Category: communion

for the enjoyment of food

by Andrea Elizabeth

I skipped to the third book in Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet’s Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses for the chapter on curing gluttony, which is temperance. I keep thinking of the movie, Babette’s Feast where Babette prepares a sumptuous gourmet feast for the pious, austere Danish pastor’s daughters who have taken her in, and some villagers and friends. As a result, the guests break out of their shells and learn to enjoy themselves, and become more pleasant and merry. I know that America in particular swings way too far the other way so that obesity has become a very expensive and life-threatening epidemic, where austerity is the remedy. But not austerity to the point of becoming dower and fearful, imo. The chapter on temperance talks about measuring your intake enough to weaken the passions, but not enough to become too sluggish and depressed. While amounts should be closely monitored when you have the weakness of gluttony, which not everyone has as interest in food varies dramatically between fat and skinny people, I believe flavor enjoyment also has its place. The book talks about the proper attitude of thankfulness to God for nourishing food, but I believe we can also consume with thankfulness for the taste as we eat in obedience for our necessary daily bread.

Additionally, Americans become easily bored, so that Snickers bars are no longer good enough. Now we have to fry them. Hamburgers aren’t good enough; now we have to put hot dogs, chili, and onion rings on them, and serve them with tacos. The cure for this isn’t adding more and more spices and ingredients, but in abstaining for a time, so that one can appreciate simpler food. A piece of bread can taste like the most decadent cake if one is hungry enough, provided they have a functioning pleasure sensor in their brain. Pleasure is supposed to be a motivator to engage in healthy activities, not something to be completely ignored, imnsho.

His Grace Bishop Maxim

by Andrea Elizabeth

His Grace Bishop Maxim (Vasiljevic) of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America blessed us from Alhambra, Ca with a visit to our parish for our annual St. Maximus lecture on his feast day. He gave an overview of St. Maximus’ cosmology regarding the unified logos of creation, divided and scattered by the fall, and reunited in Christ who introduced the new mode of reunification. He very much recommended his compilation of scholarly lectures, Knowing the Purpose of Creation through the Resurrection, ‘delivered at the international conference on the thought of Saint Maximus the Confessor in Belgrade by Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Bishop Atanasije Jevtic, Father Andrew Louth, Father Maximos of Simonopetra, Christos Yannaras, and many others.’ He donated copies to the Church, so I got one. He also brought copies of his books, History, Truth, Holiness, Studies on Ontology and Epistemology, and The Thunderbolt of Ever-Living Fire: “American” Conversation with an Athonite Elder, and a CD of St. Maximus’ 400 Chapters on Love. I look forward to learning from all of these books as I pray to continue according to my indomitable human logos utilizing my gnomic (and God’s ungnomic/unhesitating) free will to my ever-well-being telos in Christ.

stand up for what is right

by Andrea Elizabeth

In my 9th grade daughter’s Protestant health lesson on the evils of alcohol, the taped teacher asks the taped students to relate instances where they withstood temptation. One boy was proud that when he attended his grandparents’ Catholic wedding vowel renewal ceremony his grandmother wanted him to take communion, but he virtuously abstained because it had alcohol in it. His teacher was so proud that he withstood the temptation to partake of the body and blood of Christ. Granted it may be tempting for Orthodox to partake in Catholic Communion, but for altogether different reasons. And was that Church actually going to let a Protestant commune anyway?

Miss Sadie Thompson 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

So many issues.

“From the 1921 theatrical adaptation of Maugham’s story through both previous films, Davidson is a figure of religious intolerance, and Sadie after her conversion is presented as a zombie, reciting by rote the religious rhetoric pounded into her by Davidson’s psychological pressure. Here, Sadie quietly and with dignity relates how she came to reassess her life. “When O’Hara walked out on me,” she says, “and I had nobody to turn to, Mr. Davidson helped me. I didn’t feel lost anymore. I’m back to myself again. Like I was, long ago.”[3] Seeing an open Bible on her dresser, Dr. Macphail, the text’s representative of “objective” modern science, nods contentedly, as if to imply, “She can’t go far wrong with the Good Book.”

After being raped by the minister (who, since a Hays Code ruling in 1928, still cannot be identified on film as a minister), Sadie’s newfound “faith” waivers. However, in the 1950s text, the tolerance Dr. Macphail urges is not of Sadie as victim but of Davidson. “You mustn’t confuse what he did with what he believed in,” he tells her. Macphail’s unprecedented defense of the lapsed theocrat is part of the text’s desperate attempt to preserve the religion already shielded by Davidson’s unofficial status. By reconstructing Davidson as an example of “abnormal” psychology (he explicitly disparages “Freud, Adler, and Jung,” the decade’s other gods), the conservative religious ideology can be upheld as being essentially correct; only individuals occasionally go wrong. As Macphail says of Davidson after the rape, “He just couldn’t practice what he preached.” Sadie closes the circle uniting the men in the text verbally as well as vocally (and politically and sexually) when she says to the doctor, “You talk just like him.” And Macphail says disingenuously, “Do I? I didn’t realize.”

As a reward for her final capitulation, the forfeiture of her anger, O’Hara miraculously returns, suddenly willing to forget Sadie’s past. He belatedly explains that there should be no double standard for B-girls and marines, putting it in acoustic terms: “Counting up all I’ve done . . . I had no right to sound off.” Reunited and reengaged, Sadie rides off, propped up on her speedboat, happily restored to spectacle status, awaiting a rosy future with O’Hara.

The most reactionary and conservative version of Maugham’s story, Miss Sadie Thompson locks the woman into spectacle on all sides. Sadie’s happiness for the first hour rests on being the prized object, prime spectacle, “the only white woman” there. In the musical numbers, she cannot capture her own voice, and when she does speak her own experience, she is either barred access (presented as “hysterically” talking to herself offscreen) or unconsciously repeats the dominant ideology, presented at every point as inevitable. According to this classical text, the woman’s submission to spectacle status in both image and voice is, finally, the only possible course.

The convulsive repressiveness we saw in response to women’s efforts to speak in the films of the forties went underground in the fifties, camouflaged by spectacle on the one hand or transmuted into hysteria and melodrama—as in Sunset Boulevard .”

One issue is that the minister expects her to return to the states to face jail. I see a problem with the legislation of morality with punitive reprisals. What else could the state do? Enforce counselling? That’s what they do in civil cases, but what hope is there in that. Ms. Lawrence doesn’t seem too fond of Jung and Freud either. It’s like the attempted stoning of the woman caught in adultery. Sadie did want to change her ways not only because of the threats of Davidson, but because of how she saw she put other people in painful situations. The men were in pain before meeting her. Her incitement gave them hope of relief. *bigger spoiler alert* Davidson commits suicide after taking it, so that didn’t work. Can Sadie change? Will O’Hara still want her once he gets her? I think the movie is pretty convincing in promoting O’Hara as her only real help as someone willing to commit himself fully to help her instead of just offering advice and referrals elsewhere.

Then there’s the issue of her zombie state vs. feeling alive when she was getting fun attention. But there are happy nuns. St. Mary of Egypt found communion in solitude. Perhaps there is a transition state of withdrawal when one quits leaning on dysfunctional fixes. Ms. Lawrence is more concerned about her being portrayed as having a dysfunctional voice. Or one that is only functional when people are allured. I was not comfortable with her submission to Davidson even though I was glad she saw her methods more critically because of him. And I found the 23rd Psalm reading pretty moving and it’s effect on her nicely portrayed. Maybe he should have just referred her to God after that instead of the reflective conversations afterward. But I’m not comfortable with committing a damaged person to solitary confinement either. Nor is everyone in this day and age ready or able to go to a monastery. I think it’s a pretty dysfunctional age and maybe God will have mercy on people’s pitiful attempts to find positive connection.

Speaking of understanding

by Andrea Elizabeth

from today’s Prolog of Ohrid:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own understanding rely not” [Proverbs 3:5).

If all the mountains would move toward you, would you be able to push them back with your hands? You could not. If darkness after darkness of all the mysteries in the heavens and on the earth rushed to the small taper of your understanding would you, with your understanding, be able to illuminate the darkness? Even less! Do not rely on your understanding for, from the perishable matter which you call intellect, a greater portion of it is nothing more than dead ashes. O man, do not rely on your understanding for it is a road over which a mob rushes a hungry, thirsty, motley and curious mob of sensual impressions.

O man, trust in the Lord with all your heart. In Him is understanding without end and all-discerning. The Lord says: “I am understanding; mine is strength” (Proverbs 8:14). He looks on the paths on which your blood flows and all the crossroads on which your thoughts wander. With compassion and love He offers Himself to you as a leader and you rely on your darkened and perishable understanding. Where was your understanding before your birth? Where was your understanding when your body was taking form, when your heart began to beat and flow with blood, when your eyes began to open and when your voice began to flow from your throat? Whose understanding was all this while your mind was still sleeping as charcoal in a coal mine? Even when your understanding awoke, can you enumerate all the illusions which it has delivered to you, all the lies in which it has entangled you, all the dangers which it did not foresee? O my brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart! Until now, He has rescued you numerous times from your own understanding, from illusions and its lies and from danger in which it has pushed you. A blind man is compared to the man who can see, so is your understanding compared to the understanding of God. O blind one, trust in the Leader. O brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart.

O Lord, All-seeing, Eternal and Infallible Understanding, deeper than the universe and more radiant than the sun, deliver us, even now from the errors of our understanding.

Fr. Loudovikos in A Eucharistic Ontology also criticizes philosophy’s reliance on thinking. “Thus Heidegger in his testament entitled, ‘The end of philosophy and the task of thought’, talks directly about the end of philosophy, understood as the end of metaphysics or ontology in our times (these having anyway been swallowed up by the sciences), and locates the only future for thought in the free mythopoetic quest for truth through thinking; and he does not seem bothered by the fact that the linkage of thinking and truth is a survival of the same essential identification of thinking with being” (page 5). This reliance on thinking is very egocentric and subjective even though it opens itself to the unknowability of the other and ultimately one’s own annihilation, the end result of complete kenosis. Thus also destroying reciprocity in love, dialogue and gift giving which are the essential components of the Liturgy.

Teacher’s pet, or, only child syndrome

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have thought that I could handle the monastic life with its twice daily, intensive services, quiet meals read over with scriptures, saint stories or teachings, the remote, beautiful setting, guided cell rules, etc. I have been to enough monasteries to get the impression that the hardest thing for me would be the group dynamic. This goes along with the monastic struggle of the thought life. In a marriage, one is placed in a singular position of preference. In a monastery, unless you’re the abbess, which I don’t want to be, it’s back to being a competing sibling for the parent’s favor. Most people naturally(?) want exclusive rights to that position. Going through a divorce made me realize that I wouldn’t die without that rightful place, but I think part of me did. Not entirely, because it can kick back in in a new situation. Some people want that exclusivity so much that they will actively try to get rid of the other siblings/students. This is what happened to Boris and Gleb by their brother, Svyatopolk. They are saints because they let him win. Hopefully there is a healthier way to compete without either wishing the others away or completely martyring onesself. Surely all the siblings can find happiness together.

But what is it in us that wants exclusivity. Converting to Orthodox veneration and prayer to the Saints can feel a little like being shoved to the back of a crowded room. One has to find out that they don’t disappear even if this is the case. This is helped by having to come forward to venerate the icons and take Holy Communion. For those brief few seconds, it’s only you up there, and the King of All enters in to abide. He’s with you when you go back. Orthodox also have to learn to remember each other. For the second a person’s name is mentioned, they are more blessed than if there were no fervent intercessors crowding the room.

And one must not neglect one’s private prayer. Oddly, with all the Orthodox prayer supports in the services, individual prayer can feel lonely. Perhaps this is influenced by feeling prayer is what one does during times of trouble. Then it has a negative connotation. One remembers lonely, sad times of praying in desperation and abandonment. Thank goodness for home icons that remind us we’re not alone.

The Crowd is Untruth

by Andrea Elizabeth

With the Pysanky deadline coming up, I decided to try to listen to some Kierkegaard to stay on topic with my reading while waxing eggs. The iTunes store has the largest selection of LibriVox recordings that I found. In keeping with my previous inquiry into individualism, I listened to the essay, ” That Single Individual” (text). Here is an excerpt:

There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that “the crowd” received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in.[Note 3]

For “the crowd” is untruth. Eternally, godly, christianly what Paul says is valid: “only one receives the prize,” [I Cor. 9:24] not by way of comparison, for in the comparison “the others” are still present. That is to say, everyone can be that one, with God’s help – but only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself – for only one receives the prize; again, that is to say, the human being is in kinship with, or to be a human is to be in kinship with the divinity. The worldly, temporal, busy, socially-friendly person says this: “How unreasonable, that only one should receive the prize, it is far more probable that several combined receive the prize; and if we become many, then it becomes more certain and also easier for each individually.” Certainly, it is far more probable; and it is also true in relation to all earthly and sensuous prizes; and it becomes the only truth, if it is allowed to rule, for this point of view abolishes both God and the eternal and “the human being’s” kinship with the divinity; it abolishes it or changes it into a fable, and sets the modern (as a matter of fact, the old heathen) in its place, so that to be a human being is like being a specimen which belongs to a race gifted with reason, so that the race, the species, is higher than the individual, or so that there are only specimens, not individuals. But the eternal, which vaults high over the temporal, quiet as the night sky, and God in heaven, who from this exalted state of bliss, without becoming the least bit dizzy, looks out over these innumerable millions and knows each single individual; he, the great examiner, he says: only one receives the prize; that is to say, everyone can receive it, and everyone ought to become this by oneself, but only one receives the prize. Where the crowd is, therefore, or where a decisive importance is attached to the fact that there is a crowd, there no one is working, living, and striving for the highest end, but only for this or that earthly end; since the eternal, the decisive, can only be worked for where there is one; and to become this by oneself, which all can do, is to will to allow God to help you – “the crowd” is untruth.

For the most part I agree with this and what follows, especially, “everyone should cautiously have dealings with “the others,” and essentially only talk with God and with himself”. But this leaves out the communion of the Saints and the conciliar decrees of the Councils, especially at the end of the first paragraph above. But if I were in Kierkegaard’s milieu, I should be more cautious. I am pretty cautious anyway, some may even say paranoid. But I trust what all the Saints have in common and what the Church has decreed. I trust that their prayers and council are beneficial to my finding the truth, God helping me. They are the only ones I can trust, yet my choosing Christ or not is ultimately my responsibility. Anyone outside the Church and her teaching must be listened to with caution. This is why the Church is not the democratically appointing crowd.

Come Closer

by Andrea Elizabeth

Even though it seems to have a western influence, I think the Three Holy Angels as seen in this 360º pan of St. Basil’s Cathedral is most compelling.

by Andrea Elizabeth

Our Father

The father of us all

The father who so quietly seeks that we think it’s our idea to find him.

The father who also made us to need an earthly father, for a time?

Some can’t go to an earthly father anymore for many reasons.

These usually wander about, for a time, like the little bird in Are You My Mother?

Hopefully a kind machine will scoop them up and put them in the heavenly nest where there is both our true Father and Mother.

Seek ye first

by Andrea Elizabeth

In the quotes I’ve previously provided, as well as ones I haven’t, The Universe as Signs and Symbols by St. Nicholai Velimirovich instructs us on reading our natural environment in a spiritual way. This takes work when one is not constantly possessing a sense of God’s presence nor feeling thankful for everything as a gift. There is also the question of whether a thing should be appreciated in its own right. For me it is easier to remember God when outside in nature. In the city, surrounded by concrete, I feel oppressed, but can be reminded by looking up at the sky which people haven’t yet managed to obliterate entirely. There are certain artistic fabrications that I manage to enjoy in the city, but should one be as thankful for them as direct gifts from God as one is a tree? First let me say that there is a question about whether we have to look for symbolism in a tree. Trees can possess a majesty of form that makes one say, “What a tree!” Is it sinful to stop there? One can look at a tree and appreciate it’s creator as one appreciates an artist, which is also a second step in art appreciation. But to look at a tree in a spiritual context, such as seeing the method of Christ’s crucifixion and thus our redemption, is a third step. A cross attains a certain beauty when seen in that light. But what about an unhewn tree? Ah, the tree of life. Yes a means of God’s provision for food, and beyond that communion. Also it is a picture of strength and shelter. To appreciate it’s beauty for itself, and not what one gets from it, not even the enjoyment of beauty, seems nice, but again, should we stop there? Shouldn’t we see that God (should probably say the Trinity or at least Christ as the Trinity revealed) must be beautiful beyond compare?

Back to fabricated, man-made things, especially things not made by hand but machine: I don’t think anything can be totally depraved, but things can be corrupted. One could seek the beauty of the original ingredients, or the similitude to traditional things like a door, which has symbolism, and get back on the above track. There’s probably a chapter on these man-made things that I’ve either forgotten or not gotten to yet.