Archive for September, 2008

Anxious About Tomorrow…Literally.

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2008 by blackincense

Matthew 6:34:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I am on the brink of tearing my hair out and jumping out of the nearest window.  I am getting ready to leave for the fair this weekend, (Ojai Pirate Festival) and I want it to go well, in terms of our mission.  I have so much to do and I am “Martha-ing” my way around here like a mad woman and feel discouraged.  How can I hope to share our holy faith if I am behaving like this???

I want to reach that place that the Holy Father’s talk about where things like this no longer affect me.  I want to be the ‘lily of the field for they do not toil, neither do they spin’.  I am spinning all over the place worrying about things that might not happen, things I can’t control, things that really don’t even matter. Agonizing over which brand of hot dog, and whether other people will like relish and should it be “butter chips” or “dills”.  I find myself obsessing over the dumbest things and I am embarrassed that our Lord would pick me for this job.  I am embarrassed by my own failings, my own nonsense, which in itself is a form of pride also.  Because it is as if I think I SHOULD be more than what I am.  I am nothing but a hopeless case that the Lord in His mercy, was thoughtful enough to retrieve from the trash heap.

I live in the delightful delusion that my life is all about me.  It is such a wonderful deception and I hate it so much that I hope no one else follows my example.  My obsessive compulsive disorder is no more than the result of my own sin, and imperfection.  If I continue as I am, I will get the future that is based on that continuance.  But if I can turn away, turn aside, and choose a holier path, by confession and repentance, I am assured by the Gospel that I CAN be more than I am.

O, Lord, I am such a fool.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

In all my spinning today, I think that the one thing needful is : confession.  I’d better get off the internet and go call Fr. Paul.  Not that I expect him to drop everything just because I am having a “moment”.  But maybe I can at least get a blessing till I can have confession.

Humility and Grace in action

Humility and Grace in action


The Daring Soul….

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , on September 10, 2008 by blackincense

“If a man wishes to attain to love of God, he must have fear of God. Fear gives birth to mourning, and mourning to courage. When all this has ripened in the soul, it begins to bear fruit in all things. And, seeing these beautiful fruits in the soul, God draws it to Himself, like choice incense, takes joy in it with His Angels for all time, fills it with rejoicing, and protects it in all its ways, to let it reach its place of rest without harm.

Then, seeing the Most High Guardian encompassing it, the devil no longer attacks it; indeed he fears to come near it owing to this great power. Obtain this power that the demons may fear you, your labors be light and Divine things a sweet joy. This sweetness of Divine love is far sweeter than honey. Many monks and virgins, living in communities, having had no taste of this Divine sweetness nor received Divine power, have thought that they had it already. But, since they had made no effort to gain it, God did not give it to them. He who strives to obtain it will surely gain it through God’s mercy; for God is no respecter of persons. When a man wishes to have in himself the light of God and His power, and so disregards both the abuse and the honors of this world, hates all things of the world and ease of the body, and purifies his heart of all bad thoughts, when he unceasingly brings to God fasting and tears day and night, as well as pure prayers, then God enriches him with that power. Strive to obtain this power – and you will do all your works with calm and ease, will receive a great daring towards God and He will grant all that you ask.”

St Anthony the Great

from the Philokalia

I wonder what she is thinking about.

I wonder if she is praying...or thinking....or both.

Lay aside all earthly cares….

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion on September 9, 2008 by blackincense

From time to time, pieces of the Liturgy really “jump” to my ears.  So much of my life is spent around my nose, that I forget my other senses and I often think that it would have been a blessing if I had been born blind.

My eyes are a distraction.  My taste buds are completely corrupt from overindulgence. My sense of touch is distorted and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between blown glass and textiles if someone didn’t point it out to me bluntly.   My ears are numb to the glory of God, because I chatter incessantly about unimportant things.

But , yesterday, my ears caught something important:  Lay aside all earthly cares…..

What are my earthly cares?  Financial problems like everyone else.  Resentments over what I cannot change.In short, everything that comes between me and God.  There is no help for me in this life.  It is only the grace of God that allows me to experience life and living in a way that is God-pleasing.  I have no power over anything.  I am completely powerless.  Even when it comes to my nose.

What smells “good” to me, is only because God allows breath in me.  Only because He continues everlasting, so I continue to be, to exist, to have being.  I am humbled by his grace and his mercy.

Famous Last Words….

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , on September 6, 2008 by blackincense

PT Barnum:”How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”

Napoleon:  “Josephine…”

And this one shocked me to the core of my being:

“Damn it . . . Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”
To her housekeeper, who had begun to pray aloud.
~~ Joan Crawford, actress, d. May 10, 1977

How sad.  How final.

By contrast, I was instantly in mind of this holy martyr of Russia:

Hieromonk Nektary (Ivanov), an instructor in the Voronezh Seminary who had graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy, was killed in 1918 by means of various tortures of the cruelest sort: he was dragged by the feet, his arms and legs broken, wooden nails were driven into him, he was “given communion” with molten pewter. The martyr prayed: “Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, 0 Master, according to Thy Word; for my eyes have seen the glory of Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel”  Luke 2: 29-32

Let these be my last words.  God grant that I may be mindful to remember them when the time comes.

Martyrs of Russia circa 1918.  One of these men survived.

Martyrs of Russia circa 1918. One of these men survived.

Night Blooming Jasmine: A lesson in spirituality….

Posted in Arabian bakhour, bahkhoor, bakhoor, desert bakhoor incense, Desert culture, Ethiopia, Incense, Orthodox Christianity, Perfume Reviews, religion with tags , , , , , on September 4, 2008 by blackincense
I am working on the latest batch.  Blend, bottle and cure.  Blend, bottle and cure.  The repetition of the work begins to numb my senses and I was starting to wonder if it’s even worth it.  My nose was busy categorizing each formula, making sure it was exactly right.  One flower caught my nose and it seemed to overpower the others.  This doesn’t happen very often, so I went back and I checked the formula.  I hadn’t missed anything and yet this one flower seemed stronger than the others which, according to the precise formulation should not be.  Night blooming jasmine.
I tried again and this time, it seemed to fade back in, slowly.  I went for the coffee beans to clear my senses.  Leaving the bench, I went and picked up my book and tried to read.  But my nose kept nagging at me.  I could still smell it.  Went back to the coffee beans.
I knew which flower it was and that was not what bothered me.  What bothered me was that it should not over power the other ingredients.  I was starting to worry that maybe I was losing my nose as a perfumer.  I went back to the bench, and started to work again on a different blend, but I could still smell it.
Night blooming jasmine is not the world’s prettiest bush.  It releases its fragrance only at night.  In secret.
Then I realized, so it is the same with a suffering soul.  It’s beauty is not outward.  The suffering soul is at its most beautiful, when it releases its suffering to God alone.  In secret.
As for my nose, it’s recovered its senses.  Blend, bottle and cure.  Blend, bottle and cure.
Night blooming jasmine -- God's secret flower.

Night blooming jasmine -- God's flower

Frankincense and Myrrh : Fit for a mouse, Fit for a King.

Posted in bakhoor, Desert culture, Incense, Orthodox Christianity, Perfume Reviews, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2008 by blackincense

Apparently, some scientists with too much time on their hands have discovered that mice love frankincense.  In their study, mice showed significant decreased anxiety and a general tendency toward uplifted spirits.  I am certainly not an expert on the emotional range or psychological states of mice, but I can tell you that none of this is news to anyone except scientists.

Original newstory:

Frankincense has always been a precious gift to humanity from God.  It’s anti-septic qualities as well as it’s effect on human emotions and human pain, has been well documented throughout history.  It has often been speculated that the Magi brought frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child in order to purify the area.  He was, after all, born in a stable, and one can only imagine the germ population that surrounded both Child and Mother.  Naturally, this would not affect Him, and by extension, His mother, but of course the Magi could not have realized that at the time.

In other parts of the world, where people are less addicted to the notions of “sweet”, frankincense and myrrh are used as chewing gum.  Not only does it clean teeth and gums, but it helps to prevent gum disease.  Myrrh, especially, is used for its anti-bacterial quality on wounds, cuts, and infections in general.

Does this mean that we should stop using anti-biotics or anti-depressants, etc.?  Not at all.  But I hope that when we burn frankincense and myrrh, we remember the One who gave it to us and rejoice in His kingly gift to us.

The Saints and Politics

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information with tags , , , , on September 2, 2008 by blackincense

Right now, everyone is talking about people I have never heard of.  Apparently someone’s daughter is pregnant outside of marriage, and there is someone else who may or may not, have had an affair before he married his second wife,  and then there is another person who went to Israel, and stuck a prayer on a piece of paper in the Wailing Wall, and someone stole it and published it in the newspaper.  I sometimes feel left out, because I can’t discourse on these matters intelligently.

I note that none of the Saints ever discussed politics unless it was to say, “Come out of her my people!”  I was reading a passage in the Revelations of John, and I was immediately struck by how often politics is mentioned.  Here, God is judging kings, and leaders, and over there He is striking down the systems that oppress. I don’t pretend to understand all the subtleties of it, and I cannot even begin to formulate an opinion on who the “Beast” is.  I only know who he is NOT: the maker of my soul, and the only lover of mankind.

There is certainly room for political opinion, in the life of an Orthodox Christian.  (I remember that wonderful Cyber Monk, Fr. Sava in Serbia) But we are not to be obsessed with the things of this world.  None of the Saints who left the world behind, wrote treatises on the glories of politics, politicians and politicking.  More often, these Saints were victims of the same, and persecuted by them.  But we never read of them condemning those who persecuted them.  They are simply not mentioned at all.

Their silence on this matter is deafening.  Maybe I am not missing anything after all.

I must strive to be like this Tigray woman, and bend to the task that has been given to me, leaving the things of this world to God.

I must strive to be like this Tigray woman, and bend to the task that has been given to me, leaving the things of this world to God.