A New Project

WHEREIN I try blogging in another language. The tagline says “Now I can make typos in two languages.” It’s very simple sentences and I do use Google Translate to check myself – and for more complex constructions. I don’t promise much by way of exciting content. But I hope to be able to get better at it. Here’s a couple of unsolicited adverts.

I’m learning Hebrew using Citizen Cafe Tel Aviv and iTalki. My iTalki Tutor is Shmuel. He’s awesome.

I just adore weather…

JMJ

AND WE’RE HAVING so much of it this year. We don’t get sleet or hail here very often and, since I got here in 1997, I’ve never seen it accumulate. We’re having thunder and lightening. I’ve only heard the former 4 times since 1997. I’ve never seen the latter at all. And a few moments ago all our cellphones went off with a klaxon and then a verbal warning of flash floods “in this area”. That was just before the skies opened up. Very fun.

St Medard, pray for us!

Actually, it is very fun: I love storms with a passion. The Cantor this AM picked the following hymn with which to open the Morning Service. I caught the pastor’s eye and we laughed.

We’ve been in a real drought since 2000… this is wonderful. Nothing is perfect. But this is wonderful.

Christ is Born!

JMJ

JUST home from celebrating the Vesporal Liturgy of St Basil, marking the Eve of the Nativity on the Julian Calendar, aka Russian Christmas. Two and a half hours of Liturgy and then wine, borscht, pirogis, stuffed cabbage, and more wine. Nerdy conversation ensued. Hell, St Faustina, Seraphim Rose, St Augustine…

There were Dominicans and Jesuits in the congregation, praying together – internet jokes aside. Parishioners from the ByzCath parish, together with more than a few visitors, created a joyful crowd. The choir was lovely, the readers were kept busy with 16+ readings, and the incense is filling my beard.

The celebrant (in the hat with his back to us in the photo), Fr Christopher, is the Godson of my old Episcopal Pastor. Everything is all present here. The church is a big tent. God is good, all the time.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

What is a Week End? # 2

JMJ

SORRY TO BE LIGHT in posts recently. I’ve three weeks of Deacon classes in a row, along with all the reading that would normally come over 6 weeks of classes. It’s sacramental theology which is, really, the most un-Orthodox of Western theology. So I’m having to lean in here. That’s just made the weeks really tight. We even had a class on the Saturday after Thanksgiving! But I have more than a few half-baked thoughts for posts running around in my head so it seemed like a good time for an update. This is a lot of different things…

Bible Nerding

There are two ways to say “have mercy on me” in Hebrew: racham na רחם נא and channeni חנני. The latter means something like “have grace on me”. We can imagine asking God to pour down from the heavens. More interestingly, the former speaks of the uterus. This is where the King James Version talks about the “bowels of mercy”. We can imagine asking God to let one curl up in a fetal position and be comforted. “Hold me while I cry, God.” What came to me as I was just looking into these two words – not really looking for anything in specific – was the passage from John 3 where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about being “born from above”. In John 3:4, Nakdimon said to him, “How can a grown man be ‘born’? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?” And Yeshua’s reply includes the eventual rebuke, “You hold the office of teacher in Isra’el, and you don’t know this?” (John 3:10) and it came to me that perhaps the Elder from the Sanhedrin was making a comment about God’s mercy (racham) with the Son’s “born from above” reply indicating God’s grace (chanan). Are we seeing humorous wordplay between the two rabbis?

A second bit of this nerdery on another topic: Marc, my formation classmate called out Genesis 22:8 where most translations saying something like, “God, himself, will provide a lamb” or even “provide a lamb himself” but the Hebrew actually says “God will provide to himself a lamb”. The echos of God the Son as Atonement increasing here.

Related but not, my second semester in Hebrew started tonight. My teacher is Avigail.

Meat Pumpkin

My Savory Side Dish came out quite tasty but I’m not quite blind enough to imagine the taste was for everyone. The spices were very Victorian. Which is to say strong. I think next time I might try it with my stuffing rather than a Victorian Christmas theme. Only one person at the Thanksgiving Party said “Three Cheers for the Meat Pumpkin!” I felt like Great Aunt Cecilia. (St Dom’s inside joke.)

I have tried the Figgy Pudding Spam. It’s very tasty. I can’t think of a single thing to do with it. It’s not right for crackers or breakfast. It would not be a thing for a sandwich at all. Maybe whizzed up with some Duke’s and used as a spread? I don’t know. I’m going to leave it alone. It’s Advent as of today on the Julian calendar.

Rebyz

Working at a Byzantine Catholic Church I’m re-exploring Eastern Christian spirituality. My first thought is God has brought me to where I am through where I’ve been. The things that didn’t feed me at one time now do. The things that drew me on, now push me forward. I’ve been hearing the Orthodox theologians “of my youth” (by which I mean my early middle-age) coming out of the mouths of the teachers of my old age. When a Catholic quotes an Orthodox are we breathing with two lungs?

I never was Old Calendar as an Orthodox. Here I am, Old Calendar Catholic. How does that happen?

God’s sense of humor.

Shout out to my friends. All the love. These were taken at my birthday party in September, but I have some amazing friends and stumbling across these made me smile all over again.

Weekend Update

JMJ

Just a few photos, really.

Chillin with a deacon
This tastes like a Blue Icee
After class tonight I took a walk. There was fog.
First Christmas Tree sighting, 2022.
Gotta work hard to get all your steps after 6 hours of class. 7.5 miles.

What is a Week End?

JMJ

THE DOWAGER COUNTESS of Downton Abbey rather famously asked, “What is a Week End?” Ascending high enough up the ladder of nobility, at a certain point the difference between work and life no longer matters: one is always The Dowager Countess of Downton even when other folks have “down time”. Vocation is like that: one is always the (fill in the blank) of the Parish Name even on (especially on) the Weekend. This comes to me now: the boundary between work and life are blurred, but in an entirely healthy way. I nearly never stop praying about work or worrying about guests, wondering if I should change something or thinking about the situation in the parish. This is not to say I should be on call 24 Hours (or that any parish appointee/employee should be) but if it’s a vocation rather than a job, then there is no time when one is not one’s job.

Boundaries are always something that has been important to me: I need to see where work quits and where life begins. But in the case of vocation that’s not the question. One is always whatever one’s vocation is: even when one is at work, one is at play, one is still whoever one is in God’s eyes at all time. It’s like marriage in that sense: there’s no moment when one is not married to your spouse. To wake up and pretend otherwise (even for a few moments) is literally preparing for sin.

Speaking of sin, the question of celibacy has been weighing on me. To be ordained as a deacon, I have to take a vow of celibacy. This means forswearing the good of Marriage. That said, I’m surprised at the number of folks who say I can’t get married nor can I forswear Marriage because of same-sex attraction, as if experiencing a certain temptation means one cannot participate in the Mystery of Matrimony. I’m surprised at how widespread that idea is: as if I’m ontologically unable to make vows. For millennia men and women who experience SSA went out and got married. They also had children. These men and women are no different from the men and women who do not experience this temptation. They are the same human persons. Marriage is as much a salve for their souls as it is for anyone else. In fact, it may literally be the answer for most Catholics with SSA. God gave us all of the sacraments, all of the Holy Mysteries, to bring us to him, to make us like him.

The Sacrament of Matrimony is not a permission to have (or a blessing on) sexual activity, but rather an action of salvation in the world. We misuse some of God’s gifts outside of Matrimony, yes, but the end and purpose of Matrimony is not to sacramentalize those gifts. Rather those gifts feed into Matrimony to make it a mystery that speaks of Christ and the Church. Matrimony is a sign, a sacrament. It is the Ordinary form: a sign of Christ and the Church. But not all are called to it: there is an extraordinary form, also a sign of Christ and the Church, and it is a vow of celibacy. This last is an eschatological sign, a sign of the Church in heaven and eternity. It can be lived here and now by God’s grace. One forgoes the ordinary form of the sign to participate in the extraordinary form. One freely gives up the channel of grace provided to every man and woman – monogamous heterogamy – to engage in a vowed state of aloneness, what is called in Greek, μονᾰχός monakhos, which has come to mean “monasticism” but originally meant “singleness” or “aloneness”. St Ephrem the Syrian is one of the first “monakhos”, but he was not a vowed monastic as we understand that term. He simply wished to forgo the goods of marriage an explorer a closer relationship with God. It is (as it was) a mystical state of a man or woman living in the world alone with no one else except God. And therefore, available to share God’s love with everyone.

He was also a deacon.

But if one imagines one’s identity to be beyond the pale of marriage, then one cannot make a vow of celibacy. Since all humans are called (in nature) to Marriage, to place oneself beyond marriage is to make oneself unnatural or contra naturam (Latin.) or παρα φυσιν para physin (Greek) as St Paul says. One has crossed the boundary into something else. (Please note that the naturam or φυσιν here does not imply “things that happen in nature”. Literally anything that happens happens in nature. Rather what is implied is within the natural law: the use of things as intended by God and evidenced in nature. Fallen nature does a lot of things not intended by God.

Within nature, one can engage in one’s fallen nature, making up new identities and whatnot. Or one can seek to elevate nature beyond what is now normal, and even beyond what is now the intended (but generally rejected) divine order of things. One can seek to elevate oneself to a higher order: that of the eschaton even in this world.

That’s celibacy.

I got a couple of cool things: this translation of The Imitation of Christ from the 1930s (reprinted in the early 1960s). It has a thematic plan to read the whole thing in a year.

Also, I got this rather wonderful Cross from a Deacon friend:

I think it’s carved, but I guess it could be formed or sculpted of some kind of material. It’s a lovely representation of the Holy Face on the Cross. It’s now in my icon corner.

It’s still hard to be the one in charge. Today was no exception. Tomorrow I have a homily to present and a BBQ to attend. It’s the weekend. after all.

I’ve been watching an Israel Comic and trying to read/listen along. I hear some words – but I don’t get any jokes yet. I like when he does his mother’s voice, though.

Update OK… I totally get the part about the kholodetz.