Sunday, May 29, 2005

Summer school

I enjoy being able to focus on a few things, rather than try to work on many at the same time. Thus, summer school has been quite enjoyable. I am taking Liturgical Greek. As I mentioned before, I like Greek and I enjoy looking at the intricacies of a language which was in an important process of change between the time of the Septuagint translation and that of the writing of the New Testament.

A second interesting part of summer is that most students are away, which leaves only a few of us in charge of the chapel. It's a learning process and there are still a number of things I need to put on my daily check-up list (not least of which is making sure I look over the hymns for Vespers). I guess there really isn't a better way to learn about the services of the Church than by being directly involved every day and having people who know better make sure everything gets done.

Well, this is my catch-up blog. I'll try and formulate a few thoughts about the liturgical day versus the secular day in the near future.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Yesterday was graduation. Today, a number of the graduates have already left. It feels significantly different from my other schools. Perhaps it is that the school is so small you get to know the name of almost everyone on campus. Perhaps it is that here we are all preparing to work for the Church. Whatever it is, I will miss those who have gone. Some I have gotten to know fairly well, some very little. Still, I saw them in chapel and we prayed together; we walked past one another and said "Hristos anesti." So here's to you: Dn. Joe, Dn. John, Fr. Agathonikos, Dn. Andrew and everyone in the class of 2005. May the Lord guide you and may you serve Him well. May our paths cross again.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Finals grumbling

I'm behind on replies and posts, but I have only one more exam and I'll try to catch up after that. Now for the grumbling. If I were an elephant, the New Testament exam would have gone much better. As it is, I tried to be too smart for my own good. The exam instructions said "The passages requiring identification and comment will bre related, to the fullest degree possible, to the particular circumstances and issues of a specific NT book." Sadly, since I can't remember passages word for word, I tried looking into the passage for clues and I found the wrong one...

"Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about"

Since in class we focused on 1 Peter as the epistle that most deals with suffering, I said 1 Peter. I should have looked at Job -> righteousness -> James. grumble.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Late evening rumination

I'll start of with the less serious part of my late night thinking and go on to more serious things towards the end.

As I was reading the second comment to my previous blog - brief and pertinent, good qualities both - I noticed that the author of the post was anonymous. This got me thinking - I tend to prefer comments to which a name is attached. On the internet a name does not have to mean anything (there's no face associated with it, no way to verify its source), still there is something about a name that seems to make a difference - at least to me.

This is not to say that people should not post anonymously - one of the beauties of the internet is the exchange of ideas that can occur between people who have never met in real life and, objectively speaking, the identity of the author does not impact the validity of a comment. In the end, I enjoy any relevant, well-crafted post and I will try to reply to any comments. I guess this is sort of a late night 'what's in a name?'

As a side-note - in time I had reached the conclusion that engineering is not so much a job/occupation as a mindset. In that regard, I have often tended to try and optimize the way I spend my time, juggling things so I can squeeze as many things as I could into a day. From this perspective, anonymous posts make sense (it is probably the fastest choice in posting a comment, though I have not done any statistically significant studies on the matter).

The topic does bring to mind a more serious matter. I wonder about being anonymous (or trying to be anonymous) out in the world. I realize that there are many circumstances where maintaining anonymity is the safe way to go: whistleblowers incur significant risks, criticism (even of the well-meaning variety) can lead to animosity... At the same time, there is the issue of taking responsibility for actions/beliefs. In today's world as Christians it is often very difficult to take that responsibility: Christian opinion can lead to social isolation, one can be be accused of inflexibility, judgmentalism, etc.

From what I have seen, most of us are creatures of habits - some ingrained, some acquired, some developed. I see no reason why taking responsibility should not be such a habit. The converse of building this habit is - by default - the contrary habit of not taking responsibility for our actions and beliefs and not standing up in their defense. In this context, the question to which I do not have the answer is: if we build up the non-responsibility habit, will we be able to break out of it for important issues? Perhaps some will, but I tend to think that most of us would have a difficult time doing that. The question for whose answer I am searching is thus "How can the Church (and, specifically, those of us who, by the grace of God, will be responsible for the faithful) nurture and develop a culture in which love of neighbor and openness to new thought can coexist with responsibility towards our beliefs?"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thoughts at the end of classes this spring

Dogmatics has been a fascination of mine for a few years now and this post will be very closely tied in with that. For our first semester of dogmatics, I wrote a paper on the image and likeness of God (and posted it in the dogmatics section of my class notes. Even though the paper is finished, the topic has remained on my mind and an incipient idea that showed in that paper seems to finally be crystallizing.

In Orthodoxy we have a wonderful way of looking at history, at life, at creation, and even at God. We draw outlines, conscious of our failings and the failings of our endeavors. Our dogmas are guideposts not an exhaustive system, our theology a mixture of things we know and things we cannot know, our hymns a vision of the heavenly seen and expressed in even the most mundane things. Beyond all the theory, Orthodoxy is a way of life; a life not of this world, but rooted in God Himself.

The Fathers said in regards to Christ's humanity that whatever is not assumed, is not saved, thus implying that He took on the whole of our humanity. This was one of the starting points of my thought. I cannot claim to comprehend the unity of God and man in Christ, but I can try to look at some of the implications of that union. A popular Orthodox saying (attributed, if I remember correctly, to at least St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasios) says that "God became man so that man can become god." In Orthodoxy we understand man by relating him to God - in the theandric union of Christ and in the creation in the image and likeness of God.

It seems to me that we have tried to understand the image of God in various ways: as the soul, the mind, freedom, unity in diversity, a generic 'humanity'... The more I think about it, however, the more it seems like there has to be more to it than that; more than a specific characteristic that we can identify. God calls us to be holy as He is holy - a broad, encompassing statement whose consequences I am trying to slowly understand.

My current understanding is that the call to holiness applies to every facet of our lives: private, familial, societal, and universal. In each of these, we are called to immitate God; to grow in His likeness. But - as the Fathers said about our humanity as assumed by Christ - can there be likeness without an image? It seems to me that there is an aspect of the image of God in every aspect of our lives and it is through that image that we are to grow in the likeness of God in every aspect of our lives.

In this way, our entire lives grow from the seed that is planted within us and towards the goal of unity with God. In this way, there can be no break between the people we are on Sunday in church and the people we are the rest of the week. It's just an idea, but maybe there's a seed of truth in it.

I think that, at this point, I need to go to sleep.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The absent-minded professor

Among the many ten-page papers that need to be written in the M.Div. program at Holy Cross, there was also this one. I enjoyed writing it, so as far as I am concerned, the grade does not matter. Still, I was curious whether the professor had any comments. Today, he brought some papers to return to us, but mine was not among them. After class, I went to him and asked about it. The response was something along the lines of "Why do you worry about it? It was a good paper." I said, "I'm not worried about it; I'm just curious about your comments. Could I come by your office to get it?" He said, "Yeah, come by."

When I got to his office, there were a couple of other people there and a lot of papers on the desk (which very much reminded me of my desk at Notre Dame, as well as of a sticker a professor from Midwestern State had on his desk: "A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind."). It took a little bit before he found the paper. He paused... he looked at it... and he said, "You know, I haven't read this one yet."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bright Week brief update

Hristos a-nviat!

The semester is slowly drawing to a close and, as a result, time is getting short. There is always more that I would like to know, to read, to absorb. However, there is only so much that I can do and there is no way to know everything. I guess that is where prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit come in.

In the end, I was happy with the way Holy Week came out on my end. I wasn't perfect chanting, but I think I did quite well. I tried to get the other students involved as well, but there was only time for one brief rehearsal for Holy Thursday. That helped - they were much more helpful and I could hear them more that evening. Maybe in next year I can continue Fr. Costin's practice from this year of having a weekly chant practice.

**Sidenote** I find it interesting how sometimes I say something the full meaning of which only becomes apparent upon further thought. Today I was talking to a classmate - about a variety of things - and he said I did well for Holy Week. I replied that maybe now that I know I can do well, I can try to help others get better. I followed it up with "It's not fun if I'm good at something and don't share it with others." Come to think of it, I've been acting on that principle all my life, though not always in a conscious manner (not a good thing :). So I'm glad I got that part figured out.

Time for Vespers.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Christ is Risen!

Well, we made it to the Glorious Resurrection. But not before some pre-Paschal silliness. Last night before the service we were discussing various English variants for "Christ is Risen! - Truly He is Risen!" My favorite - an Ebonics variant:

"Word up!"