Sunday, April 30, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

Blog now clothed in Paschal white...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned it, but I forgot to change the blog's "vestments". It's done now! (And in the process I somehow managed to restore Gabe's post that I lost... Glory to God!)

Update: I see Dave actually asked me to change the purple to white a couple of hours before I did this... and I did it without even knowing he'd asked me to! Telepathy or something?

Spruce Island


Hi All, here is the link to the new youth group blog, It will have some real content next week, but I wanted to put it out there so you could all link to it,

it will have a schedule of events, info, and good discussion fubu the YG.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

click the picture. go ahead. you know you wanna.

Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces - a real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling LEFT BEHIND book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What's that bright Orange thing moving towards the coast at immeasurable speed?!

It couldn't be! Yes it is, GABE! And he's finally moving.

Ok, enough of that, and more of this:

"O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy Victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown
Christ is risen, and the Demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!"

Hope to see some of you on Wednesday, a lot on Saturday and most (if not all) on Sunday! :)

God Bless!
Later days.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan

I found this on another blog. It's a wonderful resource for Lent.
A little late this year maybe, but you can download the pdf, and have it on file for next year!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Schedule of Services for Holy Week

While St. Herman's full schedule of services remains available on our calendar page, for ease of reference, I've also added a schedule of services for Holy Week and Pascha to our main site page.

More new icons and art on Seraphim's site

Christ Feeding the MultitudesMore new icons, art, and poetry are up on Seraphim's site!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Check out the good news, y'all, eh!

dear jonah...

So, as per Jonah's request, Phil and I will be bringing our chocolate fountain (a wedding gift from Graham, Dan, and Qjesse--thanks guys!) to church for our after Pascha celebrations!
Hmmm...does he want it immediately after Paschal Liturgy or after Paschal vespers?

Phil and I are happy to supply the fountain and chocolate, and I will try to make some Paska, but I'm wondering if others would like to bring some "dipping" foods as well, or provide me with suggestions of what to bring. Let me know!

Happy Lazarus Saturday everybody!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Orthodox Books-- Grown in BC!

Okay, so the publisher, Conciliar Press, is a bit south of B.C.-- but Keeper of the Light, a junior novelisation of the life of Macrina the Elder, comes from my friend, All Saints Victoria member Bev Cooke. Not only that, the illustrations are by Bonnie Gillis of the Antiochian parish of the Nativity in Ft. Langley.

The book is at the printers right now-- hopefully it will be available within a few weeks.

You can read more about the book at Bev's blog, Bevnal Abbey.

Fr. Lawrence tells me also that his latest commentary in The Orthodox Bible Study Companion series, The Gospel of John, is also due out in late spring or early summer.

So I hereby give advance notice to our perpetually party-prone parish that there will be an upcoming authors' reading, signing and book launch party at St. Herman's this summer, date and details TBA!

Fun for the Whole Family... Really!

Just received a link from Fr. Andrew Morbey to an article that I thought many here might find interesting: "Fun for the Whole Family, Really" - an article from The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. The tagline says it all: "Sick of trashy pop culture for kids? Try classic movies."

English teacher's note: I've corrected the punctuation of the article's title (or at least Canadianized it) above... :-)

Patron saint of Cheese.

I just heard about a book, "My life with the saints", which I've just put on reserve at the library. It sounds a like a really interesting read. I must admit, I'm still searching for a deeper understanding of prayer to the saints. I read "The Song of Bernadette" a long time ago, and I remember I had mixed feelings about it even then. Residual romaphobia? Maybe. I can't say.
A review of the book states: "He draws a distinction, however, between the superstition that sometimes surrounds Catholics' reverence for the saints and true devotion to them."
This has always been my sticking point regarding prayer to the saints. I've always been wary of the superstitious aspect, overly careful maybe. I still recoil a bit when I hear one of my orthodox friends ask, "I've lost ____; who's the patron saint of lost things?". Actually, I recoil a lot. To me, this is trivializing. I signed out a book from the library, I think it was the Oxford book of the saints, or somesuch title. The book was set up as a sort of 'traveler's guide to the saints'. There was a small bio, a story of his/her miracles, how he/she came to be reverenced as the patron saint of _______. I can't remember the name of the saint, but there was the "patron saint of salt and cheese merchants, tanners, and leather-workers, invoked against nervous diseases and twitching." If this is not trivilializing the life of a great man of God, I don't know what is. I wonder if they sit in the kingdom, just shaking their heads at these definitions we've given them. And the language: "invoked"?! I wonder at the fruitfulness of these terms.
My own patron saint is St.Cassianne the hymnographer. I pray to her occasionally, but primarily, all my prayers are directed to Christ my Saviour. I can ask St.Cassianne to intercede on my behalf, but I must admit I do this rarely, although I do feel a real affinity, and also that I've become 'closer' to her over the years. This is something I can't explain. It just is what it is.
I saw Millions a few months ago, and I really enjoyed it. I found his reverence of the saints so innocent, sincere and illuminating.
I am still searching for a deeper understanding of prayer to the saints. I don't think I'm there yet, and I don't know what it will look like.
I hesitate to post this here, for fear of offending some, but my intent and stance are not combative. These are questions that have long plagued me. I don't expect any quick answers, I'm just interested in how others see this, and maybe I'm hoping for a little light shed. I find I am forever modifying, analysing, rethinking. Please take this post the right way, which is as an inquiry only.

Paschal Vespers

We want to organize an Easter Egg Hunt - who wants to help? Email me or comment here and I will contact you.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Poetry Discussion Group Anyone?

Jesse and I were talking about traditional poetry after liturgy yesterday evening, and he suggested we start a poetry discussion group and that I assign him some readings. Whether or not we do start a poetry discussion group (which would certainly be fun!), I can certainly suggest a few good traditional poems to read. I suggested to Jesse that we start with some of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?
Sonnet XXIX: When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes
Sonnet LXXIII: That Time of Year thou mayst in me Behold
Sonnet CXVI: Let me not to the Marriage of True Minds
Sonnet CXXX: My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing like the Sun

Things to look for:
  • shift in focus from octave (first eight lines) to sestet (last six lines)
  • common themes and conventions and/or subversion/inversion of common themes and conventions
  • ideal sonnet structure (14 lines, iambic pentameter, etc.) and meaningful departures from that structure
It might also be profitable to compare these with some second-rate sonnets of the time (links anyone?) and/or to other first-rate ones like these, by Edmund Spenser:

Amoretti LXXV: One Day I Wrote her Name
Amoretti XXII: This Holy Season

Or, if we want also to consider some sonnets that are somewhat more appropriate to the season, may I also suggest the following, by George Herbert:

Love (I)
Love (II)

As well as, of course, these, from John Donne's Holy Sonnets:

Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person'd God
Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud

B*Q Party

At Magdalene's request, I've decided to censor some 'offensive' content in this message.

Here are the details for our b#rbeque party.

Date: Saturday April 29th.

Time: 1:00 p.m. until people have to leave for Vespers.

Location: 26592 30A Ave., Aldergrove

What to bring: 1.Bring your own be*f or other me#t product to b%rbeq*e. 2. bring your own b$er or any other alcoholic beverages that you would like to drink. 3. bring a your own lawnchair if you want something to sit on.

What not to bring: We will be providing non-alcoholic refreshments, side dishes, and condiments.

Hope to see you all there!


p.s. we could use another barbeq!e, so if you have one to bring and/or the means to transport one, please let me know....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Climbing Club

If you are interested in finding out more about the rock climbing club and you haven't already given me an e-mail address, can you send an e-mail to Dan.Steenburgh[at] (replace [at] with @)?

Here are some preliminary details (to be confirmed). If the cost is too much for you specifically, there are some other options we can look at. Also, if the training dates don't work for you, there may be some flexibility

-Cost: $50 includes belay training plus 2 day passes at Verical Reality Climbing Gym as well as use of all equipment except shoes. If you already have a belay card, the fee will be reduced.
-Shoes will need to be purchased or rented at the cost of $8 a day for each climb.
- All other equipment will be provided.

1.Belay training at Vertical Reality Climbing Gym on Monday May 8 in the evening.
2. Outdoor training at Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver) on Saturday May 13 all day (back to Langley before Vespers).
3 Climbing opportunities throughout the season (May to October-ish).
4. Perhaps a climbing weekend sometime in the summer (e.g. Squamish, Anacortes)??

Please let me know a.s.a.p. if you are interested in finding out more.



Monday, April 10, 2006

A little Lenten Levity

I can never resist an opportunity for some alliteration-- must be all that Old English I read at U of T....
I give you this cheery little song from a member of the christian-fandom list:

"back in the early eighties an Episcopalian friend at work was
complaining that Christmas isn't the only Christian holiday that's been
commercialized. Easter has, too, with the emphasis on fashions, etc.
She said her favorite season is Lent because it's completely spiritual.

"Completely ignoring her real reason for liking Lent I wrote a filk,
putting new words to "Raindrops on Roses" from The Sound of Music.

Recently I sent them to a member of the Daughters of St. Paul whom I had known when we were membes of the same Catholic organization back in the seventies, before she entered the convent. She put them on her blog, adding a first verse since the original song has one verse, then the refrain:

Vigils and penance and prayers without number,
Though I feel cranky from my lack of slumber,
I want to get rid of all sin that still clings,
So these are a few of my favorite things:

Sackcloth and ashes, and days without eating,
Mortification and nights without sleeping,
A hair shirt that scratches, a nettle that stings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When it's Christmas,
When the tree's lit,
When the cards are sent,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I can't wait till Lent.

--Marty Helgesen


I also love Marty's Lenten sig line:

Live Lent in the Fast Lane

And for those who scorn alliteration in preference of puns, check out this Lenten attire

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Thanks to all those who painted our fellowship room. I did not get a chance to personally thank each of them. I am constantly amazed at how much people give to our community. It is humbling to live amongst you.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bright Week BBQ Party

We are having a Bright Week/Welcome Gabe Barbeque party here in Aldergrove on Saturday April 29th starting mid-afternoon (time t.b.a). We'll eat and party until Vespers. It will probably be a 'bring-your-own-meat and beverage' party. Let me know if you think you can make it, and I'll post the details soon.
Also if you have a BBQ and/or the means to get it here, let me know.


More on Peter and the Church

While I must admit, I am flattered to be described as "an Orthodox priest with Origen at his fingertips," I'm afraid I must disavow the compliment. (Hmm... Come to think of it, he did say "Origen at his fingertips..." Perhaps it wasn't meant as a compliment! :-) ) I merely spent a few hours last night using Google and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library - it was actually astonishingly easy to find patristic exegesis that corresponded with what I was at first inclined to concede was a relatively recent Protestant innovation. I guess if you hear something often enough, you are inclined to believe it is true!

In fact, without intending any disrespect to Gabriel - who did, after all, say a bunch of nice things about us in his original post! - I am continually astonished at the logical gaps in the traditional Catholic defence of the papacy. Orthodox Christians have never (or a least rarely!) denied that the bishop of Rome was worthy of a primacy of honour - although the basis for this primacy was not understood to be merely Rome's antiquity or her connection to Sts. Peter and Paul, both of which Rome shares (as has been noted) with the patriarchate of Antioch, but also a function of the conservatism (i.e., fidelity to the apostolic teaching) and influence of the Roman church. It was by virtue of the combination of these factors that Rome was also commonly referred to as an arbiter in difficult canonical disputes.

That being said, it is a long logical leap from a primacy of honour - or even from the role of referee - to the relatively recent claims of absolute supremacy and infallibility made by the modern Roman papacy. It is certainly true that the Apostle Peter took the leading role in the early Church, but this was by no means an absolutely authoritative or infallible role, as can be seen in the part Peter played in precipitating the Jew-Gentile controversy in Antioch and in the leading role that St. James played in pronouncing the collegial judgement of the council of Jerusalem. Nor is there any evidence that the early Church understood the role of the bishops of Rome or their connection to Peter (indeed, most early references are to the connection with Sts. Peter and Paul) as granting them anything like the authority and infallibility that is claimed by the modern papacy. This is the point of the long (probably over-long!) patristic quotes I cited below from Augustine and Origen - unlike as they were, and authoritative as Augustine is (in the West, at least), both explicitly make the point in their exegesis of Matthew 16:18 that our Lord was not saying that Peter himself is the source of the unity and infallibility of the Church.

It is all well and good to talk about needing to "breathe with both lungs, East & West" - and in fact we do appreciate the many overtures and gestures of good faith made by Pope John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI; no one wants to return to the bad old days of high-tension East-West relations! - but to portray the Petrine office as the ultimate source of unity in the Church is ultimately non-Scriptural, not Patristic, and untrue! I hope and pray one day for a real reunion with Rome - a reunion of equals in which the Roman primacy of honour is something given freely and willingly, based on the fidelity of the Roman Church to the teachings and the practice of the apostles. In short, our only hope for ultimate unity lies in our mutual submission and fidelity to one another, to the apostolic tradition, and, above all, to Him who is alone our supreme and infallible Head, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Way, the Life, and the Truth!

Patristic interpretation of "upon this rock I will build my Church..."

By rights this should really be just one more post in the thread of discussion about "searching for Peter", but I find that adequately addressing Gabriel's response to my response will require a better post-editor than is supplied by Blogger's comment feature! So, with apologies for this intrustion of marginalia into the mainstream life of the blog...

Gabriel writes:
Fr. Justin finds unfair my statement "the passages which show the particular role of Peter are given no effect in the Church in Orthodox interpretation." He's right- but the significance of Peter in the passages is minimized, if not wholly eliminated in a manner entirely inconsistent with the way we approach Scriptural passages about the Apostles as a whole or the Sacraments. And I'm afraid that the interpretation Fr. Justin offers for Mt. 16:18 is poor not only for being incongrous with how we approach other New Testament passages, but on a more basic exegetical level. According to Fr. Justin: "This is, in fact, where I believe the problem lies with the Roman interpretation of Christ's remark ("upon this rock, I will build my Church..."): the focus is shifted from Peter's confession to Peter himself."

This interpretation is predicated on the suggestion that the rock (petra) which Christ founds his Church is not precisely the same as Peter (Petros). Protestant interpreters often attempt to draw a distinction between the two words, using questionable semantic differences derived from Attic Greek (the NT is in Koine Greek)- but overlooks the fact that the two words are grammatically necessary since they are gendered nouns. Moreover Aramaic, in which Jesus presumably spoke uses only one word for rock: Kephas.
Actually, the intepretations I offered (I actually offered two, not one) were not mine, but rather interpretations common in the writings of the early Church Fathers.

Gabriel does not engage with what I said about St. Cyprian's reading of this passage "as referring to Peter himself in his office of bishop" and then extending "this foundational authority to the office of the episcopate as a whole, not to Peter alone" - which was actually the context within which I found his claim that we nullify/minimize Peter's role to be unfair. Instead, he suggests that our Lord intended no distinction to be made between Peter (Petros) and the rock (petra) on which He will found His Church, and characterizes any attempt to make a distinction between these two words in the Greek as a Protestant innovation.

In fact, while the (Greek-speaking) Church Fathers all recognize the word-play on Peter's name that our Lord was engaging in, this does not seem to have prevented them from making exactly such a distinction - or from interpreting the "rock" on which Christ would build His Church as a reference to Peter's confession. St. John Chrysostom, for example, says in his homily on this passage in Matthew,
since he had said, "Son of God," to point out that He is so Son of God, as the other son of Jonas, of the same substance with Him that begat Him, therefore He added this, "And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;" that is, on the faith of his confession.
John Cassian glosses this passage similarly in his Seven Books on the Incarnation:
"And I," said He, "say unto thee, that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church." Do you see how the saying of Peter is the faith of the Church?
Origen, in his Commentary on Matthew, develops this same line of thought even more thoroughly (as is usual with him!):
And perhaps that which Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, " if we say it as Peter, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto us, but by the light from the Father in heaven shining in our heart, we too become as Peter, being pronounced blessed as he was, because that the grounds on which he was pronounced blessed apply also to us, by reason of the fact that flesh and blood have not revealed to us with regard to Jesus that He is Christ, the Son of the living God, but the Father in heaven, from the very heavens, that our citizenship may be in heaven, revealing to us the revelation which carries up to heaven those who take away every veil from the heart, and receive "the spirit of the wisdom and revelation" of God. And if we too have said like Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," not as if flesh and blood had revealed it unto us, but by light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart, we become a Peter, and to us there might be said by the Word, "Thou art Peter," etc. For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon every such rock is built every word of the church, add the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.

But if you suppose that upon that one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it," hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, "Upon this rock I will build My church"? Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven," be common to the others, how shall not all the things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them? For in this place these words seem to be addressed as to Peter only, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," etc; but in the Gospel of John the Saviour having given the Holy Spirit unto the disciples by breathing upon them said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," etc. Many then will say to the Saviour, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God; "but not all who say this will say it to Him, as not at all having learned it by the revelation of flesh and blood but by the Father in heaven Himself taking away the veil that lay upon their heart, in order that after this "with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord" they may speak through the Spirit of God saying concerning Him, "Lord Jesus," and to Him, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And if any one says this to Him, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto Him but through the Father in heaven, he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches, to every one who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname of "rock" who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of the rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters. And taking occasion from these things you will say that the righteous bear the surname of Christ who is Righteousness, and the wise of Christ who is Wisdom. And so in regard to all His other names, you will apply them by way of surname to the saints; and to all such the saying of the Saviour might be spoken, "Thou art Peter," etc., down to the words, "prevail against it." But what is the "it"? Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the church, or is it the church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it as if the rock and the church were one and the same? This I think to be true; for neither against the rock on which Christ builds the church, nor against the church will the gates of Hades prevail; just as the way of a serpent upon a rock, according to what is written in the Proverbs, cannot be found. Now, if the gates of Hades prevail against any one, such an one cannot be a rock upon which Christ builds the church, nor the church built by Jesus upon the rock; for the rock is inaccessible to the serpent, and it is stronger than the gates of Hades which are opposing it, so that because of its strength the gates of Hades do not prevail against it; but the church, as a building of Christ who built His own house wisely upon the rock, is incapable of admitting the gates of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the church, but have no power against it.

Even the Blessed Augustine in his Answer to the Letters of Petilian, the Donatist, Bishop of Cirta, speaks of the "rock" on which the Church is founded not as referring to Peter, but rather to the active faith of the Church in the Trinity:
the Church, ... increases in the increase of God in its members through connection and contact with Christ. For that Church is founded on a rock, as the Lord says, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." But they build on the sand, as the same Lord says, "Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand." But that you may not suppose that the Church which is upon a rock is in one part only of the earth, and does not extend even to its furthest boundaries, hear her voice groaning from the psalm, amid the evils of her pilgrimage. For she says, "From the end of the earth have I cried unto Thee; when my heart was distressed Thou didst lift me up upon the rock; Thou hast led me, Thou, my hope, hast become a tower of courage from the face of the enemy." See how she cries from the end of the earth. She is not therefore in Africa alone, nor only among the Africans, who send a bishop from Africa to Rome to a few Montenses, and into Spain to the house of one lady. See how she is exalted on a rock. All, therefore, are not to be deemed to be in her which build upon the sand, that is, which hear the words of Christ and do them not, even though both among us and among you they have and transmit the sacrament of baptism. See how her hope is in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,—not in Peter or in Paul, still less in Donatus or Petilianus.
Whether you agree with all of these patristic interpreters or not (as, admittedly, their interpretations do not always exactly coincide with one another), it should at least be plain from them that the idea that the "rock" upon which the Church is founded is the confession/faith of Peter - and, by extension, of all the faithful - is not a recent Protestant innovation, but rather has its roots deeply embedded in the writings and the thoughts and the Scriptural interpretation of the fathers of the Church.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Seven Ecumenical Councils

I'm writing a paper on continuity and change as shown in the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Any ideas? What is essential to continuity and what is it that is subject to change and maybe even must change in order for things to remain the same?

This is a really frustrating paper to write because it's so broad. AH! Writing papers when your fasting is sometimes not much fun.

By the way, I really miss singing in the St. Herman's choir. I miss you guys and gals!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

searching for Peter

Et In Arcadia Ego
Any takers? I'm not hoping for debate, so much as discussion. These waters are over my head. Fr. Justin? Dave? Phil?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

a lenten hymn

In vain do you rejoice in no eating, O soul!

For you abstain from food,

But from passions you are not purified.

If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast.

er, Christian Lego?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The other side of Lent, awash with light . . .

As if I don't have enough to worry about
With being baptised in a few weeks
I'm already planning ahead
I just noticed that my first namesday will be happening already
In May
So I'm thinking of having a namesday party
To celebrate on
Sunday May 7
In anticipation of St. John the Theologian
On the 8th
Not the Myrrh-bearing women
Though we can celebrate them too
It will also be a going away party as I will be going north for a few weeks
To see the fam
Details and themes to follow
Though Guiness Milkshakes are a pretty safe bet
Who could say no?
RSVP to the returning sunlight or
The blossoming trees
If you're feeling prosaic
To me

Sacred Space

I was listening in on Fr. L give a short talk (he is sick again, pray for him) the other day to TWU students, and I can't believe how much I take for granted and do without thinking. I was especially struck by the way he described the holiness of the church, the sacred space, and then how he talked about how he couldn't show the students the church, because none of us were there (except mother anna and I) It is so easy to forget what the church is all about. It is about manifesting the presence of God through becoming the body of Christ, through eucharist. But, God is with us, through each other and through the church. It is sacred. I am reminding myself. It is surprising how much I forget. see you at the canon tomorrow night

Memory Eternal!

Fr. Waldemar's father passed away yesterday. Pray for him (I don't remember his name, but God does) and for Fr. Waldemar (formerly attached to St. Herman's and now rector of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Moose Jaw, SK) as he travels to Poland for the funeral.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

Just a reminder that we will be celebrating the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, with the reading of the life of St. Mary of Egypt, at St. Herman's this Wednesday at the usual time of 7pm.

For those who can't make it for some reason (like because they live in Vancouver, for example) or for those who have either a holy or an insane desire to stand and repent for twice as long as usual, we will also be holding the service at St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Mission in Vancouver at Peter and Judy's house on Thursday at 7pm.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Gender Specific Ministries?

Frederica Mathewes-Green, Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion, July 2005

A couple of years ago I was sitting on the dais at a banquet, just about to give a speech. About a thousand pro-life Christians filled the tables around the room, putting away the last of their cheesecake. Then the hostess of the evening stood up at the podium, immediately to my right. "As you know, it’s our tradition to give a gift to each of the evening’s speakers," she said. "And, as you know, the gift is always a relic." I must have done a noticeable double-take, because she looked down at me, smiled, and said, "Yes, that’s right." (I must say that this was not an Orthodox gathering.)

She then presented a small box to the highest-ranking clergyman at the dais; a relic of St. Andrew, she said. My head was spinning. Another clergyman received another saint’s relic. Then she gave me a small box. I opened it to see a small gold reliquary with a glass lid, and what appeared to be a bone fragment inside. The label said, in Latin, "The Holy Innocents."

Across the span of two thousand years, I the unworthy, complacent and still savoring cheesecake, was holding the bone of a baby boy who had screamed and suffered when he was ripped from his mother’s arms. He was one of the first martyrs, who died for Christ, who died in place of Christ, a lifetime before St. Stephen did.

That first-fruits offering was gender-specific; the soldiers had orders to kill all the boys. The ministry we were honoring at the banquet that night was likewise gender-specific; it aimed to support women who were pregnant. The people who served in this ministry were likewise mostly women themselves; the needs of pregnant women are ones that other women are best equipped to understand and serve.

In most of our life in Christ it doesn’t matter at all whether we’re male or female. St. Paul said as much: "there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28). We are all sinners and we are all saved by an overwhelming gift of God that does not have to shift its course to accomodate X or Y chromosomes. Yet on the far other end we could say that God shifts course with every single individual, to address us as we uniquely need, at depths we ourselves can’t understand. Our gender is part of that, a factor in all that makes each of us a mysterious composition never before seen in all of history.

In the middle, though, there’s the reality that gender is the primary way that humans mark and identify themselves. It’s the first thing we want to know about a newborn, and we delight in seeing growing boys and girls instinctively follow the paths that genes and intra-uterine environment, culture and parenting, all conspire to send them in. Last summer my husband found two of our toddler grand-children, David and his cousin Hannah, playing on the floor. He asked them, "What are you two doing?" Hannah said, "We’re playing wedding," and David said, "We’re playing riding in a truck."

(A friend who’s a marriage counselor says, Yep, that’s pretty much the story she encounters every week.)

Gender differences delight us because they literally mean new life. The fact that men and women are different, and that each finds the other’s difference fascinating, is where new babies come from. You can try to make humans stop thinking about those differences, but you won’t succeed. The differences are fun, they are the source of a million jokes and jibes, and the source of billions of babies.

We encounter gender differences sometimes in our healing ministries as well. Most of the ills that afflict humans don’t relate to their sex; a ministry that offers food or job training won’t be significantly affected by the gender of its clients. But there are some areas where being a woman or being a man is an essential component of the situation, and ministry by someone of the same gender is best. Women caring for pregnant women is a prime example. Men attempting to leave active homosexuality and become chaste, on the other hand, are best supported by the friendship of other men.

There’s a temptation, however, to go farther than this and establish a wall between the genders that obscures our essential unity in Christ. Some women leaders convey the message that Christian women have a different sort of prayer life than men do, or that their spiritual needs are different. Some imply that women’s spirituality through the ages has been oppressed, and has operated in rebellion against powerful men. And some men, observing the feminization of much of Western Christianity and how uneasy it makes men feel, propose instead a hearty, masculine version to make men feel at home again.

Gender differences tend to "reify," that is, the more you focus on them, the more they harden into concrete. It’s one thing to let these differences delightfully emerge, and another to insist on them in a belligerent or oppositional way. In these days of niche-marketing, in particular, it’s a temptation to turn a subtle contrast between the sexes into a self-perpetuating institution. It’s better to hold these distinctives loosely and let nature be our guide. When we construct walls of division that God does not intend we can get confused about where the truth is. These walls are very hard to take down again.

So many little boys died, just days after the very first Christmas. So many women have served as midwives and supporters for women in pregnancy, labor, and nursing. So many men have put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives of women and children. Men and women alike have cared for the poor, proclaimed the Gospel, produced icons and hymns, and healed in Christ’s name. We are called together in one Body to do His work, to do our distinctive parts in a unity that ultimately transcends all earthly division.

Saturday, April 01, 2006