you sickly sympathetic for a human being who is so far removed from normality.  It will be easy for pro-life supporters to condemn Irene Vilar, but the higher calling is to pray for her redemption.   (It’s rather sad that she claims to have found peace and happiness only through a “good” marriage.  I pray that her ultimate peace came through repentance and a right relationship with God, but it’s unclear from the article.)

Pro Lifers, save your more virulent condemnation for Random House Publishing that chose to push this book as another abortion sympathy-generator for women misguided and abused by modern society.  It’s never a case of sinful personal choice and a loss of moral groundedness, it’s always someone or something else that pushes a woman into an abortion clinic.  Capitalism, the Sexual Revolution, discrimination, racism, abuse, a bad marriage, no marriage, low self-esteem, poverty or peer pressure.   Want to make a bet that if all these influences were miraculously “cured”, that abortion would still continue?  The only ultimate cure for the disease of abortion is a spiritual one. 

Orthodox Conference on Missions and Evangelism 2009

September 17, 2009

Now posted on Ancient Faith Radio are the talks given at the recent Conference on Missions and Evangelism sponsored by the Antiochian Archdiocese.   This has been a very succesful, enthusiastically attended conference, attracting a Who’s Who of Orthodoxy, particularly well known converts.  The frank, heartfelt responses of Metropolitan Jonah to a variety of questions about Orthodox unity, missions and relations with the Oriental Orthodox churches are very edifying.  Every word I’ve  heard from Metropolitan Jonah has the power to move me in so many positive ways.   I always come away with a renewed sense of commitment and love for Orthodoxy and the Church in this country.  What a blessing he is for American Orthodoxy.

Mission Aborted for the Rocket Man

September 16, 2009

 elton-john-z04

I had a really hard time deciding which pseudo-celeb news story deserved remorseless skewering – Jessica Simpson’s Fifi dog served up as a coyote snack or Kate Gosselin’s hairstyle contribution to world peace and the cure for cancer.   Instead I had to go with Elton John’s skewering by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over his intention to adopt a child with his “partner”, David Furnish.

The message conveyed by Fr. Georgy Gulyaev of the Donetsk Diocese couldn’t be any more clear – homosexuality is a sin and the homosexual family is a distortion of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and biblical nature of the family. 

“The Church is strictly against same-sex marriages and the damage they cause. It’s written in Holy Scriptures that homosexual marriage and relations is a sin.

“It is a sin, it is against nature, and it represents the dead end of human development.

“People pretend to have good intentions, create semi-marriages and so-called families, and moreover they dare to adopt children. Unlike people who are blessed by God to create natural families, these are people who succumb to their passions.

“This is definitely a sin, there is no other word for it, and the church will never agree that people who have created same-sex “marriage” could also dare to adopt children.

“This applies to all, including Elton John. He is a sinner.”

The photos accompanying the news story are sure to be great sympathy generators for Elton John, and I don’t doubt he has a genuine desire to parent this child.   The parental urge is hard-wired into our human psyche by the same God who created the natural inclination for male-female relations and the nurturing of children within the male-female home.  This poor baby deserves that loving, caring, traditional family, i.e. a married man and woman.  

Sadly, there ain’t nothing anyone can say to Elton John that’s going to change his mind, and he’s sure to be backed by the righteous indignation of the Rainbow Mafia, which will not stop until traditional family values have been insinuated, legislated and bullied out of society. 

God bless the strength of the Orthodox Church to stand up for the faith and historic teachings of the Church.

And the skies opened…

September 10, 2009

For all my friends in South Texas and beyond, I thought we’d have a multiple choice quiz today.  Look at the photos below and answer the following questions.

Sorry, bad photo but this is out my office windows with a cell phone

Sorry for the bad photo, but this is out my office windows with a cell phone. That is not my dour, brooding, face you see reflected in the window; that's my hand.

Question #1:  What is the substance you see falling out of the sky and accumulating on the ground?   (a)  Manna    (b)   lollipops and candies   (c)  radioactive fallout   (d) unknown foreign substance   (e)  rain

“E” is the correct answer; give yourself 10 points.  However, if you said “d”,  I know you’re from Texas.   Award yourself 20 points – you were handicapped by the lack of experience and living memory of such an event.

umbrella

Question #2:   What is the object above?    (a)  a sun shade  (b) a safety device to protect against nuclear fallout   (c)  an umbrella

If you answered “c”, you are correct.  10 points!    Texans who picked “a”, however, should also receive 10 points for their clever multi-task approach to the use of an umbrella.  I actually could only find one in our house  yesterday when this wet stuff started – grown-ups got the use of that one.  Kids, having hardly seen rain in the past 18 months, would greatly benefit from the experience of walking in the wet stuff.

Question #3:   View the photos below and choose “a” or “b”.  What is the normal color of a suburban lawn?

Photo "a"  This is the color green

Photo "a" This is the color green

Photo "b" -  this is the color of drought, it also makes a crunchy sound

Photo "b" - this is the color of drought, it also makes a crunchy sound

If you chose Photo “a”, add another 10 points to your total.  If you chose Photo “b”, well….you’re right too.  That is the normal color of a suburban yard in South Texas.   If you live ’round here and your yard looks like Photo “a”, all the neighbors know you bin violatin’ the waterin’ restric’shuns and we ain’t gonna waste our time calling the water cops.  We’re gonna find the biggest dead tree (also not too hard ’round here) and string ya up.

Only 28″ more to go and we’ll have caught up with our normal precipitation for the past 2 years. Yes, since January 2008, we are down 28″ of normal rainfall. So you can understand why this is such an event of biblical scale. I believe I’ll go walk down the Riverwalk for lunch and experience it myself. In the meantime keep praying for more of the same.

 
An old Texas prayer for rain
 
Dear Lord, please send us some rain.  Not so much for me, mind ya, cuz I’ve seen it.   But for my 7 year old son.   Amen.

09/09/09

September 9, 2009
JoachimAnna

This icon clearly depicts the advanced age of Saint Joachim and Anna at the time of Mary's childhood. According to Holy Tradition, Saint Joachim was 60 and Saint Anna was 59 when Mary was born; both died ten years after her birth.

Everyone seems to be obsessed with the numerical oddity, some would say auspiciousness, of today’s date.   Weddings, lottery tickets sales, and lucky births are all being blessed with the smiling face of fortune today.

I hope you haven’t gotten caught up in this superstitious nonsense, and may I suggest an alternative blessing for this date?  Orthodox Christians observe September 9th as the feast of the parents of Mary, the Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God, falling naturally the day after the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (8th).   Since becoming a mother I’ve always had a special devotion to Saint Anna and I believe through her intercessions that I have been blessed.   It was to Saint Anna that I prayed through two difficult pregnancies and I continue to ask for her help whenever I have a special concern with my children.   Random sequences of numbers just can’t give you that kind of peace!

Most Holy Ancestress of Christ, pray for us!

Anna rejoices, released from her barrenness,
and nurses her most pure child.
She calls all people to glorify Him
Who gave the Virgin Mother to mankind from her womb.

                                                                  Kontakion Tone 2

Church Vandalism

September 2, 2009

broken-glass

You know how you always think bad things could never happen to you?  Well, crime struck very close to home for me and all my fellow parishioners today at Saint Anthony’s.   Vandals broke into our church early this morning, shattering plate glass windows in our narthex and damaging all of the wooden doors leading into the sanctuary. 

If you read the comments posted on the news story above you’ll notice one reader had the following snide remark, “Guess God and all his saints were asleep on the job”.  I beg to differ.  We can be thankful to God and his saints for the protection they gave us.   The potential for destruction and desecration could have been catastrophic.  

I’d also like to believe that the perpetrators were somehow touched by the presence of God in our Church.  Did they stop their rampage consciously?  Was their glimpse of the beauty in that darkened temple enough to make them hesitate?   Unless they’re caught we may never know until the next life how these, I presume, teenagers’ lives turned out.   All we can do is pray for them now and ask God to change their hearts. 

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels! Praise Him, all His host! Praise Him, sun and moon! Praise Him, all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For He commanded and they were created. And He established them for ever and ever; He fixed their bounds which cannot be passed. Praise the Lord from earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling His command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all His saints, for the people of Israel who are near Him. Praise The Lord!