As it is not yet the Dormition Fast for us who abide in the Julian reckoning, I am thinking Christmas-y thoughts (since it's still old calendar July). That is, I am composing a wish list of things I want, and probably do not really need.
You are welcome to add your own.
1. The pulling-of-the-plug of TV, radio, and Internet microphone-festishists.
They are enemies of the English language. They are badly in need of Freudian psychiatry, and of prosecution for being traitors to the true Western conservativism of dignity and prudence. William Jennings Bryan would emeticize at both Limbaugh and Olbermann. Calhoun would go bald from despair over Glenn Beck: but this morose fact wouldn't trouble the latter, as the latter is completely uninformed of the former, and many others. Why would something minor like history and truth matter to dreckism?
2. The evaporation of Twitter.
I am not opposed to "tweeting" because it is an enemy of the English language. It is certainly that, of course. But we Americans have moved far away from the English language, and actually speak something very akin to Twitter-ish. Tweeting became popular simply because that is how we speak already. I want said evaporation only because as a Web-program, it is positioned to program how we think. Perhaps this is happening already. Look at how politicians cannot speak in sentences, much less in paragraphs. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas have become just as irrelevant and insensitive as St. John Chrysostom, whose sermons stretched for hours. They'd all be passed over for cute tweets from Palin.
3. The monastic sabbatical of all chancerists, consistorians, deans, metropolitan counciliarists, trustees, commissioners, canon lawyers, sadducees, pharisees, scribes, theological advisors, ethicists, bio-ethicists, professors, panelists, statement-writers, ad hoc committee members, jurists, nuncios, and Jerry Lewis impersonators.
A stay in a monastery with a full course of canonical hours and fasting silence would be just what the Doctor ordered for the American church, n'est-ce pas? I am thinking of varied length for such a sabbatical: perhaps its duration would be geared to the value of the clergyman's automobile (one year for a Focus, ten for a Beamer); or to the number of degrees in the clergyman's pedigree (one year for a bachelor's, ten for a D.Min., rather an infinity for a Ph.D). Of course, such an idea would be rendered meaningless by the simple fact that the persons who would be eligible for the shortest durations would naturally desire the longest ones. Go figure. It would be better than a stay at a casino or a resort or at – my "favorite" (Derridean scare quotes intended) ecclesial haunt – Las Vegas. It would be better than a two-hour cruise that would inevitably end up at an episcopalian Gilligan's Isle. I think that if your title (and I possess a few of these myself) is more than two syllables long, then your office is an enemy of the English language, and is probably so caught up in the fog of institutionalized virtual reality (the kind that needs no computer) that it fails to see the rather bracing eschatological goings-on. Honestly, doesn't it frost you that a lot of self-possessed cerkovnik second-level secret big kahunas are celebrating their bureaucratic gravitude while the Persians are running off with the True Cross? I am somewhat aware that our hierarchs, whom I sincerely honor in the way of St. Ignatius, have arrived at a re-affirmation of canonical governance in the Old World (i.e., one bishop to a city, and a diocese that is geographical instead of ethno-magickal and gerrymanderickal). But I am not aware of how this will ever be worked out in America, where there is too much casino-going and too much microphone-fetishism. SCOBA may or may not be a thing of the past, and I pleasantly hope that things might work out for something better sooner than later. But jurisdictionalism – even its nice, millenarian sort (i.e., one jurisdiction in America) – is a mare's nest compared to the irksome matter of repentance, prayer and fasting. I think that God doesn't care much for jurisdictional matters while we neglect the more important things of the Law – like mercy, humility and meekness, and theosis.
4. Universal health care for all Americans, born and unborn.
In other words, the eradication of abortion, and the provision of decent subsistence living – food, water, shelter and health – for everyone. The two issues go hand in hand. You cannot be a pro-lifer without being a pro-healther. And you can't support universal health care without opposing death-care for fetuses.
5. The protection of marriage as a sacrament, and the discouragement of divorce, homosexual behavior, pornography, and all other forms of fetishism and declinations from Edenic humanity.
6. The protection of nature and human nature.
Conservatives cannot cavil at conservation without looking quite inane and insane (in the words of one Republican commentator: "our party has become a bunch of seventh-graders on a cruise"). Human nature is not produced biologically or sociologically. Nature is not understood self-evidently. Both natures, man and Mother, can be understood fully, and intelligently, only from Holy Tradition.
7. The protection of Sunday. The discouragement of over-programming youth ...
... this over-programming (i.e., athletics, song-and-dance moribundities) inevitably discourages youth from their Christian religion. Sunday school programming (and I don't mean "Sunday School") is inherently anti-Christian.
8. The discovery that many American church activities and structures have little meaning in Orthodox tradition.
Take, for example, the famous example of "convention." Try to find this in the annals of Tradition. You will find the words "Council" and "Synod," but not "Convention" or "Conference" (and no, Cassian's "Conferences" do not count here). You will not find, unsurprisingly, the word "Web," "Web Site," or "Internet" either. It is instructive that Holy Tradition has nothing explicit to say about the "Internet" or "Virtual Reality." You may also find me blearingly obtuse here, and willfully boorish. Yes, I am (about this especially). But Holy Tradition has a lot to say about the passions of lust, anger, and forgetfulness of God – soul-searing conditions that domineer the Internet and many other extra-Traditional American church activities and structures. We Ortho-converts, in this vein, love to rail about ethnic chotski's like 50-50 raffles and Chinese Auctions … but then we bring in our own whitebread ethotic twaddle of right-wingerism and un-obliteratable fundamentalism: our heart-of-heart conversations are so profoundly predicated upon these categories that we are as unaware of them as a fish is unaware of the water in which he wriggles. To wit: the first time that we ex-fundamentalists will be able to actually believe, naturally, in the Trinity as life instead of propositional intellectuality will be when we open our eyes in Paradise.
Or this (which will make more sense): the first time we ex-Prots hear about a problem, we immediately clamor for a Commission -- just like the Israelites campaigned for a King who was sure to raise their taxes (they did so, by the way). We read that the Book of Acts says something about "the Lord adding to their number daily," or about the Macedonian ghost saying "come help us," and we immediately lapse into old cliches like evangelism and "missiology" and -- wait for it -- we line up the inevitable "Commission on Mission" (which, I grant you, has assonance and consonance and even a little syncopation, but possesses nothing of the savor of Pentecost -- kind of kills it, actually).
As a convert, I really, really cannot stand the influx of Protestant/Evangelical/Charismatic yuk-words into Orthodoxy. And it's all getting yukkier every year.
But I digress. There are many other things that find little purchase in the mind of the Church, and in the realm of the Apostolic Theoria. Many of these things may not be so bad, and some of them may be commendable. Constantinople and the entire Byzantine Empire were nice things, undoubtedly, temporary as they were. And the Church benefited from their historic tenure. I am sure that in the same way, pirohi sales and Ethnic Festivals and church kitchens and halls are helpful, to some extent, as are Sunday School programs, lay organizations (well, maybe), and even some Church Boards (you will not like that remark).
There are some things, however, that are unknown in the mind of the Church and cannot be known, for sinful things can not be named in the Church's consciousness. They have no history – and what passes for history for these things are simply chronologies of passion and degeneration. There are some individual and corporate actions and structures that have pretty names, like baubles airbrushed in gold, but are nameless in truth, and will not stand in either time or tide and will crumble into sand.
If you, as a churchman or churchwoman, want to know whether your thing is a nameless, non-Traditional thing like that, then all you've got to do is wonder. Wonder whether you're mad instead of glad. Wonder whether you despair, or you are sad (just to be clear: opt for the latter, refuse the former). Wonder whether you are seeing red now at persons instead of demons (be angry all you want at the devils, but never at your fellow man).
Wonder at these things, because you must know that the devil and his tattered mob dwell, somehow, in the vapors of human passion. I think, if you are curious, that they rather get off from the whole business of the soul's unnatural darkness. (Human sin is diabolical fetish. Satan has more in common with leprosy than the wonderously false Byronic figure in Milton. Let's get real.)
Wonder, too, whether you are protecting your wealth or position or your portfolio or your opinions: if you are, you have no room in your backpack for the Cross.
It is bad enough when a capitalist protects his wealth from the poor, or when a socialist protects his opinions from reality. It is worse, far, far and damnably worse when this happens in the Church. For happen these things do, and the Cross becomes jewelry and the Theotokos is nowhere to be found.
The Cross is the Sign of the Church: there are too many things in the American Church that bear no resemblance to that Sign.
And that is what I want for this Christmas in July. Just the Sign for me, and room enough on my back, and crossbearing in this lovely land.
That is probably also what I need.
Marian Christmas to all, and to all a Good night.