Sunday, June 21, 2009


"Sainthood is being like God, who is love. I have never met a man or a woman, however debased, in whom I could not finally recognize this germ of sainthood: but the sainthood which is canonized or at least recognized is that which has grown and blossomed and is conscious of its origin--'It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me..' This sainthood does not do away with our human limitations of character or intelligence, our various complexes, nor the repercussions all this can have for what is called a 'moral' life. Sainthood for each person is to love God and other people as greatly as possible, just with that which he or she is."

--Thamar Dasnabedian, "The Witness of Women Saints" in Orthodox Women Speak


Saturday, June 20, 2009



I was asking God again why we have so much repetition in church (funny, I was on the way back from the gymn, where for some reason I never question the need for repetition!), and immediately the image came to mind of a slow continual drip of water on hard rock, shaping it over time. Then that day or the very next I saw this quote, which a friend of mine (coincidentally) put on Facebook:

"A small but always persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling persistently, hollows out hard rock." St. Isaac the Syrian's not that God likes lists of things (litanies, confessions, etc.) but that God is so kind as to transform our hard hearts gradually and gently!


Thursday, June 18, 2009



"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of perception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another's interior workings and invisible aims? ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that -- well, lucky you."

Philip Roth, American Pastoral


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm of Two Minds About "Mindfulness"--Here's Why. Responses, Disagreements, Discussion, Anyone?



I'm raking leaves and singing in my off-key voice
a mangled version of Madonna's "Like a Virgin,"
a song I thought I hated;

that's how it goes when your head and heart
are in different time zones--
you often don't find out till tomorrow
what you felt today.

I know I do not understand the principles
of leaf removal; I pile them up
in glowing heaps of cadmium and orange,

but I identify so much more
with the entropic gusts of wind
that knock them all apart again.
Is it natural to be scattered?

When I look into the sky I am often dreaming
of a television program that I saw some months ago;
when I walk into a dinner party

I am thinking of the book I mean to read
when I get home--you might say
my here is disconnected from my now,
so never am I entirely anywhere,

or anyone. But I won't speak cruelly
of myself: this dividedness is just what
makes our species great: possible for Darwin

to figure out his theory of selection
while playing five-card stud,
for surgeon Keats to find a perfect rhyme
wrist-deep in the disorder
of an open abdomen.

For example, it is autumn here.
The defoliated trees look frightened
at the edge of town,

as if the train they missed
had taken all their clothes.
The whole world in unison is turning
toward a zone of nakedness and cold.

But me, I have this strange conviction
that I am going to be born.

by Tony Hoagland


Tuesday, June 16, 2009



"He said, what 'people call relationship problems should just be called relationships.'"

Adam Phillips, Promises, Promises


Monday, June 15, 2009



"In Israel I was eager to practice my Hebrew, to speak like a native as soon as possible. I made it a task to get the news from the newspaper Haaretz on a daily basis...I found scores of Jews like me--dislocated, tongue-snatchers ready to make the leap to become natives.

Much as I tried, I couldn't feel fully at home. I soon realized that, deep inside, I liked being divided: Mexican and Jewish. Or, more precisely, I found that that the concept of difference the Yidishe Shule had instilled in me had permeated my entire identity. In the streets of Mexico I had been singled out as a Jew, making me feel uncomfortable, though not altogether unwelcome. My skin color was different, my name was different..., my education was different. I didn't fit in...and I liked it.

Discomfort can be a pleasant sensation."

from Resurrecting Hebrew by Ilan Stavans


Thursday, June 11, 2009




It isn’t easy for water
to restrain its flavors.
It isn’t easy for air
to conceal its hues.
It isn’t easy for light
to veil its lyric.
But the work of water
is to taste like nothing.
The work of air
is to look like nothing.
The work of fire
is to billow in the bloodstream,
a wave that feels like nothing,
even as it burns.


Fr. Thomas Hopko on The Meaning of Life


"We are here for communion with God who is love. The one in whose image and likeness each one of us is made. We find this communion by loving as God loves us.

Love is radical self-giving for the good of another. The denial of self by which our true selves are born. It is the emptying by which we are filled, the foolishness by which we become wise, the weakness by which we become strong. It is the dying through which we come alive for unending life.In this world love always entails sacrifice and suffering, fidelity and forgiveness. It is fulfilled only in death; it is our sole source of joy.

My spiritual father often said that the miracle of all miracles is the ability to transform through love the smallest, seemingly insignificant detail of the routine drudgery of everyday existence into paradise. The ability to become ourselves, at each moment, a fresh paradise to those around us, thereby becoming 'gods by grace' for those who are 'gods to us.'

Each person accepts or rejects communion with God in his or her own unique manner. For some the way includes an encounter with Christ. For all, it includes the encounter with God's word and God's spirit dwelling within us. There are, in any case, no techniques for its accomplishment. The act of communion comes always as grace. For those who know it, it is not life's meaning, or purpose, or goal; it is life itself. God with us, making us what God is."


What We Sign Up For


I was intrigued to learn recently that Back In The Day (the time of the early Church), the following aspects or elements of the faith were not revealed to converts until after their baptism: the Lord's prayer, the gospel of John, communion, the Theotokos (or something about her, anyway--I'm not clear on that)...

In our consumerist age, we're used to refraining from commitment to anything until we've read all the fine print and know exactly what we're in for in an itemized, guaranteed-or-your-money-back kind of way. Apparently, the journey of faith is not like that. Instead, you are called, and you follow--without knowing much of what's ahead. It's supposed to be unconditional.

How refreshing, how terrifying!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009



I once heard a preacher say that the Kingdom of Heaven has (only?) two speeds: slower than the eye can see and faster than the eye can see.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009



I was thinking about someone I know whose life (difficulties, gifts, circumstances, etc.) is constituted by such fathomless and intricate mystery that I scarcely know how to pray for her. To attempt to pray for her is to touch the outskirts of a mystery which is so much greater than the "outcomes" I would like to see--health, well-being, etc.--though I can't not pray for those too.

Then it occurred to me--we're all like that. We're all in some sense uncharted territory for each other, and for ourselves as well.

That took me back to Romans 8 (again):

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."