Monday, June 30, 2008

Yesterday, part 2, wall-to-wall prayer

It began with a baptism. The child belonged to a couple from the "Old country"--actually two old countries, Palestine and Romania. In many times and places baptisms are strictly a family affair rather than a church community affair. I showed up in case Father Joseph needed any logistical assistance. I assumed wrongly that someone from the choir would do likewise. So it turned out to be my first solo choir gig. And it was recorded on video for posterity.

It is simple and beautiful service and I left feeling elated with the hymn "As Many As Are Baptized" on my lips. I sang this on the way over to Skylar's to tend the garden when we were stopped at a green light by a funeral procession. In a singing mood, I switch from the baptism hymn to "May His Memory Be Eternal" and reflected on the appropriateness of the encountering two services in a single morning. At one, a person died and was raised from the dead having put on the garment of immortality. At another, a person is being put to rest until the ultimate fulfillment of Baptismal Promise.

Saturday evening, the prayers continued as we commenced with the celebration of our patronal feast with Great Vespers, joined by or shepherd in Christ, Bishop BASIL. Towards the end of this service, I was summonsed to the center of the church with a new cassock over my arm. Bowing three times, I then went and knelt before His Grace and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually he laid his hand on my head and read a prayer over me making me a Reader in the Church. He then tonsured me, clipping four small snips of hair from my head. I stood and he ordered me to put on my cassock. As I began, I could here Simon say "daddy shirt?" on the other side of the church. As I struggled with the buttons, His Grace reached around and grabbed the cincture attached to the back, pulled around to the front, and tied it.

He then took the brass-bound book containing the books of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament, kissed it and said a prayer. He held it in front of him, spine facing up, found a random spot with his fingers, opened the book, and told me to take it to the center of the room and and read. He opened it to a passage from Paul's Epistle to the Romans, chapter 15. In it, Paul speaks about his ministering the Gospel of God--which I pray will someday be my vocation and profession. I am easily moved to tears and had done ok remaining calm to this point, but I think my voice trembled as I resisted being so moved that I would not be able to see the page. I returned the book to His Grace and he admonished me to read the Gospels daily and conduct myself in a worthy manner. He directed me to stand next to him.

A few moments later he whispered "begin Glory to God," meaning he wanted me to lead the Trisagion Prayers. We say this series of prayers at the beginning of every prayer service in the church or in our homes, so I have it memorized, but I don't trust myself enough to have ever said them in church without reading them off the page. Knowing that the fear would be a sure way to forget them, I had to concentrate on relaxing, opening my mouth, and simply letting the prayers come.

By the end of this service, I was on a cloud.

The cloud remained beneath my feet the next day. Now a Reader, I stood with the choir in my new cassock reading the occasional non-singing parts. Towards the end of Orthros (Matins (Morning Prayers)), the Bishop, in full regalia, and the priests exited the Altar and stood in the middle of the church. Because Father Joseph was going to be elevated to the rank of Archpriest, two other priests were also serving with us: Archimandrite Daniel, who is the Dean of our diocese, and Fr. Elias from our daughter parish in Overland park. In due time, I was summonsed again to bow before the altar, then kneel before His Grace, and wait. This was different than the evening before. His Grace stood in front of me and three priests stood to my left and right facing me--a well of red and gold brocade, satin, and embroidery. While the choir sang the praises, His Grace was reading a different set of prayers aloud and the priests were responding. These prayers were indistinct, but their tone and rhythm moving back and forth over my head was like the call and response of the angels. Over the top of this was the heavenly sound of our choir and even the background noise of the congregation with all its children. Mentally, if not spiritually, I felt lifted up and embraced.

When the praises were over, His Grace read the prayer for the ordaining (small "o") of a Subdeacon. I stood and was given a sticharion, which I slipped on over the cassock. His Grace then gave a white orarion to Archimandrite Daniel on my left. Fr. Daniel laid it on my shoulder, which was not what His Grace wanted and he said so, telling him to put it around my waist. With Subdeadon John's assistance, the wrapped the 15-foot sash around my waist, up over my shoulders, and down the front in an "X." Subdeacon John then gave me a small pitcher of water, a bowl and a linen napkin. Praying, His Grace held his hands over the bowl while I poured water over them three times. He used the napkin to dry them and then laid it over my neck. The ritual complete, I was told to go into the Altar and begin serving as a Subdeacon.

The only time Subdeacons do anything particularly special is a during Heirarchical Divine Liturgy. Our primary role during this is to accompany the bishop with a couple of special candlesticks called the Dikirion and Trikirion (or "trixie" and "dixie" as I have heard them called out of earshot of the bishop), hold his staff and miter, and do whatever else he may bid. At one point, this duty means walking through the Holy Doors, a priviledge normally reserved for clergy.

I also got to hold the Dikirion and stand on His Grace's left while he elevated Fr. Joseph to Archpriest. This time it was Father's turn to bow before the altar, kneel before His Grace, and wait. Then, putting his hand on Father Joseph's head, His Grace read the prayers of elevation in which we are reminded that as part of the proper ordering of creation, God gave us the priesthood. He then placed a heavy, ornate cross around Father Joseph's neck. This has been an honor a long time coming. We first discussed this elevation about 18 months ago when I suggested it be done while the Parish Life Conference was in Topeka. His Grace suggested that was not an appropriate time and wanted to wait until he would be here this year. It is a great honor for our Father Joseph, and one he is worthy of. It is also an honor for our parish. At some point during this service, dixie dripped hot beeswax on my fingers, which was also an honor.

I floated through the rest of liturgy. At one point I ritually washed His Grace's hands a second time, processed with the Dichirion, and received Holy Mysteries first. All the while I was constantly tugging and adjusting my orarion, which refused to remain crossed in front of me.

Yesterday, part 1--Summer, sickness, distant relatives

David's sense of time and grammar has evolved to understand the past tense in terms of "yesterday" and "last week." "Yesterday" is anything that happened in the memorable past, such as seeing "Horton Hears a Who" when it came out. "Last week is anything that happened before a time he can remember; his infancy and my childhood both took place last week. While is makes for some difficult conversation, it does make belated blogging better. Rather than feeling guilty about not having blogged about anything that happened this month, I can simply assert that anything blogworthy happened "yesterday."

"Yesterday" summer finally really began. June has been a gorgeous, beautiful month with a lovely mix if mild days, mildly hot days, and thunderstorms (worse for parts west of us). Typically, the starting event for our summer is the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina. This year's was particularly nice. Everyone was able to attend, the weather was lovely and Jaime and I figured out a way to rig our finances so that we could do our Christmas shopping. Since the festival is Father's day weekend, that means we knocked out two holidays in one weekend.

David followed up by getting sick. It began on a Tuesday night with a sore throat at bedtime and progressed to a fever and continuous vomiting throughout the night. Wednesday afternoon he saw a doctor and Wednesday night, after 36 hours without food or drink, he went to the hospital for fluids. He'll describe this to you in detail. "Yesterday, I went to the hospital and the poked a hole in my arm and purple blood came out. I didn't like it." He has been obsessed lately with the color of his blood, observing that it is blue in his veins but red when it gets out, so it was an opportune time to have blood drawn and an IV inserted. We never did determine conclusively what he was sick with. He was neg. for strep so it was probably a virus. He still had a fever at bedtime that Friday night. I haven't seen him that miserably sick since his first birthday. Because of it, we skipped my company picnic on the 21st, which I had been looking forward to for about 6 months. Instead we had a lazy Saturday together.

June also saw visits from several relatives. Firstly, my aunt Marla, her son, Shawn, and his wife, Janelle, came to visit. I have never met Janelle and the last time Shawn was back, Jaime was still pregnant with Simon. Simon was typically shy around them at first but eventually warmed. Since they left, every time we go to grandpa's (which is where Simon saw them), Simon says "Shawn? Shawn?" This was actually Marla's second recent visit. She was here in May with her youngest, Patricia with whom Simon also took his time falling in love. I don't have any photos of either of these visits, but the visitors do. Maybe I can get some from them eventually.

More recently, uncle Grant visited from Seattle with similar results. Initial shyness followed by obsessive longing. They got go to the Kansas City Zoo where Ducks were apparently the highlight. Grant very self-consciously cultivated the role of cool uncle for himself, which both he and David enjoyed immensely.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

lightnin lightnin

As we all know, David is a great fan of the movie Cars and all things Cars related. In spite of my continual forbidding of any more Cars stuff in our house, it continues to poor in like so much sewage. At some point during the transition out of diapers, he acquired a half-dozen pair of Cars underwear (as opposed to an underwear car), which he wears backwards so that he can see the larger picture that is supposed to be on the rear. This is so much a habit for him that he even puts underwear on backwards that does not have a picture on the fanny.

I have to pause for a moment and wonder if I am violating my son’s privacy by telling you that he wears his underwear backwards. What will his friends say in a decade when they find this blog? Is he going to be victim of wedgies from jerks claiming to check if his underwear is on backwards (and I assume it still will be)?

Stuff to think about.

IMG_4607Anyway, David’s love of Cars has taken hold with Simon, who currently imitates everything about David except his eating habits. So Simon has began insisting on wearing Cars underwear as well—over his diaper. But not backwards, yet. The other day, Simon was walking around in his diaper and underwear when he found another pair of Cars underwear in the laundry basket, pulled it out, sat down, and commenced with trying to put it on over the underwear he already had on over his diaper while saying plaintively, “Lightnin’? Lightnin’?”

Monday, June 23, 2008


Another ego post (as if there is any other kind). Once again, GetReligion covered a story I sent. This time, as part of a larger discussion of the media coverage of Obama's closed-doors, off-the-record meet with prominant religious leaders. Somewhere in the middle of the post, Mr. Mattingly refers you to NPR's coverage and quotes a at length from a "private email" from a GetReligion reader. He affirms the quote with one word: "Precisely."

Terry Mattingly is a syndicated religion columnist, an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a very good writer--precise, insightful, intelligent, and clear. "Journalist" is in my top five list of things I might want to be when I grow up and Mr. Mattingly is my hero in the profession. To be quoted by him and told that I nailed the issue is the best internet affirmation I have received since the Patriarch of Moscow sent me a Hallmark "E-card" for my name day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Word Spy - cowpooling

For several years now, we have discussed this, but we never seem to plan adequately to have the cash on hand at the same time the cow is available.


The Return of Thrift

Personally, I don't think thrift is going to make any huge comeback on a large scale. We, as a culture, cut back our overspending for short periods of time but our economy is robust enough nowadays to withstand ebbs and flows so I seriously doubt that we'll have the kind of economic disaster that turned my great-grand parents to thrift. Thrift as a virtue is going to go the way of sexual morality--something old-fashioned that was necessary in the bad old days before sexual equality and the pill.

On a personal, moral level, the stakes are different. We are trying to learn thrift--or relearn it, I was pretty frugal before college--even if it kills us.

Monday, June 09, 2008

counterpoint: high gasses prices

Postmodern Conservative.: Blue collared (II): "the realization that somewhere else in America there are people spending as much as twenty percent of their income on gasoline hits me like a blow to the gut, and the post-petroleum future suddenly looks a lot less bright."

Thinking about sports.

With luck, the line of cowardice stops here.

Touching read.

Last weekend, David was whacking balls off his tee when he decided that he wanted to dispense with the crutch and swing at pitches. He recently watched a tee-ball game of Issy's where an adult pitches a dozen or so times and if the hitter just can't do it then they bring out a tee that practically has the word "SHAME" spray painted in big red letters down the side. So I removed the tee. David assumed the position and then reached out with end if his bat and tapped the plate a couple of times. I pitched. Pretty much any pitch that I could manage to get within a yard of him he whacked, including couple line-drives that gave me flash-backs to helping my own dad warm up by tossing him softballs from the mound and taking the hit with my thigh. I think David is ready to graduate from the hollow plastic bat to something with slightly more substance. However, buying sports equipment is not in my job description. Hint hint.

I was just talking recently about how I don't have much desire to get David involved in team sports. I question how much good they really do in character-building, the schedule seems enslaving, and it seems that a lot of games happen on Sunday mornings, when we are busy. Coincidentally the the Topeka Capital Journal ran a story on that topic that is unenlightening. Basically, there are others with my Sunday concerns. How do they resolve this crisis of Faith and Sports? They skip the Sunday games. And does this heroic stand for their faith make them outcasts in society or get their kids benched by heathen secularist coaches? No, they have full support from the coach. There is apparently no social or competitive issues involved. If true, that is good. I'm happy to have the information. But they dedicated the feature area of the religion page to a plotless "story" that could have been a one-inch public-service announcement: "Want your kids to play team sports but have conflicts with church schedules? That's ok! Sign up and leagues will accommodate your needs."

Nevertheless, martial arts is more appealing to me as an activity for the kids. I haven't fully investigated it but it seems more flexible, less tied to teams and seasons, etc and there is more focus on character and discipline built-in. Brooke and Jason (the boys' godfather) both teach/have taught karate to kids, which might help.

The boys themselves may have something to say about this, eventually.

UPDATE: Of course, if the paper runs a religion story about which I have a thought, I submit it to They ran with it, and I made further comments. Go and read.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Doctor Beef's slideshow on Flickr

This is not the humorous break you are looking for.

This is not the humorous break we are looking for. Move along.

Thursday, June 05, 2008