Friday, July 20, 2007


A recent writer in the combox asked me to say more about the Orthodox understanding of "symphonia" in regards to humanity being in communion with God.

As I thought about this, my mind immediately went to the very present and real experience of grief over the recent falling asleep (do not read "unconscious") of my maternal grandmother, a woman that still, and always will, exert a strong influence on me. I thought about how my family stood by one another, held one another, and supported one another as we faced this sad time together, and I watched as a "symphonia" of communion became a source of strength and comfort.

Now, before you get too concerned, I don't want to push this analogy too far, but I do want to mine out of this experience some of my own thoughts (fallible, subject to correction) concerning the "symphonia" between God and Man.

First let's establish an unmovable truth - God does not NEED anything, including me. God, the holy Trinity, is complete within Himself. I can neither take from Him as to diminish Him, not can I add to Him to enhance Him. He is perfect and complete within Himself. He did not create the universe out of some sense of need or "loneliness." He was, is, and always will be inherently free. He is God. I am contingent. He is not.

So, how then do we Orthodox say that Man is invited to a "symphonia" of communion with God? Doesn't that presuppose give and take on both parts? Doesn't that idea lead one to believe he is contributing a valuable part of this (at least) two way relationship?

It certainly would seem so.

However, keeping in mind our unmovable truth, we are invited by the faith to radically reinterpret our static ideas of relationship between the Uncreated and the Created. We are invited by God Himself to enter into a communion where we know we will not "help" God in any way. We are also confronted with the truth that our rejection of this relationship with God will not diminish or hurt Him in any way. He is at peace and at rest. This relationship will wholly be for our benefit. God loves me, but He does not "need" me.

But, we will have to consistently make ourselves available to this deifying relationship and continually offer up our self-centeredness and our pride as sacrifice to consistently cooperate with this deifying, loving communion. We will offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice...which is our reasonable service."

It is in the offering of ourselves, not God confiscating our love and devotion, that the "symphonia" begins. God, being without fear that His giving all of Himself to me will not diminish or harm Him whatsoever, willingly calls out to me to share in the divine nature. He knows this sharing will destroy all that is temporary and "wooden" in my life. He knows this sharing will forever transfigure me into a companion that can survive eternity as heaven rather than experiencing eternity as hell. This sharing, this grace, this communion, this eucharistic participation is meant to "burn" away all that enslaves me to the temporary. Our God is, after all, a "consuming fire."

But it is an invitation I have to accept and willingly participate in by obedience and affection. I, like the Theotokos before me, am invited to allow Christ to take up residence within me, and the Holy Spirit waits for my freely offered "yes" before He overshadows me and mystically forms Christ inside me.

But we cannot diminish the importance of this free "yes." It is the one gift we can give to God. But remember our unmovable truth, this free "yes" is not for God's benefit, but my own. It is in recognizing that my free "yes" to God and His grace is ultimately for my salvation that will engender in my own soul such gratitude and love for God that my free "yes" will be offered over and over again as the grace of God continues to give me a deeper capacity and ability to enjoy and know God more and more.

Since God is infinite, this glorious "symphonia" will go on forever, but there will come a time when my free "yes" will become an eternal "yes" when time is made irrelevant in the light of His eternal Being. At the resurrection my "yes" will be forever "yes." Conversely a free "no" will become and eternal "no." Lord, have mercy.

So this "symphonia" is an invitation to die to my own devices and live in the eternal, unearnable, and free grace of God who wishes me to share all that He is by grace. No wonder the Apostle said "today is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time..." All moments are in this moment. I say "yes" once again, forever.

As I watched my family surround each other with unconditional love, I was drawn back to the Giver of Unconditional Love and once again overwhelmed with gratitude.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Georgia Story Moore fell asleep in the Lord Wednesday, July 11, 2007 after a prolonged illness. Her two daughters were by her side.

I appreciate the kind prayers offered for my maternal grandmother over the last several days. Thank you.

Mawmaw (as she was affectionately called) was born in 1917 and lived her whole life in North Georgia. She was a child of her time, and knew both love and sadness as we all do. Her mother passed away early in her life but her father re-married a lady she and her siblings referred to as "Miss Annie." Miss Annie was a genuine god-send for mawmaw. Maw would tell us grandchildren stories of Miss Annie's goodness toward her. One particular story sticks with me today.

Miss Annie told Maw on several occasions "I spoke to your mother today in heaven and she is so proud of you and loves you so much." This was typical of Miss Annie as she sought to mother children who were not of her flesh. She told them often that although she was not their physical mother, God had called her to care for them on behalf of their real mom.

As I look back on my life with Maw, I notice a rural, southern attitude that is akin to the spirit of Orthodox Christianity. It is a spirit of faithfulness, a sense of wonder, and a simple love for God.

One of my strongest memories as a young boy was sleeping over at Maw's house with my brother and cousins and waking up at about 1:00 AM to go to the bathroom. Passing by Maw's room, I saw her kneeling by her bedside. She was praying and I heard part of her prayer: "Lord, bless Chuckie and make him a good boy." Frozen in my mind is an image of a woman kneeling by her bed praying for me. In many ways that moment defined the rest of my life.

Maw has now joined her husband and son who both preceeded her in death. She loved her family. She loved God. She loved me. Her love was totally unconditional, to the point of refusing to see my faults at all. She simply refused to believe that I could do wrong. That kind of love is reassuring and terrible at times.

I love you too, Mawmaw! Keep praying that I will be a good boy.

I leave for Georgia this morning to attend Maw's funeral. May her memory be eternal!

The blog will be silent for a few days and your prayers are coveted.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Prayer Request

Gentle Reader,

I have just learned that my dear grandmother, Georgia Moore, has been taken to the hospital emergency room.

She is something of a hero in my life, and while I ask God for mercy, I also realize that she has been bedridden for almost 4 years with various physical ailments.

Please pray for God to grant us the freedom of His merciful will.

Thank you.



As I mentioned in a recent combox response, I am a "thrower-awayer" and my wife is a "oh that has sentimental value so I'm going to keep that receipter!"

It drives me nuts! :-)

This usually comes out when we are either doing "spring" cleaning (which, for me, is every 3 months!) or like now, when we are preparing to move.

I am amazed at how much "stuff" we have accumulated and how well we've hidden it from ourselves in our apartment here in South Florida. And accumulated stuff we have! So, I have devised a system for sorting said stuff. One box (actually several boxes) is for "Yard Sale and/or Goodwill." One box(es)is marked "Storage" and the last box(es) is marked "Boston Bound."

Going through our stuff I have discovered clothes that no longer fit (I'll let my gentle reader give me the benefit of the doubt as to why), books that not only don't I want, but, for the life of me, cannot figure out why I have them in the first place, and trinkets that seem to serve not other purpose but to take up space in the box where they currently reside. Throw it all out!!!!!

But then the sweet voice of my bride reminds me that I bought that for her on our second date when we went out to eat and that receipt is the first time we went to the movies together. That little item was given to us for our wedding. "What does it do?" I ask. No one is sure but since it was a wedding gift, it has now taken on cosmic significance and must be kept, else if the giver ever comes to our home they may ask after the well being of said gift!

Then there is the general clutter that humans, especially well fed well paid and well comforted Americans, seem to gather into their orbit. This is the clutter that drives me most insane, the stuff that simply is stuff for stuff's sake! TRASH! Throw it out!

But wait, did you look at that piece of paper? Wasn't that the warranty information on the rice cooker that was given to us by Aunt so and so? Don't we need to keep that doctor's note for future reference? Ugh!

Now, I hear you all out there. Create a scrapbook. Put that warranty information is a warranty file. Keep all the medical records together in one place. Well, ain't you sweet for saying so! God bless your heart!

That's the rub, and I think it is also a metaphor for our spiritual lives. Without diligence, we allow "clutter" to invade our lives physically and spiritually. The steady, boring, matter-of-fact attention to purposeful living doesn't garner the headlines either here or in heaven, but it sure does produce the peaceful fruit that has eternal value. But we have "so much to do." We are so busy with this or that event, project, relationship, etc. that we "forget" to pay attention to the discipline of living.

This is why I find the Divine Liturgy so instructive. Sure, it isn't "seeker sensitive." It doesn't change all that much. It doesn't "wow" the general crowd. But for those with "ears to hear" it provides the rhythmic disciplines necessary to keep me awake to the living of life as real life and not the delusions we all too often fall into. If I just will, the daily prayers of the faith will keep me conscious to authentic life and I will be given the wisdom to discern between "clutter" and treasure.

So, the Keeper and the Discarder face the task of moving and in it are invited by the Holy Spirit to know God and become by grace what He is by nature.

Who knew?