Saturday, February 19, 2011

Preparing them to go before colleagues, friends and wolves...



It comes from his blog which you can find here!


People send their children to our Orthodox Christian school for different reasons … very different reasons. They appreciate a safe environment, classes that are small, or classes that are able to meet their child’s unique needs. Their children might have had problems or were unhappy with their previous school experience. Maybe they were under-challenged. They like the Christian environment. One parent told us that he thinks it is good for his child to see men in black robes and beards, icons and be exposed to prayers … so many reasons, each one particular to a family. Though we realize that God calls people together in various ways, we want to make clear our goals and reasons for our Orthodox school. That won’t necessarily change the logic of the parents, but at least it will make clear what we are aiming at.

So why? We are doing something very normal as far as we are concerned. We believe in Christ, and we not only believe in Him but our senses and thinking have been changed as a result of knowing Him. Our curriculum is based on the Orthodox faith, on what we know and on how we as Orthodox Christians see the world, life, and ourselves. We proclaim in the Liturgy of St. Gregory, the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy: The Light of Christ Illumines All! Our understanding of history, geography, language arts, mathematics, science and etc. are affected and deepened by this Illuminating Light in a unique way. Someone said: “math is math.” Is that true? Are subjects of study compact things without deeper meaning? Don’t they have lateral and vertical dimension and relate to other realms of knowledge? Whatever happened to the sense of what is behind or within or under the philosophical foundation or axioms that are the basis of what one studies?

There is no value-free, philosophy-free school or curriculum, as there is no house that doesn’t start with a foundation and build from there. That is why every political regime in modern history has fought to control the educational system. As parents, teachers, pastors and evangelists, we have a big stake in education from the ground up, not just higher education or “religious education.” Curriculum planners and teachers express their world view in what and how they teach. This is why Orthodox schools are vital.

Children need to be educated and need to understand the world from an Orthodox view, from teachers and parents that know Christ and see the world, life, and their own soul with the illumination of Christ. This is very important. The children need to be formed in this environment, but they need also to learn how to wrestle against the world view they will encounter after they leave our school or home.

This takes place while they are still within our influence. While you are riding to school, the children are looking around and drinking in what you aren’t seeing, and thinking about what you aren’t hearing. If you asked them who they should invite to their party, and they said please invite the poor, because they heard a sermon at school about the Lord, Who said that we should invite the poor to our party and not just our friends, what would you say? You might think: we can’t because they will rob us. From the earliest age we are forming our children and their relation to the poor, the sick, the aged. Please pay attention. At school we visit the elderly and the children are excited and also challenged. They set up for our weekly the soup kitchen. Maybe they can come and help serve when they are older.

St. Herman said that the Christian has to learn to fight through realms of demons to acquire the kingdom of heaven. School is one of the training grounds … learn the facts, what really happened, learn the faith, also learn to counter and refute wrong doctrine, and, most importantly, to stand in the faith and live it.

Our school is not meant to shelter children from the world but to prepare them to be in the world but not of the world. We prefer that our children understand the world in which they providentially live, not fear it. Let the world be affected by the presence of young adults who know themselves, who know their faith and their God.

Education is serious … not just for our economic future but for our eternal future, and for our present life. How we live in accordance with the Truth while we are still here in this world is our preparation for this blessed future and it also makes the journey to our eternal existence much richer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

everyday life

Dear Friends,

Indeed it’s been a while. Part of me is pretty hesitant to post things, because I’m caught between two choices, neither of which I’m keen on making. The first is to post stories, quotes and experiences having something to do with my time here in Greece, but never quite getting at the core of what goes on. The second is to be honest--what really happens in Greece--But this is hard to do on a consistent basis. The third, I suppose, is to do what I’ve been doing--simply not posting anything :).

But it seems like its time to share a bit. Everything is going well. These days have been consumed with paper-writing, researching and church functions. All of these things have been very nice. My papers are coming along at just the right pace, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to write them. The more I enter the world of “theology” proper, the more I see that true theology lies mostly outside of what we generally call “theology.” This is what my heart tells me at least. In other words, a man or woman can be full of theology, bursting at the seams with it, having never said a word. In fact, the best theology is often unspoken. What I read in these books guides my understanding and allows me to develop a vocabulary for that which we can express in words...But everyday, after so many things have entered into my mind, there is an explosion inside, and all of it disappears, and I humbly start at the beginning. I have found theology in unimaginable placest. In fact, think of the last place you’d expect theology to be, and there it is! In the darkest alleys, the darkest faces and the darkest moments. Out of all of this gloom and fallenness blossoms a ray of light that shines in an unexpected brilliance. There’s a humorous side to all of this; they let you go to a school to learn something, and you come out realizing that the world is a school of theology, the world is a temple, and so are we.

I’m thankful for the moments of weakness, for the moments of sadness and for the moments of vulnerability. I am beginning to appreciate more and more moments of pure humanity--of beauty, tears, of the joy in simplicity. This is what theological studies does to you. The heart breaths during Bach’s Ich Habe Genug and finds rest in a Copperfield short story. Why? Because, between the lines and under the sweetly flowing notes, it sees the words in the textbooks come to life. When theology shows up in the most unexpected places, it makes a smile from a complete stranger as mysterious and beautiful as the Incarnation. In fact, it reflects that very sacred and awesome even, where God himself showed up in the most unexpected place--a dark and damp cave.

Let us see Christ incarnated in everything!

Hoping you are all well!

with love in Christ,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

studying theology...

Hello Family and Friends!

Long time no talk :)

Life has been quite busy around here. I’m coming into the final part of my program (writing the thesis), which should take anywhere from 1-2 semesters.

Just thought I’d share a nice little excerpt from Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog:

“Another specific activity, deeply related to this false and true self, is the knowledge of God, and all that we speak of when we say, “doctrine.” Part of the argument of St. Gregory Palamas, against those who argued for a different manner of knowing God, was his insistence on the experiential character of the proper knowledge of God. Thus when we know God properly, we know Him as Person, not as object or topic. Someone may know all of the dogmatic formulas such that they can repeat them with no trouble, or even quickly analyze a statement as somehow being contrary to the doctrine of the Church, and yet know all of this in a way that is not proper. They simply become experts, like someone studying for a game show. This is an activity that fosters the false self, and may be more dangerous than many, because the person involved can suffer under the delusion that because they “know” all of the true facts, they actually know the truth, when they do not.“

Lots of love!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Holy Grand Prince and Martyr Michael of Tver...

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been forever since I have had a chance to post anything. Various obligations just do not allow this to happen at the moment. I did, however, want to post the life of Grand Prince and Martyr Michael, as I enjoyed reading it and thought you might as well:

“Saint Michael, born at Tver in 1272, was the son of Prince Yaroslav Yaroslavovich, who was himself the brother of Sinat Alexander Nevsky (23 Nov.). Michael was brought up in the faith and in the pracice of the virtues by his mother, who later became a nun. The strong monastic influence in his upbringing led him to see hi future in terms of a simple choice between becoming a monk or dying a martyr. God however laid on him the heavy burden of government when he succeeded his elder brother as Prince of Tver (1285). Nineteen years later he was to become, in addition, Grand Prince of Vladimir, the capital of Russia during the Mongol occupation and the seat of the Metropolitan of Kiev. In the meantime, he had married Princess Anna Dimitrievna of Rostov, who gave him four sons and four daughters.
        After some years, Michael was deprived of the Principality of Vladimir through the machinations of his kinsman Prince George Danielovich of Moscow. Michael’s counsellors urged him to take up arms against George but he preferred to give up powere rather than have his people shed their blood for him. But when George threated Tver, Michael took the advice of the Bishop to go to war agains his cousin, and he was victorious. Among his princers was George’s wife, Princess Agatha, who happened to dier in captivity as a result of an accident. Her death unleashed the fury of George against Michael and also roused up the Tatar Khan, who was Agatha’s brother. A Tatar expedition against Tver seemed all too probable, unless Prince Michael would agree to go to the Golden Horde to be judged at the court of the Khan. All Michael’s kinsmen could foresee the fatal outcome of such a proceeding, and they did their best to dissuade him from it. However, after discussing the matter with his spiritual father, the holy Prince made up his mind to go to certain death in order to spare his people.
        Held prisoner with a wooden yoke around his neck which kept his hands and arms at shoulder-height, Michael spent his days and nights chanting the services of the CHurch and Psalms of David. His son, a hostage of the Tatars, was allowed to keep him company. He turned the pages of the sacred books for his father, who was consoled by his presence. Obliged to kneel before the Khan and become a laughing-stock of the Tatars, all Michael uttered by way of complaint were the words of the Psalmist: I am an object of scorn to them: they have looked on me and they have shaken their heads. Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to Thy mercy (Ps. 108:25-6). Thereafter the tears flowed continuously from his eyes. During the night of 21 and 22 November, he had a revelation of his approaching death. He attended the Liturgy, communicated in the holy Mysteries and having embraced the members of his family who were present, he opened the Psalter and read the words uttered by the Prophet, foreseeing the Passion of Christ: My heart is in angiusih within me: and the terrors of death have fallen upon me (Ps. 54:4). Then he added: Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He will sustain theee: He will never permit the righteous to be moved (ibid. v. 22). So, filled with courage and hope, he calmly greeted George and his henchmen who threw themselves on him like wild animals and mauled him ferociously before running him through with their swords.
        The relics of the holy Prince were returned to Moscow where they owrked many miracles. On 6 September 1320, they were translated with great solemnity to Tver. When the city was besieged by the Poles and Lithuanians in 1549, the inhabitants were encouraged by Saint Michael, who appeared in the form of an armed and mounted knight.

Through the prayers of Thy Saints, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon us. Amen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Making room for others...

May the following quote from a moving short story by Checkov serve as a reminder to us all to slow down and look beyond the surface in our day-to-day interactions with others...

Help us to slow down enough to see this!

“Iona turned round to tell them how his son died, but at that moment the hunchback gave a
little sigh of relief and announced that, thank God, they had come to the end of the journey. Having
received his twenty kopecks, Iona gazed after the revelers for a long time, even after they had
vanished through a dark gateway. Once more he was alone, once more silence fell on him. The grief
he had kept at bay for a brief while now returned to wrench his heart with still greater force. With an
expression of anxiety and torment, he gazed at the crowds hurrying along both sides of the street,
wondering whether there was anyone among those thousands of people who would listen to him. But
the crowds hurried past, paying no attention to him or to his grief. His grief was vast, boundless. If his
heart could break, and the grief could pour out of it, it would flow over the whole world; but no one
would see it. It had found a hiding place invisible to all: even in broad daylight, even if you held a
candle to it, you wouldn't see it.”

~ from “Heartache” by Anton Checkov

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Towards an Asceticism of Hospitality...

Dear Family and Friends,

After having returned from a trip to England (London, Darby, Cambridge and Essex) and a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos, an overarching theme has come to mind which was referenced continuously throughout our journeys. This theme can best be summed up with one word: hospitality. It is something that requires, in my mind, a few prerequisite notions:

  1. That we consider our brother to be our life. Or as others put it, our brother to be our salvation (1 John sums this up pretty well).
  2. That we leave room in our lives for our brother. This, of course, can take on many different forms, but in our busy society this might have to do with evaluating our jobs, family lives, recreation, and asking ourselves to what extent these are carried out for our own good, or that of others. With a job, for example, the prevailing philosophy nowadays can often very self-centered--everything being set up for success, even if it means stepping on others’ to do so. Our jobs, though, can be transformed in most cases into arenas for practicing this very principle of leaving room for others, even though it may cost us (financially, or in terms of self-respect or reputation etc.). Another aspect of this point, however, which is very important in our day and age is that we leave room for our neighbor in the busyness that is superficially created in our minds. Often the nature of our jobs and our pace of life can be associated with stress that builds up within our minds--the pounding and swirling of thoughts in our heads, whether its remembering an appointment, replaying an intense meeting or conversation, etc etc...All of these things that cause our minds to scatter and eventually snap under pressure, distract us from the still simplicity that is reality. If we clutter our minds with all of these false realities (because they are not actually even helping our every day realities, but only acting as pale distortions of them) we certainly DO NOT LEAVE ROOM FOR OUR BROTHER, which as many fathers say, is a door to meeting Christ. Sometimes humility means slowing down to the point of being able to listen. Often we say, “how can I slow down, I have so much to do.” Two points arise: either we need to re-evaluate how much we are doing in light of eternal values and consequences and maybe try to trim off the unnecessary time-fillers, or we need to come to grips with the fact that it is not the excess of jobs but the internal pace and scatterdness with which we meet these jobs. If we met them with a natural internal pace and one that we singly focused (usually on the prayer of Jesus or something similarly simple), maybe these things would not seem so difficult, and MAYBE they might even take on a whole new level of meaning and beauty...the mundane and even tedious suddenly becoming overwhelmingly brilliant and beautiful.
  3. That we do not see our spiritual life and our obligation towards our neighbor (i.e. family, friends, co-workers and everyone) as existing in conflict. Someone asked a monk at an active and frequently visited monastery, “how do you keep unceasing prayer active in your monastery with all of the noisy visitors?” The monk replied, “if our prayer ceases as a result of our interaction with the visitors it means that we were not praying for them as we should have been.” Other examples in the Gerontikon show that, in fact, an ascetic’s interaction with guests shows the true state of his/her heart and the fruit of their labors (i.e. whether their labors in prayer were purely out of pride and a sense of human accomplishment, or out of humble recognition that his labors are solely dependent on God’s Grace in transforming his heart in that of Christ’ that loves the whole world)Just as we see in the Old Testament with the visit of the Angels and many other examples in every day life, we do not know when we will be hosting Christ or angels. And this is not just an ethical metaphor or lesson but an ontological reality: that when we treat those made in God’s image as we would treat Christ, we are truly meeting Christ (“Lord when did you come to visit us?”). Leaving room for others (i.e. loving them) is an enormous act of asceticism, and requires an upheaval of our own will and a humble taking on and acceptance of the gift of Grace of the will of God in order to carry out this awesome love.
These were a few meditations that were picked up (among many) along our rich and profitable journey. The following is a nice story from the Gerontikon that might encourage us along the way (especially us perfectionists who constantly look at results instead of process :)):

A brother said to Abba Poimen:

“If I give to my brother a bit of bread or something else, the demons pollute this act as if it was done out of the desire to be liked by people.”

The Elder replies:

“And even if it happens out of people-pleasing, we will give to our brother whatever it is that he needs.”

And he told him the following parable:

“Two men were farmers and lived in the same city. One of them sowed his seed and produced a small and unclean harvest.

The other was negligent and did not sow, for this reason he did not have any harvest at all. If a famine were to occur, which out of the two would have enough to live?”

“The one who got the small and unclean harvest,” responded the brother.

“Thus, we too,” says the Elder, “let us sow a bit, even in an unclean way, in order not to die from hunger.”

Well, I think that’s all for now.

with much love,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trip to England...

Dear Friends and Family,

Christ is Risen!

The semester is racing by, and we're nearly approaching the final month of classes! The month of May is full of exciting events. On Wednesday I'll be heading to the UK for an Orthodox Youth Festival, and hopefully a trip to the Monastery in Essex. Directly after I return three parishioners from my church in Boston will be coming for a pilgrimmage to the Holy Mountain and Thessaloniki, and directly after that some other folks will be coming, and then a trip to Romania to meet Vera, Teo and Sophia and a journey home with them to Boston for the summer!

Nothing to share in the way of insights, except for the following gem from Fr. Justin Popovich:

"It is essential to create in our people (speaking to the Serbian nation, but really to all of us) the sense that the faith of Christ is a virtue beyond nationhood, being ecumenical and catholic, trinitarian; and that for someone to believe in Christ entails their waiting on Christ, and only on Christ, with every event of their lives."

Glory to Thee for All Things!

with love,