That Which is Bread

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? – Isaiah

Category: Uncategorized

Timeless, timely

This poster, which ought to hang in every kitchen, was created in 1917 as part of an effort to encourage Americans to economize on the Home Front during the First World War. But the advice is good at any time.
Food Poster 1917
I’m not so sure about “Use less wheat,” but with everyone worrying about gluten sensitivities, who can say?

Source: The Kitchn

Wounded by the Gospel

NT Papyrus
Here are a few excerpts from a talk by Archpriest Alexei Uminsky, rector of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Moscow. Emphases added.

What is it that a priest normally asks someone about at Confession? “Have you read your morning and evening prayers? Have you kept the fasts? Have you prepared for Communion?” But the question of whether someone lives according to the Gospel is never asked! No one would even conceptualize it: neither priests, nor the people of God. But this is one of the very greatest problems in our church life. The Gospel has faded into the background, for understandable reasons. It’s very inconvenient to live with the Gospel; it’s very difficult for us to apply the words of the Gospel to ourselves. For whom are these words written? For whom are the words about the kind of faith that can move mountains written? For whom are these words written: Lord, bid me come unto Thee on the water [cf. Matthew 14:28]? We have a feeling, when reading the Gospel, that makes us say: This isn’t about us; this is written about someone else; this has nothing to do with us. But as soon as we decide that something in the Gospel has nothing to do with us, then we begin – step by step – to give up on the Gospel. Then the Gospel becomes just another kind of prayer rule for us. What we don’t understand in the least is that the Gospel is written for us, that we need to live according to it, that we need to measure ourselves by it. And we need to carry it out.
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Manners, morals and printers

James Joyce

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that, late in life, I’m finally reading James Joyce’s Dubliners in its entirety. I’ve read “The Dead”, the famous final story in the collection, several times all the way through, and its heartbreaking final monologue many times — but never the entire book. Looking up its history I found that Joyce first submitted the manuscript to a publisher in 1905, but the book wasn’t finally published until 1914. Twice a publisher accepted the manuscript then rejected it for immoral or offensive content. In one case the publisher had no problem with the stories, but the printer refused to set some of them. This may mean that printers were once more moral than they are today, but I suspect that it also reflects a time when printers were often publishers and editors in their own right, not the technicians that they’ve become today.
I’ve made a bet with myself that I’ll read the entire book and not be able even to guess what it was that the publishers and printers of the early 20th century found so immoral that they would refuse publication. Thus have manners and morals changed in the past hundred years.

Prostopinije: a lament

Traditional wooden church in Slovakia

Traditional wooden church in Slovakia

From my first encounter with it, I’ve loved the Prostopinije, the distinctive liturgical plainchant of the Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox churches. Like the old Russian Znammeny chant, it’s always seemed to me to have the sobriety and spiritual depth that we see in Byzantine Chant, the Church’s oldest music. In America it’s still the official church music of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese and of the Byzantine Catholic parishes descended from Orthodoxy.
It’s hard to deny that Prostopinije is dying, rapidly.
The “Bible” of traditional Prostopinije is John Bokshai’s Tserkovnoje Prostopinije (Church Chant), published in 1906. The bishop of Uzhorod Cathedral, the story goes, was concerned that much of the Church’s traditional music was becoming less well known, so he employed Bokshai to transcribe the singing of the Cathedral’s cantor. Apparently the cantor didn’t read music and carried the huge deposit of traditional melodies in his head. Even in 1906 it seems that there was some concern that the tradition was endangered. Since then, the decline of Prostopinije as a living tradition has accelerated. I think that several factors have brought this about.
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Vexing the angels

TVKnow this:
that the holy angels encourage us to pray,
and when we do pray,
they stand beside us with great joy,
praying for us.
But if we grow careless
and admit wicked thoughts,
we greatly vex the angels,
for there they are struggling hard on our behalf,
and we cannot even be bothered
to pray to God for our own benefit
but have scorned their assistance
and dishonored their master and their God.

— Evagrius of Pontus
(Tr. Fr John Anthony McGuckin)

Blood, fire, clouds

Blood and fire and clouds of smoke
are the wonders which Joel foresaw on earth.
The blood is the Incarnation;
the fire is the Godhead;
the clouds of smoke are the Holy Spirit,
Who descended upon the Virgin
and has made the world fragrant.
Great is the mystery of your Incarnation!
O Lord, Glory to You!

— Praises, Matins for Sunday after Nativity

The prophecy is from Joel chapter 2, quoted in Acts chapter 2.


CurlewIndignant at the fumbling wits, the obscure spite
Of our old Paudeen in his shop, I stumbled blind
Among the stones and thorn-trees, under morning light;
Until a curlew cried and in the luminous wind
A curlew answered; and suddenly thereupon I thought
That on the lonely height where all are in God’s eye,
There cannot be, confusion of our sound forgot,
A single soul that lacks a sweet crystalline cry.

— William Butler Yeats, 1914

The Terrible Silence

Shared from Matushka Constantina’s Lessons from a Monastery blog:

Documentary on Polish Archimandrite.


Something else that had a big impact on me was at the end when the Archimandrite is asked, “Father, is it easy being a hermit in our times?” And Archimandrite Gabriel answers with an example. Three young men came to stay with him to see if they might be called to live the monastic life. The first lasted only 6 hours. The second stayed one day, but by 2:30AM his bags were packed and he was ready to leave. The third managed to stay 2 days, but was also ready to leave by 5:30AM. When the hermit asked them the reason they did not want to stay they all gave the same answer. Can you guess? I did. It was the silence. “The terrible silence.” They couldn’t handle it.

And this leads me to ask myself, and you can ask yourself, could you handle the silence? If not, what are we doing wrong and how can we change our dependency on noise?

Spiritual Sunbathing

A few months ago I visited Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery in Saxonburg, PA, to venerate a myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God that was visiting there. When the crowds of clergy, monastics and pilgrims had thinned a bit, I was able to spend some time sitting in the back of the small monastery church, not consciously praying, just taking in the presence of this holy icon in this holy place. Afterward I described this to our priest, a bit whimsically, as “spiritual sunbathing.” The metaphor reminded me of this well-known passage from St Basil the Great’s On the Holy Spirit (ch. 9, 22–23):

Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give. As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit shines become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

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Seek First

If there is one overarching debasement of the Christian vision in our days, it is the loss of a constant gaze upon the future life of man in the Kingdom… While the Christian may often acknowledge the Kingdom, may even speak of its attainment and its nature, how rarely today does an orientation of all life and living around and toward the Kingdom actually manifest itself, even among the baptized. Rather, the Kingdom of God is often taken as a kind of “backdrop” by which one can give a Christian flavor to the present. “I shall do such-and-such now, because such an act is loving, and the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of love.” Or, “I shall seek this good now, rather than that, because God’s Kingdom focuses on such aims.” It is not that there is no nobility in such reflections (certainly, they are better than a view which takes no account at all of the Kingdom); but the Christian life demands more than this. Christ does not say, “When you consider this life, remember the Kingdom and so let it inform what you seek.” Rather, He commands: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Only after He has given this sole and primary focus to Christian endeavor, does He add: and all these things will be added unto you.

— Archimandrite Irenei, The Beginning of a Life of Prayer pp.23-24

Archimandrite Irenei’s book is short but intense. Available from St. Herman Press. Emphasis added.