Friday, November 28, 2008

Hello all!

I am still around and I want to get back to blogging! But I am trying to stay focused until the end of the semester. I work full time and go to school full time, plus I have a family. That leaves time for little else.

But in a couple weeks I will be done until next semester. Until then enjoy this poem by Phyllis Wheatley (check out that head covering!).


ATTEND my lays, ye ever honour'd nine,
Assist my labours, and my strains refine;
In smoothest numbers pour the notes along,
For bright Aurora now demands my song.
Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies,
Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies:
The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume,
Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display

To shield your poet from the burning day:
Calliope awake the sacred lyre,
While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire:
The bow'rs, the gales, the variegated skies
In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.

See in the east th' illustrious king of day!
His rising radiance drives the shades away--
But Oh! I feel his fervid beams too strong,
And scarce begun, concludes th' abortive song.

Friday, September 12, 2008

So Why Cover? part 2

Sts. Alexander (340), John (595), and Paul the New (784), patriarchs of Constantinople
August 30 Old Style
Okay, I decided to start wearing something on my head for church services at least. I had experimented with scarves and wraps before, so I had lots of fabric to work with.

The first Sunday I wore a scarf, I immediatly felt different. The church that I went to at the time was very...cerebral. The worship space was beige and sterile. The focus of worship was listening the sermon. The simple act of doing something external as a gesture of devotion was a personal revolution. It felt so right. 

Along with headcovering came the issue of modesty. The Apostle Paul had discussed this too as worship. This raised more questions: what was modest dress in modern America? Long skirts and long sleeves? I really didn't know how to approach it.

But over all I felt I was going in a newer, deeper direction spiritually. Even though I couldn't fully explain it, this was not merely about dress. It was about how I moved in the world and about an awareness of spiritual things unseen. It was about possessing or even harnessing the power of my sexuality (by God's grace) as a spiritual force and redirecting it. The headcovering is a sign of authority or power. Of course this was years before I would begin to learn about the life of monastics who are the ultimate (but not the sole) example of this concept and what the Church has always known about the power of offering our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God as a spiritual act of worship.

I found a group of women online who also believed that headcovering and modesty were important to their own religious practice. There I "met" Alana. And Alana introduced me to Orthodox Christianity.

What was that line about angels?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

St. Moses the Black

August 28 Old Style

Today is the feast of our Father among the saints Moses the Strong (or the Black or the Ethiopian). Many consider him the patron of African descendants who have come into the Church in these more recent years. 

Pray to God for us O Holy Moses, for we fervently flee unto thee, the speedy helper and intercessor of our souls!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So Why Cover? part one

Martyr Anthusa
St. Poemen the Great
August 27 Old Style

The reasons why I began covering are not the reasons I cover now. It has been 17 years since I first took a piece of fabric and wrapped it around my head. I did not encounter 1 Corinthians 12 until much, much later. For this blog, I will focus mostly on the reasons that I have covered in church and out for much of the past 7 years.

"For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.  Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. "

A few years ago, I got stuck in 1 Corinthians. I simply could not get past what Paul was saying about headcoverings. I went to a church that took the inerrancy of the Bible seriously. So what was I supposed to make of this stuff about headcoverings especially since Paul was so insistent about them?

I went to the elders of my church and got two different answers: one said "It's cultural" and the other said, "I think we should be pulling out the headcoverings every time I read that verse." So, bottom line was they were no help. 

The thing about that verse is that the Apostle Paul appeals to the fact that there are angels to consider in all of this. If headcovering was cultural, why would angels who are not bound by culture or time care about them? And if they cared in 40 AD, why would they stop caring now?

Since no one was going to tell me not to wear a scarf, I decided to try it out and see how it felt. That's when things really started to happen...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coming soon

Afterfeast of the Dormition.
Apostle Thaddeus of the Seventy
Martyr Bassa of Edessa and her sons Theogonius, Agapius, and Pistus
August 21 Old Style

So I have written about what my covering doesn't mean. Next I will put together some thoughts on it does mean, at least to me.

But in the meantime take in the joy of this picture.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Closeted Coverer

Afterfeast of the Dormition
Prophet Samuel
August 20
Old Style

So Mary made a comment in response to one of my posts about whether I wanted to be inconspicuous in my covering or not. I have been thinking aobut it ever since. I am not ashamed of covering but I don't want to be associated with belief systems that do not represent what my covering is about. For example, I am not all that into headship as conceived by some Christians who cover. My covering isn't so much about my husband and his authority over me. Sure, I believe in submission. But I believe that submission is the way of all Christians regardless of gender. Wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives. There is a mutuality in laying aside one's preferences and even one's needs. I would not want my headcover to convey a different concept.

I am also not of the belief that all women have to cover or even believe as I do about covering. One of the most freeing things about being Orthodox is the acknowlegement that all members of the flock are not called to the same thing at the same time. Maturation in Christ happens at a natural pace, aided by the general guidlines and expectations of the Church. Economia can be a beautiful thing.

I don't want to be plain. Sure, I believe that Christian women are taught to dress modestly and without excessive display of wealth. But Orthodoxy has made me aware of the importance of beauty to the human soul. God's creation is beautiful. Our worship is beautiful and pleasing to the senses. Being able to replicate beauty is a reflection of the image of God in us. I'd like to continue choosing colors that suit me and putting my clothing together in a manner that pleases and flatters me. I don't feel that I have to abandon my appreciation of beauty in dress because I cover.

Lastly, I like to have a drink...or two every now and again. I like having a good time, laughing, watching movies, going to rock or reggae concerts. We fast a good bit in the Orthodox Church but we also feast. I am also a budding activist. I wonder if some people will see my covering and believe that these things don't go together. But to me, there is no contradiction.

So in the end, perhaps what I have written displays my own prejudices about women (more especially Christain women) that cover. Perhaps this is what I think of when I see a woman in a white lace chapel veil and it is wrong of me to draw such conclusions. Perhaps I need to get out of other people's heads and deeper into my heart. I am still working it out...

Breaking News!

Beautiful Snoods At Garlands of Grace!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Monastic Veil

Afterfeast of the Dormition
Martyr Myron of Cyzicus (250)
August 17 Old Style

This is a lovely video. Enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Meanwhile, on the Other Side of the World

Afterfeast of the Dormition
Translation of the Image Not-Made-By-Hands of our Lord Jesus Christ from Edessa to Constantinople (944)
August 16 Old Style

Sometimes I dream about pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I love traditions and pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Jordan and other sights is one of the oldest Christian customs. Christians who did not have the privilege of living in the Middle East would save for a life time to make a pilgrimage before their deaths. I have cherished a longing to do the same for many years.

However, accounts like the one below make me wary of any tendency to romanticize the Holy Land. Our brothers and sisters in the Faith are suffering daily as they try to maintain their centuries old way of life. Traditions are made almost impossible to keep with the current situation in Palestine. As we continue to celebrate the feast of the Dormition, let us keep these members of the Church in our prayers.

(names have been purposely removed for reasons of privacy)

Greetings from Taybeh where today St. George Greek Orthodox Community celebrated The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Old Julian Calendar, thirteen days later than the New Calendar.

… thousands of Christians who had permits for only one day were crowding the Qalandia checkpoint to get into Jerusalem either to pray or shop. Many Palestinian Christians have a tradition to venerate the empty Tomb of the Mother of God and light candles on the left and the right of the staircase leading to the crypt. The lit candles down a hundred steps is a magnificent site itself as people pass the tombs of Sts. Joachim and Anna on the right and the tomb of St. Joseph the Betrothed on the left.

…three days prior to the feast day for the Mother of God, as is also a tradition here in the Holy Land, I had the great blessing to be in the procession where the Greek Patriarch with all the faithful walked the icon of the Holy Mother of God from the convent next to the Holy Supulchre down the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, through all the stations of Christ's passion to prepare for the celebration that took place today in the Church dedicated to the Ever Virgin Mary. It's an extraordinary and beautiful procession to attend before sunrise and listen to the chanting dedicated to the Holy Mother of God.

Not only do people come from all over the world to walk in this solemn procession in remembering the falling asleep of the Most Holy Theotokos but also bus loads use to come from all over Palestine. With the restrictions of only having a one day permit on the feast day, Palestinian Christians are missing out on these centuries old values and traditions that have maintained our deep Christian roots in the Holy Land.

…[With] the permits, the American passports and using an Israeli registered car, I tried to help [my son] reach Jerusalem faster via another checkpoint (Hizma). The soldiers, of course refused to let him or my husband…enter Jerusalem. I tried to plea with the soldiers that the day was ending and the permits were expiring at 10 pm so I really wanted to take my family briefly into Jerusalem. I said please, "they have American passports." "Please they have a permit" “Please conduct a random act of kindness" we identified ourselves and we are unarmed civilians.

Other than pure misery and harassment, I cannot understand why Palestinians who are also holders of a valid American passport and go to the trouble to follow the crazy Israeli regulations of getting a valid permit cannot use it at the Hizma checkpoint and must be confined to only one checkpoint that always has hundreds of people waiting and hours backed up. Why can illegal Israeli settlers enter the West Bank from any checkpoint they wish and Israeli products flood the Palestinian supermarkets from any checkpoint they wish? But it's pure discrimination and an outright violation of human rights for Palestinians.

I am thinking that on each and every holy day we constantly seek God's divine grace and love just to have the strength to survive in a land sanctified by Christ Himself but made violent and miserable by the occupation forces. Thus, as the Ever Virgin Mary was a source of consolation and edification to the Apostles two thousand years ago, may she continue to be so for the Christian community in the Holy Land so that we may keep our true hope in Christ our God.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy Feast!

The Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
August 15, Old Style

Reflection on the Feast from the Prologue
Each one of the faithful can learn much, indeed very much, from the life of the Virgin Theotokos. However, I would like to mention here only two things. First, she had the habit to frequently on Golgotha, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to go to Bethlehem and to other places famous because of her Son. At all of these places, especially Golgotha, she prayed on bended knees. By this, she gave the first example and incentive to the faithful to visit the holy places out of love toward Him Who, by His presence and by His passion and glory, made these places holy and significant. Second, we learn how she, in her prayer, prayed for a quick departure from this life that her soul, at the time of her separation from the body, not see the prince of darkness and his horrors, and hidden from the dark regions not encounter the power of Satan. Do you see how terrible it is for the soul to pass through the toll-gates [mitarstva]! When she, who gave birth to the Destroyer of Hades and, who herself has frightening power over demons prayed thusly, what then is left for us? Out of very great humility, she commended herself to God and did not trust in her own deeds. So much less should we trust in our deeds and even more we should commend ourselves into the hands of God, crying out for His mercy, especially for mercy at the time of the departure of the soul from the body.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Urge to Cover

Dormition Fast
Forefeast of the Dormition.
Prophet Micah (8th c. B.C.)
August 14 Old Style

I have been covering all or most of my hair for the majority of my adult life. There have been many reasons for this but religion has played the biggest role in growing this conviction in me. Now that I am an Orthodox Chrisian there is even more force behind my conviction. Ironically, I stopped covering when I entered the Orthodox Church. I wanted re-examine my reasons for many things in my spiritual life and practices to be sure that they conformed with Orthodoxy.

After four five years of praying with women who look like this

and this

and this

I feel that my conviction on covering has a place in my Orthopraxis. There is an almost tangible holiness about the women that I know who cover. The holiness that we experience at the Divine Liturgy and other divine services is mysteriously enhanced by our covering and modesty. It is only natural that the holiness should spill over into everyday life just as every other part of Orthodoxy does. The only challenges in my opinion is how to refrain from judging others who do not agree and covering in such a way that I do not draw undue attention to myself.

This is a topic that I plan to write about often. If there are women like me that scour the internet looking for others with this urge to cover their bodies including their hair, I want them to be able to find a likeminded soul or two through this blog.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

closing the year with fasting and feasting

Dormition Fast
Afterfeast of the Transfiguration.
Holy Martyr and Archdeacon Euplus of Catania
August 11 Old Style

The final fast of the year is quickly coming to a close. September 1 begins the Church new year and the cycle of feasts and observances. Renewal is a continual theme in the Orthodox life: Nativity, the coming of the light; Lent, with clean week and Pascha, the eighth day that belongs to the Kingdom to come. Even the weekly experience of confession followed by communion on Sunday (a weekly experience of the eight day) is both a cleansing and a new beginning.

The liturgical year ends with two major feasts in August which continue this theme of renewal: Transfiguration and the Dormition of the Theotokos. Transfiguration (August 6) commemorates the revelation of Christ's glory on Mt. Tabor to the disciples Peter, James and John "as far as they could bear it." It is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection and the renewal of all creation in its glory. "His face shone like the sun, and His raiment became white as snow." St. Nikolai Velimirovic says in the Prologue from Ochrid, "Up to this moment, the Lord had many times shown His divine power to His disciples, but on Tabor He showed them His divine nature." And it is to this divine nature that humanity and all of creation are called. We have become partakers of the divine nature and if we persevere our faces and garments will shine with the same brightness seen on Mt. Tabor.

The final great feast, the Dormition of the Theotokos, shows the faithful what we can look forward to when we meet the veil separating this experience of life and the next. The most holy Theotokos lays on her funeral bier surrounded by the Church, its material and immaterial members. Her body is censed and the viewer can almost hear the prayers and hymns rising to commend her soul to heaven. Behind the bier we can see what would have been unseen to those present. The Lord Jesus Christ carries the soul of the Holy Theotokos, born again as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, to heaven.

What strikes me most is that after years of prayer, fasting and struggle, her soul at the time of death was at the developmental stage equivalent to that of an infant. And if that is true, I should not despair of my seeming lack of progress in things spiritual. The glorious Light of Mt. Tabor will surely shine in the meek, low, flawed and the stumbling. To God be the glory!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I am

I am a peace loving Orthodox Christian devoted to the principles of social justice. I believe in God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit; simple essence and unity, worshipped forever. I honor the most holy, most pure, most-blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, with all the saints. I believe that salvation, conversion and the renewing of the mind is an ongoing process that involves my being (mind, soul and body), my family, my community and the world. I believe that every one of us and everything is connected. I accept that my path to becoming fully human includes struggle in general, bouts of veg*nism, a desire to cover my head along with the majority of my body, the rasta asthetic and worldview, visits to monasteries and radically caring for my fellow humans and the earth. I advocate for the right to dignity of human beings with a special focus on women and people of color. That’s it in a nutshell.