What we have…

March 17, 2008

Consider this…

Moses, who spoke with God through the burning bush, who removed his sandals on the ever-holy ground… who led the captives out of Egypt, who ascended the Mount and saw what can only be described in our frail human terminology and way of thought as the ‘back side’ of God… then descended with the Commandments… Moses, who by the power of God, parted the sea and freed the captives from Pharaoh.

He did not have what we have.

David, the Prophet, the King, who wrote most of the Psalter from which we chant and sing, who understood repentance and was considered the apple of God’s eye — David who slew Goliath, being exalted from a young shepherd boy, to Israel’s greatest King…

He did not have what we have.

King Solomon, who excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom, who built the temple which held the Ark of the Covenant, who wrote the powerful Song of Songs and the Book of Ecclesiastes…

He did not have what we have.

John, the Baptist of the Lord, known to be the holiest man who walked the earth… who in shambles dared to touch the untouchable, in fear that he may be consumed as wheat to fire in touching God the Son! John who preached from the desert, sustaining himself only on honey on locusts, clothed in animal skins and very much dead to the world, who many believed to be the promised Messiah…

He did not have what we have.

Isaiah, the Fifth Evangelist, who saw the Lord seated high and lifted up in the year that King Uzziah died… Isaiah who felt contrition in a vision of the Lord, though he had seen the coming of divine worship, he still knew himself to be unclean. Isaiah, who was visited by the Seraphim with the burning coal, that glorious foreshadowing of the Divine Eucharist — the first to have heard “Behold, this has touched your lips…”

He did not have what we have.

Though these were undeniably holier than we, stop and consider — we have seen the fulfillment of the Promise. What Isaiah saw a foreshadowing of we have access to! Where Moses had to ascend in fear and trembling our God now descends! The path in which John preached to walk is manifest!

… How we must grieve the Lord, that we take our faith so casually.

How we must grieve Him that in the Old Testament, the days of waiting and expectation, there were those holy enough to look upon the Chalice with true, undeniable piety… reverence… Godly fear… and tears. How often we approach the Chalice with indifference, and hardened hearts, and mindlessly attend the Divine Liturgy which so many righteous died waiting for, without even knowing of it’s future revelation.

How would these Saints and righteous ones have approached the Chalice? How would they have stood within the beauty of the New Israel, God’s Church? In fear, in awe, in extreme piety and devotion, in ways that we would possibly never even come to understand… these Saints who lived before the God-man, before the Promise of Salvation had been completely made manifest, even as a Child to a Virgin. I must stop for a moment and consider Moses, how would he respond to that call, “with faith and with love come forward”? Would he be able to move at all? Would he tremble in fear, rejoice in tears and thanksgiving? That we can’t say for sure…

… but consider, if he and the others were to watch us in our stoicism, in our inattentiveness, and our hardness of heart, as we check our watches and shift our weight and worry for comfort… they would rend their garments, and sprinkle ashes on themselves. How easily we take it all for granted! We stand within the Church of Acts, of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Church of Pentecost, of the radiant and victorious martyrs! The faith which established the universe is ours!

How much do we give, how much do we strive, how much do we hurt, how much do we show that we want it? Do you know the difference between a man and a Saint? Effort. God has revealed to us the Church and the Sacraments, and the power in which His grace can turn us from men into angels… we have so much more than the Old Testament Saints. We stand on holier ground, we are beyond compare richer, we have the complete fulfillment of prophecy and vision…

… but we simply, lack, the effort.

May God visit us during this time of struggle and preparation, that when the Royal Doors are once again opened, and the King of all is invisibly escorted in… we may remember our immense blessings. May we turn from pharasaical hypocrisy, false struggle, vanity, pride, selfishness, delusion, hardness of heart, and embrace humility, patience, understanding, and the wisdom which God offers to those who seek after it. May we take it upon ourselves to break ourselves from laxity and comfort, to free ourselves from the delusion of “freedom” and become a slave in Christ, that we may finally understand what freedom truly is…

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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We’re UP!

February 22, 2008

All new features. Chatbox operational. New content. New incentives for advertising. Surge of new members and forum activity. New MySpace page. New OrthodoXCircle group. SiteMeter loaded.

I’m more than happy with things right now, I mean, really… it’s all word of mouth and it’s taking off amazingly. Thank you guys again for your efforts, and I hope to see more of you there. Be on the lookout for the upcoming Newsletter and focus on user blogs.

Anti-Humans

February 16, 2008

Between 1944-1945, Communism took over the Christian country of Romania. An experiment of terror was performed on the young generation, on students from the age of eighteen to twenty five. Among those students was a man who is alive today after surviving sixteen years in the anti-human communist prison system. His name is Father George Calciu. After His release from prison, he was exiled to America in 1984. Below follows part of an interview by Nun Nina from this year.(1998)

Nun Nina: This may be more difficult for you to talk about – I know a little bit about what happened there and the whole experiment of re-education that took place. Can you tell us about what happened?

Fr. George: Communism wanted to make a gap between the generations. The most dangerous category for them was the students, the young people. We had inherited a Christian education, family values, and basic Christian principles. The older generation was a generation that had to die, but this generation had to be transformed. So they tried to experiment in a very concentrated medium. They wanted to break the people, the whole country. Romania was not a primitive country. We were connected to European culture.

We believed in Christian values. Therefore, they wanted to do this special experiment with the young people, to create a gap between the children and the older generation, to make this generation of students a communist one. They wanted to build a new world – a communist world; a new man—the communist man and so on. Se the arrested the young people – the students – and put them in a special prison for this very experiment.
They took very distinct steps. The first was to destroy the personality of the youth. For example, the guards would come together with a group of young prisoners who had converted to communism in a cell where there were perhaps twenty young students and try to intimidate them. They would beat without mercy. They could even kill somebody. Generally they would kill one of them – the one who opposed them the most; the most important one. Generally he was a leader. They would beat him and even kill him. Thus, the terror began.

After that, they began to “unmask.” They wanted to force you to say: “I lied when I said, ‘I believe in God.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my mother and my father.’ I lied when I said, ‘I love my country.’” So everyone was to deny every principle, every feeling he had. That is what it means to be “unmasked.” It was done in order to prove that we were the products of the bourgeois, and the bourgeois are the liars. We lie when we say we are virgin, we are Christian, and when we try and preserve our bodies for marriage.

They tried to say I was a prostitute, a young man that had connections with the all the girls. We would be tortured until we denied everything we believed before. So, that is what it means to be “unmasked.” It was done in order to prove that Christian principles we not principles, that we lied when we said we loved Jesus Christ, we loved God, mother, father, and so on. It was to show that I lied when I said that I was a chaste man, when I held the ideal of nation and family. Everything had to be done to destroy out souls! This is the second step.

After this came a declaration against everybody who was in touch with us, everybody who believed as we believed. I was to make a declaration against everybody who knew about my organization or my actions, to denounce everybody—even father, mother, sister. We were to sever completely any Christian connection and moral people.

The final step was to affirm that we had given up all the principles of our faith and any connection we had with it. With this we began to be “the new man,” “the communist man,” ready to torture, to embrace communism, to denounce everybody, ready to give information, and ready to blaspheme against God. This is the most difficult part, for under terror and torture one can say, “Yes, yes, yes.” But now, to have to act? It was very difficult.
It was during this third part that many of us tried to kill ourselves.
Nun Nina: This is when you tried to commit suicide?

Father George: Yes, this was the most difficult part. Thus was a new category of man built by communism. And we were forced to go with some of our former torturers into another cell and start doing to same thing. It was very difficult. It was a very devilish directive.

At this time we could not understand the mystical implications of this action. We are political prisoners and the communists wanted to learn everything about us—about our friends, our families—because the majority of the people were against them. They wanted to strike terror in them and in the country.

Only later did we understand that there were mystical implications. All these people were just instruments of the devil. After the actions had stopped, some of us understood. But, we were too involved with the political fight before we were in prison. Even if I and others protested against the introduction of materialism into the schools and the forbidding of the students to go to Church, I think the majority of our effort was being involved in the political fight. However, little by little, under the terror, the torture, and suffering, we understood that this political implication was just the surface. In fact, it was a fight between good and evil; between God and the devil.

When we understood that, we started praying even more than before. God sent us illumination. We understood it and we were aware of the nature of this fight. We understood that it was not [a name] was our enemy—it was the devil. He tried to destroy our soul. It was not just a political fight for someone’s struggle for power. They wanted to destroy our soul, our faith, our spiritual connection with our families. We understood this and we tried to resist. We were fighters—very strong, courageous, and faithful.
So there were four steps: the instillation of terror, the unmasking, the denouncement of other people, and, afterwards, the changing of our souls. These four steps were strictly thought out and planned. It could not be only in the images of the mind. They had long experiences of this in Russia and were now bringing it to Romania.

We had not right to work. They had no interest in our body. Our body was just an instrument through which to reach our soul. They interested in our faith, in the destruction of our souls.

There was no torture moral and physical that was not used. But you can pass through the tortures. The problem for us was the moral problem. To deny Faith, to deny everything, to say that all my life was only lies. To deny every Truth, the real Truth you believed before. To say now that it was not true, it was a lie. This was a problem for many, for we can pass through the tortures—or we can die. But, to survive, and to deny everything you believed in before, everything that was the cornerstone of your soul. This was our difficulty.

When you were tortured, after one or two hours of suffering, the pain would not be strong, but after denying God and knowing yourself to be a blasphemer—that was the pain that lasted. Spiritual pain is more difficult to bear than bodily pain.

Nun Nina: Where there moments when you thought you were going to lose your mind or go insane?

Father George: Yes

Nun Nina: What did you do? How did you even pray during those moments?

Father George: One cannot pray during those moments. But during the night, when everyone goes to bed, you gain your strength and find your repentance. You pray for this. It is not complicated. You say, “God forgive me!” It is enough for your soul to regain its strength and resist one more day… and one day more… and one day more. Not to die. Not to go crazy. Many of us went mad. But just to say, “Forgive me, God.” You knew very well that the next day you would again say something against God. But a few moments in the night, when you started to cry and to pray to God to forgive you and help you was very good.

Many times we were quite angry with God—if you exist why did you allow this? But there was one moment when the mercy of God would come upon you and you could say, “God forgive me; God help me.” It was enough to help you. For another day, another day, another day.

We were freed and we were very happy to be free, but we had a kind of nostalgia about the prison. And we could not explain it to others. They said we were crazy. How could you miss prison? Because in prison, we had the most spiritual life. We reached levels that we are not about to reach in this world. Isolated, anchored in Jesus Christ, we had joys and illuminations that this world cannot offer us. There are not words to express exactly the feeling we had there. Many times we were not happy at all, but there were moments of happiness there. When I took care of Constantine Oprisan in the cell, I was very happy. I was very happy because I felt his spirituality penetrating my soul. I learned from him to be good, to forgive, not to curse the torturer, not to consider anything of this world to be a treasure for you. Can you imagine—we were in a cell without windows, without air, humid, filthy—yet we had moments of happiness that we never reached in freedom.

Anti-Humans and the Re-Education Experiment is an article provided by Death to the World.

Desert Calling

February 14, 2008

John 15:16-19 You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remin; that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you. These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love his own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Desert Calling is now up and running. We had a couple of rough patches during the beginning, but now things are finally up and running. The vBulletin forum is up and running, there’s a nice portal front page as soon as you log on, activity is growing every day, we’re the #1 spot on Google when you search “Desert Calling”, and I couldn’t be much happier.

I really hope to see some of you guys there. A lot of the things I’ve read from your blogs have been so very edifying, it would be more than a blessing to have some of you sharing that with us over in the Desert Calling community. If you like it, spread the word! Suggestions and feedback is most welcome.

Thank you guys, and I apologize for the lack of posting lately. Between getting this website operational, work, Church, and everything life throws at me in-between, I haven’t been able to get much posted… but I am thankful you still take some time out for me.

In XC,

Blake

It’s up!

January 24, 2008

Dust and Ashes.net is up and running. We’re still getting everything set up and moved in, but it’s operational. I’ve got a to-do list posted on the page for me to tackle as it goes by, but as far as having a running database and operational message board goes it’s finally there. Head on over to Dust and Ashes now to get a look, and register! I’d love to be able to talk with you guys there if you’d so like.

Dust and Ashes is a message board/community for Orthodox Christians, Catechumens, and inquirers. We have forums to fit every poster’s needs, and if we don’t, tell us and we’ll see about getting it put up for you. For my tech readers it’s hosted by iPower and running on the vBulletin message board system. If you’ve never posted on a message board before, here is a great link to explain things a little more.

I hope to have a website implemented to go along with the message board too, where I’ll provide links to other sites, add some affiliates, host sites of the month, things of that nature. You would be able to purchase some advertising space and get your site featured on Dust and Ashes to increase your traffic, whether it’s a blog, message board, or Orthodox website. I’ll be featuring an online webstore too, based on Cafepress, to get a little merchandise up for those who would be interested.

Dust and Ashes is still a grassroots effort. We’re getting advertised based on links and word of mouth from people who are interested in helping. If you would like to link Dust and Ashes from your site or blog, I would highly appreciate anything you could do to help. Reply here, or email me at webmaster@dustandashes.net for more info on that.

Feedback and suggestions are most welcome. I look forward to seeing you guys on the new message board.

I’ve taken the plunge.

I’ve had a few sites in the past that I ran, though nothing too too serious. Tonight I decided that I’m going to be purchasing a .com, along with a nice program to generate some traffic by adding the site to about 200 search engines. Of course it will remain a grass roots effort much like Orthopraxis has, getting the word out through friends, advertisements, and other such methods. I’ll be checking in with Death to the World too, to see if they’d like to help advertise, along with AFR, etc etc.

Expect to see dustandashes.net up and running soon! I would also love if any of you would like to shamelessly plug the new forum on your blogs once in awhile too, considering it meets your standards and you’d like to become a member. Keep an eye out, I’ll let you know as soon as it becomes available.

For you techies, I’ll be running it on vBulletin, and I’m more than up for suggestions and help if you’ve got experience.

Pray for me a sinner,

Blake/Isaac

Absence.

January 11, 2008

Allow me to begin with the thing of most importance, the realization that we are within the renewed sanctification and blessing of the Jordan, the Forerunner has preached repentance, and One has come to baptize with fire… Christ is baptized! Or as the Slavs say, God is manifested!

Allow me to catch you up on some things.

I had a pretty frightening experience a few weeks ago, which has had it’s ups and downs since then. Considering my family has a history of bleeding ulcers and polyps I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but I’ve definitely got something going on like that. I noticed one day that I had some blood in my stool, some days were better than others, but it was enough for me to go to the doctor and get checked out. After checking a few things[and finding out my cholesterol and glucose is good plus I had lost some weight so at least that much is good] they couldn’t figure it out for sure, so in a couple of months I have an appointment with a specialist…

Good news about that is, it’s not dangerous enough for me to need to see a specialist as soon as possible. Bad news is, the doctor mentioned a colonoscopy, and let’s just say I’m not too thrilled about that. I’ve asked for humility, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. For those who don’t know, let’s just say it involves an enema, a tube, and a flexible light while being so doped up you don’t know what world you’re in.

I’m hoping and praying it just clears up on it’s own… the last few days have been perfectly fine, but the stomach pain is still there.  Pray for me, if you will.

What else…

Well, I found myself back in Church on the Eve of Theophany. It was wonderful catching up with everyone. I ran into my friend Virginia Chryssikos, a lovely English professor at the local College, and let her know that over my little period of absence I had read “A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain” which she had helped edit and revise. Please, if you ever read another book, read that one. I can’t explain how amazing it is. The next day of course was Theophany, which is absolutely one of my favorite Great Feasts. I got to catch up with Igor and Giorgi, two of my favorite parishioners who moved here from Ukraine not too long ago. My parish is pretty diverse, we’ve got a Lebanese family, some Greeks, some Russians, and some Ukrainians.

I caught up with my Godfather Subdeacon James, which was awesome too. He was happy to see me but scolded me a little, as a good Godfather should, that I need to “jump back on the saddle” and come back to Church.  Father was much the same, though a little more ‘real’… good word for Father Mark. “Real.”

He told me that I can’t call myself a catechumen if I don’t fast and pray with the Church. He told me that there are no plans for my Baptism at this point, and there won’t be at least until next Pascha, and that’s if I show my initiative and come back as I should. It’s very humbling, and was a little hurtful, but a kick in the pants goes a lot further than a pat on the back and I very much respect him for being honest and direct with me. He did reassure me however, telling me not to worry for the past or even for the future, only worry about being here, and making an effort. He told me, as the Fathers say, give blood to achieve the Spirit… without giving until it hurts you will not acquire anything salvific.

So, I’ve gotten back into my prayer rule, and I’m going to be immersing myself into the Lives of the Saints and other good spiritual reading. My job is going well, a good deal stressful sometimes but, that’s life.

If there is anything I have learned over my period of absence both from here and from the Church, it’s been this: Without grace, without Him, I am a desperate and wicked sinner with no good in me. I love myself more than God, I love myself more than my neighbor, I am an idolater. The catechumenate, I was told, is a battle… and I understand why during those prayers I was regarded as a newly-enlisted soldier of Christ. I took it lightly, I admit that; I tried to follow a schedule, follow things logically, follow things simply, and regard the catechumenate as one small step towards baptism… but it’s definitely much more. It truly is a struggle, and it truly is a battle. When I took that step, I came into His grace, but as St Isaac said… the closer we draw near to the Kingdom this will be our sign: the more temptations that multiply against us.

Please remember me in your holy prayers.