21 September 2009

Orthodox Friends, the Pacific Northwest, & Books


Well, I apologise, dear readers, for the lengthy delay in returning to Logismoi. I had intended to at least do something over the weekend, but as it turned out there just wasn’t any time. A very good friend of mine from my days in Thessaloniki, the former Deacon Jesse Philo of Walla Walla, Washington (pictured circling the altar before his ordination), was ordained to the holy priesthood Saturday morning by His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco (ROCOR). Fr Jesse’s fun-loving Matushka, Elizabeth, had the wonderful idea of flying me out to Washington to surprise him. So with only my wife’s plane ticket to pay for (we had to leave the children behind), we left for Portland, Oregon last Wednesday. I would of course have notified Logismoi readers of my whereabouts except that I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

We spent the night Wednesday in The Dalles, OR, with Fr Luke Hartung and his family (also Thessaloniki friends) and received a tour of their business, Uncut Mountain Supply. We were picked up by Matushka Elizabeth Thursday afternoon, who drove us to Walla Walla. That evening we surprised Fr Jesse and spent a relaxing time with his family, seeing Walla Walla, and attending the Divine Services at their parish, St Silouan the Athonite Orthodox Church (ROCOR). While there, we had the pleasure of meeting and drinking with Reader Patrick Barnes (whose back is to the camera in the above photo) of Orthodox Information Center fame (check out the pdf and MP3 of his response to Peter Bouteneff’s recent AFR podcast on ecumenism), and Daniel Mackay, an English professor and expert on Walt Whitman (Daniel’s work on Whitman, of which I read a good sample, is quite disturbing in its implications!) who is being ordained to the diaconate in Eugene, OR, this weekend. We also reunited with another Thessaloniki friend, John Garner, who is currently trying to complete his dissertation with Demetrios Tselengides on the epistemology of modern philosophy of science (exemplified by Karl Popper) compared and contrasted with that of St Gregory Palamas.

Saturday evening we returned to The Dalles and attended some lovely services Sunday morning at the Dormition Orthodox Church, the small Serbian mission under Fr Hartung. After lunch with the parish, Patrick drove us to Goldendale, WA, where we saw the St John the Forerunner Monastery for women (GOA) and met some old friends, including John Garner’s wife, Lucia, and one of the nuns whom we’d met in her kosmiki days (when Lucia's daughter produced a violin, my wife entertained us all with some impromptu fiddling). From there, a young engaged couple drove us back to Portland. We spent the night with a wonderful old priest and his wife, Fr Nicholas and Matushka Barbara Letten, before leaving this morning for OKC.

I have returned heavy-laden with books and icons, many of them gifts from our friends. I bought two at a charming old used bookshop in Walla Walla called Earthlight Books: C.K. Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents (NY: Harper, 1961), and T.S. Eliot, Selected Essays (London: Faber, 1949), the latter being one I had long wanted. I bought two others, with birthday money, at the monastery in Goldendale: Saint Herman of Alaska: His Life and Service, by the St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2009), and Constantine Cavarnos, trans., The Philokalia (Belmont: Institute for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, 2008). The latter includes Cavarnos’s translation of St Nicodemus’s Proem and texts by St Anthony the Great, St Isaiah the Anchorite, Evagrius the Monk, St John Cassian, and St Mark the Ascetic, along with St Nicodemus’s biographical notes on all of these authors.

I was generously given, however, copies of St John of Kronstadt, Counsels on the Christian Priesthood: Selected Passages from My Life in Christ, ed. W. Jardine Grisbrooke (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1994), Elder Ephraim of Arizona, Counsels from the Holy Mountain: Selected from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim (Florence, AZ: St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, 1999), Sisters of the Holy Convent of Chrysopigi, ed., Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios (Limni, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2005), as well as volumes 2 through 6—several of which I’d read previously—of the Optina Elders series published by the St Herman Brotherhood: Elders Anthony, Macarius, Ambrose, Nektary, and Sebastian. I also received spare copies of The Boundless Garden, Elder Cleopa’s The Truth of Our Faith, I and II, and Divine Ascent 1:3/4 (Entry of the Most-Holy Theotokos, 1998), one of my favourite issues of the latter journal.

It was a fun trip, reuniting with many old friends and making many new ones, but it’s good to be back. Hopefully now I can make up for my absence a bit! Oh, and to Fr Jesse, who wisely avoids my blog: Axios, Axios, Axios!

Addendum: It's occurred to me that I should have used this post as an opportunity to say thank you to those who hosted us—the Hartungs, the Philos, & the Lettens—and to those who drove us around—Fr Luke, Matushka Elizabeth, John (whose last name I don't know), Patrick, Brian (I think!), and Fr Nicholas. We are very grateful for your kindness and Christian love. Not that any of these people—except, occasionally it seems, Fr Jesse, and now perhaps Patrick—ever reads this blog. But there it is!

15 comments:

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

That sounds like a great time! Welcome back home. I hope Fr Jesse enjoyed the surprise.

It really is a small world, in the end. At least when you don't have to walk everywhere....

Now I'll have to go and read what Patrick wrote!

Patrick Barnes said...

Hey Aaron! It was wonderful to finally meet you and Brigid. I had to laugh at your "...drinking with..." comment. That was really good goat's milk, eh? ; ) Highlights of your visit were our stimulating conversations and Brigid's impromptu violin concert at the monastery bookstore. (You're a blessed man.) God be with you, and I look forward to continuing to follow your very fine blog!

aaronandbrighid said...

Kevin> Yes, it was awesome. Fr Jesse was completely surprised. I even employed a clever ruse to throw him off the scent Wednesday morning, calling him to say 'Axios!' and mentioning how I looked forward to seeing pictures.

Patrick> Likewise, my friend! 'Goat's milk'? Is that what they're calling it these days?

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

"Goat's milk" on "Wednesday"? And you guys call yourselves Orthodox?!!

Just kidding! That was my implementation of ecumenist reading comprehension and quotation techniques.

I am in the middle of Patrick's pdf. VERY NICE.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Thank you, Patrick (again)!

That is a fine piece of writing, very clear, developing the argument very nicely.

Aaron, this one is kind of creepy: I Googled Daniel McKay Whitman, thinking "I wonder if he's noticed what I noticed?" and the very second hit was a link mentioning his dissertation:
"Mackay, Daniel. “Advertising the Soul: Walt Whitman's Luciferic Voice in Twentieth-Century American Poetry.” Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Oregon, 2008."

The answer is "Yes." "Disturbing" is an understatement!

aaronandbrighid said...

Kevin> Yes, in case there is any confusion, it is clear that Daniel is critiquing Whitman in this reading, indeed, lamenting W's moral influence in American poetry. He repeatedly contrasts W's ideas (the addition of Satan to the Holy Trinity to form the 'square deific', the deification of the unredeemed self, etc.) with the teaching of Christianity, but he tries to do so without sounding alarmist or polemical. The article he showed me, which definitely dealt with the 'Luciferic voice', had a fairly objective academic POV, but knowing Daniel, there could be no doubt what he thought about all of this. He is a devout and traditional Orthodox Christian!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

That's good to know, Aaron. I was recently working on Whitman (I hadn't read him for years) and ran across that creepiness. I am thoroughly comfortable with being alarmist about it, however! He's poison.

What I was working on is the cleaned-up edition of Leaves of Grass edited by the Pre-Raphaelite literary critic William Rossetti (Dante and Christina's brother). His edition was titled Poems by Walt Whitman, including a slightly edited Prologue originally included in the first edition of Leaves of Grass, and a selection of poems rearranged into various different sections. It was Rossetti's edition that gained Whitman positive reviews amongst the English literati, and led to the (typical) aping of their opinion in the American press. Had it not been for Rossetti's work (and Ralph Waldo Emerson's endorsement), Whitman would've been entirely ignored and forgotten, ending up only a curiosity of well-printed but not very good poetry (95% crap, with a few lucky hits, it seems) in a demagogic mode.

As it is, I now think Whitman was simply an unhinged fraud, which is undoubtedly closer to the mark than "genius poet", which he is absolutely, certainly not.

Patrick Barnes said...

Kevin> Thank you for your kind words. I am told Dr. Bouteneff has read it and will be responding. After hearing his rather over-the-top 9/18 podcast (that came out a day after mine), I think I will be saying a lot more. I hope something fruitful comes of all this.

Ian Climacus said...

Many, many years to Fr Jesse!

And sounds like a most wondrous weekend away. Time with friends, old and new, is a great blessing.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Patrick, you're very welcome. You've always done good work and I've always appreciated it. Your web site is a real treasure!

My first thought when I read your "I hope something fruitful comes of all this" was "Don't hold your breath!" But, stranger things have happened....

T. Ambrose Nazianzus said...

Spare copies of the Boundless Garden? You should hold a contest for your readers! Or share. Either way.

Do keep up the good work. I've enjoyed your blog immensely (I too find myself with more books than I know what to do with...such is seminary life).

aaronandbrighid said...

Ambrose> That's a great idea, and I'd love to do that with some book some time, but I've already got ideas for how to use my spare copy of Papadiamandis. And I'm afraid I don't have spare copies of anything else that would get anyone very excited!

T. Ambrose Nazianzus said...

Aw curses.

As to the other titles: you might be surprised. The free book fairy has a way of making anyone interested in a title.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't always avoid your blog...

+Fr. Jesse

aaronandbrighid said...

Yes, but you avoid it judiciously! ;-)