Dangerous Types of Judgement and The Greatest Commandment

Nikola_Mihaylov_Kozi_Dol_Church_St_John_the_Baptist_IconI’m not sure officially how many types of being judgmental there are, perhaps there is an infinite brand of sin for each individual based on each person’s life experiences.  But I am convinced there are at least two dangerous types –

The first is when we judge someone for not seeming to follow the Gospel and/or the commandments of Christ, which is difficult for us to avoid doing completely on our own despite our efforts (the success in this could only come from the Divine Love of the Holy Spirit).  We judge people for what see on the outside, what they do, not knowing the virtues in their hearts, and perhaps there are not many in certain people, or perhaps there are many, but it is for God to judge, not us.  May God help us.

The second is when we judge people who we see trying to follow the Gospel and commandments of Christ.  We judge them in a different way and tell ourselves that they must be doing this out of fear and compulsion.  They must not really love Christ.  Its must be unhealthy, not genuine.   Sometimes we hold a subtle hostility to Christian piety because perhaps we cannot understand why anyone would choose to live this way outside of fear, compulsion and pride, and this can even happen inside the Church – because the world is everywhere, and everywhere we look, and everyone, and everything is fallen except for Christ.

“Do not marvel my brethren, if the world hates you” – 1 John 3:13

Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” – Matthew 18:7

 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” – John 7:7

One person may wear long flowy skirts everyday out of fear, out of a coerced obligation of modesty, out of pride, who knows..whereas another person wears a long skirt everyday to feel like a princess of the Most High, to feel lighter in the spirit while draped in cloth like the Angels and Saints in icons, and because the conscience and soul feels healthier that way and closer to Christ.   There are people who prefer to assume the worse intention when someone is doing something that seems to follow the commandments of Christ, in this case modesty…but this type of judgement seems to happen with every facet of life.   The homeschooling family is paranoid, the family that does not watch much television is weak, afraid and scared and perhaps the family that does not let their children play violent, bloody video games is just afraid of masculinity or has “convertitis.”

The Greatest Commandment

The reality is when people who have tasted death in some form in their soul and body, taste the life of Christ, they will try to do whatever they can to preserve it (according to ability and possibily failing quite a bit). The lame who walks, does not want to be lame again.  The blind who sees, does not want to be blind again.  “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” Proverbs 26:11.  Christ is life, the world is death…may we all have the strength to do what we need to do cast out the death of judgement and pursue Christ with all our our heart, soul and mind and to the naysayers, we have a quote from Christ himself to his beloved Apostle Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”  (Matthew 16: 23)

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Something I am “reblogging”…

The Soul of the East

As we mark another Independence Day in America, it’s worth reflecting on the meaning of our country’s much-trumpeted exceptional status. Our land is indeed beautiful and blessed in many ways, home to millions of kind and generous souls. But to pretend that all is well would be whistling past the graveyard. The United States, we must remember, wasn’t ever conceived as an organic nation, but as a revolutionary construct, the herald of a dawning Novus Ordo Seclorum. And so its progress is always unfulfilled, its nature not being, but becoming, its vastness a continental-scale laboratory for social alchemy. Yet out of all attempts to identify the meaning of the American Dream, no one depicted its essence more aptly than a humble Orthodox monk, Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose:

One might take, as a symbol of our carefree, fun-loving, self-worshipping times, our American ‘Disneyland’; if so, we should not neglect to…

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Gary and the Monk

orthodox monk

“Gary and the Monk” 

“One day in 1974, a bearded young man named Gary was sitting in the Redding public library.  He was twenty-three years old, on his way from Mexico to Washington on another leg of a five-year fruitless “search for the meaning of life.” All his worldly possessions were in his knapsack in the Redding bus depot; he had almost no money with him – just a bag of bananas which someone had given him at a grocery store. He put his head on the table in the library, in despair at finding that everything he had read about philosophy and religion was absolutely empty and there was no answer to the questions he was asking.

About ten minutes later Gary saw a tall man, with long hair and a beard, in a worn black robe, walk into the library and proceed to look at the rows of books.  The man looked even poorer than Gary himself. Gary walked up to him with the bag of bananas.  “Here,” he said, “for your community, of whatever it is.”

Fr. Seraphim thanked him, and within a few minutes was already leaving the library with some books.  Walking down the sidewalk he suddenly saw Gary running up to him.  Little did Gary know that this black-robed figured had celebrated Pascha only four days before, that he still had the joy of the Resurrection in his heart…

“..I invited him to come and stay with us until Sunday, attending all our services, reading and working, and sitting in a kind of wide-eyed stupefaction as we tried to open up Orthodoxy to him – about which he had never heard except through Dostoyevsky…He had been in despair, and was overwhelmed at finding people who still believe in God, and not in a fake way.  The Paschal chants touched his heart, and he asked permission to sing, ‘Christ is Risen,’ softly, together with us…He left without knowing fully what had happened to him, but at least he knew that a ‘ray of light has dawned.”

When Gary was saying farewell to Fr. Seraphim at the bus station, he began to weep. “I don’t know what will become of me,” he said, “but you’ve given me hope.  And I’m deeply grateful for the connection you’ve made between me and Jesus Christ.!”

The above is an except from Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works by Hieromonk Damascene, pg. 616 – 617

Photograph from a shared photo at Flickr

 

Lenten Food Ideas

greek food
I thought I would write a blog entry containing some Lenten food ideas. Writing this list will help me with meal planning and perhaps it will help someone else browsing the internet for ideas! My toddler of course does not fast, but he also doesn’t really like to eat meat very much, so I try, as much as possible, to find meal ideas that he will also like. So here it goes…

Also before I start my list, one thing I learned during the Nativity fast is when making beans from scratch (dried beans) to make them without oil. Its too hard to keep track of which leftover beans have oil or not, so I just cook them all without oil and then reheat them with oil if its an oil day.

1. Pasta noodles, spaghetti sauce and great northern beans. Puree the beans in a food processor and add it to the sauce and put on the noodles. Really easy and tasty! (tip: The Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms at Trader Joes is oil free).

2. Pasta noodles, with sauce of pureed great northern beans, spinach and garlic. I haven’t actually tried this yet, but I am going to…

3. Pasta noodles with “alfredo” sauce made of pureed cauliflower. There are many recipes for this online, but even if you just use cauliflower, some vegetable broth, onion, pepper and garlic, it should taste fine.

4. Vegan Pizza. Homemade pizza dough is very easy to make with wheat or spelt flour, sugar, water, yeast, salt, Italian seasoning, and a touch of Earth Balance coconut margarine. If its an oil day, a good sauce is an artichoke pesto with toppings of spinach, onion, white beans, and mushrooms. (My own dough recipe: 3 cups organic spelt or whole wheat flour, 1 cup water, 1 package yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbs italian seasoning, and 2 tbs coconut margarine for non-oil day, or olive oil for oil day. If margarine is also not to be used, skip the pizza dough and use flatbread. Let dough rise for at least 1/2 hour if possible. If time allows, let rise for 1 hour, kneed, then let rise again for another 1 hour)

5. Curry! Curry paste, coconut milk, plus lots of potatoes, onions, carrots, and mushrooms on top of brown rice for added carbohydrate and protein. This is a good meal, but unfortunately not very high protein. Some shrimp might help if you eat shrimp during the fast.

6. Spelt risotto. Empty a box of vegetable broth and pour in a bag of pearled spelt/spelt berries, add in chopped zucchini, mushrooms, and garbanzo beans. (Hint: Do not add in quinoa – I added some to my last batch and now the whole dish tastes like quinoa and less like spelt and mushrooms.)

7. Veggie fajita burritos. Bean, rice, tortillas, veggies! (Costco is now selling vegan veggie fajitas also!)

8. Portabello mushroom soup

9. Portabello mushroom sandwich or burger

10. Taco salad without the taco meat (Dark greens, kidney beans, corn, black beans, red onions, chips, avocado, salsa, etc.)

11. Vegan tortilla soup. Pacific Foods makes a vegan tortilla soup base that makes this really easy to make in the crockpot. Just add a variety of beans, onions, canned tomatoes and maybe even some pasta noodles.

12. Traditional green lentil soup.

13. Red lentil soup. Cook the lentils with about a ratio of half coconut milk to half water/vegetable broth and add in carrots, zucchini and cauliflower.

14. Rice noodles with peanut butter soy sauce and vegetables. I use Trader Joes spaghetti rice noodles and use a sauce of Organic soy sauce mixed with peanut butter. Some people use Soyaki sauce and peanut butter for this dish, but the only form of soy I can eat is fermented soy, so I use this other version. Pretty much any vegetables will do: carrots, broccoli, celery, etc.

15. Split pea soup. I read to avoid eating peas if you are trying to grow your family..otherwise, its a great soup and very easy to make!

16. Apples and peanut butter

17. Pita bread wraps with hummus and vegetables. For the oil days, etc.

18. Oatmeal. Good at any of time of the day. Not all oatmeal is the same. Some is very processed and lacks natural protein and iron. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Thick Cut Oats is, relatively, very high in protein and iron. Add in raisins for even more iron.

19. Homemade veggie burgers. It seems I can’t find my favorite recipe for these online anymore, but generally I would use black beans, lentils, mushrooms, ketchup, quick cooking oats, and seasonings to make these.

20. Potato and bean burrito. Shredded potatoes cooked in oil with cumin, chili powder, etc and refried beans in a tortilla. Then fry it in oil to cook it all together. For an oil day : ) Otherwise, its just as good with boiled beans and potatoes in a flatbread.

21. Vegan chili

22. Tortilla or pita bread wrap with white beans and spinach. High in protein and iron.

23. Lavash bread/flatbread, oil, garlic and vegetables.

24. Lentil tacos. Cook lentils exactly as you would taco meat (i.e. tomatoes, onions, and seasoning) and use in place of the meat in tacos or burritos.

If I think of any more ideas, I’ll add them to the list. Making this list has definitely helped me feel more mentally organized for preparing food for my family for Lent. It seems that the key ingredients to have on hand are: lots of vegetables (especially spinach), oats, lentils, peanut butter, potatoes, mushrooms, tortillas, pita bread, canned tomatoes, and a variety of beans.

Why I Choose to Wear a Headcovering in my Orthodox Christian Church

Almost three years ago, I started attending the Orthodox Christian Church as an inquirer and then a catechumen.  I really wanted to wear a headcovering to church but felt a bit of trepidation at the time since many at my church did not wear one.  At that time, I stumbled across an article on OrthodoxInfo that reinforced my sentiment (http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/headcoverings.aspx) and provided me with more courage to wear one to church. I thought that it might be helpful at this time for me to share my own reasons for wearing a headcovering for anyone else in the same situation.  Because the reasons are varied and not all related, I thought it would be best to put in list form.  Also, please note that when I speak of headcovering, I am not talking about a full body covering or something that covers the face, but a scarf or such draped over the head, etc.  Also, please note that I am not a theologian or an expert on this topic.  (The scripture where this topic is mentioned in The Bible is 1 Corinthians 11: 2 -16).

Why I Choose to Wear a Headcovering in Church

1)   When I was a young girl and wanted to play dress up and be a princess, gypsy, little red riding hood, or any other fanciful thing,  I would drape a blanket over my head.  How wonderful it was when I learned that yes, Christians (the first Christian women!) wore headcoverings and the Orthodox Church still has that tradition today!   I no longer had to look at the beautiful religious costumes of those from other traditions such as Islam and Hindu with a bit of envy…my own tradition included a beautiful headcovering!  While some women in the American culture associate the headcovering only with Islam, it interesting to note that Christianity started 600 years prior to Islam.  We believe that the law of God is written on mens’ hearts (Romans 2: 14-15), so I don’t think its a coincidence that many cultures have a headcovering for women, especially for times of ceremony.

2) Even in the Hollywood media, the headcovering is sometimes used and to me seems to convey strength and femininity.  Media figures such as Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy Onassis can often be seen photographed with headcoverings.

3)  Arwen in Lord of the Rings sometimes wears a headcovering and headpiece!  In the film, the headcovering seems to be a costuming prop that supports her courageous journey.  As an Orthodox Christian, I have joined a royal priesthood of believers and the headcovering feels like a feminine symbol of that royal priesthood that accompanies me on my spiritual journey.  (1 Peter 2:9-10: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.)

4)  I love to sing, but I find myself not wanting to sing in church without a headcovering or I do so very, very quietly.

5) In my three year journey into learning about Orthodox Christianity (I was baptized just over two years ago), I have come to love our God of beauty and order and the headcovering seems to be part of his beauty and order.

6)  I have a son but he does not pull my headcovering off in church generally (only a few times).   For the most part, my nearly one year old son chews and plays with the ends of my scarf while it stays on my head.  It is also a bit helpful when he is teething during church!

7)  I am actually not totally sure how much the headcovering itself has to do with submission to men in the Orthodox tradition as in traditions like Amish and Anabaptist, but I am completely fine with that aspect nonetheless.  I grew up in a confusing dysfunctional home and instead of developing a hatred towards men, or thinking that I don’t need them, I developed a clear sense of the importance of good men and good male leaders.

8) About the time I started wearing the headcovering, I had just had an opportunity to see Hawaii’s Holy Myrrh Streaming Icon (http://orthodoxhawaii.org/icons.html).  After witnessing this miracle of this icon of the Theotokos and Christ, I really felt strongly that I wanted to wear a headcovering in church.  Also, I first saw the icon in a Serbian Orthodox Church where over half of the women had beautiful headcoverings.  I recently saw the icon for a second time and now, three years later, I am writing this post.

9) Also at this time, I was going through a difficult personal time and I liked the extra reminder that Christ was over me and that even if I felt abandoned by certain family members, I had the Kingdom of Heaven as family.  I know I can just think this encouragement in my head, but having learned of sacramental theology, I now appreciate the physical reminders and actions that I can take to help learn these things in a deeper way.  Also from my Protestant days, I was familiar with the song “His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4: “He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love”) and so wearing the headcovering, similar to a banner, is another reminder to me of God’s love and that I am not alone.

10)  Prior to the 1950s or so, a large number of Christian women from all Christendom (Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic) wore headcoverings to church.  Since the start of feminism in the 50s or so and the sexual revolution in the 60s much has changed for the worse when in comes to traditional morality and traditional family structure…so I trust more what women did before all that happened.

11)  If a woman’s headcovering is only her hair, then why do most all of the icons of women Saints in the church, aside from St. Mary of Egypt depict them with headcoverings?

12)  The Bible says that women are to wear the headcovering on “account of the angels.”  I love the fact that there are angels among us and in Divine Liturgy with us though we cannot see them.  For some reason I don’t know, they want women to wear headcoverings.  Several Saints of the first centuries speak of the importance of wearing a headcovering:

St. John Chrysostom said, “The angels are present here. Open the eyes of faith and look upon this sight. For if the very air is filled with angels, how much more so the Church! …Hear the Apostle teaching this, when he bids the women to cover their heads with a veil because of the presence of the angels.”

St. Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on I Corinthians, wrote: The angels find it extremely hard to bear if this law [that women cover their heads] is disregarded.”

I love that there is a Kingdom of Heaven of which I have a small part and part of that is to wear my headcovering.  The bishops have their special vestments, the priest wears his vestments, the deacons have their liturgical clothes, the altar servers have theirs, so actually having something special to put on  in church also feels like I am a participating in the liturgical dress as well.

13)  In The Bible, miracles and healings occur at times after people complete a simple physical task such as putting mud on their eyes, going into a pool, picking up a mat, and walking around a building playing musical instruments (Battle of Jericho).  Because of that, I don’t view wearing the headcovering as something trivial and believe that its possible for this action to aid in my soul’s healing in some way.

So I have come to the conclusion of my list of reasons though I am sure there are more!