Thursday, November 14, 2013

What are you giving up for Advent?

Surprised by the question? This is a very common question before the Great Lent before Easter. But almost no one thinks of sacrificing during the upcoming pre-Christmas season.  It is time for peppermint and parties, eggnog and sleigh rides with Christmas carols blaring across the snow, a time to explore neighborhoods filled with Christmas lights. The office party is coming up; time to chose a funny 'white elephant' to exchange. Christmas will be basically over on December 26th with a little quiet until the new year. 

But Advent, even from a Western perspective, should be a time of preparation, not celebration. We celebrate and feast during the Christmas season...beginning on Christmas Day. In the East, this time period before the Christmas season is called the Nativity Fast, so it is a time not only of preparation but penitence with fasting and increased prayer and spiritual reading. 

I've decided to fast not only from meat and animal products (as prudently as possible with my health issues) during this Nativity Fast; I am fasting from my blog until Epiphany/Theophany (January 5/6). A fasting season should be a time when one increases prayer and good works, so taking time off from the computer will help with that goal. If some brilliant post idea comes to me, I'll write it as a draft and 'polish' it after the Christmas season. Maybe I will have many half-written pieces and get a jump-start on the new year!..and I'll also be checking in here to release any comments that blogger might put in the moderation queue....and I hope my artist will work on her alphabet drawings so I can continue my Byzantine Child's ABC book (hint....hint....)

I'm sure that there will be great Advent/Christmas posts around the blogosphere this year. Click on my Christmas, feasting, and fasting labels (to your right somewhere) for my older posts on those subjects.
"In the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches, the period from November 15 through December 24 is a period of Fasting, Abstinence, and Preparation for the Great-Feast of the Nativity of Christ. One of the four major fasts of the year, it is variously called the Nativity Fast, the Christmas Lent, or the Philipine Fast (since it begins the day after the feast of St. Philip).

No matter what it is called, however, it is one of most difficult fast periods for people living in the Western world to keep. The pre-Christmas period in America is generally one of parties, social events and general excess. How is the Orthodox Christian to follow the Tradition of his Church, but also live in his native culture?

Part of the difficulty lies in our society's inability to understand the necessity of anticipation and waiting. We are so used to instant soup, instant replays, and instant gratification, that the concept of pre-paring for a feast by fasting does not set well.

Coupled with this is a loss of a strong sense of sacred time and season. We move holidays (and Holy Days) to accommodate to "practical life," rather than vice versa. "A time for everything and every-thing in its time," has become "Everything all of the time...when I want it." continue at Byzantine for specific fasting guidelines

I wish you a blessed Nativity Fast and a wonderful, joy-filled Christmas season and a very happy, holy and safe new year! I hope to 'see' you all back here after Theophany/ Epiphany 2014!

Soy unnerves me: 7 Simple Meatless Dishes for the Nativity Fast

Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians begin St Philip's Fast (Advent) on the 15th. Many believers eat practically vegan during this time. To balance medical concerns along with small children's needs, we shoot for meatless except Sunday with Wednesdays and Fridays being vegan. 
Here's a few ideas for the fast. My goal is to be as simple as possible, leaving more room for family and prayer during this season. And yes, we limit Christmasy celebrations as much as possible until actual Christmas.....the 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day!
1. Always have a pot of beans either soaking or cooking in the crock pot. Soak your beans in water over night and discard the soaking water, rinsing the beans well. Add new water to cook the beans. Do not slat the beans while they are cooking! I've never tried whey or apple cider vinegar to soak my beans, but this blog post explains that it will increase the nutritional value. I'm going to try it the next time I cook beans. 

2. Soup! Lentils are quick and easy. Using your pre-soaked beans works just as well. Potato  leek soup can be a treat. I've seen some meatless French onion soup recipes floating around the internet...I have got to try that. Minestrone soup is a winner (tomato base soup with kidney beans, pasta, spinach). I feel sorry for soup-hating families. It makes my life easier to cook a good soup along with a salad and bread. There is always enough for lunch the next day.

3. Salad- Daughter#2 made a very yummy salad last night. She grated equal amounts of carrot and zucchini and then added rice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. This kind of salad would keep forever covered in the fridge if you wait to dress it. Another frequent salad is anything cabbage- chopped or grated along with whatever fresh vegetables are on hand.  

4. Veggie burgers- reserve extra cooked chopped potatoes along with cooked veggies like chopped green beans, onions and sweet peppers. Mix along with some bread crumbs, vegetable broth and a bit of freshly minced garlic. I use xanthan gum (only a little) as a binder instead of egg whites. You can add some chopped herbs if you like. Trader Joe's makes an Indian-style veggie burger, so I add some curry powder to simulate their product. My version is much more affordable! Cook your patties (make a big meatball, then flatten) on the skillet or in the oven until crispy.
we do celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving the 'normal' way- and save leftovers until Sunday...
5. Vegetable pasta is yummy. If you find yourself missing the richness of animal products, do not forget to saute your onions, peppers and mushrooms for a more complex taste. Another method is to oven-roast your vegetables (even your garlic!) if the oven is already working. Caramelizing vegetables such as carrots, squash, onions lends that rich taste to dishes that are meatless.

6. We aren't really a peanut butter family (thank God, we don't have allergies, though)- so I stock up on almond butter and sunflower seed butter for fasting times. There is really no better snack than apple slices dipped in almond butter. 

7. I limit soy as much as I can in this modern world. We might eat a tofu dish once a week during a fasting time. I use almond or rice milk, never soy. Who knows if soy is even a problem? It just makes me nervous. I need to learn to depend more on beans during fasting times. It is a little boring, but fasting is an exercise to temper our 'passions'- and eating a variety of food is definitely a 'passion' and habit of the modern middle-class American. 
I hope your St Philip's Fast is holy and beneficial to your family!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

pretty happy funny real- Christmas!

pretty- free trade garlands instead of made-in-China lights...
happy- I am so happy that there is an internet so that I can read Auntie Leila's take on the domestic life with thoughts like these: 
"Things going good = I'm good. 
{Everything handmade, children looking adorable in photo shoot, house clean by 9 am and renovated by Christmas, husband feeling well cared for, weight down, waist wasp-like, mani/pedi scheduled, carpets spotless, dog winning trials, credit cards paid up.}
There's a bit of a paradox here, because I actually think that getting good at what we do helps us be happy and find contentment. 
But only if it's in the context of a hearty acceptance of the predictable awfulness of things, and I mean that in the most cheerful way possible -- especially when "what we do" involves children, who necessarily are not going to be as tractable as, say, machines.".... Continue at LMLD to complete the fabulousness.....

find Grumpy Orthodox Cat on facebook (this is his hipster cousin)
real- I've written before about the problem of a 'Made in China' Christmas- did you know that it is not possible to buy lights that are not made in China? Politics and human rights violations aside, it is crazy to have one country with a 100% monopoly on an industry. 
I'm trying to also work on buying fair trade chocolate and coffee. African cocoa is farmed by kids. In the West, there is such an advantage. Spending more money on our chocolate or coffee or Christmas items (or doing without) is a small price to pay to avoid supporting these evil for thought! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

bad babies in church: how to handle them & reverent teen church-goers: how to get them

1. Start them young
2. Start them young
3. Start them that church time in a normal part of life ....but beware, it will go like this for awhile:
How to Be Reverent at Church according to Those Under the Age of 3 from Chocolate for Your Brain
10) Even if you are a baby, you know it is important to sing at mass. But knowing when to sing can be difficult because the adults are sometimes shy about singing.  A simple solution is to sing perpetually. The grown ups will join in if the timing is right.

9) Likewise, because adults are very distractable, the best way to make them long to focus on the liturgy is to squirm and grab the noses of any human within range and then go stiff and and alternatively drape sideways and boneless. Constant motion will make them long to give the homily their full attention. go this link for the rest of this funny, true list!

My 14 and 13 year old daughters are 'good' in church; they help the cantor (or actually do all the cantoring if it is necessary) in two languages, they clean up the candles and the pews without being asked, they help at fellowship, they watch the little kids if I am particularly busy- If special friends from far away attend the services, I will make a point to 'take over' little kid duty so they can enjoy girl-time. I still have to remind them to sit up straight or cross themselves my job is not done. But in general, the hard labor of the early years are bearing fruit. Our six-year old boy is serving at the altar. He isn't perfect by any means, but he's fine. The adult altar servers keep him in line, and I appreciate it. Our four-year old girl has her moments, but it has been a year since I've had to leave church because of a melt-down. Occasionally  she needs a quick potty break, but it is just for the potty. She does sometimes sit on my lap or the big girls' laps. I'm okay with that.

So, mamas of little ones who were extra extra wiggly last Sunday, take heart, Come again. Don't mind the older ladies (only two of them!) who tsked tsked their way through the Divine Liturgy. 

I am an advocate for families in church: here are some suggestions to make your church service more tolerable/meaningful/holy/happy:

1. Sit in the front and insist that the children look ahead. 
2. For Byzantine Catholics, decide what your children are capable of: can they cross themselves? sing the litany response? sing Alleluia? 
3. Feed them something easy like string cheese and sliced apple right before the service. Then, I promise, they can handle even an hour and a half without ingesting something. Bring a water sippy cup if needed. Personally, I think the age limit for a milk bottle or sippy is two years old. 
4. Go potty right before the church service. Don't take no for an answer. 
5. It's okay if your child makes some noise. 
6. If it is out and out screaming, just take a break 
7. When I had to take out kids, standing in the hall or even outside depending on the church, I wouldn't say much to my screaming kid (I was too angry), I would attempt to continue to sing the responses. I didn't want to reward my child for her/his tantrum. 
8. If your child's church shoes are hard-soled, they will make a loud noise banging on the pew and floor when your child is gearing up for trouble. Take the shoes off if needed. If barefoot is okay with Moses, then socks are okay for a two-year old. I really liked using the soft leather slipper-like shoes on a church day for this reason.
9. I've written this elsewhere (probably under the label 'mommyhood' or something), allow a small child 1 or 2 maximum things to hold during church. A beany baby is a good choice. A rosary is just going to make a lot of noise; a woolen prayer rope is a better choice. I have always enjoyed the St Joseph printing house religious books for my small ones to bring into the church. Just the right size.
10. Try to make going to church a joy, not a chore. Many believers would disagree with me, but I don't expect my little ones to do everything in church that I am doing. I will insist that my four-year old stand for the beginning of the Gospel and the creed, but if she then sits down politely, I am not going to drag her back up. I expect my older children to sing everything that the people sing; I just encourage the little ones to sing the simpler portions. I know a church that had a bowl of lolly pops for the children to take after Liturgy along with the blessed bread! Jesus loved the children!

and don't worry if you didn't start them young. Start where your family is! My family of origin became Catholic when I was 12; the youngest was 1. Thank God, we are all practicing Catholics, married to Catholics. Just do what you can. For older children, I recommend my parent's methods- no secular music on Sunday, a Catholic Digest and National Catholic Register lying around the house, and as many family dinners as possible. Keep family prayer short and sweet. and also- remember that parents have the 'right' to bless their own children, so keep some holy water or oil handy for night blessings.

Friday, November 8, 2013

7 reasons NOT to marry your Byzantine Catholic seminarian boyfriend

Every so often, I get an email from a seminarian or a girlfriend or a possible future seminarian who is already married, asking me for advice or my experience. My emailed reply is usually bright and sunny and full of optimism. But marriage is scary; it can go wrong even when it begins well. But as G.K. Chesterton said, "Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline." So be cautiously optimistic. If you can handle the following realities, then maybe marriage to a future clergyman is your vocation! A thick skin is needed as well as a holy life filled with prayer and fasting.

1. He might not be ordained as a deacon and priest, and he might blame you. The bishop doesn't guarantee ordination when a man starts studying. Perhaps the bishop decides he is not priest material. Perhaps the people don't sing 'Axios!' at the ordination. Perhaps politics swings back to married men even in the Eastern Churches not being permitted to be ordained. And maybe politics starts sending priests to Siberia again. Perhaps the bishop doesn't like you. Well, it is a done deal. Marriage or celibacy comes before any ordination. 

2. He will be considered a second-class priest. Even in the east, celibacy and monasticism is considered higher and for the 'kingdom.' Have you ever wondered why non-monks in the Roman-rite are called 'secular' priests? Prepare yourself for the day that the Roman-rite prayer group potluck waits as long as possible for Fr Celibate to arrive to bless the food. Fr Husband can bless the food if the other does not show. Married priests are just too 'down to earth' for some believers. Look to the cross and take joy in forced humility. Everyone needs this once in a while.
3. You will be hurt by 'church-people.' And most likely, you will end up hurting parishioners as well. We are sinners. We all make mistakes. Hopefully, it is misunderstandings that cause hurt unintentionally, but occasionally you will have to brace yourself for a bit of evil in the church setting.

4. Your children will be hurt as well. This is one place where my 'mama-bear' can manifest. I try and help my children tolerate the foibles of some (for example, an older parishioner with strong opinions on how things are done), but I can't sit and let them get hurt by the occasional person who really wants to cause pain.

5. People will accuse you of being in the way of your husband's priesthood. It happens very rarely, but please be prepared. Maybe some things would be easier if he were a free and easy single man, but there is the issue of vocation.You can respond to hurtful accusations by crying, walking away, smiling and waving or shouting (not a good idea). There will be a day when someone asks, maybe just out of curiosity, if your priest husband shares confession stories with you. I respond, "God forbid!" loudly. 

6. You will be isolated.You will be in the minority. I suspect that many priest's wives and even deacon's wives stay under the radar so that they won't scandalize anyone. Part of my own isolation is due to my introverted nature and the fact that I homeschool the kids by day and teach at the college by night. But also- where do Catholic priests' wives go for support? I have tried to communicate with both Orthodox and Protestant clergy wives on group sites and in groups like MOPS and 'MOMS,', but they don't know what to make of me. Also, my theology doesn't match perfectly with theirs, so these groups are not interested. I have tried to connect with Catholic priests' wives, but I don't get responses from either the few Roman-rite wives or Byzantine-rite ones. I am trying not to take it too personally because I know that everyone is busy. I suspect that part of the problem is that us wives do not want to make 'waves' and ruin things for our clergy husbands.

7. You will be shocked at the anti-marriage opinions of even the clergy who do get to be married first- I wrote this post awhile ago as a response to Fr L's insistence that his priesthood would be more fruitful if he weren't married. It hurts. 
so- this post is a downer- maybe a bit too realistic. I say any 'success' found in this crazy life is case-by-case and whether the couple depends on each other for support. We are grateful that we get to live this life even through our struggles and imperfections. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

pretty happy funny real....Pope Francis

pretty beautiful true necessary
Pope Francis serving the Mass ad orientem- towards the East, leading the people to God in prayer
What is 'Catholic?' Pope Francis preaches on the importance of diversity in the Church.

Pope Francis and the boy in the yellow shirt; let's not quarrel about it being proper or not for the boy to be there. Jesus' love was given
Pope Francis, like many saints, showing compassion for the physically imperfect (CNN image)
I feel so blessed to have 'known' three great popes so far in my life- John Paul II of blessed memory, Benedict, and Francis

a November daybook

written on the first of the month...forgotten
Outside my window...the dog is chasing dry leaves. I love Fall- I wish we lived in a true 4-season place like Soulemama, Leila or even Posie gets cozy...

I am thinking...of the projects that I have been avoiding like meal planning, calendar wrangling and music/video inventorying. isn't it silly that I am avoiding what will make my life easier? 

I am thankful...for my parents' 46 years of marriage! Happy anniversary!

In the kitchen...mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and garlicky meatballs

I am wearing... my Byzantine cross, a blue t-shirt and jeans...pretty causal 

I am creating...preschoolish Thanksgiving art projects- Turkey handprints anyone?

I am do laundry before I rush off to teach mt class...nothing profound, but that's life

I am wondering...if the icecream truck man outside in the parking lot really thinks that he is going to get sales on the day after Halloween and in sixty degree weather. The truck is playing 'O Christmas Tree.'

I am reading...The Way of Love: The Battle for Inner-Transformation by Dr Rhonda Chervin- I got the Kindle version, so I have to use a notebook to journal the 'homework' that is part of the book. Dr Chervin was a professor of my siblings at Franciscan University. 

I am learn how to live better isolated. This is the most difficult part of being a clergy wife. A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that we were in need of prayers. I didn't give any specific reasons- yes, it was an annoying and vague post. Anyway, many people chimed in that they would be praying for us. I felt better. Well, I felt better until my husband called me from a middle of the week business trip for his hospital job, saying "What is going on?" I guess a woman I barely know from over ten years ago, not on my list of Facebook friends,  has been somehow 'following' me on Facebook, saw the prayer request, told her mother who we do know who then called my husband. How dare I ask for general support! Priest's wives are supposed to stay quiet! It is really difficult even for an extreme introvert like I. I really am completely alone. I hope other clergy wives are able to navigate better than I have. 

I am looking forward to...Christmas break! Yes- it is far off, but I feel the need for so true relaxation. Oh wait- Christmas and New Year is actually some of the busiest times for my family...

I am learning...algebra again through helping my older daughters. Did I really get Bs in Algebra 1 and 2? 

Around the house...the big girls are memorizing their roles for Two Gentlemen of Verona.

I am pondering...this meme from 'Grumpy Orthodox Cat'
A favorite quote for today... "All of these adults complaining about the time change. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PLAY GOD"- a silly thought from 'Honest Toddler' on Twitter

One of my favorite things...Irish breakfast tea with a big splash of egg nog instead of milk and honey...moderation....

A few plans for the rest of the week: inventory the children's clothes and go shopping a bit....two girls are down to not much because of growth spurts

A peek into my day...just imagine the sounds of Lego being rattled in a bin while two little kids chose the next piece...and a dog biting a squeaky ball and big girls practicing their en pointe dance to the Beatles "Do you want to know a secret." -and me...tapping away at a little blog post.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I'm Byzantine. Can I still celebrate All Saints' and All Souls'?

Yes. You guessed it. Byzantine Catholics have different days to celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
Eastern Christians of the Byzantine Tradition commemorate all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints' Sunday.
The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI "the Wise" (886–911). His wife, Empress Theophano commemorated on 16 December, lived a devout life. After her death in 893, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints", so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not. (from wikipedia- sorry- and the clip art was drawn by artist Enid Chadwick...)
and what about All Souls' Day?
It isn't one day.
On the day before the Sunday of the Last Judgement (Meatfare Sunday before the Great Lent), and in close connection with the theme of this Sunday, there is a universal commemoration of the dead "from the ages". This is the First All Souls Saturday. There are additional special commemorations of the dead on the second, third and fourth Saturdays during the Great Fast as well as on the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday. 

Before we call to mind the Second Coming of Christ next Sunday, we commend to God all those departed before us, who are now awaiting the Last Judgement. In the liturgical celebrations for these Saturdays there is a strong sense of the continuing bond of mutual love that links together all the members of the Church, whether alive or dead. For those who believe in the risen Christ, death does not constitute an impassable barrier, since all are alive in Him; the departed are still our brothers and sisters, members of the same family with us, and so we are conscious of the need to pray insistently on their behalf.
At the local parish the commemoration of the dead takes the form of special prayers. These prayers include the reading of the names of all those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. These days are devoted to prayer for departed relatives and others among the faithful who might not be commemorated specifically as Saints. The Divine Services on these days have special hymns added to them to commemorate the departed. There is normally a Parastas (memorial service) served either after the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning, or after Vespers on Friday evening, for which sweet bread and/or koliva (a dish made of boiled wheatberries and honey) is prepared and placed in front of the cross or icon before which the Parastas is served. After the service, the priest blesses the sweet bread and/or koliva and it is then eaten as a memorial by all present.

So, in answer to the Byzantine Catholic who posed the question- of course, you can commemorate these days on the Latin calendar! I did, but I will first remember my own traditions as a Byzantine Catholic. For the health and beauty and truth of the Church, let us not forget our traditions wherever we live.