Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words





Thursday, 5 July 2012

Dear Souls -

        After taking a few months break from much writing here, I'm back in a new leaner, tougher form. Why should I do this website and just play sweet pansy? If you can handle this, then hang around, but if not . . . then head for the fancy theology sites you can find in abundance all over the web. But I'm certain this is the only site where you can crawl around inside the heart of a born and raised Orthodox Christian. For what that's worth.

        If you've spent any time here at all, then you know I'm not in favor of church rubbish. Most of religion is church rubbish and worthy of my neighbor's Scoopity Doo man who visits them once a week with a bucket and shovel. You figure out the rest...

        God is not about three levels of faithful Orthodox Christians as one priest lamented in his homily. I'm certain there exists an infinite assortment of faithful humans taking all sorts of forms; only God knows them for sure. And whether or not you can recite the twelve Feast days, as suggested by this frustrated priest, is irrelevant. The eleventh commandment is not: Thou shalt puff thyself up with knowledge. No, God gave Moses Ten Commandments, and if that was enough for God, then that's enough for me.

         Where is God? Isn't that the ultimate question we must ask ourselves? Will I see God more clearly if I can properly recite the twelve Feast days? I must confess that I stumble over the Nicene Creed, but I'm a whiz at reciting the Lord's Prayer. Is intelligence or diligent study a measure of proximity to God? Shall I attend seminary, so I can find God with a brain stuffed full of facts? Or will all those facts get in the way of my heart, which is where I'll really find the Kingdom of God.

             And, when I find God, how will I know it is G-O-D? Will His presence make me shield my eyes or shake in my shoes? Will He tap me on the shoulder when I'm at church, or will He course through my heart when I'm out surfing? What if I'm busy trying to memorize the twelve Feast days and I miss his presence, will he come back again at a more convenient time for me?

             Someone once told me a story of their encounter with God. They did not shield their eyes, or shake in their shoes. They just stood there amazed wondering why no one else noticed anything at all. But, they said there was no doubt they felt God coursing through their bones with an energy you couldn't miss. So, I suspect the energy of God would be obvious to me even though I don't know the twelve Feast days by heart after a lifetime....

              I must stay focused on G-O-D, and away from all the rubbish.


Spoken Words

Friday, 6 July 2012

Dear Souls -

         As you sit reading this, my thoughts leave my brain, travel to my fingers, and land on your screen. Today much of our information reaches us through a screen with the written word. Yesterday I sent a message to a friend, and before my computer registered the completed sending I noticed her reply in my Inbox. And yes, it was truly a reply to the note I wrote with my fingertips moments ago. With both our written and spoken words we communicate our thoughts and feelings to others. And our traditions travel through the centuries with both this written and spoken word passed along through the generations.

          We have evidence of the written words from thousands of years ago. Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai has the second largest collection of ancient manuscripts in the world  (the Vatican has the largest collection of ancient manuscripts). And from these ancient words written long ago we hear the thoughts of someone who we never met in person. Their written words convey thoughts to us from across the land, sea, and centuries. This written word carries weight with us because it's tangible; it's old, and we can take pictures of it and put it in books. We can circulate these words across the internet and place them on our shelves. Written words satisfy us with their lasting strength.

           Spoken words are more difficult for us to measure. We cannot place them in a museum or put them on our shelves. They travel across the land, sea, and centuries but in a less concrete way. Written words leave a trail; someone put their thoughts down and they stuck. Spoken words are more like incense that travels along and leaves a scent, but it vanishes into the air. We cannot capture spoken words and keep them right in front of us unless we write the words down. And then the spoken word becomes the written word, and we're happy because now we can put it on a shelf or hold it in front of our face.

            Spoken words vanish unless we pass them along from one person to the next. And over the land, sea, and centuries these spoken words take hold and stick in the hearts of the people who hear them. But still we cannot put them on a shelf or in a museum unless we transfer spoken words into written words.

             The Orthodox Church is a living faith of the people for 2000 years. We love calling Eastern Orthodoxy the ancient faith; its held to the Traditions of Christianity since the days of the Apostles.  Today we preserve much of the written word of the clergy, monastics, and many of those newer to the Orthodox faith. And the spoken words of the generations of Orthodox Christian faithful are also preserved and passed along as is this written word, but this often goes unnoticed. The spoken words - the traditions which pass through the homes, families, and daily lives of the people - vanish into the air; the spoken words of generations vanish like incense unless they are heard as they pass from person to person through the young and old, the wise and not so. The Orthodox faith moves across the land, sea, and centuries through both the written and spoken words of the people, as it is handed along to the wise and not so. Without the two working together, without both the written and the spoken words, an integral part of the living tradition of the Church is lost.

                                                      link here: Thirteen times Seven


Spoken Words:

The Oral Tradition

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dear Souls -

         The oral tradition is much too complicated a topic for my simple mind, but I'll give it a go in the short amount of time I have to tap my thoughts onto this keyboard. No, all my writing is not my best; it's just what I've got time to fire off in the moment....

           As far as I can tell there are different ways people approach their faith. And I personally don't give an owl's feather whether you're an Orthodox Christian or not. And whether or not you're a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian also matters little to me. But when a religion of any sort spins around a rigid fundamentalist edge, I keep my distance. I was born into a package that is a comfortable fit for me.... and I prefer the constant of what I've known over my lifetime. Besides, this faith I received as a gift at my birth was the faith of my ancestors . . . and also the faith of the Church Fathers. So that's good enough for this heart of mine.

           My paternal great-grandmother was born, raised, and married in the Old City of Jerusalem. She raised her daughter, my grandmother, in the Old City within the traditions of her faith as she learned them from her own mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. But none of these mothers, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers were educated in Christian theology of the book sort. They lived their faith every day as it was passed along to them in the lives and stories of Orthodox Christians in their community. And at that time, their broader community in the Old City was made up of Muslims, Jews, and Christians all living alongside one another as neighbors and friends. But back then, as today, groups of Orthodox Christians shared their faith with others through their lives, their stories, and the Divine Liturgy.

           The oral tradition is wafting around in the air . . . remember it's the incense of our faith. Capturing this oral tradition with my tapping fingers and transferring it to the screen in a worthy form will take much time and deep thought. It's the essence of my life with my family and the broader Orthodox community surrounding me my whole life. The love passed through the generations with this oral traditions is in our bones, our child rearing, and our everyday living. But most of all, the oral tradition is present in the Divine Liturgy, which encapsulates the whole of our Faith.


Spoken Words:

Oral Tradition

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Dear Souls -

               Each family has its history, and this is my family history with its ties to ancient Christianity in Jerusalem. Your family may link to the Boston Tea Party, but mine links to Orthodox Christianity in the Old City. I had nothing to do with this at all.

                At times I post photos on this website that I find floating around cyberspace. But this photo I received a few weeks ago from my mother who knows I treasure all old family photos, but especially those of my own family. She found this picture of my father's grandmother as she sorted through a cluttered closet in our family home. I suspect this picture was taken on the front porch of my great-grandmother's  home in Los Angeles after she immigrated to America from Jerusalem with her three daughters in the early 1920s. She spent World War I in the Old City alone with her daughters, separated from her husband who worked here in the U.S. during the Great War.

                I never met my great-grandmother - she died before my birth - but my aunts tell me stories about her life. They tell me she was a "very holy woman." This does not surprise me, since she raised my grandmother who I knew well, and most who knew her also agree she was a "very holy woman." The actions and words of these "holy" women have a lingering effect today on the sense of God in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

                 The birth records of my great-grandmother, Asine, as well as the births, baptisms, and marriages of all my family from the Old City are kept at their parish church Saint Jacob's, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And the family of her husband, my great-grandfather, still lives in the Old City and attends the church at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They are shopkeepers right there in the Christian neighborhood. (Remember, I don't have any roots to Plymouth Rock, my family roots in this country begin at Ellis Island sometime around World War I.) I've never traveled to the Holy Land, except in my imagination, and I've never met any of my family living in Jerusalem. But I know directions to my great-grandmother's home in the Old City, as told to me by my grandmother: enter the City by the Damascus gate, turn left, and climb the hill....

                A couple of months ago, a kind, older Greek Orthodox gentleman mentioned to me that he did not know there was a history of Palestinian Orthodox Christians. This surprised me, and I reminded him with a small (or not so small) note of sarcasm in my voice, about a place called Jerusalem. In his mind, the Holy Land had relocated to some islands in the Mediterranean. As Orthodox Christians from Jerusalem, we've lost our place in the history of Christianity. But if you want a discussion of the reasons for this, please look elsewhere. The Christian traditions of my great-grandmother and her family have not disappeared; they continue today uninterrupted by the turmoil of political and religious disputes.