Wednesday, September 30, 2009

B&W, W&O Ch. 1 - The Mind, the Heart & Mystery

In the Beginning...

oops. wrong book. sorry. ;)

Let's see....ah, yes, here we are:

The book starts with the word 'mystery'. In the West, it's a puzzle, something to be solved. Something that we (or if not us) someone can figure out the answer to, making it not a mystery anymore. In the East, he says, it 'lies at the heart of the Eastern Orthodox experience of God.' A mystery, to him, is 'an area where the human mind cannot go, where the heart alone makes sense - not by knowing, but by being.' The actions of God that have 'specific, decisive, and eternal significance' on the lives of those who take part in them are called 'mysteries' in the East. So, what I (and the Catholic Church) would call a Sacrament is termed 'Holy Mystery' in the Orthodox Church.

The Mysteries are meant to lead us deeper and deeper into the Mystery which is the presence of God Himself. They aren't experienced as mental exercises or are the participants emotions of any particular significance. As the author says, 'Participating in the Mysteries is an encounter with God in a very intimate and direct way. As nearly as I can put it into words, such an encounter brings thinking and feeling to a halt, albeit briefly.' He compares it to looking at something of extreme beauty or being in a life or death situation. Something deeper and more profound that thought is engaged. The 'fathomless state of awareness that exists, yet lies hidden and dormant, in all human beings.' The heart (he also uses the word nous interchangeably).

One of the consequences of the Fall, he states, is a fragmentation, disintegration and estrangement of the human. People and the world they live in were 'torn apart by their behavior, and vast gaps came to exist between God and man, between heaven and earth, between one person and another, between the genders, and finally even within the human personality itself....Fragmentation within the human personality is...the division between the mind and the nous(heart).'

*Without* quoting the entire first chapter, which I feel I am in serious danger of trying to do, Webber establishes that the mind is ascendant in human beings, and this a problem because the mind is the most effected by the Fall. The mind runs constantly, even when we're not deliberately using it. Even when we're asleep. A person lives with a running commentary because the mind insists on asserting itself and it's existence. The mind is an emotive addict - it creates emotions so they can be manipulated - it enjoys this. The mind cannot live in the *now*, because the now doesn't have any context to it, yet. So the mind lives in the past (memory) and the future (fantasy). It takes these and judges the now. Out mind labels everyone and everything that we see. He actually suggests an exercise - try sitting somewhere and people watching (don't make the people uncomfortable...) and *not* labeling them, at all. Even the most innocuous of labels - just watch. Try and silence your mind.

He says it's harder than you'd think - inevitably some thought intrudes, even if the thought is 'look how good I am at sitting quietly and not thinking!'.

The *heart*, on the other hand, exists in a perpetual and eternal state of now, of stillness. It doesn't judge, it simply exists - which is why the mind over rides it all the time.

The goal, then, is to get down into the stillness of the heart, past all the chatter of the mind. It's only in that stillness that we can get close to God and begin healing the damage that was wrought. And, of course, the Mysteries (or Sacraments) are the means to learn to get to this point.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Feast Day of St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael - and other things

St. Raphael, of the glorious seven who stand before the throne of Him who lives and reigns, Angel of health, the Lord has filled your hand with balm from heaven to soothe or cure our pains. Heal or cure the victim of disease. And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.

Today is my Saints Feast Day. (Not sure if that should all be capitalized, but I did it anyway...) Of course he shares it with St. Michael and St. Gabriel, but that's pretty good company, no? :)

Are you supposed to do something special on your Saints day? I'm not really sure. It seems like you should...

On another note, I *really* like dates. The fruit. I tried one for the first time yesterday, and it didn't really taste like anything, but then I had another, and they grew on me. I think they sort of taste like giant, sweet raisins.

I spent half an hour last night fighting with myself over whether or not to get this niqaab from HijabGirl. On the one hand, I'm not a niqaabi and have no intention to be a niqaabi (unless, of course, I do get to go to Saudi Arabia some day. That's one place I want to go badly enough I'd get on an airplane (I'm afraid of heights). Or I meet a bunch of niqaabis and want to hang out with them in their 'native element'.) On the other hand...flip niqaab for $10. And then I'd be prepared should I suddenly find myself in KSA or UAE (yes, I know the unlikelyhood of either of those things happening to the point I'd need an 'emergency' niqaab). I haven't bought it.
On the 'secret hijabi' front, this morning commute went well. I took it off at work, think I'm going to have to ease work into that one. Lesson learned this morning: flip the ends of the khimar over the seatbelt. That way when I need to turn to see, belt is not pulling against khimar.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Part Time Hijabi

So, I was feeling a little...I don't know...I wanted to be *anonymous* today, toward the end of the day. It wasn't a bad day or anything, I just...


So I got in my car and a rearranged my khimar so that I was wearing it right, instead of pinned behind my neck. And voila! Instant anonymousness. I was hijabi (totally covered- long skirt, sweater that had long sleeves, plus khimar)'know...third times the charm - this hijabi outing went well.

Am now 'secret hijabi'.

I intend to wear it as often as I can get away with it.

Book: Life as a Prayer

*clears throat*

So, Muhala from Testimony of Grace has been working on a book about Christian women who cover. This has been (at least looking from the outside in), a long, loving process. And I am pleased to announce that the book is done, and published, and available! :)

It's available, at the moment, at the publishing site, here: Life as a Prayer but, as I understand it, it will also be available from Amazon, shortly, if you're like me and prefer to buy from places you've used before. :)

Here's the blurb from the site: Modern day women of God share their life-changing experiences with head covering in an age where Christian head covering is often thought to be an outdated and unnecessary spiritual practice. The author and eight other women candidly chronicle their head covering journeys.

I personally can't wait to get mine, I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's stories!

So, you know, go buy a copy! Now! *puts on commanding, imperious face*

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Kinder Report - Day 3

Okay, I don't want this to get redundant, because this is going to go on for awhile, and some of what we do in class is repetition. Getting the kids to memorize the prayers, for instance, requires that they get said at least once each class. So, I'm just going to try and highlight the unique occurrences for each class. Emphasis on *try*. :)

Today was the first day that we went over the Gospel reading (which is something we will do every Sunday). We read it from the missalette and had the kids find it in their New Testaments (they don't have a complete Bible, just a children's New Testament) and follow along. Of course, theirs is a kids version, so the wording wasn't *exactly* the same, but after we read it, we went around the room and had them each read a verse, round robin style. (And L asked what it meant when there was a 'j' after a verse, which led to the explanation of footnotes). Today's reading was Mark 9: 38 - 48:

At that time, John said to Jesus,
"Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"

And then we let the kids ask questions. M wanted to know what Gehenna was, and I explained (for simplicities sake) that it was another way of referring to Hell. And, of course, that took us off on the (short) tangent over when it's appropriate to say the word Hell. :) One of the girls, A, said that she didn't like the word at all, and wouldn't *ever* use it. Which I said was okay, and she just refers to Heaven as the 'good place' and Hell as the 'bad place'. Of course, she's six, so I imagine this will wear off eventually. And one of the boys, R, asked if they were *really* supposed to chop off their hands and feet. Deb explained that no, since *they* have control of their hands and feet, they can keep them from causing sin by controlling themselves. She explained that it really meant that, for example, that if you have a friend or know someone who is causing you to sin (she used the example of someone who encouraged you to steal milk from the school cafeteria) then it's better to stop being friends with them so that you *don't* sin, rather than keep being friends. It's speaking more of outside influences that you can't control, yourself - that it's better to remove yourself from them so that they can't tempt you to sin anymore.

The kids *really* seem to like the 'Word Box', for some unfathomable reason. We pulled two words today, 'Saint' and 'Holy Trinity'. I explained that a 'Saint' was simply a person who had loved God so well on earth, in life, that they had led holy lives, dedicated to God and loving other people and putting others before themselves, so that when they died, God took their souls straight up to Heaven. Which, of course, led someone to ask what happened to the rest of us, which led to a brief foray into Purgatory, which one of the boys, C, decided was like the worlds *worst* waiting room, and therefore all of the kids are determined to bypass the 'waiting room' and go straight to Heaven. :) For the record, we'll get more into Purgatory a little later in the year, but I tried to explain it, simply as I could - that most of us will die with some sin on our soul, and because we weren't *perfectly* reconciled to God at the moment of death, we needed to go someplace to become pure, and that place was Purgatory. Someone, I think it was R again, asked about 'what if you murder someone ?' which I opined was likely to get you sent to Hell. I know, I know, even killers can be forgiven, however, I said 'likely'. Also, I used a Monopoly reference (the Saints go straight to Heaven, do not pass Go, do not collect $200) and Deb thought the kids wouldn't get it, but they all laughed (nicely) at her and said they *loved* Monopoly. ;-p

We'd been over the Holy Trinity last class, so that was more a review than anything else, and all the kids remembered that the Holy Trinity was God - the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Now, when Deb had all the boys out of the class for a water/potty break (we take them out in shifts), J who is L's sister, told everyone why L was having a bad day. And, it had been obvious from the start of class that L was miserable. This led to the (brief) discussion about telling people about something about your sister or friend without asking them if they *wanted* you to tell other people about it, and how it wasn't very nice, because maybe L hadn't wanted everyone to know yet. (All the kids have been through Safe Environment and understand about telling an adult if there's abuse going on.) L said she was going to tell everyone when we did the Best/Worst of the week, and she did, and I'm pleased to say that be the end of the class she was looking happy. :)

Funny thing: we go over the Ten Commandments every class, and right after (today) we had snacks. And one of the boys dropped his cookie and said 'oh God!' and then immediately did that exaggerated smacking a hand over your mouth reaction thing. :) And all the other kids were suggesting what he *could* have said, instead - oh gosh, darn, etc.

We did discover that we're *definitely* going to have to separate the boys. If they all sit together, they sort of feed on each other and get a bit rowdy.

Right, so. Now for the Ten Commandments for Kids poster.

Just in case you can't read it, here's what it says:

1. Show God your love by loving others.

2. Be thoughtful and kind in what you say and do.

3. Thank God for each new day.
4. Help family members without being asked.

5. Take care of all living things: people, animals and plants.

6. Be true to what is really important.

7. Treat other people's things as if they were your own.

8. Always tell the truth and be honest.

9. Be happy for your friends when good things happen to them.

10. Share your things cheerfully.

Which are all very well and good, and things the kids should do, but they're not the Ten Commandments, not even the Ten Commandments in kid language.

Oh! While I was waiting for Deb to get there, I doodled on the white board. Now, I want to get a tattoo, when I've become the muscly, fit me. :) I've been waffling on what design I want, and no rush, cause this isn't going to happen any time soon, but I came up with one last night right before I fell asleep and I doodled it this morning and took a picture, so I don't forget.

Now, please, I can't draw, okay? I know it. This is just...a bad sketch. Okay?

It's the sword (us) in the fire (God's Grace) metaphor! (The black squiggles around the sword would be fire, but I couldn't draw fire...) And the sword would be glowing, like it was being heated...but I didn't have colored white board markers, just black. So *imagine*.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

B&W, W&O: Temper Tantrums

"However, normal people also exhibit indications that fragmentation exists; it is not merely a problem for the mentally ill. Although generally fairly subtle, this phenomenon is most obvious when someone loses his or her temper, a condition that happens to almost all of us from time to time. On becoming very angry, people often feel a change occurring within themselves, and it is not uncommon for such a person to fell quite different, quite 'other' than his or her normal self. Questioning such a person at that moment is often fruitless, since he or she is not 'present' to be questioned; however, if the situation is discussed later, many will admit to having felt much younger, even like a child during the time they were angry. The person who loses his or her temper actually experiences the world and events within it from a point of view quite different from the one he or she normally experiences. This may be because, at some time in the past, such people have learned that by entering a 'child state' they are more likely to get what they want. Successful behaviors are the ones most likely to be employed again. At the very least, one may suppose that anger must have worked form them when they were children. Having learned a behavior that got them what they wanted, it is almost impossible to alter that behavior at a later stage, even when it has become entirely inappropriate and the grown-up is behaving like a child." - Archimandrite Meletios Webber, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil p. 15-16

The author is discussing the idea that one of the consequences of the Fall is that humans have have become fragmented against themselves - body and 'person', heart and mind - we are internally fragmented and externally isolated. And I don't want to comment too much on that, though I think it's a great concept, because I haven't finished the chapter yet, so I'm not sure entirely where he's going. I do like, however, one quote, referring to why people need to follow spiritual principles in order to heal from this fragmentation: "Willpower alone is useless. I suppose it is axiomatic to say that we cannot use something that is broken to fix itself."

But I focus, for the moment, on the first paragraph. Because it's true, I know this from my own life, and it's just sort of interesting to see it in print. Now, I say the following not for gossipy purposes, but just to illustrate.

My Baby Sis grew up never being allowed to cry. She got sick almost immediately after she was brought home from the hospital and had to go back. She was in one of those little incubator things for...I think it was a month, but I was six, so, y'know, take that as you will. Consequently, when she did get to come home again, my mother and stepfather felt guilty and would never let her cry. The minute she started making noise, they were there, fussing until she quieted. And when she got older, same thing. Say 'no', she throws a fit, and *boom* she got her way. This went on for *years*. Now, of course, you wanna get into mitigating circumstances, sure: her father (my step father) was bipolar, a drug addict and an alcoholic who hit me if I made a fuss but indulged her because she was the *real* kid, and no, no, I'm not bitter, why're you looking at me like that? But I believe that this same scenario would hold true *without* those extra special issues. She's 21 now and she's had a hard, hard road learning that, as an adult, throwing a tantrum doesn't work.

So, to all you parents who just indulge, indulge, indulge - stop it. You're not doing your kids any favors. Seriously.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Right, so, my latest read was 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' by Michael Chabon. I'll admit, I picked up this book, years ago, because it had to do with comic books. And it does, and yet it doesn't.

The story revolves around two characters, Josef Kavalier and his cousin Samuel Clayman. Josef is a refugee from Czechoslovakia - his entire family saved and bought him a ticket out of the country as the German occupation grew worse and worse. He actually got out just before they were forced to give up their home and move into an apartment with another Jewish family in a ghetto. (The timeline starts before the outbreak of World War II.)

Josef makes it to America, and lives with his cousin Sam and Sam's mother and grandmother. Sam dreams of making his mark as an artist (he's okay, but not, actually, very good) and Josef happens to be a trained artist who dreams of making enough money to get his family (father, mother and brother) out and to America. Sam schemes/wheedles/cons his boss into hiring them to make a comic book (he convinces the man to capitalize on the popularity of such new characters as Superman). The two of them come up with the Escapist (Josef also happens to be a trained illusionist/escape artist).

From there, you follow their lives growing up (they start out in their late teens), the outbreak of WWII (actually, it's the years before America joins the War that are lingered over the most - it frustrates Joe incredibly that *no one* will help his family, or even seem to believe that there's something terrible going on). Against a backdrop of what's going on in the fledgling comic book industry at the time. The lawsuits, the advantage that was taken of the artists who actually created and drew and wrote the characters by the companies that 'owned' them. The book ends, basically, with the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and the *crazy jerk* Dr. Fredric Wertham's book The Seduction of the Innocent which basically said that all the characters in comics were 'sekritly gay and evil' and corrupting the youth. This is a real life thing, mind you, and caused the formation of the Comics Code Authority, which for many years, controlled what authors/artists could publish. Nowadays, plenty of books publish without the CCA's stamp of authority, so...*shrug*.

But that's part of the charm of this book, is that the author weaves his story into what was actually happening at this point in history. His characters lives, certain scenes anyway, really did happen, only to real comic book creators. And he has them make 'cameos' - Stan Lee, Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby... The men who *made* comics. Comic gods, if you will.

Another fun (or funny) aspect is that the book was written about men creating a comic that never existed, but after it was published (and won a Pulitzer prize), a comic was made, based on the character/storyarc that was invented for the book. *Plus*, the original six issue mini (there's apparently been another that I missed) was written by Brian K. Vaughn, whom I love. Y the Last Man, anyone? Ex Machina?

So, all in all, one of my favorite books that doesn't contain a single vampire, werewolf, demon, angel, dragon, or super powered whatsit.

If I'm My Own Person, Why're You Telling Me What To Do?

Right, so this is just gonna be one of those, 'Amber does not hold with this sort of crap.' posts. Brief and ranty.

Sooo....recently, and not so recently, I've come across several blogs where the women who write them have given their husbands control over the blog, to one degree or another. For some, it seems to be editing duties - the husband can read the posts before they're posted, to make sure there's nothing 'objectionable'? I guess. Some, apparently, have given their husbands their userid & passwords, so that dear ol' hubby can actually go back and delete posts and/or make posts of their own. *twitches*

Now, I fully admit that I have Issues with male dominance in relationships. It's a by product of my childhood, and I'm *working* on it. Trust me, I've gotten better. I no longer think that men are all scum who should be locked away and used only in breeding programs until we figure out a way to do it without them. You may laugh and think I'm exaggerating, but I swear, I'm not. I used to think that was a brilliant (if unlikely to happen) plan.

*However* stuff like this still makes me...lets go with 'a little frothy at the mouth'.

No matter who you are, man or woman, your spouse should not, not ever, have the right to *edit* what you say to other people. Not EVER. This just leads to trying to 'edit' what you think, and who you talk to at all, and, hells, that's just a very steep and slippery slope, it *is*.

I will most certainly grant that one spouse should not be badmouthing the other to all and sundry. Problems within the relationship should be dealt with *within* the relationship, and, if need be, with a counselor/priest/what have you. A spouse can still, I think, complain about things, if they want to, to friends, whether they're internet friends or real life friends. And yes, you should have an understanding with your spouse about the level of detail you're both comfortable sharing with the world at large. This is different, though, than handing over control of something that is, essentially something of a diary, to another person.

Now, aside from 'personal stuff', I've seen some that edit for theological content. Again, no. Just because you're the man (and I've only ever seen this done to a woman's blog by her husband) doesn't make you right. A woman is free to spout all sorts of theological theories and/or nonsense on her blog, or anywhere else. So're you. On *your* blog. Nothing's stopping you from getting one of your own and posting a response to your wife, if the two of you want to have the conversation that way.

There. I edited out most of the *really* ranty stuff, you're welcome.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stream of Consciousness Writing Should Be Outlawed

So, I started on my new morning book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil yesterday morning. I haven't gotten very far in it, but it's interesting, the author is apparently also a psychiatrist, as well as being an Orthodox priest. Anyway, this thought is only tangentially related to the book.

The author was discussing the difference between brain and heart, and why our *feelings* aren't really a very accurate way to judge anything, and while talking about the brain he mentioned the way information actually runs through our minds - the stream of consciousness. Which brings me to today's random and completely personal rant:

I *hate* Stream of Consciousness writing and William Faulkner. I've obviously never met the man, so it's not personal. But my AP English teacher in high school and a *thing* for Faulkner and Shakespeare. Shakespeare, I got, really. But Faulkner! *proceeds to bang head into desk* You know what I took away from that section? "My mother is a fish." That's it. You say Faulkner, that's the *first* thought I get, and then the urge to start screaming and run the other way.

There's a *reason* we don't just have a running babble coming out of our mouths of what we're thinking. You know what it is? It's because our thought process doesn't make any bloody sense to anyone but us! We have to *edit* for the useful information to share!

Here's just one example of Faulkner:

"The quilt is drawn up to her chin, hot as it is, with only her two hands and her face outside. She is propped on the pillow, with her head raised so she can see out the window, and we can hear him every time he takes up the adze or the saw. If we were deaf we could almost watch her face and hear him, see him. Her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white lines. Her eyes are like two candles when you watch them gutter down into the sockets of iron candlesticks. But the eternal and the everlasting salvation and grace is not upon her."- William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Now, don't get me wrong, Faulkner's a *great* writer. He totally deserves his reputation, and I did, in fact, learn from his writing. *However*, *WHY* did it have to be stream of consciousness? WHY? You could set the same scene (not me, cause I'm not up to that calibre of writing, but someone else) give the same information, set the same tone, and have it not be in unedited crazy speak!

*here ends my completely irrationally prejudiced post*

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reason #1 to Wear Hijab That People Don't Tell You:

Mosquito Proofing!

I can walk my dogs and not get eaten!

This is what I wore tonight, and I am completely unscathed!

Even bug repellent lets some of them through, and then I smell of bug repellent.

What Book Should I Read Next?

So, since I only read one chapter of the Bible a morning, I have a little extra reading time every morning. What I do is I read my nonfiction books. I've been reading Let Us Attend, but I've almost finished that, and I'm trying to decide what to read next. Here're the ones I'm considering:

Sacred Doorways: A Beginner's Guide to Icons - Linette Martin

For the Life of the World - Alexander Schmemann

Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God - Archimandrite Meletios Webber

What do you think?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Homo Adorans

"Man is not homo sapiens, man of wisdom, created for prideful knowledge, but homo adorans, adoring man, for our Creator made us to adore, praise, and bless Him, and any life not built upon the foundation of gratitude to God is not authentic human life. Thanksgiving to God proves that we are truly alive." - Fr. Lawrence Farley, Let Us Attend: A Journey through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy

The Kinder Report - Day Two

Okay, so, yesterday was 'Catechetical Sunday' which meant I *had* to attend the 10:45 Mass. I *hate* the 10:45 Mass. It's the 'Charismatic' Mass, of which I don't approve! :p My Mass doesn't need drum stings and guitars and...frelling 'kumbayah'. *shudder*

But I had to go, because that's when they were 'commissioning' us. Never mind that by that time we'd already taught two classes...

Hmph. So, knowing my personal distaste for this Mass, I still went to the 7:30 Mass, which I quite enjoy. It's smaller, quieter, we seem to get the, I don't know exactly the word I want here, but 'itinerant' priests. Not Fr. Pat or Fr. Anthonio, who are our parish priests, but rotating priests. Which is nice, because I get a different kind of homily every time. There's no music, so everything is either chanted or spoken, and the priest actually speaks the Eucharistic prayers loud enough for us to hear, which they don't do at the later Masses.

Then, class.

The kids had a 'Safe Environment' class that day, if their parents signed them up for it, so we knew ahead of time that this was going to be something of a wash day, because we wouldn't have all of the kids. The kids who didn't sign up stayed in class (and some of the ones that didn't show last week were there), so we sort of went over some of the same things, had the kids who hadn't been there make their name tags, etc.

Oh! And prior to class starting, while we were waiting for everyone to get there, the girls and I got into a discussion of the different ways I could wear my scarf! :)

We went through the Our Father, and the Ten Commandments again - one of the other classes put up a 'Ten Commandments for Kids' poster, which I loathe. It's not right! It doesn't even explain the Ten Commandments in kid friendly terms correctly! I'll try and take a picture of it next week so you can see it, and tell me if I'm over reacting or something. :)

We read from the Reconciliation book (they have little two page stories that introduce the concepts - like Catholic, sacraments, etc.) and discussed it.

We pulled words from the word box - we got Bible and creed. We ask the kids what they think the words mean, and then explain a little more, depending on the answers. Bible is fairly obvious, and we pulled out the kids New Testaments so they could see that part, and start to learn how to use it.

One of the 'new' kids, M, was flipping through, as we went over what the Gospel's were, and asked about Acts, Romans, etc. So I explained a little about St. Paul and the Epistles (I didn't actually use the word epistle, now that I think about it, but I explained that they were letters he had written to different churches/people.) It was cute, she found Philippians and told me she had a friend who was from there, from the Philippines. :) I explained they were actually two different places, but she still thought it was neat that the names were so close.

Then, when we were discussing a little about how the Gospels were the story of Jesus' life, M asked if God the Father was different from Jesus, so we got to explain the Trinity. I used the whole, you Father is father to you, son to his parents, and a friend to his friends, but he's still only one person. I can't decide if I'm happy about it or not. It's not my personal favorite metaphor, but it's the one that sprang to mind, and given the age group, how it makes sense to me isn't the best way to explain it. They got it though, so we're good!

(Also, funny, one of the boys, D, when he's reading, every time he has to say 'God', he pronounces it 'good'. It's cute!)

And, at the end, while we were waiting for the parents to come pick up kids, they told us our class was fun!

Then I had to go to the Mass of Doom, which gave me a headache (stupid drums/woman with too much perfume/lack of food), and stand up in front of the church (which just makes me uncomfortable! How close is too close to the altar?) So, I got to receive twice, but other than that, fie on the 10:45 Mass.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Dream of Muslimahs?

No, no, really, I just did.

I don't usually remember my dreams, so I count this as weird.

I was in Wal-Mart, of all places, just wandering around, shopping.

And then I spotted the Wall of Scarves that must have been something like ten feet tall, and I headed over there, because, scarves! (This, by the by, makes my dream Wal-Mart the best Wal-Mart ever).

And as I get there, I run into a *wall* of muslimahs, and they were all so pretty and had lovely scarves on... They thought I was one of them, and one of them said 'asalaam alaykum' (or *however* you spell it - I've seen it so many different ways, I'm not sure it matters) and I said hello, and she looked so *disappointed* and I had to say I wasn't a Muslim, and then they stopped talking to me! (I'm doomed to social awkwardness even in my dreams! See! They rejected me!) The one who was standing next to me was even a niqabi, with a pretty purple niqab.

So I made my way through the group to the scarves, and was picking out a pretty white one with red and black floral patterns on it, and kneeling down, and some woman just pushed me over! Not one of the muslimahs, just some random blonde woman!

And then I woke up. Stupid alarm clock.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Kinder Report - Day One

So, sorry, this is almost a week later, but *things* intruded.


Preparation video, because I'm addicted to this blogging thing.

This is a picture of the class room set up, before the kids arrived.

I went to the 7:30 Mass, as I said I would. It's...very early. Smaller, quieter, there's no music, so all the hymns are simply spoken. I've never seen the priest who celebrated the early Mass before, so I'm not certain who he is. *sheepish grin* I liked it though.

Got over to the Parish Life Center around 8:15, and proceeded to run around like a nugget getting the books and folders together, relabeling a few because we 'lost' some kids, and gained some more, so the class size is officially 15. We didn't have enough books for everyone, but the DRE is supposed to get us the rest, so we didn't pass out the books on the first day of class.

We went over the general idea of the class, sort of a 'why are we here' thing, went around the room and made introductions, and then we went through the Our Father. A couple of the kids, of course, already knew it, but we read it as a class, and then we had them make their name tags and decorate them however they wanted.

It was funny, the boys and I got into a discussion over Transformers (the girls were taking a *long* time to finish decorating theirs) and one of the boys was having trouble getting his to stand up, so I went over to make the crease better - and I ripped the corner off accidentally! *hangs head in shame* But everyone thought it was pretty funny... :)

We finished this, then went over the Hail Mary, and oh! before all this, we started with the Sign of the Cross, because that's a prayer as well.

Then, we went through the Ten Commandments, going around the room and having each kid read one, and then we asked what they all thought it meant. Now, I forgot to mention that while 15 kids are signed up for the class, only 8 actually showed - 6 boys and 2 girls. When we got to the last two Commandments, we just asked who wanted to read them and picked a hand.

'Adultery' is always fun...if they were my *actual* children, I'd tell them exactly what it meant, but because they're not, Deb we trying to explain without *explaining*, and was saying how it meant that you had to stay married to the person you married, just them, and then, of course, there was the one boy whose parents were divorced and his mom remarried, so she had to tell him that was okay. And 'coveting' - got explained as being jealous of other peoples stuff.

We had snack time (oatmeal raisin cookies) and potty breaks, and then we did the 'letters to Jesus' portion, and the 'vocab' box, which we just did as an example of what we'd be doing at the beginning of the classes. And then, we got to release the hounds! Their parents came and took them away! :)
Related to kids, but not class, we were talking at work, and I mentioned the whole, not gonna tell my kids about Santa, and was looked at as though I had two heads. Then, in the same conversation, one of the mothers was saying something about her oldest daughter saying that she'd be okay if they 'just' got her a PS3 and laptop. 'Just' those. And she was saying how whatever she got, if she didn't get the oldest those things, then it 'wouldn't be fair' in the mind of her daughter. To which I replied that "'Fair' is whatever you say it is. You're the mother, she's the kid." To which I got laughs, and someone else said, 'Amber's kids'll be perfect, *or else*!' And I laughed, but, uh, since when are the kids supposed to make the rules in the parent/child dynamic? Did I miss that memo?
Right. Bonus Itteh Bitteh Kitteh:

Not my kitten, but the friend I was dog/cat/house sitting for.

Perhaps you should worry about the plank in your eye first...

*sigh* Look, I realize that no one is perfect, yadda, yadda, yadda. Whatever.

*However*, please, please, do not lecture me on how my interpretation of the Bible is *wrong* (and, y'know, it's not *my* interpretation, thanks very much, it would be the Church and the Apostles and, the Fathers), and how LaHaye and Jenkins and their ilk are right and we should all be building bunkers, and the believers will be Raptured, and oh, by the way, God put the dinosaur bones there to *trick* us...

Just, just don't do that while you're *shacked up* with a man. You're such a shiny, great Christian, who KNOWS THE TRUTH AND IS TRYING TO FIX ME! but you're having sex with a man that you're NOT MARRIED TO and have no intention of marrying!

So, yes, sure, I'm gonna listen to a word out of your mouth.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Random Shoes - Shoe Blogging

I was going to do my first day of school report, but then I came across Alana's shoe post and Anna followed it up and invited others to make shoe posts. (So did Alana, too, by the by.)

And I, being the lemming that I am, must obey! :)

I apologise for the quality of the picture, but it's night, and the lighting in my room is not the best. I have *no* overhead light in the room itself. I'd say that I'm not a 'shoe girl', but I think 21 pairs of shoes may make a liar of me. (Of course, I'm not including in the picture the 6 pairs of flipflops in the mud room and the ratty tennies out there, they don't count because I wouldn't ever wear them in public)
So, come on, trot out your shoes and show 'em to us! Girls love shoes, yes, yes we do. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

'And call no man your father...'

(*points to the left* This is Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who is one of my favorite 'modern' Catholic thinkers - an excellent example of the priestly 'Father' - his cause for canonization is currently ongoing)

Matthew 23:9 - And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.'s a common objection, that Jesus instructed us to not call people 'father', and therefore Catholics (and I believe that's the title for priests in Orthodoxy as well, but it's early, so I won't swear to it) are being bad, yet again. :)

Right, well, while making no claim to being an authority, scholar, or anything other than a magpie minded laywoman, here's what I've learned as to why it's okay to call a priest (or your dad for that matter), father:

Do you call the man who raised you 'father', or some cultural and linguistic variation thereof? 'Dad', 'Pop', 'Papa', etc. They all mean the same thing, 'father'. And seeing as how Jesus wasn't specific, as in, "Look, don't call any religious authority figure 'father'. You can call your male parent 'father', but nobody else." He just said, "call no man your father upon the earth." So, children, stop calling your dad 'Dad' and start calling him by his first name. See how that goes... 'Morning Bob!' *dead silence* 'What'd you just say? Since when do you call me 'Bob'?' Dad's want to be called Dad! The ones who are 'good' at it, who take their job seriously, as far as I've found, don't want to be called by name, like some acquaintance.

To forbid the use of the word 'father' would rob the address "Father" of its meaning when applied to God. There would no longer be any earthly counterpart for the analogy of divine Fatherhood. The concept of God’s role as Father would be meaningless if we obliterated the concept of earthly fatherhood.

But in the Bible the concept of fatherhood is not restricted to just our earthly fathers and God. It is used to refer to people other than biological or legal fathers, and is used as a sign of respect to those with whom we have a special relationship. For example, Joseph tells his brothers of a special fatherly relationship God had given him with the king of Egypt: "So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 45:8).

Job indicates he played a fatherly role with the less fortunate: "I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know" (Job 29:16).

And God himself declares that he will give a fatherly role to Eliakim, the steward of the house of David: "In that day I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah . . . and I will clothe him with [a] robe, and will bind [a] girdle on him, and will commit . . . authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah" (Is. 22:20–21).

This type of fatherhood not only applies to those who are wise counselors (like Joseph) or benefactors (like Job) or both (like Eliakim), it also applies to those who have a fatherly spiritual relationship with one. For example, Elisha cries, "My father, my father!" to Elijah as the latter is carried up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kgs. 2:12). Later, Elisha himself is called a father by the king of Israel (2 Kgs. 6:21).

Some people argue that this usage of the word 'father' changed with the New Testament—that while it may have been permissible to call certain men 'father' in the Old Testament, since the time of Christ, it’s no longer allowed. This argument fails for several reasons. First, as I’ve said, and I believe demonstrated the silliness of the idea, the imperative "call no man father" does not apply to one’s biological father (or, to the step/adoptive father, the man who raised you). It also doesn’t exclude calling one’s ancestors "father," as is shown in Acts 7:2, where Stephen refers to "our father Abraham," or in Romans 9:10, where Paul speaks of "our father Isaac." Second, there are numerous examples in the New Testament of the term "father" being used as a form of address and reference, even for men who are not biologically related to the speaker. There are, in fact, so many uses of "father" in the New Testament, that the interpretation of Matthew 23 (and the objection to Catholics calling priests "father") must be wrong. Third, a careful examination of the context of Matthew 23 shows that Jesus didn’t intend for his words here to be understood literally. The whole passage reads, "But you are not to be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ" (Matt. 23:8–10).

The first problem is that although Jesus seems to prohibit the use of the term "teacher," in Matthew 28:19–20, Christ himself appointed certain men to be teachers in his Church: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Paul speaks of his commission as a teacher: "For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle . . . a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (1 Tim. 2:7); "For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher" (2 Tim. 1:11). He also reminds us that the Church has an office of teacher: "God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers" (1 Cor. 12:28); and "his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11).

There is no doubt that Paul was not violating Christ’s teaching in Matthew 23 by referring so often to others as "teachers." Protestants slip up on this point by calling all sorts of people "doctor," for example, medical doctors, as well as professors and scientists who have Ph.D. degrees (doctorates). They fail to realize, or recognize, that "doctor" is the Latin word for "teacher." Even "Mister" and "Mistress" ("Mrs.") are forms of the word "master," also mentioned by Jesus. So if his words in Matthew 23 were meant to be taken literally, they're would be just as guilty for using the word "teacher" and "doctor" and "mister" as Catholics for saying "father." But clearly, that would be a misunderstanding of Christ’s words.

Jesus criticized Jewish leaders who love "the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called ‘rabbi’ by men" (Matt. 23:6–7). His admonition here is a response to the Pharisees’ proud hearts and their grasping after marks of status and prestige. He was exaggerating to show the scribes and Pharisees how sinful and proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, and instead setting themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers.

Christ used hyperbole often, for example when he declared, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell" (Matt. 5:29, cf. 18:9; Mark 9:47). Christ certainly did not intend this to be applied literally, for otherwise all Christians would be blind amputees! (cf. 1 John 1:8; 1 Tim. 1:15).

We are all subject to "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Since Jesus is demonstrably using hyperbole when he says not to call anyone our father—else we would not be able to refer to our earthly fathers as such—we must read his words carefully and with sensitivity to the presence of hyperbole if we wish to understand what he is saying. Jesus is not forbidding us to call men "fathers" who actually are such—either literally or spiritually. To refer to such people as fathers is only to acknowledge the truth, and Jesus is not against that. He is warning people against inaccurately attributing fatherhood—or a particular kind or degree of fatherhood—to those who do not have it.

As the apostolic example shows, some individuals genuinely do have a spiritual fatherhood, meaning that they can be referred to as spiritual fathers. What must not be done is to confuse their form of spiritual paternity with that of God. Ultimately, God is our supreme protector, provider, and instructor. Correspondingly, it is wrong to view any individual other than God as having these roles. Throughout the world, some people have been tempted to look upon religious leaders who are mere mortals as if they were an individual’s supreme source of spiritual instruction, nourishment, and protection. The tendency to turn mere men into "gurus" is worldwide. This was also a temptation in the Jewish world of Jesus’ day, when famous rabbinical leaders, especially those who founded important schools, such as Hillel and Shammai, were highly exalted by their disciples. It is this elevation of an individual man—the formation of a "cult of personality" around him—of which Jesus is speaking when he warns against attributing to someone an undue role as master, father, or teacher. He is not forbidding the perfunctory use of honorifics nor forbidding us to recognize that the person does have a role as a spiritual father and teacher. The example of his own apostles shows us that.

The New Testament is filled with examples of and references to spiritual father-son and father-child relationships. Many people are not aware just how common these are, so it is worth quoting some of them here. Paul regularly referred to Timothy as his child: "Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ" (1 Cor. 4:17); "To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1 Tim. 1:2); "To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (2 Tim. 1:2). He also referred to Timothy as his son: "This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare" (1 Tim 1:18); "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:1); "But Timothy’s worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel" (Phil. 2:22). Paul also referred to other of his converts in this way: "To Titus, my true child in a common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior" (Titus 1:4); "I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment" (Philem. 10). None of these men were Paul’s literal, biological sons. Rather, Paul is emphasizing his spiritual fatherhood with them.

Perhaps the most pointed New Testament reference to the theology of the spiritual fatherhood of priests is Paul’s statement, "I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:14–15). Peter followed the same custom, referring to Mark as his son: "She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark" (1 Pet. 5:13). The apostles sometimes referred to entire churches under their care as their children. Paul writes, "Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children" (2 Cor. 12:14); and, "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal. 4:19). John said, "My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1); "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth" (3 John 4). In fact, John also addresses men in his congregations as "fathers" (1 John 2:13–14). By referring to these people as their spiritual sons and spiritual children, Peter, Paul, and John imply their own roles as spiritual fathers. Since the Bible frequently speaks of this spiritual fatherhood, we Catholics acknowledge it and follow the custom of the apostles by calling priests "father."

Failure to acknowledge this is a failure to recognize and honor a great gift God has bestowed on the Church: the spiritual fatherhood of the priesthood. Catholics know that as members of a parish, they have been committed to a priest’s spiritual care, thus they have great filial affection for priests and call them "father." Priests, in turn, follow the apostles’ biblical example by referring to members of their flock as "my son" or "my child" (Gal. 4:19; 1 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim. 2:1; Philem. 10; 1 Pet. 5:13; 1 John 2:1; 3 John 4). All of these passages were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and they express the infallibly recorded truth that Christ’s ministers do have a role as spiritual fathers. Jesus is not against acknowledging that. It is he who gave these men their role as spiritual fathers, and it is his Holy Spirit who recorded this role for us in the pages of Scripture. To acknowledge spiritual fatherhood is to acknowledge the truth, and no amount of anti-Catholic grumbling will change that fact.

Okay, much (most) of this is notes from my RCIA class, which is why I had all the references, etc. Just in case any of you think I'm some sort of researching genius. I cheated. I had this stuff already. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

School Days, School Days, *voice cracks*

Hey! Some crazy person took over my blog...certainly wasn't me...*hides Supernatural fanfic*

Well, anyway, we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog. :)

Okay, so, tomorrow is the first day of the Beginning Faith Class that I'm helping to teach. I had thought that it started next week, based on the calendar that the DRE sent out, but she apparently just doesn't mark the thing well enough. We've got classes from now through May, and we think we've got it fairly well planned, in the broad sense. It's a bunch of third graders, mostly, so 6/7 years old.

The general layout of the class is thusly:

Begin with an opening prayer, then have a best/worst of the week (the idea behind that is to get the kids to thank God for the good things, and ask for His help for the bad things). Then, we have the Word Box, which'll be for vocabulary. We've got the words all printed out, and we'll pull a word and learn the meaning. After that we go over the Gospel for the day (we've borrowed a missalette from the church, with permission of course) and then have a sort of q&a, explanation period, though I have doubts as to how many questions the kids will have, but then again I don't spend a ton of time with kids this age, so they may have more than I think. Plus, if they have a question we can't answer, we'll have an Ask Father Pat basket and write them out (and then ask Father Pat ourselves). Also, yes, as an amusing aside, we have an Irish priest named Patrick. Heh.

Then, a Letter to Jesus, which'll be sort of a journal kind of thing, with the kids being able to write out just, whatever they're thinking about, and Deb suggested that we can have anyone who wants to read it out loud do so, but again, I'm not sure about that, because, journal's are kind of private, so I don't know that the kids'll really want to read them to the class, but it's an option. *shrug* Deb and I'll also being doing this (a lead by example sort of thing, see).

Then a group activity - we've found some games, crosswords, etc. from to use, plus, later in the year, after the kids have learned the prayers, we're going to be making the rosaries. We're going to find out what each kids favorite color is so their beads will be that color.

Going over the books (we have one for Reconciliation and one for Eucharist), plus learning the prayers, how to use the Bible, and other things.

And then a concluding prayer, and we return the kids to their parents. Then, freedom! :)

We'll also sort of tailor different lessons to the different seasons, leading up to Easter, Christmas, etc. Though I doubt I'll do it, I kind of really want to, when we're doing Christmas, and explaining who St. Nicholas is, and the Nativity, tell the story of Saint Nicholas punching Arius out. :) For some reason that story just makes me happy. *However* I'm assuming that most of these kids will believe in Santa Claus, so that's probably going to be out. And just as a personal aside, I don't like that. I mean, it's up to each parent, but I'm (should I ever get to have kids) not going to teach them Santa and the Easter Bunny. Those're commercial things that have taken away from the true meaning of those seasons, of those Holy Days. So...*blows raspberry* I'm not going to lie to my kids and tell them there's a jolly fat man living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves. I will, however, tell them about Saint Nicholas and yes, definitely him punching out Arius. And we can celebrate him on his day, December 6, then move on to the real reason for Christmas, which would be the Nativity!

And now for my tangent:

I was thinking about writting this post last night, just, vaguely forming what I wanted to say, and I went off on a tangent in my head about it! So you know it's bad...

There's a large-ish contingent in some forms of Protestantism (mostly evangelical, home churchy groups, I think, but it exists in the more settled denominations as well), that women can't teach. I'm also aware that this thought exists in Catholicism and probably other places as well. And...a while back, I was considering it, and whether or not that meant that I shouldn't teach this class. Clearly, I came down on the side of teaching.

Ideally, yes, religious education should be handled by the clergy and religious (priests, nuns, deacons). However, in my parish, we don't have enough religious to do this. If laypeople didn't teach, nothing would get taught. I'm teaching kids, not men. Now, would I teach a class of grown men? At this point, I'd say yes, if it was something I was confident in, and it was needed. My concern, in that case, would be the propriety and keeping modesty standards. To that end, I'd certainly never be alone with one of the men, and, of course, dressing as I do, I think that end's covered (badum-bum). And, of course, should a priest or a nun appear to take over the teaching, I'd happily step aside, because they have far more time to devote to this imaginary subject, and, as I said, I think ideally religious education should be handled by the religious.

I think that this aversion to women teaching comes from the whole, 'let women be silent in church' and, also, the headcovering, because in the same passage it asserts that then man is the head of the woman. So, 'headship'.

I admit it now, I don't get it. I've tried, Lord knows I have, to wrap my head around this concept, and what the hell it means. I even wrote something on it way back, but it's so convoluted and sense-less, that even as I wrote it I knew it didn't make any sort of sense.

I, clearly, believe in covering, for two reasons: modesty and because God commanded it. Why did God command it? Well, I don't know. My thoughts on this can change in an instant, I just know that He did, and it's a command I happily obey, even though I don't fully understand why. I also embrace the knowledge that there are simply some things, some positions, in the Church that I, as a woman, cannot hold. I cannot be a priest. Why? Because I have girly parts. But, really, because Christ is the High Priest, and all the priests that we have now are representative of Him. He set it up, men only. And I'm quite comfortable with that. I cannot be a deacon. Again, girly parts. (Though I do believe there used to be deaconesses, back when the Church practiced Baptism by immersion - the deaconesses were there for the women coming into the Church, as it would be inappropriate for a man to do that - but I haven't made a huge study of it, so there could be more to it.) Whatever. I'm comfortable with my limitations in this matter. I can't be a priest, I can't be a deacon, and I can't write my name in the snow without the use of my hands. Life moves on. :)

But, 'headship'. What is it? I mean, really, what does it mean?

Let's say, theoretically, that I'm married to a man who decides that infant Baptism is un-Biblical. Under my *limited* comprehension of 'headship', I'd have to follow his lead and just pray that God enlightens him. Except, clearly, my husband would be *wrong*. So why should I follow someone who's been mislead? Shouldn't I, even though I'm a woman, gently (not harping, cause that never works), present the evidence from the Bible and the Fathers and the Church that proves him wrong? Correct him? And if I can't do it, ask our priest to speak with him? (Because we would most certainly have a priest - I can't imagine marrying a man who's not either Catholic or Orthodox). Why should I allow my husband to lead us into error just because his bits dangle and mine don't? After all, I'm responsible for *my* relationship with God, with keeping myself in His Grace. So why should I let *anyone* lead me away from that?

And what about me, in reality? I have no husband, I have a father who (while he is a good man, and I love him), is not in the Church, and would, if I consulted with him on these sorts of things, give me answers that are definitely against Church teaching and that of the Fathers. So...what do I do? I've got no 'head', but God, and it's not like I can dial Him up and ask. I've got to rely on the Church and my own understandings. So 'headship' in the human, mortal understanding of the term is sort of useless to me at this point.

Here endeth my tangent.

Oh! End note: Plus side of the Swine Flu (H1N1, if you're insulted by the reference to Wilbur): I no longer have to dodge people trying to hold my hands during the Our Father at Mass. Our diocese has ruled that we're *not* to do this, because of health concerns, and also that the Sign of Peace is just to be verbal at this point, 'Peace be with you' and a friendly smile and nod. I no longer have to dodge random old ladies trying to hug me! I was okay with the handshake, but... hugging!

Right. Off to print out 20 copies of the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments, and our opening & closing prayers.

Oh, also, I'm going to switch to the 7:30 Mass, because my class is at 9, which is the Mass that I usually attend, and I don't like the 10:45 Mass, because it tends to be the 'charismatic' Mass, and, just no. Which means, at least this weekend, that since I'm dog sitting again, in the next town over from where I live, I've got to get up extra early to take care of the dogs, then drive a half hour (depending on traffic) to get to Mass on time, but of course I'm going to be early, because I'm not certain how well attended the early Mass is, and I don't want to get stuck parking Myrddin in the swale because I didn't get there in time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SPN Season 5 Trailer with Bonus Merlin

It's Thursday!!!!! *does dance of glee*

Okay, below, we have my favorite promo for Season 5. Why is it my favorite? The song, which is a remix of O Death. Just, lovely and haunting. It's available to download, in it's entirety, for free here.
Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and it's a big link on the right.

And, because it too, is awesome, the promo for Season 2 of Merlin, which I believe is supposed to start soon in the UK. At this point, all I want is the dvd's of Season 1 over here already! I know I'm going to have to wait for Season 2, but come on!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Countdown to Season 5 Supernatural - Season 4 Overview

Supernatural Season 4: In Which There Is Gripping Tight and Raising From Perdition

Season 4 starts with flashes of Dean in hell, and then, suddenly, he wakes up in his own grave. After digging himself out, Dean finds himself in the middle of a clearing that was made...hastily... by something knocking everything down around his grave.

He makes his way to a gas station, breaks in and 'borrows' some essentials. As he's there, scrounging, a *presence* begins to make itself known. The radio goes funky and staticy, there's a physical shaking of the building, and earsplitting noise, all the glass in the building shatters, and then it all just as suddenly stops.

Dean makes his way to Bobby, convinces him that he's really Dean and not something pretending to be Dean, and they go hunting for Sam, who has gone off on his own since Dean died. They locate him holed up in a hotel with a random woman, and then convince *him* that Dean is Dean. The reunion is touching.

Now, they need to figure out how Dean got out of hell. The first assumption is that Sam made a deal, which he denies. He says he tried, but no one would make the deal. The demons who would even talk to him claimed that they had Dean right where they wanted him. The second is that 'something' *rode* Dean out of hell, supported by the new handprint shaped burn scar Dean is sporting.

They go to a psychic who tries to summon whoever it was that brought Dean out, gets the name 'Castiel' and the warning not to look at him for her trouble, ignores the warning, and gets her eyes burned out of her head.

We find out, though Dean and Bobby don't learn this until later, that the random hotel woman is actually Ruby in her new, 'recycled' body (recycled in the sense that she grabbed a comatose body - someone whose spirit had already left and whose body was being kept alive by machines, to make Sam feel better about having sex with her - as opposed to having sex with Ruby and her unwilling host). We also learn that Sam has been 'exercising' his exorcist powers, and can (most of the time) yank demons out of hosts leaving the hosts alive. How did he get so strong? Practice, hard work, and drinking Ruby's demon blood. Yuck.

New Ruby. Same demon, new host.

Meanwhile, Dean and Bobby set up every ward they can, and summon Castiel - the plan is to stab him a lot.

Castiel. Proving he's an angel.

Castiel shows up, and is a 'Holy Tax Accountant'. Um...they do make with the stabby and the shooty, but it has no effect, and Castiel puts Bobby to sleep so he can have a heart to heart with Dean. Turns out Castiel is not a demon, but an Angel of the Lord, who was commanded to bring Dean out of hell, because 'they have work for him'. Also, the sound and fury earlier was Castiel trying to talk to Dean, but Dean couldn't hear him because he's not one of the few that can and not, you know, have their heads pop. Which is why Castiel had to go out and put on the Jimmy suit.

We do eventually also meet Jimmy, who is Castiel's semi-willing host. Jimmy is an adorable puppy, and you just want to pet his head.

Jimmy. Who is adorable.

We meet Alistair, hell's top torture guy - who, apparently, took a liking to Dean when he was 'down under'. See, the plot is thusly:

Alistair. Whom Super-Sam, also known as the Sam-tichrist, killed with his *mind* a little later on.

Lilith wants to free Lucifer. In order to do this, there are 66 seals that must be broken. Not that there are *just* 66 seals on Lucifer's cage, but that only 66, any 66, need to be broken for it to weaken enough for him to get out. And even that's not strictly true, the first seal and the last seal are very specific.

Lilith's new host. She upgraded so she could see over a steering wheel.

The first seal is that a 'righteous man must shed blood in hell'. In hell, time passes differently. Four months on earth, forty years in hell. And Dean was tortured (by Alistair) for the first thirty years. After the first thirty, Dean took the 'offer' and got off the rack and started doing the torturing. Which is apparently when they sent Castiel to bust him out. Because the prophecy (which is in the unedited Book of Revelations, which the general populace doesn't have) says that the guy who starts it is the guy who has to end it. So they need Dean to end the apocalypse. How? No one's very clear on the details, to be honest.

So, Lilith runs around breaking seals, the angels and Sam and Dean run around trying to stop her, and mostly failing. Which, you see, is because (as we learn in the later portion of the season), *some* angels, like Zachariah:

Zachariah, to whom Dean's basic reaction was, 'Angel or not, I *will* stab you in the face.' Dean may have authority shaped issues. And that was before we knew about him helping to kick start the apocalypse.

*want* Lucifer set loose. The apocalypse *has* to happen, and at the moment, the angels like the odds in their favor. So they're pushing the timeline up and letting Lilith win the battles for the seals, sacrificing lower level angels to make it look good.

Oh! We also meet The Prophet Chuck:

Who used to think he was hallucinating a lot and wrote books which were popular with teenage girls, but these books will become the Winchester Gospels. :) And, as Castiel says, if you think he's bad, you should have seen Luke.

So...yadda, yadda, seals breaking, angelic jerkwadery, Sam sucking blood like an addict (and, at the end, killing a woman to drink her demon blood), and Castiel has to bust Dean out of this 'angelic waiting room' in order to try and prevent the last seal being broken, and then Castiel takes a 'last stand' against an archangel which is coming to kick his head in for this. (Castiel survives, because he's a series regular in season 5...)

Dean rushes off to stop Sam, who is at this church which got built over Lucifer's cage (probably as a reaction to the EVIL that was radiating from him). Ruby has convinced Sam that killing Lilith will stop all this.

*HOWEVER* Ruby is a demon, and therefore a lying liar who *lies* and has been working with Azazel who was working with Lilith ALL ALONG and killing Lilith is the last seal. Which is why we get the phrase: Sam Winchester. College Educated. Still Stupid.

Sam kills Lilith, despite Dean yelling to warn him (Dean was stuck behind a door Ruby slammed in his face), and lo and behold, Lucifer starts to rise. But Dean gets to gank Ruby for good with her own demon killing knife...

...and then all hell breaks loose.

And as a bonus:

because youtube has disabled embedding on this, I must give you the link. It's Jensen Ackles (Dean) lipsynching and airguitaring to Eye of the Tiger. Funny and cute!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Countdown to Season 5 Supernatural - Season 3 Overview

Supernatural Season 3: In Which We Learn Where Baby Demons Come From (hint: it's not where you think)

So, last season, Dean sold his soul to save Sam's life, and he has one year to live. Dean, being Dean, is determined to make the most of his time. Meaning there's a lot of drinking and naked women in his future. He becomes sort free's not quite the right word, but very determined to enjoy himself.

A demon named Ruby shows up and tries to befriend Sam, saying that she's on his side and can help him save Dean. Her story is that she worked for Azazel, who was one of the major powers of hell. She wants to see his plan through, which was to raise the demon army, with Sam as it's leader, and crush the opposing demons, one of whom is Lilith. We learn from Ruby that no one in hell has ever actually seen Lucifer or any other fallen angel, to the denizens of hell, they're like god, some demons think they exist, some don't. We also learn that all the demons in hell started out as humans.

Ruby also brings a knife that kills demons, which is good, since the Colt has stopped working.

Lilith has risen in the power vacuum left by Azazel's death and wants Sam dead so he can't carry out whatever Azazel was planning.


Sam, as they get toward the end of the year, gets desperate, takes the Colt (which Ruby and Bobby have gotten working again), and summons the crossroads demon. He wants her to undo the deal Dean made, but she refuses, saying that even if she wanted to, she can't because it's her boss who holds the contract. Sam, being a little more ruthless than he ever has been before, shoots her in the head, killing the demon and the woman she was possessing.

A thief later steals the Colt from the boys, and eventually dies because she too had made a deal with a crossroads demon, and the Colt is lost, again. But, they still have Ruby's knife.

They track down Lilith at the eleventh hour, intending to use Sammy's growing powers and the knife to kill her a void the contract on Dean. This, of course, does not go according to plan, Lilith spanks Ruby out of her host body, takes it over, tricks the guys into thinking she's Ruby *just* long enough to break the barrier that had been keeping the hell hounds away from Dean, and then runs away.
But the damage is done, and Dean's dead and in hell.

Dean in hell.

This was a shortened season, because of the writers strike.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Countdown to Supernatural Season 5 - Season 2 Overview

Supernatural Season Two: In Which Bargains Are Made

Okay, so when we last saw our intrepid heroes, they'd been smooshed by a demonically driven semi. *Because* they're the heroes, they all survive the crash, and are MEDEVAC'd to a hospital. However, we all remember the demon-torture and all that with Dean? So, he's the worst off, and comatose. Of course, because it's Supernatural, he spends the entire first episode wandering the hospital as a semi-ghost, which introduces us to the Reaper, who looks like a very nice young lady.

YED - Azazel. Very bad (de)man. Demon's don't have a form, and jump from host to host, but this is Azazel's usual (stolen) body, though he does occasionally possess someone else, which makes me question where he leaves this host when he goes on walkabout. Cause the original owner's still in there, of course. Anyway.

John, knowing that his oldest son is dying, summons YED (aka Azazel, actually), and makes a deal. His soul and the Colt for Dean's life. Azazel possesses the Reaper (Tess) and uses her powers to put Dean's soul back into his body. And John dies, whispering something into Dean's ear.

Dean has...issues...coping with this, as does Sam, of course, but Dean takes his issues out on the poor Impala, a little.

So, the boys continue in the family business, looking, too, to get the Colt back and kill Azazel *really* dead. In the process, they come across other children who are like Sam.

Sam, aside from being the size of a sasquatch, has *powers*. He occasionally gets visions of things before they're going to happen, and possesses *really limited* telekenisis-ish powers. The other kids all have powers too, which vary from person to person. They all figure out that Azazel did something (he dripped his blood into their mouths, which is apparently enough to make you a demon-baby) to them when they were six months old, which resulted in many of their houses being burnt down and their mothers (sometimes both parents) dying in the process.

Dean, in light of all this, and the fact that many of the children have turned out to be kind of evil, reveals to Sam that what John had told his was that Dean either had to 'save Sam, or kill him'. Which is reason number 23 why John Winchester will never win father of the year.

Different things occur throughout the season which lead the boys (and us) to believe that the demi-demon-kids are part of a larger plot by Azazel, something to do with a demon army he hopes to raise for the apocalypse.

Various revelations occur throughout the rest of the season that lead the pair to believe these psychics are being trained to participate in an army that the demon will lead in a coming apocalypse. After a season of this, Sam disappears in the middle of a diner.

He wakes up with four other demon-kids, and Azazel reveals to them that they're there to compete for the job of his demon general. Whoever's still alive, wins.

Two are killed right off the bat, then one of the women, Ava, is revealed to have been working with the demons all along, and gets killed by this other guy, Jake. Who has sort of been acting like he's a 'good guy', but then stabs Sammy in the back. Jerk.

Of course Dean and Bobby (who is the Winchester's 'uncle' and an old friend of John's) arrive just in time to see Sam get killed, and this does not make for a happy Dean. Sam actually dies in Dean's arms, which is just *sad*.

Dean, who might be a little unhinged at this juncture, runs off and summons a crossroads demon. The thing with crossroads demons is they make deals - you get whatever you want, and at the end of a specified period (usually ten years), she gets your soul. So Dean makes the deal, he wants Sam alive again. She agrees, but only gives him one year before his soul gets collected, and if he tries to do *anything* to get out of the deal, Sam drops dead again.

Dean gets back to Sam and finds him alive, and without any memory of having died. Dean decides not to inform Sam of this whole, stabbed in the back, made a deal with a demon to get you better thing. Because he wants to protect Sammy.

So, meanwhile, Jake has joined up with Azazel, who has taken him to the Gate of Hell (well, it's *a* gate to hell. Which Samuel Colt also made. Though to be perfectly fair, he was just putting a lid on an existing entrance. The man had a lot of free time, apparently.

The Colt is the key to unlock this, so off Jake goes to set the demons loose. Of course Bobby and Dean and Sam all show up to rain on their parade, which *really* surprises Jake, since he distinctly remembers killing Sam, and tells him so.

There's fighting, and Jake gets the gate open, and then gets shot by Sam.

Azazel is busy taunting Dean with the possibility that the Sam he brought back is not quite the Sam that died. And, you know, to round out the day, he tries to kill Dean. But, John, who was in hell, managed to escape through the open gate, and saves Dean.

And then Dean shoots Azazel with the last bullet in the Colt.

Dean being *awesome* and killing Azazel.

Which also has the added bonus of freeing his dad's soul from hell. They get the gate closed, but hundreds of souls and demons escaped, which means the boys have even more work to do.

Sam, having had his suspicions raised by Jake's insistence that he *killed* him already, questions Dean, who is forced to admit to what he did.

Which makes Sammy sad, and angry, and he swears to find a way to save Dean.

End season.

Countdown to Season 5 of Supernatural - Season 1 Overview

Just because I *can*. And, you know, everyone should have my obsessions inflicted on them. :)

The dork with the cool curvy knife is Sam (Jared Padalecki), the cool guy with the gun would be Dean 'Awesome' Winchester (Jensen Ackles).

Supernatural, Season One: The Beginning (mwahahaaaaa)

Right, so we start off with this lovely domestic scene, a mother, father, and an older brother putting baby to bed. So cute! So adorable! Pinch his little cheeks!

And then it all goes horribly wrong!

Mom (Mary Winchester), thinks she hears something, and heads into the baby's (Sam) room to check. She pokes her head in, sees a man standing over his crib, and assumes that it's her husband (John). She turns to head back to bed, and on the way realizes that John has fallen asleep in the living room watching tv.

She, of course, rushes back up to Sam's room, and, well. Mary winds up dead on the ceiling. Yes, the ceiling. And then the house bursts into flames. Or, well, not quite. What happens is John wakes up (he heard something), goes looking, walks into Sam's room, and sees blood dripping into Sam's crib. He looks up, sees Mary on the ceiling (pinned like the worlds most horrible butterfly) and *then* *she* bursts into flames, which catches the house on fire. John hands Sam to his big brother (Dean, who's four) and tells him to get his brother out of the house, while John tries to save Mary. Clearly, since she was gutted, *on the ceiling*, and then *on fire*, this is futile, but John *really, really* loves Mary, so he tries.

And their house burns down. This was...November 2, 1983, All Souls Day.

John, obsessed with finding out what the hell just happened, winds up going to a psychic, who tells him that a demon killed his wife. This becomes John's new purpose in life: hunting and killing supernatural things, all the while searching for the demon that murdered his wife. Look, John is at no point going to win 'Father of the Year' awards, because he hauls his kids all over the country, in the back of his Impala (Metallicar!) hunting things that hunt back, and training them to do the same. The Winchester family is *special*, and not in a good way, but they're *family*, and they work, to an extent.

They go on this way until Sam hits college age, at which point he rebels, and leaves to have a normal life. Which he succeeds at, mostly. Of course this is all covered throughout the season, and with flashbacks, etc. The first ep. jumps from 'house burning down' to Sam in college, being a dork.

One night, Dean shows up. Their fathers gone missing, and he wants Sam to come help him find him. Sam does agree, and off they go. They track John to his last 'case/hunt', and take care of the ghost, but no sign of John. Sam insists that he needs to get back to his life, and Dean takes him back to college.

Where he finds his girlfriend gutted, pinned to the ceiling and then bursting into flames.

Sammy's luck sort of sucks, yes?

Dean rescues his brother from the burning building (AGAIN) and now Sam's all gung-ho for the 'family business' because the demon is a jerk who is making certain that Sam's going to need therapy for years! And, also, you know, *demon*.

So, the first season follows the boys looking for their father, and hunting other monsters and ghouls along the way. And I brush over it, but the individual stories for each ep are great! And they do a lot of traditional folk tales and such. Bloody Mary, the Woman in White, Windigo, all that sort of stuff.

They do, eventually, find John, and discover that he's figured out how to track the demon (Yellow Eyed Demon - YED for short), and *also*, and more importantly, how to kill him.

The Colt. Which is a special gun made by Samuel Colt, during the Battle of the Alamo and at the time of Halley's Comet. This gun can kill *anything*, even demons, which ordinarily can't be killed, just kicked back to hell, where they can come back from.

Due to circumstances out of their control (except where there was *stupid* involved, and mostly I'm looking at you, Sam), and the fact that, again, *demons*, plural, and YED being, well, YED, and clever and evil, the Winchester's are captured, and the YED possesses John and tortures Dean, and then Sam kneecaps him with the Colt, which drives YED out, but fails to kill him, because Sam would have had to kill John to do it.

And then in their rush to get to the hospital, what with the torture and the bullet wounds and all, a semi being driven by a demon smashes them. Leaving them even *worse* off than they were, plus, THEY SMASHED THE IMPALA! The Impala is the fourth Winchester, and *integral* to all the plots. All of them.

End season.

Tomorrow, or maybe later today, since I have four seasons to cover, and season five starts Thursday, Season 2!

Friday, September 4, 2009

My New Header - The Ladder of Divine Ascent Icon

Susanne asked for an explanation of my new header, and I wasn't certain if she wanted an explanation of the icon itself, or why I chose it. So I present both in their very own post.

First, the icon in question:

This is the Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Why did I pick it?

It has a ladder, which is quite like stairs.

No, really. I've been going with a 'stairs' theme for my headers, not that anyone else knew it, and I thought, 'I've had Deir el Bahri, I've had Kukulkan with its really cool snake shadow, I need something more Christian, but with stairs!' So, actually, I was looking for something with Jacob's Ladder in it, and I found this icon. That's it, the whole explanation.

Below is the explanation of the icon, from the Orthodox Christian Information Center.


The Ladder of Divine Ascent

AMONG THE VERY IMPORTANT SCENES depicted on the walls of churches decorated in the traditional Byzantine manner is "The Soul-saving and Heavenward Ladder," usually referred to as "The Ladder of Divine Ascent." This painting or mosaic is a large synthesis that is given prominence in the narthex of some of the churches and refectories of the Holy Mountain of Athos, as well as in some old churches elsewhere.

The icon is connected with the famous spiritual classic entitled The Ladder of Divine Ascent of Saint John Climacos, who flourished in the seventh century. His memory is celebrated by the Orthodox on March 30 and on the Fourth Sunday of the Great Lent.

In this book, he describes thirty stages of spiritual development, which he likens to thirty steps upward on a ladder. The steps lead the spiritual striver to theosis, divinization, salvation—the ultimate goal of askesis or spiritual struggle.

In the icon which is inspired by this book, the ladder stands on the earth and reaches Heaven, symbolized by a vault from which emerges Christ. The ladder stands at an angle. Sometimes, the lower half of it is at a forty five degree angle, while the upper half stands upright. This is done in order to convey the idea that more effort is required for rising to the highest levels of spiritual development.

At the right side of the scene is shown a building, symbolizing a monastery, and outside its entrance stands Saint John Climacos. With his right hand he points at the ladder for the monks who stand behind him, while in his left hand he holds a scroll on which is written: "Ascend, ascend, Brethren."

Over the top of the ladder is Christ, emerging from Heaven. With His right hand He blesses the monk who has climbed to the top of the ladder, or holds the monk’s hand. In His left hand He holds a scroll, symbolic of His Gospel, or a crown which He is about to place on the head of the victorious monk. Below, there are other monks at various stages of ascent. Some stand on the ladder firmly, and are about to rise to the next rung. Others, however, are barely retaining their hold, as they are drawn by demons. The latter are flying at the left of the ladder. One of the monks has fallen off the ladder and is being swallowed below by a great dragon with wide open jaws. The dragon is used as a symbol of Hell.

Near the right side of the ladder are portrayed holy Angels encouraging and helping the ascending monks. This is in accord with the statement made by Saint John and other Eastern Church Fathers, that those persons who struggle for the acquisition of the virtues are helped both by God and by His Angels.

The Angels are shown with halos, clothed with light-colored garments and large, strong wings. The demons, on the other hand, are depicted without halos, without garments, with small, weak wings. Their bodies are of dark, dull colors, and have something that the bodies of the holy Angels do not have: tails. The latter symbolize the fallen state of the demons, their animalistic state. For the rational faculty, with which God endowed them when He created them—and which distinguishes both the angelic nature and human nature from that of the beasts of the field—has been corrupted by their rebellion against God.

The demons are depicted in order to remind the beholder that there exist such evil incorporeal beings, who act upon us through mental suggestion and assaults, and also to symbolize various "passions" (negative emotions and desires) in us. Saint John describes and minutely analyzes the nature of the passions, namely, pride, gluttony, lust, anger, despondency, malice, and so on. Positive qualities—the opposites of the "passions"—e.g., humility, temperance, chastity, gentleness, hope, love, etc.—are symbolized by the holy Angels, who are also to be viewed as real beings.

The statement on the open scroll held by Saint John Climacos is taken from the concluding exhortation of his book. It begins thus: "Ascend, ascend, brethren, ascend with eagerness and resolve in your hearts, listening to him who says: ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of our God, Who maketh our feet like those of the deer, and setteth us on high places, that we may be victorious with His song.’"

The Ladder of Saint John Climacos, which the icon depicts, is inspired by the Ladder which the righteous Jacob saw in a dream. Jacob saw a ladder which rose from earth to Heaven, on which some Angels were ascending and others were descending. His dream—or, better, his vision—is described in the book of Genesis as follows: "Jacob dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven, and the Angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord leaned upon it and said: I am the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; be not afraid.... And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places wither thou goest" (28:12-13, 15—Septuagint).

Saint John’s Ladder expresses the Orthodox view that spiritual perfection, theosis, salvation is not something attained all at once, as by a leap, but comes after a long arduous process of spiritual striving or askesis. In this process, with sustained effort one rises gradually from lower to higher and higher levels of spiritual development. Thus, in the ninth step, Saint John remarks: "The holy virtues are like Jacob’s Ladder. For the virtues, leading from one to another, bear him who chooses them to Heaven." Later, in the discussion of the fourteenth step, he observes that "no one can climb a ladder in one stride."

Commenting on this, Saint Symeon the New Theologian says: "Those who want to climb these steps climb the first rung of the Ladder, then the second, then the third, and so on.... In this way one can rise from earth to Heaven" (Tou Hosiou Symeon tou Neou Theologou ta Heuriskomena Panta, p. 368). The first step of spiritual ascent, says Climacos, consists in these three virtues: guilelessness (or truthfulness), fasting, and temperance. "All babes in Christ begin with these virtues, taking as their model natural babes. For in these you will never find anything sly or deceitful. And they have no insatiate appetite, no insatiable stomach, no body that is on fire or bestialized." These three virtues will serve, he says, as a secure foundation for the rest.

The idea of a Ladder of Spiritual Ascent appears often in Orthodox hymnography. The Kontakion chanted on March 30, feast day of Saint John Climacos, speaks of his Ladder thus: "By offering fresh fruits (teachings) from thy book, O wise one, thou dost delight the hearts of those who in a state of inner wakefulness heed them; for it is a Ladder that leadeth from earth to heavenly and abiding glory the souls of those who with faith honor thee."

I must add a few words about the life of Saint John Climacos and about the intent and influence of his book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. This great and very wise ascetic was tonsured a monk at the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. After three years he withdrew to a hermitage about five miles from the Monastery and lived there for forty years. Subsequently, he became Abbot of the Monastery and wrote his Klimax—the Greek word for ladder. He owes his name—Climacos—to the title he gave to his book.

Although this book is addressed to monks and to those who are thinking of embracing the monastic life, it contains a wealth of observations, counsels, and exhortations that are profitable to everyone who is interested in making progress in the spiritual life. For, as he remarks in one of his discourses (or "steps"), "Angels are the light of monastics, while the monastic state is a light for all men."

From the time it was written to the present, The Ladder of Divine Ascent has been read assiduously by monastics as well as by pious Christians living in "the world" in the Hellenic East, in Palestine, in Russia, in Serbia, in Rumania, in Bulgaria, in Europe, and elsewhere. It has been translated, from the ninth century on, into many languages: Syriac, Arabic, Latin, Slavonic, Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Modern Greek, Rumanian, Italian, Spanish, English, and other languages. There are two translations of it in the English language, one published around 1960 in New York by Harper and Brothers and one published later by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent occupies an important place in the tradition of Orthodox spirituality known as Hesychasm. Among the famous Saints who were deeply influenced by it are Symeon the New Theologian, the great eleventh-century Byzantine mystic; Gregory Palamas, the great fourteenth-century exponent and defender of Hesychasm; the eighteenth-century Greek "Kollyvades" Macarios of Corinth and Nicodemos the Hagiorite; and Starets Paissy Velichkovsky, also of the eighteenth century, who translated the Philokalia and The Ladder of Divine Ascent into Slavonic.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XII, No. 4, pp. 60-63.

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