Saturday, November 29, 2008

Apostle Andrew, the Holy and All-Praised First-Called

Troparion - Tone 4

Andrew, first-called of the Apostles
and brother of the foremost disciple,
entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world
and to our souls great mercy.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Savior's disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:
"Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dona Nobis Pacem

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Today Eastern Orthodox Christians start the Nativity Fast, the most important fast besides Lent. In the West we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent on 30 November. This period leads up to Christmas, when God was born to a Virgin, culminating the Old Testament prophecies and bringing us our long awaited Saviour. What it also means for me is no meat or dairy for awhile. Oh well, too bad I don't like fish. I'll survive...


Before pontificating in the last few posts, I probably should have updated my situation. After leaving Las Vegas (the movie and song popped in my head more than once) I drove my little Saturn with all of my possessions in it to Ft. Jackson, SC, where I attended Army Chaplain School in July and August. At the end of August I drove up North to Yonkers, NY, where I currently reside as a student at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, pursuing my Master of Divinity degree. Since I was commissioned in March as a Chaplain Candidate, I would become (God willing) an Orthodox Christian Army Chaplain upon graduation and ordination. Some seminarians have very in-depth blogs about seminary life, and I will find their links. Any questions? I promise to write more frequently, and also to discuss saints and church feasts.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Proposition 8

“This fight isn't about a group of nameless people who want to wreck traditional marriage. Rather, this is about the people that are near and dear to us, share in our laughter, hold us when we cry and help to make our world such a beautiful place. Please consider that when you read my request.” This quote is from a friend’s blog (

I am torn about this issue in so many ways. My life has been eternally moved by those gay people I know and love inside and outside the church. I have not taken a position on the Proposition. My church has. My gay friends have as well, and predictably, the two do not hold the same view. First, let me say that I believe my church’s teachings to be true, even when I personally struggle with them. Marriage has traditionally held to be the bedrock of civilization. Of course, like much of our culture, it too has been debased. Most marriages end in divorce, and have for awhile. Unfortunately we live in an age of relative morality. Some would say post-modern, or post post-modern. I understand these categories but refuse to classify myself as one (but that’s a different post). The fact that in many states gay couples are given the same legal rights as straight couples, and that all sodomy laws were abolished shows that the state has come a long way legally speaking. But the old Roman axiom that we live in a land of laws and not men is only partially true. There are many people who are rejoicing at the passage of Prop. 8. Is it inherently fair that people be granted the right to marry, and all the state and privileges that follow, to have those rights taken away the very next day? Apparently that is the will of the people, along with tens of millions of dollars from the Mormon Church. What of Ballot Question #2 in Florida, which seemingly outlaws both civil unions and domestic partnerships for all unwed couples? It is difficult to draw the line between faith and state, but not being able to visit a loved one in the hospital or share property rights? That is where I draw the line, at the very least. Tonight I saw a video of a ‘No on 8’ rally in Palm Springs, FL where an old lady was attacked by a mob of protestors. I strongly disagree with those tactics and they should be condemned. Naturally the media will play to the worst of both sides and there will also be awful generalizations – each side with passion, boiling into hatred.
I used to support gay marriage from a conservative perspective, arguing that it is best for anyone to be in a long term, committed relationship. I don’t see how anyone would disagree about the long term relationship part. I suppose my views on this issue have changed since I have become more of an orthodox Christian. However, I will always decry the silence and taboo that surrounds an honest conversation about homosexuality and being gay in general. That silence is deadly and just plain wrong. Of course, that silence is often obscured on both sides by those shouting vitriol, and using prejudice and innuendo to keep love from shining forth. I wish speaking the truth in love and finding that balance wasn’t so difficult – but it is. What if one is technically “right” but had no love in their heart? How does that profit them? And is this just about propositions and legal measures? May we love the way God loves us. O Come, Emmanuel, to ransom captive Israel.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I’ve been impressed by all those at seminary who are called to sacrifice. I was struck by something that a prospective student at the seminary said, which was, “everyone here suffers.” I suppose that is what we are there for. I am so fascinated with the idea of struggle (not just an idea of course). The Russians seems to know it well. Eastern religion says that life = struggle, with nothing beyond that. In the last few centuries the West has tried to struggle without God, ie-existentialism, nihilism, Puritanism, which leads to libertinism. Of course, even with these philosophies, as well as “atheism” and “agnosticism,” people are still struggling and yearning for the divine. We are taught not to struggle – from every kind of cosmetic surgery imaginable to an individual’s “pursuit of happiness” being the ideal. A life-changing moment occurred for me when I realized that my struggles are to be transfigured for my salvation – not to be glorified, not to be ignored, but used. God uses all for his benefit. As the psalm says, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.” As Christ said, “If the disciples were quieted the stones would cry out.” Everything groans in travail, waiting for our Saviour to come again. My priest said last year that we are each given a gift from God. Some of us are given the gift to preach with their words. Others are given the gift of bearing burdens. Still, others are given the gift of tears. Some monks spend decades in monasteries crying for the world. Why are we taught not to cry? Why are we so afraid to be weak? As Paul said, “it’s in our weakness that we are strong.” It’s a temptation in Christianity to not constantly be amazed by the fact that our Lord became a man, and died on a tree (cross) and took on our struggle and sin. Forgive me for not being more grateful. Forgive me for at times losing hope. May this weak and broken vessel be used for a small contribution, and may God remember us all in His Kingdom.


Fitting, the connection between Martin Luther King Day and Obama’s election victory.
Only in America can a man, during his lifetime, not be allowed to use a public restroom in certain parts of the country, to becoming the leader of the land. This is also the first time that I have voted for a winner, which is nice. I’ve become interested in the interaction of Christianity and politics. I’ve heard various arguments of which candidate is the “Christian” candidate. I’ve mostly heard it from the “religious right.” There are many people who vote based on certain wedge issues such as gay marriage or abortion. I am pleased that some Christians now recognize that being pro-life means protecting all life, not just the unborn. People have yearned for a candidate that brings people together and can bridge the partisan divide. People want something, and someone, to believe in. President-elect Obama should be careful when he speaks of saving the world, but also should those who call him the Anti-Christ, for goodness sake. I recall after 2000 everything being divided into red or blue. I’ve been increasingly disgusted with the division, vitriol, and focus on the personal lives of candidates. I believe in civic virtue and ideas transcending bitter partisanship. I recall my freshman year in college when a world opened up to me after reading Greek political philosophy. (I realize now that was part of my search for the truth that has lead me to religion, and eventually to Orthodox Christianity) However, I’m reminded that politics is something of the world, and will be influenced by that. Sure, we pray for our leaders and our ‘God protected land,’ but we must focus on what is eternal and rely on that for our security.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy…This is your victory. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead…we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime…The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America…I promise you – we as a people will get there…I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand…Let us remember…in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people…the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."~President-Elect Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day (from WWI). It is also the one year anniversary of my chrismation into the Orthodox Church. I am constantly amazed at the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make for their country, their God, and to the man to the right and left of them in combat. They are my true heroes and may their memories be eternal.