December 26,2021 was the Sunday after Christmas. In the calendar of the Orthodox Church this Sunday is a day of importance. That December 26 fell on a Sunday was unusual — generally a few days separate Christmas Day from the Sunday after Christmas. This year, the joyful announcement of Christ’s birth was, in 2021, followed immediately by the sobering message of the Gospel reading set for this day:
Now when they [The Magi] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matthew 2: 13 – 15)
They fled to Egypt because, out of Herod’s rage, those who were innocent — in this case every male child under the age of two years was to be murdered, slaughtered. (Annually, on December 29, their lives and deaths are commemorated and honored. This is the day of the 14,000 Holy Innocents.) There, in Egypt, the family would find the company of Jews who fled the fall of Jerusalem, yet never returned to Judea.
Some time passes. Herod the Great dies and the same angel again appears to Joseph in a dream. He is informed that, “…those who were seeking the life of the child have died” (Matthew 2:20). Joseph leads them back to Israel, but Joseph learns that the cruel despot Archelaus followed Herod to reign after his death (Caesar Augustus deposed and sent Archelaus into exile in 6 A.D.). Our Lord’s stepfather is troubled and the angel directs their next destination:
…and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2: 22, 23).
It is of note that those in Judea did not regard Galilee, and particularly Nazareth, very highly. The region would today be considered “fly over country” by the power elite of Jerusalem. But, in this town and region of no esteem, Jesus grows. Here he learns the Jewish faith in its synagogue. Here, by his stepfather, he and his stepbrothers learn their craft and trade. Here he would care for his mother after Joseph’s death. In lowly Nazareth of Galilee he grew into adulthood and would then enter into his ministry.
Let’s shift to the third decade of the twenty-first century. Today we have multiple Herods and others like Archelaus who despotically rule. They pose real and serious threats to the lives of those they tyrannically rule by decree — even to the lives of the faithful. Thus, it is fair to say that we of the Christian faith have on this planet no country, no state, and no capital city in which we have security, safety, and liberty. St. John Chrystostom properly informs us by his question: “Why do you pride yourself on your country when I am commanding you to be a stranger to the whole world?” We must remind ourselves that we are citizens of a Kingdom, and that no state or country can provide the guarantee of continued political security for us. In this decade we find ourselves in a form of totalitarianism where there can be no surety — all is a “nut and shell game”!
Totalitarianism. Lately, I have been reading The Power of the Powerless. It is a book — or better — a collection of thematic essays written by Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident of the years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia who would later become president of a free Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic. The work was published in 1978, and about a fourth of the way into it he introduces a character, the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper is typical of citizenry of the day — he went along with the Communist Party lies to “get along” and live untroubled by the state. But a day comes when he no longer buys into the collective lie. He wakes up and chooses to live within truth. The shopkeeper, then of course, pays the price: he is now troubled by the authorities who demand his compliance.
In this decade we have to ask ourselves a question. Will we cower like fearful mice to please Herod and Archelaus and submit to their whims that we might “get along nicely”?
On December 26, the Orthodox Church also commemorates Joseph the Betrothed (the stepfather of Jesus) and James the “[step]brother of our Lord.” James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and his epistle is in the New Testament. James was not one to pull punches in his instructions to the faithful. We have these words:
Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4: 4).
The one who is of faith would want to choose friendship with God over that of the world system. But we must confess that we are weak. What makes us weak? It is our entanglements with the world system and all the creature comforts offered by it. I am reminded of the parable of the Sower and the Seed which we find in the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. In this parable we learn of the soil which bears thorns into which grain seed is sown. The problem is that in this soil the thorns deprive the grain of nutrients and the grains’ fruit cannot mature. Later in this chapter, Jesus explains,
As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Matthew 13: 22).
It appears that this is the condition of many — and I include myself in this number. Our ease of life — that of consumerism — in which we comfortably rest may prove to be the cause of our fall. With mandates and the prospect of social passports, will we cave into the demands of the state so we can “get along nicely”? Thorns additionally deprive us of the freedom to let go. Yet, we can uproot the thorns with God’s help. Though
St. James is blunt, yet he can provide encouragement to us:
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind…Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you (James 4: 8, 10).
May it be so that we may become free of thorns, bear fruit, and be friends of God in these troubling days!
The following is a corresponding sermon given 12/26/21.
Vaclav Benda was a Czech Roman Catholic activist and intellectual. He wrote a number of essays during the time of communist rule of his homeland and after the establishment of a free Czech state. While a young man and university student, he refused to join the communist party, and this led him to counter-cultural involvement, among them the signing and advocacy of Charter 77 which was published January 1, 1977 in Prague. He was imprisoned as a dissident between 1979 and 1983 by the totalitarian communist regime. In this posting I quote from the text of Charter 77 and list Benda’s call to action in his essay The Parallel Polis.
Allow for a brief background to the writing and publishing Charter 77. Oddly, the motivation of Charter 77 came about after the arrest of a rock band called Plastic People of the Universe. Their performance was considered subversive and caused a disturbance of the peace. The band members were imprisoned for durations lasting up to 18 months for some of them. Opposition to their imprisonment arose from the communist government’s violation of human rights outlined by the Helsinki Accord which it signed prior to the arrest of the band. Though written in December of 1976, its grievances are strikingly relevant to the situations throughout the western world in 2021 as brought about by western governments’ institution of restrictions of freedoms as reactions to the Covid 19 pandemic (it is now endemic as is influenza).
The right to freedom of expression, for example, guaranteed by Article 19 of the first-mentioned covenant, is in our case purely illusory. Tens of thousands of our citizens are prevented from working in their own fields for the sole reason that they hold views differing from official ones, and are discriminated against and harassed in all kinds of ways by the authorities and public organizations. Deprived as they are of any means to defend themselves, they become victims of a virtual apartheid.
Hundreds of thousands of other citizens are denied that “freedom from fear” mentioned in the preamble to the first covenant, being condemned to the constant risk of unemployment or other penalties if they voice their own opinions.
In violation of Article 13 of the second-mentioned covenant, guaranteeing everyone the right to education, countless young people are prevented from studying because of their own views or even their parents’. Innumerable citizens live in fear of their own or their children’s right to education being withdrawn if they should ever speak up in accordance with their convictions…
…Freedom of public expression is inhibited by the centralized control of all the communication media and of publishing and cultural institutions. No philosophical, political or scientific view or artistic activity that departs ever so slightly from the narrow bounds of official ideology or aesthetics is allowed to be published; no open criticism can be made of abnormal social phenomena; no public defense is possible against false and insulting charges made in official propaganda.
Charter 77 continues,
Freedom of religious confession, emphatically guaranteed by Article 18 of the first covenant, is continually curtailed by arbitrary official action; by interference with the activity of churchmen, who are constantly threatened by the refusal of the state to permit them the exercise of their functions, or by the withdrawal of such permission; by financial or other transactions against those who express their religious faith in word or action; by constraints on religious training and so forth.
One instrument for the curtailment or in many cases complete elimination of many civic rights is the system by which all national institutions and organizations are in effect subject to political directives from the machinery of the ruling party and to decisions made by powerful individuals. The constitution of the republic, its laws and legal norms do not regulate the form or content, the issuing or application of such decisions; they are often only given out verbally, unknown to the public at large and beyond its powers to check; their originators are responsible to no one but themselves and their own hierarchy…
I remind you the words were written in response to the oppression encountered in communist Czechoslovakia of the mid-1970s. If one cannot see the frightening correspondence to current events in, e.g., the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Austria, Australia and New Zealand, one’s head is well buried in the proverbial sand.
Although the composition of Charter 77 was of importance, it did not yield sustained action. Benda writes in comment to the lack of action,
The moral attitude was postulated abstractly, without raising any concrete issues or aims. An abstract moral stance, however, is merely a gesture; it may be terribly effective at the time, but it cannot be sustained for more than a few weeks or months (from The Parallel Polis).
In response to the failure to bring continued action, Benda wrote his essay The Parallel Polis. In it he moves his readers from any hope of change brought about by protest to actions of creating parallel societal structures to create a free people living in these alternatives to the communist totalitarian realities. We have his words,
I suggest that we join forces in creating, slowly but surely, parallel structures that are capable, to a limited degree at least, of supplementing the generally beneficial and necessary functions that are missing in the existing structures, and where possible, to use those existing structures, to humanize them…
Even if such structures were only partially successful, they would bring pressure to bear on the official structures, which would either collapse…or regenerate themselves in a useful way.
In The Parallel Polis Benda then lays out specific parallel structures to be created by the Czechoslovaks:
1) Parallel structure of education, scientific, and scholarly life. I consider the organization of a parallel education system to be of utmost importance.
For contemporary Christians home schooling has existed for decades and, hopefully, will continue, especially in these days where, for example in Washington State, primary school students — children — are sexually “educated” to freely express and explore their sexuality as children. In any other decade prior to this day such “education” would be called what is really is — grooming. For the intact family home schooling or attendance of a private Christian school is a real possibility, but for the struggling family, the single parent family, churches and other independent institutions should open up such possibilities for those students who would otherwise be “thrown to the wolves” in these perverse public school districts.
2) A parallel information network. It is even more urgent for these groups to establish mutual connections and create autonomous information networks of their own…[Benda encouraged them to seek]…other means of reproduction besides the typewriter.
In our day alternative media platforms are being pursued and by now even created.But perhaps we should seek to rediscover non-digital/electronic forms of communication to secure our words from government / media censorship.
3) A Parallel Economy. At the moment, the tasks facing us in the parallel economy are unimaginable, but though our opportunities are limited, the need to exploit them is urgent.The regime treats the economy as a key means of arbitrarily manipulating citizens and, at the same time, it regulates it as strictly as possible…Our community ought to be based on a system of mutual guarantees that are both moral and material.
Today, parishes, friends, and neighbors can mutually band together cooperatively to set up for informal gardening, child care, lending practices, etc., that are “off the grid” if they are not already functioning.If we who refuse to submit to the “tyranny of the jab,” vaccine passports, and other totalitarian threats are forced to retreat from most traditional engagements in commerce must find ways to support basic sustenance.
4) Parallel Political Structures. This would include a wide range of activities, from raising people’s awareness of their civic responsibilities, to creating the proper conditions for political discussion and the formulations of theoretical points of view.It would also include support for concrete currents and groupings.
Sometimes quite seriously, and sometimes in jest, I would declare my political identity to be somewhere between a “pro-life Democrat and a green Republican.”The time for such sentiment is over.We have been betrayed by both parties in the past, and now because of the adverse influences of current political extremes, no moderation is possible, and any true populism and its promise of a new way has been smeared by the media which is entrenched in the power structures which have led to our present condition. In these times true freedom loving liberals and conservatives must see beyond the boundaries and definitions of the past and ignore and dismiss the shrill voices of extremists who only wish to destroy and not create.
The Parallel Polis or Society — it does not need to be invented or created de novo. It exists in the Church and has always existed and embodied by her since the day of Pentecost (please read my earlier posting, The Parallel Society) The Parallel Society has to be local. The Parallel Society will not reform Washington D.C., London, Dublin, Ottawa, Canberra, or Vienna. They are corrupted and cancerous. It needs to be local and intimate. This orientation will lead to strong parishes / congregations where mutual support is solid and we of faith can embody St. Paul’s words,
Do nothing from selfishness and conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but to the interests of others (Phil 2: 3 – 4).
In and by the Triune God and through his Parallel Society, the Church, let our light — the light of Christ — shine forth and welcome in all who seek this Community; by any and all adversity encountered grow more completely in the image of God.
“Gimme Shelter” is a Rolling Stones song found in their 1969 LP “Let It Bleed”. I’m not much of a Stones fan. Given the sorting question, “Beatles or Rolling Stones?” I ALWAYS would choose the Beatles — there is never a doubt. “Gimme Shelter” is not a “pleasant” Stones’ song as one could categorize, e.g., “She’s A Rainbow,” “I Am Waiting,” and “Ruby Tuesday.” The song can be called brooding and menacing. However, the song is powerful. It was written by Jagger and Richards, and there is a background to the song and its lyrics. Richards was sitting in a friend’s apartment with an acoustic guitar in hand, “…When suddenly the sky went completely black and an incredible monsoon came down. It was just people running about looking for shelter — this was the germ of the idea.” Jagger gives his account: “When it was recorded, early ’69 or something, it was a time of war and tension, so that’s reflected in the tune.”
I have been aware of the song for decades, but, while recently watching a YouTube performance of the song covered by U2, with Jagger on stage with them, the impact of the lyrics and the power of the song hit me. “Gimme Shelter” is not just about the turmoil of the late ‘60s, it profoundly resonates with the tensions, turmoil and threats of our times since late winter of 2020 throughout America, Canada, Australia, the UK, and much of Europe. Early last year I would say there were dark, menacing clouds on our horizon. Now the storm is upon us, and it is later than we think. One would have to have lived in the proverbial cave for the past 20 plus months not to see how its lyrics speak to today’s threatening climate. Hence, no commentary is needed as samples of the lyrics, though not in strict sequence,
Oh, a storm is threatening my very life today, if I don’t get some shelter, yeah, I’m gonna fade away!
Oh, see the fire is sweepin’ our very streets today. Burns like a red coat carpet — mad bull lost his way…
War, children, it’s just a shot away…rape, murder it’s just a shot away…
“Gimme Shelter” gives the vision of a complete breakdown of community and society. With such social stresses come many responses. There is worry, anxiety, and depression. There is anger and rage. There are responses of hoarding goods. There are responses of moving assets to various investment strategies deemed safer than the standard options. There are preparations meant to preserve life (even from violent attack), property, and even basic sustenance. All may be good and wise, but may tragically lack the insight of faith’s preparations which would provide hope, love, and peace
I now move to the Psalms for guidance. This book of both Jewish and Christian scriptures dates back thousands of years. Psalms’ words often come from ancient times of similar and worse troubles. To begin the examination of Psalms’ advice, let me paraphrase Psalm 145: 3 (LXX): “Put not your trust in precious metals, cryptocurrencies, non-perishable foods, firearms, and survival gear in which there is no salvation!” Thus, we are to look to God, not only to the limited provisions and protections offered by the world. I do not dismiss such worldly preparations, but we of faith must see far beyond them.
The Psalms teach us we are not alone in the course of human history. David addresses such stresses and fears about 3,000 years ago:
My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander afar, I would lodge in the wilderness, I would wait for him who saves me from the raging wind and tempest (LXX Psalm 54: 4 – 8).
Who offers us protection? Ultimately, it is not Glock, Ruger, Smith and Wesson, and 9mm rounds (along with two or three magazines ready to go in reserve) that will preserve us. It is God. For example, we find these words in LXX Psalm 53 (MT 54): 1 – 4, 7:
Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might. Hear my prayer O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For insolent men have risen against me, ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before them. Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life…For you have delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
Let me say once more that I do not dismiss wise preparations, but for us who are of faith there are other activities that prepare us for evil times — activities that will strengthen our resolve spiritually. To prepare for the possibility of being contemporary confessors we must worship God continually in spite of threat, and live the Christian life in everyday simplicity. LXX Psalm 99 (MT 100) gives this exhortation regarding worship:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name! For the Lord is good; his mercy endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Living the preparatory life spiritually extends from the corporate life to private life within home and greater community. LXX Psalm 100 (MT 101) vv 1 – 4 addresses such conduct:
I will sing of mercy and justice; to you O Lord, I will sing. I will give heed to the way that is blameless. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
Furthermore, as we move with our Lord through these troubling days, we must also live in solidarity with each other and with those not of faith. We are to bless, to pray, and to give thanks. I shift from the Psalms to St. Paul:
…Be at peace among yourselves. Now we urge you brethren, to warn the idle, encourage the faint hearted, and to be patient with all. Do not repay evil for evil, but always pursue the good, both for one another and for all. Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks for all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do do not restrain the Spirit, do not despise prophecy; test all things and hold fast to the good. Avoid every appearance of evil. Now may the God of peace sanctify you wholly and keep your spirit, soul, and body sound and blameless in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful and he will do this (1 Thessalonians 5: 13b – 24).
Let’s trust in God when we consider Mick and Keith’s lyric: “Mm, a flood is threatening my very life today. Gimme, gimme shelter, or I’m gonna fade away.”
An acoustic-electric guitar is no longer uncommon as it was 50 to 60 years ago. They now make up the majority of acoustic guitars produced. Carbon fiber guitars are no longer an anomaly, more and more manufacturers are emerging, e.g., we have the long established Rainsong brand to the newer Irish made Emerald Guitar brand, and established all-wooden companies are now producing carbon fiber guitars such as McPherson Guitars. Reviewed in this posting is the relatively novel Rainsong CO-WS1005NST. It is novel, in my opinion because it is a “12-fret” acoustic-electric guitar. (To add to this Rainsong’s attributes, it also has a 24.75 inch scale length.)
A “12-fret” model does NOT mean the guitar has only twelve frets. Rather, it means the the neck meets the guitar’s body at the twelfth fret. Although at one time this was typical for acoustic guitar production, at some time about 80 to 90 years ago Martin expanded the acoustic guitar’s construction. With this innovation the neck now met the body at the fourteenth fret. The result was a bolder, and clearer tone. This quickly became the “standard.” Go to any guitar store and you will see the vast majority of guitars are “14 fretters.”
Most major acoustic guitar makers offer a 12-fret model: Taylor, Larrivee, Martin, Takamine, and the list goes on to now include the Rainsong reviewed in this posting (which I now own!). .
Why did I buy a 12-fret guitar? Let me begin to answer this with my own observation in playing the typical 14-fret acoustic. I have noted that if I capo a 14-fret guitar at the second fret, I have a more comfortable playing experience. I see that I am more articulate with my fretting hand. So, if in any form of tuning (standard or open-D, etc.), why not capo at the second fret and continue the comfort by simply tune-down a whole step and have the same experience? For one reason, a 12-fret guitar has its own unique characteristics. The first tonal difference is volume: a 12-fret acoustic will tend to be a volume canon when compared to most 14-fret acoustics. This is because the bridge is placed lower on the guitar’s top, and the result is more vibration on the surface of the sound board. Notice the distance from the body’s top to the bridge: it is 30.1 cm in distance. This stand in comparison to my Rainsong Nashville Jumbo’s 28.2 cm distance from body top to bridge. This is a notable distance. Volume is also added by the sound whole’s off center position in the upper bout — there is even more surface area created for vibration of the sound board. Again, increased volume is the result.
Additionally, a 12-fret guitar has more mid-range, and this Rainsong is possibly the exemplar of this characteristic. Mid-range plus volume offer can offer a challenge to the guitarist who plays with a pick such as me (“you can have my pick when you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers!”). Hence, I have to overcome the “muddiness” in two ways: use a thin pick, or (a frightening possibility) begin some finger style techniques. (As an admission I have tried the first few bars of Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and was somewhat pleased with my initial, faltering attempts).
This is the third Rainsong acoustic guitar I have reviewed. Previously, I have reviewed two jumbo body guitars: The Rainsong N-JM1100N2 (Guitar Review: Rainsong N-JM1100N2, AKA the Nashville Series Jumbo) and the Rainsong JM100N2 (Guitar Review: RainSong JM1000N2.) Rainsong’s WS body style is its take on the Auditorium body. This WS body model reviewed is all carbon fiber construction with a copper to orange-burst finish. It comes with Fishman Prefix Plus-T electronics with added built-in tuner. I am no authority on electronics, but when plugged in the control were easy to find and adjust, and seemed fine when played through my Fishman Loudbox Mini-charge.
As with any carbon fiber guitar you have structural advantages. Primarily you never have to worry about humidity – no need to humidify or dehumidify based upon your climate. Carbon fiber means no worries about structural breakdown in commonly encountered temperature extremes. Carbon fiber guitars will hold tune very well when compared to their wooden cousins.
I am a Rainsong fan — sign me up as a card carrying devotee, and I hope to own a 12-string model in the not too distant future. In my humble opinion Rainsong’s are very well made guitars with great acoustic tone, and the carbon fiber construction will bring great longgevity to any guitar you would purchase. Finally, though this 12-fretter will require technique challenges and resulting (albeit painful and frustrating) growth beyond flat-picking, it is a welcome addition to my collection.
Keep on playing,
The woman with the flow of blood (a menorrhagia) is the subject of the Gospel reading for the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. The text comes from St. Luke 8: 41 – 56. He informs us: “…a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8; 43). This woman approached Christ from behind likely out of not only humility, but also shame since her bleeding made her unclean, thus removing her from the majority of social interactions. Though the experts of her day gave no healing, she turned to one more. She turned to the Physician — God Incarnate — Jesus of Nazareth: “If only I touch his garment I shall be made well.” Upon the touch, “…immediately the flow of blood ceased” (Luke 8: 44). When her healing occurred she was part of a large crowd that pressed in upon Jesus (Luke 8: 45). He asked who touched him. “Someone touched me, for I perceived power going out from me” (Luke 8: 48)
And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.Luke 8: 47 – 48
Again, this daughter of Abraham had tried all methods prescribed by the physicians practicing in the Greco-Roman tradition (i.e., the Galenical tradition) of the day. In spite of their best (of far less than best) efforts she encounter futility and failure. What is exposed is the limitations of solely human effort.
In addition to being an archpriest in the Orthodox Church, I am also a clinical pharmacist educated in the western allopathic medical tradition, as are the great majority of physicians practicing medicine today. Good come many times — many times. But I have observed, also, failures, and have heard of patients’ frustrations and complaints along with anger and tears.
Futility is not only found in medicine. It is found in law, finance, engineering, and any human practice — especially in politics. All can make their promises and claims yet can still fail patient, client, and country. Human wisdom and effort have their limitations! I am reminded of the the psalmist’s advice: “Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation (LXX Ps 145: 3). I also refer to a sentence from the Greek Orthodox form of the Eucharistic Confession of the Divine Liturgy, “for it is good for me to cling to you, my God, and to place my hope of salvation in you.”
Touch Christ and cling to him! Touch him and cling to him by icons and by prayer. Touch him and cling to him in the Church’s sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. I direct you especially to the Eucharist! As a communicant you receive the Body and Blood of Christ (John 6: 50, 51). You receive, thus, healing and the forgiveness of sins. You receive our Lord’s victory over sin and death, and the pledge of Christ of eternal life (John 6: 54). Come to him with the same faithful intent of the woman healed of menorrhagia as you stand in line to receive his sacrament and are touched by him!
The following is a corresponding homily:
Bees and hornets — they appear similar to many people, but they are very different insects. I’m no entomologist, yet, let me bore you with the taxonomical distinctions:
|Kingdom: animal||Kingdom: animal|
|Phylum: arthropoda (exoskeleton and jointed legs)||Phylum: arthropoda (exoskeleton and jointed legs)|
|Class: insecta (compound eyes, antennae, three part bodies)||Class: insecta (compound eyes, antennae, three part bodies)|
|Order: hymenoptera (membraned wings)||Order: hymenoptera (membraned wings)|
|Family: apidae||Family: vespidae|
|Genus: apis||Genus: vespa|
Bees and hornets split taxonomically at “family”. There are then other differences. Though bees and hornets (and wasps) are all social insects, they have a different diet. Bees are “vegans.” Their diet comes exclusively from pollen (which provides their source of protein and lipids), and nectar. Hornets are omnivores: they will eat fruits, but they are also hunters — eating other insects (including bees) and scavengers — eating flesh from a dead carcass.
Now, I will make distinctions from personal experience. Though bees will sting, I am not allergic to the venom of a bee. Hornets could kill me if I should receive enough venom from multiple stings. Thus, personally, I make the distinction that bees are “good” because there is no threat from them. However, hornets are “bad” because they could kill me. Based on this I could be justified to kill every hornet that comes within striking distance: “It’s you or me!” Or, to use the title of both a McCartney song and Bond movie in which it was heard: “Live and let die!”
When mowing the lawn, I will patiently wait for bees (of all varieties) to fly off the flowering weed they occupy before moving forward on the lawn tractor/mower. I wish them no harm, especially since their numbers are declining. I avoid hornets (often wishing them death). During a brief vacation in late August, 2021, while my wife and I stayed at a wonderful “B and B” in Lewiston, Idaho (Prospet Manor) which offered a swimming pool, there was a bee in the pool. I assumed it could not escape the water. I cupped my hands and lifted it out of the water and set it on the pool’s deck (above photo). Moments later I spotted a hornet in the water –sure death by drowning if not rescued from the water. Dare I also save it from sure death? I pondered the ethical dilemma. I observed again the friendly, good bee. It was grooming itself. I smiled at its behavior. I looked at the “evil” hornet. It would want life as did the bee. Why should I not rescue it? I cupped my hands around it and brought it out of the water onto the pool’s deck. I got out of the pool and sat near the good, safe bee, but a very safe distance from the bad, menacing hornet (which I did not photograph!). Within a few minutes, both flew away. I noted that my “irrational kindness” to the hornet was, evidently, no threat to my life.
So, I come to this day and time, and our perceived assessments of our fellow humans. We all have the tendency, or the temptation, to put people into convenient categories of “good” and “bad; “safe” and “unsafe.” We distinguish often by appearances. We now even judge on the basis a political slogan, of even if someone is masked or unmasked in these deranged days. This is contrary to the ways of God who does not judge on appearances, and is no respecter of status. St. Paul gives us this directive: “Let your gentleness (or forbearance) be made know to all men, for the Lord is near” (Phil 4: 5). And in her Divine Liturges we pray understanding that God is God of all and is able to transform us all:
Preserve the good in goodness, and make the evil be good by Thy goodness… Remember, O Lord our God, all those who entreat Thy great loving-kindness; those who love us and those who hate us…(from the anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil)
Among us every day there are bees and hornets. In wisdom we should stay away from both bee hives and hornet nests unless properly protected and experienced. Humans aren’t as easily identified as these insects, though we are to act wisely, even prudently among our fellow citizens at times. However, in all honesty, we may make errors in our assessments based upon appearances — some we see as “bees” may be “hornets” in disguise, and the opposite being true as well. Be ready to assist and aid any one that can be helped. I again quote St. Paul “…always pursue the good, both for one another [the faithful] and for all [the rest of humanity]” (1 Thes 5: 15).
The year was 1989, and it was one of the most significant years of the past century. This year brought about the political collapse of the Iron Curtain, and an end to the Cold War. The first totalitarian communist nation to fall was Poland. In Poland, the ground work to upend the communist government had been underway for some years. The archbishop of Krakov, Karol Wojtyla, had become Pope John Paul II in October, 1978. He was a source of moral, faithful resistance for the Catholics in Poland. Also, the electrician Lech Walesa formed and led the independent Solidarity labor union for workers in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. The communist government under General Wojciech Jaruzelski fell by the courageous and determined efforts of these two leaders and the unbreakable will of the Polish people to be free. Walesa would soon become the first democratically elected national leader in Polish history.
Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and other nations also broke free from communist totalitarianism in 1989. There was another hero of this time that I admired greatly, the Czech author and dissident, Vaclav Havel. As he and his fellow citizens were suffocated by the tyranny of communism, Havel was active in creating a parallel society with its own parallel cultural structures. A definition is provided,
Parallel society refers to the self-organization of an ethnic or religious minority, often but not always immigrant groups, with the intent of a reduced or minimal spatial, social and cultural contact with the majority society.
Havel would go on to be the president of the free Czechoslovakia. Other heroes of the resistance to communism can be named, among them the great Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn. All of the above named people suffered along with millions of others who resisted communism, and many millions died as martyrs for freedom and faith., and then the Czech Republic.
I return to the parallel society with its parallel structures that served as a spiritual, moral and intellectual haven for those who resisted the iron grip of the communist parties of Eastern Europe. In this confusing and troubling time in the western world, parallel societies are needed to stand against a growing illiberal, censoring, and controlling social and political climate with its aspiring tyrants in control of politics and media. Contemporary parallel societies and structures are now needed to offer fellowship, support and community to those of traditional faith, and uphold true liberal ideas of a free society. These parallel societies are to be places of welcome and support for those who now must seek such havens.
Fortunately for Christians, whether Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, The parallel Society has existed for two thousand years — the Church. The Church has experienced and weathered horrid persecutions over the centuries. Though She has her Confessors and Martyrs, She has survived.,As The Parallel Society, The Church, and I will concentrate on the Orthodox Church as model, is to be welcoming. The Church is to be caring and loving while at the same time stand in peaceful opposition to the dark, dominant secular society. The Church is to be supportive and offer provision to the faithful as need arises. St. Paul offers these words to the Church:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him upRomans 15: 1 – 2
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others.Phil 2: 3 – 4
Now we urge you brethren, to warn the idle, encourage the faint hearted and help the weak. Be patient with all. Do not repay evil with evil, but always pursue the good both for one another and for all. Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thes 5: 14 – 18
If the western cultural descends into further (and intentional) confusion, lies, and chaos, the grip of totalitarianism will close in upon us. Hence, such supportive apostolic guidance is to be practiced by clergy and faithful alike. Again I quote St. Paul: “Welcome one another, just as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God” (Romans 15: 7).,
Ultimately, the Model for such welcoming is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. We encounter his welcoming touch in every Divine Liturgy’s celebration of the Eucharist which itself is a re-presentation of the Incarnation:
By his Incarnation, God the Son came to us as one of us. He gave himself to us, not only on the Cross, but in every act of his ministry. As one of us, he received us, or welcomed us to himself. His self-giving and other-receiving continues throughout the centuries in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist he again comes to us as he is present in the Sacrament: he gives to us his cleansing, victorious, and life-giving Body and Blood. He welcomes us, receives us to himself once again in the relational intimacy of Communion. Within the context of each Divine Liturgy and its Eucharist, Christ is manifested to the faithful anew — his Incarnation is re-presented to us. Recall what we declare to each other: “Christ is in our midst!” with the reply, “he is and ever shall be!” Here, we receive one another and welcome one another.Fr. Irenaeus Williams from the post “Welcome One Another”
However, unlike a reclusive parallel society, a ghetto, the Church is to be for all. The Church, as is Christ, is to be self-giving and other-receiving while calling all to enter into the life and culture of the Church — even to those who would wish us harm. Note again St. Paul’s words noted above, “Do not repay evil with evil, but always pursue the good both for one another, and for all.” Remember the words that conclude the Divine Liturgy, “Let us depart in peace.” We leave to extend the Eucharist to this darkened world around us. We are to live in such a way that we (by our actions and words) re-present Christ to all and all things around us, and then draw all and all things to Christ in the Divine Liturgy and its Eucharist and worship of the God who welcomes us into his eternal Kingdom — his holy welcoming Parallel Society!
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in one accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 15: 5 – 6
Here is a corresponding sermon:
Fr. Irenaeus Williams
Whether you have called it (or still call it) a pandemic, or a plandemic (as would the more skeptical among us), cultural, social, sporting, and community events were cancelled by state authorities. Washington was among those states locked down in varying phases. Finally, this state is — at least for the time being — opening up to a return to community gatherings. My oldest son, Trevor, and I (pictured to the right) decided to support local and regional luthiers and music stores by attending the 2021 Tacoma Guitar and Drum Fest.
I have attended this festival in the past. It was much larger with more vendors and musicians. But, such trade shows are loud. So, you want to try out an acoustic guitar? Good luck with that — electric guitars take the day with both interest and volume.
However, I made a few discoveries. Among them was meeting Will Bright who is a luthier from Bellingham, Washington. He is the owner of Bright Guitars (www.brightguitars.com). He makes both electric and acoustic guitars, along with an intriguing short scale guitar, the Bear Cub. I quote from his site:
The Bear Cub is an arch top mini travel guitar with a 17 inch scale length. It was designed to be small, playable, and sound great. When I designed the Bear Cub I decided to use a technology that is tried and true with smaller instruments; arched plates. I hand carve the spruce top and maple back just as I would a mandolin or a violin. This, combined with the oval sound hole, gives the guitar warmth, clarity and projection from a very small body. A travel guitar doesn’t have to sound like a tin can or look like a hockey stick, and the Bear Cub proves it.
With its short scale, the Bear Cub sounds “mandolinish” when first heard by the player. But, it is, as you see, a six stringed instrument and is tuned as a guitar. With its shorter scale, it would take me a while to adjust to the initial “cramped” feeling (as when you capo up beyond the seventh fret on a guitar), but the tone is bright and pleasing. Will Bright offers two versions of the Bear Cub — the basic, and the more ornate version (as pictured). Production time for the “basic cub” is two weeks; much longer for the more elaborate version.
In comparison, I recently tried a Chinese made Gold Tone F6 Mando Guitar at Tacoma’s Ted Brown Music. It is a similar take: a six stringed small scale guitar that plays like a guitar, but the guitar player doesn’t have to learn the forms required by the mandolin family’s tunings.
The American made Bear Cub is a better build, and as I recall, the neck seemed a bit wider. Further, it simply looks like a small archtop guitar, and did not seem to have the “choppy” tone of the more mandolin structured Gold Tone F6. Well done Mr. Bright!
Keep on playing,
Inimitable. Now, that is an adjective that is not commonly used in everyday speech. Its definition: “so good or unusual as to be impossible to copy.” I would use this adjective to describe Rainsong’s new Nashville Series Jumbo (N-JM1100N2). I also use the adjective exquisite to describe this guitar in review. Over several years I’ve played three other guitars that I would describe as exquisite in tone and quality: a Breedlove dreadnought, and Breedlove grand auditorium, and a Martin HD-28. All guitars were well above my price range, and I completely shut them out of my mind, thus giving them no further thought or attempt at pursuit of purchase.
Serendipity. Now, that’s a noun not commonly used in everyday speech. Its definition: “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” (Its adjectival form is serendipitous.) Several months ago at Tacoma, Washington’s Ted Brown Music I had a serendipitous encounter with an inimitable and exquisite Rainsong guitar — the Nashville N-JM1100N2 — a jumbo bodied guitar with a beautiful, glossy tobacco burst finish.
Prior to my serendipitous meeting, I had noticed an ad in Acoustic Guitar for Rainsong’s new Nashville series lineup. This series, as well as the company’s Vintage Series of guitars, has a unique “double top” construction:
“A thin spruce soundboard fused with a unidirectional carbon fiber top [offers] rich crystalline carbon sound subtly colored by spruce…and impervious to temperature and humidity changes.”
I have been aware of, and appreciated Rainsong guitars for many years. In fact I have reviewed this Nashville’s cousin, the Rainsong JM1000N2, elsewhere in this site (Guitar Review: RainSong JM1000N2 ). They are great guitars, and offer many advantages to the traditional wooden guitar. They also come with a price tag that is beyond the reach of many, many guitarists.
I interject some details on this Rainsong guitar. As previously noted, it is a jumbo bodied instrument: its lower bout measures 17 inches in width. The nut width is 1.75 inches, and scale length is 25.4 inches. It stays in tune between “play dates”, I imagine because, not only due to its tuners, but the overall structural stability offered by carbon fiber. To add, it is incredibly comfortable and its playability is fantastic. The LR Baggs electronics (see the photo) are solid, and the output is great when the guitar was played through my Fishman Loudbox Mini-charge amplifier. But, the tone unplugged is its strength — this inimitable guitar is truly exquisite! It offers sustain and good volume, but also a rich palate of secondary tones not found on the only-carbon Rainsongs displayed.
Allow me to continue with my serendipitous experience. The Ted Brown store I frequently haunt is a distributor of the Rainsong brand, and they have a sizable portion of one wall in their acoustic room devoted to the brand’s offerings. The Nashville jumbo caught my eye, and she began her call to me. A few strummed chords were followed by a progression of arpeggios, and then some of my favorite chordal riffs. I was stunned — the guitar quite literally took my breath away! Several more minutes were spent thoroughly enjoying it. I compared it to the Rainsong jumbo JM1000N2 also displayed — very good, but no comparison. I compared the Nashville jumbo to some Taylor guitars — all very good, but no comparison. But, then comes the cold slap of reality: the price tag! $3,499. Ouch! Unlike the other noted exquisite guitars, I could not get this one out of my head. What was to be done? Well, why does a guitar player sell a guitar? To buy a new guitar. So a small number of my guitars were sold over a period of time on Reverb.com. Then, a great price was found on a Nashville N-JM1100N2 on Reverb.com, and the purchase was made.
The Nashville jumbo is inimitable due to its construction, and its subsequent voicing is exquisite! I would encourage you to find one and try any Rainsong Nashville or Vintage Series guitar. Sell off the needed number of guitars, save up a bit, and go for it! I am thankful to own this treasured instrument!
Here is a link to Rainsong’s fusion top processing:
Keep on playing!
The gospel reading established for the Saturday before the Sunday of the Last Judgment (the final pre-Lenten Sunday in the Orthodox Church) is an amalgam of verses which come from chapter 21 of St. Luke’s gospel. The subject matter of these verses addresses the last days and Christ’s second coming. I break these verses into three sections and offer a commentary on them.
LUKE 21: 7 – 9
And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.
Our Lord states there will be false Christs that present themselves to the faithful to deceive and to gather to themselves followers to support their egos and pride. We are all aware of the “Moonies”, the Branch Davidians, and the now long dead “disciples” of Jim Jones. These and other frauds all met their ends, and any survivors may still cling to their lies. But, we are to know better. In many places within the Divine Liturgy, and even in greetings among Orthodox Christians, we say, “Christ is in our midst!” The reply to this is, “He is, and ever shall be!” By this declaration we inform ourselves that Christ is found among us in the Divine Liturgy, in the services of the Church, in the reading of the Scriptures, our prayers, and our hymns — and especially our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. We know that Christ is found in the Church until the day of his second and glorious coming!
LUKE 21: 25 – 27
“And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and its waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
These words of our Lord speak of political and social turmoil, and they prefigure the words from St. John’s Apocalypse. Signs in the sun, moon, and stars speak of the disruption of the standing of angelic Powers and Principalities of the heavens and the nations — there is a shift toward chaos and upheaval. The “sea and its waves” refer to masses of humanity reacting in distress, and even violence, to the political and social troubles of the day.
We have a tendency to see our days as the most pivotal and important — all else pales in comparison to our present experiences and circumstances. However important these times of the early twenty-first century may be, we are not the only generation that has lived through calamity, evil and distress. Think of the Black Death that swept through so many places in Europe and Asia over so many centuries. One in three died from both bubonic and (the more lethal) pneumonic plagues. Death and despair were ever present, and this Plague brought and end to the european feudal system. Think of the horrors of World War I, the brutal chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution, the terrors brought about by Hitler and Stalin, and the global violence of World War II. Our days and their troubles may, or may not, lead to the Parousia, the second coming of Christ. In any case we are to heed Jesus’ words: “…Now when these things begin to happen, look up and raise your heads, because you deliverance is drawing near” (Luke 21: 28).
LUKE 21: 33 – 36
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Be on your guard lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of everyday life, and the day come upon you suddenly as a snare; for it will come upon all who inhabit the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Given its place in the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church, we find ourselves on the threshold of Great Lent. We are about to reenter its disciplines, prayers, and actions. Yet, these disciplines are to have a place in every day of our lives (as are the joys of Pascha!). The troubles and trials of these days, when approached with faith, watchfulness, prayer, and thanksgiving, can be used to transform us if we encounter them in this manner. By so doing, no matter what these days bring to us, Christ will come to us and manifest his presence in us more fully and completely. Our relational union will be made more sound and whole, and Christ will be our destiny!
The following is a corresponding sermon:
Doxology comes from a Greek word: Doxa. It is generally translated as “glory”, or “splendor”. It can also be translated as “praise” or “honor”. The epistle reading set for the 35th Sunday after Pentecost comes from St. Paul’s first letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. The final verse puts forth a doxology (set forth in italics):
The saying is sure and worthy of all acceptance, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” of whom I am the foremost. However, it was for this I received mercy — in order that being the foremost, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his patience for an example to those who are about to believe in him for eternal life. Now to the King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Tim 1: 15 – 17).
Prior to these three verses, St. Paul lays out his condition to St. Timothy, “…though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim 1: 13). St. Paul describes not only himself, but every human being’s existence prior to coming to faith in Christ and receiving his mercy and forgiveness. He embraced Christ, “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1: 14).
St. Paul’s response to the grace and mercy given to him by Christ was to evangelize a great portion of Rome’s territory. He lived and proclaimed Christ everywhere he went. He also, in response to the grace and mercy he received, gave praise to Christ and to God the Father as we read in the above verses. We too are to be doxological in our lives’ responses to the mercy, forgiveness, light and life given to us in our salvation. This apostle, in his letter to the Ephesians, gives us his guidance:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father (Eph 5: 15 – 20).
In response to our salvation our lives are to correspond to the ways of Christ in both conduct and attitude — wise, holy living is to be coupled with joy, love and gratitude. A prayer from the First Hour can become a personal prayer: “Let my mouth be filled with your praise, O Lord, that I may sing of your glory and majesty all the day long.” Live doxologically!
The link is to a corresponding homily given 2/7/21:
In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul informs us that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” St. Paul writes of the saints of the Old Testament, and those — perhaps even recently martyred by the Empire — of great faith in the early Church. This cloud of witnesses has expanded over the centuries of the Church. No matter in which country or era, the saints have one thing in common — a heroic faith in Christ that allowed them, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, to deny themselves, and strive to have Christ formed in their lives as they grew in the Christian faith.
Their holiness didn’t come about by binge-watching a Netflix or BritBox serials ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The formation of Christ in their lives came with difficulty, great struggle, and many frustrations, as they moved to ultimate victory in our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the thirteenth chapter of St. Luke’s gospel we read this: “And someone said to him, ‘will those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, ‘Struggle [agonizesthe] to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not able to enter.’” (Luke 13:23 – 24). The Greek verb found in the text, agonizesthai, can be translated “to struggle”, “to fight”, to “compete” (as an athlete). Think of great athletes and musicians who succeeded in accomplishing their goals. There were tears of anguish, setbacks, failures, aches and pains. But they continued in discipline and struggle that others wouldn’t (or couldn’t) attempt. Their rewards were their recognized victories.
As we move on in the gospel text, Jesus continues,
When the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us.” He will answer you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!” There you will weep and gnash your teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south and sit at table in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13: 25 – 29).
Jesus speaks against those who presume — in this case many Jews of his day. But such deadly presumption is found elsewhere and among others today, perhaps even in ourselves. No matter who we are, where we live, or what we do, we cannot presume that all things will “be just be fine.”
Again we must struggle and fight — against such lazy presumption — to grow in faith, purity, and love. We must all struggle in accordance with the measure of faith given to us. Also, we must understand that while we compete in this struggle we will fall down and fail many times. When this happens we have the sacrament of Confession by which God lifts us up and cleanses us to continue on our way through the narrow door. We are also given the Liturgy’s movement to the Eucharist where, by the Body and Blood of Christ, we are, by faith, nourished spiritually, cleansed and forgiven, and we receive our Lord’s Light, Life, and Victory to continue on through the narrow door. We must know that, by faith, God empowers us by his presence within us: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who is working in you to will and to work in behalf of his good pleasure” (Phil 2: 12 – 13).
Additionally, we are also struggling and competing together — not against one another — but for one another. We encourage and help each other by our prayers and presence while we struggle to enter through the narrow door to enter into the Kingdom of God.
My quest for the perfect capo continues. I search because the two primary problems with capos still exist: string buzz a loss of tune upon application. A few months ago my first capo review involved a comparison of three G7th capos: G7th Nashville, G7th Performance, and G7th Performance 3 ART. String buzzing when a capo is applied was the problem addressed. The G7th Performance 3 ART makes the claim that its Adaptive Radius Technology provides “…buzz-free use.” The claim was held up when compared to the other G7th capos. With G7th’s most recent product, there was only one buzz recorded which contrasted to multiple buzzes with two other capos made by “The Capo Company.” The string buzz contest was settled, in this posting maintenance of tuning is addressed. Two capos which boast the ability to keep your guitar in tune when applied to the fret board are compared this day: the Shubb Capo Royale, and G7th’s Performance 3 ART.
Let’s begin with the claim set forth by G7th:
The Performance 3 is the culmination of years of designing, tweaking, and improving — but most importantly, listening to guitarists and their views on what a capo SHOULD do. Now, coupling our Unique Tension Control system with the ground-breaking ART [Adaptive Radius Technology] string pad mechanism gives a near-perfect capo experience.
The ART system within the top bar of G7th Performance 3 capos adapts to the true curvature over your strings and fretboard, exerting completely even pressure across all the strings — setting a new standard of in-tune, buzz-free use. It gives you the maximum tuning stability with the minimum possible tension in EVERY position, on ANY guitar neck.
Next, we have the Shubb claim:
The Shubb Capo is designed to reduce tuning problems. Its custom material presses the strings just like your fingertip. Its unique design closes onto the neck just like your hand. Its pressure is totally adjustable. The result: no retuning is necessary.
Similar claims, but will there be similar results? I put the capos to the test on five different guitars using one Snark electronic tuner. All five guitars were tuned (standard tuning) using the Snark tuner. Then, each capo was placed on frets 2, 5, and 7 on all five guitars. Each guitar was retuned before repositioning each capo at the above mentioned frets. “Distuning” was noted for each capo at each position by the number of “minute” increments (flat and/or sharp noted by -1, or +2, for example) from the “12 o’clock” position on the tuner. Here are the results in terms of total “distuning minutes” at all three fret positions (again 2, 5, and 7).
Breedlove Pro Series D25/SRH acoustic dreadnought:
Shubb: +9 (all sharp), G7th ART: +6 (all sharp)
Faith FG1RE PJE acoustic dreadnought:
Shubb: +20 (all sharp), G7th ART: +10 (all sharp)
Yamaha A5R ARE acoustic dreadnought:
Shubb: +13 (all sharp), G7th ART: +16 (all sharp)
Taylor Grand Pacific 317e acoustic dreadnought:
Shubb: 0, G7th ART: +4 (all sharp)
Ibanez Talman Prestige solid body electric:
Shubb: +4 (all sharp), G7th ART: +9 (all sharp)
Shubb: +46 minutes sharp, G7th ART: +45 minutes sharp
In conclusion, I was pleased with the tuning stability provided by both capos. I will NOT run the results through a Chi Square statistical analysis, but I would guess by the results there would be no statistical difference between the two. Further, the minor distunings at all five fret positions would not be audibly noticeable to the vast majority of players except, perhaps, to someone blessed with perfect pitch. My experience with tuning issues with other capos allows me to express the opinion that both capos live up to their respective claims. However, I would give the Shubb Capo Royale the nod given its price of $20.85 (Amazon) compared to the G7th ART’s price of $49.99 (Amazon). Plus, with its slim gold-plated presentation, the Shubb just looks cooler!
Keep on playing!
In his letter to the Church in Galatia, St. Paul wrote these incredible words: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” (Gal 2: 20). This declaration comes after his arguments are made against the teachings made by certain Jews who came to faith in Christ. These Jews demanded that Gentile Christians take on circumcision and live according to the Law of Moses. St. Paul firmly states the opposite: salvation only comes through faith in Christ, not by adhering to the Law: “…a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ…” (Gal 2 16).
St. Paul, after the above statement, continues,
For I, through the Law, died to the Law, in order that I might live to God. I was crucified together with Christ: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith through the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2: 19 – 20).
“I was crucified together (sunestauromai) with Christ…” These words imply union. When Christ died by crucifixion on the cross St. Paul was also there in that moment. He too was suspended on that wood. And so are we who live today. His and our union with Christ’s crucifixion is brought about by the sacrament of Baptism. We read this in St. Paul’s letter to the ancient Roman church:
Therefore, we were buried together (sunetaphemen) with him through baptism (dia tou baptismos) [this phrase in the genitive case shows that baptism is the agent by which this union is brought about for us], in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
We can walk in newness of life because Christ is living in us through faith and by sacrament.
St. Paul is speaking of a true relational, ontological, union: We are in Christ; Christ is in us. This is an abiding relationship. It is the ultimate good for humanity and creation: we are to be in Christ! Yet, we cannot leave this as simply a theological truth. If left as such, this profound existence becomes a meaningless abstraction. Being in Christ must have a goal. This goal is to have Christ manifested to the world by our lives! This is a lofty goal; a tall order.
This expression cannot be brought about by vain human effort. Christ manifested by our lives can only come about by the fact that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit resides in us by faith and sacrament. By God working in us is this accomplished. We cannot be passive. We must cooperate with the God who dwells in us. We must do to become.
Let me give a physical illustration. I play the guitar. Simply buying a guitar did not make me a player of the instrument. I struggled (and still struggle to be better) to acquire the needed skills. New neuromuscular connections and pathways had to be created, and are still being created by practice. Whatever the goal, we must work and struggle. This leads to PRAXIS — what one does, because this is who you are.
St. Paul gives this command to us: “…with fear and trembling work out your salvation, for God is the one working (energon) in you both to will and to work (energein) in behalf of his good pleasure. The word in italics, work, implies the divine work of God himself in us — it is his energy. This is possible because the Triune God indwells, touches, and transforms us when we cooperate with this will and working of God.
To my Protestant brothers and sisters let me be clear: we Orthodox Christians do not teach that we merit the salvation given to humanity by all accomplished by Christ when he walked this earth. Salvation is a free gift from God. But, Christ’s salvation and life is to be worked into us that Christ might expand in us, live in us, and be recognized in us by what we do in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
This day’s second gospel reading records two questions. The first was posed to Jesus by the Pharisees; the second was posed by Jesus to the Pharisees. Let’s examine the second question first. Jesus’ question to the Pharisees is this: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
The Pharisees give their answer: he is the son of David.
Jesus replies, “Then, why does David in the spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I might place your enemies beneath your feet’. Therefore, if David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
Our Lord’s reply asks for some clarification. David would NOT call any biological son or descendant LORD! As the King of Israel, in fact, he would not address any man as Lord. The Pharisees would not answer because they understood the significance of their answer: The Messiah is more than human, indeed he is God. Our Lord is not being too subtle here, he makes a bold declaration about himself.
There are other places in the gospels where Jesus declares himself to be God. We find this in example St. John’s gospel account of Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. We find this in St. John 6: 19 – 20:
Therefore, after they had come twenty-five to thirty stadia, they observed Jesus walking upon the sea and coming near the boat, and they were afraid. But, Jesus says to them, “I am (ego eimi): do not fear.”
The Greek phrase ego eimi is to call the reader to another event in Exodus: God’s self-revelation to Moses in the Burning Bush. The Septuagint text of the Old Testament when translated reads, “And God said to Moses, ‘I am the One who Is’ (ego eimi ho on), and he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The One who Is has sent me [Moses] to you’” (Ex 3: 14). Additionally, Jesus also declares his deity to the Jews in St. John 8: 58, “…Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham existed, I am (ego eimi).
Though the Pharisees were unwilling to answer Jesus’ question, we can conclude that Jesus is God. He is the Son of God, the Son of Man, and Creator. He is our Savior. With this information there are implications to be considered.
Let’s now turn to the first question. Jesus is asked by one of the lawyers in testing:
“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered him,
You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And a second one is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets (Mt 22: 39).
Personal love for God is not an intellectual exercise, or abstraction. It is manifested not only by acts of devotion and the praise of God through worship. Our love for God is perfected by our love for others — by what we do and say to one another. The converse of this is equally true: if we hate our neighbor, then we declare hatred of God.
Our present condition is more than challenging. We live in divided, polarizing times. Here is this most obvious example of our present day. We attack one another based upon opposing political opinions. We have witnessed vicious attacks, not just in the secular media, but also in settings that are somewhat more personal. In this latter context he outlet is usually, almost exclusively, observed in the supposed anonymity and false safety of the latrine of social media. Conservatives are ravaged by liberals, and visa versa. In a word, all of this is pathetic. On Facebook and other sites everyone must have the last word and show oneself to be more intelligent and have greater insight than the one who is taken on as adversary.
However, in our context of our common faith and life in Christ, we should embrace the words of St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…grant that I should seek not so much to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love…”
There is no truth or salvation found in politics. Every Christian is to understand that we are all citizens of a Kingdom. The primary sign of such citizenship is love — love for one another, love for all our neighbors, and love for the entirety of creation.
Finally, there is this to be considered. In the Orthodox Church, icons are everywhere, and everywhere venerated. We pass honor to the one portrayed by the icon whether it is Christ or a saint. An Orthodox Christian would never dishonor or defile an icon. Let me add this: humans are also icons! We all, all, bear the image of God! Hence, we are to honor one another and our neighbors. We are to love our image bearing neighbors as ourselves. If you dishonor an icon, you dishonor, the Maker of the icon! So, since Christ our Lord is God, let’s love our brothers, sisters, and all our neighbors as ourselves. By this we demonstrate true love for our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
The following is a sermon that corresponds with this posting:
In this eighth week after Pentecost, we have as the Gospel reading St. Matthew’s account of the miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mt 14: 14 -22). This miracle comes after the execution of St. John the Baptist. Upon hearing the news of his cousin’s death, Jesus, by boat, departs to a deserted place alone with his disciples. But his solitude did not last long — a large crowd followed him from the surrounding towns and villages. Looking at the crowd’s condition, Jesus has mercy on them and heals their illnesses.
The hour grows late, and the disciples ask Jesus to dismiss the crowd that they might buy food in the surrounding villages. But, Jesus has something different in mind. He offers a surprising and perplexing suggestion to them: “You give them something to eat!” Only five loaves of bread and two fish were in in the disciples’ possession. This limited supply did not hinder our Lord’s next action: in that grassy area he commanded the crown to sit down. Jesus not only healed their illness, but intended to feed them to their satisfaction. He served them not only the simple staples of bread and fish, but gave of himself (in typological fashion) to those reclining to be filled and sustained. The five loaves of bread point to him because Jesus the Bread of Life. Additionally, the two fish also refer to him: the Greek word ichthus (fish) was understood by the early Church to serve as this acronym, Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.
With what is laid out at this point, I ask one to think of the Last Supper (which serves as the institution of the Eucharist). Jesus’ actions are similar in this miraculous feeding. He takes the gifts offered to him, and after he looks up to heaven, he blessed them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute to those awaiting a meal. I find in agreement with this understand of this miracle in the words an apostle who was with Christ that day. St. John, in the sixth chapter of his gospel, sees this parallel and alters Jesus’ actions in the Feeding of the 5,000 to correspond directly to his actions in the Last Supper. If one examines St. Mark’s account of the Last Supper, one will note that St. John has Jesus’ words and actions to correspond to his actions and words found in St. Mark’s recording of the Last Supper (refer to another posting of mine which details this subject in detail Brief Commentaries on St. John Chapter Six, Part One: The Feeding of the 5,000 (6: 1 – 15)). With the above in mind, we can imagine Jesus saying quietly to himself: “Take, eat, this is my Body which will soon be broken…”
The Eucharist offers its own similarities: the actions of bishops and priests are the same with the Bread which has become his Body for our holy consumption. We have this from the Divine Liturgy in the part of the Anaphora knowns the Fractioning: “Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God: broken yet not divided; ever eaten yet never consumed, but sanctifying those who partake thereof.”
There are other parallels. As that crowd assembled from differing places to be before Christ, so do we assemble before Christ from differing places. We assemble together to come before Christ as the Body of Christ. Here, in and as the Church, the assembled ONE Body of Christ will receive by faith the ONE Body and Blood of Christ. We assemble together before Christ: young, old; male, female; tall, short; working, retired; of varied races, ethnicities, and life experiences. We share the Peace of Christ together as ONE Body to receive his ONE Body and Blood.
Let’s examine St. Paul’s epistle which was read and heard today (1 Corinthians 1: 10 – 18). In this reading we learn that in ancient Corinth there were divisions stemming from the question, who was baptized by whom? The faithful in that city were missing the big picture: no matter who baptized them, they were all baptized into Christ. St. Paul calls them out on their divisions as he would call us out on today’s cultural, societal, economic, and WORSE — political divisions. Such divisions, especially political divisions, have no place here, and will ultimately be of no importance when we stand before Christ enthroned!
Recently at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church two of our deacons’ sermons have addressed divisions, opinions, and the need to uphold and support one another in our common life together in Christ. We are all in Christ, and make up his one Body, the Church. So, whether assembled together for the Eucharist, or scattered back to homes and work places, we are to uphold one another in spite of differences. This is our calling, that we, the ONE Body of Christ can, in love, peace, and strength, always come together to receive in love and peace the ONE Body and Blood of Christ who is our Lord, God, and Savior.
The following is a link to the corresponding sermon:
There are only two kinds of guitar players in the world…Well actually there are many types of guitar players in the world, but allow me to break it down to what applies to me. There are only two types of guitar players in the world, those who can move between acoustics and electrics with ease, and those who cannot. While my two sons occupy the first position, I, sadly, occupy the latter. I’m an acoustic player. While I appreciate the wonderful tones that come from an electric guitar when played through effect pedals and amplifiers, I am far, far, more comfortable with an acoustic guitar. Part of that comfort comes from the fact that acoustic guitars were the first guitars I owned, and upon which I learned the instrument. Another aspect is that with an acoustic guitar no set up (and take down) of amp, cables, or pedals is part of the music making experience. You pick one up and play. One more admission: I have a relatively “heavy hand” and I find an acoustic far more accepting and forgiving of my touch. So, my three electrics generally languish in their cases and my amps collect dust.
In my explorations, I have tried various acoustic-electric hybrids such as the Taylor T5 and Godin’s Ultra-6 to name a few. Their necks and touch are far too electric in feel, and thus, never purchased. Then early in 2019 I learned about Godin’s new Multiac Steel hybrid. I tried one out at a local store comparing it with a Taylor T5. Hands down the Multiac Steel was the winner. Though heavier, it felt and played far more like an acoustic than an electric. Yet, there were many features that make it also an electric guitar.
It is an attractive instrument having the appearance of a Les Paul. It is solidly built guitar. It makes a statement of quality. This Multiac has a solid spruce top, mahogany neck with a synthetic fretboard of Richlite (used on some Martin guitars as well), and a chambered wooden body. It has a 25.5 inch scale length and a nut width of 1.72 inches which together add to the acoustic feel I prefer. There are both acoustic LR Baggs pickups and a Seymour Duncan lipstick pickup (this single coil is located just below the fret board). There are two sets of controls and two outputs jacks that allow you to dial in a mix of both acoustic and electric qualities, acoustic only tone, or electric only tone. The control knobs on the body are the true captains of the tone. When you plug into the acoustic output you can blend the acoustic and single coil pickups: the volume knob adds in the single coil to taste while the tone knob dials in the single coils tone (neck to bridge tones). When the single coil output is accessed alone no acoustic blend can occur — it becomes purely electric in character. However — since it is a hybrid — you can plug into both outputs and play through both an acoustic and an electric amp.
The guitar without any amplification when played has the sound of a hollow body electric when such a guitar is not amplified. But, of course it needs to be amplified to demonstrate its true qualities. The Godin was first played through a Marshall AS50D acoustic amp through the acoustic output jack. Through this amp the Multiac sounded like any amplified acoustic guitar until you blend in the lipstick single coil with the volume control knob. Here, the tone is quite unique.
Next, I went for the pure electric aspect of the Godin. I plugged into a Blackstar HT Club 40 amplifier. The tone produced was truly that of a electric guitar whether played clean or on overdrive. A variety of tones were selected from the amp, and this guitar handled all of it quite steadily.
I truly have the best of both worlds — I now have an electric guitar that has the comfortable feel of an acoustic guitar.
Keep on playing,
Today is the sixth Sunday of Pascha, and we read from St. John 9: 1- 38, and learn of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. This restoration of sight is the sixth sign that is reported in St. John’s Gospel. This miraculous sign occurs “that the works of God might be manifested in him.”
His healing takes place in a sacramental manner: Jesus “anoints (chrismates)” him from clay made by the mixing of Jesus’ saliva (the saliva of God) with clay on the ground (we have the union of divine and material). Jesus then instructs him to have his eyes “baptized” by washing off the anointed clay from his eyes in the Pool of Siloam. “He went and washed and came back seeing” (9: 7). With his new vision he encounters Christ:
Jesus heard that they cast him out [of the Synagogue], and when he finds him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And he answered and said, “And who is he, Lord, that I might believe in him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” And he said, “I believe, Lord!” and he worshipped him (9: 35 – 38).
English author Richard Adams is best known for his worldwide best seller, Watership Down first published in 1972, and was subsequently made into an animated movie 1978, and animated television series in England, then recently butchered by Netflix-BBC two years ago. Adams was involved in a number of movements directed toward animal welfare, and was, for a time, director of England’s RSPCA. In Watership Down, Adams’ rabbit characters remark about humanity’s indifference, and even hostility to animals and the environment in general. Perhaps the most striking lament by Adams comes from Chapter 21, “For El-ahrairah to Cry.” Here, Holly (the Bard of the band of rabbits) states:
It [evil] comes from men…All other elil [enemies] do what they have to do and Frith [the rabbits’ god] moves them as he moves us. They live on the earth and they need food. Men will never rest till they’ve spoiled the earth and destroyed animals