Saturday, August 30, 2008
The Xenia, Galina, Coinkydink
The caller said, “Pastor Huneycutt? This is Tim.”
Thinking I knew the man to be the Protestant man named “Tim” who was married to the newly Orthodox parishioner, “Sherry” – I said: “Hello, Tim. How are you?”
He said, “Well, not too good Pastor … she’s gone.”
Again, believing I knew those concerned, I said: “Sherry left you?”
(When I get to the punch line here, you won’t believe me … but) He said, “Yes, we had an argument … it got out of hand, and she left.”
So, I started struggling with my words, trying to say the right things … and, at that point, he said: “Hey, is this Pastor Huneycutt of Goose Creek Baptist Church?”
I said, “No, I’m sorry. I’m an Orthodox priest.”
He apologized; we shared an uncomfortable laugh, and hung up.
I must inform you, I soon learned, that there was indeed a Baptist pastor with the last name “Huneycutt” living in our area. And – what a coincidence! – He had a married couple in his parish with the same names as some of mine.
Now, here’s where the story gets even weirder.
In those days, I regularly volunteered at a local hospital, and about a year or so later … on a whim, totally random – for some strange reason – I tried to make conversation with a family that was gathered around the room of a man who was deathly ill.
They were not Orthodox, but as a volunteer chaplain I visited everyone.
Anyway – for the first time since it had happened, I related that story of the erroneous phone call. I noticed as I talked that they were not amused. So, if memory serves me, I threw in some nervous laughter myself.
When I finished, someone said: “She just left.”
“Who just left?” I asked.
They said: “Sherry. She’ll be back later, but she had to step out for a while.”
I looked at the man lying there, looked back at my list … and, sure enough, his name was “Tim.”
Coincidence – pure and random. I’ve found no other way to parse it, all these years since.
Sometimes, things just happen that, well, surprise and amaze us by their timing.
Like recently, I was on vacation with the family on the coast of South Carolina. At the risk of causing scandal here – forgive me ...
The Orthodixie Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
As you saved your apostles from perishing in a storm by calming wind and waves on you command, so now keep us safe and sound in this hurricane season. Grant us favorable and benign weather. Protect us from the unpredictable elements of nature. Steer us from storm, flood, fire, illness, injury, disaster and sudden death. Preserve us from all evil and harm for we, though sinful, are nonetheless the work of Your hands. And You together with your Father who has no beginning and Your all holy good and life giving Spirit are our God in whom we live, move, and have being. Now and ever and unto ages and ages. Amen.
Most Holy Theotokos ...
Seeing how your holy and powerful maternal intercessions and safe haven for the storm tossed, count us worthy of your prayers during this season of uncertain and threatening weather. Beg your divine human Son to grant us mercy, forgiveness, health, safety and salvation over the coming months. For He is sure to listen to you, His mother, the woman whom all generations call blessed. Amen.
All Holy Prophet Elias ...
As the Lord gave you control over droughts and rainfall to prove His power to the wayward and unbelieving, plead with Him to keep stormy weather, heavy rains and destructive winds away from us. Help us with your heavenly intercessions for we know the prayer of a righteous man like you is powerful and effective as God is wondrous in His Saints. Amen.
Holy Father Herman of Alaska ...
While you were alive on Earth, your prayers kept your spiritual children safe from tidal surge and forest fire and after your death your heavenly intercessions calmed stormy seas saving Saintly Bishop Innocent from peril. Do not less for us in your fatherly love for your adopted land. Implore your Master to safeguard for us from such dangers too for we know God is wondrous in his Saints. Amen.
Holy St John of San Francisco ...
During your earthly sojourn in the Philippines, your prayers kept typhoons at bay from your flock. Brace us living in the land where your wonder working relics rest with your heavenly intercessions as well. Appeal to the Ruler of All for our reprieve from such hazard and menace. For we know God is wondrous in his Saints. Amen.
Thanks to Fr Don Shadid & FWD from Bishop Thomas.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
When Black Becomes ... White
Over the years I’ve found that listening to Classical Music in my car is the best way to not only control road rage, but to actually enjoy driving. Therefore, I listen to NPR stations a lot. If you’re accustomed to the same, you know that sometimes you might tune in and they are playing the most fabulous hits of the Classical Music World –
Like the greatest hits of Mozart, Bach, and, oh, Garrison Keillor. You know … for some reason, their programming just seems extra heavenly on that particular day!
Then, you hear the voice that’s asking for money, donations. That’s right, it’s that time of year again:
Yet, money is a little less painful topic than the subject of this post.
Are you ready?
Also, come closer … I don’t want to upset anyone here …
I’m also going to talk about a man who was part of a gang, a murderer … and he was …
And no, I don’t mean he was African-American. This was long before there was a country called America and, essentially, I’m not really talking about skin color.
But first, back to the Fund Raising. I once heard someone say, during one of those NPR money pleas, that you don’t mind the begging, once you’ve given.
You don’t mind the begging – once you’ve given!
In other words, after you’ve made your donation, the requests for money is directed toward OTHERS – you’re in the clear. It’s much the same with FORGIVENESS.
For instance, there's that familiar Gospel reading which goes like this:
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant, therefore, fell down before him saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’. So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” [Matthew 18:21-35]
Here we see a model of the Church, the safe ship on the stormy sea. It is in the Church that we find forgiveness from God. We are brought into the family of God, the Church of Christ. Yet the unfaithful servant, after gaining the Grace of God’s forgiveness, lost it all when he failed to forgive in return. We too can lose everything that we have been given (and forgiven) by God in that terrible moment when we refuse to forgive our debtors. We receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. We receive Grace in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. And in one moment, that moment when we turn our back, walk out on God, and demand of our debtors that which we have been forgiven -- we lose it all. In the Orthodox Tradition, the Church is called the Kingdom of God on earth. Thus, when our Lord speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven we should also see therein a model for the Church.
Now, on to today’s subject: St Moses the Black.
Moses was a former gang leader, murderer, and thief in ancient Africa. However, he became a model of transformation. His is one of the most inspiring stories among the African saints.
Moses lived in the 4th century – he was an escaped slave and the leader of a group of 75 robbers. He was a large and powerful man, who with his gang terrorized the entire region. Moses was transformed after they had stolen some sheep and wished to seek asylum in a monastery. The Abbot greeted Moses with open arms – and such a warm welcome that it had a life-changing impact on Moses the Ehiopian. The peaceful welcome and warm manner of the monks overwhelmed him. He immediately felt remorse for all his past sins, sincerely repented, and begged to remain at the monastery. He soon gave up his old way of life, became a Christian, and he and his fellow gang members were baptized.
Yet, Moses, even AFTER becoming a Christian, was tortured by his past and for years was tempted to return to his old ways. The Devil fought him intensively with his old habits of excessive eating, drinking, and fornication. Moses also had a rather difficult time adjusting to regular monastic discipline. His flair for adventure remained with him. Attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the other monks were at prayer. He told the brothers that he didn't think it Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.
Yet, much of Moses’ temptations to his former way of life became transformed one day when he had a vision while he was confessing his sins to St Macarius. It is said that Moses saw a vision of an angel -- who appeared with a tablet full of his sins. As he confessed each sin, the angel began wiping the tablet clean. The more he confessed, the more the angel wiped, until by the end, after a full Confession, the tablet was completely clean. After meeting St. Macarius and St. Isidore, he completely left his old ways behind him and became a monk.
Moses was zealous in all he did, but became discouraged when he concluded he was not perfect enough. Early one morning, Saint Isidore, abbot of the monastery, took Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, "Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative."
A favorite incident of many is the story of the hospitality of a certain Arsenius toward a visiting monk. Arsenius received the monk in absolute silence. Moses, however, greeted the visitor with joy. When someone asked for an explanation, the answer was in the form of two visions. One has Arsenius in a boat with Angels in silence, another saw Moses in the boat with the Angels eating sweetmeats.
Later, St. Moses was ordained to the priesthood –
Now, here’s a story that might shock you; but listen carefully. The blessing of the Lord came upon Moses. After a while, he became the Father and the spiritual guide of 500 brothers, who elected him to be ordained a priest. When he came before the Patriarch to be ordained, the Patriarch wanted to test him by asking the elders, "Who brought this black here? Cast him out." He obeyed, and left saying to himself, "It is good what they have done to you, O black colored one.” The Patriarch, however, called him back and ordained him a priest, and said to him, Moses, all of you now has become white."
You see, brothers and sisters, Moses was put to the test – not of his ethnicity or race – but of humility. He became know for his wisdom, humility, love, and non-judgment of others.
A certain wealthy, high-ranking official once came to Sketis with a large caravan. He bestowed gifts upon the monks and inquired where he might locate the elder Moses. After receiving directions, the official set out to visit the Ethiopian monk. Moses, perceiving in the Spirit the approach of the official, went out to meet him, in the guise of a traveler.
Encountering the dusty elder along the way, the official asked him if he knew the whereabouts of Moses. "What do you want with that troublemaker?" the elder asked him. "Stay away from him. He will do you no good." The official, stunned and scandalized, returned to Sketis and told the monks of his conversation on route. They could not believe that anyone would speak so about Moses and asked the official to describe the man he met. The official described him as being tall, white-haired, and black, with ragged and dusty clothing. Hearing this, the relieved monks informed the official that the monk he had conversed with was none other than Moses himself. The official was somewhat chagrined and realized that Moses wished to avoid the praise and recognition of men. And so, edified, he returned to his home.
Once a brother had been caught in a particular sin, and the abbot asked St. Moses to come to the church and render judgment. He came reluctantly, carrying on his back a leaking bag of sand – which had a hole in it, and dribbled a path of sand behind him all the way to the church. When he arrived, the brothers asked him why he was carrying such a thing. He simply said, "This sand is my sins which are trailing out behind me – which I don’t see – and yet you ask me to judge the sins of my brother before me?" At that reply, the brothers forgave the offender and returned to focusing on their own salvation rather than the sins of their brother.
In 405 A.D., at age 75, St. Moses suffered a martyr's death, when his monastery was attacked by a group of barbarians. At about age 75, about the year 405 AD, word came that a group of Berbers planned to attack the monastery. The brothers wanted to defend themselves, but Moses forbade it. He told them to retreat, rather than take up weapons. He and seven others remained behind and greeted the invaders with open arms – the same as they had once been welcomed – but all eight were slain -- martyred by the bandits.
You see, when you realize that you’ve been forgiven much – When you are grateful -- You are naturally inclined to give.
TO GIVE EVEN MORE.
Forgiveness if FOR giving. And, today, St Moses the Black is not only considered the patron Saint of African-Americans – but, a model for us all. St Moses is a model of Christian humility, love and forgiveness.
Let us open our arms each week in our churches and homes to those who are seeking, no matter the color of their sins – nor especially their skin color -- for, in so doing, we may be welcoming future Saints unaware!
St Moses the Black is commemorated August 28th.
St. Moses the Black, pray to God for us!
Info, above, taken from various sources available on the Web. Image Source
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Beauty Pageant for Nuns
"Nuns are - above all - women, and beauty is a gift from God," he told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He is asking nuns to send their photos to him, saying that internet users will then choose the winner.
Father Rungi stressed that nuns were not being invited to parade in bathing suits, saying ...
Read it all HERE.
Thanks to FWD from Fr John Salem. Image Source
Monday, August 25, 2008
Many thanks to the volunteer labours of Nicholas Finzer who has tolerated a host of emails from me, and has developed a very helpful resource for the members of St Philip's Prayer Discipline.
Soon, members will be able to log in and make prayer requests (updated weekly). The Antiochian parishes are currently listed in HTML and will soon be available for download. The hope is to eventually offer parish lists from the Greek Archdiocese, the Orthodox Church in America, and other participating jurisdictions.
Rather than in the ComBox below, please send questions and suggestions via email:
orthodixie at aol dot com
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Who's in Your Icon Corner?
I can say my prayers with my icons now
my icons now
my icons now
I can say my prayers with more icons now
more icons now
more icons now
* * *
Actually, though tempted, I did not use a song parody in this week's podcast; but it is about icons found in an icon corner and, essentially, conversion thanks to the prayers of the Saints.
The Orthodixie Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Prayer for Peace in the Caucasus
(Released by the Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Is BBQ a Sacrament?
The man who posed that question is currently
BUT, there's a whole lotta TRUTH in this video. Enjoy!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
You Can Help Those in Georgia (Updated)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND — International Orthodox Christian Charities - IOCC - distributed emergency food and hygiene supplies to people who were displaced due to the conflict between Georgian, Russian, and South Ossetian forces. The distribution took place last Thursday in Tbilisi where displaced families took shelter in a school for the blind and in the nearby town of Tskvarichamia. IOCC is also coordinating assistance to refugees in North Ossetia (Russia) in partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church. "Most people had to flee the fighting in South Ossetia and brought nothing more than the clothes on their backs,” said IOCC Georgia Program Manager DAREJAN DZOTSENIDZE. The Georgian government and the U.N. are currently registering some 23,000 people who fled the conflict and poured into Tbilisi. Those numbers are expected to increase. IOCC released emergency funds to its Tbilisi and Moscow offices earlier this week to purchase food items such as pasta, rice, cereal, sugar and tea, and hygiene items including towels, soap and tooth paste. The collective centers where the displaced are housed often have two families in one room. “Many of those who fled hid in basements and forests until they had to find food,” said Dzotsenidze. “Now they are saying, ‘please help me to get home – even if you give me a palace here, I would rather go home.’” IOCC, which has worked on emergency and development projects in Russia and Georgia since the early 1990s, is working in partnership with the Georgian Orthodox Church in the affected areas of Georgia and with the Russian Orthodox Church in North Ossetia.
Image of St Nino - Equal to the Apostles & Evangelizer of Georgia, taken from the Clergy Brotherhood Memo of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America.
Obama Announces Running Mate!
it's none other than ...
More later ... (here)
In the meantime, check out Staretz Sells Sea Shells in the See Store.
Also, Dixie has CHANGED.
Then, something serious from a guy who knows:
"For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia’s space and getting into Russia’s face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost—in Tbilisi."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Holy Slit-Eyes, Batman! (Artificial Insemination)
For such a hyped-up oversensitive sex-soaked society we sure miss the boat on the important things.
Like this for example:
"California's highest court was unanimous in its decision on Monday that Christian doctors may not refuse to perform artificial insemination for homosexual patients."
Or, this --
"The state high court said the doctors’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion did not trump the state antidiscrimination law because the state has a compelling interest in ensuring full and equal access to medical care."
Click either of the links above and enter the discussion. The first one (here) has generated, as of this writing, almost 80 comments.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Me - Adam, You - Helpmeet
This week’s podcast offers a glimpse of some of the funnier moments, taken from a version of "The Newlywed Game," from that Retreat …
The Orthodixie Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
Friday, August 15, 2008
DORMITION: The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God
Prayer to the Theotokos on Her Dormition by St Gregory Palamas (14th century).
Thanks to Fr Josiah for the text; image source.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
OLYMPIC SWIM: Orthodox Homeschoolers!
Thanks to FWD from Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo -- who writes: "Watch this wonderfully fun YouTube Olympics Water Sports spoof done by our Orthodox Homeschooling friends, the Rovny family from up in Weatherford, Texas. Enjoy!"
They say it takes all types, and I'm sure there's all types that make up the 40,000 worshipers Joel packs in on a Sunday. One things for sure, it makes getting on Highway 59 a little more negative for the rest of us when Joel's former sports arena dismisses the happily motivated crowds.
But, I'm no hater.
However, I did find a whole lot of stuff in the following article that I'm pretty positive about -- especially the last sentence.
[The Osteens are proponents]... of positive thinking--the doctrine that God intends for you to be rich, healthy and generally "great" right here in this life. While politicos have focused on the Christian Right, there's been far less attention to the fast-growing brand of Christianity Lite, also represented by televangelists Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar. Positive thinking is the theology of the modern mega-church, and it avoids all mention of sin--including the "sins" of abortion and homosexuality--lest such "negative" topics turn off any potential converts or "seekers." Its promise is that you can have anything you want simply by "visualizing" it or, as Osteen puts it, "believing for it"--a doctrine derided by some Christian critics as "name it and claim it."
In the theology of Christian positive thinking, "everything happens for a reason." The Osteens may conclude that the divine intention was to prod them into to emulating Joyce Meyers and Creflo Dollar by investing in a private jet. But there's another possible message from on high: that this brand of Christianity fosters a distinctly un-Christian narcissism.
Consider the ways the Lord works in the life of the Osteens, as recounted in Joel's book, Your Best Life Now, which has sold 4 million copies and is graced by a back cover photo of the smiling couple. Acting through Victoria, who kept "speaking words of faith and victory" on the subject, Joel was led to build the family "an elegant home." On other occasions, God intervened to save Joel from a speeding ticket and to get him not only a good parking spot but "the premier spot in that parking lot." Why God did not swoop down with a sponge and clean up the offending stain on the armrest remains a mystery, because Osteen's deity is less the Master of the Universe than an obliging factotum.
Plenty of Christians have already made the point that the positive thinking of Christianity Lite is demeaning to God, and I leave them to pursue this critique. More important, from a secular point of view, it's dismissive of other humans, and not only flight attendants. If a person is speeding, shouldn't he get a ticket to deter him from endangering others? And if Osteen gets the premier parking spot, what about all the other people consigned to the remote fringes of the lot? Christianity, at best, is about a sacrificial love for others, not about getting to the head of the line.
If the Osteens' brand of religion is what flight attendant Sharon Brown lost faith in as a result of being manhandled on that plane to Vail, then the suit should be dropped, because Victoria Osteen has already done her enough of a favor.
Read it all here.
Monday, August 11, 2008
What is a Eucharistic Heist?
I now draw your attention to the following paragraph, stolen from a news article about the theft of a relic in a church in Massachusetts. While the story is a sad commentary on our times and evil in general, the following two sentences made me laugh out loud. (Forgive me.)
The church has not had a break-in since the 1980s, when a Eucharist was stolen. That item was eventually recovered after an anonymous caller directed the previous head of the church to the Eucharist.
That last sentence is priceless.
Here's the serious article involving theft of a relic of St Andrew.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
5 Guys Named Joe! (Er, 4 ... maybe)
What, you think we don't know Jack?
(The clergy of St George, Houston - from left to right: Deacon Joseph Carter, Priest John Salem, Archpriest Joseph Shahda, and Priest Joseph Huneycutt.)
Fr John Salem shall be elevated to the rank and dignity of Archpriest on Sunday, November 2nd. Stay tuned to our parish webpage for further details.
The title of this post is taken from an old Joe Jackson tune - "Five Guys Named Moe" (written by Jerome Bresler/Larry Wynn).
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Expect a Miracle!
The Four Tops, Charlie Daniels, Gallery, Johnny Nash, Billy Preston ...
The final act was a very noisy rock band named Black Oak Arkansas.
(Think “banging gong, clanging cymbal" – minus the love part – and, as far as I could tell, they were speaking in tongues.)
They pranced on stage ranting and raving, barefoot and shirtless – hairy men, in spandex pants.
I was shocked. Seeing as how I was with my parents, I was even more shocked. After the opening number, the lead singer – a cat called Jim Dandy – said:
“People call us animals … they say we’re wild, untamed, nasty …"
The crowd – save for me and my parents, of course – was going crazy in hypnotic agreement.
“Well, brothers and sisters, we’re not animals" -- and to the roar of guitar and crowd, he proclaimed -- "We’re all alike!”
That’s when my dad said, “Come on, I ain’t like him, let’s get out of here.”
There I sat, a few years later, at a Pentecostal worship service with prophecies in tongues … interpretations … medical diagnosis … ranting in the microphone, and Wurlitzer punctuation marks.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about Uncle Ernie.
Uncle Ernie sat – well, stood – up on the front row. He was every bit of 92 years old, and he kept wigglin and movin, a hoppin' and a jumpin'.
The pastor, still working the crowd into a frenzy like a spirit filled auctioneer, yelled: “Oh, and look at Uncle Ernie! His leg done caught the spirit!”
Sure nuf, all you had to do was look at Uncle Ernie to see that his right leg was just a wigglin, abnormally out of control. Imagine Elvis, skinny at 92, with one frog leg, one human.
The pastor kept up the excitement, saying: “Yes, Lord – ol’ Uncle Ernie’s leg is praising the Lord! Soon he’ll be runnin’ 'round the building!”
Would you believe it? That ol’ man took off and ...
The Orthodixie Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Of Prosperity & Hardship
-- St Alfred the Great, Founder of the English Nation
Taken from Fr Josiah's blog.