Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 11, 2010

Summer Blessings

You know it’s been a while, and you know it must be summer if you begin to find more spammers than visitors on a blog. So by that measure, yes, it’s summertime here Under the Dome. And what a summer it‘s been! Hotter than I can remember in a long time, and so hot that last winter’s cold seems almost welcome. It’s been dry, too, and we’ve worried about the tomatoes… only to see the beefsteakers come in better than expected. And then they stopped, but we hope only for a day or two. We’ve been blessed with many changes. My parents moved out of their house and into an apartment, disposing of all their mighty, mighty collections of “stuff” – which has been a good warning to the packrats amongst us! And my kids have come in town two or three times, and we’re getting ready for another round on successive weekends… so we have been blessed!

We have literally been blessed as well with the visit of our Bishop Thomas of Charleston. Long ago, I excerpted a section from a talk he gave… so there is a directness to his discourse that I find refreshing. Turns out he was a teacher for quite some time, and it shows in his manner of keeping things simple. Of course, the official reason for his visit was to have us spruce up the place (just kidding) with a parish workday, put on the dog, and try not to muck up the rubrics too badly before he reached for the Holy Taser. Helps that as he says, “I’m not familiar with the Western Rite….” but of course that doesn’t mean he ain’t familiar with “loving but…. uh…. don’t we want to offer more… better… hmmm?” Of course, kidding aside, we actually, we did a pretty good job. And he actually dropped in to honor the Western Rite’s annual conference held here in Washington, D.C. at St. Paul’s College near Catholic University. And because every project has a couple of “…while you’re at it…” items, he ordained our Raphael (“Jeff”) as a new Subdeacon of the parish. But more than that, he entertained our questions.

Asked how to explain the Trinity, Sayedna responded simply that the trinity is like the body: “You have a body, and of course it has arms and legs and a head. And they’re all identifiable separately, but they’re also joined.” And of course you can see the arms and legs and head separately, and they can each move separately so far, but you wouldn’t separate them and have the same life. And they’re all part of the same body. And I thought that’s not a bad explanation. I mean… it gets the job done without having to delve into stuff most folks asking those questions don’t want to bother with anyway.

And then last night, after reading a couple of chapters of Elder Porphyrios’s “Wounded By Love”, I took a break to see what my friend Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex has been up to in his new book, “Remember Thy First Love”. I’d been unaware that there was a tie-in between the monastery at Essex and Metropolitan Anthony, but it makes sense. And then to see here, one of Metropolitan Anthony’s favorite expressions, that the Trinity is a blessing in that our inability to fathom its complexity marks it as a divine revelation rather than a man-made god, that by being beyond rationality it attests to a god who is both real and worthy of worship rather than one pulled out of our heads or little more than a manifestation of our well-read but reflected self-love.

So I can’t help think that when someone puzzles over the Trinity they are in fact doing the right thing. We are meant to stumble over this. Yes, there are the mechanics of how this can work… and yes, that’s something worth answering, but if in fact the person isn’t just struggling with mechanics, but still back-the-curve, I don’t wonder that this deeper issue is more on point. And Archimandrite Zacharias, Metropolitan Anthony, and indeed Fr. Gregory of (Antioch Abouna blog) St. Aidan’s Orthodox Church in Manchester, England, have it right: Man isn’t a Homo Sapien, or Homo ToolMakitamus, but a Homo Adoranus.

And if one of the tools we make in our adoration of God is something that builds community and celebration, and it’s summer with good food, good friends and family in the process, then Deo Gratias! My wife and I have been blessed this past week to celebrate our 30th Anniversary (married at 23 doesn’t have to be a flub up), and I have no hesitation to offer my own backwards testimony to marriage as the manifestation (in Orthodoxy) of the little church: there is a vision of martyrdom (small “m”) as it was meant to be, and it is this vision that re-pointed my faith towards a deeper understanding of god and towards finding the pillar and ground of truth in this church in particular (rather than the other way ’round as its supposed to be… but the weak start somewhere), and my wife whom I credit. Surely there were others… but the deep context could and no doubt would have been understood so much differently were my experience other than what she has given me. And no… my best efforts to the contrary, I didn’t screw it up. What can I say? A few carrots go a long ways!

And I will leave you with one other photo of this summer’s joy: This is part of an evening’s sail that, like all, turned into one of those unofficial “races” across the river that no one admits to doing – right! – but everybody knows and does it… and then meets on shore to say either, “We would have had you but…” or “Gee, nice boat, and you guys looked  like you were having such a great time, we hated to pass you…” as if we weren’t engaged seriously in all the effort we’d just expended. Wink wink wink. But we were and only the good die young as the song says. This photo is taken from a new “go-fast” sailboat (I know it’s a joke: go-fast sailboat but bear with me) and a 100-year-old Sandbagger that randomly enough, actually happened to be named “Bear”, the vision of speed of its day, and fairly they were more evenly matched than it appears here. “Bear” is in some sort of foundation, and the premise that one boat is more “valuable” or expensive than the other is… like so many things… probably not valid. Pardon the pun, but all that wood is a bear. But curiously enough, as it turned out, the two boats here rather quickly changed places with each other, only the new one worked far to windward. And while “Bear” had all the hotshot sailors, the great varnish and “oohs” and “ahhhs”, “Whimbrel” (the new boat) struggled under a newby with a crew of suntanners. I can’t really say which boat was more fun or which I’d rather be on (BTW, I didn’t take the photo).. I was on one and would have had as much fun on the other… and I do know which was more work… but like any question, which would you rather, or would you rather “watch the grass grow” as they say? It’s not the boat that matters… but what you get out of it. Hmmmm…. maybe sailing really is the ascetic experience everyone missing Liturgy claims, huh? St. Brendan…don’t fail me now!


  1. I was wondering if you were ever going to show us a picture of your boating excursions and now you have. Happy Anniversary to you and the Mrs.

  2. That tomato requires a couple of nice, thick sliced pieces of italian bread, a little mayo, salt, and pepper!

    I love the explanation of the Trinity and will be stealing it for Sunday school.

    Nice boat photo. While the idea of wind in my hair sounds quite attractive, I’d probably be sick as a sea dog so will cheer from the solid sandy shore!

    By your prayers!

    • Yeah… we had great tomatoes… and then suddenly there were none. I think the farmers got too hot, or chased away by the county. Gee, I love my county! Ha!

      Favorite summer sandwich: Mayo, Tomato, Salt and especially pepper. Only a month or two left for that one!

  3. Wow! TWO new posts… and a new blog look AND pictures. Did you retire? 🙂 Good stuff, I’d love to go sailing with you some day. It looks like great fun. Our tomatoes hit a brick wall with the 110+ days, but we’re getting a ton of new growth on the tops now with the monsoon rains. Maybe they’ll go another round.

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