Archive for October, 2008

More Biblical Perfume Nonsense

Posted in Orthodox Christianity, religion with tags , , , , on October 26, 2008 by blackincense

“Lillian” (not her real name)  has written to inform me that I am “so wrong and decieved” about my last blog on Biblical scent.  She wants me to know that “God is calling His people out of Babylon and is calling them to create Biblical perfumes as of old…”

Really?  “As of old…”   hmmmm….I am not often stirred to irritation but this sort of thing really irks me.  The wording of this letter is pretentious at best, condescending at middle, and blasphemous at worst.  I can’t really understand how God would think that making Biblical oils in these last days, would accomplish much.  Not when there are little things like REPENTENCE, feeding the hungry, REPENTENCE, serving the poor, REPENTENCE, giving out glasses of water, visiting the sick that are so pressing! I think I forgot to mention repentence.

“Lillian” goes on to direct me to this website where we are assured by an unnamed merchant (who is making a hefty profit on the Biblical oils he/she/they are selling on the site) that God is indeed angry at the world and is demanding (rather like a four year old who hasn’t gotten his imperial way) that his followers begin dowsing themselves with “Biblical scents and fragrances” and spend their time (and lots of money of course) recreating them.  This is nothing short of nonsense and blasphemy.  I quote now from that website which will not be named here, but if you want the link, write to me and ask:

….”This page will be updated as the Holy Spirit leads.  First of all, we would like to say this journey to discover all that the Lord wants to reveal to His people about the Holy Incense has been intense. Some of the ingredients used are very difficult to obtain and it has only been by God’s grace, mercy, and timing we have located them. …”

Oh puhleeze!  “Difficult to obtain..”??? What ??? You have to be kidding…Most people have coriander in their kitchen spice rack, and while saffron is pretty expensive, you can get just about anything you want from any herbalist shop.  Obviously, though, I am a sinner, and this person has somehow been “privileged” by God to obtain these things.

The Lord’s time to release the Holy Incense and other biblical incenses is very important.   God has been waiting for the Church to mature. The Holy Incense represents the fragrance, fire and power of the Lord and is sacred…..

“How To Make The Holy Incense

Although we can not give you the specific recipe or formula the Lord has given us to make the Holy Incense, the Lord has promoted us to encourage each believer to seek the Lord in prayer for guidance and direction.

We do offer all the ingredients you will need to make the Holy Incense.  Please keep in mind that the correct interpretation of the scripture is very important when making the Holy Incense.”

(Excuse me while I go to the loo to puke.)

Well, I am a Christian, and this is, basically, CRAP. Shame on these people for taking advantage of the gullible.As if all the above were not enough, the author of this website, the merchant who is selling all this stuff or exorbitant (and really out of range) prices, goes on to tell us that:

…”Anointing oils can be used as a symbolic representation of our faith in Jesus Christ to answer our prayers through divine intervention; consecration, sanctification, applied as a healing salve or ointment that has true medicinal attributes, used as a perfume for hygiene purposes, funeral or embalming practices, or preparing weapons for warfare. Anointing oil and ointments have multiple applications as you will see in the scripture references below.”

This is nothing else other than one thing:  witchcraft disguised as Christianity and it angers me that anybody who calls themselves  Christian would even suggest such a thing.

The annointing oils and incense used in the Orthodox Church bear no resemblance whatsoever to practices such as these, and moreover, the practices of the Church with regard to incense, our use of annointing oil, chrism, or anything “smelly good” we use in the Church would NEVER be thrown around in this sort of manner.  We do not throw holy water on things because it acheives something we “want” or because it’s effect is in any way”magical”.  The line here is not “fine —-it’s as wide as the Jordan River.

In Orthodox Christianity, which is the only completely historical Christian Church dating to the time of the Apostles, annointing oil is a tool of the Sacraments of Chrismation and Holy Unction.  These are to be administered by priests, and the oil itself is blended by Bishops themselves or by monastics. (As far as I am aware.)  No perfumer such as myself has the clerical authority to create such a blend, according to the Canons of the Church, and throw it around on people, places and things for some sort of magical purpose, especially if it is couched in Protestant language of the 21st century.

It is true that we can be given or buy other types of oils from Orthodox sources (monasteries, parishes, etc.) in order to annoint ourselves for prayerful purposes that always speak of repentance, but for no other reason!  I have a bottle of oil from the vigil lamp that hangs over the relics of St. John the Wonderworker, which was given to me (with a blessing!) by Fr. Nikolai at the Cathedral there.

Secondly, Holy Incense, is prayerfully made, and is used by everyone, and anyone and while our method of making incense is not generally publicized to the non-Orthodox, it is not exactly a “secret” in the Orthodox world.  Any Orthodox layperson will be taught to make it if he/she asks and receives a blessing from their priest to learn it.  Christian incense, is an art that has been perfected by monastics out of necessity, not from the canon law.  It has always been the job of monks/nuns simply because most laypeople do not have the time or the energy to make it.  (Physically, it can be demanding and “humbling” work.)   So monks and nuns have become traditionally associated with the art, because they did the job no one else wanted to do.  Not because it was the province or privilege of “a few” who have been “led by the Holy Spirit”….Certainly it is holy and the work they do is “led by the Holy Spirit”, but we do not say that laypeople who make  it are not, or imply that somehow we are the only ones holy enough to understand it.

Dear “Lillian” –

I am very sorry you have been led to believe these things about Biblical scents and fragrances.  These ideas are promoted by someone who has an agenda:  namely to sell more Bibilical scents and fragrances.  Such people are many in the world.  I hope you will prayerfully re-consider your position and that you will visit an Orthodox Church in your area, to ask a priest about the proper Christian attitudes and beliefs about these things.

I will pray for you.

God bless you and keep you in Christ,

Suzanne

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On What It Smelled Like in 0 AD

Posted in Orthodox Christianity, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by blackincense

I am getting those letters .  The ones that ask for a “Christmas” incense and a “Biblical perfume”.  I know exactly what they want, these lovely people, and that’s exactly the problem.     I don’t want to say anything sarcastic or hurtful, but I also want (and try hard)  to educate them. What they want is something that really, we can’t have.  Not because I can’t manage to make a “Christmas” incense (complete with pumpkin pie smell) , but because Christmas incense already exists and I really can’t improve it much.  “Christmas incense” properly is plain, untreated, frankincense and myrrh, straight from the fields. God made the first “Christmas incense” and I really can’t come up with any better ideas. I’m not sure why people think I should try, although I do make a seasonal incense that ought to satisfy the “Christmas craving”.

But never mind that, we’re talking about God’s incense here:

Matthew 2: 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

It is generally thought that the frankincense and myrrh was probably from Ethiopia, although the Magi themselves were probably from Syria.  The “Silk Road” trading was active at that time, although it wasn’t called that then, and Ethiopian resins were considered the finest in the world.  (They still are –Omani frankincense is over-rated and very expensive.)  It is also speculated that one of the wise men might have come from Ethiopia.  It’s hard to say.  One thing we can be sure of:  the gifts of the Magi are listed separately, and therefore, they were untreated, unprocessed resins.  They were “pure”.  The account in Matthew does not say, “…and they offered him incense made from…”  It just says that they gave him these resins and it tells us what they were.

In thinking about what these raw resins actually smell like when they are burned, it’s hard to guess people’s reactions.  Some people love it.  Others don’t care for it, and prefer a more “cultivated” or “sophisticated” scent.  In other words, some people love “natural” smells and others love “sweet”. First of all, our sense (scents!) of smell (grin) is completely different in these modern times, that it would have been in 0 AD when our Lord was born.

Back then, the world smelled a lot different than it does today.  Our ideas about what smells “good” at Christmas, is largely about the success of commercial marketing.  I can almost guarantee that “pumpkin spice” would probably have smelled like rotten eggs to a 1st century Christian.  Their noses were trained in an entirely different world and were subject to an entirely different set of sensory perceptions. When Mary poured oil on Jesus’ feet, it was spikenard, which smells approximately like old leather.  Call it the “Old Spice” of the New Testament.

Don’t get me wrong:  I grew up on horses and I love the smell of leather.  Saddles that have just been cleaned, smell GREAT to me.  But this is not what most women who write to me want.  They are under the impression that the oil Mary used, was probably some kind of floral scent.  Christian women are under a lot of misunderstanding about “Biblical perfume”.  I cannot make a 1st century version of Giorgio or Red Door.  It doesn’t exist.

Here’s a concrete example of what I am talking about.  I actually possess the following oils in uncut form: Spikenard ,  Cassia,  Myrrh,  aloe

I don’t have mollusk shell (onycta) , ground up and powdered but I can get it, and  I do have styrax and the other stuff that Exodus calls for.

Here’s what it actually says in Exodus 30: For anointing oil (what we might consider a perfume): Moreover the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Also take for yourself quality spices—five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, 24 five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil.

Quality spices in those days, in the lands of the Bible,  were things like mustard, balm of gilead, and saffron.  Steam distillation wasn’t invented in those days, so they would grind these up in a bowl, and soak them in oil.  The pure grains of these herbs would scent the oil, and it was more like a “paste” than anything else.  It was semi-solid, and not what you think of when you think of a “perfume”.

For incense in the Temple: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. 38 Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

Now, for the purists out there, trust me, I can make this.  But my name isn’t Moses or Aaron, and I don’t have a “tabernacle” to put it in. Christ came to free us from ourselves, from death.  He came to free us from the “letter of the law” and He came that we might have “life and have it abundantly”.  We are free in Christ, to enjoy scent and to enjoy our lives now.  We do not live in the chains of the past, (even the beautiful past of the Old Testament).  The Kingdom is here and now.  We are called to higher things, than our past, even if it is our collective past as human beings.  On an individual level, each person is called by God to “taste and see”.

Whenever I get these letters I often wonder if it’s really the perfume they want, or if they are just expressing a desire for something “ancient” in their lives.  People are ever searching for meaning and our world is spiritual battleground.  People want things they cannot have, namely the desire to “go back” and “get it right”.  We cannot go back, we can only make amends and move forward.  The whim of possessing a “Biblical perfume” is really about the desire for holiness.  People want to respond to God’s call, and finding it difficult within, they look for an external way to achieve holiness, as if it were a garment you could just pick up at the dry cleaners.

This is what the purpose of the Jesus prayer really is:  to purify us from within.  The incense and the perfumes is all external.  It’s beautiful and it’s helpful in prayer, but it is not our prayer itself.  That only comes from the heart. And that’s why I don’t make “biblical perfume”  —- you wouldn’t like it anyway.

Instead, I’m working on a new batch for Christmas — I decided I wouldn’t make the blend I usually do, at this time of year.  I’m going to make a brand new one.  From scratch.  Because I know I cannot go back.  I can only start over, every day. I haven’t named it yet, but I am using the frankincense and myrrh as a base, of course.  But there wont’ be any pumpkin pie, or cinnamon, or cassia. No cloves sticking out of an orange.  I’m going to do something new.  Something REVOLUTIONARY for Christmas.  It probably won’t even smell like “Christmas” to anyone except me.   But it will be special and I will try to keep some back for the rest of the year, so that Christ will continue to be born in my heart, all year long.

Wanna know what it is?????

Huh???

Really?

Sure?

Frankincense and myrrh.  Blended together.  Nothing else.

Icon of the Adoration of the Magi

Icon of the Adoration of the Magi

We Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny The Existence of this Blog

Posted in Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , , , on October 22, 2008 by blackincense

There comes a time, when it’s okay to write about your parents. For me, it might as well be today.  The truth about my father, has been coming in short sentences, one word lines, and other hints for years.  Now I will attempt to “bare all” for the conspiracy tabloids just in case the “truth” remains hidden in a Templar cave somewhere.  Here it is:

  • I have no idea who killed JFK.  I don’t know who was on the grassy knoll, and I don’t know if Oswald was one of the three stooges.  I do know, from general knowledge, that Marilyn Monroe was a woman of rather loose association and that she had suffered from depression and “poor judgement”.  What else can I say?
  • I don’t know if UFO’s are extra-terrestrial.  I suspect, through my limited theological reading, that they are deceptions of the Evil One, but I have no proof of their existence and I have searched my father’s dresser extensively and come up with zip.
  • I do not know if the CIA actually found any success in the MK Ultra (mind control) program.  But if they had, I wouldn’t have ended up this way.  At all.

Outside of badly phrased humour, I do not know how to describe my father.  So I will stick to what I do know:

He was born in 1933 and was raised during the Great Depression.  In 1955, he enlisted in the American Army.  In 1958 he was recruited by the CIA to attend the newly formed Russian Language School at Monterey, California.  Within a year, he was an “operative” behind the Iron Curtain and active in the “eastern bloc” recruiting double agents and “running agents” throughout the Soviet state and satellite countries.

In 1961, he reattended the Russian Language school, to further refine his language skills and studied Russian with Gleb Podmoshansky who later became Fr. Herman of the Platina “Brotherhood” fame.  Under Gleb’s tutoring, he mastered “fine” Russian and was able to pass as a privileged “Party member”.  By 1965, he had moved his base of operations to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and was busy infiltrating the GRU.  In between GRU and KGB meetings, he had time to father my brother who was (thankfully for the UN red-tape department) born in “West” Germany.

I was born in the States, in 1966, and my father immediately took off for parts unknown until three months later, when he contacted my mother to let her know that she should pack up the apartment because they were moving to Bucharesti, Romania.  In Romania, my “nanny”, a KGB agent hired through the American Embassy was assigned to me, and she promptly took me to the “Black Cathedral” in Bucharesti, to have me bless by an Orthodox priest. After all, my parents were godless, American heretics and I was defenseless.

Actually, my mother was a God-fearing, Bible-Thumping Lutheran, but that didn’t matter to the local GRU/KGB.  it was very important that my mother be allowed to access the Church in Romania.  As a result, she was able to meet with a local priest, and some of the local surviving monks in the Suceava region.  At all costs, this crazy American lady with her wierd ideas about the American Bible, must be allowed to report back to the west, that “religion” was “encouraged” by the Iron Curtain.

When the  Priest came to bless the family of a suicide, my mother was there to greet him, and she , as expected, reported back to all her American friends, that Orthodox people were indeed compassionate.  Likewise, when the abbot of a Suceava monastery was suspended from his post, my mother in her Lutheran wisdom, saw through to the heart of the matter, and reported back to her American friends that he wasn’t really a priest, as originally thought, but was ejected by the Church.  And, also, when my nanny’s mother “died” and the local priest in Timisoara said she was murdered by the Securitate, my mother believed him, and reported that back also.

It was all a avery complicated business growing up in my house.  My brother and I were never certain if we would have rooms to come home to, after school, or if we would be “escorted by helicopter” out of any given country.

There are so many memories, and so many stories, I cannot tell them all here.  But I was thinking the other day:  At what point does a person realize they are Orthodox?

We are taught , in the Church, that a person becomes a Christian at their Orthodox baptism, or chrismation, and this is very true, both literally and theologically.

But it is also true, that we begin our journey toward Orthodoxy before we are even born; before we take our first breath.  The sum total of our life, the experiences we have had, the things we have suffered, all serve to bring us, eventually, and however it happens, to the One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

My father, an atheist, made sure, through his work and his life, my own salvation.  May the Lord have mercy upon him!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his loved ones.”

On the Bitterness of Having What You Don’t Want.

Posted in Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Clergy and Information with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2008 by blackincense

A long time ago, I had a conversation with a friend that I have never, ever forgotten.  Her name is delightfully, “Penny”.  Penny is rich, gloriously rich with money of her own, a fabulous home, a Mustang convertible, and a fleet of other cars.  She might as well have them all named for the days of the week. ‘Monday’, ‘Tuesday’, ‘Wednesday’…I love going to visit her because her house is like a museum: every thing in it has a history, a story behind it, and I love to hear her talk.  She talks a great deal, Penny does, about nothing, and yet about EVERYTHING that was ever important to humankind.  She is brilliant, and yet she doesn’t realize that she is so.  She’s intelligent, but she thinks she’s a “dumb blonde”.  She’s worldy, but she has this ‘otherworldy’ air about her, that speaks to the very heart of a person.  She is so fabulously rich, yet she makes chocolate chip cookies every afternoon, for her evening dessert.  She does it, she says, because she wishes to be “young again”, and to remember always the innocence of her youth.

And yet Penny is one of the most humble, simple hearted, most dedicated Christians I know.  She is not Orthodox, but is firmly “Church of Ireland” and whenever she talks,  the Gospel shines through.

On that long ago Sunday, we were sitting in her “garden”, an actual “botanical” garden if you know what I mean, complete with bronze statues, strategically placed benches, and sculptured hedges.  Even the bushes are trimmed into pieces of fine art.  Who knew that Michaelangelo’s “David” would end up re-done in a rhododendron?  Penny’s garden gives new meaning to the phrase “going green”.

Penny lives in Ireland.  Not just anywhere in Ireland, but in a real castle that is dated to the 13 th century.  She opens her home to visitors, because “times are difficult” and “all this is just window dressing, don’t you know?”

So there we were, in our formal dresses (because Penny enjoys “dressing for tea”) and having our tea and biscuits in the garden, a veritable paradise, and Penny was saying quite conversationally, as if people everywhere had such lofty and deep thoughts:

“…well, you know, then I thought myself:  If I had a nice husband, then I would really be happy...but then  I got a nice husband, but as time went on he wasn’t as nice to me as I got older,  and then I thought to myself, ‘well, okay, if i had perfect children, then i would really be happy.  But I wasn’t, even though I did have wonderful children.  They really are a comfort you know, when you think you haven’t done anything worthwhile, you can look at them, and say “well, it wasn’t all so bad!”

And so then I thought, ‘Well, if i just had a nice house, you know then i would really be happy...”

But that didn’t work out so well, because then I had to clean the thing, you know…so then i thought, ‘Well, if i only had a good maid, and a staff of servants, then i would really be happy...”

So then, I decided to hire all these people and now I never get a moment’s peace, and now I think, “Well, if I could just get rid of all this stuff, then I would really be happy!”

Wisdom!  Let us attend!

How well, I understand, now, after all this time, what she was trying to tell me.  But it only really just hit me today.  And so I post it here, so that I don’t forget it.

Penny gave her life to others.  She eventually sold all her possessions and gave it all to the poor, as our Lord commanded.  She is “judged” by many to be an “eccentric”.  But to me, she was the Irish version of a fool-for-Christ.  She lived well; she gave even more.  She enjoyed life; she made sure others less fortunate were able to enjoy it too.  When the economy went into “over drive” in Ireland and everyone was busy making money, she opened her “home” to orphans and to abused women.  She created an entire “shelter” for those same abused women on her estate, who later spit on her grave.  All for the love of Christ.

Dear and glorious Penny…you are a true sister and guardian.  No one else wanted to tell me the truth about myself, all those years ago, but you found a way to explain it.  Although I did not understand until today, I give thanks to you for what you said so faithfully.  I give thanks that I had the privilege of knowing you.

Memory Eternal.

Lismore "house".  Penny's home...my home whenever I want to "run" there.

Penny's home...my own "home" whenever I had the courage to run there. Truly, it was fortress fortified from "within".

Book Review: The Father and the Son by Matt Murray

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by blackincense

This book survived my failure as a book store owner.  It is the very last book I own, that was part of the original inventory.  And I have just finished reading it for the first time.

In putting it down, I am humbled, I am haunted, I am shaken to the very core, that someone outside the Church is capable of writing so profoundly, about what goes on within it, and within the heart and mind of a person who is contemplating (much less accomplishing) monasticism.  This book will haunt me to the end of my days in a wonderfully and fearfully, created way.  Written by a Wall Street Journalist, about his father, who suddenly decides one day to become a monk, this book is an honest, no-holds barred, no gloves allowed look, at the way in which God often enters people’s lives:  suddenly, abruptly, and with no apology.  He is the Creator after all.

This book is a memoir, a fond remembrance of a boy for his beloved father, who left worldly life to become a monk.  In the Roman Catholic tradition.  For us Orthodox, our immediate reaction is “Oh.  How theologically incomplete.”

And that is an incomplete analysis of one man’s journey of faith, as entangled as that  is, and can be, without all the trappings of theology.  Our theological differences aside:  this is the story of a man’s journey toward the Truth, which is not just an idea, or an abstract concept.  Our Lord said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.  Our Lord, as theologically confounding as He is, is a Person!  A Person who cares bottomlessly for human beings.  This is an unforgettable book; a profound and heart wrenching story of one man’s pain, and another man’s joy.  It is about loss, grief, hope, joy, all the things that make human life worth living.

For the Orthodox and Roman Catholic alike, I invite you to “lay aside all earthly cares” and enter in to a family that is torn apart, and healed,  by Hope.

If you read nothing else this year, I hope you will read this.  Leave the theological wrangling at the door where it belongs with our bishops.

http://www.amazon.com/Father-Son-Fathers-Journey-Monastic/dp/0060187824

“Hold Fast to the Truth You Have Been Given…”

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by blackincense

In Renaissance times, it was not unusual for sailors, and especially pirates,  to have that exact phrase, “Hold Fast” tattooed on their hands.  Surprise!  I have no idea what the word(s) for it in the “original Greek” are, (don’t you love people who can say that and know what they are talking about?  I really do admire such people!)  Never mind asking me what it is in Russian or Serbian.  But here it is in olde Englysh:  (smile!)

Hebrews 10:

23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

What does it mean to “hold fast”?  In plain, every day English  I think it is safe to say that it means, to “batten down the hatches”, “lash down everything that’s not nailed down”, to secure ourselves and our loved ones, firmly in the Church, by hand-cuffing ourselves to the icon stands if necessary, when times of trouble arise.  (Don’t think I won’t do it! )

Those times have come for me. They have finally come.  I won’t bore anyone with the petty details but suffice to say:  My faith is weak, imperfect and thoroughly objectionable on it’s own.  If I died tonight (“Now I lay me down to sleep…”)  I doubt I would be able to sputter an answer to the Lord’s questioning.  My “faith” such as it is, would never survive His scrutiny.

And so I pray, “O, Lord, HELP MY UNBELIEF!”

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

Without him, there is no hope of escaping death.  There is no hope of escaping my condemnation of myself.  There is no hope of escaping my accuser who is far more powerful, and far more intelligent, than I am.  (He probably speaks in the “original Greek.”)

But how exactly do we “hold fast”?  When we come to baptism, no one gives you a manual (except for the elegantly wrapped Orthodox Study Bible which we are told, we cannot understand without an interpreter, which is why we are getting baptized in the first place.)  No one ever really “teaches” anyone how to “hold fast” and no one can really learn it from a book.  It is done by doing.  Even when we don’t feel like it.  When we don’t think we have it in us.  When we think “All is lost!” and we turn to our prayer books, frantically searching for the “right” prayer.

In the end, the final analysis, I can never hope to make it to heaven, if Orthodoxy is all about the cannons of the Church laws, and the sayings of St. So-And-So who has never been translated into English, but is only available in the “original Greek”.

Thank you Lord, for your mercy!  Thank you Lord, for your salvation!  We, the unwashed, hold fast to your Promise!

O, Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner!  Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!!!

Here are three crosses.  Which one is yours?  Which one is mine?  I don’t know.

He will have to choose for me.

Catch the Fire….

Posted in Orthodox Clergy and Information, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2008 by blackincense

I spend a lot time with the desert fathers and mothers, because I see so much in them that I want to be, to acheive, to harness.  I try very hard not to pretend to myself or others, that anything I say either in person, or on the internet, could possibly have any merit on its own.  I am very much aware that in fact, nothing I say has any merit on its own.  I am not a brilliant theologian or even a student of theology and so most of what I say probably has no meaning for anyone but myself anyway.

Having recently been reminded of how disposable I am, through loss of employment, I have found my spirit restless and troubled by thoughts of inferiority, self-abasement, and shame. So it was with a troubled spirit, that  I turned to the Desert Fathers once again, this morning.  This is what I read:

“Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ Then the old man, Abba Joseph,  stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you like, you can become all aflame.’ ”

I am reminded, that this life is not about employment, production of wealth, goods, or personal acclaim.  It’s not about attracting for oneself, the honors that go with a brilliant education or patting yourself on the back for being from the “school of hard knocks.”

My aim in this life, must be above all else, to become “all aflame”.  There is no other purpose in living, but to unite with God and to become a person with no enemies.  And as in all things, this too is given as a gift of choice.  Abba Joseph did not say “You must…” .  He said, “If you like…”

The God we worship is truly the author of grace.

An Ethiopian Monk rests outside his cell.

An Ethiopian Monk rests outside his cell.