Archive for Orthodox Clergy and Information

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.


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.

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.

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.

Smoke rising….

Posted in Arabian bakhour, bahkhoor, bakhoor, desert bakhoor incense, Desert culture, Ethiopia, Incense, Orthodox Christianity, Perfume Reviews, religion with tags , , , , on September 1, 2008 by blackincense

These are the last days of men, and I can see the smoke rising.  I feel it in the air; unholy times have come upon us and the people of God must rise up, and resist.  Too many, for too long have been content with so little.  And of these, I have been the worst offender.

The incense we burn is of no use to us if the passions of our souls do not burn in its fire, and the soul does not rise with the smoke, upward toward God.  The earthly tears of repentance are not enough to extinguish the flame; they can never be enough.  God grant us such heavenly tears that will extinguish the flames in our souls, and kindle us with the heavenly fire of love.

I dusted our new incense this morning with clay powder.  O, Lord, fashion me, just as I roll these blocks and sticks.  You are the fashioner of souls!  The work of my hands is pitiable before You, O Lord.  Sticks and stones.  What are sticks and stones in comparison?

“O Lord, how Great are Thy Works and Thy Thoughts are very deep.
A brutish person knoweth not; neither doth a fool underestand this.”
(Psalms 92:5-6)

Monks on the Holy Mountain - may they pray to God for me, a sinner.

Monks on the Holy Mountain - may they pray to God for me, a sinner.