Friday, March 22, 2013

Snacking on Brussel Sprouts I wander around the house packing for our trip to Texas tomorrow.

Does that make me a freak?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lenten Tempeh Breakfast Hash

Making this for pre-sanctified liturgy brunch at school tomorrow. I added sweet potatoes and flax seed meal, substituted curry powder for paprika, and omitted the olive oil.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Follow-up to the last post

Good advice for snobs like me, from JRR Tolkien to his son
“Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”

Language of the People

I'm interested in the language used in church services. I have become pretty familiar with at least four different English translations of the Liturgy, based on the time spent in my ROCOR parish in Santa FE, our OCA home parish in C'ville, and two different OCA parishes here in Indy.

In two of those parishes, the translation was fairly recent, and it's clear that one of the goals for both of these translations was accessibility. In one of them, "Sofia, orthi," is translated, "Wisdom, let us pay attention." My husband and I have walked away from that service joking that soon, they'll revise it to "Wisdom, let us put on our listening ears." In other places, which I can't remember right now, both of the translations choose profusion over precision. They both use "you" instead of "thou."

The argument that I always hear for more accessible translations is that "The Church always strives to meet people where they are." St. Innocent of Alaska, who entered fully into Aleut life, and translated services and Scripture into their language, is cited as an example. That's great. I love St. Innocent, and that's obviously a good model for evangelism.

But what about the Greeks? They still pray in Koine.

The Serbs and Russians etc. pray in Slavonic. Russians who grew up under Communism and never even heard Slavonic have somehow been able to convert to Orthodox Christianity.

The whole country of Romania was Orthodox for more than a thousand years before the Church adopted Romanian as the language for services.

So what's up with that? Greeks, Serbs, Russians, Romanians and more are willing to die for a church that teaches them to pray in an unfamiliar language, but 20th century Americans can't deal with "thou," or "vouchsafe," or "let us attend"? I don't want our services to be incomprehensible. But I do not think that difficult language should be seen as an obstacle to "genuine" prayer.

I see the trend of "accessible" translation as a concession of victory to vulgar taste, even if it is well-meaning. The language used in the prayers is meant to teach us something. It says more than we ourselves mean to say, because we don't yet know what we should say. The language used in prayers should pull us up out of our lazy love of easy epiphanies.

Also, if we were simply more literate, this language would not be difficult for us! If the language is too hard, then you should go read some Shakespeare for practice, or even Dickens. Please don't let our prayer language descend to the level of our public discourse; it's simply too horrible!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Good advice before we begin.

Today's Epistle:

Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Today's Gospel:

The Lord said, "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

"Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Pray then like this:

Our Father who are in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gauche Bullet Points for Lent

  • I'm going to try to keep the homework light and the classes leisurely, for the kids' sake and mine.
  • Like I said before, I think after Cheese Week, I'll be better off without coffee. Will adding coffee to the list of things I ain't ingestin' send me over the edge into a mineshaft of despair? Possibly. Is that such a bad thing? Maybe not. If it doesn't work out, I'll attribute it to giving up coffee too soon after giving up Facebook. It's not like I'm Giving Up Coffee For Lent, it's just an innocent casualty, like your ex-boyfriend's cool mom. I liked you a lot, Coffee but it's just not appropriate for us to be close anymore because you make me think of Cream.
  • My mentor suggested that I read St. Maximos the Confessor during Lent. So I'm going to read some selected works in a little blue volume from SVS press called On The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ. My husband suggested that I not just read it, but make a project of studying and writing about it. Okay. I don't know when I'm going to have time to do that. It's definitely not bedtime reading (not like the Potter-esque thrills and giggles of Everyday Saints!) so I'll have to get up early. Better keep my classes going even slower than I originally resolved!
  • So the question is how am I going to make MORE time to read wacko theology without coffee?
  • I was just getting into making bone broth because Sally Fallon said so, and I am sad about leaving that behind. I bought some teeny-tiny oogly-eyed little shrimp, in order to make a freezer full of her shrimp broth. I also got some miso paste. Maybe those two additions will help me spend less time in the kitchen trying to make the damn soup taste good. Maybe those little oogly-eyed shrimp will give me more time to read.
  • We're coming up on our second spring in this house with a big yard, and I would like to start a garden. This year, Lent falls in a neat, hopefully warm six weeks between St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo, perfect for getting the garden ready. I say "the garden" as if it exists, but it doesn't. I would like to change that during Lent. I've got a groovy old type-written copy of How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine and I guess I'll try a couple small biodynamic/French intensive beds. Gosh it seems like so much homework trying to develop a green thumb. But it also seems like a way to be more attuned to God's goodness.
  • Last year was really, really hard. I am scared that this year is going to be harder. I am going into this thing knowing that I have a hell of a lot of crusty, bitter, moldy, cobwebby, scary corners to clean out, and a very small Orthodox work environment (including my husband!) in which to do the cleaning. I have no idea how I can do this without something in me breaking into tiny crumbs. Pray for me. 

That's probably all I wanna say about Lent.

Lenten Sx-Ed

I am preparing the Vulgate text of Psalm 50 for my Latin students to memorize and study during Lent. When I came to this verse, I thought "Boy am I glad these kids don't know anything about female reproductive anatomy!" There are TWO distracting anatomical terms in this verse.

Domine labia mea aperies et os meum adnuntiabit laudem tuam.

Don't tell my kids!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Errrrmagerd, when the students fail a test abysmally, it has to be the teacher's fault, right? Either I made the test too hard, or I haven't taught them the material effectively, or I haven't held them accountable to their mistakes all along, so that we've all deluded ourselves into thinking that they know this stuff.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The loveliest gospel

At that time, while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.  But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment thus wasted?  For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor."  And they reproached her.  But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

pearls before swine, with no swine in mind

Another post-FB truth is emerging, which I had always suspected. Language and rational thought are so closely related that they are pretty much the same thing-- logos means ratio/reason as well as word/speech/account. (QED. philology = philosophy.) For me, the modes of speech available to me shape my thought. When I was a kid, I thought in imaginary conversations, and I've never stopped. At St. John's, I reflected on worthy things in the shape of essays, which may or may not have ever been written, and on less worthy things in the shape of jokes and skits, which were often never told or produced. Now I develop my thoughts by composing blog posts and emails that will never see the light of day, although next week I have a speech to prospective parents coming up, and even my non-pertinent thoughts are coagulating in the style in which I'll give my talk.

When FB was available to me, I sculpted bon-mots. There's nothing wrong with bon-mots, per se, and pithless thinking is so dull. But there's a reason that no one can talk about a really zingy one-liner without an implied "just" hovering in front of the words. They're just bon-mots. If they are true, then that is good, but they are a poor substitute for sustained reflection. My thoughts became little diamonds, which I subsequently flung into the air, to much applause. I watched them glitter as they rose and fell, but rarely picked them up for examination later. I should be more jealous. Poetry would be a better way.

Running MB commentary: In this respect I am deeply, essentially extroverted: I think as though I am going to present my thoughts to someone else. In that I am striving to be prudent, I am cultivating habits that look introverted, but I struggle against a natural tendency to share everything.