Thursday, June 4, 2015


Saturday, 30 May, 2015

Supper was all on the stove, in a skillet and two saucepans, when I noticed the burners weren't getting hot.  There were no red lights indicating burners were on.  I tested the stove and it didn't work, either.  

So we ate a cold supper and this afternoon, I called up Shirley Anne, the electrician who had looked over our water heater last year.  She came into the kitchen and scowled.  "You told me there was no electric switch near the stove, and what do I see but an electric switch?"

"It's red," I said, "to indicate it's an emergency switch.  If we were subscribed to the home security service, you'd flip it and the police would come."

She flipped it and the burners came on.

But, but - there's one just like it in the bedroom, and THAT one is for security, definitely, so...?

She laughed and laughed.

"I want to pay you for coming out, anyway," I said apologetically.  She had come all the way from Birkdale.

"Just a cup of coffee, then," she said.

So I gave her some and we sat down to chat and I had a chance to get to know my favorite transgendered electrician.  (She doesn't know I know this.)  We traded some funny stories.  She seems to have more ignorant customers than just me, which is comforting.

Sunday, 31 May, 2015

Church in Leyland today.  (If you are an automobile fan, yes, Leyland is where the car by the same name used to be made.)  Met some several  people I'm very glad to know.

JONATHAN, age 3, was probably born here but his family is from India.  He's quite dark-skinned but with straight hair - and the brightest, sparkliest eyes you ever saw.  He crept up to me during the Kneeling Prayers for Pentecost and touched my hand.  I looked up and smiled back at him and now we are fast friends.  

SAMIR is a middle-aged man who just arrived here a few months ago, having fled his home in Syria.  "Well, thank God you're here now," I said, "and safe."

"But my brother is still there," he said.  

He loloks almost stereotypically Arab, but his eyes are green, and there was a great deal of pain in them as he told of the hardships involved in fleeing Syria, and even more so as he wondered aloud why Western Christians have not come to the aid of their brethren in the  Middle East.  "King Richard, of the Lion heart, came to rescue us," he said, "But where is any help today?  Why is there no help now?"  Well, there's a different slant on the Crusades, huh?

"Not going to happen," I said, "The powers that be in the West are not your brothers."

"Not even Christians!"  he replied.  "I discovered this when I came here to England."

I need to get to know Samir better.

FREGGI is maybe as old as 40 and has recently fled Eritrea.  He's a black African and I didn't get a chance to talk with him very much.  Must make up for that next Sunday.

KENNETH, 70, is Cornish and was just chrismated this past December.  We traded stories of our journeys.  "Kenneth," he told me, is the name of a Cornish saint.  An Orthodox saint, predating the time when Catholicism asserted authority over Cornwall.

In the evening we had a pub supper at the Hayfield Inn with John and Ella Coventry.  So good to be with with these lovely souls.  We seldom spend time with them without one or more of us becoming teary-eyed from speaking from our hearts.m

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Back in England (After too Long)

26-27 May, 2015

England, at last!  It's hard for us to believe, somehow, this time, perhaps because there was no time for anticipation.

It was a trying trip.  We flew Iceland Air, which is a wonderful airline (other than selling you food instead of just handing it out, but that's normal, now, for most airlines).  The flight attendants wear smart uniforms with caps and high heels; and they're all youngish and pretty, not like the slobs elsewhere.Their make-up is good and they wear their hair in fat buns at the nape of the neck.  

No, Iceland Air was not the problem.  The problem was that to get cheap tickets, you sometimes have to settle for a crummy schedule.  No problem, we thought.  We shall ENJOY a night in Reykjavik; it'll give us a chance to see a bit of Iceland, however briefly.  The hotel was only a few minutes from the airport, pricey, but I had bought it as a present to Demetrios, so he didn't mind.  Plus, it's a tiny airport, just two gates as we remembered, very easy to get in and out of.

We landed at Keflavik.  That's the name of the Reykjavik airport, right?  Like Charles de Gaulle is the name of the airport in Paris, or Heathrow, in London; or Dulles, in Washington?  No problem, we thought.   

The good thing, we thought, was that either our memory was bad or the airport had expanded amazingly in one year, because there were many gates and we even found eateries still open at midnight.  Grabbed a bit of airport food as we were hungry and didn't know if anything else would still be open, then easily found a waiting cab.  

Very nice cabbie.  We'd driven about 10 miles when Demetrios asked, "How far away is the hotel?"  Forty-five minutes.  

Forty-five minutes?  Yes, said the cabbie, and added, "That's Reykjavik, across the bay."  Across a BIG bay.  Keflavick turns out to be a whole separate town with a different airport, which is why it wasn't anything like the one we remembered in Reykjavik.

Longish silence.  Then Demetrios, in a rather intimidated sounding voice, asked, "About how much does it cost to drive there?"

Several thousands of Icelandic kronurs.  

"And how much is that in dollars?"  The cabbie didn't know the exact exchange rate today, but around $180.

"And another $180 to come back again?"  


It took us only a couple of moments, I hesitating longer than he, to decide we had to turn right around and spend the night at the airport.

We found a couple of metal chairs and settled in, but they were near an entrance, which now and again was opened and let in 40-degree air, and near huge windows, which also leaked in the cold.  We had no jackets or sweaters in our hand luggage, and after an hour or so, were both shivering.  I was quite sure we literally couldn't survive that way.  So off we went, with heavy luggage, in search of another spot to spend the night.

We were shut into a small part of the airport by then, and all the chairs we could find were already taken.  However, we found half a dozen wheelchairs, which were more comfortable anyway, and nowhere near a window or door.    So we grabbed one each and dozed in them until the airport re-opened and passengers arrived to check in.  

"I think we'd better go now," said Demetrios at last.  "It's odd nobody has asked us to, yet."

"We're old,"  I replied.  "Who's going to try to chase an elderly person out of his wheelchair?" 

So, off to find some more "food".  

We met a good-looking, fortyish man in the food court who turned out to be a German who had emigrated to Iceland ten years ago.  He said he was very happy here, and was planning never to leave.  He had found here his dream.  When asked what he loved best about Iceland, he said it was the warm-hearted people, unlike any he had ever found in Germany.  He showed us pictures on his phone of his little village in the eastern part of the island, with 700 inhabitants, all like one big family.  

"You have to be very open," he said, "because everybody is going to know all about you anyway.  And you have to be willing to say,'I'm sorry' a lot, too."   He's a single dad, and he described how everybody helps raise each other's children.  When he goes to work each morning, the villagers automatically take care of his children, along with the other children whose parents work outside the home.    "Sometimes, when I come home, I don't even know who has them" he said, "and I have to call around to find out where they are."  

Our hearts were very much warmed by listening to this former sea-captain turned civil engineer, and we rejoice he has found his paradise.  All he best3ede to you, Hans-Fritz!

It makes us all the more determined to spend a few days here sometime soon.

Eight o'clock finally dragged itself around, and we took off for England.  It's only a two-hour flight from Iceland, and we spend it trying to sleep.

David and Julia had sent their favorite cabbie to meet us, and sure enough, he was waiting, with a placard that said, "THEO, ORMSKIRK".   He showed us the ATM, where we provided ourselves with some pounds sterling, and it was a pleasant  ride home, memories flashing past us.  The houses didn't look the way they do in Virginia.  Oh, yes, and here are the fields with drainage ditches dug all the way around them, because the land is otherwise too boggy to cultivate.  And here is an actual, real, roundabout.  And there is the university, and here, the church, the yarn shop, etc., etc.  Things I hadn't even had time to think of lately.  

I did some unpacking while Demetrios re-connected the battery of our car, which started right up, no problem.  He managed to renew its registration by telephone; yes, the phone worked this time.  Then he drove to the supermarket to supplement the things David and Julia had so kindly left in our fridge for us.  We found fresh flowers in the kitchen, too!

Eight o'clock again dragged itself around, and we went to bed.  Demetrios is still asleep.  Today we'll unpack and see what's with the TV and the TV license, and generally settle in.  Then tonight, we'll meet David and Julia and James and Kim and little Charlotte for dinner nearby.  Can't wait!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oh, So THAT'S What You're Talking About!

Dear Catholics,

Often you tell the Orthodox how puzzled you are that we do not seem to have forgiven you for some of the offenses of long ago.  We, in turn, are puzzled by such charges.  What makes you think so?  As you cannot read our hearts, our usual conclusion it that this accusation is made to duck the theological issues that are the real cause of our division.

But just now, I think that conclusion on the part of the Orthodox may not be entirely justified.  From following several dialogues, I now think perhaps we really do, genuinely, give you the impression we are clinging to centuries-old grievances.  

The two that seem to be mentioned most often are the sack of Constantinople way back in 1204 and the 75-year subjugation to Catholicism that was imposed thereafter;  and the whole problem of what we call the Uniates and you call the Eastern Catholic Churches.  The Union of Brest also happened rather long ago, 1595-1596.  It's history, folks!

So why are these two items still sticking points today?  Didn't Pope John Paul II apologize for the sack of Constantinople and other unspecified wrongs?  And are we so unreasonable as to expect the Eastern Catholics to go out of existence or something?  Why do these wrongs from the dim past keep coming up again and again?

Fair enough.  I can tell you why.  It isn't because of history; that is dead and gone.  It's because we feel the salt still being rubbed into the wounds up to today. It's the present situation resulting from the history that needs correcting if reunion is to happen.

The sack of Constantinople still rankles because the popes refuse to apologize for it.  No, what Pope John Paul II said was not an apology.  He did not ask our forgiveness, only God's.  That's not the way it is done.  He stated his reason a couple of sentences later, observing that only God can judge.  Perfectly true, of course, but aren't Christians still supposed to seek forgiveness from each other?  As long as the Vatican refuses, we remained leary of the present day attitude and here-and-now intentions toward us.  These misgivings are further exacerbated by the sly wording that asserted rule over us:

"For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him,"

Because if if we are the brothers and sisters of the "sons and daughters of the Catholic Church", whose children does that make us?  

The then Archbishop of Greece fell for this for the moment, applauding enthusiastically.  Too late everyone realized he had been tricked; and we think to deal with him that way was ugly.

The sincereity of any futue apology would be more credible if the loot were returned.  All of it, or at least as much as you still have, which is considerable.  Not just an icon here and some relics there.

So it's not that we haven't forgiven, but the display of more recent as well as current attitudes toward us in this matter is distressing and must be overcome if there is to be a reunion between us.  

As for the Eastern Catholics, what has bothered us all these centuries is that they have been used as substitutes for genuine Orthodoxy, which we again regard as a form of trickery.   Furthermore, they have always been charged with the mission to convert the Orthodox. More recently, the Vatican's language has softened, speaking of their being an ecumenical "bridge" between us, but that's just euphemism.  The way you can tell it is euphemism is, Rome well knows these Eastern Catholics have always been for us the opposite, have always been a thorn in our sides.  They can never be a "bridge".

How do we think this problem ought to be solved?  First, the pope could tell the Eastern Rite adherents to make up their minds which "lung of the Church", or which sister of the "sister churches" they want to be.  Do you want to be Catholic?  May God and the pope bless you.  Do you want to be real instead of pretend Orthodox?  May God and the pope bless you, and tell you so.  Second, with reunion in sight, the pope should de-commission the Eastern Catholics; I mean make it clear to them that their mission is no longer to subvert Orthodoxy.  

You do want to unite with us, don't you, rather than try to destroy us?  The obstacle is, right now we can't be so sure.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Will Sing My Alleluias Through Tears, If You Don't Mind (A Post Inspired by an Essay by a Lutheran Minister)

I remember feeling quite offended, yet not knowing what to say, when someone at my father's funeral (2008) asked how I was, and I said it was a sad time for me, and she replied, "But it's also a time to celebrate."  I said I didn't feel like celebrating and her look said I had no faith.

Away with your blankety-blank celebrations!  What is this insistence that you must always feel good and so must I, lest I bring you down?  How narcissistic.  Or is it that you simply cannot face death head on?

Let's really, honestly, look at what has happened here!  Let's acknowledge that tragedy can and does happen.  And let's respect a mourner's legitimate grief.  Jesus wept when His friend died, and this was even though He knew He was about to resurrect Lazarus.  As my friend Deb Dillon wrote on this same subject, alluding to the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time to laugh and there is a time to weep

The program at my father's funeral was titled, "A Celebration of the Life and Resurrection of _________”.  I'll celebrate my Dad's resurrection, thank you,  when it happens - on the Last Day. That's assuming he and I both do in fact find ourselves on the joyous side of that new life.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Harrowing Day

Tuesday, I mean, the day we had booked, months ago, for traveling to England.  Because of Libby's love of Iceland Air, we chose that airline.  The only trouble was, that airline departs from Dulles International, near DC, and there is no good way to get from here to there; that is, from Richmond to Dulles.  Still, the departure time was going to be 8:25 p.m., so in view of that, we made a plan that seemed reasonable.  Take the 2:12 AMTRAK train to Union Station arriving at 4:37, leaving 2 whole hours to get to the airport in plenty of time.  Take the Metro to wherever you board the bus to Dulles.  (Demetrios had done this in reverse on the way home from Greece last year with very little difficulty, although he couldn't remember exactly where the connections are...)

Well, that might have worked had not everything gone wrong that possibly could have.

First, the train was 20 minutes late coming into Richmond.  Then there were minor delays.  That put us into Union Station well after 5:30.  So what?  Still an hour to get there the requisite two hours ahead of time.  Well, okay, but what we hadn't taken into account is, the hours between 3:00 and 7:00 or so are no time to be traveling anywhere within 25 miles of Washington, DC.

We asked our way, found the Metro, and had someone show us how to buy the tickets from the vending machine.  It isn't self-explanatory as it is in other major cities around the world.  Someone had told us to change trains at l'Enfant Plaza, where we could catch a bus to Dulles.  Yeah, well, but by now the time has somehow crept up to well after six, with all the asking and the slow moving because all the baggage, including two big pieces, necessitated finding and using elevators instead of escalators.  We missed a train or two that way.

Someone told us that in the rush hour traffic, the bus would take forever to get to Dulles International.  Two fellow passengers agreed our best bet would be to go all the way to Vienna, the end of the line, and catch a cab from there.  We thought so, foo.

But by the time we arrived at Vienna (with three delays), paid more money because our tickets had only been good for one stop instead of a gaillion, and got outside and hailed a cab, it was seven-thirty.  "How long to Dulles?" we asked the cabbie. 

He shrugged.  "If the traffic is good, 25 minutes.  If not - "  we said just get us there as fast as humanly possible.

The traffic was horrible.  Made worse by torrents of rain.  Stupid storm.  It was right overhead, and - no exaggeration - we took a direct hit by lightning!  That's okay in a car;  it's grounded.  But still, it's a bit unnerving.  If I hadn't just cut off all my fingernails the day before, I'd've bitten them off during that agonizing ride.  

Eight o'clock was when we stepped out of the cab.  Quick, quick, find the Iceland Air desk to check our luggage and get boarding passes.  Run to Security.  LONG line.  Time: when we were putting our shoes back on: 8:20.  Departure time:  8:25.

We sprinted far down the concourse, as fast as two old people can with heavy carry-on bags.  Hurry, hurry, hurry, out of breath, our literal and figurative hearts pounding, all the way to Gate 31.  Anybody still there?  Yup.  Everybody.  The same storm that had helped delay us had, of course, also delayed our flight.

Libbie, just so you know, we loved Iceland Air.  But next time we do this, which God grant, we are going to spend the previous night nearby.

Monday, May 26, 2014

An Ascension Meditation

Grace and Truth

That old philosophical puzzle asks:  if a tree falls in the forest when there's no one around to hear it, was there really any sound?  The answer is NO.  There were vibrations, waves, loosed into the air, but it takes an ear and a brain to translate that into sound.  And a human person to interpret that sound as a tree falling.  It takes a person, a subject, AND an outward object to make the specific sound of a tree falling.  The inward something makes sense of the outward, and the outward something, the sound, validates the inward meaning.

This past Sunday, we read the story of the man born blind, whom Jesus healed.  He starts out blind, but there's an inner something, a faith, a hope, a something, that prompts him to call out for help as Jesus passes by.  Jesus gives him his sight, and that inner something blossoms.  What do you mean, he asks the skeptics.  For a person born blind to be made sighted is unheard of in the whole history of the entire world!  So, inwardly, he is prepared when Jesus comes to find him.  Now the man has that inner something by way of assurance, plus the outward data:  he can see.  Most importantly, he can see (and hear) Jesus.  The outward experience confirms what is in the man's heart, and what is in his heart confirms Who it is he sees.

Skip now to the story of the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus.  A Stranger joins them and asks why they seem so dejected.  What, are you from some other planet, they ask.  Haven't you heard of Jesus of Nazareth, who was just crucified the other day?  Well, we were deluded enough to have hoped he was the Messiah.  But of course he couldn't have been, because Messiah would never get Himself executed like a criminal.  

The Stranger chides them for being so "slow to believe".  What, is he a believer, too?  The Stranger, as they walk along, reminds them of prophecy after prophecy about the Messiah, showing them what they mean, and that they do indeed speak of Messiah being cut off, rejected, having His hands and feet pierced, etc.

They all arrive at Emmaus and decide to eat supper together.  The Stranger prays, gives thanks, takes the loaf of bread and breaks it — and suddenly, in that so very characteristic gesture, they recognize Him.  As soon as they do, He disappears from their sight.  It has to have been Jesus, they exclaim to each other; were not our hearts burning while He spoke to us?  

Again, we have the inner something, here described as burning, and an outer something, the Stranger explaining the Scriptures.  And the inner something validates their conclusion that it was indeed Jesus, while the outer events validate the inward certainty.  

This coming Thursday, we celebrate the feast of the Ascension.  Jesus says something to his followers that has puzzled me all my life, until now.  He says, "It is good for you that I go, else the Comforter will not come."  What???  How is it good for us to be deprived of Jesus' physical presence?  Why couldn't Jesus stay and the Comforter still come?

Because Jesus is the outward, embodied Truth, but the Holy Spirit is the inward Reality, and enlightenment happens only when outward truth and inward reality meet.  This is how it always is.  We encounter some truth outside ourselves, and it touches some reality inside us, telling us what it means.  It means a tree has fallen.  It means Messiah has healed my poor blind eyes.  It means the Christ Who died yet lives.  We encounter Truth and something in us leaps toward it, as St. John leapt in his mother's womb.  

Had Jesus stayed bodily with us, how would we ever have learned this?  We would be forever looking to Him, as an external Source, to speak to us, show us, teach us.  But He desired for us that we should know the Truth firsthand, from within our very own being, and not only from Him, indirectly.  Because it is when the inward witness and the outward witness agree that we are enlightened.  

1Jo 5:8
And there are three that bear witness in earth, 
the Spirit, [inward]
and the water, [Holy Baptism]
and the blood: [Holy Communion]
and these three agree in one.

Grace, the inward Someone, And Truth, the outward Someone, came by Jesus Christ.  And it's because we have both, and because they agree, that with awe we can sing our grateful hymn:

We have seen the True Light,  [Christ, outside ourselves]
We have received the heavenly Spirit, [inside ourselves]
[and as a result of both]
We have found the true faith:
Worshipping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.

What Orthodox-Catholic Ecumenical Efforts Are Not (For the Orthodox, at least)

Historical Grievances
Yes, there are painful memories of the past, for which we must forgive one another (and ongoing hurts to this day, the Orthodox will tell you), BUT the issues separating us do not arise from some alleged stubborn lack of forgiveness; they are theological.  The theological issues are major and extensive.  Many Catholics find this difficult to believe or understand.  We often can't even agree on what separates us.  

Everybody Singing Kumbaya 
Catholic and Orthodox doctrines really are incompatible.  We cannot ignore our differences and have anything but a sham unity.  We can collaborate in certain charitable endeavors, but that alone will not bring about unity.  Neither will simply deciding to share the Eucharist and saving the theological wrangling for "later".  

Word Games
It's not as if we were in search of some sort of wording of each issue, agreeable to both sides, that would synthesize or at least accommodate the differences.  As the teachings are incompatible, the wrong ones have to be renounced, not accommodated, once we agree on what those are. 

"Deeper Truth"
Orthodoxy (Catholicism, too?) claims to have the fullness of Truth already, so there is no sort of over-arching or "umbrella truth" waiting to be discovered, transcending the Truth already revealed, thereby mooting our differences.

Everybody Becoming More Devout
We don't agree on who God is or what God is like.  Or how to draw near to Him.  Hence, if Catholics do s better job of practicing their forms of piety, to draw nearer to Who they believe God is and the Orthodox do the same, our disunity will be accentuated, not healed.

Catholics are not authorized to do this, unless the Pope does.  
The Orthodox are not willing to do this, even if their Patriarchs do.  

I have seen all of these approaches tried or proposed.  I wonder whether we can even agree what ecumenical dialogue itself is.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

And it appears the Pope isn't the Only One...

...wanting changes in Cathoic sexual teaching.

The headline is misleading.  The German bishop isn't defying Rome.  

Pope Francis: Church could support civil unions

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Excerpt from an article from CNN, here.

(CNN) - Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage on Wednesday, but suggested in a newspaper interview that it could support some types of civil unions.

The Pope reiterated the church's longstanding teaching that "marriage is between a man and a woman." However, he said, "We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety."

States, for instance, justify civil unions as a way to provide economic security to cohabitating couples, the Pope said in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in Corriere della Seraan Italian daily. State-sanctioned unions are thus driven by the need to ensure rights like access to health care, Francis added.

A number of Catholic bishops have supported civil unions for same-sex couples, including Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, according to reports in National Catholic Reporter and The New York Times.

Behind closed doors, pope supported civil unions in Argentina, activist says

But Wednesday's comments are "the first time a Pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions," according to Catholic News Service.

Later on Wednesday, a Vatican spokesman sought to clarify the Pope's remarks.

"The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office.

"In his response to the interviewer, he emphasized the natural characteristic of marriage between one man and one woman, and on the other hand, he also spoke about the obligation of the state to fulfill its responsibilities towards its citizens."

"We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms," Rosica added.

Pope Francis, who marks his first year in office on March 13, has sought to set a more tolerant tone for his 1 billion-member church and suggested that a broad range of topics are at least open for discussion.

In January, the Pope recalled a little girl in Buenos Aires who told her teacher that she was sad because "my mother's girlfriend doesn't like me."

"The situation in which we live now provides us with new challenges which sometimes are difficult for us to understand," the Pope told leaders of religious orders, adding that the church "must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them."

The Vatican later denied that those comments signaled an opening toward same-sex unions.

Last June, Francis famously refused to judge gay priests in comments that ricocheted around the world. He has also said that the church should not "interfere"in the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians.

Pope Francis' greatest hits of 2013

Support of same-sex unions of any type is fiercely contested by many Catholic church leaders.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Romancing the Bottle

Yup, I've been hitting the bottle lately, which is another way of saying, my mild interest in glass bottles appears suddenly to have blossomed into a full-fledged love affair.

It all began when Greece forced everyone in Athens and Thessaloniki to convert to natural gas for heating and hot water.  This necessitated two rows of copper pipes to be installed a few inches above my  kitchen cabinets in Thessaloniki.  Some years earlier, diggging through the kitchen cabinets, I had found an antique milk bottle, which I had saved and stuck up there on top of the cabinets, and this gave me the idea of hiding the ugly pipes with more bottles.  So I began bringing home colorful ones, or ones with pretty shapes, and in a couple of years, I had to begin weeding out the less attracttive to make room for the more attractive.  

So a week ago, I went to the Goodwill store to see what I could find there, and sure enough, I found this glass bottle for $2.25.

Demetrios said he didn't like it, and especially didn't like it when I read him the curious phrase embossed on the bottom:  “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE”.  We were evidently breaking the law, he said.  It's a deccanter!  It's made precisely to be used over and over.  So what was this all about?

So I poked around the internet and found out this label was required on all U.S. liquor bottles after Prohibition ended.  It was meant to keep moonshiners from using them.  The law was in force between 1935 and 1964.

WOW, I thought.  My bottle is at least 50 years old; who knew?  I wonder if I can date it any more accurately?  So I re-examind the bottom of the bottle andd found this mark.

Any chance this meant anything to somebody out there?  Oh, yes!  I was astonished to learn that there are people who dedicate their lives to the subject of old glass, and tomes have been written just on the sub-topic of manufacturers' marks.  I began appreciating my bottle consderably  more.  

So this is a mark used by the Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Company beginning in 1944.  Together with the federal inscription, that narrrowed my bottle's date to the 20 years between 1944 and 1964.

Armed with this information, I went to ebay to see whether I could discover anything about my bottle's value, and found this.

It's the exact same bottle, except that mine, without the stopper, is worth approximately nothing. (And it isn't actually cut glass, but machine-molded.)

I couldn't find the right stopper for sale, would have been a miracle if I could have, but I bought this one anyway, just for the looks; not being the original, it won't add any value.

I think it will look as if it belonged to the decanter.

All in all, I thought, very satisfactory.  

But then I began wondering about some of the other decorated bottles I have picked up for pennies.  So far, I've found that three of them are worth about $30 each.  Still trying to unearth more info about them, just for the interest.

My copper pipes have long since been enclosed in sheetrock, but the bottles?  I'm hooked!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Lesbian Activist's Comments on Homosexuality

A must-read!  Read and copy for your friends.  Camille Paglia, in her various writings, challenges everyone, and this has to be a good thing.

I found this article at  What I love about Camille is that she tells the truth as she sees it.  

by Joseph Berger, M.D.

Camille Paglia identifies herself as a lesbian and a pagan. She must be one of the most attention-craving, histrionic activists to burst upon the public in recent years. But she also writes brilliantly, scorching those of whom she disapproves with a rare wit, literacy, and use of language.

One would think it surprising that there might be any similarity between Ms. Paglia's perspectives, and those of many NARTH members on such a bitterly contentious issue as homosexuality.

But an essay on homosexuality by Ms. Paglia in her latest book, Vamps and Tramps* provides remarkable support from a most unexpected quarter for many of the views that some of us have held, and often expressed, for many years.

I would like to note a few of the many comments made by Ms. Paglia, with which I believe serious students of homosexuality will agree. Readers will also pick up a small flavor of Ms. Paglia's colorful use of language.
(The comments that follow the quotations, in italics, are my own.)

"For the past decade, the situation has been out of control: responsible scholarship is impossible when rational discourse is being policed by storm troopers, in this case gay activists, who have the absolutism of all fanatics in claiming sole access to the truth."
(Most of us who have written or spoken publicly will have had this experience.)

"In the Eighties and early Nineties, displaced anxiety over the horror of AIDS turned gay activists into rampaging nihilists and monomaniacs, who dishonestly blamed the disease on the government...AIDS did not appear out of nowhere. It was a direct result of the sexual revolution, which my generation unleashed with the best of intentions, but whose worst effects were to be suffered primarily by gay men. In the West, despite much propaganda to the contrary. AIDS is a gay disease and will remain one for the foreseeable future." 
(Ms. Paglia is scientifically correct.)

"I believe that the shocking toll of AIDS on gay men in the West was partly due to their Seventies delusions that a world without women was possible. All-male energies, unbalanced and ravenous, literally tore the body apart."

"No eroticism can be complete that denies the power of the female principle..." 
(This is an interpretation, not a scientific statement, but it is one that makes sense.)

"The gay activist establishment has been stupid and narrow in the way it has conducted its civil rights campaign... There is no gay leader remotely near the stature of Martin Luther King, because black activism has drawn on the profound spiritual traditions of the church, to which gay political rhetoric is childishly hostile. Shrilly self-interested and doctrinaire, gay activism is completely lacking in philosophical perspective. Its sorrow became the only sorrow, its disease the only disease." 
(Let me offer a local example. The morning after a major piece of legislation that would have accepted same-sex adoption and same-sex marriages in Ontario in 1994 was rejected - despite a bitter public and political fight - a gay activist publicly demanded that the legislature suspend all other activity until it passed this legislation which a large majority had just rejected.)

"Homosexuality is not 'normal.' On the contrary, it is a challenge to the norm; therein rests its eternally revolutionary character Queer theorists - that wizened crew of flimflamming free-loaders - have tried to take the post structuralist tack of claiming that there is no norm, since everything is relative and contingent. This is the kind of silly bind that word-obsessed people get into when they are deaf, dumb, and blind to the outside world. Nature exists, whether academics like it or not. And in nature, procreation is the single, relentless rule. That is the norm. Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction. Penis fits vagina; no fancy linguistic game-playing can change that biologic fact." 
(Prominent examples of "post structuralists" who do try to deny reality, would include the pro-life psychiatric writer Terry Stein, and English professor Jonathan Goldberg.)

"Given the intense hormonal surge of puberty, the total absence of adult heterosexual desire is neither normal nor natural. "
(How true, and again Ms. Paglia confirms what we as therapists have been noting for some time. But it must be realized that there is no doubt that the propaganda has had an effect on the general public, who seem to be increasingly accepting of these notions.)

"I was the only openly gay person at the Yale Graduate School (1968-1972), a candor that was professionally costly. That anyone with my aggressive and scandalous history could be called 'homophobic,' as has repeatedly been done, shows just how insanely Stalinist gay activism has become." 
(Ms. Paglia can say things that we physicians, psychologists and scientists cannot say without coming under attack for offending our colleagues, or being accused of demonstrating bias and prejudice.)

"The 10 percent figure, servilely repeated by the media, was pure propaganda, and it made me, as a scholar, despise gay activists for their unscrupulous disregard for the truth. Their fibs and fabrications continue, now about the still-fragmentary evidence for a genetic link to homosexuality and for homosexual behavior among animals." 
(Again, Ms. Paglia echoes what we have known scientifically for some years, but none of us have dared express our views publicly in this matter)

"I used to feel that the old psychoanalytic model was inadequate in describing the origins of homosexuality as, essentially, arrested development. But it was true that all my gay male friends had powerful, dominating mothers in the prototypical style."

"ACT-UP won substantial practical victories in its mobilizations against the political and medical establishment, but its most crazed extremists also did enormous damage to the public image of gay men that will take a generation to undo. Flashed across the nation's television screens were contorted male faces, raging, ranting, bawling like infants - 'Me, me, me!'"

Total attention and an instant cure were demanded, even though science had failed to find a cure for any virus, even the common cold.. .Meanwhile, more women were dying yearly from breast cancer than had succumbed to AIDS in America over a decade. In April 1991, a monsoon hit Bangladesh and killed 125,000 people over one weekend - exactly the number of American AIDS casualties to that point. I angrily asked a friend, 'Where is the quilt for those who died in Bangladesh?' ACT-UP was selfishly selective in what it got angry about..."

"...ACT-UP's hysteria made me reconsider those vilified therapists and ministers who think change of homosexual orientation is possible and whose meetings are constantly disrupted by gay agitators. Is gay identity so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish to be gay. Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are theoretically possible. However, habit is refractory...a phenomenon obvious in the struggle with obesity, smoking, alcoholism, or drug addiction... Helping gays learn how to function heterosexually, if they so wish, is a perfectly worthy aim. We should be honest enough to consider whether homosexuality may not indeed be a pausing at the prepubescent stage when children anxiously band together by gender." 
(A very reasonable and sober view of both the extremist attacks that are made on those of us who believe that therapy has something to offer some patients who may wish it, and of the difficulties and resistances, conscious and unconscious, of many homosexuals.)

Heterosexual love,. is in sync with cosmic forces. Not everyone has the stomach for daily war with nature." 
(Again Ms. Paglia expresses truths that therapists have known for many years, but that have been denied by the extremists.)

"Men who shrink from penetration of the female body are paralyzed by justifiable apprehension, since they are returning to our uncanny site of origin It is not male hatred of women but male fear of women that is the great universal." 
(Correct, Ms. Paglia.)

"The sexual segregation of gay bars following Stonewall was bad for everyone. The men slid into orgiastic narcissism, and the women entombed themselves in a gigantic burrow, the clogged honeypot of lesbian feminism... Now that twenty-five years have passed, it's time to admit that lesbian feminism has produced only the ghettoization and miniaturization of women...Women never grow from the moment they enter the lesbian world. Hence one is deafened in bars by the juvenile whooping and hollering of packs of lesbians greeting each other like screeching teens arriving at a slumber party...When women withdraw from men, as has been done on a massive scale in lesbian feminism, we have a cultural disaster on our hands. In such a situation, men are divided from themselves and women simply fail to mature. Lesbian feminists, for all their ideals of sisterhood and solidarity, can treat each other with a fickleness, parasitic exploitativeness, and vicious spite that have to be seen to be believed."

"Lesbians are mournful sentimentalists, dragging around ancient family baggage... A once-lesbian friend, now married, declared to me that lesbians suffer from 'buried rage, with a desperate need for consolation.' I see a persistent pattern among white middle-class lesbians: they often have a decorous, passive-aggressive mother, who uses her daughter as a proxy to act out her secret ambivalence toward men, in the person of the never directly confronted husband."

"Today, when a freshman has an affair with another girl all the campus social-welfare machinery pushes her toward declaring herself gay and accepting and 'celebrating' it. This is a serious mistake... It is absurd to say that one, two, or more homosexual liaisons make you 'gay' - as if lavender ink ran in your veins. Young women are often attracted to each other during a transitional period when they are breaking away from their parents, expanding their world-views, and developing their personalities. To identify these fruitful Sapphic idylls with a permanent condition of homosexuality is madness, and the campus counselors who encourage such premature conclusions should be condemned and banished. They are preying, for their own ideological purposes, on young people at their most vulnerable." 
(For many years some of us have been preaching precisely this message, which also applies virtually identically to what happens with young men.)

"If a gay man wants to marry and sire children, why should he be harassed by gay activists accusing him of 'self-hatred'? He is more mature than they are, for he knows that woman's power cannot be ignored. If counseling can allow a gay man to respond sexually to women, it should be encouraged and applauded, not strafed by gay artillery fire of reverse moralism.

"I want to cry out to these girls: Stop! Think! Continue to love women, but resolve your problems with men. If you expect achieve, learn how to live in the real world. Men must be confronted, fairly and honestly. And for heaven's sake, don't fall down the rabbit hole of the lesbian scene." 
(Same applies to young men.)

"The hypocrisy of lesbian feminist politics is clear in the increasing use among lesbians. .of sex toys and esoteric sex practices...what bothers me is that the lesbian dildo craze stub-bornly avoids acknowledging its anatomy-as-destiny implications. Why stop at dildos? If penetration excites, and if receptive female genitalia are so suited to friction by penis-shaped objects, why not go on to real penises? Dildos, used for thousands of years around the world, have always been understood as temporary stop-gap measures, in the absence of men... Any woman, gay or straight, who cannot respond to penises or who finds them hideous or laughable has been traumatized by some early experience. She is neither complete as a woman nor healthy as a person. We can no longer allow, without protest, obsessives and neurotics to preach a mutilated brand of feminism to trusting young women...Lesbians who use dildos but shun penises must start admitting that they operate sexually not just for women but against men." 
(Once again it is refreshing to read Ms. Paglia use words that we professionals have been virtually forbidden to use.)

"Visiting the elite schools on my lecture jaunts I am struck by how the most militantly gay, Foucault-addled male students look like orphans, with 12-year-old Huck Finn clothing styles and haunted, starved eyes. My friend Robert Caserio says, 'Queer theory isolates them from reality.' This is one reason why gay studies in its current separatist form, must be opposed."

"It is ridiculous to assert that gay men are interested only in other gay men and would never ogle straight men in barracks showers. When I heard this on TV I burst out laughing. Anyone who belongs to a health club knows better. Sexual tension and appraisal are constants, above all among gay men, who never stop cruising everything in sight. Seduction of straight studs is a highly erotic motif in gay porn."

"Is homosexuality a permanent solution to the problem of the nuclear family? Do we want the sexes forever divorced, in a state of permanent alienation? Lesbianism is increasing, since anxious unmasculine men have little to offer. Male homosexuality is increasing, because masculinity is in crisis... Current gay cant insists that homosexuality is 'not a choice,' ... but there is an element of choice in all behavior, sexual or otherwise. It takes an effort to deal with the opposite sex; it's safer with your own kind. The issue is one of challenge versus comfort." 
(I think most NARTH members would agree with every word.)

"We should be aware of the potentially pernicious intermingling of gay activism with science, which produces more propaganda than truth. Gay scientists must be scientists first, gays second."
(See the criticisms that I and many others have made of such events as the publication of on article by Bailey and Pillard on the Op- Ed page of the New York Times on the same day that their research paper was published, or the similarly grotesquely disproportionate publicity sought by, and given to, LeVay and Hamer.)

"Midway through the AIDS epidemic, the media, having ignored homosexuality or treated it in a lurid manner, did a quick flip-flop under activist pressure and now continues its policy of unthinking cant by parroting the gay establishment party line on every occasion. Gay activists have earned a reputation as conspirators and casuists, because of their amoral tactics of deceit, defamation, intimidation, and extortion...The gay activist obsession with condom distribution (as if condoms were 100 percent effective) is a displacement of anxiety from the real horror of AIDS." 
(Considering that Ms. Paglia herself could be called a gay activist because of her fervent espousal of homosexuality as being good and desirable, this is a remarkable, very forceful criticism of some of the serious problems created by gay activism.)
The above were some of Ms. Paglia's own words. They form a devastating critique of the writings, pronouncements, and behavior of many who identify themselves as homosexual and gay activist. They accurately reflect many of the observations and conclusions of serious scientists and mental-health professionals who question much of the inaccurate and untruthful propaganda that has been distributed by gay activists and the media in recent years.

Only too often such propaganda has found its way into academic journals, suggesting that the processes of evaluation and safe-guards that are applied toward most scholarly submissions do not seem to be applied in the same way to contributions from gay activists. Often the impression has been given that poor quality work that happens to be pro-homosexual is accepted for publication by journals whose usual standards would have led to the rejection of the piece - had it not propagated a pro-homosexual position.

Ms. Paglia reminds us that within homosexual circles there still exist some critics with clear minds, capable of rational thought, and the ability to express such critical thought clearly, coherently, and entertainingly.


* Camille Paglia. Vamps and Tramps. Vintage Books, New York, 1994.

Joseph Berger, M.D., is fellow of the Canadian Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has served as an Examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry for twenty years.

August 26, 1996.
From the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) Bulletin, Vol. IV, Number Two, August 1996. 16542 Ventura Blvd., Suite 416, Encino, CA 91436.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What Kind of a Weird Miracle is This Supposed to Be?

That's what I asked myself when I first saw this video.  It shows the River Jordan reversing the direction of its flow when it is blessed during a Theophany service.  First you see it flowing to the left, then at the end, you see wooden crosses floating toward the right.  Apparently, this happens every year at Theophany.  Cool to look at, but so what?  One rather wishes, if there is to be a miracle, that it would have some sort of meaning, not just a strange effect.

So I decided to research it, and found out it is full of deep and multilayered meaning.  I will try to condense it into as short a space as I can.

Theophany? you ask.  Theophany?  I never heard of Theophany.  It's what you may know as Epiphany, a feast that comes directly after the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is to say, the 6th of January.  In the West, this feast is mainly about the Magi arriving to worship the infant Christ, but in Orthodox Christianity, the emphasis is upon Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan.

The Feast has two main themes.  The first is that this is the occasion when the Holy Trinity was first clearly revealed, when the Holy Spirt descended like a dove and the voice of the Father was heard saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  The second theme is water, because we don't believe Jesus was purified but the reverse.  He sanctified the waters of the Jordan, and with them, all the waters of the world.

So on this day, we bless the waters again, in commemoration of the Baptism of Christ.  We bless the holy water that will be used all year, and we bless rivers and lakes and oceans, praying over them and throwing crosses into them, which brave boys compete to retrieve from the January water.  It is the blessing of the Jordan being shown in this video, along with the releasing of a dove.  (Actually, we do two blessings, the Little Blessing the day before Theophany, and the Great Blessing of the Waters on the day itself.  This is the day before.)

But the water flowing backwards, what's with that?

Well, it all begins with creation, but we can skip ahead to Moses, about 3500 years ago.  You probably know the story, from Exodus 14, of how Moses led the Israelite slaves out of captivity in Egypt, and how the king of Egypt pursued him with his army and his chariots.  It's an exciting story, a must-read.  Anyway, when the situation looked most dire, "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided..."  The Children of Israel passed through the sea on dry land, the water forming walls on either side of them.  Those walls, of course, collapsed when the Egyptian army came in pursuit, drowning them all.  But the point here is, the waters were driven back.

St, Paul teaches an added meaning to this story.  He says it foreshadowed Holy Baptism (and that later bits of the story foreshadow Holy Communion).  From I Corinthians 10:

1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 

Rock, what Rock?  The Apostle is referring to another Moses story.  The children of Israel are now wandering around in the desert and they have no water. They turn against Moses with their usual complaints.  Were there not enough graves in Egypt that you brought us here? and, It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt than to die out here of thirst, and so on.  "Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank."  Num 20:11

But the Exodus story is not the only instance of waters being driven back.  Something very like it happens again for Joshua, when he leads Israel across the Jordan, preceded by the Ark of the Covenant,  From Joshua 3:

14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

And it happens again for the Prophet Elisha just after Prophet Elijah, his mentor, has died.  Here is a doubly interesting tale from 2 Kings 2:

11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. 13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over.
15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.
. . .
19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.”
20 And he said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’ ” 22 So the water remains healed to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.

All of these stories the Church takes as types of Christ, as foreshadowings.  Jesus is the ultimate meaning of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elisha).  We especially take Psalm 114 as a Messianic  prophecy:

1 When Israel went out of Egypt,
​​The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2 ​​Judah became His sanctuary,
​​And Israel His dominion.
​3 ​​The sea saw it and fled;
​​Jordan turned back.
4 ​​The mountains skipped like rams,
​​The little hills like lambs.
5 ​​What ails you, O sea, that you fled?
​​O Jordan, that you turned back?
6 ​​O mountains, that you skipped like rams?
​​O little hills, like lambs?
​7 ​​Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
​​At the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 ​​Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
​​The flint into a fountain of waters.

Elisha purified the water, Jesus sanctified it.  As the waters parted or were driven backward by Moses, Joshua, and Elisha, so we believe they were at the baptism of Christ, in fulfillment of the Psalm, and of the other events as well.  In New Testament usage, to "fulfill" means to give something its full or ultimate meaning.  So the backward flowing of the Jordan since Christ not only hearkens back to the Old Testament events, but points us forward as well, as explained in this article by Tenny Thomas in the Indian Orthodox Herald:  

On this day the River Jordan changes its course, and starts flowing backwards, underlying exactly this concept. The river Jordan, with its two traditional streams Jor and Dan represents also our lives, lives that flow from the first parents, Adam and Eve. From them the life of mankind started flowing toward the Dead Sea of sin and perdition, as Jordan River does. But when the Master entered the river, the Jordan started flowing backwards, in the same way as our lives turn toward our true godly origins when Christ enters into our lives.
The events on the banks of Jordan uncovers the deep meanings of the Sacrament of Baptism in Christian practice. The mystical presence of Christ is present at our baptism. When we enter into the baptismal font Christ is also there with us turning around the course of our lives from a life spent in sin and worldly things into a life in virtue, and heavenly glory.
As Gregory of Nazianzen says, “Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him.” God reveals His Son in the silence of our soul. Communion with God requires our active participation. Our will must be conformed to God’s will.
May we experience Theophany within ourselves, and see the Lord all around us. May our lives be freed from the cares of this world that the Lord might reveal Himself to us more and more.
To God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is due all glory, honor, and worship now and always, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Icon of the Baptism of Christ.  Here we see four fishes at Jesus' feet.  Two are swimming one way and two, the other way.  The other creatures represent the Jordan (left) and the sea (right).  Pretty cool to think this reversal of the Jordan's flow still happens every year.