Category Archives: Random

A Wondrous Creation

It’s quite easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and our own surroundings. They are, after all,  what is immediately available to us. I think it does us good however to remember that God created more than just our planet, and that our planet is but a tiny speck in the grand scale of the cosmos. As I write this the 2012 transit of Venus across the face of the sun has just ended and I am filled with a mixture of sadness, regret and profound wonder. I am sad because this is the last time that we will witness this transit for another 105 years. I am regretful of the fact that my son, not yet 8 months old, will not be able to experience this. In fact, it probably won’t be witnessed again until my great-great-grandchildren are walking this planet. And lastly, I am filled with a profound wonder at the scale of the cosmos and this wondrous creation of the Pantokrator – the King of the Universe and the Almighty God.

Below are a series of pictures that I took during the first hour of the transit. The small dots scattered across the center of the sun are sun spots, and you can see Venus begin its journey in the upper left corner. The transit took about six hours to complete. I viewed the transit through a spotting scope pointed towards the sun, and the image was projected on to a piece of paper held below the eyepiece. Keep in mind that this tiny dot, only 3% the size of the sun in these images, is roughly the same size as our own planet. Glory to you, O God and glory to your works!

(The haze in this image was caused by clouds starting to pass overhead)

(The odd shape of the solar disk in some of these images is not from the sun itself, but from the angle that the paper it was projected on to was held, or the angle of my camera when taking them.)

IC | XC
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NI | KA


What is the goal of Christianity?

 

I recently entered into conversation with a Mr. Christopher Randolph over on his blog when posted the question “What is the Gospel?” (see here) I thought it was a very interesting question to ask his readers and I enjoyed reading the responses that he got. In similar fashion I’d be very interested to find out what you, the reader, believe the goal of Christianity is. I have my own thoughts about it but I’m curious as to what others of different denominations, sects, or even faiths think.

As always, I am a big believer in conversation. I received my B.A. in Philosophy and I enjoy questioning others about their beliefs and thoughts so that 1.) they can have a chance to share what they believe and 2.) so that they might be able to find out for themselves what it is they believe when they are presented with competing lines of thought. If I respond back to you questioning your answer, please don’t see it as a personal attack, but rather as me trying to coax more out of you, for both mine and your own benefit!

So, with that said, let’s hear it: What is the goal of Christianity?


With fear and trembling…

With spring now here I’ve started to become increasingly aware of the fact that I leave for Holy Cross in only about four more months. This is much more than just another move to a new apartment, this means a trip from the bottom of the US to the top, and to add to the mix, with a (will be then) eleven month old baby.

This in itself is pretty scary. I am uprooting my family from the relative comfortableness of our current life and trusting that everything will work out once we’re there. But ah! Once we’re there!

It is here that my thinking usually shifts to the reason I am going to the school in the first place; I seek to dedicate my life to God and His people as one of His priests. The closer the time comes to officially start down this path, the more nervous I get. This is even scarier than moving my family across the country.

When I think about being a priest, my mind immediately recalls how unworthy of such a duty I am. Growing up, I always viewed preachers and priests as almost “other” than myself. They were holy men who prayed frequently, effortlessly dispensed advice and seemed destined to do what they were doing. With my own journey however I’ve come to see priests differently, as real people, just like myself, with their own fears, problems, stresses and desires.  Again, just like myself, with my own fears, problems, stresses and desires.  I live far from what I would consider a holy life; I pray far more infrequently than I should, I’m often confused myself as to the best course of action, and I still have a lot to work on in taming the various passions which sometimes drive me.

All of this is possible, and the first step is always the same: we must recognize and then acknowledge our failings. I thank God that I have found myself in a position where I have to do this starting now, where there is no more time to “get to it later.”  The fact that I am scared at the thought of the responsibility I seek to take on drives me to examine and seek to better myself, to do what I can to try and prove myself worthy of that responsibility.

You don’t have to take such a drastic step to awaken your own self to this however. We all have responsibilities, whether or our spouse, kids, co-workers or what have you. Strive to be a good example to who ever it is that depends on you or who you really care about. Live your life in such a way that those around you honestly want to know what it is that you have that they seem not to. In our times it is no longer expected that someone is a Christian. It is much more common to be agnostic, or unconcerned, or even lukewarm to the point of being insincere. The upright Christian is becoming rarer to find and hence more valuable.

We are all called to the priesthood in our lives, to tell the World of the Good News and to teach, guide and help each other. It is my prayer that God, seeing us striving to overcome ourselves and reaching out to Him, in fear and trembling, will grant us grace and mercy and draw us closer to Him. Amen.

IC | XC
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NI | KA


Not Everything Happens For a Reason

“…or, God is Not Playing a Game of Cosmic Chess”


Forty-five days ago what should have been one of the happiest moments in the lives of my wife and I turned into one of the worst; she went into labor.

The problem was that she was 5 weeks early. This wasn’t the main problem in of itself however; the doctor said that at that stage the baby was nearly full-term and should have the same survival rate as a full-term child. The main problem was that when we went into the doctor’s office and she performed a sonogram, we couldn’t hear a heartbeat. The visual ultrasound confirmed the worst,  and the following words, directed towards my wife, will forever be ingrained in my memory: “Your baby has no heartbeat, it is dead, but either way, you’re giving birth today.”

For eight months we had dreamed how our precious Anastasia Noel would look, what she would be interested in, what foods she would like and what kind of person she would be. We tried to prepare for how our lives would be changed, how we would need to give up this or that, how this Christmas would be the most special Christmas ever and how our parents were going to be transformed into grandparents and we children would now become the parents.

All of this came to sudden halt. We were devastated, and understandably so, but the reality of the situation didn’t kick in immediately. It took some time for us to completely shift our way of thinking, just like it took time after we discovered she was pregnant.

That day, for me at least, was an alternation between a powerful sadness and dispassionate shock. My wife’s mother and grandmother drove five hours to be with us, arriving an hour or two before the delivery and not too long after my own parents and sister, who themselves drove two hours. My wife’s sister and friend were there, as were our friends from church and Anastasia’s planned godparents, Theodore and Stacey (who, coincidentally, was also named after St. Anastasia).

One of the most common phrases I heard directed towards us that day, and in the weeks after, was “Everything happens for a reason, I’m sure God has something special planned for you.” This phrase became for me something absolutely repulsive, although I appreciate the sentiment of those who mentioned it.

I don’t believe that everything does happen for a reason, that God is playing something like a game of cosmic chess. In chess you play tactically; you make a move based on a hoped-for chain of events: “If I move this pawn, then it puts his queen in danger and he will have to move his bishop to protect it, opening up his rook for attack.”

The reason I don’t believe this is twofold: God is love, and because of this love there is free will in humanity, and freedom in all of creation. If God did have a hand in every single event that happened, if He made sure that nothing happened without a specific reason, then it would negate this freedom. This isn’t to say that I am a deist and believe in the great “Watchmaker God” who set the world in motion and then moved on, but I do believe that God created a system around himself, and lets that system play out according to the laws it was designed by.

Our baby did not die for some overarching reason. God did not “want her before her time” (as one person told me) and so take her away from us. I don’t believe this because God is love, and to actively take something away from us which is both an expression of the love shared between my wife and myself, as well as His love for humanity by allowing us to continue on, is not an act of love. Our baby died because something went wrong during her development which caused the placenta to not form as it should, and so not be able to supply Anastasia with what was needed in order to sustain her.

No, not everything happens for some specific reason. Not every action undertaken by nature or by humanity is directed by God. Not every tragedy happens in order to allow some good. Some things just happen as a result of the system which God created, such as natural and extraterrestrial disasters. Other things happen because God loved us enough to give us freedom of the will and not make us automatons.

Not everything happens for a reason, but this doesn’t mean that nothing does, nor does it limit the possibility that once something does happen, it might open up the possibility of something else. Now that my wife and I don’t have to worry about how we are going to be able to afford rent, all our bills, -and- support a child, we might have the opportunity to do something to continue better our situation and our relationship that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do, such as going back to school or being drawn even closer together by what we’ve been through.

I said some words at the funeral for our stillborn daughter, and while at the time I fumbled it up due to my emotions, the following is what I meant to say:

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, and I don’t believe that God took our daughter away from us. Our daughter died because something went wrong in her development. I do, however, believe that He welcomed her with open arms when she arrived in His Kingdom. I have no fear for my daughter; she is now where I am fighting tooth and nail to be, standing before the throne of God. My prayers are for my wife and I and our family, that we will have the strength to grieve and to carry on. I do hope for one thing though, that even though we never got to get to know our daughter, she knows us and knows how much we love her still. Glory to you God, glory to you.

IC | XC
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NI | KA

 

Memory eternal, my sweet Anastasia. You got to skip all the hard stuff, and are now another bright star in heaven, and a special intercessor for us before the almighty Pantokrator. Please pray for us, that God will have mercy on us.

I love you.


Short Prayers for the iPhone

I’ve added for your downloading convenience, a .zip file containing .pdf compilations of morning prayers, evening prayers, and then a few miscellaneous prayers. I’ve also included the original .doc files for you to customize them to your liking.  The .pdf files are made to be added to iTunes for use in the new iBooks app.  Great for using when on the go, or away from home!

Click the picture below to download:


A Short, Printable Booklet of Morning Prayers

Click the image above to download a short prayer booklet I compiled. I don’t have a lot of time to say my morning prayers during the morning, so I thought I would it be helpful to put together a small collection of the the ones I use regularly. In order to print it correctly, set your printer to print duplex (both sides), in landscape, and with the duplex along the short edge. Cut or tear along the solid black line to put it down to size!


How to Tie an Orthodox Prayer Rope

Click the image above to download a guide I made on how to tie an Orthodox prayer rope. This guide can also be found in the Downloads section of this blog.


The Septuagint Psalter

Click the image above to download a psalter I put together. It is in both English and Greek. It can also be found in the Downloads section of this blog.


How To Make An Orthodox Prayer Rope

Click for how to make an Orthodox Prayer Rope

I’ve finally finished my guide on how to make a komboskini, or Orthodox prayer rope. Click the image above to download the .pdf file. I welcome any and all comments or suggestions!


Free Download! – Psalter

psalter1

I’ve made a Psalter that is in both Septuagint Greek as well as English if anyone is interested, as well as added a Downloads page at the top of the blog. Check back often to see if I’ve put anything else up! To download the Psalter you can go to the Downloads page or click the image above.