the Christian Paradox

“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
only necessities.”

Oscar Wilde


(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)

Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….

Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.

It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.

Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….

On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.

It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.

It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.

It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
lifestyle.

In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….

The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—

Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.

I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….

Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?

And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.

Anglican unscripted:

And now we look to the paradoxical…

We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.

It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.

Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…

For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
society’s demands.


(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)


(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)

Consider the following comment….

What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
was bombed?
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.

We mourn.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.

https://howtoreligion.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/coptic-orthodoxy-and-self-defense/

And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
Saint Paisios…..

“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]

No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
Oh my!
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
~+~
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)

From Discerning Thoughts

And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….

His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.

What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.

We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.


(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)

thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

Do you know your roots?

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

DSC00283
(the emerging roots of root bound paperwhite bulbs / Julie Cook / 2015)

My dad and his family can trace their roots to 13th century Scotland–that being on his dad’s side. His mother’s side documents their early start back to England and that fateful Mayflower couple Pricilla Mullins and John Alden—th wonderful stuff of legends and lore which makes for great stories.

It is however rather forlornly that I often find myself staring at the large copy xeroxed of this giant map-like family tree based on my dad’s family’s journey—always feeling a bit hesitant to claim my tiny branch. Being adopted I often think that there is another tree out there somewhere, in the black hole of my life, missing a tiny limb. . .that being me.

And then there is my mom’s family and their story, all of which is a bit more sketchy. She was of direct Scotch / Irish blood but that’s about all we know. We surmise both families made their way to the United States on the heels of the devastating An Gorta Mór, better known as the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800’s or even further back to the Bliain an Áir, the year of Slaughter which saw an equally devastating demise of the Irish population, due primarily to starvation, in the mid 1700’s.

Mother’s Irish mother, born at the start of new century in 1902, married her Scottish father in 1924. At some point he sadly took to drink and gambling, losing recklessly everything the couple had on that fateful day in 1929 when all the world simply seemed to crash. Eventually locked away to the confines of a TB sanatorium, he died sick, lost and alone in 1941. My grandmother, to my recollection, never spoke of him again. She was left to raise two young girls at the onset of both a global world war and devastating depression.

My grandmother, who forged seemingly emotionless ahead with her two daughters in tow, built both a successful business and comfortable life for her small family. She was never the warm and fuzzy type of grandmother but rather much more matter of fact, frugal and no nonsense. Given her circumstance, it isn’t surprising. Being both weary and cautious became two common threads woven into her fabric.

For whatever reason, she was very leery, or weary, of the Catholic Church as she was convinced that if John F. Kennedy became president, we were all in going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, as God forbid, a Catholic should be president. A bit irrational to say the least and as to where such irrationality originated, I haven’t a clue.

Yet I find it rather ironic, that to this day, there are many a Christian, even in the midst of this modern 21st century of ours, who are indeed equally weary or leery of both the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Maybe it is because there are many Christians who are actually unfamiliar with the history, our history, of the one true “Church.” Maybe it’s because many Christians fail to remember that there was once but one single body, unlike the multitude of branches we see today splitting off from the once sturdy main trunk, much like a giant family tree.

A quick google search yields staggering numbers in regard to a concise listing of total Christian denominations. . .upwards of 35,000–give or take a couple of hundred depending on the source.
Rather amazing that in roughly 2000 years, approximately 35,000 branches have sprouted from one main trunk—but given the divisive nature of human beings, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

When we say in our creed, or declaration of faith, that. . .”We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. . .” we are not saying that we believe in the Catholic church in Rome, as so many of the faithful erroneously believe, but rather we are declaring a belief in a global family–a global family tree containing many branches. The word catholic, with a little “c” is a latin word, catholicus, which comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos, meaning universal. So therefore in our creed we claim to believe in the one holy “universal” and apostolic church, not a church, faith, or denomination based in Rome, Italy.

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in the one single trunk of Christianity splitting into two branches, each of the same faith–the Latin Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East. The splitting hasn’t appeared to slow down all these many years and branches later but to the contrary it seems to be spiraling, splitting and multiplying almost out of control.

Yet it is not my intent today to examine the divisions and differences of opinions within our Christian faith but rather I am merely making an observation about roots and branches as it were, and as to where one may find oneself on a proverbial family tree–be it the tree of one’s genealogy or of one’s spiritual family tree. And since I am adopted, which seems to throw a small monkey wrench into which branch and to which tree I am actually meant to belong, I am sweetly reminded that we are all adopted sons and daughters of Grace–so perhaps that means we are all members of the family tree of Grace and Salvation—which is actually a very welcoming and comforting thought indeed.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26