Christ is Risen!

This is well worth a read, from Fr. Stephen Freeman.


Holy Week

We are so thankful to be immersed in Holy Week, as we participate in the passion of our Lord Christ. The fig tree has been cursed (and woe to my unfruitful heart), the temple has been cleansed (and woe to my covetousness and hypocrisy), and tonight the disputations with the Lord (and woe to my wrangling out of the simple and formidable gospel).  And we eagerly look forward to the resurrection – when our parish will gather at 11pm for readings and vigil, and most folks will probably go home between 2am and 3am, full of joy (and food).

It’s only the second Holy Week I have experienced, and I can only be thankful and hopeful for many more. It is too bad that Roman Easter drifts from the Orthodox, but the upshot, I guess, is that this year any western inquirer doesn’t have to choose between celebrations – rejoice twice! Christ is Risen!

Tempted by Hell

The Angelic Powers were at Thy tomb;
the guards became as dead men.
Mary stood by Thy grave,
seeking Thy most pure body.
Thou didst capture hell not being tempted by it.
Thou didst come to the Virgin, granting life.
O Lord, Who didst rise from the dead, glory to Thee.

-Resurrection Troparion, Tone 6, 2nd Sunday of Great Lent

This troparion struck me by its assertion that Christ was not tempted by hell. Preposterous, right? As though the author of life could be tempted by hell?

But then I apprehended it. When we sulkily reject the good to continue in the comfortable bad, we are tempted by hell – by wanting the world, if just for a moment, to be a place of unrestrained passion, lust, pride, and egoism. Wanting the world to be hell, just for the sake of our fleeting pleasure. And Christ did not forget his temptation, no doubt. Recall that the devil left him “until an opportune time”. All the kingdoms of the world and their glory were offered him by Satan.

And that is the geography of hell.

Recall when the prophet spoke of the shades being roused up to meet the king of Babylon when he descends to Sheol. Et tu, Babylon? All your glory has become as ours – laid in the dust. All these same kings of the earth in their dusty glory saw Christ descend, and saw him choose to ascend, leading hosts of captives in his train. The Son of God – who had just been forsaken by God – chose not to dwell on the offense of the cross, not to sorrow for himself (“weep rather for yourselves, if this is done in the greenwood, what of the dry?”), not to hold equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but to suffer the deepest of shame. And to return in triumph, bearing spoil for his Father.

Perhaps Lucifer thought that Jesus, like him, would forever rage at the indignity of expulsion from heaven. That the crushed Son might rage harder than the fallen angel. But the Son ever submitted to the will of the Father – something the fallen angel never did. And so the Son was not tempted by hell, but captured it, and brought life to the world.

…Glory to thy resurrection, O Christ! Glory to the Kingdom! Glory to thy dispensation, O only lover of Mankind!

-From Resurrectional Troparion,  Tone 1

(As a side note, it is glorious that the resurrectional troparia are sung at liturgy during lent – for the liturgy proper belongs to the resurrection, not to the period of fasting and waiting, and liturgies are not accounted part of lent at all. We do not fast only in mourning for sin, but also to prepare for the feast of the resurrection.)

In Christ, who is Risen indeed!



Moving Hearths

I think we’re buying a new house.

This is a poignant move, as we love our house in Tempe, and we have so many people to thank for all their help with it.

My father, God rest his soul, helped so much, and it is a sort of legacy to him. My last memories of him are working on the living room floor, leveling the deck before laying the flooring. We went out to dinner with him that Saturday evening. He died very early that Monday morning. I can’t look at our floor, our level cabinets and counters, and many other things, without seeing his handiwork (often as not, marred by my own less experienced hands later).

Our dear friends, the Roes, painted and textured and worked innumerable hours beside us as we made our home here. It saddens me that I have not been able to work beside them in their Texas house. Perhaps I now understand my brother’s laments to this effect from many years ago, when his college-aged little bro spent time helping him on projects around the Indianola house. We can only ever give where we are right now. But we always get to give where we are right now, somehow, to someone. And we don’t count the cost.

Friends from Calvin church, notably John and Chris, also gave so generously to help us move into a very pleasant house. And there are many more that I probably ought to mention. Evi was born in the house.

Nevertheless, our family of seven (plus our dear friends and housemates, numbering four going on five) are filling up the 1600 square feet here. I look back and realize that we bought the house with one child ex-utero, one in-utero, and one adoption in process. That was a different time for our family. It was a joyful time, yes, but also a less-full time.

Since then, we have been further filled. We have sorrowed in many ways. We have rejoiced in many ways. We are wearied in many ways. I feel at times estranged from myself (as I suspect that my ten-years-ago or even five-years-ago self would think me now a bit odd), but also know more than ever before that Christ is the only rock and foundation of reality. Indeed, the world as we encounter it daily is estranged in many ways from its true self, which is hidden (like mine) with Christ in God.

This is aufgehoben. The swallowing up of the old good things by the new good things. I love orange blossoms – their fragrance is incomparable. But I also love oranges. The new house has lots of orange trees.

The kids are excited. They are also sad. It is good to see them joy and sorrow. I hope they will learn it better, and younger, than their father. And Lent is coming, where the greatest sorrow and joy are lived again in the Passion, Burial, and glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christ is Risen! May He bless our new home for His service.

Alma Deutscher, Classical Composer

Alma Deutscher is a 12 year old girl who is a child prodigy. She wrote an opera Cinderella which is available for free with a free account on, and I HIGHLY recommend watching it if you can find the time. Its about two and a half hours, you can break it up. She wrote the libretto as well as the music by herself. It has premiered in Vienna and also in the United States. I’ve seen plenty of “child prodigies” playing Flight of the Bumble Bee on the internet, but this is different.

Her parents, get this, have Ph.D’s from Cambridge, her father in linguistics and her mother in Old English. They live outside of London in the countryside, and they homeschool their kids. Her father ran into a book that kind of straddles the two genres of linguistics and music by Robert Gjerdingen called Music in the Galant Style that gave him the idea of having her learn music in a different way than the standard, test oriented culture of British musical education. Gjerdingen outlines his theory that in the 18th century, music was heard differently, similarly to the way manners were understood differently. There was a system of tropes, or basic formulas, which could be executed with varying degrees of taste, and the listener was to judge the elegance of the compositional execution. What to us all sounds the same was in fact a very refined system of elocutions where one note could make the difference between sound and poor judgment. The way composers learned to write so much music was not that they had superlative amounts of talent, though many of them did, but rather that they were schooled in these tropes with a kind of musical fill-in-the-blank system of pedagogy known as partimento. A partimento might give you some notes to work with, and you had to come up with what notes might sound good with the ones presented. They range from relatively simple to extremely complex, with entire fugues capable of being constructed from just one line of music given in a partimento exercise. The important thing is that there are always several possibilities, and the student learns how to put the fragments and tropes together (the original meaning of composition). So Guy Deutscher got the idea that this way of teaching from Italy in the 18th century sounded like a good way to educate his daughter, who was already very talented from the beginning. And now she writes operas. I think they are on to something. I am currently poring over Gjerdingen’s book, not so that I can write great operas (I’m not that talented) but so that maybe someone I teach someday will be able to.

If you watch or read any interviews with Alma, a theme will always reappear: she reads copiously and her parents keep her as far from screens as possible. She has her own imaginary world which reminds me very much of C.S. Lewis’s that he describes in Surprised by Joy. She listens to the melodies which the characters in that world create, and then she picks the ones she likes to put into her music. I think that no matter how talented a child is in music or anything else, they should all be allowed to have an imagination. If we can keep screens out of their way for long enough, this birthright will be theirs.

Maybe you shouldn’t show your kids the opera because its on a screen. You can decide on that one.

G.K. Chesterton on the New Year

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

From Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton

Classical Radio

I decided I am into the radio. Now it is not very important to me whether it be sent by electromagnetic waves or the internet, but the way that it works has some very strong points in its favor. You don’t get to control when it starts or stops. The programming just runs, whether you catch it or not. The world does not revolve around us. You also do not get to pick what is on it. Of course you can choose the station, but not the content. This is bowing to someone else’s decision about what is important for you to hear (assuming they are not merely trying to manipulate you, which is likely). Once upon a time there was such a thing as a local radio station rather than a syndicated behemoth, but I am not sure whether such things any longer exist. If they do, I think that is a good thing too, because not every place in the whole world should be the same. Currently, I am into KMFA, Austin’s classical music radio station. There is sadly no classical radio station in Houston, so this will have to serve as local enough. I have little experience with different classical radio stations but so far this one is good. Its a good mix, very little non-music time, and most importantly of all they do not just play an endless stream of justly forgotten Baroque music. It may be bizarre and strangely surreal to hear in the 21st century Telemann’s cousin’s 234th oboe concerto performed by a pick-up group of musicians called the Academy of Prehistoric Music, but it is not very satisfying as a steady diet. Phoenix, sadly, I am looking at you.

Having to pick one’s own music to listen to can be tiring. For me, every decision I have to make in a day contributes to how exhausted I feel at the end of it. There are things that I would never pick but which I probably should hear and its good to have it mixed in with other stuff I would have picked if I had known about it. But it takes someone smart to do this, and right now KMFA Austin is doing a good job.