November 26

It Only Lives When You Give It Away

“It Only Lives When You Give it Away”

It’s been over two years since I’ve written here. There are many reasons why, many of which include some very dark days that I would care never to repeat, but nonetheless I’m writing again. My spiritual counselor has started his own blog this past year and it has been an invaluable help to me, in lieu of being able to actually visit him physically. One of his recent posts sparked me to finish this draft I started several months ago, but couldn’t seem to complete.

So much has happened since I last wrote, perhaps the greatest of which include my wife and I selling our beautiful country estate and moving back to a small townhouse in Indianapolis, a job change for us both, and most devastating, the miscarriage of our baby boy (named Aidan) after a decade of prayers for our own children. Nearly a year after our Godchildren moved home with their mother after spending 3 years living with us, we found out much to our utter surprise that we were pregnant. We had the blessing of hearing his heartbeat and knowing that life existed there, if only for a brief time. There are few things in life to top that feeling, especially after such a time, and there are few things in life to top losing that as well. Life is life and we all suffer loss at some point or another, but these past two years I would prefer to file away under the “Lord have mercy and let me forget” category…and still, growth comes from such things whether we want it to or not.  I know that one of the worst questions one can ask is “why”, but I have found myself asking this off and on these past years. Have I received an answer to that question? No. Quite simply, no. I don’t expect to receive one really, but sometimes it feels good to rage anyway, like a spoiled child banging his head against the wall. It truly is incredible what the human heart can do and can bear – such sorrow and such joy – beating with one or the other, or perhaps at times with both.  I have been astounded these past years at the depth of which I find myself feeling both things, and am convinced that there are some things that happen in life that change you as a person, and from which you will never recover – you can only choose to go on or not, and this I think is the key to the whole thing  – everything lies in our free will and the possession of choice.

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October 24

Shepherds or Butchers?

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Clericalism suffocates; it makes part of itself into the whole sacred character of the Church; it makes its power a sacred power to control, to lead, to administer; a power to perform sacraments, and, in general, it makes any power a power given to me! Clericalism separates all “sacredness” from the lay people: the iconostasis, communion (only by permission), theology. In short, clericalism is de facto denial of the Church as the body of Christ, for in the body, all organs are related and different only in their functions, but not in their essence. And the more clericalism clericalizes (the traditional image of the bishop or the priest emphasized by his clothes, hair, e.g., the bishop in full regalia!) the more the Church itself becomes more worldly; spiritually submits itself to this world. In the New Testament, the priest is presented as the ideal layman. But almost immediately there begins his increasingly radical separation from the lay people; and not only separation, but opposition to lay people, contrast to them. The tragedy of theological education lies in the fact that young people who seek priesthood are consciously or unconsciously seeking this separation, power, this rising above the laity. Their thirst is strengthened and generated by the whole system of theological education, of clericalism. ~Fr. Alexander Schmemann [Journals, pp. 310 & 311]

Fr. Alexander had a way of cutting to the core of things that I have always found refreshing. Having read, and enjoyed, many of his books, I found his journals (published posthumously) to be the one of the most honest and refreshing things I have ever read from an Orthodox clergyman. In the section above, as on other occasions, he reflects on clericalism, specifically from the vantage point of the Dean of a seminary, having seen scores of young men pass through the doors of his institution, many times I’m sure after the wrong things.
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October 7

Sleep My Little Ones, Sleep

Tessa at 3 Months Old

Songs and simple writing have not come easily these past few years. Not sure if it was writer’s block or just a lack of ability to set them free. I commented to my wife several times that I could feel the songs and pages in the book somewhere in there, but was having difficulty putting them to paper, like a stopper was in place. At any rate, it would seem that it’s been removed and they’re starting to flow. Grief does that I suppose – it leaves you with few options, most of which are not beneficial or compatible with staying out of jail, and besides, it must be faced, again and again – love leaves no other option. Anything less is fear driven self-centeredness and profits nothing, as my friend G. would say. So writing again is good, and liberating, and it’s cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking sorrows away, and safer than drugs, so…bonus! Grace often comes not by immediate answers to my temper tantrums at God, but rather in the little things He whispers when I’m still and listening. I don’t sleep well as a rule, and so I often sneak out of bed after the wifey is asleep. (She once commented, “I imagine you have this whole other life after I’m asleep…” I do.)
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October 5

Fall…Falling…Fallen…

It’s officially Autumn, or in the more common nomenclature, Fall. Fall is my favorite season, which is somewhat surprising given my feelings for the season that follows. But following season or not, this is now Fall – the time of year when everything winds down, the fields give up their bountiful harvest, and the leaves begin their slow descent to the ground from which they were originally nourished. Much of the Northern Hemisphere goes into a deep slumber, and waits, for the eventual Spring that will come in time. We call this season Fall and that term sums up more than what happens to the leaves on the trees. Nature herself gives us a reminder of the ultimate cycle of life we must all follow, over and over and over, until, in the end, we complete it one last time. I love this season primarily because of all that it reminds me of – sticky fingers full of caramel apple goodness, clothes covered in the prickly remnants of a well executed pile dive, the diesel hum and creaking tongue of night time hayrides in the cold night air, and the slow moving warm tingle of hot cider and extremity melting bonfire at the end. It’s the time of pumpkin pies and family gatherings, new classes and old friends, bluest skies and crisp colors everywhere, and the land sighing in relief at the end of a hot Summer. However, I also love this season because, while the Earth around me seems to be preparing for a long Winter’s nap, I always seem to be waking up from one. I don’t know if it’s all that I mentioned above, or the abundant Fall sunshine in this part of the world, or if it’s the reminder of my own mortality, but this happens every year. This year’s Fall however has brought with it something very different than years past. This is Fall, and true to nature and the word, something has fallen in my life, and with it have come difficult new changes into my own little world.
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