Saturday, October 29, 2005

Commemorative T-shirt

Any Antiochians out there ought to have a look at this:
I think you'll proudly wear it!

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have

"Prenatal testing is making your right to abort a disabled child more like 'your duty' to abort a disabled child."

A remarkable editorial in the Washington Post, written by a mother of a child with Down syndrome.
Whenever I am out with Margaret, I'm conscious that she represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion. I don't know how many pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome, but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.

Imagine. As Margaret bounces through life, especially out here in the land of the perfect body [California], I see the way people look at her: curious, surprised, sometimes wary, occasionally disapproving or alarmed. I know that most women of childbearing age that we may encounter have judged her and her cohort, and have found their lives to be not worth living.

To them, Margaret falls into the category of avoidable human suffering. At best, a tragic mistake. At worst, a living embodiment of the pro-life movement. Less than human. A drain on society. That someone I love is regarded this way is unspeakably painful to me.
"People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on." To put it bluntly, many pro-choicers "while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families."

David Lynch and Trancendental Meditation

Interesting portrait in the London Times of a devoted practitioner of Trancendental Meditation (TM), who just happens to be filmmaker David Lynch. Apparently he hopes to raise $7B to put it in the schools, but I think this article is most interesting for its portrait of a faithful TMer (30+ years) and its surprisingly sympathetic treatment of TM. Twenty minutes twice a day: it's "easy, easy, easy;" and, we learn, it helps everyone, including kids; and now science is backing it up as being theraputic. (via Robot Wisdom)

Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies

Found recently:
The Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical studies began as an informal gathering of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary alumni in 1999 to pursue advanced biblical studies through annual meetings. The members recognized that additional resources were necessary to augment their seminary education and enhance their various ministries in the Orthodox Church. With this in mind, a pan-Orthodox non-profit organization was established to develop, promote and publish research in the areas of biblical studies, homiletics and religious education in the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fact or Fiction?

A question I have as I read _The Name of the Rose_
While I'm impressed by the breadth and depth of Eco's knowledge, there seems to be a problem in discerning what is fact and what is fiction... Take the following passage:

"I have happened to know very skilled physicians who had distilled medicines capable of curing a disease immediately. But when they gave their unguent or their infusion to the simple, they accompanied it with holy words and chanted phrases that sounded like prayers: not because these prayers had the power to heal, but because, believing that the cure came from the prayers, the simple would swallow the infusion or cover themselves with the unguent, and so they would be cured, while paying little attention to the effective power of the medicine." (p. 88)

Is Eco trying to downplay the possibility of miracle? or is he recounting a historical point? In any case, the idea that this happened seems possibly more fiction than fact: if physicians had this kind of healing power (while, presumably priests did not), wouldn't the physicians have taken on a kind of "witch doctor" status (even if they regarded them as "Christian" witch doctors)?

"In this life you have many sorrows"

"The spiritual way for the Christian broadly speaking presents itself like this: At the outset man is drawn to God by the gift of grace; and once attracted, a prolonged period of testing sets in. His freedom as a man and his trust in God are put to the test...At the initial stage of his conversion his prayers, urgent or not so urgent, are miraculously granted almost before they are uttered. But when the time of trial starts, everything alters. It seems as if heaven had closed up and become deaf to all our prayers. For the fervent Christian everything in life gets to be difficult. There is a change in people's attitude towards him - he is no longer respected. What is willingly forgiven others is held against him. His resistance to physical ills is lowered. Nature, circumstances, people-all turn against him. He finds no outlet for his natural talents, though they are no less valuable than other people's."

_Saint Silouan the Athonite_, by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), p. 200-201.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Thoughts on the Creative Process

I was recently sent this link and found a great deal of it helpfully thought-provoking...the guy has a colorful tongue, though, so I apologize for that up front...

Thoughts on the Creative Process

Controversies on Campuses

I was just reading a discussion of Naomi Schaefer Riley's God on the Quad in Books and Culture. Apparently, there is a chapter devoted to various controversial issues and how they are dealt with at the various religious colleges and universities she visited. But when she asked one student at Thomas Aquinas College what the big controversy was on their campus, the student responded, 'The big controversy here is the Plato versus Aristotle controversy.' Now that's where I wish I'd gone to college.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Imagination: the "door of the demons"?

I'm not actually taking a poll as to who agrees with this idea...I'm trying to find out where it's located (!) I'm guessing it's somewhere in the Philokalia...but where?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A book in English about Thessaloniki

I just finished a fascinating book called Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower, author of a short introduction to Balkan history and a history of Greece under the Nazi occupation. His primary agenda is to underline Thessaloniki's multicultural, multi-ethnic past, and to show how that has been rather forgotten since the liberation of the city from the Turks, the population exchange and the deportation of the vast majority of the city's Jews to Auschwitz. Although, as an American, I personally felt Mazower was surprisingly fair to the Greeks, one Greek acquaintance told me that he had read a review saying that the book did not do enough to show the Greeks' attempts to help the Jews. Mazower does indicate that some attempts occurred, and he makes it clear that Greek indifference was not the only reason the Jewish population in Athens survived largely intact whereas that of Thessaloniki was decimated, but he also points out that efforts to help the Jews were neither as whole-hearted nor as common in Thessaloniki as they were in Athens. Nevertheless, given the character of Greek nationalism, it seems unlikely that Greeks (or, for that matter, Deacon Iosif, formerly Dunstan) will be terribly excited about this book even if we lay aside the thorny Holocaust issues. For us unabashed Americans though, there is a lot of fascinating information here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

ISOS: Internet School of Orthodox Studies

A friend (J. Oh) recently sent me this link:


One more addition to a growing body of Orthodox education/theology links...I had no idea that there were so many Orthodox information sites out there! Please keep posting with any new sites that are worthy of note!

Orthodox Inter-Seminary Movement

This is interesting - we could have sent you, Herman or Aaron, as representatives of Aristotle University. Well, it's not a seminary, I suppose.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Interesting Goings-On at Jordanville

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but there have been some interesting things happening at Jordanville in the last few years. Most recently, I noted the report on the 'Third Holy Trinity Seminary Colloquium' ( One session was devoted to Andrei Rublev, and one of the lecturers was Fr Andrew Louth of the University of Durham. Also, at the bottom of this page, I noticed that at the 'Second Holy Trinity Seminary Colloquium', on Khomiakov, one of the lecturers was Paul Valliere. Most of you may not know the name off the top of your heads, but if you recall, Dr Stamoulis had Philip do a paper on a book of Valliere's two years ago, about which I was privileged to hear a great deal of criticism as Philip was reading the book. In short, Valliere, a champion of what he euphemistically calls 'the liberal tradition' in Russian Orthodox theology, is not your typical Jordanville fare.
Check out the seminary news page,, for more of the same.

Moscow, the 'Third Rome'

I just came across the following article about the 'Third Rome' idea: Is it just me, or does it seem like the patriarch, like other Greeks I've heard comment on this issue, has completely misunderstood it? I don't vouch that the Russian government officials have it right either, but the patriarch categorically condemns anyone who even speaks of a 'Third Rome', claiming that it makes the Church into the tool of the authoritarian agenda of a particular government. As far as I had always thought I'd understood it, the 'Third Rome' idea has nothing to do with 'caesaropapism' or the domination of all Orthodox by one organisation at all. What do y'all (as we say in Oklahoma) think?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Historicity of the Bible

The controversy over the historicity of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, is a major issue in the Christian world. Fr. John Breck's "Scripture in Tradition" is wonderful at getting at an Orthodox view of Scripture and its place. However, there seems to a major weakness in many Orthodox commentaries which seem to accept the historicity of the New Testament- against the likes of Spong- but deny the same to the Old Testament. What is the basis in Orthodoxy for this allowed change? Is it a new "dispensation"? Do the Fathers, the liturgical or iconographic Tradition teach a difference between the Old and New Testaments' factuality? The three patristic levels of reading Scripture- literal, typological, and allegorical- obviously allow for more than a simple literal reading of the OT, and more than typology which the NT itself explicitly teaches, but they do not seem to allow for less than a reading which embraces all three levels. The Fathers, the iconographic and festal tradition of the Church, as well as the New Testament itself, seem to argue for a literal plus typological and allegorical reading of the events and peoples of the Old Testament, and not simply either a solely literal or an exclusively "spiritual", non-literal reading of the same.

Is the Orthodox Church simply punting on the question? Is the Tradition clear in treating the events as historical as well as typological (prophetic)? Where do the Fathers and the Church speak otherwise regarding historicity, and where do they allow for the real meaning to be only the "spiritual" and not the literal? Specific references to primary texts would be appreciated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

'Orthodox Tradition' online in pdf

I was just checking out what's new on the English version of the Cyprianite website, maintained by the hieromonk who served the parish in Thessaloniki we attended, and I discovered that he's put at least the last 3 years of Orthodox Tradition online there in pdf format. Here's the URL, for anyone interested:
I saw some really great articles after a cursory glance at a few issues.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A F*R*E*E* Copy of _The Master and Margarita_?!

Well...sort of:

Free Book!

Has anyone read this? Do you care to comment? I have wanted to read it for years now...hopefully I'll manage to get to it soon!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Which Literature Classic Are You?

I just came across this funny little quizella: I'm curious to see what results the other folks on the blog might get. Just so you know, it seems I'm The Name of the Rose.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Straight Edge

I know Philip and I have shared a laugh and a head scratch or two over the somewhat ascetic, hardcore punk movement known as 'straight edge', but I wasn't sure if anybody else had heard of it. Anyway, here's a really interesting article...but be warned, as the author points out, they may be pure of body, but they're not pure of mouth.

Women Theological Graduates to Meet

Any thoughts on the article below? I have heard controversial things about Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald and her husband regarding not just a "feminine viewpoint" on Orthodoxy, but in changing the Tradition along the lines of the modernists in the West. However, I have have not really seen much about them, or read much of any of their works.



Published by St. Catherine’s Vision, October 3, 2005
Women Theological Graduates to Meet

Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA will be the site of an historic gathering of women graduates of Orthodox theological schools, November 10-13 of this year. For the first time, women graduates of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary will meet to discuss the important contributions theologically educated women can make to the Orthodox Church on this continent.

The initiative, called St. Catherine’s Vision, has developed over the past two years through the efforts of a group of dedicated Orthodox women, educated in our theological schools. Many theologically trained women now serve professionally outside the arena of the Church, both in the public and private sectors. Harnessing this largely untapped talent pool, as well as meeting their particular spiritual needs, will be addressed at the Conference/Retreat.

Some women graduates have reported to St .Catherine’s Vision that they are currently involved in a variety of ministries, including teaching, spiritual direction, research, administration, chaplaincy ministries, religious education, outreach, writing, music, pastoral counseling, mission, monasticism, as well as theological and ecumenical dialogues. Sharing these experiences, as well as supporting the desire of women who seek to be actively involved in the life of the Church, is one of the primary goals of the Conference/Retreat. St. Catherine’s Vision is intended as a vehicle to harness the energy, skills and knowledge of not only women graduates but Orthodox women who desire to serve the Church.

Through the generous assistance of a Lilly Foundation Endowment Seed Money grant, the Planning Committee has been strategizing for over three years and since July 2003, has met formally in a series of four-day Planning Retreats. The preliminary focus was on establishing priorities for the upcoming November 2005 Conference/Retreat. Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald, a graduate of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, serves as the Planning Committee Chair. Other Planning Committee members, all graduates of Orthodox theological seminaries, represent various Orthodox jurisdictions.

For more information about the November, 2005 Conference/Retreat, including detailed Registration information and the Retreat/Conference schedule, go to the St. Catherine’s Vision website at

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Introduction, and Textbook Website

Hello, Herman invited me to post to the Protecting Veil blog as one of his first non-Greece friends. Glad to be invited into the cool crowd.

As introduction, I live in New York City during the week working as an executive recruiter, and spend my weekends in Stroudsburg, PA which is where I met Herman during his brief tenure there. I was a professional actor until about 2 months ago, though I haven't worked solely as an actor since 2000. Coincidentally, I got married that year and became Orthodox at the very start of the next- on the Eve of the Synaxis of the 70. I was baptized in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection (OCA) by Priest Christopher Swanson, chrismated by Hieromonk Constantine (Chirila), and my spiritual father is the Dean of the Cathedral, Igumen Christopher (Calin). I was tonsured Reader there and promptly fell to what we lovingly refer to as "The Curse of the Reader" which causes one to leave the Cathedral for various and sundry reasons- my non-Orthodox, dancer wife and I bought a house in the Poconos and aren't in town for weekend services, in my case.

Glad to meet all of you. I will try to be interesting.

I ran across, again, a wonderful website which had been managed by the late Archbishop Alexander (Mileant)- Memory Eternal!- and seems to have been intended to be a ROCOR, online, distance learning, seminary course in the vein of the Antiochians' St. Philip's course. They have a huge number of textbooks available for download which will come in handy for we Ortho-nerds. The Holy Trinity Orthodox School can be found at

Christopher Orr

Orthodox thoughts on suffering and death

I just came across a recent letter written by Lynnette Hoppe regarding her thoughts as an Orthodox Christian dealing with cancer...really quite inspiring! The full letter can be found here

I have excerpted a few paragraphs...

"I have found that it is much more difficult to watch someone I love suffer than it is to suffer myself. Someone else's suffering brings home the hard truths of our mortality and the inevitability of death. It forces us to face the uncertainties and fears that hang like a black shadow over that dark and lonely valley through which we must all pass. When I think about my own suffering, I am consoled deeply by the thought that I will not really be alone on that final journey. My Lord will be with me, but that consolation doesn't turn the valley into a bright, happy meadow.

Someone asked me recently if I ever felt excited about the thought of going to heaven. I had to say, No. I have felt a tremendous sense of joy at the thought of being united with my Lord, who is the “true desire and the ineffable joy of those who love [Him]” in a place where “the voice of those who feast is unceasing, and the gladness of those who behold the goodness of [His] countenance is unending” (from the Prayers After Communion). I have been greatly comforted by the fact that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me so that where he is, there I can be also (John 14:6). I feel that Jesus awaits me with gladness, that my death will be “precious” to him. My thoughts about heaven linger on the joy of being with Jesus, not on what the place will be like. It is enough for me to know that He will be there. I also thrill to the idea of being present in the company of some amazing people who have gone before me—apostles, prophets, martyrs, saints, my grandfather and C.S. Lewis. I hope not to be ashamed to be in their glorious company because of my pitiful efforts here on earth, but I am consoled by the fact that heaven will be a place full of mercy and grace.

Excitement, it seems to me, is something one feels when one is looking forward to an event and sees an untroubled path in front of him. Joy, on the other hand, is something one can hold onto in the face of suffering, knowing that the suffering will pass in time, but that the joy will remain because it is rooted in something deeper, not in the circumstances that surround it.

Although I do have a great sense of joy, I also feel a deep sadness at the immense tragedy of the human condition--the terrible burden of our separation from God, the presence of evil in this world, poverty, illness, selfishness, greed, unending hostilities between nations and peoples, the inability of many families to get along, and so many other horrors. Jesus wept over these things, and expressed his desire to console “as a mother hen gathers her young under her wings,” but his people refused his offer. I never felt his grief until I began to experience suffering myself. Then I began to identify with his sorrow as well as with the misery of so many who had come to my door in Albania seeking relief from pain or illness or hunger or cold. Although I had tried to meet their physical needs, I don't think I commiserated with them very deeply. For this reason and for many other reasons, I am so grateful for my own pain. Now I can have a much deeper sense of compassion for the sufferings of others.

I understand so much better, too, how much our Lord identifies with the sick and the suffering, the poor and the imprisoned. He is close to those who are in misery and wants us to be his face, his hands, his eyes, his feet—giving, loving, visiting, praying—for those in need. I have been reading some of the writings of Mother Theresa, and she is a wonderful example of “being Jesus” to the suffering."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Non-Chacedonians / Oriental Orthodox / Monophysites / Miaphysites

Here's an interesting resource for studying the issue of non-Chalcedonian Christians: The "statements" section certainly has some Orthodox-sounding documents. I found it through the interesting wikipedia article, which includes links to the maintainers of the - the tiny British Orthodox Church (Oriental, that is)!

The Holy Cross

A friend asked me at church over the weekend if I knew when the Cross began to be widely used as a Christian symbol. A Protestant friend of his wanted to equate its usage with St. Constantine's vision of the Cross (as is well known, the Protestants don't generally like St. Constantine!), so as to reject its usage as late and inappropriate. So, I headed over to wikipedia, where I found the following...thought y'all might find it of interest:

"Descriptions of the Cross are to be found in Christian writings from the early 2nd century onwards. The Cross first became prominent in Christian imagery during the 3rd century. An early third century reference (there are few others) is in Clement of Alexandria's unfinished Stromateis or 'Miscellanies' (book VI): he speaks of the Cross as tou Kuriakou semeiou tupon, i.e. "the symbol of the Lord." His contemporary Tertullian could designate the body of Christian believers as crucis religiosi, i.e. "devotees of the Cross" (Apol., chapter xvi)."

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mac Vocabulary Builder

Here's something for you mac-using language learners: ProVoc. I've tried a few flash-card type programs before, but this one is the best in that it can import and export text files of vocab words, and print nicely, as well as conveniently share vocab lists with others. I'll share my Greek with you, if you'll share with me... :-)