Monthly Archives: February 2014

Parish Council Meetings and Not

In our parish, we’ve now scheduled and cancelled three council meetings since the first of the year… which is great and all. I mean the best kind of meeting is the kind we don’t need… only at some point that’s gotta stop… and then what? So pondering this, I’ve been in communication with my crewe… which is not to say I have an important position. I don’t. But simply to say that I love poking our guys… being one myself… and not taking ourselves or our meetings too seriously.

First Thoughts:

Having checked with Punx, the weather forecast for Thursday suggests it may be 6 more weeks until our first Parish Council meeting. His fan page has all his posse’ wearing top hats. I’m thinking they must have missed all the Orthodox clergy hats those folks really wore… or maybe they just photoshopped them out thinking, “No one will understand this photo” or “Wait… what country is this?”

So there you have it. Have what? A reason for alternate dates “in the event of rain / snow / gloom-of-night”  and all that… the stuff the Post Office of yore used to laugh at and keep going. Presumably they call Fedex under those conditions? Dunno. One thing I do know? Nobody braves squat anymore.

And that’s something to think about while Mother Nature let’s us have it. Which of course left me  wondering where these strange customs come from… and yes I did google that… it seems you can (of course…wait for it… wait for it) blame it on the Filioque. You think I’m kidding? Hmmmm. Don’t answer that. Anyway… as the Dana Carvey’s SNL Church Lady would say, “Isn’t that special ?!”

This is the story from Scott P. Richert at “About.com Catholicism”:

“Over the centuries, then, the common culture of the various European peoples—tied, as it was, to their shared Christianity—developed other rituals attached to Candlemas Day. An ancient English poem (simply entitled “Candlemas Day”) read, in part,

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight; But if it be dark with clouds and rain, Winter is gone, and will not come again.

Throughout Northern Europe, various nationalities took such ideas and developed their own traditions, often tied to those animals—bears, badgers, hedgehogs—that, in early February, were beginning to rouse themselves from their winter slumber. German immigrants to the United States, who had looked to the hedgehog in their homeland, found the groundhog in more ample supply in Pennsylvania, and transferred their allegiance.

Remembering the Origins of Groundhog Day:

As time went by, the Christian origins of the various Candlemas Day customs faded into the background, and we were left with Punxsutawney Phil. But for those who remember the words of Simeon, Groundhog Day will always be Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation, and the light that shines on the beloved rodent will always remind us of the Light of the World.”

Who sent this? Dunno. Might even be ol’ Phil his own “bad as he wants to be” self. Yep.

Second Thoughts… ‘Cause Repetition is Better? (NOT!)

Once upon a time, Punxatawney Phil converted to Orthodoxy, and joined St. Dude in one of the wettest Baptisms and Chrismation ceremonies ever …and I say Chrismation ’cause I assume that part happened but I’m not sure …’cause it was one mess… like Phil’s shaking water off like some sort of dog or something… an’ water’s flying everywhere in a cloud… and Father’s reaching into the cloud with the oil… and suddenly it’s like we’re all getting changed at Jiffy Lube what with the oil flyin’ everywhere, and the awful mess….and yet it was strangely wonderful at the same time!

Anyway… whatever it was, the next thing you knew, poor old Phil’s just standing in the corner of the parish hall minding his own business one coffee hour, when George leans in and whispers,

“Hey Thickheaded, watch this… I’m gonna get that guy…”
“What guy?”
“The one over there… y’know… the furry kid from Caddyshack… ”
“You mean Phil?” “Yeah… ‘Phil”… is that his name?”

And like white on rice, George’s over asking his “ol’ buddy Phil” whether he wouldn’t mind running for parish council. But like many of us seasoned pros… not those of us here obviously… but like those NOT here… Phil counters… and quickly… saying, “Chuck? Chuckchuck? Chuck?” But y’know George… he doesn’t miss a lick. Noting nobody nearby is even remotely going by “Chuck”, named “Charles”, or hangin’ with the whole “Chas” biz, George decides (as he does with all re-directions) “Chuck”  means “Sure thang!”

And next thing you know, Phil gets elected. Bad news… as everyone also knows… Phil comes out of his condo literally the next morning, reaches down to get the paper…. sees his shadow…. and BAM! We’re rolling with the usual media/sports/celebrity hoopla…. cameras, hot lights, music, fireworks, dancing girls, marching bands… you know the drill. And what it all means is that… Phil’s an instant megastar, got his own posse’, his own private jet, recording contract, and even better… a private island… like all those of us George leans on. Only George leans on a lot of folks, and it doesn’t happen… or not at least not enough… or at least not to you and me… and so we’re left pondering what we should do, and especially how to jet off to a private island….  somewhere… anywhere… and there it is! Like a bolt out of the blue… it’s a call from Phil:

“Ciao, Thickheaded! ‘Sup? Do we have a meeting or what?”
“Dunno man. Can’t make it happen.”
“Who loves ya’, baby?”

Only before I can answer, his dudishness is gone.

And so it seems worth turning the whole over to prayer… the sort that takes us out on that edgey ledgey where it’s either ribbons or thunderbolts… ’cause there’s only one someone who does know….yep….  an’ all ya’ gotta do is ask… and by that I mean none other than our all Holy, Immaculate Theotokos, Joy of All Who Don’t Have Meetings. And so I asked her what’s the dang deal with all these meetings…. or non-meetings …and here’s what I learned:

Number one… she thought I was annoying. Wasn’t it obvious? Sure. Of course. But what about the meetings? Okay. Here goes: “There will be no parish council meetings until 6 weeks after their originally scheduled dates… or until Spring… whichever comes second. Oh… and …uh…hold the candles. You people must think I can’t see or something. I’m seein’ fine. Trust me on that… more than you, or I or you-know-who… want. No kiddin’, ’nuff said? What I could use? Yeah… I’m tellin’ you…  chocolates… even roses would be nice. .. like it’s almost Valentines… and who loves ya’ baby? Just sayin’.”

So now we know. And I sure hope we can stop with the channeling Telly Savalas.

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Sloggin’ by the Way

“And it may seem strange to think of Orthodoxy in such a context – a world that has become a stranger to the gospel encountering the Church that wrote the gospels. But that is precisely where I think we are. My experience of Orthodoxy has not been with a new way of arguing the same old things (though it is possible to force it into such a position). Rather, reading and praying the fathers has been a path back to something prior to all of the arguments.” – Fr. Stephen Freeman, “Saving the Atonement” from 2/5/14 Glory to God for All Things Blogsite (a better read btw).

I’m thankful for the many blogs Orthodox Christians write. I read some others, too, and I used to read more. But increasingly, the irony that our Ancient Faith has need to urgently press the modern era with some or all of its wisdom on some minor point of modern life… just seems so beside the point. We cannot slow the whirlwind down. What we can do is remove ourselves from its turns and silence the noises of the winds howling as they rattle the windows of our souls and bodies. Huddling for a  moment’s respite has its merits, but also its limits… and in the end the virtue is found in something more.

But where and how we resolve to move and breathe towards this “more” and all that comes next is no simple matter. And it’s here that I struggle and benefit from the support of others, and offer my own… such as it is… in return. Worship directs us outward, towards God, and our life together supports our inward warfare so that the conjunction of these that comprises a life within our modern world manages something of real meaning. For without the ascesis of building meaning in this way, there is only the drudgery of the same-old same-old. Sure, many a day and many a moment can be quite wonderful in this drudgery, and I don’t mean to demean any moment by falsely characterizing a visit to Gramps or family holiday gathering as “drudgery”, and yet repetition without the leavening of the Holy Spirit lessens rather than enriches in the same way that a 34th trip to Disney (substitute wherever you like… and btw, I’m neither “for” or “against” Disney) never matches the first.

Yet this in fact captures something of the sort we DO seek: To see the 145th visit to Gramps with the same sort of wonder and warmth of our first visit to Disney where everything was so-new-and-all. And by contrast, having now just come from the still warm deathbed of my beloved father-in-law, I can say that there is indeed wonder, gratitude and meaning for sharing even in the privilege of that moment… a moment both raw, hard and beautiful at the same time. And yes, it’s not all about “me and my experience”… God did not want that moment, but He did offer the chance to experience it differently… in joy with grief… rather than in grief alone. Thus peering through the veil if we can, to really see all the great, good things of our world as God might want and as He gives them to us… rather than simply as they appear, to see Gramps as he is… as training to see more… even a father-in-law whose life in Christ surpasses most. He was one who succeeded beyond measure in “doing more with less” as my priest likes to say. And admittedly, I mostly fail at this… specializing in accomplishing less with more… and though I might recover here and there… my resolve is to both stand up and stand back… that it might become easier, and success occasion itself more readily here and there by God’s grace.

And so if there are blogs where argumentation runs more commonly than insight… or an emphasis on dogmatics, I’m not sure how this furthers my path along the way. (By no means do I want to suggest these authors don’t have insight… only they may not be sharing their treasures in ways  that reach my need at the time.) And so I’ll read on… ’cause most of us can (and do) often find nuggets buried like acorns under a tree. And it’s these that my inner squirrel seeks, where encountering the record of another’s memory transmutes my understanding, and renews the course of my experiences. It does happen, and I am thankful when it does… but at times it does seem as though you do have to be about as busy as a squirrel gathering for the winter if it’s going to work… running here and there, up the bark and down, out on the limbs and back, quickly away from the cat/dog/people, and slowly by hops towards the fruits fallen fresh on the ground…. all the while… finding and filling only small bites at a time.

But here, in a quote from Fr. Stephen’s blog is such a nugget. And I think it does no harm to suggest that by “prior” he may mean “supercedes” or “surpasses” all the arguments… and focuses on the peace of Christ… a worthy goal.