Friday, July 28, 2006

" a Light to englighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, Israel."

Some of the comments in The Brothers Karamazov post below raise the issue of Dostoevskii's antisemitism. It comes out when Ivan asks Alesha about a hideous folk-rumour (known as 'the blood libel') that Jews kill Christian children each Easter. He asks him, does this happen, and A. responds "I don't know." It is a painful and strange reality, this hatred of of the Jews that has plagued Europe for centuries. For thoughtful Christians, it is doubly strange, considering we worship the Jewish Messiah. Of course, a tincture of this great sin has been subsumed into various forms of nationalism that also tend to absorb religion. I.e., Russia, for instance, integrated some form of "Orthodoxy" into its national identity, but along with it was taken a crippling dose of xenophobia, which manifests itself in this abominable antisemitism. Seriously! How does this happen? If cultures can be "baptized," and theoretically transfigured, how do we/they act as incubators, at the same time, for this kind of hubris?

On the other hand, those American evangelicals (I'm thinking of televangelists like John Hagee) who have honed a sort of Israel-olatry, have lost the plot as well. They could use some help from Bishop Tom Wright to understand more clearly the key text: Romans 9-11. In reality, all of the old ethnic markers of covenant identity have been reoriented in Christ. It is about baptism, "circumcision of the heart" and not just of the flesh. In discerning the people of God, then, the question is no longer "are you a Jew or a Gentile?" And it isn't really about being Russian, Serb, Bulgarian, Aleut, or Canadian either. The question is "do you have faith in Jesus Christ?"

Christianity, at its best, remembers and loves the beauty of its Jewish roots, and realizes that in their light we see the Light of Christ. A good example: did you know that the Maccabean martyrs are liturgically remembered by the Orthodox church?

Neither did I.

Here is one of the verses for their feastday:

Tone 1 (O most-praised martyrs))

Persecution did not shake the roof of the Law,
firmly upheld by seven pillars.
For they bravely endured the senseless fury of their tormentor,
giving their bodies to the executioners.//
These noble young men and brothers were the faithful guardians of the
oracles of Moses.

v. (2) Praise the Lord, all nations! Praise Him, all peoples!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What's the big deal?

My friend Jeremy wrote this, capturing some of Klein's recent malaise.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It is time...

to re-read The Brothers Karamazov. My friend Jared mentioned this epic novel to me today over lunch, and then my friend & colleague (another Matthew) passed along this article from First Things. Blasted First Things! and its substantial prose. I've been wrestling with this other article from First Things for two days now... David Hart is on to something, about the responsibility of Christianity, even better, the Gospel, for this strange modern world it helped to form. I think that Brandon Gallaher is writing about this too, from another angle.

With several people mentiong The Brothers Karamazov today alone, I realized that it has been a few years since I worked through its pathos and glory. But my thinking is slow these days, it seems. Though it wasn't it my mind on the weekend, conversations with Krista and Derek and Mike about family and faith have also got me brooding about the dislocation of meaning in our modern world. It is amazing how things like books acquire new, personal meaning at different seasons of life. I first read Brothers in 1995, in High School, and was exhilarated by its language and emotion. For Mr. Moore's acting class, I staged a reading of Alyosha's scene of exultation after "the odour of corruption" and "the wedding at cana."

Filled with rapture, his soul yearned for freedom, space, vastness. Over him the heavenly dome, full of quiet, shining stars, hung boundlessly. From the zenith to the horizon the still–dim Milky Way stretched its double strand. Night, fresh and quiet, almost unstirring, enveloped the earth. The white towers and golden domes of the church gleamed in the sapphire sky. The luxuriant autumn flowers in the flowerbeds near the house had fallen asleep until morning. The silence of the earth seemed to merge with the silence of the heavens, the mystery of the earth to be touched by the mystery of the stars. . . . Alyosha stood gazing and suddenly, as if he had been cut down, he threw himself to the earth. . . .
It was as if threads from all those innumerable worlds of God all came together in his soul, and it was trembling all over, "touching other worlds." He wanted to forgive everyone for everything, and to ask forgiveness, oh, not for himself! but for all and for everything, "as others are asking for me," rang in his soul.

I've always understood that scene, and not "The Grand Inquisitor," to be the centre and heart of the narrative.

I read it again in the Manchester rain of the year 2000, and in the summer heat of 2003. It is time again...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pictures from Last Weekend

Colleen and Sven on their wedding day. I've known Colleen for ten years now, since I was a student at good ole' CNC The wedding took place in Colleen's gradma's beautiful back garden. Aren't they lovely?

Derek & Sandra, enjoying the party.

Here's Leon Isaac Brower, aka, Lev, aka Lyova, son to Sandra and Derek, Godson to me. Krista and I had such a great time getting to know this bright little guy over the weekend. He, meanwhile, was a real trooper after being diagnosed with chicken pox!

Derek and our good friend John, in deep conversation. On Tuesday, I met up with these two again for our Calgary Burger Challenge. Not surprisingly, Boogie's Burger's came out on top.


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Monday, July 10, 2006

Thank you, G.M.H.

I came across this poem on Saturday night, just before bed. We stayed up late as I read this one to Krista. I couldn't think of only one excerpt to post, so here it is in all its fullsome beauty.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

37. The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that 's fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing's life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life's law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God's infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess's
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God's glory through,
God's glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms' self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man's beating heart,
Laying, like air's fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God's and Mary's Son.

Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.

So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man's mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God's love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

Friday, July 07, 2006

"...that all may be One."

I realize that this happened a few months ago, but I've not yet heard much of anything about this until now. The All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia took place in San Francisco, with the Light of Pascha still shining, May 6-14th. They gathered in the Cathedral where just a few weeks later, Dave and Stacy and their friends venerated St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. From all reports, the Sobor looks to have been a kairos moment, opening the door to healing the wounds of the twentieth century within our Orthodox Church. There are many amazing pictures on the website, including many moving ones of the beautiful hierarchical services and Liturgies. This article from Archbishop Mark of Berlin tells some of the struggles, errors, and sacrifices, as well as preparations leading up to this important Sobor. I know that families and dear friends have been broken apart by the wounds inflicted by the separation within our Orthodox churhces. For over 80 years, there has been brokenness and strife. Now may the oil of anointing flow, mutual repentance continue, and our Communion be realized and restored.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dolce Domum

So this past week has been somewhat of a return to normal life for me, as I've been back to work after the Group of Twelve. But, the strange part of it is that Edmonton has been experiencing an extreme heatwave this week, and also Krista has been working evenings (3-11pm). So, basically, I've been "home alone" in the sweltering Edmonton evenings, patiently awaiting my nightly drive downtown to the Royal Alex Hospital to pick up my beloved wife. (Here's a picture of Krista on our steps). I've been trying to do some practical things such as: laundry, gardening, and writing my essays for the "Canon Law" course I'm taking via the St. Arseny Institute.

That's going slowly, but surely. Last night, using some extremely ripe pineapple, I created a delicious homemade pina colada (sans alcohol):

- several chunks of ripe, fresh pineapple (sprinkled with salt to bring out the sweetness);
- a couple of scoops of very good vanilla ice cream;
- a handfull of shredded coconut;
- a few spoonfulls of vanilla yogurt;
- about a half cup of milk;
- 3 ice cubes.

Blend on high in a blender until smooth (pulse at first). This is a perfect beverage for those 30+ celcius days!

*In other news, the Mighty Parkallen Video Gallery, which I have posted about before, has closed its doors. We were sad to see them go, but Jeff (the video guy) has said they may reopen in another location. So, in the meantime, Parkallen pines for good films and great proprietors like Jeff, Ashleigh, and Alley-Oop.