Category: Orthodoxy


by Andrea Elizabeth

There is so much pressure to say words. If you don’t, you’re rude, sullen, uncommunicative, evasive, nervous, shy, isolated, remote, and open to all manner of others’ private interpretation. This all may be true, but why are silent people thus worse than wordy people? Because people want to know what they’re getting. They can take all manner of sinfulness if it is open. Thus we are to confess our sins. See the pressure? Speak or you’re damned.

And then there is complaining, justifying, manipulating, lying, insulting, secret revealing, and gossip. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I am on a reading lag again. Words are too intense for me. They only exert pressure to perform. Dance, bear, dance! What I do try to read is Cyrillic (and Methodius?). I don’t care if I understand it, if it’s Russian, Slavonic, or even disguised English. I want to learn to sight-read it like musical notes. Slavic languages sound beautiful, especially with icons and candles.

I wish the following video showed the insides.

Well if such a sequence is rare, then heads is due

by Andrea Elizabeth

From the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

gambler’s fallacy, also called Monte Carlo fallacy, the fallacy of supposing, of a sequence of independent events, that the probabilities of later outcomes must increase or decrease to “compensate” for earlier outcomes. For example, since (by Bernoulli’s theorem) in a long run of tosses of a fair coin it is very probable that the coin will come up heads roughly half the time, one might think that a coin that has not come up heads recently must be “due” to come up heads – must have a probability greater than one-half of doing so. But this is a misunderstanding of the law of large numbers, which requires no such compensating tendencies of the coin. The probability of heads remains one-half for each toss despite the preponderance, so far; of tails. In the sufficiently long run what “compensates” for the presence of improbably long subsequences in which, say, tails strongly predominate, is simply that such subsequences occur rarely and therefore have only a slight effect on the statistical character of the whole. See Bernoulli’s theorem

Bernoulli’s theorem is too complicated. The entry before that on St. Bernard of Clairvaux is more interesting:

(1090 – 1153), French Cistercian monk, mystic, and religious leader. He is most noted for his doctrine of Christian humility and his depiction of the mytical experience, which exerted considerable influence on later Christian mystics. Educated in France, he entered the monastery at Citeaux in 1112, and three years later founded a daughter monastery at Clairvaux.

According to Bernard, honest self-knowledge should reveal the extnt to which we fail to be what we should be in the eyes of God. That self-knowledge should lead us to curb our pride and so become more humble. Humility is necessary for contemplation of God, the highest form of which is union with God. Consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, Bernard maintains that mystical union does not entail identity. One does not become God; rather, one’s will and God’s will come into complete conformity. See mysticism.

Not sure it’s Orthodox according to St. Athanasius.

Why I like Big Bend

by Andrea Elizabeth

Usually I’m prone to greener places. Perhaps it is my stage of life that has brought me to appreciate the stark beauty of Big Bend.

“That portion of the earth’s surface known as the Big Bend has often been described as a geologist’s paradise. In part this is due to the sparse vegetation of the region, which allows the various strata to be easily observed and studied. It is also due to the complex geologic history of the area, presenting a challenge to students and researchers from all over the world.

Not all field geologists, however, refer to the Big Bend as a paradise. For some, this land of twisted, tortured rock is a nightmare. The abundance, diversity and complexity of visible rock outcrops is staggering, especially to first-time observers. From 500 million year old rocks at Persimmon Gap to modern-day windblown sand dunes at Boquillas Canyon, geologic formations in Big Bend demonstrate amazingly diverse depositional styles over a vast interval of time. For most of us, time is measured by the passing of days, years and generations.” Learn more of the fascinating geological history here.

I identify with some of the above description. For some, Orthodoxy quickly erodes our flimsy facades and layers by cutting off the comforts that fed them, leaving some pretty twisted, tortured nightmares exposed and to be dealt with. This is why one is really not supposed to say The Jesus Prayer too often too soon. But some of us impulsive dramatics can’t help diving in, and then those strong enough to keep it up have to be willing to accept the consequences. To prepare, they say bring plenty of water with you to Big Bend. Maybe I should have been re-baptized.

Orthodoxy and Feminism

by Andrea Elizabeth

This is a really good article: Orthodoxy and Feminism


strange god indeed

by Andrea Elizabeth

Before I forget more, I’ll jot down some thoughts about Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. I missed our bookclub meeting on it. I had a much less favorable impression of it this second time around. The first time I was able to root for both Psyche and Orual. This time the complaints against the gods had more force, and the happy ending didn’t work for me.

C.S. Lewis has a hypnotic way of making you swallow contradictions. I won’t deny paradox, but I don’t think the Orthodox have to check their brains in at the door as much. We do not have to accept a god who does not show his face and who consumes people. The Incarnation and our icons reveal what God looks like. If we repent, we are not consumed. What we are not is consumed, and who we are is strengthened by grace.

Orual consistently acted selfishly (I don’t consider being good at war in itself a virtue), and yet at the end she has turned beautiful. Is this because of the mysterious robe of righteousness that covers who you really are and makes you assume someone else’s identity?

And opening ourselves to a void of identity gives all sorts of entities an invitation to enter in.

My thoughts after 10 years

by Andrea Elizabeth

Orthodox Survival Guide

1. Pray like they say

2. Don’t despair if you don’t.

3. Treat everyone as if they are Jesus.

4. Don’t expect anyone to be Jesus.

5. If you think someone’s Jesus, including you, you’re in prelest.

6. If you think no one’s Jesus, you’re in despair, which is just as bad.




by Andrea Elizabeth

Our next book club reading is C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces. I read it almost 10 years ago, and am now listening to it in the car. We just came to Chapter 5, which is the first part I remember. It is where the priest explains the sacrifice Ungit demands. It is Penal Substitution. Here’s the last part quoted from here,

“The contradictions of the religion of Glome make it nonsensical.  How can a shadow be an animal which is also a goddess who is also a god?  How can loving be eating?  How can the Accursed be both wicked and perfect, a victim and married to the god?  “It can’t be both” (49-50).

The Priest’s response is a classic defense of the validity of religious mystery against the critique of human rationality and deserves to be quoted at length.


Greek wisdom” cannot understand “holy things.  They demand to

see such things clearly, as if the gods were no more than letters

written in a book. … they dazzle our eyes and flow in and out of

one another like eddies on a river, and nothing that is said clearly

can be said truly about them.  Holy places are dark places.  It is

life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them.

Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark

like blood.  Why should the Accursed not be both the best and the

worst? (50).”

It is the idea that for us to become pure and perfect, Christ had to become wicked, both in an imputed, not natural, way. But he does not stay wicked, not in the usual tellings, but he seems to stay both here. In the usual tellings he takes the punishment for being wicked, and gets rid of it, I suppose also in a declared way.

In the Orthodox Chistus Victor model, Christ makes sin powerless by not letting it hold sway over him. I’ll admit it is hard to see how 2 Cor. 5:21 fits in with this, but Romans 6:6 seems a bit more nuanced, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” It’s as if he drew all sin into his body, and that his death ran it through a filter, as it were. The dirt and corruption were cleansed from his flesh which was renewed in his resurrection. The way Lewis describes the temple and the beast with such gore reminds me of Catholic “Eucharistic miracles” where the wine and bread are turned into actual lumps of flesh floating in blood. Orthodox Eucharistic “sightings” are of light emanating from the gifts, which start out as thin as wine and airy as risen flour and water, and give off the even thinner energy of light.

Wind and the Willows 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

That said, it is interesting that virtuous River Rat’s temptation was from a Constantinople-born Seafaring Rat. River Rat’s eyes glaze over and he almost joins him, till Mole snaps him out of it and he resumes, his There’s No Place Like Home demeanor. It reminds me of those who are initially drawn to Constantinplean Orthodoxy. I would say it is more like Mole leaving Plato’s Cave, but feelings of nationalism wake people out of that God-given desire.

It was really good to see her, though

by Andrea Elizabeth

I ran into a friend from my old Bible Church days yesterday. It has been hard for me to deal with old relationships that were based on a similar journey before, but from which one of us, me, diverged. She is no longer going to the same Church either, but a more “seeker friendly” church where there are some people from pretty rough backgrounds. Still it doesn’t seem like the same break with her past as mine does. I sort of mentioned my Church really quickly because I didn’t want to get into the whole, sort of like Catholic, but not quite thing, when Protestantism is all about not being Catholic, but Bible believing.

So hard.

I have another dream

by Andrea Elizabeth

Before he died, every time we went up for a blessing from Archbishop Dmitiri, of blessed memory, he would ask us where we were from, and then tell us we need to start a Church in Weatherford, which is half an hour west of Fort Worth. Notice Archbishop Dmitri would re-ask the same question. He got a little forgetful in his later years, which unfortunately is when we met him. So you could chalk his directives up to not being at his top mental faculties. That is why I’m not going to go around saying, thus saith the Lord. I don’t have the best faculties either. But I can dream.

Friday George and I drove by two properties in Santo, Texas to imagine what they would be like as Orthodox Churches. Santo is  half an hour further west, and is half an hour north of Stephenville, home of Tarleton State (agricultural) University, and half an hour south of Mineral Wells, which is big enough for a super Walmart.

This property catches my fancy the most: http://www.trulia.com/property/3154589743-12913-S-Highway-281-Santo-TX-76472 See link for pictures.

It’s strategically located on the busy hwy 281 which goes directly from Stephenville to Mineral Wells, and is only 1 mile north of very busy I-20. The property is 3.5 acres that encompass a very geologically interesting hill called Castle Rock that is characterized by huge dark brown sandstone boulders. There is a lot of traffic noise, but the rocks offer seclusion, and the view from the back over the Brazos River-carved hills is gorgeous. The property has a kept up house at the summit, which appears to have a nice big living room with a vaulted, maybe domed ceiling, that may be suitable for a Church to start with. The old store that fronts the hwy is in not as good shape. And then the several rock, monastic cell-type outbuildings go downhill from there.

What I envision is a healthy monastic, Brother Sun Sister Moon, Francis of Assisi-type monk to head up simple, creative repairs. Sort of like they did in Whales’ Caerphilly Castle with this wooden figure.

IMG_0011What this monk would also have to do is bond with the locals. West of Fort Worth is cowboy country, and the most popular thing to do right now is to go to a Cowboy Church. There is a pretty large one about a block away from Castle Rock. Here’s Wikipedia’s description:

Cowboy churches are local Christian churches within the cowboy culture that are distinctively Western heritage in character. A typical cowboy church may meet in a rural setting in a barn, metal building, arena, sale barn, or old western building, have its own rodeo arena, and a country gospel bandBaptisms are generally done in a stock tank. The sermons are usually short and simple, in order to better to be understood by the parishioners. Some cowboy churches have covered arenas where rodeo events such as bull riding, team roping, ranch sorting, team penning and equestrian events are held on weeknights. Many cowboy churches have existed throughout the western states for the past forty or fifty years, however just in the past fifteen or so years has there been an explosion of growth within the “movement”. Prior to 1980 there were no less than 5 cowboy churches in Texas, now the number exceeds 200, and there are an estimated 750 nationwide. There has been no definitive group that established the movement; rather it seems to have had a spontaneous beginning in diverse areas of the country at nearly the same time. Some of these cowboy churches are an outgrowth of ministries to professional rodeo or team roping events, while the roots of many can be traced back to ministry events associated with ranch rodeos, ranch horse competitions, chuck wagon cooking competitions, cowboy poetry gatherings and other “cowboy culture” events.”

I hope none of them are offended by the short and simple sermon thing. But let me just say I love cowboy culture. There are worse things than being a quiet horse-person. I believe there is a uniquely spiritual relationship between a horse and gentle rider that quite captures my attention and may be worthy of contemplating at Church. I’ve written about the real horse whisperer, Buck Brennaman, before and want to see this documentary again. He doesn’t believe there is any such thing as a bad horse, but there are bad riders, and that’s what he tries to fix. That’s Orthodox.

A monk living among these outdoorsy people to me would need to adopt qualities similar to the Horse Whisperer. Keep your head low and unthreatening. Tune into them. Stay in sight. Sing softly. And give them a nice place to willingly come to.