Krsna Slava: St Richard of Wessex

The Serbian Orthodox have a custom of a Family Saint, a guardian, who is feasted every year with an heroic act of Hospitality, the Krsna Slava. I’m not Serbian, of course, and American converts don’t have such customs, but my family, the Richardsons, are not Orthodox. Neither are we related to St Richard of Wessex: but it seems good to have such a feast and to invoke the prayers of the saints for my family, living and departed, so, being the oldest male in this part of the clan, I think I’ll claim one for us.

St Richard, King of Wessex and Confessor, is celebrated on 7 February, the date of his falling asleep in the Lord in AD 722.

More than any other race, the Anglo Saxons are distinguished for the royal patronage bestowed upon the Christian Church, and for the way in which kings and their families have worked in the spreading of the gospel in their own lands and overseas. St. Richard and his family are outstanding examples. He was one of the kings or princes of Wessex, related to the royal house of Kent, and married to Winna, herself a descendant of Cerdic and aunt to Boniface of Crediton.

Richard was brought up as a Christian and his faith was real and firm. When his eldest son Willibald was three years old, the child fell grievously ill, and there seemed to be no hope for his recovery. His father wrapped him in a blanket and, mounting his horse, rode out into the night to a wayside crucifix at a crossroads near to the village where they lived… Richard placed the child at the foot of the cross and knelt in prayer, pleading for his son’s life. Willibald did recover, and two years later he was entrusted to Egbald, the abbot of Warham, near Winchester, to be trained.

When Willibald reached manhood, he returned to his family with a desire to spread the faith abroad, and persuaded his father and brother to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land. 

When Richard had renounced his royal estate, he set sail with his two sons from Hamblehaven near Southampton. They made a leisurely progress through France, spending time at various Christian centres including Rouen, and it seems that at some time during their journey Richard took monastic vows.

Shrine of St Richard in Lucca

They reached Italy and came to Lucca, where the Cathedral had been built by an Irish monk called Frigidian, but known by the local inhabitants as Frediano. Richard, who was growing old and had become infirm during his travels, now succumbed to the heat and died.

When I began researching various saints named Richard who were Orthodox, I’d no idea I’d find one whose feast was so soon (literally the same week I sat down to do it) so here we are: our first Krsna Slava with no party save SF Beer Week Opening Gala (tonight) for which I have long had tickets, so we had Pizza & wings last night.  But next year this will be a party.  And maybe house-blessing weekend.  I’m looking forward to adapting the custom: I think my American Slava Bread would have to be Soda Bread.  We do put a cross on it, after all.

This year I couldn’t book a Panikhida on such short notice, so on the 15th there will be one at 5:30 PM for all the departed in my family (biological and pneumological) at the Cathedral: and I will host a bit of Refreshment after the Vigil that evening. Locals are, of course, invited! Of your charity I ask your prayers for:

Kenneth, Bessie Mae, Walter, Edward, Katherine, James, Gregory, Raymond, Matthew, Mills, Bernard, Timothy, William, Linda, Paul, Brian, Michelle, Edward, Elsa, Raymond, Grace, Sheila-Mary

Indeed, not all of them are Orthodox: only one.  But God can handle that.

An honest story Pt 1

On a new (to me) site called “Spiritual Friendship”, Wesley Hill asks The is Church Homophobic – True or False?? There are a couple of begs there: define “Church” and define “Homophobic”. I’ll venture both of those questions will be just as cantankerous depending on where one stands. What I’m sure of is that if you’re inside the church (gay or not) your definition of both is theological. If you’re outside the church (gay or not) your definition of “church” is “all those Christians” without regard to stripe or denomination. Your definition of “homophobia” is probably some version of “saying that ‘gay is sinful’. If you’re in a more-liberal denomination such as ECUSA, your answer about homophobia may be the same, but your first answer will be “Not my church”. As in, Those churches are homophobic, but mine is not.

For the purposes of this response, I want to suggest that both answers are subjective: not a matter of “your truth but not mine” but, still, based on the person. While acknowledging that Wesley Hill is a Christian, I can not say he is in “the Church” because, as an Orthodox Christian, I believe in visible boundaries to that Church. Beyond them – although the Holy Spirit is ‘everywhere present and filling all things’ including Anglicans – I can only say “that’s God’s world not mine. Roman Catholics would say I belong to the “other lung” of the church, but I would eye them suspiciously were I conservative, and curiously were I a liberal: since Orthodox believe in neither lungs nor branches. At least as far as this world goes, one is in the Church (Orthodox, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic) or one is in God’s hands and maybe that’s all. For me, the visible Church is coterminous with the communion boundaries of Orthodoxy. Everyone else is in God’s grace and no one is saved outside of the Church: in other words, on Judgement day I pray God finds me in the Church and you too.

As “church” is entirely subjective, so, likewise, “homophobia”. There is a definition sited in the comments by Prof. Hill:

I had in mind Gabriel Blanchard’s definition: “I am defining homophobia as injustice against persons who are homosexually attracted, for no reason other than their being homosexually attracted. I propose to take the following for granted: that there are people who are, largely or exclusively, homosexually attracted; that there is such a thing as injustice; and that injustice can be directed towards them for that reason.” See here: http://mudbloodcatholic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/an-appendix-to-raw-tact-catholic.html

In common usage, it is subjective: I limit that injustice to “you can’t live/work/be here in the public space in the same way as a a straight person because you are same-sex attracted.” You can’t have this job.  You can’t hold hands. You can’t snuggle on the airplane when it’s cold.  You can’t designate your heir. Others label as “homophobia” theological discussions such as “is gay sex sinful?”; or social policy “can gay men adopt children?”

Christian teaching about sex is pretty clear: sex outside of a church-sanctioned, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is sinful.  Doesn’t matter about the plumbing, the choices, the biology, the nature or the nurture involved.  People who are same-sex attracted must follow the same rules for moral sex as people who are opposite-sex attracted is not homophobia in my book. For someone else it really is a horrid hate crime to suggest such a thing.  I’m being homophobic by some lights even to engage the question: it’s called “internalized homophobia”, a phrase that is used whenever any member of the community questions the wisdom of the Elders.

Just short of half-way through the article, the author says.

What we need are three-dimensional stories—stories that highlight the successes and the failures of our churches, without downplaying either one. The culture wars tempt us toward one-sidedness; if we’re on the conservative side, we want to deflect the charge of homophobia, and if we’re on the liberal side, we want to expose the dangers of fundamentalism. But the truest stories rarely lend themselves to such strategies, and defensiveness is never the best, or most effective, apologetic approach.

 And so I think it’s important to write an “honest story” about being gay in the Orthodox Church.  My “I was in Hell” essay was hugely popular for exactly the reasons described above: cultural warriors saw it as a one-sided slam against the other side.  It was a powerful slam, at that, using the words of a man many people consider a 20th Century saint (who also lived with same-sex attraction) and aimed at everyone that was “liberal” and BLT/GQ in the world.  But “Hell Reconsidered” didn’t do so well, even though it was a more-real confession of what was actually going on.

I think that’s where any “honest story” must begin for me: with an honest confession of what is really going on.  So, if this post is “Part 1” then Hell Reconsidered is Part II of this honest story.  (I was in Hell is the crazy convert initial attempt at saying something serious.)  But Part III may take us someplace important.

Old Essays Reissued

I’m pleased to announce that some old essays have been reposted on the new blog.  My essays about dealing with being Gay in the Church, beginning with the much-ballyhooed classic, I was in Hell.  They are linked on the side bar as well.  But I’m doing a bit of soul-searching so it seemed good to me to reprint them. I had a discussion recently about the “beingness” of Transgendered people, and I was surprised to see that ten years ago my POV was the same about gayness. New essays will be added going forward, I suspect.

Growing Up

I had two sets of male role models when I was growing up. Like many a child born in the mid-1960s and starting school in the early 1970s, my surrounding culture, my schools and my TV were filled with young men (and women) that looked like the older teenagers in That Seventies Show. I had bullies that lookst like the curly-haired guy in sunglasses. I had stoners that looked like Ashton Kutcher, I had various friends who looked like all the other folks.  I was younger: only 6 in 1970 – so I could look up to all these folks (like my Uncle Bobby) and say “When I grow up I want to be cool like them.” Perhaps you see where this is going, but by the time I was 18, the 70s were over and the 80s were under way. We had elected Ronald Reagan; Alex P. Keaton was what young men were supposed to turn into.  Apart from a brief moment in HS when I was the Goody-Two-Shoes guy from That Seventies Show it all ended before I got there and when college started, well.. it was kinda boring.


To be honest, by the time I got to College, no one did pot or acid (it was about cocaine and MDMA) and, while there was a lot of sex to be had, AIDS erupted on the scene at the exact same moment that I moved to Greenwich Village.  The party literally stopped just as I walked in the door. Bye bye, Hippes.  One whole set of male role models stopped being valid. I guess I could have changed into the world’s most out-dated College student, but, instead, I just moved along with the culture.  Polo shirts, high tops, jeans and sneakers, knit ties (with flat ends) and feathered hair.  I still had hair…

Something strange happened after that, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, back to 1964…

The other set of role models in my life had nothing to do with teenagers or college students and very little to do with the 1960s, actually, except for the fact that they were there.  My Childhood was surrounded by what you might call Southern Gentlemen Farmers. Farmers certainly: Mr Gray was as large a peanut farmer as was Mr Carter.  My Grandfather, with quite a respectable Gov’t job, was his friend and so, in our small rural town, we were “respectable.”  They wore hats.  And ties. They dressed like we see in old Black and White TV shows and movies.  And when I grew up, I wanted to be like them – because that’s what adult men looked like: most of the older people in Don Drapers life – including Mr D himself.

So, to recap:  I wanted to get a little older and be a hippie; then, be a man in hats and ties.

Problem was, when the hippies (ie, Baby Boomers) grew up they didn’t, really, grow up. And so their kids – and all of us who followed them – didn’t grow up either. There’s are three (four?) entire generations out there who think “grown up” means earning a lot of money, preferably for not so much work, and wearing jeans and t-shirt all day. Yes, I know, clothes don’t make the man… but anyone who works in the fashion industry (or who watches Bugs Bunny) will tell you: dress different to act different. This is why Mr Rogers used to change into a sweater and sneakers… but keep his tie on: that’s what guys did.

I am, just now, 2 years shy of my Grandfather’s age when I was born.  That’s a bit of an earth-shaking statement.  I don’t feel old, or anything like that: but I also don’t feel like I’m half the man he was: this is not a gay/straight comment.  It’s a baseball cap and blue-jeans comment.  By my age the vast majority of my ancestors (who lived to my age) had raised multiple generations of family, and were resting on well-earned laurels.  Most people my age can’t even care for house plants, let alone children.  Because they still are children.  In fact, I want to turn that around: I think it’s the self-sacrifice and martyrdom of marriage and childbearing that makes children into adults.

Most people I know personally (gay and straight) are trapped in a kind of perpetual adolescence. Our clothing choices make that visible.  Yes, I know cultures change and clothing styles change, but even at a church party, I can see the difference between parents and non-parents. Or, equally, between married and single people.  The latter may age… but we’re all sort of wrapped up in something we can’t get rid of without the help of another.  We may be wearing the same clothes – but why, I wonder, are we all dressed like the kids?

There’s this interesting, on-going discussion about “dressing for dinner” in Downton Abbey, who should, who does and doesn’t, why they don’t.  Mind you: “not dressing for dinner” in Downton is still wearing more layers of clothing than most of us wear in a week worth of office work.  At one point the Dowager Countess refers to “play clothes” while speaking to two adult men in suits with vests, suspenders, white shirts, dress shoes, ties and bowlers!  Not dressing for dinner means wearing a tie instead of a bow tie or wearing a black tie instead of a white tie. There is, however, never any question of jeans and tshirt.

Again, I know cultures change.  But we still know what we’re doing: because when we go to a formal party or to fancy event, or a work party, or a wedding or a funeral, we dress up.  We know that we are spending most of our life dressed down or: dressed like kids, even at work. In those rare occasions when we dress like adults we know we’ve done something extra, something formal. But most of the time we all still dress like we are going out on a play date – even when we’re on a very adult sort of date indeed.  And adulthood starts, really, at the Prom: it should all be clear from there on out, that we’ve “Come of age” and we should dress like it.

A friend of mine pointed out that we don’t get dressed to “be someone” we dress up because we want to honor the people we will be with. You dress up at a funeral out of respect for the dead.  You dress up for a wedding out of respect for the Bride and Groom.  This has always been true: even in the Bible. That’s why the man with the bad clothes gets tossed out of the wedding feast. He’s dissing the family. But we go to church in jeans and Hawaiian shirts.  Look at the President or the most recently Former President with their collars open: feels kinda disappointing really. If if you don’t have enough self respect to dress like the leader of the free world, at least when you meet me you’d better look the part.  It’s insulting otherwise: I’m supposed to call you sir and Mr President, and you can’t even wear adult clothes like an adult? Mr Clinton blows them away in terms of style just because he wears a tie all the time.

I don’t know: would dressing up preclude us asking like children all the time?  Certainly not because people have acted childishly all along – even in Downton. And some of the most childish people I know are wearing bowties these days.  But, can you imagine a world where leaving the house meant looking nice? Not being caught dead in sweats – even at WalMart?  Wearing shoes rather than sneakers unless there was a gym in the forecast, using hats that looked nice rather than dusty? The good folks on Downton are a bit out of my class: some of those tweed suits, even the ones worn by the servants, cost $1,000.  I’m not going to go out and buy one.  But I do wonder what life might be like if we wore hats and vests as a matter of course, if my dressing up was a mark of respect for you; a life where my fedora was daily wear along with a tie and if that didn’t make me look like an oddly eccentric San Franciscan of  Certain Age, but rather an adult among other adults, divided from our juniors by age, experience and clothing. And where my clothes showed a mark of respect to you and where you understood that if I showed up in jeans and a shirt – if we were not cleaning out the garage, that is – I fully meant to say “you’re not worth it to me”.

Prayer for Rain

In 100 days, parts of California could out of water.

OGOD, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom, and the righteousness thereof, all things necessary to their bodily sustenance; Send us, we beseech thee, in this our necessity, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth to our comfort, and to thy honour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Teh Gay as First World Issue

Toying with an idea…

  1. Same sex attraction seems to be a universal human and other-species event – not that all species or all humans have it, but it seems common enough to need no special comment. It seems it may be a natural part of  life events, a dysfunction, a mutation or a part of something we’ve not yet discerned.
        
  2. Throughout most of human history you got married and you raised kids to preserve the family, to care for you in old age, to work the farm, to hunt the woolly mammoth. Sexual attraction, per se, wasn’t an issue. Seemingly – likewise by tradition – same-sex action was used as punishment or pleasure, as venting or whatever, but as a secondary reality.
     
  3. People were not “Gay or Straight” but rather sexual. Sex did some things (legal/good/social) and some other things (illegal/not good/anti-social) and even some other things (commercial/military/social+anti-social).  In some cultures there were roles for what we might consider as “sexual transgressors” such as effeminate men cross dressing and living as women, but in other cultures these roles did not exist.  These were not sexual identities as we have now, but rather functions of sex.
        
  4. Marriage, as an institution, preserved so much of society in its very self that the idea of not participating was unthinkable. Until very recently not participating in marriage (unless you were a monastic) also meant that you were become a burden on the family or else alone – totally alone. The spinster aunt in the garret, the bachelor farmer, the crazy cousin who always needs family support.
        
  5. Only in very wealthy societies do we have the wherewithal to imagine that just because we feel something we must act on it.  Only in wealthy societies can we take a feeling and require it to become our identity – and cause others to develop identities either with us or in opposition to us.
        
  6. Only in wealthier societies focused on individualism do we have the finances – and the leisure – to explore such things. Wealth alone is not enough: as in many wealthy societies (ancient and modern Empires, including Ancient Rome and the British Empire in the 17th-Early 20th Centuries) heterosexual marriage was not only the norm but de rigueur even for those who were same-sex attracted as a component of social identity and mobility, as a quality of class standing and economic stability. It’s leisure: the time to say ‘I don’t have to grow my own food, care for my parents/children, work-all-day-and-sleep-all-night, so I can explore my feelings’.
        
  7. In the modern world we have decided that wealth, individualism and freedom of choice/action are supreme moral imperatives. When we “liberate” another society or make economic contact with another society and say things like “wealth and personal freedom” they catch our morals too. Even in “First World” countries poorer communities do not have the same issues because the family is such an important part of fiscal viability that opting out is not considered until one leaves the community.
        
  8. The choice to be sexual active or not is a freedom granted by our wealth and leisure. It would not be a valid choice, even in a more liberal culture, 150 years ago neither in a less-wealthy culture now.
        
  9. The idea that we are right and therefore everyone must yield to our desires/cultural choices is as solidly as based on mere personal and/or cultural bias as any religious claim that we are wrong. 

Daily Office, 29 Jan – 15 Feb AD 2014

The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon. The readings are as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate, unofficially supplemented with other devotional material taken from the Breviary and the Psalter. Each MP/EP link will take you to a complete office, needing only the daily Psalter or, for MP, the Martyrology link.

I don’t usually post this far forward: The links are all valid, but the daily offices are being edited – they will be ready by the day you click on them. This will get us right up to the I Vespers of Septuagesima!


January

  1. Wednesday – Feria – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  2. Thursday – Feria (St Martina, VM) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  3. Friday – Feria – MP – EP – Martyrology.

February

  1.  Saturday – St Ignatius of Antioch (Bridget of Ireland V) – MPEPMartyrology.
  2.  Purification of the BVM (Sunday 4th after Epiphany)MPEPMartyrology.
  3.  Monday – St Blaise B.M. – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  4.  Tuesday – New Martyrs of Russia (St Joseph of Aleppo) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  5.  Wednesday – St Agatha, VM – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  6.  Thursday – St Photius, CD (St Dorothy) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  7.  Friday – St. Romuald, Abt – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  8.  Saturday – BVM Feria – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  9.  Sunday 5th after Epiphany (St Cyril of Alexandria BCD, St Apollonia VM) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  10.  Monday – St Scholastica, V – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  11.  Tuesday – St. Gregory II, P.M. – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  12.  Wednesday – Feria – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  13.  Thursday – Kentigern, BC – MP – EP –  Martyrology.
  14.  Friday – St Valentine PM – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  15.  Saturday – BVM Ss Faustinus and Jovita MM – MP – Martyrology.

Daily Office 18 – 26 Jan A.D. 2014

The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon. The readings are as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate, unofficially supplemented with other devotional material taken from the Breviary and the Psalter. Each MP/EP link will take you to a complete office, needing only the daily Psalter or, for MP, the Martyrology link.


  1. Satruday – BVM (St Peter’s Chair at Rome) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  2. Sunday 2nd after Epiphany Ss Maris, Martha, Audifax and Habakkuk, Persian, MM at Rome; St Mark Evgenikos, B. of Ephesus – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  3. Monday – Ss Fabian P. & Sebastian, Mm at Rome – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  4. Tuesday – St Agnes, VM – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  5. Wednesday – Feria (Ss Vincent, Dea. M. & Anastasius, M.) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  6. Thursday – Feria (St Merentiana, VM) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  7. Friday – St Timothy, B. – MPEP –  Martyrology.
  8. Saturday – The Conversation of St Paul, Apostle MPEPMartyrology.
  9. Sunday 3rd after Epiphany St Polycarp, B. – MP – EP – Martyrology.

St Augustine on the Created Beauty

Wherever I look, heaven and earth and all that is in them tell me that I should love you, Lord; and they cease not to tell it to all men, so that there is no excuse for them. But what is it that I love when I love you? Not the beauty of any bodily thing, nor the order of seasons, not the brightness of light that rejoices the eye, nor the sweet melodies of all songs, nor the sweet fragrance of flowers and ointments and spices: not manna nor honey, not the limbs that carnal love embraces. It is not these I love when I love God. Yet in a sense I do love light and melody and fragrance and food and embrace when I love my God – the light and the voice and the fragrance and the food and embrace in the soul, when that light shines upon my soul which no place can contain, that voice sounds which no time can take from me, I breathe that fragrance which no wind scatters, I eat the food which is not lessened by eating, and I lie in the embrace which satiety never comes to sunder. It is this that I love, when I love my God.
And what is the object of my love? I asked the earth and it answered: “I am not he”; and all things that are in the earth made the same confession. I asked the sea and the depths and the creeping things, and they answered: “We are not your God; seek higher.” I asked the winds that blow, and the whole air with all that is in it answered: “Anaximenes was wrong; I am not God.” I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, and they answered: “Neither are we God whom you seek.” And I said to all the things that throng about the gateways of the senses: “Tell me of my God, since you are not he. Tell me something of him.” And they cried out in a great voice: He made us. My question was my gazing upon them, and their answer was their beauty. I asked the whole frame of the universe about my God and it answered me: “I am not he, but he made me.”
Surely this beauty should be self-evident to all of sound mind? Then why does it not speak to everyone in the same way? Animals great and small see it, but cannot put a question about it; for in them reason does not sit in judgement upon the evidence of their senses. But men can question it, and so should be able clearly to see the invisible things of God understood by things which are made; but they love created things too much and become subject to them, and subjects cannot judge. All these things refuse to answer those who ask, unless they ask with power to judge. If one person merely sees the world, while another not only sees but questions it, the world does not change its speech – that is, its outward appearance which speaks – in such a way as to appear differently to the two people; but it presents exactly the same face to each, saying nothing to the one, but answering the other: or rather it gives its answer to all, but it is only understood by those who hear its outward voice through their senses and compare it with the truth within themselves. For truth says to me: “Your God is not heaven or earth or any corporeal thing.”
St Augustine, Confessions X.6; Word in Season V.

Daily Office Readings 12 – 18 Jan AD 2014

The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon. The readings are as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate supplemented with other devotional material. Each MP/EP link will take you to a complete office, needing only the daily psalter or, for MP, the Martyrology link.


  1. Sunday within the 8va of the Epiphany The Holy Family; St Benedict Biscop – MP – EP –  Martyrology.
  2. Monday – Octave day of the Epiphany – MPEPMartyrology.
  3. Tuesday – St Hilary, B, St Felis, P. St Sava (Sabas), B.C., – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  4. Wednesday – St Maurus, B; St Paul the First Hermit, C. – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  5. Thursday – Feria (St Marcellus I, Pope, M.) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  6. Friday – St Anthony the Great, Ab. – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  7. Saturday – BVM (St Peter’s Chair at Rome) – MP – EP – Martyrology.
  8. Sunday 2nd after Epiphany Ss Maris, Martha, Audifax and Habakkuk, Persian, MM at Rome; St Mark Evgenikos, B. of Ephesus – MP – EP – Martyrology.