Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 4, 2011

Foaming into a Modicum of Silence

So what get’s you charged in this church? And can you narrow it down to just one thing? I can’t.

Yes, that makes me a slobbering foamer. As I put it to a friend recently, y’know you’re a slobbering foamer when… you tell someone you were in church for 24 hours during Holy Week and you have this great big grin on your face. Even when they back away as if to call 9-1-1, you can’t help yourself. You know you’re a slobbering foamer when your heart still beats quickly to the first sound of “Blessed is the Kingdom…”. I mean, that’s the line I rode into this place on… and maybe one day will ride out, but it still gets me. Yeah. Slobbering foamer.

On the odd chance I need to explain the expression… it’s something a dog does when you’re fixing dinner. Anticipation? Rabies? I don’t know. Common usage comes from those of us who like to wait trackside for live steam engines to run by at full throttle, hauling a trainload of passengers or freight… something to make the locomotive work hard and show it’s stuff. Living, breathing monsters… coolest thing this side of a the underbelly of a 747 at the end of an airstrip. Or maybe it’s like sidling up to a real Corvette or Porsche and sitting in one for the first and only time in your life, a Chris Craft motorboat, a Steinway piano, a handmade guitar… something that’s taken a lot of someone’s love to get it here… especially a beautiful laugh or the sound of a yawn from a sweet grandchild!

So I have some experience with foaming and foamers. Guy stuff mostly… though maybe we all share the grand kid bit (I hope to one day!). If ladies engage in this sort of thing, I guess there’s an equivalent… but it’s much more genteel and discrete (at least in my imagination) and no one notices or chases them off with police.  And no, I’ve never been chased out of a church yet.

But then there’s the scripture stuff too. One bit for foaming that comes to mind is a reading I first heard recited in the Mt. Lebanon Choir recording of the St. John Chrysostom Liturgy in English ( which is also where the sound of the Great Ektannia that brought me into the Church came from, too ) and I guess I foamed a little reading it the other day:

 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:16-20

 From the melody to the pronunciation, from the text itself to its meaning, this piece just does it. And its beauty lies in adding the words “of the law” left out of so many non-Orthodox versions of this… St. Paul just outdoes himself here. As if! And I stumbled across this thanks to a blog I find myself reading more and more often these days: “The Morning Offering” hosted by Abbot Tryphon of All-Merciful Savior Monastery on Vashon Island in Washington state.  It’s taken a while for it to grow on me, but slowly… we’ve come ’round. He has a great piece from Monday, October 3rd on “How Not to Be an Obstacle to Prayer”.  His pieces don’t lend themselves to direct links, so my apologies, but FWIW, it spoke to me… the guy who spends enough time in silence that like one of those monks in “Into Great Silence”, the temptation to yak it up when not there is overwhelming… and perhaps something I could do better with (Yah think?). So far, I pray for silence… it’s so much easier than BEING silent! And one day… it’ll happen.

Hopefully, this seems to be the way of things: First you figure out the problem, then you take aim… and you do nothing… or you do something else. Then you remember the problem, and you do nothing, or you try a little, quit and go back to the living the problem. Maybe if you become one with it… it’ll be like that movie… y’know that one… where the guy overcomes his adversity… only you’re not that guy… so you don’t.

The good thing is you’ve now got a beach head for a solution. Sure, you got washed back into the surf… but there’s a place for you and you might find it again with a change of the tide. Or not. And then you forget, but then you remember later and put it on the do-list, or more likely, RESOLVE to put it on the do-list when you find it… and a pen. One day. Two weeks go by and you stumble across the do-list and scratch something off it, and add… something else. You think about this… but hey, time is short. And then you do it again… blue moon and all. “Just for yuks!” And it makes an impression. Maybe not a good one… heck, it feels kind of stupid, but nobody died. Maybe you’ll give it a shot again next time. Real take it or leave it like… but you shoot at it for three days, and quit. Just to show that you can quit… I mean you can go both ways. Who’s in charge here, anyway?

I guess this is the way it really happens. Real life… it’s just so dull. Three inches and a cloud of dust. Changes are just that painstakingly imperceptible… the steps are so freaking tiny… and masked in irresolution. No wonder we’re bored with ourselves to the point of doing nothing more often than not. Ah… but then we’re also fascinated… I mean wouldn’t it be boring if we gave up all that bad stuff cold turkey? I mean… what’s left to watch? So we don’t, huh?

Maybe not for a long time. But then we do.


  1. women get this too, although I think you’re right – we don’t foam at the mouth. Perhaps we can call it “Pinch me I must be dreaming Syndrome”. I had it at St. Tikhon’s this past weekend. I sometimes wonder if it wears off after 10-15 years.

  2. “Ah… but then we’re also fascinated… I mean wouldn’t it be boring if we gave up all that bad stuff cold turkey? I mean… what’s left to watch? So we don’t, huh?”


    I loved “beach head for a solution” 🙂

    • Thanks for visiting! The beach head solution really seems to have it for me… complete with landing craft, World War II type munitions and especially in-coming fire and the touch-and-go-all-the-time thin line separating success and failure. Think of the angels, the cloud of witnesses and all the saints as our over-riding over-head artillery “softening up” the landing, and maybe this rather far-fetched analogy isn’t as wild as it sounds.

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