Thursday, 25 October 2012
Dear Souls -
I've got something to say.
About my grandmother.
And about some other grandmothers I've known.
This includes grandfathers too.
But not all grandmothers and grandfathers:
just a few I've known over my lifetime.
For some months now, I've been reading The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian.
A heavy text
filled with wisdom.
And I'm convinced Saint Isaac forgot about the ordinary souls.
Although he is writing to monastics,
which most of us are not.
He speaks of a dusty path,
well traveled over the centuries.
All sorts of souls.
but not limited to,
December and all the holiday fuss
Monday, 3 December 2012
Dear Souls -
The end of the year is here.
Every year I spend the month of December pondering my goals for the upcoming year, and I always feel the need for a solid plan by January 1st. Let me be honest with you, I'm not hunkering down with dedicated focus on the Nativity fast. Nope, that's not me. It's not the tradition of my family, and it's not the tradition of the community I live in here in 21st century America. We're not perfect Orthodox Christians, we're just ordinary souls lumbering along through life....
For the past number of months I've had a tricky relationship with writing here on this website. Maybe I'll sort this out for the new year, or maybe I won't. I suspect this is just me, and I can't hope for anything more than who I am. I don't like exposing my soul, but I can't keep my hands from tapping away on these silly keys. Thank you for dropping by and seeing what I've got here: I spend a lot of time convincing myself that you're nothing more than roaming bots from China. Maybe you're a bot with ears, because somehow you're listening to Fr. Jon's homilies too.
I've got plans for a book that will blow your bot ears all the way back to China. This book is not my own, but comes from a place on the map of the earliest Bible stories. It's wisdom from the wisest of wise. Why should you read my keyboard babble when I can deliver you something far better? I'll tell you more about this sometime during the next year.
Many blessings for a cheery December,
Faith and the Unseen
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
Dear Souls -
Yesterday the angel on our nativity set fell from her perch on the side of our manger and smashed into pieces. For the past week or so I worried about her pending fatality, as activity swirled around her at a dangerous level. Despite my warnings, my family voted down my suggestion to set her in the manger on a flat surface.
"No," I was firmly scolded by a indignant teenager, "the angel belongs above the manger."
It's true, every Christmas for the past twenty years in our house the angel has rested on the roof ledge of the barn. It's her designated spot in our too official, unofficial nativity arrangement.
Now she's not there.
Or is she there, but unseen, I wondered this morning as I sipped my hot tea and gazed beyond the nativity set out the window watching red robins landing and taking off from the trees; trees where they blended in with the red leaves of their exact red hue.
Angels are unseen, but they're surrounding us all the time. The angels surrounding the birth of Christ were unseen by those there at the time, I suspect. But I don't doubt their presence.
Last month I attended the Raphael exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. I visited the exhibition twice, and on my first time through, I got an overall sense of the exhibit. And I confess, on this first visit, I rushed through the exhibition looking for my favorite Raphael painting of the Transfiguration; it isn't included in the exhibition. On my second visit, I lingered over each painting, savoring the feel of the art.
Raphael and his colleagues had a sense of the unseen, and this sense is apparent in his paintings brought together for the first time from across the world. In his art, Raphael vividly portrays the angels. So today in the Louvre thousands of disbelievers of the unseen, stand gazing into the realm of the angels . . . seeing the unseen before their eyes.
A Child, a Santa Claus,
and the Unseen
Wednesday, 22 December 2012
Dear Souls -
To raise children with a heart full of faith today, you must swim against the tide of popular society. But I also believe it's important not to isolate them from the bustle of the world. Kids have a confidence in the unseen that we reason ourselves away from as we mature. As adults, we develop our minds and trample our hearts in the process.
Here is an unedited letter about Santa Claus from my eleven year old niece:
Virginia. I received your letter asking if Santa Claus was real yesterday. Even
though it has been one hundred years, since you mailed the letter, I want to
answer you. You seem very bright to have mailed the letter by yourself! I hope
you enjoy reading my letter back.
answer to your question, Virginia, is yes. There is a Santa Claus. The way he
exists is different than you think, though. Santa is not a real body. I believe
that there is more to life than what you can see. Santa exists as a spirit. He
lives in everyone’s heart, but only if you believe. Santa lives also by
representing. I think and hope that you and your friends can believe in him.
I hope you realize that
there is more to life than what you can see. If you have a good imagination and
you believe with all your heart, than yes, Santa is real. I think that children
believe in Santa more. Adults tend to think that only what is visible exists,
but that is not true. Children imagine more, which is why they think that Santa
is real, which he is. Santa exists just as much as any other intangible object,
and tangible ones, too, for that matter.
also lives because he represents something. Not the kind of representing where
there is a Christmas sale and people dress as Santa. Santa represents love,
imagination, faith, Christmas joy and most of all,
generosity. Santa represents love and joy because he brings joy to children on
Christmas. He represents imagination and faith because he is not a physical
body so you must believe in him. He represents generosity because he gives
gifts to everyone on Christmas and he never thinks about himself.
Virginia, in short, Santa exists. Not physically, though. He exists by
representing, bringing joy to children, and most of all, in your heart. I hope
you believe, because that’s the only way he’s real. Merry Christmas, Virginia,
and I hope you read this.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas,
An Unseen Hobo
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Dear Souls -
I'd like to show you a story about a friend of mine that my family calls the Hobo, which I know is not a nice name. I first introduced you to him on New Years Eve 2010 when I took these photos:
And you saw him again earlier this year when I followed him on his regular morning walk.
He walks miles every morning along the same route looking for food wherever he can find it - often in the trash cans scattered along his way - and looking for change along the side of the road. I've never seen him ask anyone for anything. When he has money, he purchases one half gallon of milk from the local grocery store. I've seen him do this many times myself, and I've also asked the grocery store clerks about his purchasing history. (I'm a determined spy.) I help him out a little each time I see him, but it's never enough. I know there are those who believe that giving handouts fosters begging, but my friend the Hobo is not a beggar. And I can never get past remembering that he was once someone's small child.
It surprises me how similar these two men look to each other, although the first photo is of a man I never met (or even photographed, since his photo I borrowed from the web).
And I've noticed the Hobo lives alongside us, but he remains unseen by us most of the time....
Wishing you a New Year full of peace,