20120113 Spirituality of Christmas and Theophany

In this (welcome back) edition, we go back to the old format; starting with a reflection, covering a few news stories and satirical advertisements and the like, then finishing with the Volya (Freedom) segment that treats a topic of interest in some detail.

But before we begin, I reckon that I owe you an explanation: why so long between podcasts?

Well, I told you that I was teaching Spirituality at seminary this past Fall, and that I looked forward to sharing some of that with the OrthoAnalytika audience.  And I did.  Unfortunately, hesychasm, the way of silence, does not work well in the podcasting world!  (sorry, a bit of Ortho-geek humor there).

Actually, It’s been a sort of perfect storm of laziness, a growing family, busy parish life, teaching engagements, technical issues, and an attempt to take a few hours off every week.  But I recently talked to a wonderful mentor of mine about my frustration at not getting any podcasts out – and he told me that if I enjoyed it that I shouldn’t hesitate to use my “free day” to do it.  And honestly, I enjoy this much more than what I did with my free day through much of the Spring and Summer (at least until Claire was born): play golf.  I was really grokking some Mark Twain – golf often threatens to spoil a good walk.

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, the Orthoanalytika team and I will get back into the routine and start pushing out more episodes.  There are still technical issues to overcome (I still have not recovered from switching servers over a year ago), but I think I have almost cracked the code on that.  A few more hours by our technical guy (he’s the retired intell chief) and we’ll be cooking with gas.

A bit more before we head into the meat of today’s show.
For whatever reason, we’ve picked up a lot of new listeners over the last year.  Those who have been around for longer than that have seen the show change over time.  From basically a homily and some local music (often me on my old baritone) to a show that tackles issues – like prepping and the paranormal – that aren’t really being covered in the high-profile podcasts.  Since we are an independent podcast, we’re able to say some things that others might not want to mess with.  From the superficial, like when we made fun of people who are dogmatic about beards, to the more serious, as when we mocked hyper-ecuminicists by presenting a “metric of orthodoxness” (complete with numerical ratings and percentages).  We can get away with this because while we take the Truth (and our pursuit of it) seriously, the same cannot be said about ourselves.  We are, as one iTunes reviewer put it; “goofy”.  We are also completely in love with God’s people and the One who made and draws them all together.

Enough with the navel-gazing: let the podcast begin!

Homily:  God has been born in Bethlehem… and in our hearts.

[but first, another aside!] One of the guiding bits of folk wisdom that guides this show is that “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  For the past few months, more than at any other time, I have been trying to eat, drink, sleep, breathe, and live hesychasm.  The idea that God lives within the center of our nous, and that through certain disciplines (most notably those that develop peace and self-less love) we can encounter Him… well, let’s just say that it is a pretty big hammer.  Next semester, I am teaching comparative religion in America – that means that I have been reading a lot on American spirituality (think Emerson, Smith, Manley, and Bloom).   There are some real spiritual geniuses out there.  They take this very real idea of the Kingdom of God dwelling within us, and they run with it; engaging all their genius to develop new and beautiful theologies and approaches to perfection.  Unfortunately, as another such genius, Tolstoi, noted when commenting on Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon, such attempts end up being 20% inspired and 80% deceptive gobsmack (I am paraphrasing).  This is one of the great joys of Orthodoxy: it’s a safe place to take this idea and see where it goes.  People who have done this before have published warnings about where inspiration ends and delusion begins.  Anyways, hesychasm is a wonderful hammer, and every homily for the past few months has been yet another nail (for instance, the men who made up excuses not to attend the Landowner’s banquet became stand-in’s for the many logismoi that distract us from spending time with the God-Emanuel within our hearts).  Here’s what the hammer does in the hands of this unskilled laborer when it comes to the Nativity.

The Christ-child in the World and in our Hearts (the Sunday after Nativity)


Before we get to the news, let’s have a word from one of our sponsors (warning: satire coming).

From the makers of the “Tin-Foil Skufia” – the best defense (short of perfection) against all those logismic voices in your head – comes a new line of Chotki perfect for the prepper-priest in your life.  It is made from something no survivalist should ever be without: great cordage.  And not just any cordage, but the best cordage ever made, 550 pound para-cord, and actually improve it, adding a thin but strong fiber of hyper-magnetic conductive steel.  That’s right, with this prayer rope not only gives you a total of 1000′ of cordage in one 100 knot chotki; not only does it give you something you can use to pull your bug out vehicle out of the ditch… when you wear this chotki, you are always 100% grounded.  No Carrington solar flare or Iranian EMP is going to interrupt your prayer life when you wear this.  And if it can keep you safe from those kinds of attacks, then surely it will defend against all attacks by “the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.  Keep yourself grounded  – order one now!

Now on to the news.

World news:  I know y’all just love it when I talk about the Taliban, but I can’t resist weighing in on the news about the Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.  I have to say something because I heard a local talk show personality defending the behavior of these Marines, and I just don’t think that’s right.  My point is not to judge them, but just to use this as yet another data point that shows that no nation, and especially not one that has allowed the morality of its culture to decline to the extent that ours has, (no nation) can make it through a war without causing spiritual damage to itself and others.  I love our servicemen and women.  I am a retired soldier.  But I don’t walk around with my eyes closed.  How can we expect a culture like ours to prepare our men and women for the temptations war brings?  We have not even prepared them for the temptations civilian life brings!  If we are willing to put stickers on our Chevy pick-ups showing our disdain for Ford pick-ups the way we do (using urination to get the point across), why in the world should we be surprised that we are willing to show our disrespect in this manner when we run across something really despicable like the Taliban?   War may bring out the best in men, but it also brings their shortcomings, and the shortcomings of the cultures that nurtured them, into stark relief.  We really need to stay away from it as best we can.

Paranormal News:  If you’ve been listening for any time at all, you know I love playing with alternative history (speaking of which, if St. Brendan started a monastery here over a thousand years ago, doesn’t the flag planting theory of Orthodoxy suggest that all American Orthodox should be under the Celtic Orthodox Church?  And given the early efforts of the Celtic missionaries among the Slavs, I think we can trump Patriarch Kirill’s claim for a “Russkie Mir” with a no less preposterous Celtic Orthodox Commonwealth that covers all of Europe and North America!).  Anyways, our buddy Pawlo Amerikanchuk sent us this; “Ruin in Georgian Mountains Show evidence of Mayan Connection“.  Some archeologists are trying to debunk this, arguing that it is simply an example of parallel development.  Pawlo argues that it may be the remains of the monastery that Prince Madoc’s chaplain, Hieromonk Cadfan, established among the Cherokee of the southern Appalachians.

Health News.  In a flash of counter-counter-intuitive insight, scientists have found that “Extra calories,  less protein are culprits in weight gain.” They varied the proportion of proteins and carbs across different groups while giving them all 1,000 more calories than recommended.   The low protein group gained less than the others, but they lost muscle and gained fat, whereas the high protein group gained more weight, but if was lean muscle mass.  How cool is that?  Yet another reason to cut WAAAAAY back on sugars and grains and move towards a high protein diet.

Crunchy News.  I had asked Pawlo Amerikanchuk to send in a voice report in hopes of renewing the “Thinking Green with Pawlo” feature.  He did, but Theophany has him thinking about the sacredness of water, why it was wasteful (if not blasphemous) to use water to flush and carry waste, and how composting humanure was a sacred allegory for God’s desire to make good blossom out of even the worst things.  It was a bit much, so we are going to try again next podcast.

[Church News.  In November of 2011, Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate, visited his parishes in the United States.  During this time, he ordained a deacon of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to the priesthood without canonical release from his bishop, His Grace Daniel.  This newly minted priest showed his humility and devotion to Christian unity by publishing a letter on the internet attacking his former bishops for not being devoted enough to Holy Ukrainianity.  As he wrote in his letter, by joining the UOC-KP, he will better be able to “to honor [his Ukrainian] ancestors and to be faithful to and serve [his] ancestral motherland and its people.”]

In other news, Oliver Smith divorced his wife in favor of divorce’ Jezebel Doe.  He said that his old wife was no longer up to snuff and that his love of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony forced him to marry a woman who could better meet his needs.  When asked about the unexpected move”She [his former wife] didn’t do everything I expected her to do, and she was far too nice to ugly people.  Jezebel is beautiful like I am and is a more fitting recipient of my great love for marriage and unity.”  Jezebel herself has quite a history.  Several years ago, she divorced her own husband of many, many years in hopes of marrying a man that she had previously adamantly and unequivocally claimed did not even exist.  May God grant Oliver and Jezebel many blessed years together – they certainly deserve one another! 

And before we go on to our Vol’ya moment on the spirituality of Theophany, let’s hear another word from our sponsor!  Warning – Satire Alert!

New from Fourth Rome Press:  Reclaiming Their True Faith: how and why many 11th Century Ukrainians forsook Orthodoxy for their heart’s true home.  Learn how some nationalist Rusyn’s of the 11th century rejected the spiritual patronage of Constantinople in favor of the true faith of their fathers, paganism.  “Prince Volodymyr and his delegates to Hagia Sophia were duped by Greek sophistry”, claimed one disenchanted clergyman, who left the Orthodox “Church of the Tithes” in Kyiv to become a priest at the “Temple of Saint Perun, guardian of Ukrainianity, a temple of the True and Independent Pagan Church of Kyivan Rus'”.  He wrote this and other things in an open letter alleged to have been posted on every crossroad signpost in Greater Rus’.  “The Greek religion is for Greeks – paganism is the faith of our fathers and should be our faith, as well!”, his letter continued, just before attacking all the Ukrainian bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for being “turncoats” and “Helenophiles”.  This book is sure to be of interest to all those who study the sociology of conversion and reconversion and the interplay of nationalist xenophobia with salvation history.

Editorial Note:  Before we go on, let me just say that the clergymen and parishes that forsake their own bishops in favor of ones who better strike their fancy and then try to claim the Orthodox moral high ground are like the man who leaves his wife in favor of his secretary and claims to have done it to preserve the sanctity of marriage.  And the bishop that actually encourages such things puts himself in the role of homewrecker.  Enough said.

Vol’ya Segment

On Theophany and the Economy of Our Salvation.
(I gave this talk to the RI Council of Churches “Faith and Order Commission”).

Thanks for listening, and thanks for all your e-mails encouraging me to get back on the stick!