Saturday, February 27, 2010
Just when times are darkest and we are most in need of hope and refuge the Son is there waiting.
You know who is working overtime on awaking old insecurities, generating new resentments and using his deception to twist up thoughts and feelings into something removed from circumstance and reality.
I drove Stavro-nikitas directly from his flute lesson to church for Pre-scantified Liturgy. Arriving early we straightened up the candle stands lighting the candles and preparing the space within ourselves leaving the world outside and welcoming the cosmos. As it unfolded he was the only altar boy serving and I was the choir. I hardly looked forward to the responsibility or up for the task. Choir singing I have managed to avoid for about fifteen years until a month ago. Father came over to me and asked pointedly "You are going to help [do] with the singing right?" I replied "Yes of course. Help or Hurt." Then father replied sarcastically or not, I don't know, "Just pray".
Regardless of his intent, I took Father at his word and prayed to dispense with all my vain thoughts, self consciousness, all my inadequacy to wash away as I was the one now charged with helping the service along: pray well. I sang the responses and hymns, the way I run [used to run] the miles one at a time never looking ahead just staying in the present step. Jim read all the readings and I sang all but 'O Gladsome Light' which Father came out and directed Jim to sing. God I was drenched with self awareness of my ineptitude. I immediately worked to release and push aside any distracting thoughts any speculation about my lack of competency.
I read the words of the hymns and prayed mindful of my instrument and guiding myself to the reality that the notes in spite of the page are the same just as the letters of many different words are unchanged. I made some notes to the music for future reference like repeats in certain hymns to account for timing. I was amazed that despite a rather unfruitful and dark day lost in my imaginings I was blessed to assist in the service in such a profound way. I wasn't sure how many people had attended church until the end because the light at the psaltery was so blinding. The Lord didn't pick a day when I felt strong or deserving but the day of lowliness.
Stavro-nikitas was calmly rushing about assisting Father with this service of Saint Basil. How beautiful it was the my son and I each were responsible for assisting others in their roles and worship as Elias had done with his iconography in our small community. Theophani remained home to watch after Euphemia and take care of some undone menial tasks.
I honestly believe that there were a few moments when the service could have been objectively considered beautiful and by that I don't think my singing a distraction. I wanted to be good for God and for the others. On that rather serious note...When Stavronikitas and I were riding home in the car trying to stay warm, I asked him what he thought of church. He spoke about having to make sure Father had everything he needed. I then asked about the singing and he said it was "O.K". I asked if there were any bad parts and he shrugged his shoulders and said "Not really". Then I asked "Well, were there any good parts?" and he said in true form "Yeah when Father was singing".
Vanity it's all vanity!!!!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Associated Press
ANKARA, Turkey - In a crackdown that would once have been unthinkable, Turkish police detained more than 40 high-ranking military commanders Monday for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government.
The sweep highlighted the ongoing struggle between the secular establishment and the Islamic-oriented government , and left many wondering if the military no longer called the shots in a nation accustomed to viewing it as the pillar of the secular state.
The jailing of several senior military officers , including members of the elite class known as "Pashas," a title of respect harking back to Ottoman times , proved, at the very least, that such officials are no longer untouchable.
"We could not even dream about things that we see happening now," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told CNN-Turk television Monday. "Things will get better when those who were never accountable for their deeds begin to account for them."
He said Turkey was going through a normalization process.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not comment during a visit to Madrid on Monday, saying the crackdown was carried out solely on the orders of prosecutors.
"It would not be appropriate for me to talk about an issue that is already handled by the judiciary," Erdogan said.
The military's image had already been tarnished by allegations it was secretly planning to depose Erdogan's elected government for undermining secularism in this predominantly Muslim but officially secular country.
The commanders detained Monday are reportedly accused of seeking to foment chaos by blowing up mosques to trigger a military takeover. The military denies any such plan.
But Erdogan said Sunday, before the crackdown, that the government was preserving the rule of law.
"We did not give a chance to those who tried to fly a course for Turkey outside law," he said Sunday before flying to Madrid.
Several high-ranking members of Turkey's military , including ex-deputy chief Gen. Ergin Saygun, former Air Force chief Gen. Ibrahim Firtina and Navy Chief Adm. Ozden Ornek , were among those detained. Several other senior admirals and generals were also among the suspects.So far, prosecutors have charged more than 400 people in the case, including soldiers, academics, journalists and politicians.
No one has yet been convicted.
The detentions Monday followed the gathering of wiretap evidence and the discovery of secret weapons caches , revelations that dealt a blow to the military's credibility.
Monday's crackdown showed the level of polarization in the country, Dogu Ergil, a former political science professor at Ankara University, told private NTV television.
Turkey's secular military has ousted four governments since 1960, proof to many here that it has been the real power since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created the republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
Under European Union pressure, Erdogan has dramatically curtailed the military's power and reinforced civilian rule, while bolstering democratic institutions.
Associated Press Writer Gulden Alp in Ankara contributed to this report.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Research comming out of John Hopkins University and The Hebrew University in Jerusalem suggest that buring insense has psychotropic effects. Specifically burning resin from the Boswellia plant (frankincense) activates particular ion channels in the brain which seem to relieve depression and anxiety. These scientists studied the effects on mice finding a protein called TRPV3 is activated when exposed to incense.
So if you suffer with or struggle with a depressed mood or anxious affect get to church and breath deep! Don't forget to breakout the charcols and insence daily at home go 'oldschool' on this one.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The Orthodox faith is the custodian and sole protector of the icon these mystical protusions which bring the eternal and even the divine squarely in the room. They are liturgical objects or more correctly subjects which bring their brightest light in that context. Unlike mankind the chosen creation of God, the icons can never be less they can neversoil themselves or fall short. They are those Holies and events present despite what that ignorant iconologist (who is more rightly an iconoclast) who in his futile attempt tries to strip the sacred work of its essence. His brand of iconoclasm is more incidious and heretical then calling for a more upfront affront to iconography. This professor from St. Tikons Seminary can be found spouting his heresy from the classroom to the conference hall while the ignorant soak up his fiflth like myrr. Icons are mystical in their own right and unlike this professor they can't betray the faith, can't shame their own image or comprimise their essense nor will they be comprimised by small minds or evil hearts.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Thanking the Great I AM for Orthodoxy and the great richness that is the Holy Orthodox Church.
I am learning to be the candle.
Monday, February 15, 2010
The plans I made to attend the Great Canon of Holy Andrew of Crete was obstructed. I got to church early a minor miracle for this Greek and waited. With no priest there was no service. All you would find in the parking lot was a sleeping tolder and this sinner inflamed by own frustration and disappointment yelling at my 13 year old as this is a day for prayer. After a 30 min drive home I collected what was left of my dignity and I decided to be an adult and went into my home 'chapel' and prayed a small compline and then the Canon for this evening. This makeshift vigil was soothing and reduced dejection and spurned my soul and body to behave responsibly for my own repentance. I was amazed how I could pray like the Pharisee even while alone in my chapel. The mind seldom ceases to boast pridefully of itself despite the sin.
I have darkened the beauty of my soul... and have reduced wholly my mind to mud.-- The Great Canon, Holy Andrew of Crete
Saturday, February 13, 2010
"Do some type of physical exercise (ἄσκησις, ascesis; подвиг, podvig) relative to your spiritual misbelief (πλάνη, plani; прелести, prelest)" --JN1034 (SYNTHEOPOIESIS)
Sin with the body repent also with the body.
I should relearn to run.
I have spent the better part of my nearly 42 years believing strongly in a religion. I defiled myself repeatedly with self loathing, condemnation and then with a reckless regard for my fellow human beings. I cleaved to my religiousity as a child clings to a baby blanket (transitional object) for comfort. I affirmed by loyalty and devotion to "the church" rebuking my sinful thoughts and deeds ever attempting to distance myself from my personal disgust and failings. This strongly held belief was simply a way of strong arming my passions or vices and imposing my worldview concerning moral living on others. Religion is the very construct that the mind imposes on faith on belief and on others. It is approaching God in a fallen state through the minds eye. The fall concerned itself more with giving the mind independence from the heart knowledge which is the mind's limited understanding.It was the abandonment of wisdom which is a function of the heart or nous which was in constant communion koinia with God and which now is exiled by the mind. The mind is self serving and fearful the heart is communal, endearing and not defensive. I have spent my life pursuing knowledge and acting in defense of my ego and sense of individuality which has left my existential self in the place of nothingness. If I go into my heart my nous and live in the moment which is not relegated to the past or the future but in true existence and being or becoming then I (WE) can commune with God the person not the impersonal force or 'act of nature'. I don't have to impose my worldview on anyone else of any persuasion because I don't have to be right. We don't have to wage war on the world religions,sects, denominations, peoples, cultures, genders, orientations or vocations. I only have to bring myself to the now and listen and commune. I'm sorry that I have so poorly instructed and conveyed orthodoxy to my friends, family and the community at large. I practice a structured belief system who accepts the mystery of God and who has established a venue to meet Him where we are not where others think we ought to be. If there is one should the faithful should love and embrace all peoples as God reaches out to all through His Incarnation and he loved us while we were yet sinners or more to the point long before we were brought into being.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Thy grace has shown forth, O Lord, it has shone forth and given light to our souls. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the season of repentance. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, that having sailed across the great sea of the Fast, we may reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls. Sticheron at the Aposticha, Sunday evening Vespers.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
This afternoon was a warm cloudy, wind blowing excitement. This run was awesome I ran with Stavro who has all the answers all the time (he's 13). It was emotional for me because I wanted him to enjoy running (which is not so much fun in the beginning). Also a happy surprise was the he kept up with me the whole time and never once complained but he corrected me about a lot of stuff. Actually he complained when I told him to take the garbage to the street just following the run. To be fair and in the spirit of honesty Stavro didn't compain as it were about doing the chore just that I told him just as he finished running and was still feeling like puking. I hope he runs with me often. He actually has a natural aptitude. I had a chance to shake out the lead and move my body again. I have been motionless for over six weeks save an occasional long run (14 miler) to church and only a few 5+ milers. Stagnation has set in and my mind is a dusty mess. I am out of shape and fit my clothes like a mild Italian sausage. Pressure is mounting with tension and cognitive paralysis. My thoughts move in and over take my emotion and well being. I sin in anger and am impatient and fruitless. I have a cearing central nervous system. Putting that to rest enough already I am going to keep off my ass and bring movement and body/soul/mind synergy which is sorely lacking back into priminence. Prayer rules are essentially successfully integrated into my life for the first time really. It is not artificially set but is arranged for regularily. I'm hoping my praying shapes my connection and communication with my family: my husband and children and my church family: closest friends and body of believers. I have been told that I am abrasive at times, remiss in compassion, void of empathy and lack tact not to mention commonsense. As a side note and final comment I was glad to see Jn1034 Gr (NY) is writing again. I miss their more vigorous editorials.
These are the basics the terms we embrace and which should be understood so that we can infuse our understanding with correct or orthodox understanding. This is not so that it can be put behind us but so that we may live more fully our praxis.
Ascesis: It is so called man's effort as well as the method he uses to pass through the three stages of the spiritual life: purification of heart, illumination of the nous and theosis. Since this is achieved through the commandments of Christ, ascesis is man's struggle to keep the commandments of Christ. Thus ascesis is connected with the keeping of the commandments and the healing of man.
Discernment (diakrisis): A spiritual gift through which one discerns the inner states. It is not a sharpness of mind but the energy of the grace of God. It is a gift which pertains to the pure nous. It is mainly the ability to distinguish between uncreated and created things; between the energy of God and the energy of the devil but also between the energies of God and the psychophysical energies of man. Thus, one distinguishes emotional states from spiritual experiences.
Disciple (hypotactikos): In the narrow sense of the word it means the monk who obeys a Gerondas so that he gets healed and acquires theosis in the grace of God. In the wide sense of the word “disciple” means every Christian who receives spiritual guidance by his spiritual father.
Dispassion (apatheia): The soul has three powers aspects, that is: the intelligent power, the appetitive and the irascible power. The last two constitute what is called the passible aspect of the soul. Dispassion, then, is not the mortification of the passible aspect of the soul but its transfiguration. Generally, when all the powers of the soul turn to God and are directed to Him we have the state of dispassion.
Ecstasy (ekstasis): It is not the “going–out” of the soul from the body but it is the detachment of the nous from the reason and the surrounding world and its return to the heart. It is not a respite of the energies of the soul and intellect but it is a respite of physical energies like sleeping, eating etc.
Imagination – Phantasy: The covering of the noetic energy of the soul. It is an after–the–Fall phaenomenon. It is an energy of the soul which covers the nous and darkens it. The ascetic endeavour consists in purifying the nous from the energy of imagination–phantasy.
Gerondas: The priest or monk who has been healed by the grace of God and helps effectively his spiritual children –disciples– to be healed, that is to go through the purification of heart, the illumination of nous and to attain to theosis divinization.
Heart: The spiritual centre of man's being. It is the do main which is manifested through ascesis in grace and within which God Himself is manifested. It is also called the centre of the powers–energies of the soul (intelligent power, appetitive and irascible power).
Hesychia: The peace of the heart, the undisturbed state of the nous, the liberation of heart from the thoughts (logismoi), from the passions and the influence of the environment; it is the dwelling in God. Hesychia is the only way for man to attain to theosis. External quietness is helpful so that man can reach the noetic hesychia. A hesychast is one who struggles to achieve the returning of the nous back into the heart, following a specific method.
Illumination: When all thoughts–logismoi come out of the heart the nous returns within it and the prayer operates unceasingly. This is called illumination of the nous. Thus the illumination of the nous is closely connected with noetic prayer.
Knowledge (gnosis): It is neither the intellectual engagement with God nor the knowledge of the reason about God but it is the personal experience of God. The knowledge of God is closely connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light. This knowledge is beyond any other created knowledge. It is achieved through man's theosis. Theosis is man's communion and union with God. And it is this union which engenders knowledge of God, which is of a higher order than and above any other human knowledge.
Mourning (penthos): Deep sorrow of the soul. The mourning according to God is an energy of the divine grace and is closely linked with repentance, weeping, tears. It is called gladdening sorrow because it does not cause any psychological anomaly but it brings inner peace and man's yearning to adjust his life to the commandments of Christ.
Noetic Prayer: The prayer which is done with the nous. When the nous is liberated from its enslavement to reason, to the passions and the surrounding world and returns from its distraction within the heart, then noetic prayer starts. Thus noetic prayer is done with the nous within the heart, whereas the prayer of the intellect is done within the reason.
Nous: The word has various uses in Patristic teaching. It indicates either the soul or the heart or even an energy of the soul. Yet, the nous is mainly the eye of the soul; the purest part of the soul; the highest attention. It is also called noetic energy and it is not identified with reason.
Passion: The last stage of the development of sin. The stages of sin are: provocation through the thoughts, joining, assent, desire, action and passion. Passion is a repeated action which dominates man. In ascetic theology the movement of the powers of the soul contrary to nature is called passion.
Pleasure: The pleasure that man feels enjoying an object, an idea etc. There is sensual pleasure and spiritual pleasure corresponding to the body and soul accordingly. The pleasure which derives from God is connected with peace whereas the pleasure which derives from sin and the devil causes disturbance. Also, a pleasure which causes pain and guilt comes from the devil and is connected with the passions.
Practical Man- Praxis: Praxis is the struggle to purify one's heart and that is the first stage of spiritual life. Practical man is one who struggles to purify his heart. In patristic theology the practical man is also called a breeder because he tries to tame his passions, which are like animals.
Purification (Katharsis): Purification refers mainly to the soul. In patristic theology the term “katharsis" –purification– is employed to denote three states. The first one is the rejection of all thoughts (logismoi) from the heart. The thoughts-logismoi are so called because they must be in the reason (in Greek: logiki- logismoi). The second state is the ascetic effort so that the powers of the soul, intelligent, appetitive, irascible move in accordance with nature and above nature –which means they must turn towards God– and not contrary to nature. The third state is the ascetic method by means of which man reaches from selfish love to unselfish love.
Reason (logiki): The power of the soul through which we perceive the surrounding world and we develop our relation with it. We aquire experience of God by means of the nous and we formulate this experience, when required, by means of reason, in so far as it is attainable.
Remembrance of Death: It is not just the feeling that the end of our biological existence will come but the feeling of mortality –the garments of the flesh that man wore after the Fall. The remembrance of death is activated by the grace of God and creates desire for repentance. Remembrance of death is also the experience of the loss of the grace of God.
Remembrance of God: The incessant remembrance of the name of God. It is not just calling God to mind but it is a state attained through the purified nous. It is achieved and expressed by means of noetic prayer.
Sin: In theological terms sin is the darkening of the nous. When the nous goes away from the heart and ceases having remembrance of God and is distracted to creation through the senses, then it commits sin. This distraction is manifested in actions which are, thus, called sin. Sin starts with assent and evolves to desire, action and passion.
Slothfulness (acedia): The spiritual paralysis of the powers of the soul. It is this state during which there is an absolute indifference to prayer and fasting and, in general, an inertia about the keeping of the commandments of the gospel. Since man is a psychophysical being, spiritual slothfulness is reflected in the body too. It is a psychophysical weakness and slackness. A psychophysical paralysis.
Sorrow: The inner pain of the soul. There is sorrow ac cording to God and sorrow according to the world. The former creates spiritual inspiration, that is it moves within an atmosphere of hope in God and urges man to spiritual struggle. It gives great strength and energy. Sorrow according to the world leads man to despair and to a psychophysical paralysis.
Theology - Theologian: Theology is the knowledge of God. It is not a result of studying books or exercising the reason; it is on the one hand a fruit of the knowledge of God and of the personal experience of Him; on the other hand it is the way which leads to the healing of man and the knowledge of God. A theologian is one who has passed through the purification of heart to the illumination of the nous and to theosis. Thus, he has acquired the knowledge of God and speaks about Him in an authentic way. A theologian can be even called one who accepts the experience of the saints, not having himself a personal experience of God. “He whose prayer is pure is a theologian”.
Theoria -Theoretical Man: Theoria is the vision of the glory of God. Theoria is identified with the vision of the uncreated Light, the uncreated energy of God, with the union of man with God, with mans theosis. Thus, theoria, vision and theosis are closely connected. Theoria has various degrees. There is illumination, vision of God and constant vision (for hours, days, weeks, even months). Noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria. Theoretical man is one who is at this stage. In patristic theology the theoretical man is characterised as the shepherd of the sheep.
Theosis - Divinization: It is the participation in the uncreated grace of God. Theosis is identified and connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light. It is called theosis in grace because it is attained through the energy of the divine grace. It is a cooperation of God with man, since God is He Who operates and man is he who cooperates.
Thoughts - Logismoi: The thoughts which are connected with images as well as with the various stimulations originating from the senses and the imagination. The thoughts logismoi evolve to sin through the stages of desire, action and passion. They are called logismoi because they act in the reason (logiki).
Uncreated Light: It is the energy of God which can be seen as Light many times. This energy of God is the glory of divinity. It is called uncreated Light because it is divine and thus, uncreated. It is not the energy of a created being.
Watchfulness (nepsis): Spiritual alertness, constant attentiveness and readiness so that the thought won't progress from the reason and enter into the heart. It is only the nous that must be within the heart and not the thoughts-logismoi. This spiritual alertness is called nepsis.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
It is when we can't recognize the brokenness in us that we become sick. There is a distinct difference between pastoral guidance and clinical practice. The qualifications are different, as are the professionals and the context of the work. Clinical work is an ongoing process and requires regular counsel. Never attach person to a diagnosis as it becomes a source of anxiety and pain for the individual. Deal rather with the person in the proper environment including how the person integrates such information. In clinical practice there is the practical matter of payment for services rendered but they are of no consequence to treatment save underwriting the financial burden. When pasturing or consulting there is no need for a diagnosis but there is a real need to be aware of the various conditions and subset of conditions. With consulting and pasturing there is no clinical barrier there is just the journey. Depression seems to be a pandemic in the states but in fact it is endemic in our society. It functions as a disease and a bi product of affluent living. There is a luxury associated with the condition. The isolation and fractured existence of individuals removed from a community creates existential anxiety. Communal life and even parish life is a way of controlling the existential anxiety: isolation from others opens the individual to many maleformities which include, meaningless, alienation, purposelessness, pain as an inevitability. We are all plagued with such introspective waste. Depression is expected to cover an enormous range is it acute or chronic. Is it a normal malaise or is it more conditional. There is a normal reaction to certain events like death. Transitional periods like grief resolve itself over time. If there is no disruption in the course of the life of the person then its more organic or a learned condition. Clinically it is taken for granted that it is organic but that is a huge 'leap of faith'. It is maintained that medications can manipulate the problem. Medication or self medicating is a natural result of this thinking. Psychotropics do not cure the condition but rid the person of the symptoms. The symptom however can be helpful to the person because it forced there hand to deal with the condition. Removing the emotional pain is not the cure or answer. Think and heal the cause of the pain root out the cause. Get the message and then do something about it. removing the thorn is not the answer to what really ails the person. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel T drives the methodology of the diagnosis and therefore drives treatment. There is the debate over the actual conditions sited. if the conditions are so pervasive that the larger population has it then you are not describing illness but sociological conditions or state or characteristics. Lethargic heaviness or slothfulness, laziness is the dominant factor of depression. people in their right mind do seek help. it's when you fail to recognize the need for intervention that you are out of your mind. substance is often lacking but the need to incite attention is present for them. they are not anchored. medication can normalise the pendulum and reduce the swing. then intervention is more possible. demonstration measurement: proof. Depressed people lack motivation to cure themselves. The chasm between the mind and the heart is to pray. We are broken but we are glorious.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
It seems as if the title of this entry is self evident to regular readers. i am not trying to imply that running is out of my life; hardly. Simply running is no longer the regularly observed rule. I will try to act on my desire to run and kick myself in the pants and run but i will not carry the title until I get some miles back in the sneaker and on the road. prayer life is growing in leaps and bounds the true and time tested prayers are perfectly relevant and abundant bearing much fruit. I love to pray I pray will all my heart as unprofitable as I am and as ineffectual I am in carrying my responsibility with grace or competence.
Rigidity and frigidity should not be misunderstood for order or some fained attempt at purity. Understanding the similarity and distinction between marriage and monastic orders is imperative as each are in fact closed systems. They grow side by side in the church each nurturing the faithful and offering God a broken heart and contrite spirit. Each have committed to advance the cause of The Kingdom within the distinct boundaries of their calling and obligations. A church community should not try to impose monastic ideals to parishioners while monastic communities shouldn't have active outreach programs designed to establish a make shift parish. Each system should be a safe haven for its members. In married life too often couples are given rules for living that are incompatible with marriage and create undo stress and conflict. The wife becomes a 'refusing wife' while the husband becomes a resentful authoritarian. Monasteries begin to function like 'religious' communes and less like prayer centers. Priests tend to over reach in their role as confessor and attempt to be spiritual fathers dictating the lives of their parishioners wrongfully in detail. Likewise spiritual fathers of the monastic order too often attempt to over-pastor pilgrims as a parish priest ought. Parishes exist as open systems making no restriction on parishoner or any visitor. The monasteries however though self and provide a safe haven they are closed and self contained. They are under no obligation to recieve guests/pilgrims.