The Rich Man, Lazarus, and Nutrition

Rich Man and Lazarus

St. Luke’s Gospel gives us the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19 – 31).  We learn that the rich man was well dressed and feasted sumptuously every day (Luke 16:  19).  In stark contrast, there was a poor man named Lazarus who lay outside his gate.  He was full of sores which dogs licked.  He desired to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table (Luke 16: 20 -21).  Lazarus was grossly malnourished, and was likely in the end stages of malnutrition.  Death would soon take him.

In this posting I will depart from the typical commentary one would read about the rich man and Lazarus.  Instead, I will focus on food, nutrition, and malnutrition — both physical and spiritual.

Food.  The Scriptures are filled with the topic.  The life of the Church also involves food.  There are feasts, festivals, and also seasons of fasting.  The Church has many blessings for food and drink.  Before each meal there is the blessing (which can be given by a priest or layman):  “Christ our God, bless this food and drink to your servants, for you are holy now and ever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.”  There are blessings for wells, the sowing of seed, herbage, threshing floors and barns, herds and flocks, bees, beehives, and honey.  There are blessings for vineyards and wine, fishnets, meat, eggs, and cheese.  The things of agriculture and the garden, etc., are blessed that our physical lives are nourished and sustained by God’s gifts of food and drink to us.

The food and drink of nature sustains natural life, and only natural life.  A few years ago on a warm summer afternoon I was sitting on my back patio.  I was either reading, or playing a guitar when I noticed a lovely garden spider.  In her web was her catch, her prey, which provided her nourishment that sustained her life.  The capture of the insect led to its death.  Later that year she would die.  No further eating would prolong her short life.  For us, as for the garden spider, our physical food, generally, derives from the death of another physical, mortal creature (even the uprooting of a carrot ends its life).  Death, when consumed, leads to death.

The rich man and his brothers ate the best foods and drank the best wines.  As with a physician’s descriptive progress note, they would be described as “well nourished, well developed males.”  Yet, he and they were spiritually malnourished.  They were spiritually emaciated and were wasting with open sores in their souls.  To nourish his soul, apparently, all he had to do was to cleanse, clothe, and feed Lazarus.  This was not done.  Spiritually speaking, he was a “Dead man walking!”

Let’s turn now to the subject of spiritual food as is found in the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.  In this chapter we read of the account of Jesus’ meeting of the Samaritan woman at the Well of Jacob (John 4: 1 – 42).  We read this from their conversation.  I quote our Lord’s words:

Every one who drinks of this water [the water from the well] will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4: 13 – 14).

Jesus speaks of a supernatural, spiritual water.  He speaks of the water that is the Holy Spirit.  Then, later in the fourth chapter, we have this exchange between Jesus and his disciples:

Meanwhile, the disciples were asking of him:  “Rabbi, eat.”  But he said to hem, “I have food (brosis) to eat of which you do not know.  So the disciples were saying to one another, “did someone bring him something to eat?”  Jesus says to them, “My food (broma) is that I might do the will of the One who sent me and to complete His work” (John 4: 31 – 34).

The Greek word brosis / broma refers to a food of substance such as a meat.  Such a food requirers chewing (trogo, trogon) to break down the food for proper digestion.  From this we learn that the holy works of the Father are a source of spiritual nourishment.  It was true for Christ; it is true for us (see Phillipians 2: 12 – 13 and Ephesians 2: 10).  Spiritual nourishment forms our souls.  Throughout the centuries, the Church Fathers teach that the human soul has both a type of substance and form.  The human soul is not an amorphous blob of energy.  Further, they state that a human soul is recognizable and follows our present physical form.  All the more reason to be feasting in a spiritual manner.

The holy works of faith both nourish and form our souls.  But what is the greatest spiritual food?  It is the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I now quote extensively from the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel which contains the Bread of Life Discourse given by Christ in the synagogue of Capernaum (John 6: 22 – 59).  I focus on verses 4: 48 – 56:

I am the Living Bread.  Your fathers ate the Manna in the wilderness and died.  This is the Bread which is descending from heaven, that if someone might eat of it he shall not die.  I am the Living Bread which descended from heaven.  If ever someone might eat of this bread he will live for ever, and the Bread which I will give is my flesh [given] for the life of the world.

But the Jews were grumbling with one another saying, “How is he able to give us his flesh to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in yourselves.  The one who is eating (trogon) my Flesh and drinking my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him in the last day.  For my Flesh is true food (brosis), and my Blood is true drink.  The one who is eating (trogon) my Flesh and is drinking my Blood abides in me and I in him (John 6: 48 – 56).

We are nourished by eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  By this spiritual food Christ is taken into us — into every cell of our bodies — and into our souls.  He is formed in us and lives in us as he abides in us by this Sacrament.  By it we have a true, relational union with him which is our salvation.  We do not consume death by this Sacrament as with natural food.  The supernatural food and drink of his Body and Blood give us eternal life because we consume his divine life contained in the Eucharist.

Our souls are also nourished by the Scriptures, faith, the works of faith, prayer, the Divine Liturgy, and all the services of the Church (Matins, Vespers, the Hours, etc.), and other sacraments of the Church.  By these the Triune God is in us and we are in the Triune God.  We have this relational union.  This union is formed, sustained, and strengthened by all these forms of spiritual brosis. 

In conclusion, let’s return to the rich man and Lazarus.  We know from the words of Christ regarding the Last Judgment that we will be judged by our Lord on the basis of how we treated our fellow human beings is this material life we all live (Matthew 25:  31 – 46).  It is clear that the rich man failed this one great test.  He ignored Lazarus in his suffering.  So, we all have to ask ourselves this very serious question:  Who is Lazarus in our lives?  Who do we pass by and ignore?  With the time remaining in our short, mortal lives let us feed, cleanse, and clothe Lazarus that our souls may be nourished and strengthened for the eternal life of the blessed in Christ!

This is a link to the corresponding sermon:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


Guitar Review: Rainsong 12 String Acoustic Guitar (CO-JM3000T)

The 12 string guitar — whether acoustic or electric there is something wonderful about the shimmer, chime, chorusing and overall tones that come from them.  They are a delight to hear, but not always to play.

There are complaints about the species, and there are many humorous comments about them.  This is my favorite:  “A 12 string guitarist spends half his time tuning one, and the other half playing out of tune.”  The complaints and jokes can still hold true, but all are more accurate for 12 string guitars constructed of wood.

Rainsong CO-JM3000T

Of course, the wooden guitar is a beautiful instrument, but it comes with innate problems.  Wood is structurally susceptible to damage from both excess atmospheric humidity and dryness.  It is susceptible to extremes of temperature.  It is susceptible to damage from the incredible tension put on the entire instrument by its strings, and this is even more true for the 12 string guitar.  The tension brought about by 12 steel strings demands a formidable construction.  The formidable feature is the neck.  It is wider (12 strings take up more room than six strings), and it is stouter — the circumference is larger than almost any six string acoustic guitar.

Enter carbon fiber/graphite.  The material is not susceptible to heat, cold, or any atmospheric condition.  Carbon fiber has the strength to withstand the pressures of 12 steel strings that no wooden guitar could withstand. In this review I will compare the characteristics of a Rainsong Concert Series Jumbo 12 string neck to that of an Eastman jumbo 12 string neck, and discuss the Rainsong’s great playability and tone.

Nut Width:

Rainsong CO-JM3000T:  1.875 inches, or 4.125cm

Eastman AC530:  1.875 inches, or 4.125 cm

Distance Between Strings at Nut:

Rainsong CO-JM3000T:  1.75 inches, or 3.85 cm

Eastman AC 530:  1.75 inches, or 3.85 cm

So far, identical measurements for both guitars.

Neck Circumference at Nut:

Rainsong CO-JM3000T:  5.41 inches, or 11.9 cm

Eastman AC-530:  5.64 inches, or 12.4 cm

The advantage goes to the Rainsong.

Neck Circumference at 12th fret:

Rainsong CO-JM3000T:  6.5 inches, 14.3 cm

Eastman AC 530:  6.91 inches, 15.2 cm

Again, the advantage goes to the Rainsong.

I am familiar with both guitars.  The ease of play with the Rainsong is very noticeable, is clearly superior to that of the Eastman.  The playability advantage that goes to the Rainsong is attributable to only one thing:  the smaller dimensions of the Rainsong’s neck.  This smaller dimension is due to the carbon fiber construction’s superior strength and stability.

Eastman AC530

Back to the joke quoted above regarding tuning stability.  To its credit, the Eastman generally stays in tune between “play dates” (if not detuned after play), but not to the degree that is found with the Rainsong.  With my Eastman I had to think about the potential to retune — I generally detune down by at least a whole step after playing it to preserve the integrity of the guitar.  So, do I want to take the time to tune it, or pass.  I’ll pass.  No need with the Rainsong — it can withstand the pressure of 12 strings at standard tuning at all times!

Unfortunately, a carbon fiber guitar is a non-starter for many acoustic guitar traditionalists.  The conceptual objection centers around tone:  How can a carbon fiber guitar possibly sound as good as a wooden guitar?  Subjectively, I find the “Rainsong tone” to be exceptionally pleasing.  A Rainsong guitar’s tone sounds like a guitar should sound — there is nothing foreign or alien about it.  In fact, I own two Rainsong’s myself, a Nashville series jumbo N-JM1100N2 (see the review:)  which possesses a thin spruce layer infused onto the carbon fiber top, and now the 12 string jumbo CO-JM3000T.  The complexity of tones that come from these guitars are both wonderful and differ from each other — Rainsong guitars are not clones.  (And remember, every wooden guitar also possesses differing qualities that effect tone, and some of them not at all pleasing).

The Rainsong Jumbo 12 String

A Rainsong guitar is inimitable:  it can not be copied due to its qualities of design and construction.  I own a number of wooden acoustics, and on any given day I will choose to pick up one of the Rainsong guitars — they are the ones I pick up time and time again.  Regarding this jumbo 12 stringer, it is nearly as easy to play as any 6 string acoustic, and there is no hesitancy to play it due to the issue of necessary tuning and fine tuning that would come with the Eastman AC530.  The Rainsong CO-JM3000T is truly a winner and a keeper.  I give a “hats off” to the Rainsong guitar company (rainsong.com), and am thankful to discover and own my two treasured guitars.

Keep on playing!

Fr. Irenaeus


Lamp of the Body, Lamp of the Mind

In St Matthew’s gospel we read this statement from Jesus: “The eye is the lamp of the body (Mt 6: 22).”  This is not a scientific statement — it will not be found in any  textbook of anatomy or physiology.  Our Lord continues his statement,  “If your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.”  This is what is to be understood:  vision directs the actions of the body to proper movement, work, and activity.  In contrast, if one is blind, then the actions of the body are conducted in darkness.  With blindness proper action, work, and activity are altered.  In the ancient world’s realities, blindness generally led to impoverishment and want.

Light and Life

The Fathers of the Church made this connection:  As the eye is to the body, so the mind is to the soul.  Thus, if the mind is filled with the light of Christ there will be proper action, work, and activities that are pleasing to God.  If the mind is darkened by sin and worldly understanding one will be governed by passion and such works will be displeasing to God.

Hence, the battle is in the mind.  The Prayer of the Hours contains in its central portion this petition:  “…sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, set aright our minds, cleanse our thoughts…”  With a healthy eye there is a healthy body.  With a holy mind there is a healthy and holy soul.

How will the purified, properly oriented mind lead to proper perceptions and actions in our lives regarding the needs of the body and money?  In the verses that follow Mt 6:22 our Lord speaks of wealth, and the need for food and clothing.  Christ declares this about the mind obsessed with wealth:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth (Mt 6: 24).

One may have wealth and serve God first if one has a healthy mind.  Such a person can follow this directive of Christ:  “Store up treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there also is your heart!”  (Mt 6: 20 — 21).  In contrast, if one clamors for wealth and relentlessly seeks it without any thought for God, one will have gained the whole world, yet will have lost one’s soul.

In following verses (Mt 6: 25 — 34) our Lord speaks of everyday needs and the anxieties that do arise from these cares,

Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, with what you will clothe yourself.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than these?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his statue?  (Mt 6: 25 — 27)

Jesus continues this teaching:

Therefore, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat? or, “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For after all these things the nations seek.  For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be given to you (Mt 6: 31 — 33, emphasis added).

In all honesty, though, such anxieties and worries can afflict the faithful.  Such matters can weigh heavily on the mind.  We find ourselves in the grip of runaway inflation caused by foolish and terrible monetary policies.  This, in turn, has brought upon many very hard choices and understandable concern.  Day to day choices are now made that may not have been necessary in recent years.  These choices must be made not only for self-interest, but also for one’s neighbor.  Many consumptive habits are to be altered, decreased, and even eliminated in some cases.  Though such changes of habits have come about by ill conceived governmental policies and dictates, such lifestyle alterations may be of benefit to the soul.

However, I bristle at the mandated demands for change made by secular powers.  It is my opinion that they are not for the good of humanity or the environment, but are mandates placed upon us for their own further empowerment and enrichment.  I recall the cynical definition of the Golden Rule:  “Those with the gold make the rules.” The wealthy, powerful elite make the rules only to strengthen their “hold on the gold.”

In the past two years I find it ironic that the power elite are calling on our sacrifices to protect — primarily — the environment.  I am suspicious.  If they are not “doing for the children” so much anymore, they are doing in “for the environment.”  I am for the environment!  I am for its protection and healing.  I am for the welfare and well being of every human and every creature.  We are to bless God’s creation, cultivate, and nurture it.  We are never to exploit any creature or any part of the creation.  But, I am suspicious of the true motives of the power elite of the West.  A British commentator recently summed up their mindset quite clearly:  “It’s not that they love the environment so much as it is that they hate humanity.”  In all of this that is set before us in these days, we are not to think that such manipulation is new.  St. James gives us his wise and holy perspective from the first century:

…Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court?  Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable Name by which you are called?  (James 2: 6b — 7)

Yet, we do not need to vilify them.  We are to have eyes wide open.  We are to be perceptive — very perceptive and alert.  Ultimately, it is not the power elite that are our enemies.  St. Paul clarifies,

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world ruler of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6: 12 — 13).

Jesus Christ Conquers

The battle is in the mind.  We are to see with eyes of wisdom, peace, and holiness.  With a healthy eye and a holy mind, we must come together to meet the common needs of each other when they arrive.  Every sacrifice we may be forced to make — we are to make to the glory of God — not to appease those who hold oppressive power.  In all these matters, though meant to work against us, we can redeem them in and by Christ to the good of all and all things.  Every abasement that we may have to endure is to be seen for our salvation that Christ may be more fully formed in us.  By the utilization of truth, righteousness, the Gospel, peace, faith, salvation, prayer, and perseverance we will stand in Christ with and for one another by a wise, peaceful, and holy vision (see Ephesians 6: 14 — 18).  And being thus armored, when necessary, faithfully, and peacefully, resist our oppressors who do the bidding of dark powers.

Once more, as we find in the Prayer of the Hours, we are to ask God to “set aright our minds and cleanse our thoughts.”  Thus, we will have a healthy mind and a sound spirit to face every challenge that will come our way to the glory of God!

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


153 Fish

The Gospel set for the Second Sunday after Pentecost comes from Matthew 4: 18 – 23.  In it we learn of the calling of four fishermen:  Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  This event is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and here, Peter, Andrew, James and John are told they will become “fishers of men.”

In the Gospel of John (21: 1 — 14) a contrast is found.  It is near the very end of all the Gospel accounts, and occurs after Christ’s resurrection.  Here, we read of the miraculous catching of 153 fish in the nets of those apostles with Peter that day.  The number of fish caught is important.  153 is the number of all known nations according the the accounting of the Ancients.  Thus, symbolically, the number corresponds to the peoples of all nations, races, and languages.  The people  of all these nations (and even more nations) will be drawn by the nets of the apostles into the Church, and into relational union with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  Further, all of the created realm is included in this relationship with humanity and God!  St Paul writes of this in Ephesians 1: 9 — 10:  

“…declaring to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he intended for him — for the plan of the fullness of time — to gather together all things (ta panta) in Christ; those things in heaven and those things on earth in Him.”

These words of St. Paul bring us to the theological concept of recapitulation.  Recapitulation, meaning a gathering into unity, is at the heart of   the salvific model called Christus Victor.  To understand its theology we must go back to the account of creation, and to the Garden.  God had created the heavens and the earth and then filled the creation with animals, insects and plants.  Then God created his image bearers, vice-regents, prophets, and priests.  Humanity was commissioned to maintain and cultivate all of creation into a glorious order and loving relationship between God, man, and creation.

But, unfortunately we come to the Fall.  The serpent successfully deceived our first parents.  With the subsequent rebellion of Eve, and the capitulation of Adam, all was scattered and lost to sin, death, darkness and alienation.  In this horrid state of chaos we became prey for the serpent.

Jesus Christ Conquers

However, we were not left without the promise of salvation.  In the fullness  of time salvation arrives.  We are given a New Eve.  We read of her appearance — the first step of our rescue — in St Luke’s gospel (Luke 1: 26 – 38).  This pericope concludes where Mary (the New Eve) speaks there words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).  Mary’s obedience to the call of God undoes the binding knot of the first Eve and allows the entrance of the Second Adam into creation.  The God-Man, the Savior, is born into his own creation.  And by his Incarnation all that was lost and scattered to death, sin, darkness, and alienation is gathered back together in Him.  All was regathered into relational union in Christ!

St. Paul expands his teaching in another Prison Epistle, his letter to the Colossians.  Colossians 1: 15 — 20 reads,

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, those things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things and in him all things are held together in their proper orders…For in him all the fullness [of creation] was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things — things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross.

Elsewhere, St. Paul declares this in 2 Corinthians 5: 17:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is passed away.  Behold, all things are new!”  We, too are renewed and restored.  We as Image Bearers, vice-regents, prophets, and priests are now in Christ.  By this renewal, we are to extend Christ to all and all things, and to subsequently gather all into relational union in Christ.  This is who we are and what we are to be doing!

Let’s observe where we are this Lord’s Day.  We have come from our homes to our Orthodox Churches (perhaps with a bit of chaos along the way, and arrived just in the nick of time!).  We have gathered together in relational union in Christ to worship the Triune God.  Also, we have gathered together in Christ to have this saving relational union strengthened by the central act of our worship — to commune of his Body and Blood of the Eucharist.

Yet, we don’t linger too long.  The Divine Liturgy comes to its conclusion with these words:  “Let us depart in peace!”  We are commissioned by these words, and depart back into the world.   In our various settings and situations, as image bearers, prophets and priests, we are to bear Christ to all and all things we encounter.  We have Christ in us and we are to unfold him to all we encounter.  St. Paul informs us that we can do this by “rejoicing always; praying without ceasing; and giving thanks in, with, and for all things, which is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5: 16 – 18).  These are our regal, prophetic, and priestly actions.

We return to the Church on the next Lord’s Day.  We regather together bringing our offerings —all we have done in Christ — back into the Kingdom and its relational unions.  And the Divine Liturgy moves us to this important point in the anaphora where the priest or bishop declares, “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto Thee in behalf of all and for all!”  It is necessary to note that as these words are spoken, the gift offerings of bread and wine are are elevated and presented to God.  

Soon after this, the Divine Liturgy will soon move us to the Epiclesis.  Here the Holy Spirit is called upon (the meaning of epiclesis) to come upon our offerings of bread and wine to make them the Body and Blood of Christ!  All is again gathered together in Christ in the Eucharist!  With this working of the Holy Spirit a re-presentation of the Incarnation and its recapitulation occurs in sacramental form.  In the Eucharist we, our works in Christ, and all creation are taken to Christ and incorporated into him.  Thus, we are gathered together in Christ and are taken into the Kingdom prepared for us.

So, let us be mindful fishers of men.  Let us be purposeful image bearers, prophets, priests, and vice-regents to the glory of the Triune God.

The following is a corresponding sermon:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


The Good Shepherd

Today the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Gregory Palamas on the Second Sunday of Lent.  We read of the Good Shepherd in tenth chapter of St. John’s gospel which is the second assigned gospel for this Sunday.  In this chapter Christ, the Good Shepherd, contrasts himself to the “hireling.”  The hireling is not a shepherd.  The sheep are not his own, and upon seeing the wolf he abandons the sheep and flees.  The wolf attacks and scatters the sheep (John 10: 12).  The cowardly action of the hireling allows the entrance of the enemy — and is like the action of the Serpent in the Garden.  Our first Parents were thus attacked and were deceived.  Their rebellion led to their own scattering, and they and all of creation were lost to death, darkness, sin, and alienation.  Christ lays out who he is.  He is the Good Shepherd who gathers together into life, light, and relationship all that was lost and scattered into death, darkness, sin, and alienation:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10: 10 -11, 14 – 15).

Christ continues to gather his sheep into his fold throughout the centuries into the Church.  Here, he continues to provide for his flock and care for his sheep.

St. Gregory Palamas

Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, was a saint and a good shepherd to the flock of Christ.  He began his priestly ministry in 1326 in Thessalonica.  Then, in 1331 he returned to Mt. Athos and began to write theological works, thus continuing his pastoral care in this new manner.

Enter a hireling, a certain Barlaam of Calabria.  He criticized many of the monastic practices of the day along with some established, orthodox teachings of the Church.  He argued with St. Gregory about these matters and how we of Christian faith encounter and experience God.  He turned the argument to the subject of light that emanated from Christ on Mt. Tabor:  was that light truly from his own divinity, or was it a created intermediary (thus, reeking of Arianism).  Barlaam argued that no human can experience anything of God, but only something secondary and not of God himself.

St. Gregory taught the truth of the Church.  He stated that though humans cannot know of God’s essence, we can know God by his energies, which we directly are able to encounter and engage.  To understand the difference between essence and energies, we have the analogy of the sun and its rays of light.  We cannot touch the sun, but we can experience its life giving, warming and invigorating light.  Thus, God’s energies are like the sun’s rays of light and energy.  Then, accepting St. Gregory’s teaching in 1341, the Council of Constantinople gave this authoritative statement:

…God, unapproachable in his essence, reveals himself through his energies, which are directed toward the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but are neither material or created.

Today our world is filled with Barlaams (and even worse sorts).  They are false teachers, false prophets, hirelings and wolves.  Their voices, podcasts, videos, programmings, and writings are all around us.  Their intent is to further puff up their egos by gathering together their own flocks of deceived sheep.  But, ultimately, this results in attacks on, and the scattering of these abused flocks.

In St. John’s gospel we read Jesus’ words:

When he [the Good Shepherd] has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10: 4 – 5).

Lex orandi, lex credendi — this is a Latin phrase meaning “what is prayed is what is believed.”  We who abide in the Church hear and read the Scriptures.  We encounter the words of the Divine Liturgy and the words of the services of Vespers, Matins, and the Hours.  We know the Nicene Creed and recite it from memory.  We know the hymns that teach us by their declarative words of praise and worship of God, and they also provide the teachings of the true faith.  We read the teachings of the Fathers who teach the Orthodox faith.  By these we know the truth of the Orthodox Church and know the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Sensus Fidei, or the “the Sense of the Faithful” is of great value and is given to us by all the above sources of our faith.  (We are to live out the truths of our faith in our daily lives.) We have this admonition from the epistle assigned for this Sunday coming from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews:

Therefore, we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?  It is declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2: 1 – 4).

To encourage us further, we have this prayer from the First Hour as assigned during this season of Lent.  It is also appropriate since next Sunday is the Sunday of the Cross.  Christ’s holy cross also provides us with its protection:

Hasten to our aid, lest we be enslaved to the enemy which blasphemes You and threatens us, O Christ our God, and overcome by Your Cross those who war against us, that they may know the might of the Orthodox Faith; through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O You who alone loves mankind.

Thus, let us, in these confusing and troubling days, hold firm to the teachings of Christ as encounter in his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church!

The following links is a sermon which corresponds to this posting:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

 


Illumination and Exposure

In this posting I write only as one man.  Though I am an archpriest in the Orthodox Church I do not speak for any parish, diocese, or jurisdiction.  Though I am also a clinical pharmacist, I do not speak for any professional organization.  This posting does not come from a pulpit and will not be published in any official publication.  The position taken in this posting is held by many, but not by all, and people of good will are free to agree with it or to disagree with it.  I offer it as one who is gravely concerned for our liberal democracy and its offered freedoms in this time of trouble—

Recently, I have written four postings that address the threat of a rising totalitarianism within the United States and other western countries (The Parallel Society  The Parallel Society II: The Proposals of Vaclav Benda.  The Sunday After Christmas’ Sobering Message “ Gimme Shelter” And Advice From Psalms)  The emerging totalitarianism has, oddly, arisen upon the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic that began in January, 2020:  the virus was simply its springboard.  In the first months of 2020 it seemed reasonable, prudent, and even wise for governments to impose lockdowns, shelter in place orders (SIPO), and other Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI) in the attempt to control the contagion.

Then we moved into May, 2020 and I perceived a change, a disturbing change.  The interventions that were to last a few weeks to ‘flatten the curve” were clearly going to be extended indefinitely and grow in reach and in purpose.  As the weeks moved into months, and months have now moved into years, I and others of like mind — fellow clergy, friends, and even those met in passing conversation — are in agreement with my assessment.  So, from this perspective, what happened to lead me to this conclusion?

First, the news media and health organizations gave nonstop coverage and attention to the pandemic, but with an unusual intensity.  With this came not a healthy caution, but fear — even a paralyzing fear — among many.  As the “narrative” progressed, it seemed that this fear was recognized as a tool to bring about a control over the citizens of states and nations.  Second, a mania was added to the underlying fear when the “narrative” became “confused”.  What was true one day, was not true the next day.  What was effective one week, was suddenly not effective the next week.  It all became an intentional nut-and-shell game as “experts” pontificated, and those of equal qualifications, but of differing perspectives were silenced, cancelled, and shamed.  Debate was shut down, and thus the scientific method was eliminated from the picture.    Only one medical pathway was allowed to proceed forward to the public.

With all of this, the “narrative” became both a weapon and a LIE.

Vaclav Havel

The word lie has been introduced.  With the word’s introduction I now turn to the work of the Czech dissident and author Vaclav Havel:  The Power of the Powerless (hereafter referred to as PP).  Havel’s PP was first published in 1978, eleven years before the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, and because of it he was imprisoned for four years.  Journalist and author Timothy Snyder gives us this from his introduction to PP:

“The PP was a description of resistance to totalitarianism.  Its author, Vaclav Havel, thought that it was also a critique of western democracies.  Forty years after its publication, we see that he was right (vii)…In the self violation of society of normalized Czechoslovakia, Havel saw a crisis of contemporary technological society as a whole, a modern “unfreedom” in which individuals enslave themselves because they do not ask themselves who they are and what they are supposed to be (viii)…For Havel, then, the restoration of civic life began from truth (ix).

The communist states of the day were founded upon an ideology — a communist, Marxist-Leninist ideology.  Havel comments,

The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe (PP, 17)…The totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline (PP, 19)…The published ideology demanded that reality be conformed to the state’s ideology, the ideology could never be transformed by reality:  It is a world of appearances trying to pass for reality (PP, 20).

He observes that adherence to the state’s ideology “in its elaborateness and completeness is almost a secularized religion” (PP, 9).  

Regarding the lies of which he was aware, and the lies we hear in our day, Havel writes, 

Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything.  It falsifies the past.  It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future.  It falsifies statistics (PP, 21).

Lies are sins.  For a lie, a sin, to continue its twisted, corrupting existence it must have darkness and silence.  The darkness and silence must be maintained at all cost.  More lies are fabricated to encase and protect its shameful existence.  Windows and doors must be nailed shut should any beam of light expose its ugly, perverse  nakedness.  I contend this has been our existence since May, 2020 with state insistence on lockdowns, SIPOs, and other NPIs.   These continued throughout 2021 and this year, and in these years we were confronted with mandated reception of mRNA injections — all leading (especially the latter) to internal passports for social and economical existence.   From this affront we face the potential creation of a two-tiered society where we will thus have, as Havel would describe them, the “subcitizen” who is expelled from the greater culture because he or she would not submit to the lie.  From these constructs we have found ourselves existing within the lie.  It is not about public health anymore (perhaps it never was about this at all).  It is about the control of people — an initial control that will be used to further more political agendas in the future.

However, in spite of cancelings, censorship, and expulsions by mandates, a ray of light has broken through the gloom.  This beam of light came from John Hopkins Institute for Applies Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise’s Studies in Applied Economics.  The article, “A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on Covid-19 Mortality” appeared in the January 2022 issue.  I quote from the article’s abstract:

Of those 34 eligible studies, 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis.  They were separated into three groups:  lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place-order (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies.  An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality.  More specifically, stridency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average.  SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average.  Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality.

While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted.  In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy (3).

The study’s critique continues,

The use of lockdowns is a unique feature of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Lockdowns have not been used to such a large extent during any of the pandemics of the past century.  However, lockdowns during the initial phase [the authors’ analysis only applies to 2020] of the COVID-19 pandemic have had devastating effects.  They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, and undermining liberal democracy…Such a standard benefit-cost calculation leads to a strong conclusion:  lockdowns should be rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument (43).

I note again that the John Hopkins study only examines policies from 2020.  But, can we extrapolate their conclusion to 2021, and now 2022?  I think common sense observations require that the answer is yes.  This study examines the effects of lockdowns, etc., only on mortality.  Can we extrapolate their conclusion to morbidity (i.e. illness)?  Yes, since morbidity always precedes mortality.  Can we extrapolate their conclusion to other strategies?  Yes.  The mRNA injections have been woefully ineffective especially when we understand that the mRNA injections’ formulation was based upon the original corona variant, and no reformulation addressing the following mutations seems to have occurred — more boosters, same outcomes.

As PP continues, Havel notes that the totalitarian system under which he suffered was, in reality, a “…complex system of manipulation on which the…system is founded and on which it is also dependent…(PP, 54).

The motives of many of our political leaders are to be questioned, and are to be questioned again in the very near future.  We have been played by many of them, even though some have taken a step back.  Be assured we will be played by them again when it is politically expedient for them.  We see that, as with leadership in Canada,  those in power will “circle the wagons”, and call for “all hands on deck!” These will not readily let go of the intoxicating power they have grabbed and to which they cling.  There will be, soon, another play for even more power by all those who have taken a calculated step backwards to a false “moderation” in their positions. 

We who cherish freedom, liberty, and truth have been given a powerful flashlight by John Hopkins University.  Now we can begin to show the emperor to be the naked imposter that he is.  Let us go forward living in truth, and in the One who is Truth Incarnate! 

In Christ who is truth,

Fr. Irenaeus


The Sunday After Christmas’ Sobering Message

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:

Joseph The Betrothed

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.

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


The Parallel Society II: The Proposals of Vaclav Benda

202106090913_Vaclav Benda

Vaclav Benda

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.

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


“Gimme Shelter” And Advice From Psalms

“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

Christ Enthroned

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.”

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


Guitar Review: Rainsong CO-WS1005NST Acoustic-Electric Guitar

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,

Fr. Irenaeus


She Touched Christ!

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!

 

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

The following is a corresponding homily:

 


The Bee and the Hornet

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:

BeesHornets
Kingdom: animalKingdom: 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: apidaeFamily: vespidae
Genus: apisGenus: 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.

Rescued honey bee

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).

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus


The Parallel Society

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.

Vaclav Havel

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.

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 up

Romans 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”
Christ the Bread of Life

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:

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus Williams


Guitar Shows are back!, with a brief review of the Bright “Bear Cub”

IMG_0124Whether 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.

IMG_0188

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,

Fr. Irenaeus


Guitar Review: Rainsong N-JM1100N2, AKA the Nashville Series Jumbo

Nashville Jumbo

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!
Fr. Irenaeus


Signs of the Times

Pantocrator

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:

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus


Doxology

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 Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus


By the Blood of Christ

In his epistle to the first century Christians in Ephesus, St. Paul informs Gentile converts to Christ of their spiritual condition prior to coming to the faith:

Therefore, remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision in the flesh by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus your who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2: 11 – 13, emphasis added).

The Gentile Christians of Ephesus now being in Christ have relationship which was gained by the life giving blood shed by Christ on the Cross.
Then, in another epistle written by St. Paul while imprisoned in Rome, he make this declaration:

He is before all things, and in him all things are held in their proper orders. He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the firstborn from among the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him the fulness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, those things on earth and those things in heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross (Col 1: 17 – 21).

All people and all things are gathered together in Christ, and in him all things once scattered into alienation are drawn into relational union in him. All and all things can now live in peace — in spite of those aspects of life which would otherwise separate us from one another and cause enmity.

Elsewhere, regarding the shed blood of Christ, St. Matthew records these words of Jesus during the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the Covenant, the [blood] which is being poured [ekchunnomenon] out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26: 28). The Greek word in the passage above is a present, passive participle. The present tense, or better aspect, of a Greek verb / participle generally imparts the meaning of ongoing action. In other words the action is without an implied end. Here, Jesus is stating that his blood contained in the chalice in the Upper Room is continually being poured out for the forgiveness of sins, and, by adding in the meaning of St. Paul’s words fund in Ephesians, it is being poured out for our peace and reconciliation with one another. Where, then, do the faithful of Christ encounter this poured out blood of our Lord? This continually poured out blood (and continually broken body of our Lord, see Luke 22: 19 – 20) is encountered in the Eucharist! When the Church, in faith, gathers together in eucharistic worship of our Lord, we are a living picture and reality of the peace won for us by the shedding of his blood.

I return to the epistle to the Ephesians:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us [Jew and Gentile] both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two [Jew and Gentile], so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the Cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end (Eph 2: 13 – 16).

In the day of the writing of the New Testament there was no greater social divide in the mind of any Jew, including St. Paul, than that between Jew and Gentile. And throughout the New Testament this division, and its end, is laid out to the reader.

All and all things once in alienation, sin, death, and darkness are gathered together in peaceful relationship, holiness, life, and light in Christ Jesus as St. Paul informs us. But, he knew that this union in Christ must be manifested in the life of the Church: Jewish and Gentile believers must live in loving union — even with all the potential flare-ups of conflict and misunderstanding. Life in Christ means life in union in spite of differences. There is only one Church.

In this third decade of the twenty-first century, societal divisions exist, and they are profound. We as a nation are living on a societal powder keg with far too many people — of all political persuasions — are playing with matches. The political divisions are so great we may face, if a center is not found, a civil war. As a priest I have heard comments such as this: “I don’t even want to be around so-and-so because of his / her politics.” Unbelievable, as if politics can hold any truth or salvation!

Twenty-first century divisions are to be dissolved in the life of the Church — the Body of Christ — as his Body comes together in peace to receive his Body and Blood of the Eucharist. St. Paul teaches us again from his letter to the Colossians: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which [peace] also you were called in one body. And become thankful [kai eucharistoi ginesthe]” (Col 3: 15). Let me add — become eucharists!

 

In Christ and in Peace,
Fr. Irenaeus


Through the Narrow Door

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.”

Jesus Christ conquers

Jesus Christ conquers

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.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus


Shubb Capo Royale vs G7th Performance ART: A Comparative Review

G7th ART (left) Shubb Capo Royale (right)

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)

Totals:

Shubb: +46 minutes sharp, G7th ART: +45 minutes sharp

Subjective winner

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!
Fr. Irenaeus