Monday, December 25, 2006

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

He Who is from God, God the Word, the only-begotten Son of the Father, of one essence with the Father, Being from Being, ineffably begotten of the Father without a mother before all ages--the very same is born in the last days to a daughter of men, to the Virgin Mary without a father. God is born incarnate, wearing flesh borrowed from her, having become man, which He was not, and remaining God, which He was, in order to save the world. And He is Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father and the only-begotten of His mother.

- St. Ephraim of Syria, 4th Cent.

May you have a blessed celebration of the nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tempers Flaring During Final Days of Nativity Fast?

This blurb was in my morning paper:

GREECE: MONKS FIGHT IT OUT Rival groups of monks wielding crowbars, sledgehammers and fire extinguishers clashed for control of the 1,000-year-old Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos, in northeastern Greece. Seven monks were injured and taken for treatment from the castle-like fortress on the Aegean Sea by boat. No one was arrested. The monastery is the scene of a long-running dispute between Orthodox Church authorities and the rebel monks who occupy it. Both Bartholomew, the Orthodox leader, and Greece’s highest administrative court have ordered their eviction, but the monks — who vehemently oppose Orthodox efforts to improve relations with the Roman Catholic Church — have refused to budge. The fighting Wednesday broke out when a group of monks loyal to Bartholomew tried to force their way in to start construction of a new building. The Rev. Methodius, the abbot of the monastery, said his monks had been provoked. “We were attacked and had to respond,” he said. “They should be ashamed to call themselves men of the cloth.” (AP)

It's a little hard to tell to which faction Abbot Methodius belongs, but either way it seems very un-Christ like for a monk to say "we were attacked and had to respond."


What good is fasting from food when we continue to sin? Lord have mercy. Is it fair to say that neither party sounds in the right to me.

In other news, I listened to interviews today from Lebanon where there are large protests - and again we see strange alliances such as Christian pro-Hizb Allah Lebanese calling for the resignation of the current government, as well as a Sunni Muslim who belongs to a Christian political party. When the Shari'a is fully instituted in Lebanon, will these alliances be seen as fruitful in retrospect? The region of Greater Syria has been one of alliances of convenience, however, for countless centuries.

Please remember in your prayers Clifton, Anna, and their children, esp. their unborn child now in the hands of God after a frightful miscarriage.

Finally, this thought of the day from my Bishop's website:

"Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off, my beloved soul, holy repentance, contrition of heart and penance for your sins."

-- St. Paisius Velichkovsky

Friday, December 15, 2006

In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You

In one traditional morning prayer, we pray a prayer like that forming the title of this post.

I have not been posting much lately . . . the Nativity Fast is generally a break from blogging for me, and I really have little to say. No one visits here much, except a few good fellow bloggers and brethren whom I've come to respect, so this post is simply to jot down an event, a happening, for my own remembrance and for any who might stop by, and to give praise to the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the small miracles in life.

We have had some new medical information about my youngest son. He was born with hypotonia (low tone - floppy) and couldn't form a good suck-swallow to nurse or bottle feed. So he had a Naso-gastric (NG) feeding tube for a while, then a gastric feeding tube (G-tube) for a while. There were no guarantees on whether he would ever be able to eat solids, or to sit up, or walk. Each milestone is a small victory. He finally gained enough strength to bottle on his own, was finally able to sit up on his own by about 1 year and to walk by about two years with a walker. He quickly gave up the walker and careens about in a dynamic balancing act that is a wonder and a bit of a fright to behold, one which is helped by the use of leg braces to support him.

In another time, he would have perished and been marked down for 'failure to thrive' - if he and mother would have survived the birth, for he was frank breech and may never have been able to be delivered normally.

He was initially diagnosed with 'athetoid cerebral palsy' as a preliminary diagnosis. Rather a 'garbage' diagnosis (look it up), but it was the best we could do. Some doctors suspected a genetic condition, and that CP was just not right, but initial high resolution chromosomal analysis could not find any sufficiently large anomalies to suggest further research, and it appeared he was in no immediate distress, so we adopted a wait-and-see approach, with the thought that technology might rapidly allow some new ways of analyzing his genome for microdeletions or microadditions of sufficient size/etc. to suggest a cause, and perhaps provide insight into more appropriate therapy, etc.

Unfortunately, we also noticed from an early age that no doctor could get a reflex response from him, and that he seemed impervious to pain in his hands and feet. He burned his hands a couple of times with no cries of pain or reaction. While the doctors shrugged their shoulders, perhaps not wanting to think of the implications, we worried. Finally, thanks to my wife's efforts, we pushed to get some further nerve testing done and it was confirmed this year that he has no sensory nerve function in his extremities. No pain, probably no hot, cold, touch. He can probably break a bone in his wrist, ankle, finger, etc., and never know it. He may feel some deep pressure, but holding hands may mean less to him than to others. It's hard to imagine a world where you may never have known the feeling of holding another's hand.

This is extremely rare in infants and children. Maybe there are less than 10 such cases in the United States at present, and it is likely congenital. It probably provides the explanation of the source of his other problems (e.g., some myelinization problem with nerve fibers or the like) rather than CP, although it's possible there is a conjuction of two different syndromes. Some of these syndromes are progressive and eventually can affect autonomic functions (respiration, heart, smooth muscle). Frankly, I have no idea how long (barring freak accident, etc.) I can even expect that my son and I will share life together. Each day dawns afresh and it is a constant reminder of the fragility of life.

All of that by way of background. Our little angel has come a long way and is now attending a normal kindergarten with his peers, albeit with an adult helper that chases him around and helps him so he does not take a nosedive off the stairs or playground equipment at school or slice his finger off with a scissors without realizing it.

And that is where I come to the relation to the topic. Our helper was hard won through the district (we went through about 9 in the first 18 days of school) but he is quite overqualified for the job - has a graduate degree in another field and has done all sorts of things. We learned a while ago that he was leaving for a 'better opportunity' at the new year and we were glad for him, but sad that we'd have to go through the grind again. Then, strangely, that opportunity fell through and he's staying on for a bit with our son, thank God.

My wife called me yesterday very excited because she'd had a chance to really visit with him at a function at school and learned that our son's helper was a missionary in South America, has an advanced degree in Historical Theology, and is preparing to publish a book about 4th Century Theology! He has taught at the collegiate level. Moreover, his journeys and work have lead him to the Orthodox Church and he is preparing to enter the Catechumenate at a Greek Orthodox parish here in our metrop!

So my young son, the joy of my life, is in the care of a brother - one who could be doing very different things of a high order. Instead, right now, he is spending part of his day helping one little child be able to attend school, keeping him safe. I prefer to see this as a small miracle - for some reason we needed to have him and he needed to meet up with my son. We don't know how long we will have this particular sojourn - God willing it will at least be through the end of the school year, but God bless him for his care and service, and praise be to God and let His name be magnified in all things!

Friday, December 01, 2006

December 1: Proverbs 25:25

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.