Monday, January 30, 2006

The Bishop's Birthday

Sorry for those of you expecting a sequel to the Chekov shortstory, all I've got here is one picture (for now) from His Grace Bishop Seraphim's 60th Birthday celebrations, which you can click on for a larger view.


A closer-up shot of the Bishops present (from left to right): His Grace, Bishop Iov (Job), Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchal Parishes in Canada, His Eminence, Archbishop John, Metropolitan-Elect of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, His Grace, our beloved Bishop SERAPHIM, and His Grace, Bishop Nikon of the Albanian Diocese and the Diocese of New England (along with many priests - some familiar faces perhaps - in the background).

Some parishioners from St. Herman's sing during the Thanksgiving service.

Following the service, a festive banquet was served in the parish hall. Some of you might notice our friends the Applegates and Heiko Schlieper near the pillar.

In honour of the Bishop's half-Scottish heritage, Fr. John Hainsworth, the MC for the evening, donned traditional garb to present His Grace with the Burns' Night Haggis! Years ago, Fr. John had received the Bishop's blessing to wear the kilt as a priest.

Bishop Seraphim expresses his delight.

Eis Polla Eti Despota! Many years, to you, O Master!

One of "those" things....

Okay, I'll just start with the requisite groanings that I never do this kind of thing, but John threw down the gauntlent, and I can't refuse his challenge. So, here's some biographical material you might like to know... (in convenient groupings of four as in various traditional cultures it is considered to be a 'perfect' number)...

4 jobs
1) Housekeeping at the Rainbow Motor Inn in Chilliwack... was my 'first real job' when I was fourteen years old. It was just on weekends. Kim got it for me 'cuz she worked there and her bosses like her. There was a man that lived there who honestly thought he was a grizzly bear. Strange.
2) Lecturer and Chaplain here, for two years. Brilliant job. I learned so much from teaching... and can't wait to do it again someday.
3) Bakery worker/slave at the Tree Stone Bakery, an incredible artisan bakery here in Edmonton. Just ask me sometime about the twist-tie incident. Or don't... perhpaps it should be forgotten.
4) Researcher for Canadian Heritage. Got to hang out at the The British Museum for over a month back in the summer of '03. So good. Sat at Tolkien's table and negotiated image 'rights and permissions' with British Museum staffers. Thanks to Sandra & Derek for sharing your home with me.

4 movies
1) The Godfather part. 2
2) Gandhi
3) High Fidelity
4) Andrei Rublev

4 places I've lived
1) Trenton, Ontario
2) Calgary, Alberta
3) Manchester, UK
4) Maple Ridge, BC

4 tv shows

1) The National
2) Commander in Chief
3) Hot Type with Evan Solomon
4) Any good cooking shows

4 vacations
1) As a kid I loved the Oregon coast (rode a camel in Florence)
2) 11 countries in Europe in December 2000 was pretty good. Driving straight from Budapest to Calais over night for Christmas Eve was, shall we say, memorable.
3) I'd like to to visit Halifax to see my sister Pam's family there.
4) I'd really like to take Krista to St. Petersburg to meet my Godson Leon and hang out with his parents, and see St. Xenia's Church.

4 foods
1) Burgers from the Rodeo Drive-In in Cloverdale/Surrey, BC
2) Homemade butter chicken
3) Beef tenderloin marinated in Maneshewitz, BBQ'd
4) anything for the old sweettooth... straight Eagle Brand is pretty good.

4 places I'd rather be
1) with Krista.
2) Lindeman Lake
3) Anywhere but the Birmingham Coach Station
4) The Kilby General Store is pretty nice

4 sites

1) Strawberry Bobko
2) Transparent Films
3) Beyond Magazine
4) Good ole'Homestar Runner, seriously!

4 bloggers to whom I'm giving some homework, if they can spare the time...
1) Jesse
2) Isaiah
3) Mark
4) James and Jessica

Have fun with this silliness....

Friday, January 27, 2006

Does anyone else think this is strange?

Krista and I were watching The National on Wednesday night and there was a short piece about Prime Minister-Designate Stephen Harper walking his kids to school (a terrific thing for a Dad to be able to do). And when he said goodbye he shook their hands. I mean, I can understand with the older son, 10, (where maybe a fatherly pat on the shoulder would have seemed more appropriate than a hug and kiss) but shaking hands with your 8 year old daughter?! Now, I recognize that all families vary in these matters, and, admittedly, this was a staged photo-op for the nation's camera's, which makes things a bit artificial... but it still appears as though this is the standard morning goodbye to the children in the Harper household. Better than a polite nod, I guess.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Just Another Sunday

So yesterday we had a pretty interesting Sunday at our Church. 1) Krista and I became Readers & 2) a loud fire alarm almost derailed the Liturgy.

On the Eve of Theophany, a couple of weeks ago, Fr. Dennis asked me if I was ready to formally become a Reader in the Church. Both Krista and I have been reading for some time in services - her since she was about nine years old at Holy Resurrection in Saskatoon, and me, just since being at St. Hermans here in Edmonton. So he thought this might be a good time for her to receive the Bishop's blessing for this ministry as well. So yesterday I was tonsured and Krista was blessed as a Reader. In the ancient Church, this was a very important role, as it was not only meant as a way for people to hear the Scriptures, but also Readers were charged with physically safeguarding the scrolls and books of Scripture, and as a result were often the first to be hunted down in times of persecution. Krista's Mom, after serving as a music director for 30 years or so, was also blessed as a reader, along with a few other ladies. Fr. Michael's son, Symeon, was also tonsured.

Here are some pictures:

Bishop Seraphim trims a small piece of my hair. In the ancient world, this was an action connected to the making of bond-servants.

His Grace lays his hand on my head and prays for me. The red garment is a small 'phelonian' which Readers wear.

After this, the Bishop places the book with the writings of the Apostle Paul on the head of the Reader, and opens it at random, assigning the Reader a small portion of Scripture to read. I'm told this used to be a test to see if the person was actually literate! I was assigned Galatians 3.16-29. Krista's Dad, Fr. Phillip, can be seen in the background.

After this, Bishop Seraphim clothed Symeon and I in these white robes called "sticharia," (I think that's what they're called) and together we washed His Grace's hands prior to the official "beginning" of the Divine Liturgy.

The Blessing of the ladies as Readers was similar but unique from the rite for tonsuring. His Grace gave the Blessing by raising his hands above all the five ladies' heads.

The Bishop assigns an Epistle reading to Krista as a newly blessed Reader.

Krista chants the Epistle reading.

His Grace challenged all of us, and gave us the responsibility to study the Scriptures daily. So it is our hope that we'll be able to serve God faithfully as Readers. All our praying friends out there... remember us!

BUT wait! That is only the beginning! Later in the Liturgy, right as the Holy Eucharist was about to be given out… the fire alarm went off! This has NEVER happened at St. Herman's before! It was really quite surprising and extremely loud – ringing bells. But our music director Greg just kept everyone singing… but some people were naturally unsure of what to do. One lady was urging everyone to exit the building – “We have to go outside! The fire department will fine us!” And meanwhile the Deacons were standing there with the Chalices in hand, and Bishop Seraphim then did this amazing thing. Everywhere people were wondering what to do. Some were already filing outside… and His Grace clapped his hands three times really loudly from the Royal Doors, and the Deacon said “In the fear of God, with faith and love draw near…” and the lady was saying to him “We have to go outside, the fire department will charge us!” And Bishop Seraphim said, loudly, clearly, and calmly, “Who cares!?” It was great. So we immediately came to Communion and, almost right away, the bell got shut off. Apparently someone had burned some garlic toast downstairs! So you could say it was a Sunday we will not soon forget.

Please disregard the double post below... For some reason you can't put comments on. I ran into some technical Blogger difficulties, that won't allow me to erase it.

- Matthew

Friday, January 20, 2006


God grant you many years, God grant you many years, God grant you many, many, many years!!!

In the above picture, take note that Matthew has a lovely penguin quality as he only had 2 fingers (he has since grown 3 more). You will notice in this next picture (Expo '86), Kim has a rather glam look while Matthew is going for the good 'ol Jughead look.....eyes closed and all! ;)

We Love you lots and lots Kim,

Your bro and sis,
Matthew and Krista

Long Journey Home - Lamont County and Armenia

On Wednesday I was out in the country all day for my work, joining two colleagues to examine several Ukrainian Churches (two Ukrainian Catholic, and two Orthodox). Fraser, the preservation advisor, picked me up at home at 7:30am and we drove out to Lamont County, a rurual area northeast of Edmononton. Fraser's concerns were primarily structural. His job is to make sure the bricks and mortar are secure and to suggest to the building's owners (in this case, the parish) ways to preserve it that are in keeping with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservantion of Historic Places in Canada. My concerns, apart from the obvious joy of getting to visit eastern Christian Churches on work-time, were primarily aesthetic and historical. All of the Churches we visited had some interior painting by a man named Peter Lepinski, who was a Ukrainian iconographer well known in this area in the early 20th century.

Here is a picture of me shivering outside the first church we visited, The Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of St. Mary at Szypenitz.

The interior is entirely by Lepinski, various holy images in the romantic Ukrainian style painted on canvas - though I think many of them are actually oil paintings instead of egg tempera. In any case, some of the images are rather beautiful in their own way, and embody the spiritual aspirations of the people that commissioned them. The two men that we met there, Gene and Melvyn, were extremely hospitable, and I talked with them a fair bit while Fraser investigated the foundations. This church was built, strangely, of brick in 1919 as the previous wooden building had succumbed to arson. As the story goes, there was a woman in the parish whose husband was not a believer and opposed to the Faith. He totally forbade his own child's baptism. When their first child was born, however, the wife went to visit her parents and they urged her to take the child to church anyway and have the priest come to perform the baptism. Being a woman of bold faith, she did so. The following day the old church was set ablaze. Several years later, when the parishioners gathered there resources and courageously chose to build again, they built of brick! We also visited a few other Church with Lepinski interiors, and also the site at Wostok, Alberta, where the first Divine Liturgy on western Canadian soil was served on the Nemirsky's farm in 1898.

This stand of trees was planted around the area where the Liturgy was served.
This photo shows what are thought to be remnants of the makeshift Holy Table used for the first Divine Liturgy.

Later St. Tikhon consecrated the church built on the other side of the road. There are two monuments there, and here are some snapshots of them (click on the image for a larger view). I like the way the reflection in the monument shows the Alberta blue sky and horizon in the background (and me taking the picture).

* * * * * * * * *

Last night Krista and I planned to tape the CBC production of Black Widow, the 1940s Film Noir featuring Sarah Slean and Martin Tielli. As we haven't quite figured out how to record from our 'peasantvision' using the VCR, we set it up over at her Mom and Dad's place. I set the timer from 8:00pm to 10:00pm, and when we got home we realized that we had recorded not only Black Widow, but also this amazing documentary called A Long Journey Home.

According to the blurb on CBC, this is a "film that follows Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian on an emotional pilgrimage to her spiritual homeland. She performs selections from the sacred and secular music of Armenia in churches and ruins that are the most ancient in the world." We were absolutely blown away by the beauty of Armenia, the first country in the world to adopt the Christian faith as its official religion in 301 AD. There was a whole church carved out of the rock. Isabel Bayrakdarian's voice was tremendously beautiful, ringing out with clarity in these astonishing churches.

So, from St. Mary Szypenitz to the ancient churches of Armenia... you could say it was a good Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Down to Calgary...

Tonight after work Krista and I will be driving down to Calgary for Derek's Memorial. We'll be staying with our dear friends Ken and Darlene, seeing Heather, and so many others we know and love, and also praying at St. Peter the Aleut on Saturday and Sunday.

Again I say, along with Fr. Alexander Schmemann, "To love is to remember." May Derek's memory be eternal!

Grace & Peace to You all...


Matthew & Krista

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Some vintage Wright

"I propose that, when faced with the historical problem of the resurrection of Jesus and the rise of Christianity, the only way forward is to grasp the nettle, to recognize that history drives us to the borders of language, of philosophy, of theology, and of history itself, and to point out as best we can that the only explanation that will fit all the evidence available is that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed bodily raised from the dead on Easter morning...

"But if at this moment of history, when the Western world faces the crisis of postmodernity, we are to rule out all such questions and retreat either into the barren wastelands of modernity or to the sterile quicksands of postmodernity, we are indeed of all people the most to be pitied."

- N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mike Angus - The Yellowhead Diaries

Tim posted this sweet video clip of a recent performance by our good friend Mike Angus. As Dostoyevski once said, "beauty will save the world."

Courage! Courage! Courage!

I remember when I was a teenager seeing a picture of Michael Stipe from REM wearing a T-shirt on which he had scrawled with a Jiffy Marker "Courage! COURAGE! Courage!" At his inspiration, I wrote these same words out on a piece of paper with a black oil pastel and taped it to the inside of my bedroom door. (Not that outside my door was a ferocious lion or anything). It was simply so that whenever I would leave my room, particularly each morning, I was always reminded of the need for courage in life, and in the world.

But before I say more about courage I have to say a little bit about our Sunday afternoon. And I have to laugh. Krista and I have been wanting to watch the whole Godfather trilogy for some time, as she has not seen them all, and I haven't for a long time. I have often been moved by this brooding family drama to think about courage and nobility and love that characterizes the Corleone family, but at the same time is subjugated to the family's 'business' - and the tragic violence that goes along with it. Al Pacino as Michael Corleone has always been one of my favourite characters in movies, period. So we watched Part 1 last Sunday, and then we watched the first part of part 2 on Saturday night. We watched it on VHS because the Mighty Parkallan didn't have the sequels on DVD. And wouldn't you know it, when we went to start the second tape Godfather 2 on Sunday afternoon it was doing this weird thing where it would stop every five minutes and shut off the power on our brand-new VCR. We thought this was mildly annoying, but just kept restarting it. Then all of a sudden it just froze on one scene... and the tape would not eject from our VCR. So we called BLOCKBUSTER and they told us not to worry about the tape because it was faulty and they gave us a credit on our account. But this doesn't change the fact that we have a copy of Godfather 2 still jammed in our VCR! We called Krista's Dad, who has had some experience with this kind of thing, and he told us that it is is probably not too hard to fix, so we might crack open our VCR to try this out. Sounds exciting, and no doubt requires a fair dose of courage in and of itself. Nevertheless, we felt like watching a movie still so we decided to go to Parkallan to get one. I went over there and picked one up, and came home, and it turned out to be not our cup of tea at all, so we went back together to get another (thankfully the video store is about a minute walk from our back yard). As soon as we walk out the back door and I hear it click shut, I say to Krista, "did you bring your keys?" And she says "I thought you had yours." And so we realized, at that very moment, that we were locked out of our house with no wallet and no keys (you can trade DVD's for free if you're a member at Parkallan Video). So we go over there and pick out a new movie, and the hospitable proprietor, Jeff, lets us use his phone to call Krista's parents to come let us back into our house with their extra key. So, in the meantime, Krista and I went and huddled on our front steps, and actually that was kind of fun to just sit there and enjoy it, and I mentioned that we should sit out there in the summer sometime.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have always been heartened by the etymological origins of this word "courage", which relates to the "heart," coeur . That bravery or strength of character is something deeply rooted in the heart, that permeates all possibile human interactions. Be of good courage!

And this leads me to the part of it all that I am most deeply affected by... a line from one of our hymns from Church - the "Dogmatic of Vespers for Tone 1" to be specific, which lauds Mary the Mother of God - a tremendous model of personal courage herself. The line simply says, "Courage, courage, O People of God!"
And somehow this sums up the need, I think, of so many of us in the world today. We need to have something happen in our coeurs... something has to shift, to break, to bleed, to grow in our hearts. My own (and perhaps all of our) grinchy old tickers need to move up a few sizes... until they have expanded enough to take in the love that is truly all around (hidden in the broken VCRs and homes we may be currently locked out of).

"Courage, courage, O People of God!"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Isaac Levitan,
Autumn Day in Sokolniki Park

"When in my childhood I called upon You consciously for the first time,
You heard my prayer; You filled my heart with the blessing of peace.
At that moment I knew Your goodness, knew how blessed are those who turn to You.
I started to call upon You, night and day, and even now, I call upon Your Name.
Glory to You, satisfying my desires with good things.
Glory to You, watching over me day and night.
Glory to You, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time.
Glory to You, no loss is irreparable in You; Giver of Eternal Life to all.
Glory to You, making immortal all that is lofty and good.
Glory to You, promising us the longed for meeting with our loved ones who have died.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age."

- Ikos 9, from the Akathist "Glory to God For All Things" a liturgical poem found, in 'samizdat' underground printed copy, among the papers of a priest who died at a prison camp in Soviet Russia in 1942. His name was Fr. Gregory Petrov. The poem may have been writted by Fr. Petrov, or by Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov) + 1934. The actual authorship of the poem is somewhat uncertain. If anyone has more information about the lives of these men of God, please feel free to let me know...

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Mightly Parkallen & Fraggle Rock

So there is this GREAT video store right by our place with a GREAT selection of Quality flicks....This place is called "The Mighty Parkallen"...da da da (eeerie, exciting tone). Anywhoo, we went in sometime last week after having seen a flyer in our mailbox (those little tree wasters can be informative at times). We were one of the first 100 customers (yay for us!), so we got to rent 2 DVDs for free. Then for 2 weeks we get to exchange those DVDs as often as we want for free as well (Me Loves Free! :). So it's pretty sweet and after that you can pay 20 dollars a month and do that same thing.....A young couple running the place with a cute little 3 week old baby.....awwww!!!

Well we had a little fondu at our place on New Years Eve. A cheese fondu and a oil fondu with veggies in a Tempura batter. It was a grand evening full of good times. We even indulged in a little watching of "Fraggle Rock" (which may well be as nostalgic for others as it was for us). We rented the first DVD of the first season. So essentially we watched the very first episode ever and then the very second episode ever.....a little cranium and a jolly good ol' time.

So buckle your seat-belts and remember: If you are ever in the Parkallen sure to stop by "The Mighty Parkallen" da da da.....

Our other favourites right around the corner from us (and beside the video store) include: The Happy Garden (chinese....$1.75 for a great bowl of wonton soup), Ewe Asked For It (knitting shop...get it?), The Parkallen Bookstore, Buns 'n Roses (a great little bakery).