Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunset in San Diego.

California can't be that bad of a place with sunsets like this:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Boundless Appetite.

Philippians 3:19 (Amplified Bible) reads:
19They are doomed and their [a]fate is eternal misery (perdition); their god is their stomach (their appetites, their sensuality) and they glory in their shame, [b]abiding with earthly things and being of their party.
It is around this time of Lent that one begins realizing one's place and sinfulness. Some say that God sometimes lifts his Grace a little that we might know humility. Lately it seems I have become more aware of the insatiability of my appetite. Not that I am given over to a specific fervor per se, such as alcoholism or something of that manner, but rather it is a constant murmur of selfish indulgence. Anything from delaying homework and studying, to eating more food than I really need. Indeed, we notice first in our belly how much we crave what we do not need. If I buy some sweet thing, even before finishing it I want another! If I give in to this I want yet a third! Yet fulfilling these lusts never leads one to contentment. Rather it seems to war against the fabric of peace in our hearts, which is Christ and him crucified.

Ascetism apparently comes from the Greek meaning something along the lines of struggle, exercise, etc, which in a undeveloped way reminds me of Jacob being called Israel after his struggle with "a man". Hmmm, truthfully that passage leads me somewhat mystified though it would be nice to read some commentary of the Fathers on such a verse... anyways getting back on topic.

Overall Lent is always a failure in the sense that we never become perfect by human effort, and always a success (God willing!) in the sense that we realize that only by being humble and "weeping and lamenting" before Christ can we be saved. Only by his Grace.

God grant me erasure of my vanity and dissuade the passions of lust in me! Ambition, idleness, slothfulness, idle talking... These are the passions that wage war against mankind, against me.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wonder and Grief.

What does one do when while reading a book, the thoughts therein lead you into contemplating something else and upon picking up the book again find those other thoughts of your own present in the next chapter? Of course I ask because this just happened to me. The very first pages of the book starts out "We are astonished at the discovery of ourselves which is also the beginnings of the knowledge of God; we are astonished to see the world open out towards God's infinity. We are also sad, both for ourselves and the world."

How many times have my eyes stopped to try and see the heavenly things around us? They are not far off, rather each one of us must look off past them for this light blinds us with truth. Man is a mystery echoing the great mystery of the personhood of the three in the Trinity. This is what I realized on Sunday and yet again the next day and the next. No matter how many times I 'discover' this my gaze is overwhelmed at seeing this quality of existence. My words do not explain what I can barely grasp in sight. My heart struggles to cope. And the amazing thing is that this book repeats all these things and more.

On this last Sunday I gained God-parents. It was strange now to find a new connection that hadn't existed before, perhaps due to the grace and provision of the Holy Trinity. After a light dinner and a glass of wine we discussed for many hours life and entering the mystery of the Church. There is something that bonds people that is deeper than just words, part of the mystery of man's creation perhaps. But now my heart feels almost overwhelmed at these things as when one sees over the top of a hill thinking it is a mountain and seeing the shock of exactly how large the mountain is and how far we can yet travel to the top. This both amazes me in the depths of love that exist and also how much further there is to go.

It is easy to become disheartened from such a sight, a fear of new things even if they have always been there despite our ignorance of them. Perhaps it takes more strength than we possess to even ponder such things. May God grant us his great mercy! Not that I complain here or find a malcontent sadness, but rather as the book continues "It is sad to be blind, it sad to be unable to live to the fulness of our vocation, to be trapped again and again in our own limitations. It is sad to see our world without God, vacillating between life and death and unable to choose life once and for all or to escape once and for all from death." This is the great sadness of the world. This is the time before the fullness of Christ.

Again I shall refer you to one of my favourite verses:
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.[1 Corinth. 13]
We haven't even discussed how these great mysteries around us relate to love, yet this is what Paul speaks about. This is the part of the mystery that truly causes my heart to tremble, both in expectation and in the knowledge that I lack in this love. Lord Have Mercy!

St. Paul's words are best to end with here:
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
We must have hope! We must have faith! Yet most of all we must have love, especially when it aches the most. Indeed this is when we must pursue it the quickest!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Prayer as Infinite Creation

Instead of posting my own thoughts here, let me post some words of a man of prayer, who himself was a student of great men of prayer:

In their writings, St. Silouan and Fr. Sophrony continually emphasise the importance of such prayer of repentance through which man's renewal and salvation are acomplished. Prayer is sautary because it establishes the harmonious co-operation of man's will with God's will. Man's created energy surrenders to God's uncreated energy, and his merely human existence is totally tranformed by prayer, inasmuch as prayer is the expression of his repenetance. In the world around us, nothing helps us in the works of prayer and repentance. Inspiriation can only spring from man's consciousness of sin and the sense of his spritiaul poverty; both are perceived in the light of his relationship with God, which is founded on man's faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

A most unique way to approach prayer! Though perhaps it is worth noting that this theology is _not_ endorsing a pantheistic conception or an idea that man can somehow earn this. As it is written here, it is more of an understanding of how a creature approaches God, through humility since somehow God is this humility in love.

It seems my thoughts on this continue to be scattered, which I shall take as a sign that perhaps my time of reflecting on this draws nigh.


Season's and seasonality.

It has been a long time since my last posting to this blog. Perhaps it is sad that there were so many things which I left unsaid about my experiences in Israel. Times like that affect the soul in the deepest levels and indeed I can never return to the way I was before my travels to that country. In the time since I have travelled further, both in visiting new places and traveling to Russia and in myself becoming an Eastern Orthodox Christian such as found in Israel. Once the Orthodox confounded me and perhaps a little to quickly I had dismissed them as "nominal". Still there have been many changes since I was a much more naive young man visiting a country that I knew nothing about and having no special reason to visit there.

Hopefully I did not loose to much innocence there, but as all men must, in some level began to confront the world and my beliefs, thoughts, action and entire life. Who would trade such a time, both the good and the bad for anything? We all need to look forward and learn to live in the moment for God is called the "existing one". His unspoken name is praised continuously both in the Heavens and on Earth. May it be always so!

Perhaps I will take the time and try to recall as much as can to post some of my later experiences in Israel! I even have my own pictures which are still lacking in development (though the X-ray machines might not have helped them in that either). For example there was the wonderful trip we took to Petra. What an amazing time that was! Sleeping on a bus full of Israeli's and taking our alloted seats (classified as something "People", which apparently meant we didn't get seats but a nice spot to sit in the isle!). Well this is turning into another post itself. Perhaps I shall continue that story sometime.

Shall I continue with stories of my trips to Russia? Perhaps I shall write this for no one in particular, but as a way to remember what I have seen, for I am rather forgetful. Perhaps writing thoughts for a post enforces one to mold inchoate thoughts a little. It is easy to think and contemplate, but to form impressions into coherent, cogent thought is another matter entirely.


Monday, September 19, 2005

New Roomate in an OldNew City

Well, as things go here in Tel Aiv University in the dorms (or at least the Lowy school), my new roomate called me and said he was moving in later today. Most things are accomplished by a select few who know the fine art of complaining. Now, for those who are not as talented in this art, or at least in engaging the correct people for their talent, things may seems rather difficult to setup. Although rumors abound that a civil conversation will be fine enough, and I have had luck this way, there are many who take the firm and unaltered belief that this is the only way. However it happened, I have a new roomate and he is quite a congenial chap. Perhaps we shall both be lost into a pile of our books (the stacks on the desk being, to all eyes, created equal).

The OSP finally had a academic orientation, which seems quite interesting as we now get to choose our courses. In the States registration is a frenzy or fervor of waiting for a deadline quite a few months in advance of any real praticality and in general makes us feel quite cosy with ourselfs. The Israeli's (and Europeans too I hear) take the astute view that things will be done when they will get done, meaning the day before class. Maybe they have to much to worry about today. ;)

Also, in other news, I finally made an "ayin" like sound emit from my vocal cords. This is the oddest letter that ever did appear. Arabic food, made with a pinch of familial love, tops the connaisseurs list of "perfect tasting, really dang good food".

Another thing, why don't blogs have a spell check feature? I know that physics is not conducive to spelling at all, and neither is learning to spell in another language. Perhaps I shall forget english entirely before I leave my sojourn in Israel.

Cordially yours,

Monday, September 05, 2005

An old trip to Ezfat

Well, the past few weekends I have been so buisy doing things, that I haven't been able to write about them. I will start off with the trip to Ezfat, before I forget the whole trip.

So, after a short bus ride to the north of Israel, up some low mountains and past the Gillilee Lake we arrived in "the mystical city of Ezfat" as the brochure put it. Our whole trip was organized by a private group under the name of the director Jeff Siedel. For a 100 shekels we got to stay in a nice hotel with several wonderful meals. Great deal if I might say.

The first thing we did when we got there was walk up to the hotel. That may seem obvious, but the bus was not allowed to drive up to the hotel, as the street had been closed for Shabbot. Everything is closed for Shabbot. Ezfat is a very religious city, second only to Jerusalem in Israel. We had a barbeque and went to a Klezmer festival. Klezmer music goes hand in hand with the Orthodox community living in Ezfat. The festival brought the peaceful little city alive with singing and dancing adrift in the soundtrack of Fiddler on the Roof.

The next morning we had breakfast which had entirly no breakfast food in it. Well, maybe thats just me, but I pine for pancake and eggs in the mornings betimes. The end of breakfest led us to embark for the hiking trip nearby. Now most of Israel is a dry deserty region, albeit with the amazing irrigation things grow here, but not like this. The area is used as a water supply for the city, but amounts to nothing more than a small creek. The path is lined with trees and plants and fauna of every type. It reminded at times of the south, and Heather at times of her Hong Kong. Quite beautiful place.

The trip ended with a lot of tired but content people, who mostly slept on the way back. After a nap and some time, it became time for the Shabbot service. Now, this is the part of the weekend I understood the least. The city of Ezfat has served as the center point of Jewish mysticism, kaballah and general religious themes. I am still not entirely sure what congregation this service was, or what there denomenation of Judaism they were, but it was impressively different than a visit to Church would be in the US. First, everyone sang, in Hebrew, the welcoming of Shabbot and praise to God, the Creator and sanctuary of the people. Then, the men started dancing ( I don't know about the women, they seperated the sexes from each other for the while) and dancing in circles and pairs all around. I don't think dancing is even allowed in a lot of American Churches, so it is interesting to see the jewish men dancing and singing in a ferver. For they are Zealous.

Now we were all tired, but we couldn't sleep yet for the best part of the trip was to come. The Shabbot Dinner. Now, in the States we aren't to fond of making noise at dinner or in general breaking our silent rules of space and conduct. The jewish people have apparently never had a problem in showing a communal spirit. The night started off with the blessings and the prayers. Then came the food. At first thought, the food didn't seem very impressive in either quality or quantity. Luckily I was proved very wrong, for that was just the first course. So then the food started flowing with the wine and people, it became quite a time. Everyone started singing and banging on the table and eating. There isn't really quite a way to explain the Shabbot dinner. Well, I shan't try too much, for fear of embarrasing myself or the memory of the night.

The next morning was rest. Shabbot is really underappreciated at least for this very point. Sleep. The rest of the day involved more meals (really big 3-4 course meals with drink and merriment). Then free time and more prayers and praises.

Well, there is much more I could write and written more eloquently, but I shall rest here. My friends have some pictures of the weekend that I shall try to post.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Hebrew Tinged Sleep

Hebrew is really an interesting langauge. They don't seem to have many connecting verbs (except et). This seems a little odd, or perhaps childish if translated directly to english. But it makes sense in Hebrew (well except for my occasional confusion about words like shel, which i still don't fully comprehend). The langauge is apparently very apt for singing worship songs, although many would bemoan a hebrew love song. As a singer in a club here told one of the girls in the OSP program, "I would sing you a love song, but it would sound like I was clearing my throat."

Overall I haven't done to many new things for the weekend, there is nothing new under the sun. But sleep is really an amazing thing. After studying so much physics, and not sleeping near enough I believe my body is rebelling. It always wants sleep, then I feel fine, but still sleep is good.

There have been many books that I have started reading. These are whole events in and of themselves, as they exist in a very real way in my mind. To many a book may not seem much, but they can tinge my whole way of thinking and enliven my heart. The world is out there and we can interpret it as we want but we get what we put in. Sometimes I forget that I can and should actually do things. The people here are mostly friendly, and usually very open for discussions. Sometimes a little bit too much.

Well the time is quickly passing midnight so I should take leave for now. I will try to post more, but not to much has happened of late. Or did I talk about Heather's trip up here? Maybe I forgot... Anyways Heather seems reticent to post online, so maybe this will be a one person ordeal afterall. Oh lamentations, ;(