Friday, August 27, 2010

My daughter Christine

I promise that a real blog post will be forthcoming.  Lots to talk about: moving, new job, new parish, new house, new state, the whole nine yards.  At the moment I'm at a Dunkin' Donuts in Boston, MA, having spent the last several hours at Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline.  This is my opportunity to introduce to you our daughter...or at least her patron.

Felicity and I spent several weeks thinking we were going into labor.  Three to be exact.  One night of almost constant pain for Felicity, we ran into St. Christina of Tyre.  I say "ran into" as though it were an accident.  Understanding that she stepped up and presented herself to us, we prayed, asking for her help, and "dedicating" our daughter to her.  Here is her icon and her hagiography as it appears on the OCA website:

Martyr Christina of Tyre
Commemorated on July 24
The Martyr Christina lived during the third century. She was born into a rich family, and her father was governor of Tyre. By the age of 11 the girl was exceptionally beautiful, and many wanted to marry her. Christina's father, however, envisioned that his daughter should become a pagan priestess. To this end he placed her in a special dwelling where he had set up many gold and silver idols, and he commanded his daughter to burn incense before them. Two servants attended Christina.

In her solitude, Christina began to wonder who had created this beautiful world. From her room she was delighted by the stars of the heavens and she constantly came back to the thought about the Creator of all the world. She was convinced, that the voiceless and inanimate idols in her room could not create anything, since they themselves were created by human hands. She began to pray to the One God with tears, entreating Him to reveal Himself. Her soul blazed with love for the Unknown God, and she intensified her prayer all the more, and combined it with fasting.

One time Christina was visited by an angel, who instructed her in the true faith in Christ, the Savior of the world. The angel called her a bride of Christ and told her about her future suffering. The holy virgin smashed all the idols standing in her room and threw them out the window. In visiting his daughter Christina's father, Urban, asked her where all the idols had disappeared. Christina was silent. Then, having summoned the servants, Urban learned the truth from them.

In a rage the father began to slap his daughter's face. At first, the holy virgin remained quiet, but then she told her father about her faith in the One True God, and that she had destroyed the idols with her own hands. Urban gave orders to kill all the servants in attendance upon his daughter, and he gave Christina a fierce beating and threw her in prison. Having learned about what had happened, St Christina's mother came in tears, imploring her to renounce Christ and to return to her ancestral beliefs. But Christina remained unyielding. On another day, Urban brought his daughter to trial and urged her to offer worship to the gods, and to ask forgiveness for her misdeeds. Instead, he saw her firm and steadfast confession of faith in Christ.

The torturers tied her to an iron wheel, beneath which they lit a fire. The body of the martyr, turning round on the wheel, was scorched on all sides. They then threw her into prison.

An angel of God appeared at night, healing her wounds and strengthening her with food. Her father, seeing her unharmed, gave orders to drown her in the sea. An angel sustained the saint while the stone sank down, and Christina miraculously came out of the water and reappeared before her father. In terror, the torturer imputed this to sorcery and he decided to execute her in the morning. That night he himself suddenly died. Another governor, Dion, was sent in his place. He summoned the holy martyr and also tried to persuade her to renounce Christ, but seeing her unyielding firmness, he again subjected her to cruel tortures. The holy martyr was for a long while in prison. People began to flock to her, and she converted them to the true faith in Christ. Thus about 300 were converted.

In place of Dion, a new governor Julian arrived and resumed the torture of the saint. After various torments, Julian gave orders to throw her into a red-hot furnace and lock her in it. After five days they opened the furnace and found the martyr alive and unharmed. Seeing this miracle take place, many believed in Christ the Savior, and the torturers executed St Christina with a sword.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New baby!

We have a new baby.  That's right.  Felicity gave birth yesterday afternoon to a beautiful baby girl. Father was able to get to the hospital that night in order to say the prayers for Felicity and for new baby!

O Lord our God, to thee we pray, and on the we call, Let the light of thy countenance be signed on this thine handmaid, Christine, and be she signed with the cross of Thine only-begotten Son in her heart and understanding, that she may flee the vanity of the world and every evil device of the enemy, and may keep thy commandments; and grant, O Lord, that thy holy name may remain upon her unrenounced, when at the fitting time she shall be conjoined with thy holy church, and be perfected with the terrible mysteries of thy Christ, that, living according to thy commandments and preserving the seal unbroken, she may attain to the blessedness of thine elect in thy kingdom, through the grace and love to man of thine only-begotten Son, with whom thou art blessed, together with thy most holy, and good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and to ages of ages.  Amen.

Hail, grace accorded God-bearing Virgin!  for out of thee the sun of righteousness, Christ our God, hath shined, enlightening them that are in darkness.  And thou, O Righteous elder, be thou glad, receiving in thine arms the deliverer of our souls, even him that granteth resurrection unto us.

The preceding prayers were from the Book of Needs found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, a ministry of Calvin College

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Picking diamonds out of dustbins

I feel like this post could be about any number of things: my daughter's impending birth; our imminent move to New York; or the growing relationship between us and the Orthodox Church and its feasts, saints, and fasts.  The last topic may be closest to a summary of the forthcoming post.  You be the judge.

I told my father the other day, that you don't know how bad a sinner you are until you start realizing how amazing God is.  It's that understanding of God's greatness and my desperate need for His forgiveness and mercy that has hit me like a ton of bricks this past month, specifically.  God is amazing and holy.  I am sinful and broken.  That sinfulness and brokenness is also dangerous, because it tends to hit everyone else with the shrapnel of the little bombs that go off in my life.

I don't know what it is that makes my sin become more apparent while becoming Orthodox than my righteousness.  I know that's an arrogant question, but it is the question I've been asking.  I really wish that people could see my growing faith and piety rather than be scandalized by my apparent regression.  It's frustrating, and it's the life I'm living in as we speak.

I'm praying that God will forgive me every day, and every day I find more reasons to ask for forgiveness.  I pray for God to give me mercy and strength to make it through the day, and every day I feel like I fall into bed exhausted and defeated by the weight of sin and struggle that rests on my shoulders every day.

Please pray for us.  Please pray for my wife as she gives birth to our new daughter.  Please pray for us as we move all of our worldly possessions once again to a new place.  Pray that as more sharp edges get revealed they get smoothed once again.  Most of all forgive me.  If you run into me and get struck by the shrapnel of my sin, please forgive me and pray for me.  God is love.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Living in the desert

I'm having a bad day.  I'd like to just begin by saying that.  I've pounded my keyboard, slammed down on the left click button of my mouse, and have generally ignored the world around me for the last hour.  I'm not sure what crawled up my hinder and died, but it's something.  I want to give you the context for this post--at least emotionally--before things get rolling.  You've all been warned.

I borrowed this picture from S-P's blog at  I found it the other day, and I found it both funny, satirical, and convicting all at the same time.  Since deciding to become catechumens, I've been giving a lot of thought to the direction of our lives.  Suddenly questions of "how long..." are coming to the forefront; whereas before I was more than contented to think in terms of years down the road--if at all.  I think I expected that something would come up (as my parents do now) that would prevent me from entering Orthodoxy.  Now, in some respects, I've already "come in".  I'm still waiting to be invited to come further into the house and eat at the table, but I'm in.  I've stopped sitting on the outside and peeping in like a spiritual voyeur.  I've now become a full-fledged catechumen.  I'm not sure what it means, but I know that it means I'm not just playing games anymore.

So I look over this to-do list, and I can honestly laugh at the irony presented by it.  I can giggle at the snark.  I can roll my eyes at "those ridiculous people" who think that by becoming Orthodox they become a lay monk--a monkabee.  When I give it a closer look, though, I realize how easily I fall into these types of things and I worry about keeping myself in balance between doing too little and not doing enough.

I've received no clear instruction on anything remotely touching on preparing for chrismation.  None.  We're not even fasting.  I'm not upset by this, but it is weird.  I think I expected our entrance into the catechumenate would come complete with welcome packet including instructions on when to meet with the priest, how many Jesus prayers to do, and instructions for setting up a home icon corner.  None of these things have happened.  This is ok.  We're moving.  Fr. C. will not be our priest for much longer.  Our preparations will be handled by another man.  I think if it weren't for the even keeled way that Fr. C. has handled our inquiry and our new catechumenate as prepared us for the long waits that await us.  A to-do list like the one above is nice, but let's be honest, it's absurd.  All of the important things are left undone, including denying yourself, picking up your cross, and following our Lord.

Denying myself is not something I do well.  (More on that later)  Right now I'm having trouble being humble enough to mend a growing rift between me and another member of my family.  It's so easy to be selfish.  It's so easy to be angry.  I don't want to take another step until I have figured out how to follow Christ by giving of myself and giving up on my self.