A church without a priest

The first parish to which I was assigned was a newly formed one in Atlanta, Georgia. At that time there was a relatively small group of people. The task before this small group was one that requires a considerable amount of faith before embarking; while the task of their young priest was of convincing, “selling” (to use business terms), this dream to those who lacked the aforementioned faith. Perhaps it was this lack of faith that led to a constant shortage in funds or maybe it was a combination of different things. Whatever the case, we very frequently found ourselves in that case.

But it was the faith, not to mention dedication, hard work and commitment, of a few (which is the case, sadly enough, of most communities) that somehow gave us the strength to survive those first years. I remember one of the many sunny days in Atlanta when the members of the church board began arriving, one by one, to the office of a parishioner, Marjorie, who served as secretary that year and so the meetings were held in her office. As we casually entered her spacious conference room, filled with the bright, late afternoon sunlight, we found her father sitting at the table. He smiled as we walked in, pretending not to notice our surprised looks at meeting him there. The meeting began with a prayer and after the first items of the agenda Marjorie’s father suddenly and rather calmly announced the reason for his attendance. The parish’s financial problems were obvious enough, he noted, things were tough, but the fact of the matter was that you can’t have a church without a priest. He carried on about the church he grew up in, to the stories (which I had heard times before) of how his grandfather opened his doors and let the church use his basement until they could buy their own property. He spoke to the board members and pointed his finger at me to make his point more clear, That’s your church.

This introduction of his led him to his rather outrageous proposal to solve our financial problems: each month that our expenses outweighed our income he would cover the difference. The plan, I’ll admit, made me feel probably the most uncomfortable. After all, the majority of the church’s expenses were directed at me. Yet, he again pointed that finger at me and repeated his claim that the priest is the church.

Marjorie’s father’s name was Charles Mancini and just as his tale of his grandfather’s hospitality to the young church in Aliquippa seemed like it was ages ago (too long ago to be relevant) that meeting in Atlanta, which was only a few years ago, now seems to me as if it had been much longer ago. We have moved since from Atlanta but we stay in regular touch with Marjorie. She called early this morning to tell us that her father had passed away.

As outrageous as it might have sounded, Charles ended up carrying out his promise. I don’t know how much he ended up paying but I do know that Atlanta still has a church, a growing one at that. In fact, I don’t know how much faith Charles had – he was, after all, the first to admit that his church attendance could easily be categorized as poor. Actually, now that I think of it, whenever he’d tell me the story of his grandfather Eli Gvoich, or of Fr. Tomich whom he remembered from his childhood just as when he spoke to us that afternoon, I don’t think he talked to us about something he believed in, I think he was trying to tell us that this was something he sincerely loved. He loved his grandfather and his heritage and family and the priests he had growing up as much as he loved his wife and daughters – as much as a man can love anything I suppose. I think, in the end, it’s our love for things and the outrageous things we’re willing to do to show how much we love them that ultimately define our faith.

May his memory be eternal.

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Behold! – a poem

Every once in awhile inspiration just hits you. Lana Balach was inspired by the season with this beautiful poem:

 

Behold!

When all the world will pause

       and feel

the faint but clear echo

       flickering

            in the heartbeat

                   of the stars

the Light that embraces

            all of nature

                   and humanity

 

Behold!

The very essence

        of our lives

              announces

     The glory

             in the birth

                  of Christ our King.

For in the Peace

       sometimes forgotten

             She bore Love

                   only to be reborn

                         in the pulse of each

                               salvific breath

 

Behold!

For all will hear

        Oh Holy Night

    And in following The

               guiding Light

     The wise will see

              the rejoicing ring

                      encircling

                           the universe’s universe

 

Behold!

In the stillness of the presence of

            God’s divinity

       All of life itself will

                      bow

                           in unison

                                  on bended knee

                       For the triumphant call to

                                            Birth eternally!

 

                                       Lana Joy Balach

How To Avoid Cancer

THE TIMES
(London, England)
December 6, 2007

A foolproof anti-cancer diet… with just one or two drawbacks

If you want to avoid cancer, live like a monk. That is the inescapable conclusion from research into one of the world’s most renowned monastic communities. The austere regime of the 1,500 monks on Mount Athos, in northern Greece, begins with an hour’s pre-dawn prayers and is designed to protect their souls. Their low-stress existence and simple diet (no meat, occasional fish, home-grown vegetables and fruit) may, however, also protect them from more worldly troubles.

The monks, who inhabit a peninsula from which women are banned, enjoy astonishingly low rates of cancer. Since 1994, the monks have been regularly tested, and only 11 have developed prostate cancer, a rate less than one quarter of the international average. In one study, their rate of lung and bladder cancer was found to be zero. Haris Aidonopoulos, a urologist at the University of Thessaloniki, said that the monks’ diet, which calls on them to avoid olive oil, dairy products and wine on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, helped to explain the statistics. “What seems to be the key is a diet that alternates between olive oil and nonolive oil days, and plenty of plant proteins,” he said. “It’s not only what we call the Mediterranean diet, but also eating the old-fashioned way.”  Read more

Can you find 30 books of the Bible in the puzzle

Here’s an old puzzle I found that was new to me from http://www.positivethoughts.com/30books.htm. See if you can solve it.

There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them? This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That’s a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the book in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new sales record. The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, the books are all right there in plain view hidden from sight. Those able to find all of them will hear lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind that punctuation and spacers in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember there is no need for a mad exodus, there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in the paragraph waiting to be found.

Nature is Light

The following is an excerpt from an article by Bishop Athanasius Yevtich entitled “O Gentle Light” featured in his book Christ: The Alpha and Omega in which he gives an exegetical look at this hymn we sing at every Vesper service in the Orthodox Church:

“…the beginning of the hymn [O Gladsome Light] proceeds from nature, from the physical light of the early evening, which showed that the first Christians were observant, and that they beheld the beauty of the visible nature around them – for nature, like mankind, is the work of God the Creator. Such a view was shared by the Hebrews in the Bible and was also shared by the ancient Greeks.

The first Christians experienced nature as a poem – the creation of the Living and True God (as Bishop Njegosh stated: “God is occupied with creative poetry”). Thus, Christians have always seen in nature, as well as through nature, God the Creator of nature, Who is the greatest Poet, and hence they have glorified Him for all the splendors of nature. Of course, they glorified God for light in particular, which has always been and still is to this day one of the most attractive mysteries of our visible world. After all, nature is ultimately light. It was seen as such by the early Christians, and after them by the Orthodox hesychasts; and it is viewed similarly by modern science.

Macrophysics and microphysics point everything to light and reduce everything to light, just as the first words of the Bible say: ‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.’ Gen. 1:3-4”