Sunday, November 29, 2009

Okay, Maybe I Don't *Totally* Fail At Life - Editied Version

I went.

I saw.

I sneezed.

.
.
.
.
....

Um...apparently all the incense gives me a headache and sneezies.

Other than that, no disasters! :)

Unfortunately, the entire service was in Serbian(?) Slavonic(?) - not English. So I understood *nothing*.

The people were polite, no one stared, that I noticed. I didn't trip any old ladies accidentally, or trip over my own feet and take down an icon or anything.

Communion...I sort of didn't even realized it had happened, because only four people received. This is in retrospect. Now that I think about it, the thing at the very end, where everyone went up and took a piece of bread from a bowl and the priest blessed them (I think, again, not in English) was likely *not* Communion, as I assumed at the time, but just people taking blessed bread and getting a blessing. So...I could have gone up? But I thought it was the actual Communion, so I didn't.

It's a very small church. Very small. It was kind of weird not being crushed into a pew, but nice.

*Because* of the headache, I didn't hang around for the coffee hour. Plus, I don't drink coffee.

So. A success, all in all.

I enjoyed the service, it was very interesting. Just from what I've read and listened to (Ancient Faith Radio, for the win) I had a general idea of what was going on, generally. Still, understanding the language would have helped. :)

Oh, also, the Ukranian Catholic Church is right on the other corner from the Serbian Orthodox Church. *So* glad I got there early, because the church I drove by on Friday was actually the Ukranian church! I got there, and there was a fire truck and ambulance in the parking lot, and I circled, and realized that the church didn't quite look right, and then I saw the right church across the street!

Hah!

Edited to include stuff I left out earlier: I really left a lot out. Like, I thought it was neat that the church was set up with half chairs, half empty space. So the people who wanted to, and could, stand through the whole service had space. And those of us who wanted to be able to sit could do so out of their way. And how, even though it wound up being an hour and a half long, with most of it standing, you don't really realize it. How nice it was that no one was talking under/over the priest or the choir. No musical instruments! The whole service was chanted! The priest had a lovely, strong voice which was pleasant to listen to, even not knowing what was being said. Everyone was dressed nicely! Most of the men were wearing suits! Not a single tank top or pair of blue jeans! No flip flops either! 99% of the women wore skirts, and the ones who didn't were wearing nice slacks. The two women who received Communion covered their hair!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Which I Fail At Life

So, I'm not going to the church tomorrow.

I just, I don't feel up to it, which is stupid. I know.

I just had an argument with my mother about my weight and my being unhappy and depressed and lacking self confidence and she's convinced that if I could just feel better about myself then I wouldn't be so unhappy and who the hell knows, maybe she's right. I don't know.

I agreed to go see 'someone' (not a shrink. i refuse. they're all quacks.), but like a nutritionist/exercise consultant type, whatever they're called. Because it's not working on my own. I was loosing weight, gaining muscle, and then it stopped, and reversed. I admit I slacked on the food, and I need to exercise more, but I don't *feel* like it. I don't feel like I have the energy. I *know* that if I *did* force myself to do what I need to do, I'd start *feeling* more entergetic, but I just can't be bothered. Which is because (as mom thinks) I'm depressed. But I don't *think* I'm depressed....

Whatever.

I suck.

I'm going to go make myself a salad.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Guess Who

Okay, some people may (by some people, I mean *me*) remember a movie back a few years (like 9) called Dracula 2000. Er...not so much a good movie, but vampires! so, yeah.

Anyway, the guy who played Dracula was kinda yummy. I mean, he was the highlight of the movie. And, to be honest, the only thing I remember from it. Other than that....eh. And, whenever I watch it (because I own it, you see), I always wonder what happened to the good looking man. Like, was he ever in anything else, or did this movie kill his career?

Here, let me show you a picture:



Well. Last night, I was watching a little show on E! while I was falling asleep. In honor of the New Moon movie coming out, they were running this half hour special, 10 Vampires We Love or something like that...anyway...they had the guy from Dracula 2000. Guess who he is?

No, no, guess.

Guess.

Any idea?

Here's a picture of him, sans vampire hair and paleness:


Gerard Butler. *dies*

I mean, now that I know, I see it. But...I never even guessed!

Yes, yes, I'm easily amused. Don't judge me. :p

Also, another thing that shocks me, every time I think about it.

Inigo Montoyea from Princess Bride (which, by the by, is an awesome movie and you should all watch it):



The actor today:


Mandy Patinkin

*mind boggles* How'd *that* happen....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Names

Right, this's probably one of those rambling posts. Bear with me.

Also, this is all just my opinion. 'Kay?

Names are important, and kind of powerful, in magical terms. Basically, the belief is that if you know the name of an entity, you can call on and control it to a certain extent. The same is true with humans, but you (usually) would also use some of their blood or hair (and/or an object of great personal importance to them, and it helps if you have a picture....and, y'know, y'all don't really need to know all this. I digress.) in the rituals, because they have a physical body as well as a spiritual element. *Anyway*...

In ancient times, all the gods had names. They still do, but most people don't think they do anything (or exist). Funny enough, when an exorcist is casting out a demon, they'll seek it's name - why? Control. If you can name a thing, you gain a measure of control over it. Think back to Adam naming all the animals. Like that. Or...Rumpelstiltskin. The gods had names, and in order to call upon that god, you had to know the name, and the proper ritual, and the right bribes. But, without the name, none of this did any good. You could perform the ritual and the sacrifice until you turned blue, and do it all perfectly, but if you had the wrong name. Zip. Or, worse, the wrong god showed up (or the right one), pissed, and turned you into a little puddle of goo.

Anyway. Not that you can summon God by knowing His name, because, He being God, it just doesn't work that way. Other 'gods' and spirits could be summoned that way and bargained with because they aren't really gods. The point is, I learned (through my partially misspent youth) to be *really* careful with names. (And blood and hair, but again, I digress.)

But God, God isn't a name. God is more like a title. Like Adonai. Lord. I know the Jewish name is Yahweh, or Jehovah, or YHWH, (correct me if I'm wrong), but even these are just supposed to be approximations of His 'unspeakable' or 'unpronounceable' name. Right?

Moses asks Him for His name, and God says, 'I Am Who I Am'. (Exodus 3:13-14) Or, y'know, 'shut up, I'm not telling you.' I'm certain that He does have a name (not one that we'd comprehend, because, who names God? God. And if You're God, and You can name Yourself, what do You call Yourself? Steve? Captain Awesome? He Who Must Not Be Named? He Who Walks Behind the Rows?) Anyway...

So, I personally just call God, God. Or Lord, or whatever, because it's a title, not His actual name, in my mind. And I do my best to be respectful of those who don't want to write out what they see as His name...like the people who write G*d, L*rd, etc. (I can't remember what I've seen them do to Jesus, so I won't try to reproduce it.) I get it, I just don't feel the need for it. It's all the same thing to me.

And, fine, if you feel Yahweh is the way to address God, more power to you! I, personally, don't think God is limited to one language. But you need to be respectful.

*So*, uh...when you're all about the 'proper Hebrew this, and the text that, and I only use the KJV Bible and a Strong's Concordance and the Holy Spirit tells me all!'....and then you refer to God as 'Yah'. Um...what?

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems...flippant? Disrespectful?

*hand wavy* I could be wrong, I could be. I don't read/speak/anything Hebrew or Greek. I'm one of those terrible people who has to rely on translations*gasp* for biblical texts. I don't even *own* a Strong's Concordance.

But that's the way it reads to me.

So, if ya'll'll excuse me, I'm off to read some more of this blog I've tripped over and shake my head. The disrespect I see up there is only one of the things that drives me nuts about it. And why, you may ask, am I still reading it?

It's like watching a train wreck. I know I should look away, but I *can't*.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My New Snoods, Let Me Show You Them


Snoods in their natural habitat.


Yellow snood on my head.



Peach snood. :)

Very, very pleased with these. Light weight and soft, they cover the whole head/hair, without being too tight over the ears. :) Yes, that's a little bit of straggly hair out the back, but that's because my hair's actually short.

I bought both these here: UnderThere.

Now, all I need to do is figure out what to wear on Sunday. Oh, decisions, decisions...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Kinder Report Day 11: Sick Day Edition

There is no Kinder Report today. I've called in sick from school.

Nor am I actually up & typing this. Delayed posting for the win.

Here's what my weekend has encompassed:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 14: The Mystery of Ordination

Right, so, post title a bit misleading. I finished the chapter last night, but to be perfectly honest, I don't feel like doing even a short recap.

Instead, I'm just going to say that the last chapter was just as good and informative as the rest of the book. I've finished it, and I feel like I learned a lot. The author has an excellent writing style, very easy and personable. Giving out pertinent information without over loading the reader. Conversational, almost.

I'd recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about Orthodoxy, however, the author does write based on the assumption that the reader has a basic grasp on history and the Church itself. So, I'd also recommend that the reader read two other books first:

The Orthodox Church & The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware. They're the books I started with (thanks to a recommendation from Alana) and I think they form an excellent basic understanding from which one can move on and build upon with other books.

I've pulled the name of my next book out of a bag, and it is....Anything Goes, which is a biography of an actor I love, John Barrowman. So. Fun stuff!

Friday, November 20, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 13: The Mystery of Marriage

The footnote on the first page of this chapter makes it clear that the author is speaking from the 'peanut gallery', having never been married. And, since I'm not married either, all married people can take any commentary either of us have with a grain of salt. :)

"It is perhaps no accident that Holy Matrimony is the one rite of the Church that is actually called a 'mystery' in the Holy Scriptures. The presence of Jesus at the wedding in Cana is, in the tradition of the Church, indication enough that marriage is something wonderful and something to be treasured, a 'great mystery' (Ephesians 5:32)."

Without the help of God, a marriage cannot work. Again, I think that might be sort of a 'so obvious we never think about it' statement. Sure, in the modern world, lots of people get married and it has nothing to do with God. And, I'll bet you dollars to donuts, those marriages break up, are miserable, or are shams the majority of the time.

An interesting 'stressor' Archimandrite Webber lists as a cause of marriage breakdown is the stress of society on the 'nuclear family' as opposed to the 'extended family'. In the past, families lived closely, sometimes in the same house, with several generations all at once. If not in the same house, the same town, or very, very close. In those instances, the stress was diffused across a wider range. Children spent just as much time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, as they did with their own parents, releasing some of the natural tension that would arise otherwise. Nowadays, it's a mom, dad, and kids. All the time. Together. On top of each other. In every ones business. And you can't just (much of the time) take the child to grandma's to play. A boy, having a problem with his father, can't turn to a grandfather in many instances, because the grandfather lives several states away, and while loved, is nearly a stranger. Someone you see on holidays. But it's impossible to have a real, personal relationship that way.

Another factor is that, in urban settings, there is a lack of a support system. Most of us don't know our neighbors. Would we stop and help them if we saw they were in trouble? Sure. Do we wave hi? Of course. It's polite. But, if we're laid up, sick, will they notice? Will they check on us? Would either party be comfortable with that? Probably not. We're polite strangers. In the 'extended family', in the smaller town setting, everyone knows everything about everyone else. Does that make us (with our acclimatization to being alone) uncomfortable sometimes? Sure. But I'll bet it's nice once you get used to it or need help and there's someone right there.

Another point he makes is that love (or, as it really is, infatuation), while grand, does not a marriage make. Or at least not a lasting one. Love is just an emotion. It burns hot, but it can cool just as quickly. So, yeah, maybe you meet, and you fall in love, and you get married. But unless there's more there - common goals, beliefs, desires, things that can temper the love into true and lasting, genuine love. Despite all the stresses and pitfalls, you have to be ready to work at your marriage. To get up, every single day, willing to renew your vows and do it all over again.

A reporter I know has been married to his wife for forever. And he told us, one day, that every single day, he asks her, 'would you marry me today?' - most of the time, the answer is 'yes'. Quick and without doubt. Sometimes, when they're having 'rough patches', the answer is slower coming. But he asks every day, because every day is a new chance for them.

So. On to the actual ceremony.

Apparently, it's really two services that are joined together. The betrothal and the marriage. So, engagement and wedding. Typically, the betrothal ceremony happens twice, actually. One, weeks or months before the wedding date - an engagement blessing happening in a 'fairly informal' setting, somewhere off of church grounds. The couple is *NOT* however, married until *both* ceremonies have occurred.

The betrothal has, as its central theme, the blessing and exchanging of the rings. The ring has all sorts of symbolism - but the Church focuses on the role rings have played in Biblical stories.

Once the rings are in place, the service quickly moves into marriage itself. Prayers for peace are recited (again - they're recited at the betrothal too), with minor differences. Then two long, beautiful prayers, the second of which is full of references to marriage in Holy Scripture.

The couple joins hands (I'm not sure if they're tied together, as I've seen in some traditions, or if the couple just clasps hands - likely it varies...), and are crowned. They are becoming one flesh, they are 'crowned' to each other.

Crowning, like the rings, is full of symbolism. The suggestion is two major themes - glory and honor, but also, martyrdom. "A martyr is called to witness to Christ with every ounce of his being, and both the bride and groom will need to learn to emulate that behavior if the marriage is to be successful. The themes of honor, restraint, social responsibility, and harmony flutter through the words of the service, giving active lessons as to how to bring the marriage to fruition."

The Epistle (Ephesians 5:22-33) is read, as is the Gospel (John 2:1-11). After the readings, the Lord's Prayer follows, surrounded by other prayers. A cup of wine is blessed, and given to the couple. The wine, representing the whole panoply of food, nourishment, joy, sharing, and encouragement, is drunk. They process (I'm assuming led by the priest) around the table, taking their first steps together blessed by God, guided by the Church, and supported by those who have come to give the couple their prayerful encouragement.

After the procession, the crowns are removed, more blessings are given, and then the bride and groom walk out into the world as a married couple for the first time. :)

Oh! The author doesn't mention this, but I remember reading somewhere that it is not the tradition, in the Orthodox Church, for the bride to be 'given away'. She walks up the aisle herself, of her own will and volition, leaving out all the hinted implications of 'transfer of property' that you can get in the west with this tradition.

The last part of the chapter is telling a couple of short stories about mothers, mother-in-laws, wedding planners, etc. who wanted to have the Church change the ceremony just for them, so that they could have their picture perfect day! Ah...as to be expected, none of these people got their way.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No More Hijab For Me

So, I'm just going to act and talk like me attending the Orthodox church next weekend is a done thing, and convince myself that way.

In a related theme, as Anna and Alana pointed out, it's a Serbian church. There's an extremely unpleasant (to say the least) history there with Muslims.

I'd already decided that I'd wear a small scarf (tiechel) or a snood. More low key, y'know? Not because I'd thought about the history, but because I didn't want to stand out more than I already would. But they have an *excellent* point, about being sensitive to the cultural background there. And I get the impression from their site that many of the people are actual immigrants from Serbia, so it's not history to them, see?

And here's the thing. I'm thinking positive. Thinking, I'll actually *talk* to people, not just slip in and out. Meet people. That sort of thing. And...do I want to run in to a 'new friend' in another setting, wearing hijab? And upset them?

Nope.

So, I'm backing totally off the full hijab thing. I mean, I still like the look, but...I think the benefits of *not* wearing it, for me, may outweigh the benefits of wearing it. Still gonna be me, modest, head covering, and a little dorky, but no more hijab. It was confusing people who knew I was Catholic anyway... :)

B&W, W&O Chapter 12: The Mystery of the Anointing of the Sick

The chapter opens with Archimandrite Webber recounting a story of a man he knew who died of cancer. He says that, though this man was in his mid-seventies, he had never been seriously ill before. He didn't know how to act, as a sick person - he needed to rely on his wife and Hospice nurses for his care (especially towards the end), which meant telling them what his needs were. And he wasn't very good at that, having been used to taking care of his needs himself. His cancer was very painful, and because the drugs that they gave him for the pain basically knocked him out, it was a choice between pain or unconsciousness. Most of the time, he chose to take the pain. He said, 'Death stinks, but I guess cancer was the only way it could get my attention.'

For him, the sickness came to help him die. (Which is...I watched my grandfather die of cancer. It was...I can't even. Hell, it's been more than ten years, and I'm crying again. Death sucks. Okay? I accept it as an inevitability. I even know that it's a *good* thing. We get to go be with God, in a way we can't be here and now. Still. Death sucks for those left behind.) *But*, that being said, I like this way of thinking. We have to die. Sometimes an illness comes to help us do that.

The Purpose of Illness....

"We cannot understand Christian living until we come to terms with Christian dying. Sickness is a foretaste of that death and a state of enormous spiritual significance."

We, as humans, tend to brush away anything that we don't like, or makes us uncomfortable or seems harder than we deem it 'worth'. A person can spend most of their life drifting through a 'fuzzy reality', if they so desire. Sicknesses are a way that we are strongly encouraged (by whom, you may well ask, well, think about it.) to come into focus and look at a variety of important subjects - the significance of life, what it means to be alone, what it means to depend on people, fear and desire, hope and anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and, ultimately, death.

We don't regard illnesses as a good thing, in this world. However, they do get our attention. They, along with injury, remind us that we do not control our own lives. If, when ill, we try to grab more control over our lives, we are bound to fail. "Sickness and physical death can occur at any time and are always unwelcome. However, when they occur, wanting and not wanting, based on our normal thought patterns, cease to be central in our lives, and the power of the ego with all its boisterous energy suddenly fades. As that happens, we are potentially able to deepen our awareness of God, our dependence on Him, and our desire to seek His Will. Sickness and imminent death both present many opportunities for spiritual growth. Under the right circumstances, as shown in the Gospels, they are both factors through which God may be glorified." In sickness, we learn to be dependent on others, something that, in normal life, we reject as childish and/or weak. This can help us to develop or relearn a sense of dependence on God.

The Gospels stress two themes of major importance with regard to sickness. First, Jesus was a great healer. He brought relief, comfort, and strength, when He healed people.

Second, sickness doesn't equal sin. Think of the man born blind - he wasn't being punished for his sins, or his parents sins, but rather he was born blind so that God might be glorified. God does not delight in our pain, but, when we acknowledge our weakness (so much easier to do when we're ill), the dimension of our dependence on God and His love for us is all the more apparent.

The Mystery of the Anointing of the Sick is not an attempt to convince or force God to act one way or the other, in regards to the sick person, but rather, it is a solemn commitment by the sick person, surrounded by the Church, to place himself completely and without reservation into the hands of God. Whether their illness ends in healing, or death, they acknowledge their dependence on God, and acceptance of His Will. (Which is not, of course, to say that you don't seek medical attention - rather that the outcome of the treatment, which the doctor will prescribe, be in accordance with God's Will for your life, and not yours or your families.)

In this Mystery, a person receives anointing with the words, 'for the healing of mind and body' - an acknowledgement that both the body and the soul need to be in harmony, and in line with God. We are often quick to acknowledge and treat physical ailments, but not so quick with spiritual ones, and both are just as important to get 'treatment'.

Sickness may not always be a test from God, but it is always an opportunity for spiritual development.

On a personal note, I appear to be getting sick.

Timing, people, timing.

Tomorrow, 'maawidge'.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Burgeoning Megalomania, Signs from God, and (maybe) a Letter

Hmmm...I'm almost finished with B&W, W&O. Very good book. In a lot of ways, it's helped me in psychological terms. In...acceptance and moving on in some ways. Which is a surprise, since that wasn't the point of me getting the book, the book itself, and frankly, I hate psychiatry and the whole shebang. But it's helped, interestingly enough.

So, by the time I finish the book, I should be perfect! AND YOU WILL ALL BOW BEFORE ME!



MWAHAHAHAAAHHAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

*angel steps out of ether and headslaps Amber* *sigh* Excuse us a moment.... *drags Amber off stage*

(Right, this pic is not a political commentary from me! I was looking for headslap pictures to illustrate, and couldn't find the one I wanted, but I found this one, and it's too awesome to ignore. Just replace Bush with your mental image of me!)

*crickets chirping*

*Amber stumbles back on stage, cartoon birdies twirling about her head* Um. Sorry. I've been informed I may have gone a little crazy a minute ago. Apparently, *glances off stage - hand appears from behind the curtain, making a 'go on' gesture* apparently, I will not, in fact, be perfect after having finished the book. So, I guess ya'll don't have to bow down to my supremacy. Yet.

*heavy sigh emerges from behind curtain* We'll talk about this *later*.

Moving on...

Signs from God. I mean, do you think they happen? Really? To us? Like in personal ways? Or are we just reading into things?

Allow me to give you an example. (Thus far, my only example, so there ya go with that...)

Years ago I had agreed to do something fairly stupid, with a high possibility of getting myself into trouble, and re-imbroiled with my stepfather (who, if ya'll've been paying attention, is an abusive jackass). Why, you may ask, having left (and having tried to shoot him once, I might add!) would I do that? I can't explain. I can't tell you why, having been abused, it's SO HARD for some of us to not fall right back into obedience to these people. It's fear, even knowing that the end result was going to be at least mental anguish, saying 'no', was too hard at that moment, with him on the phone, begging. Even KNOWING it was all a scheme, I couldn't do it. I caved, and I was *shaking* afterward, this man scared me that much. And this was as an adult!

I went home, and I wanted to talk to my parents, but I was still scared, still just...I didn't know what to do. And this was back when I was just starting to rediscover Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular. So, I decided (and I can't really tell you why I thought to do this), that I would use the Bible as a sort of oracle (which I know now is not something we should do). Or at least try to. I took my Bible, closed my eyes, opened it randomly, and put my finger down. (The idea being that where ever my finger landed would help me decide what to do.) Now, the chances of landing on a random verse that was applicable to my personal situation at that moment, I don't know what they are. I think they're kind of slim. I mean, sure, I could probably have bent most verses to fit, but I didn't have to.

I can't remember which verse it was, I didn't mark it or write it down, but it basically said, 'listen to the advice of your elders.' So that's what I did. And it was to back out of this. It was a bad idea, we all knew it, and the best thing was to reinforce that all ties had been cut.

That night, I dreamt (what I believe to be) my guardian angel for the first (and only that I remember) time. I can't tell you details, but I remember meeting this woman, and talking to her in a cafe. I remember that she had on a long dress and dark brown, curly hair that she wore in a mesh snood. And I know that I wasn't scared to call and cut everything off again after I talked to her. So.

What, you may ask, makes me bring all this up now?

We all know I have Extreme Social Awkward. I've been waffling back and forth about calling the Orthodox Church in town and asking about coming to a Divine Liturgy to watch. I want to ask first, because I feel like this is going to be totally different, out of my realm of experience, and I really just want to sit in a corner in the back, not have to try and act like I know what I'm doing, and watch. Listen and...observe. But I'm not comfortable calling. I mean, I'm certain they're perfectly nice people. I have no reason to believe otherwise. But...ESA. I kept telling myself, 'if only they had a website! i could check it out, look at pictures of the church, email them.' But alas, no website. Even though I googled off and on for months. Nothing. And it thought that was okay, because I couldn't really go anyway, I have to teach class on Sunday, and the times just don't work.

Well. Next weekend, the weekend after Thanksgiving, we have no class. There're other 'school holidays', but this is the first one. So I was googling again, with the thought that, maybe, I could get over the ESA enough to call, because that would be a convenient day to go.

And...lo and behold, they have a website! (St. Sava Orthodox Church) And it's not *new*, the info on there is from September of this year! So it's been there the whole time! And I've been googling their name, because I already knew it, so why didn't it show up before? And the email address is listed. So I could email them with my bizarre request.

So, should I? Things seem to be lining up to allow it, but I'm certainly not ready to 'jump the river' or anything. I'm undecided on lots of issues, and I'm not in a rush. But everyone says that a person needs to attend the Divine Liturgy to get a feel for the Orthodox church.

Also, the priests last name is Dragan! And...that's just awesome, given my love of Dracula and dragons in general...

I haven't emailed yet, because I'm still not certain that the time is right, and I've been trying to figure out what to say. Here's my vague, nebulous written-in-my-head email:

'Hi,

My name is Amber, and I'd first like to apologize for what I'm sure is an odd question.

I would like, if it is at all possible, to attend an Orthodox service, just to observe. I'm not Orthodox, but have recently begun learning about it, and have been told by many people that the best way to get a feel for the faith is to attend. Seeing as how I am not Orthodox, and have never even been inside an Orthodox church before, I don't want to cause a disturbance to the worshipers, and that's why I'm emailing.

I was wondering if it would be possible for me to sit somewhere unobtrusive, like in the back? Because it would be painfully obvious I don't belong.

I would appreciate it if someone could contact me (insert info here), and let me know if this is possible, and if so, what I need to do - if there's a dress code, or a particular time, or someone I need to speak to before hand in order to do this in the best way. Or if not, just to let me know, because I understand that this is an odd request, as I said.

Thank you.'

So?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 11: The Mystery of Confession & Forgiveness

Confession is about forgiveness. I know, I know, sort of duh. But that's what the whole point is. Forgiveness and (re)admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

We start out by saying that forgiveness is sort of antithetical to this world. We're taught from the beginning that nothing is free. If someone is offering you something, 'no strings attached', there're *hidden* strings, and we better be even *more* suspicious.

But that's what forgiveness is. Totally free, we just have to ask for it. And, even more, it's not just the 'slate being wiped clean', but the guilt is removed as well. "In confession, the forgiveness we receive is nothing less than an act of love. If not only wipes out the badness of what is forgiven, but also (to use the expression in the form of the Lord's Prayer we use in the Church) forgives what is 'owed'." The Mystery of Forgiveness allows the individual to start over with a clean slate - it allows us to get rid of all the trash in our minds, the thoughts and feelings that drag us down.

Confession requires a 'safe space' - a place that the person feels secure in terms of secrecy and confidentiality. A lot of what is confessed are things that shame the penitent. By definition, they are things that are hard to talk about, and they're certainly not things that we want everybody and their brother to know about. The penitent also needs to have confidence in the priest who leads them toward the Mystery of Confession. They must feel absolutely certain that what they say will be confidential, and that he will not react in a shocked or abrupt manner. The priest is not there to *judge* the penitent, but rather to be a witness. God is the judge, and God desires the repentance, the inner transformation, of the one who has gone astray. Everything revealed must be met by the priest with empathy and his presence. What I mean is that his job is to listen. To be utterly present in the moment, and *listen* to what the person is saying. Not think five moves ahead to what he's going to advise them. Not wonder what his wife is making for supper, or wondering when he'd bruised his shin. He must be *present in the moment*, which is something everyone needs to strive for, remember?

"Except in very exceptional circumstances, which will be described to you should they ever occur, the priest is not allowed to act on any of the information you tell him in confession. If there is some reason he wants to talk about something you mentioned in confession at a later date, he is supposed to ask your permission first, and if you say 'no', that is the end of the matter.

"There is an old story I have heard in different forms in different languages. A priest is tested by God when someone goes to confession and says that he has had copies made of the keys to a particular house. Later the priest discovers that it is, in fact, his own house that is being described. The end of the story varies, but it is basically aimed at demonstrating that a good priest would not then go home and have his locks changed. He behaves as if the communication during confession never existed."

Again, the priest does not stand in judgment, that's God's 'job'. He is there as a witness. It is important to remember that in confession, there are two sinners standing there - the penitent and the priest. The importance of the Mystery of Confession lies, ultimately, in the difference that it makes to the life of the penitent. "The Mystery of Confession starts with estrangement and alienation from God, and ends with the path toward theosis."

In regards to the content of Confession: spontaneous thoughts are not sins. Nor are spontaneous feelings, and temptations are not sins. *Acting* on our feelings may be a sin - *acting* on a thought may be a sin, depending on the feeling or thought. Giving in to a temptation may be a sin. One must have intent for their action for it to be a sin. Something that you do unconsciously, without thought or intent, is not a sin. You aren't there to talk about other people, and what wrongs they may or may not have committed. You are there to speak of your shortfalls and sins. No one else.

The purpose of confession is to tell God (through the priest), of the sins we have committed. Not because He doesn't already know, better even than ourselves, but because we don't want to, but we need to. People always want others to think that they're nearly perfect, creating this outer version of themselves. On the other hand, we also tend to think less of ourselves than we really are. Our inner view of our self doesn't match the truth, or our projection of ourselves to others. Confession helps to remind us that we're not perfect, but also to lift us up, to prove to ourselves that we're not as bad as we think of ourselves.

Lastly, sin and responsibility. We've already mentioned that a sin is not a random thought or feeling, but what we do with them. Briefly thinking of stealing a thing doesn't become a sin until you act on that thought. In the same vein, we are only responsible for ourselves. We cannot pin our happiness or goodness on someone else.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Amityville Horror



Right, so, I was watching the 2005 remake the The Amityville Horror. Meh-y remake, but Ryan Reynolds, so I watch.


mmmm....Ryan Reynolds....*eyes go glassy and distant*

Anyway...

The case is fairly well known, even outside of paranormal, horror circles.

The story starts late in the night on November 12, 1974. Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shoots his mother, his father, and four siblings in their beds. He cleans up a bit, bathes, and goes to work like nothings going on the next day. That evening, the 13th, he rushes into a bar he frequented, claiming that he'd gone home and found them all dead. Ronnie DeFeo was taken into 'protective custody', because he was claiming that his father had had dealings with the mob, and that the murders were a hit. The next day, with the police suspicious because of inconsistencies in his story, he confessed to having murdered his family.

He claimed insanity, saying that voices in his head had told him to commit the murders. He was, in fact, a drug addict (heroin and LSD) and there are stories/evidence that his father was a abusive. There are also, though many people doubt the truth, rumors that Ronnie and his oldest sister had an incestuous relationship. On November 21, 1975 he was found guilty on six counts of second degree murder, and on December 4, 1975 he was sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life.

In December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz purchsed the DeFeo house and moved in with Kathy's three children from a previous marriage. The real estate agent did inform them of the murders the year before, but they decided to purchase the home anyway.

This is what the Lutz's *claim* happened after they moved in:

Much of the DeFeo's furniture was still in the house, since it had been included as part of the deal. A friend of George learned about the history of the house, and insisted on having it blessed. At the time, George was a non-practicing Methodist and had no experience of what this would entail. Kathy was a non-practicing Catholic and explained the process. George knew a Catholic priest named Father Ralph J. Pecoraro, who agreed to carry out the house blessing.

Father Pecoraro was a lawyer, a Judge of the Catholic Court and a psychotherapist who lived at the local Sacred Heart Rectory. He arrived to perform the blessing while George and Kathy were unpacking their belongings on the afternoon of December 23, 1975, and went in to the building to carry out the rites. When he flicked the first holy water and began to pray, he heard an audible, masculine voice demand that he "get out." When leaving the house, Father Pecoraro did not mention this incident to either George or Kathy. On December 24, 1975, Father Pecoraro telephoned George Lutz and advised him to stay out of the room where he had heard the mysterious voice. This was a room on the second floor that Kathy planned to use as a sewing room, and had been the bedroom of Marc and John Matthew DeFeo. The telephone call was cut short by static, and following his visit to the house, Father Pecoraro allegedly developed a high fever and blisters on his hands similar to stigmata.

At first, nothing unusual happened in the house. Talking about their experiences later, they reported that it was as if they "were each living in a different house."

Some of the experiences of the Lutz family at the house have been described as follows:

- George would wake up around 3:15 every morning and would go out to check the boathouse. Later he would learn that this was the estimated time of the DeFeo killings.

- The house was plagued by swarms of flies despite the winter weather.

- Kathy had vivid nightmares about the murders and discovered the order in which they occurred, and the rooms where they took place. The Lutzes' children also began sleeping on their stomachs, in the same way that the dead bodies in the DeFeo murders had been found.

- Kathy would feel a sensation as if "being embraced" in a loving manner, by an unseen force.

- Kathy discovered a small hidden room (around four feet by five feet) behind shelving in the basement. The walls were painted red and the room did not appear in the blueprints of the house. The room came to be known as "The Red Room." This room had a profound effect on their dog Harry, who refused to go near it and cowered as if sensing something negative.

- There were cold spots and odors of perfume and excrement in areas of the house where no wind drafts or piping would explain the source.

- While tending to the fire, George and Kathy saw the image of the devil with half his head blown out. It was burned into the soot in the back of the fireplace.

- The Lutzes' five year old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named "Jodie," a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.

- George would be woken up by the sound of the front door slamming. He would race downstairs to find the dog sleeping soundly at the front door. Nobody else heard the sound although it was loud enough to wake the house.

- George would hear what was described as a "German marching band tuning up" or what sounded like a clock radio playing not quite on frequency. When he went downstairs the noise would cease.

- George realized that he bore a strong resemblance to Ronald DeFeo, Jr., and began drinking at The Witches' Brew, the bar where DeFeo was once a regular customer.

- While checking the boathouse one night, George saw a pair of red eyes looking at him from Missy's bedroom window. When he went upstairs to her room, there was nothing to be found. Later it was suggested that it could have been "Jodie".

- While in bed, Kathy received red welts on her chest caused by an unseen force and was levitated two feet off the bed.

- Locks, doors and windows in the house were damaged by an unseen force.

- Cloven hoofprints attributed to an enormous pig appeared in the snow outside the house on January 1, 1976.

- Green slime oozed from walls in the hall, and also from the keyhole of the playroom door in the attic.

- A crucifix, hung in a closet by Kathy, revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.

- George tripped over a four foot high china lion which was an ornament in the living room, and was left with bite marks on one of his ankles.

- George saw Kathy transform into an old woman of ninety, "the hair wild, a shocking white, the face a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth."

After deciding that something was wrong with their house that they could not explain, George and Kathy Lutz carried out a blessing of their own on January 8, 1976. George held a silver crucifix while they both recited the Lord's Prayer, and while in the living room George allegedly heard a chorus of voices telling them “Will you stop?!”

By mid-January 1976, and after another attempt at a house blessing by George and Kathy, they experienced what would turn out to be their final night in the house. The Lutzes declined to give a full account of the events that took place on this occasion, describing them as "too frightening."

After getting in touch with Father Pecoraro, the Lutzes decided to take some belongings and stay at Kathy’s mother’s house in nearby Deer Park, New York until they had sorted out the problems with the house. They claimed that the phenomena followed them there, with "greenish-black slime" coming up the staircase towards them. On January 14, 1976 George and Kathy Lutz, with their three children and their dog Harry, left leaving most of their possessions behind. The next day, a mover came in to remove all of the possessions to send to the Lutzes. He reported no paranormal phenomena while inside the house.

They were put in touch with Jay Anson, who wrote a book based on their experiences, titled, of course, The Amityville Horror. The claim has always been that it's a true story, but many experts have problems with the claims.

The role of Father Pecoraro in the story has been given considerable attention. During the course of the lawsuit surrounding the case in the late 1970s, Father Pecoraro stated in an affidavit that his only contact with the Lutzes concerning the matter had been by telephone. Other accounts say that Father Pecoraro did visit the house but experienced nothing unusual there. Father Pecoraro gave what may have been his only on-camera interview about his recollections during an edition of In Search of... broadcast in 1980. In Search of... was a series of half-hour television documentaries about the paranormal, and was narrated by Leonard Nimoy. Father Pecoraro's face was obscured during the interview to preserve his anonymity. In the interview, he repeated the claim that he heard a voice saying "Get out", but stopped short of giving it a paranormal origin. He also stated that he felt a slap on his face during the visit, and that he did subsequently experience blistering on his hands. As with many areas of The Amityville Horror, the inconsistent accounts given by Father Pecoraro about the extent of his involvement with the Lutz family has led to more questions than answers.

The claims of physical damage to the locks, doors and windows were rejected by Jim and Barbara Cromarty, who bought the house for $55,000 in March 1977. In a television interview filmed at the house for That's Incredible!, Barbara Cromarty argued that they appeared to be the original items and had not been repaired. The That's Incredible! feature also showed that the "Red Room" was a small closet in the basement, and was known to the previous owners of the house since it was not concealed in any way. The claim made in Chapter 11 of the book that the house was built on a site where the local Shinnecock Indians had once abandoned the mentally ill and the dying was rejected by local Native American leaders. The claim of cloven hoofprints in the snow on January 1, 1976 was rejected by other researchers, since a check on the weather records showed that there had been no snow in Amityville on the day in question. Neighbors reported nothing unusual during the time that the Lutzes were living there. Police officers are shown visiting the house in the book and 1979 film, but records showed that the Lutzes did not call the police during the period that they were living on Ocean Avenue. There was no bar in Amityville called The Witches' Brew at the time, and Ronald DeFeo, Jr. was a regular at Henry's Bar, a short distance from 112 Ocean Avenue.

Critics including Stephen Kaplan pointed out that changes were made to the book as it was reprinted in different editions. In the original hardcover edition, Father Pecoraro's car is "an old tan Ford" and experiences an incident in which the hood flies up against the windshield while he is driving it. In later editions the car is described as a Chevy Vega, before reverting back to a Ford.

In May 1977 George and Kathy Lutz filed a lawsuit against William Weber (the defense lawyer for Ronald DeFeo, Jr. at his trial), Paul Hoffman (a writer working on an account of the hauntings), Bernard Burton and Frederick Mars (both alleged clairvoyants who had examined the house), along with Good Housekeeping magazine, the New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation, all of which had published articles related to the hauntings. The Lutzes alleged invasion of privacy, misappropriation of names for trade purposes, and mental distress, and claimed $4.5 million in damages. Hoffman, Weber, and Burton immediately filed a countersuit for $2 million alleging fraud and breach of contract. The claims against the news corporations were dropped for lack of evidence, and the remainder of the lawsuit was heard by Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein. In September 1979 Judge Weinstein dismissed the Lutzes' claims and observed in his ruling: "Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber." In the September 17, 1979 issue of People magazine, William Weber wrote: "I know this book is a hoax. We created this horror story over many bottles of wine." This refers to a meeting that Weber is said to have had with George and Kathy Lutz, during which they discussed what would later become the outline of Anson's book. Judge Weinstein also expressed concern about the conduct of William Weber and Bernard Burton relating to the affair, stating: “There is a very serious ethical question when lawyers become literary agents.”

George Lutz maintained that events in the book were "mostly true" and denied any suggestion of dishonesty on his part. In June 1979, George and Kathy Lutz took a lie detector test relating to their experiences at the house, which they both passed. In October 2000 The History Channel broadcast Amityville - The Haunting and Amityville - Horror or Hoax?, a two-part documentary made by horror screenwriter/producer Daniel Farrands to mark the 25th anniversary of the case. George Lutz commented in an interview for the program: "I believe this has stayed alive for 25 years because it's a true story. It doesn't mean that everything that has ever been said about it is true. It's certainly not a hoax. It's real easy to call something a hoax. I wish it was. It's not." The debate about the accuracy of The Amityville Horror continues, and despite the lack of evidence to corroborate much of the story, it remains one of the most popular haunting accounts in American folklore. The various owners of the house since the Lutz family left in 1976 have reported no problems while living there.

I personally fall on the side of it being a hoax. The Lutzes bought a house they couldn't afford, and when they had to abandon the home, they made up a story about it being haunted, capitalizing on the murders there so that they could make some money and get out of trouble. It's a great story, but there're too many things that have been called into question, too many things that don't add up with the claims.
On the other hand, I find this picture interesting, but given that it was taken during an investigation that is suspect due to the people involved, not enough to sway me to the story being true.





These're the same picture, the one on the right is just an enlargement of the 'thing that doesn't belong'. The people who were there at the time all swear that there were no children in the house, and no one in the doorway at the time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Kinder Report Day 10 & 'The Box'

Hmmm...we had a Communion Meeting today, so a lot of the kids (the older ones) weren't in class. So we did a movie day and watched some old cartooney things on the life of Jesus.

Unsurprisingly, when it came to the Temple, the video showed 'sacrifices'. No blood, nothing graphic, but it was clear the sheep was dead, and getting burnt up.

This displeased the children! like I cannot even describe. And then Deb said, while we were trying to explain, that 'they *thought* that's what God had told them to do' - whether I was right or wrong in saying it, I had to step in and correct her. God *did* tell the Jewish people to make animal sacrifices. It's not like they'd gone off on their own on this or anything. Of course, we explained that because of Christ, and His Perfect Sacrifice, we are no longer bound by the Old Testament Laws, and so we don't need to sacrifice animals. Which made the kids happy, and one, A, declared that she was going to be a vegetarian from now on. That's because she was mad they were being 'mean' to the animals, and we had the whole, 'where do you think we get burgers from' discussion.

Our Gospel was Mark 13: 24-32 - so we got to discuss (*briefly*) the idea of the Apocalypse and the End of the World. Have you ever tried to have a discussion like that with a room of six/seven year olds? And *not* give them nightmares? Yeah.

Our word was 'Act of Contrition', so I read the one from the back of the missalette I stole borrowed from the church. (Look, the DRE and Deacon G both told me it was okay, and I'm using it for church purposes...) And then we discussed, a little, about what Confession and Penance are like.

~~~

Okay, so, we went to see the movie 'The Box' this afternoon. Interesting. Not scary, but sort of old school scifi/suspense kind of thing. Here's the premise:

A man shows up at your house with a box. In this box, there's this device with a big red button on it. He explains, if you press the button, two things will happen: 1) Someone, somewhere in the world, whom you do not know, will die. 2) You get a million dollars.

So, what do you do?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Christianity: Yer Doin' It *Wrong*

Through my random trolling about the internet, I stumbled on this article: A Righteous Lie? I actually came to it through a link from this article, A moral conundrum, resolved with scripture. Keep in mind, if you go to the second article, that this is an atheist site, so...*hand wavey* be warned.

*However* it's the entire freaking premise of the *first* article that is the problem.

Here ya go:

It's Nazi Germany. You, a Christian citizen, either know the wherabouts of, or are personally hiding a family of Jews from the Third Reich.

Nazi's show up at your door, demanding the whereabouts of this family.

As a Christian, what do you do?

Now, my first answer, my second, third, fourth, final unto freakin' INFINITY answer is: Lie. My. Ass. Off. Lie, lie like the wind. Lie like a rug. Lie like I've never lied before. Lie and pray that the jackbooted thugs don't realize that I'm lying and go the hell away.

What is the answer of Mr. Bodie Hodge of 'Answers in Genesis' (hereafter referred to in my mind as Captain Douchebag), which appears to be a 'strict interpretation' Creationist website? (So we know I love them already, *blech*)

TELL THE NAZI'S WHERE THE FAMILY IS HIDING!

Why, you may ask, are we handing over an innocent family to people who want to imprison, torture, and murder them in ways most people would never even think of because they're so fucking horrific?

Because: Lying is a sin.

*head desk to infinity*

No no, really. *holds up hands like a scale* Lying to SAVE LIVES vs. HANDING THEM OVER TO THEIR MURDERERS?

How is that even a QUESTION?

I would lie. All the people I know would lie. ANYONE WITH A SOUL WOULD LIE! And if you wouldn't lie, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU!

You're honestly telling me you think you can do that, then go before God when you die, and He's not gonna call you on that?

"Oh, oh, Um, I see here that you, ah, handed over a family to the Nazi's. Care to explain?"

"well, lyings a sin, see, and i didn't wanna lie and everybody dies anyway and maybe it was Your plan and..."

"Ah. I see...*cough* ARE YOU DEFICIENT?" *smites**presses button for secretary* "Janice, yes, please call Charon, I need him to give Mr. Missed-the-Point a ride down south. Thanks."

*twitches in rage*

One of the things he says is that you don't know for sure that your lie will save a life. To this, I say, SO. WHAT.

Yeah, maybe the Nazi's wouldn't believe you. Maybe they'd insist on searching and find them anyway, and you'd be taken along with the Jewish family. SO WHAT? There is right, and there is wrong. Handing innocent people over to be murdered is WRONG! It's ALWAYS WRONG!

You know what this is? It's an *excuse for COWARDICE*. CD up there is thinking about being in this situation, and he's AFRAID that the Nazi's will take him, and do terrible, awful things to him. So, instead, he's managed to figure out a way to save his own ass and justify it.

So the Nazi's find them. You die. Is it pretty? Probably not. But you die having done the right thing. You get to go before God, saying, "I tried. I gave it my all." And I'd sure as hell rather do that, than live my life *knowing* I'd sent innocents to their death and then have to face God with that on my soul.

B&W, W&O Chapter 10: Divine Liturgy & Holy Communion

"At the very heart of the practice of the Christian faith is the act of participation in the offering of bread and wine. A simple response of the Church to the commandment, 'Do this in remembrance of Me' (Luke 22:19), the Divine Liturgy is the time when the Church is really the Church in a way it is not at other times. The Divine Liturgy is eternity in time, and for those who take part, it is the experience of the Kingdom which both is and is to come."

The Divine Liturgy is a source of strength to those who believe, to those who are trying to follow the commands and precepts of the Gospel. "It is joy, consolation, encouragement, and instruction. It is commitment - not only our commitment to God, but also God's commitment to us. In its celebration, heaven and earth blend into each other, and God touches His Church, both at a corporate level - the Body of Christ standing in the body of the church, meeting with and participating in the Body of Christ in the holy chalice - and at an individual level: the people approach the holy chalice one by one to experience a personal encounter with the King of the universe."

The Church, during the Divine Liturgy, is transfigured into an expression of the Kingdom - a living expression of the presence of God in His world.

The Liturgy of the Word - It begins with the hymn, 'Holy God', and prayers that surround this hymn. The priest, standing at the altar, and representing the entire Church, tells God that He is holy. "This statement, so obvious, so potent, challenges and defeats all and every power wishing to disrupt the relationship between God and His Church. We acknowledge God as holy, we acknowledge God as strong, we acknowledge God as immortal - and the only possible topping of this statement, the only possible response to the greatness of God, is to plead for mercy."

The epistle is read, with the Church in 'listening mode'. It reminds us that there are times when the entire Church must listen to the voice of God. The bishop sits in his throne, behind the holy table, facing the people. The clergy sit to either side of him, and the people of the church sit or stand, listening to the words of the apostle (which is read outside of the altar area).

The Gospel, in contrast, is proclaimed, and no one sits during its reading. The Gospel is the life and work of Lord, and often contains the very words He spoke - the 'listening', the attentiveness of the Church must rise to an even higher level. It is in these words that the Church finds the very reason for her existence. After the Gospel, the priest delivers his sermon. After both of these, the major prayers of intercession take place.

The Liturgy of the Gifts - The bread and wine are carried to the holy table at the great entrance. This is, at its heart, the presentation of the offerings of the people. There are hymns, and prayers, instructing the people to put aside the cares of the world (no easy task). The life of Christ is (slowly - this is not something to be rushed through) memorialized, and the words of the Last Supper proclaimed. The entire Church waits for the Holy Spirit to intervene, to complete the offering and thus the transformation. During this time, various Christian virtues are highlighted. Just before the recitation of the creed (sans Filioque, of course) the priest calls on the congregation to *love* one another. "The idea of the Church as a congregation of love is not simply a pretty thought: it is an absolute necessity for the expression of the faith. Any amount of right doctrine is of no importance at all if it is not shared in love. We need to be constantly reminded in this way that faith depends on love, not on a worldly desire to be right. Nowhere does Jesus command His disciples to be 'right'. Rather, He commands them to be 'righteous'." This holds just as true for us as it did for them 2,000 years ago. We cannot offer faith, since that is a gift from God, but we can offer love.

Holy Communion - I'm not really sure what to say about this section. I mean, it's rather cut and dried, from the outside. The Orthodox fast from midnight on Sunday, and there are specific prayers (I don't know the details of everything done to prepare for Communion in the Orthodox Church, but I know it's not simple) done to prepare one for Communion. Then, when it is time, you walk up and receive (I believe that the Orthodox receive both the Body and the Blood in bread and wine, as opposed to Catholicism, where one may receive one or the other or both, depending on ones inclination or the practices of a specific parish). All done very solemnly and worshipfully, of course. But, that's just the motions. That's just what you would see, watching as an observer. Is that all that goes on?

No.

I have, of course, never taken Communion at an Orthodox Church. I've never even attended Divine Liturgy, though I will, one day. But I can tell you, at Mass, when I go up for Communion, it's more than just what you can see with your eyes. You're encountering *God*. You're one with the whole Church, both on earth, and beyond. Here, now, and at every place and time before and after this moment.

*holds up hands* How can you describe something spiritual and transcendent? I don't know. Even coming up with words, doesn't do it justice. So I'm leaving it at that. To us, it's not just a ceremony, not just bread and wine. It's not something we trot out once a month. We take Christ at His word.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's a 'chibi'?

Hi there, welcome to the fannish post. :)

LK has a series called 'Respect the Veil'. It's both informative *and* entertaining. She infotains us. In the comic, there's a character she calls 'Minnie', who is a chibi. And, of course, me being me, the cuteness of chibi distracted me. :) So, when I decided to do a fun post, it was between chibi's and comic book characters. I went with the chibi.

A chibi, in common usage, refers to the small, 'super deformed' version of an anime/manga character. Chibi's are used, in serious story lines as well as humorous ones, to exaggerate a response. The character, when surprised, happy, shocked, angry, sad, hungry, whatever, suddenly transforms from their normal self into this miniature version, which resembles a small child. The chibi is usually not proportionally correct - their heads are slightly too large for their bodies.

This started out in Japanese comics, but I've noticed that American comics have also picked this up, in slightly adjusted forms. Nowhere near as often as in the originals, but every so often, I spot a chibi. And have any of you seen those Marvel figures, the Super Hero Squad? Chibis.

So, here's some examples (if you google chibi, you'll get a *ton*, but many of them are fan drawings, so I only gave a few that I know are official art - I don't want to steal anybody's stuff accidentally.):

Right, first we have Ginji from Get Backers. On the left is his normal form(okay, wait, let me be *way* too specific for people who don't know this anime: it's technically his Lightning Lord form, which looks like his normal, every day self, except for, you know, the near sociopathy, hair standing up, and, um, lightning), on the right, chibi.


Next, the cast (mostly) of Fushigi Yuugi (which is an *awesome* series by the *amazing* mangaka Yuu Watase - I may have to do a whole post about her and this series later on...):




And, here's my *favorite* character from Fushigi Yuugi, Tasuki:



And here's some of the Super Hero Squad figures I mentioned. Chibi's, I swear it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 9: The Mystery of Chrismation

"The prayers of the chrismation service speak of grace - the grace of the gift of the Holy Spirit - as a reminder that when we enter into the life of God through baptism and chrismation, we are totally and obviously on the receiving end of God's love. All we need do is to be present. God promises to do all the rest. No one can be naturally worthy of baptism or chrismation - it is a free gift, and the only possible authentic response is grateful acceptance."

One of the strongest pieces of symbolism with chrismation is that of being 'marked'. Marked for the Kingdom. Marking a person is a powerful biblical image, beginning with Cain and Abel and continuing right on through the Book of Revelation. Markings are made so that people or objects can be known. Cain's marking was to let people know to leave him alone, rather than seek revenge for Abel's killing. His 'therapy', his opportunity for repentance, was to remain alive, rather than lose himself to death. The story of Cain and Abel (especially the marking of Cain), is misunderstood quite often. What it actually does is serve to underline the fact that the spiritual path is open to everyone at any time, no matter how bad they are or how bad they *think* they are. However, the path is not an easy one, and there's always work to be done while on it.

The mark of chrismation is invisible and indelible. No matter how badly we perform, no matter what struggles we have, we are marked for God, and we are marked for life.

Being 'in communion' is more than just the ability to receive Holy Communion together. It's a sense of place and belonging, of common thought and belief and purpose. This is shared throughout the Church, both those members on earth, and those who have passed from this life. Death is no barrier to being in communion.

"Thus the sense of belonging, an adoption of an essential identity, is paramount in the way in which the Orthodox Church sees herself. This provides the human personality with great comfort in a world often seen to be hostile, projecting a clear sense of alienation. The gift of the Holy Spirit, the dynamic spiritual movement, gives the person a sense of belonging that the world is unable to eradicate."

The second aspect of the mark is that we become inheritors of the gifts of the Spirit. In place of fear and greed, we are presented with generosity and confidence. In place of insecurity and alienation, we are firmly given a sense of belonging and identity.

And finally, we are 'sealed'. We are made 'special' (though God makes us all equally special), and reserved for God.

He does, in the last section, cover the fact that adults can convert to the Orthodox Church through means of chrismation alone. He doesn't go into much detail, but the impression I get is that it works similar to how it does in the Catholic Church. Once baptized properly (Trinitarian formulae), one cannot be baptised again. So for those who come from a tradition that practices proper baptism, they are chrismated, but not baptised.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

B&W, W&O Chapter 8: Birth and Baptism

Huh. Perhaps a theme? My last post was about sex, now I'm posting about birth and rebirth (Baptism). :)

The chapter starts with the mention of the tradition of the 'Churching of Women' (I don't know what it's called in Orthodoxy, but that's what I've seen it called in Catholic traditions.)

On or around the fortieth day after a baby is born, the mother and child present themselves at the door of the church. This follows the traditions followed by the Virgin Mary and Christ after His own birth. She is welcomed by the priest (and the congregation if possible). Prayers are said for the mother and child, welcoming her back into the full communion of the Church now that she has completed the holy and life-giving task of childbirth.

"These particular attitudes, which have their roots firmly within Jewish tradition, have as their general foundation a deep and mysterious understanding of the relationship between life and blood.

"The key to understanding and coming to terms with these attitudes lies in the fact that the Jewish tradition made little distinction between things that were unclean because they were dirty or soiled and things that were unclean because they were too holy to touch. Texts of Holy Scripture and dead bodies were both capable of imparting this sense of impurity, but the most significant substance in this regard is almost certainly blood. Even a quick perusal of some of the sections of the Old Testament regarding ritual impurity reveals that blood not only has a very interesting symbolism of its own (which for Orthodox Christians finds its highest expression in the words of Jesus at the Mystical Supper), but also connects some major themes that run through Jewish and Christian tradition: life and death, marriage and birth, sacrifice and redemption, sin and forgiveness.

"The notion of impurity in the Jewish sense, which means that something or someone is barred from participation in temple worship, carries no automatic sense of being morally or physically impure. It has context and meaning in terms of temple worship which has been lost in the modern world.

"The state of a woman after childbirth is that she is impure in a ritual sense, not through being dirty or unclean, but because she is too holy. She has participated in the co-creation of a human life and has thus worked closely with God during the process of childbirth, from early pregnancy until well after the child is born. This places her in a unique and significant spiritual condition."


This isn't a punishment, but a blessing. It allows the new mother to rest after the exertions of childbirth and gives mother and child time to bond. (And, of course, this is not a tradition that is practiced in all parishes in the US). The fortieth day ends this special period for her, and marks the return to 'normal space'. In the Church books there's a prayer on the day of the child's birth, naming the child on the eighth day, and the prayers on the fortieth day. These all remind us that the entire rhythm of birth is sanctified. Included in the prayers on the fortieth day is a mention of the fact that the child will be brought back to the church to take part in the Mystery of Holy Baptism.

Prior to Baptism, the parents must choose a godparent for their child. Unlike in the Protestant traditions, where godparent is something of a honorary, do nothing position (for instance, my mother is godmother to a girl who is Lutheran, while my mother is technically Mennonite - in the 'old days', this wouldn't have been allowed, as the godparent has to raise the child in the faith they're baptised in, should something happen to the parents), the godparent in Orthodoxy has a large roll to play in the baptism (especially of an infant - they make all the required responses for their godchild) and are the ones responsible for the religious upbringing of the child (as opposed to the parents. They are to make certain that the child gets to church frequently and receives Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy. The relationship between child and godparent is so important that it is as powerful as a blood relation. "In practice, this means that the various godchildren of a godparent are related to one another, and are therefore not able to marry each other." In parts of the church this is taken so seriously that a person has either godsons or goddaughters, never both, to solve the problem of possible intermarrying later on in life. The godparent, clearly, must be a practicing member of the Orthodox Church, and someone who is able and wiling to take their spiritual role very seriously.

First, the symbolism of water. Look, water, whether we acknowledge it or not, is extremely important for our survival. We can live for longer without food than without water. When scientists are looking at other planets, one of the very first (if not *the* first) things they look for is water. Without water, no life. Ask anybody who's ever been in a desert. We have conflicting reactions to water. It's the source of life, but it can also kill us. It sustains us and cleans us. We live in it for nine months, and are born through it.

Religiously, we use it to purify ourselves in ritualistic fashion. It may have started as a practicality, but it developed, over millenia, into a very refined process, until it had nothing to do with physical cleanliness, but ritually pure, which is where we are now. (Not saying we don't still wash to be physically clean, because you *better*, but we're dealing with washing oneself in religious purpose.) "The theme of baptism in the early experience of the Christian Church makes one clear distinction from the earlier Jewish practices. For Christians, baptism was almost entirely cut off from any notion of physical cleansing. Rather, it was an action in which God makes an indelible mark in the person being baptized. The cry of the Forerunner links baptism not only with repentance, but also with the proclamation of the Kingdom."

Why do we baptize? The answer is actually contained in the readings towards the end of the baptismal service, when the priest reads the last four verses of St. Matthew's Gospel, which include these words: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28: 19-20). To be a member of the Church is to be a disciple - to have a personal relationship with God that will never be taken away. This relationship begins at baptism.

Baptism follows the example of the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Forerunner. It's not something that was a 'good idea' that developed into a Mystery. Like all the Mysteries, baptism was given to us by Christ, for our own good. It has been the same since the beginning, even if there have been times and people where the full understanding of them has been absent.

"If, at baptism, the priest or bishop takes the part of St. John the Forerunner, the person being baptized takes the part of Jesus Himself. This is not a mere symbol, nor is it sacrilegious in any way. On the contrary, the whole point of Christian baptism is that the person being baptized should find their identity in the Savior. The process commences when the person identified with Jesus in the Mystery of Baptism, and thus finds his identity as a member of the Body of Christ. Later, this identity grows to become the dominant and eternal part of the person's complete identity. This is the indelible mark of baptism: a person is given a new identity within the Body of Christ and starts a new, eternal life."

Because of this, on older person often takes a new name at baptism in order to mark the transition from one life to another. They are now a child of the Kingdom. From the moment they emerge from the water, a new life begins. This is one of the reasons that the Orthodox Church has never withheld baptism from young children. "In answer to those who ask whether a child is able to understand what is happening to him, most Orthodox would reply that even an adult does not understand what happens when he participates in the Holy Mysteries. Belonging to the Church is not a matter of intellectual choice, but a matter of God gathering His people."

Children, from baptism, are full members of the Orthodox Church, and so are not denied Communion until a later point in their lives.

The Baptismal Service (I'm going to try and be brief, really. The description of the service in the book is eleven pages long, so I'm trying to just hit the highlights.)

The Catechumenate - In the past, it was very important that the Church know that the people being admitted weren't spies from the forces persecuting it. For this reason, there developed a period of preparation for baptism, where the people were not yet baptised, but had shown that they were good people, intent on joining the Church. They were given a certain amount of time to prove by their way of life that they were serious about their intentions. The modern baptismal service begins with a prayer admitting the person to the numbers of the catechumens. In the modern Church people are generally made catechumens a few minutes before they're baptized (we're not being persecuted, and there's no need for spies...), although in congregations with large numbers of adults wanting to join the Church, the status of catechumen has been revived. This is a status that can, technically, last for months or years, depending on the persons level of readiness to become a full member of the Church. The baptismal service starts in the narthex. The priest breathes three times on the face of the candidate (echoing God breathing life into Adam), and makes the sign of the cross on the candidate from forehead to breast. The candidate is to be clothed in a single garment, facing east, unshod. This practice reminds us of God's command to Moses when he approached the burning bush. "This is holy ground." The custom has not been kept in all parts of the church, but in the Oriental churches, they worship without shoes in this custom.

The Exorcisms - There is no head spinning, pea soup spewing. Contain your disappointment. :) These prayers are designed to make the person being baptized aware that there is a certain and definite change going on in their life, and that being delivered from the various evil influences and impulses that, realized or not, may have ruled their life to that point is an important part of that transformation. In the last of the prayers, the powers of evil are described in some detail before the spirits are commanded to leave. They are banished at the word of the priest, a power given by Christ to the apostles, and handed down to the priests. If any power or presence of evil has any interest whatsoever in the life of the person to be baptized (adult or child), that evil is commanded to depart.

Facing East, Rejecting Satan, and Turning to Christ - The candidate, godparents, and priest turn to the west, to confront and then to defy and reject the powers of darkness. The priest asks, "Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his worship, and all his angels and all his pomp?" three times, and the candidate (or in the case of children, godparent) responds three times, "I reject him." The question, "Have you rejected him?" is asked three times, and the response is, "I have rejected him." three times again. The seal is set on this decision by the priest instructing the candidate (or godparent) to "Then blow and spit upon him." At which point you spit at the devil. (Okay, I totally read that and cringed - you know that song, 'you don't tug on Superman's cape'? Yeah. Like that.) Now, it's not like you hock a giant lugie or anything, it's...'polite compliance'. It's more the idea, 'Spitting in the devil's eye!' A final, 'And the horse you road in on!'. After this, in what I view as a continuation of the previous event (think of it as all one action, you're turning from evil and the world, *to* God and goodness), the candidate, godparent and priest turn around and face east. They are then asked three times, "Do you turn to Christ?" and the response is, "I turn to Christ. And then, "Have you turned to Christ?", to which the response is, "I have turned to Him." They are then instructed (in opposition to the spitting before), to submit to God, to bow down and worship Him. The priest then leads the candidate to the font, saying, "Blessed is God, who wills that all men should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth, always, now and forever and to the ages of ages." (Note: 'unto ages of ages' is something I hear at the end of Orthodox prayers a lot.) At the font, a final prayer is prayed, and the preliminary service is ended.

The Baptism Proper - The candidate changes into (? - he specifically talks about babies being changed into towels or some other clothing that can be easily removed, so I'm not certain if adults also change, or if they start out wearing something they can be baptised in) their baptismal clothing and the priest puts on his outer vestment, a phelonion, because this is a central Holy Mystery of the Church. Incense is blessed, and the atmosphere becomes filled with anticipation. Something Important is about to happen.

The priest makes the sign of the cross over the place of baptism with the Book of the Gospels, just as he does at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, therefore allowing the baptismal font to take on some of the characteristics of the holy altar. A place where God is present, and a place of offering. The water is then blessed, and exorcised, in case there is some little presence of evil 'hiding and lurking' in the water.

Next, the oil used to mark the candidate as a catechumen is blessed. Once blessed, the priest pours it three times in the from of a cross on the baptismal water. The candidate is then anointed on several parts of this body, with appropriate verses from Scripture spoken at each anointing. (He speaks of the godparent then covering the child with the remaining oil, but I'm not certain if this carries over to adult converts as well.)

The child is placed in the water three times, and the wording is pronounced, "The servant of God ___, is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (I *think* that adult converts are also baptized by immersion, but this is the way the author describes it, so it's what I type.)

The Chrismation - Okay, the chrismation is actually a separate Mystery, but it's performed right after Baptism. The Chrism oil is not the same oil as the baptismal oil (which, up until the priest blesses it, can be olive oil from the grocery). The Chrism oil is blessed by (generally) a patriarch or the head of an independent church, and even then only on fairly rare occasions. So it's used carefully, reverently, and (I imagine) sparingly. The catechumen is anointed in the same manner as earlier by the priest, with the intonation, "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is the agent of each and every Mystery. In chrismation, the action of the Holy Spirit is sealing the act of baptism. "The water of baptism will dry up, but the action of the Holy Spirit seals the action of baptism for all time."

The Tonsure and Clothing - A few more ceremonies follow the chrismation. The cutting of the hair, in the form of a cross is so far removed from our daily lives that its not at all obvious as to why it's done. In the past, one way to mark a slave was to cut off all their hair. In Baptism, we transition from one life to the next - from slavery to the world, to enslavement to God. "It is worth bearing in mind that from the moment of baptism onwards, whenever that person comes to the church for anything official or significant, he will be given the title 'the slave of God' followed by his baptismal name. This is the case when he comes for Holy Communion, to be married, to be anointed, and, eventually, when he is carried into church for the last time. Far from being a cause for shame, the title 'slave of God' is one we should carry with great pride, since it is in being a slave of God that we enjoy perfect freedom."

Next, the candidate is given a white garment to wear. In the past, the newly baptized returned in a week, still wearing the white garment, to have it removed. Of course, the difficulties of keeping anyone (especially a baby!) in a white garment for a week are obvious. However, the church maintains the tradition of the giving of the garment, and then the prayers for its removal eight days later, as well as a symbolic removal of the oils of baptism and chrismation.

In some cases, a cross is also given to the newly baptised.

The baptism is concluded with a joyful (though sedate) dance around the font, followed by readings from the Scripture. Prayers for the neophyte, as well as prayers for the godparents, parents, and everyone else present at the ceremony follow, and then the dismissal. (Typically there's a secular party afterwards as well.)

When Can Catholics Have Sex?

I know that there are many misunderstandings out there about the Catholic faith. I recently came across this article (I think it's actually a small book reproduced on the internet) addressing the Catholic teaching on sex, and while glancing through it as it printed out (I print out longer things like this because I find my eyes swim if I try to read them online, and it's impossible to highlight and write notes on the screen!), I found this paragraph which address a misunderstanding. So I decided to share. :)

The below is quoted from a much longer article 'Morals and Marriage: The Catholic Background to Sex' by T.G. Wayne. It has both the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur, so it is free of doctrinal error. This is just the passage most relevant to the question:

MOTIVES

The morality of a human act is not only determined by a consideration of its general nature. The abstract must be made concrete. Consequently the personal motives for a particular action must also be taken into account. In this connection it may be asked: should husband and wife seriously intend to have a child whenever they have intercourse and should they try to restrict intercourse to those times when the conception of a child is possible?

The answer is negative. There are other valid reasons for intercourse besides procreation. These are the healthy expression of passion, the fostering of mutual love, the strengthening of the sacramental bond of marriage. These are worthy motives, implying the human love and devotion of marriage, including more than the mere appetite for pleasure, which is not a sufficient motive for any action. The intention of trying to have a child is not necessary as a regular motive.


All healthy married people who are capable of bearing and rearing children are under some obligation in the matter, but the command applies more directly to their married state than to each and every act of intercourse. There may be good reasons for intercourse, the bodily and spiritual welfare of them both, at times when conception is impossible or unlikely or undesirable. Of course they must reserve their impulses, for marriage does not legitimize sex indulgence in any form, but rather requires the exercise of purity as much as does a single life. On this supposition, however, the satisfaction of sex without the intention of procreating is according to the divinely-appointed nature of marriage, so long as the act is life-offering, serving to strengthen the sacramental bond and to assure the stability of family life on which the welfare of children in general depends.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

St. John Climacus

“An angel fell from Heaven without any other passion except pride, and so we may ask whether it is possible to ascend to Heaven by humility alone, without any other of the virtues.” - from The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The Kinder Report Day 9

Adam and Eve took up most of the day, because, well, you have to go over the creation, and the kids had a *list* of animals they wanted to know if God created.

I got tired of it, and said, 'God created *all* the animals, even the platypus.' Which led to another discussion, because some of the kids didn't realize the platypus was a real animal. :)

Deb found a little coloring book of the story online that we made copies of and had the kids color and read the story from that.

Our Gospel was Mark 12: 38-44. I think the kids understood that it's not just when we have an excess or it's convenient for us that we need to give to God (and I'm certainly not talking about just money here, but time, attention, etc.), because it's *easy* then, but God's not asking us to only do easy things, but to obey Him at all times, even when it's tough.

Our word was 'Reconciliation', and that's what Deb suggested they write in their letters today. What they thought about the word, about the Sacrament, whether they were nervous about it, whether they were looking forward to it, just anything. Of course the kids don't *have* to write about what we suggest, but it does help them sometimes if we give them ideas.

Our random conversation involved whether it was better to use a hand grenade or a grenade launcher. This, of course, was a 'boy' conversation. :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

1st Annual Book Give Away

Okay, two things, before anyone points them out: a) It cannot actually be 'annual' until I've had more than one. I know this, but I'm using it anyway, because I like the sound. b) By 'annual', I actually mean whenever I feel like it, or my 'books I'm not keeping nook' gets fullish.

I have books I no longer want, for one reason or another. I wish to give them away. I could trade them in to a used bookstore, but since the end goal is a tightening and consolidating of my collection, and trading in means getting more books, I think this is the best way.

This is how it works:

1. Comment listing which books you want.

2. Email me which books you want and an address I can mail them to (sadly, my ability to mail outside of the states is on hold at the moment, so if you live anywhere but the US, unless you have someone in the US I can ship to who is willing to pass them on, I can't get the books to you) at akelios@ yahoo.com (remove the space). I'm having you comment so that others will know if the books are already taken, since this is a first come, first serve kind of thing.

3. I will email you back confirming the books and then mail them out as soon as possible. No charge, not even for postage, as I still have access to free domestic shipping.

And now for the books:

In the category of paranormal romance/chick lit, we have:

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta
Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken
Witch Blood by Anya Bast
Tempt Me With Darkness by Shayla Black
The Accidental Human by Dakota Cassidy

In Mystery:

The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes
Murder in the Raw by C.S. Challinor

In the category of These Require Warnings:

Sea Dragon Heir (warning: consensual sibling incest)
Wraeththu (warning: hermaphroditism, homosexual sex, wonky magical doings)
The Thorn Boy (warning: all of the above) - all of these are by Storm Constantine

Sharks:

Jaws
White Shark - both by Peter Benchley

Random Chick Lit:

The Pretend Wife - Bridget Asher

Books That Are a Part of a Series & I wound up with two copies:

Blood Debt - Tanya Huff (vampire detective mystery)
The Mummy Case - Elizabeth Peters (Egyptology mystery! I *love* this series!)

Richard Sharpe Adventure Series (all by Bernard Cornwell):

Sharpe's Eagle
Sharpe's Sword
Sharpe's Company
Sharpe's Gold
Sharpe's Fortress
Sharpe's Trafalgar
Sharpe's Triumph
Sharpe's Tiger
Sharpe's Prey
Sharpe's Escape
Sharpe's Waterloo
Sharpe's Siege
Sharpe's Enemy
Sharpe's Havoc


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Oh! Does anyone know how to do the strike through on text? I don't know how, and I'd like to use it to cross books off if they get claimed... Sanil has solved my problem. Thanks Sanil! :)

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On a note vaguely related to books, I have discovered that I like large, manly men with beards. This confuses me, as previously I was not a fan of beards. And I'm not talking Gerard Butler kind of men, just...men. Big men, not twiggy things. Not that there's anything wrong with skinny little guys. I'm just saying, if I can bend them in two, we better have deep, deep mental things to talk about.
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