:: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 ::
Caring in LA
:: Thursday, June 22, 2006 ::
As James pointed out today, people should care about their local communities. Yesterday, on my second day of class as a new student at UCLA, I encountered someone who cared.
As one walks toward the UCLA medical center, there is a small brick boarder that rises above the walkway a scant two inches. As I was walking back from purchasing a week’s worth of groceries on my second day at UCLA, I discovered this boarder in a very ‘up-close’ way.
I stepped. The ground wasn’t there. Tearing sounds in ankle. Pain. Lots. So, now I’m sitting on the ground somewhat in the middle of a busy walkway. After my second try to stand up (I think I passed out, but I’m not sure), tears were coming so fast from my eyes I could not see to even get out of the middle of the walk. So, here I am in a place where I know precisely no one. I don’t even know my own home phone number! I have large bags of groceries, no cell phone, and possibly a broken ankle; anyway, I can’t even stand up.
I must look great at this point, because a very nice stranger comes over and asks if I’m OK. I try to lie (damn my pride!), but it didn’t work. She offers me her cell phone to call someone; I call D, who goes to UCLA, but he does not pick up his phone. So, she took her time to call around, find the number of a cab, and call the cab. Even more? Just as she is walking away, D sees a number he doesn’t know on his cell phone. So, he called this stranger’s cell phone and asked for me by name (he said that he guessed it was my new LA number, so he asked for me??). She turns around, comes back to me, and hands me the phone. As far as I am concerned, she wins the caring award for helping a random stranger in a lot of pain. That’s a good Samaritan.
Anyway, D and I spent the whole rest of the afternoon at the ER. He should also win and award; with no notice, he stopped what he was doing, drove over to where I was, took me to the ER, and then back to my place. Again, that’s caring.
Glory to God, I’m fine. I have a bad sprain, some crutches, drugs, and orders to stay off of my foot for a week (!). But I am very thankful to the people, including a stranger, who took the time to care.
Glory to God!
:: 4:02 PM on
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
“…You’ll end up having more…”
:: Sunday, June 18, 2006 ::
“Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.”
The other day after vespers, I found myself with some extra time alone in church: I had nothing else to do, and I was relatively sure that everyone who might otherwise wander in was at the parish council meeting next door. So, I decided to sing the Paraklesis to the Virgin.
Then I started thinking: for whom shall I sing this? The Paraklesis is usually offered in a time when one desires the special protection and comfort of the Mother of God. Since I really don’t have any pressing prayer needs, the first thing I could think of was to pray for the family of the fatality in a car accident that afternoon which had snarled traffic and closed the road I take home from work. Then I got greedy: I was doing the praying, the singing --- I was sacrificing my time, so I should get the blessing. When I pray to the saints and ‘work’ for their blessings, I want to be the only recipient of their graces. I want to be the one who is most blessed. I want to know that I can earn blessings by doing something, be that singing, praying, fasting, charity, or any other number of Pharisaical actions.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. Over and over again I must repeat to myself that this whole grace thing is…well, grace, and cannot be earned. Even better, if I give it away, I get more. In a carnal and perhaps petty way, the act of prayer is an act of discipline in itself, and helps to work against my chronically hard heart and stiff neck. And since blessings are not objectively measurable, the act of prayer may be as much as blessing as to be the object of the request of the prayer. In praying for others, I am receiving the blessings for myself. “Love is something if you give it away…”
In the end, however, I must remember who and what I am: the grace, the reward, the blessing, comes from God, not by my works, but by his grace. Maybe if I keep working on it, someday I’ll get what St. Paul says: it is not by my works that I am saved, but by the grace of God…
Glory to God!
:: 9:45 PM on
Thursday, June 22, 2006
:: Thursday, June 15, 2006 ::
Other then pray, what do we do? In case you haven't heard the news...
Glory to God!
:: 6:09 PM on
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Death To The World…Again
:: Sunday, June 11, 2006 ::
Technically, my SF is a hieromonk; he is a monk who is ordained as a priest. The other day, however, as I drove up to his monastery to ‘hang out,’ I was surprised to see a baptism service just beginning. Of course, I joined in the singing of the beautiful service, but somehow, it felt out of place.
In an article I wrote while in Oxford, I pointed out what I believe to be the fundamental incompatibility of monasticism with the priesthood. Rather then rehash that, I would like to reflect on the sacrifice that ordained monastics, especially in modern America, must undergo. Monastics save the world by silence, by prayer, and by re-incarnating Christ in all their actions; priests by their examples, preaching, and the sacraments. I know my own SF was tonsured with the intent of staying at Simona Petra his whole life; various circumstances, however, landed him in America and got him ordained to the priesthood. And while the monastic tonsure is a permanent thing (meaning he wears that funny veil), being able to live as a monk is not. Father is a pastor now, not a monk. He is constantly on the phone, counseling, confessing, or just dealing with the “stray” people who come to see him (including myself). Another Athonite monk was visiting Father a few weeks ago; a babushki living by the monastery described this visitor as “translucent, almost so you could see through him.” She says she remembered when Father was like that; now, however, he is a full-time pastor, preacher, teacher (his favorite job!), and fund-raiser (to rebuild the monastery).
If the sacrifice one makes to become a monk is difficult, imagine the sacrifice one makes to stop being a monk and become a pastor. The pressures of the world with none of the perks; the struggle of monasticism with none of the benefits! It is literally the sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of the salvation of others. I am sure we all know a few hieromonks who are more or less not monkish anymore. Thank them for their double sacrifice, and pray for them!
Glory to God!
:: 9:21 PM on
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Too Smart For My Own Stupid Good
:: Tuesday, June 06, 2006 ::
Sometimes, random people ask me random theology questions. The other day, a co-worker, knowing I am a theology student, asked me if I believed in the Biblical account of creation. I hesitated, specifically not saying what was on the tip of my tongue: “Do you mean a literal six-day thingy that happened around 6000 years ago?” The asker was a self-proclaimed agnostic, although came from a Catholic background. How should I respond?
As I hesitated, I had a sudden epiphany about the roots of liberal theology. I wanted to say, “No, not as strictly and exactly as to be a literalist about it.” But at the same time, I knew that any faith she has (and I think she has more then she gives herself credit for) would be severely injured if someone who “knew” theology denied this simple doctrine. Perhaps it is only in my pride that I perceive this, but it seems as if people ask me theological questions, knowing I study theology. And usually the simple-sounding questions are quite deep: “Do you believe in Hell? In heaven? What happens when we die? I asked Jesus into my heart when I was six; am I saved? What is Communion? Are there three gods or one? Where were we before we were born?” And I am aware of the power that I have to either build up their faith or rip it to pieces with evident scorn and theologically-lofty sounding arguments they have no hope of answering.
This is the root of liberalism. The complex questions must be communicated to the masses so that they have ‘canned’ Christianity. It is too difficult to teach people about the dogma of the dual natures of Christ, or the threeness-oneness of the Trinity. Even with as many books as I have read on the subject, I still shrug at questions about heaven or hell asking for anything more then generalities. People want theologians to be smart and have the answers to un-answerable questions. And even lay theologians will sooner or later realize their power over the potential spiritual lives of their non-theologically learned associates. So, they make it simple. It is much easier to say, “No, I don’t believe in creation. The Bible’s just bunk,” then to say, “Well…let me try to explain,” or worse yet, “I don’t know.” And so liberal theology begins.
Of course, liberal theologians desire that laymen have the exact opposite impression of them: Laymen should think that liberals, in their obviously massive intellects have rationalized away ‘minor details’ like the divinity of Christ or the Persons of the Trinity. Laymen should think that liberal intellectual theologians have no time for the unsophisticated beliefs which reign in simple, pious parishes with no great theologians to lead them from the darkness of their faith to the light of atheism.
If my learning and intellectual theology leads me to this liberalism, then I am damned. As horrifying as the thought is to me, I even see the seeds of this in myself. Thankfully, a good, simple, pious priest offered me a good, simple, pious solution to this: humility. See, if the learned theologians can say to the simple laymen “I don’t know,” or “It’s very complex, but, yes, you can and should believe in the six-day creation,” without sounding haughty or condescending, then he will win that soul one step closer to God. Of course, this is where humility hurts: the liberals have their “canned” answer: They look smart, we look stupid. But we have the Truth, and that’s what matters.
Glory to God!
:: 7:05 PM on
Sunday, June 11, 2006
I find myself with no time this summer for anything: I barely make it too church! Between work (8 hours/day), the bus (4 hours/day), and the time it takes me to eat and get ready for work the next day, I find myself with about 30 minutes of time each day…
…the majority of which I spend forcing myself not to complain.
I’ll post more when I have the time…
Glory to God!
:: 9:47 PM on
Tuesday, June 06, 2006