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Day 26, time at home

A few random observations.

So I’ve been home now for about a week and a half. I have made a dent in the “honey do” list, but like all “honey do” lists, it seems to and not grow chores as fast as I cross them off. I freely admit that I’ve been the one adding to the list, but I see things that need to be done and write them down, lest I forget about them. But overall, progress has been made and I am golden in my wife’s eyes.

A fine pair of Justin's

The boots I bought in Kerrville, TX, arrived last Thursday, exactly a week after I bought them. They’ve not taken any time to break in, which means they’ve been comfortable since the first time I put them on, and they make me about an inch taller, which is always fun, but it is impossible to sneak around the house in them: because of the heels, they clomp loudly.

It is very strange to be home and not to have pastoral work to see to, or services to set up, or sermons to prepare, or e-mail to check, or any of the usual stuff I do. It’s also caused me to lose track of time: for example, not celebrating Liturgy on Wednesday morning causes me to forget that trash goes out on Wednesday night. I often find myself at loose ends, and then I catch myself falling into the same patterns of distraction ‘n’ such that I noted when I first arrived at Lebh Shomea. I am realizing I have to live more consciously, especially at home, where the very structure of my home and my life invite certain patterns of behavior that have not served me well in the past. This is difficult to deal with, but not impossible.

I also discovered, much to my surprise, that, even though I have not read news websites or blogs or news aggregators about worldly politics, or church politics (or about much of anything else for that matter) for the past few weeks, the world has somehow managed to get along without me just fine. And here I had been thinking that the whole world couldn’t get by without me fretting over it daily. Moreover, I found that fretting over the world and the state of the Church simply made for stress that I didn’t need. There is some truth that ignorance is bliss, but there has to be a way of staying informed in a disinterested sort of way that doesn’t cause you grief or wound your heart. If there is, I haven’t found it yet.

Since I can’t go to my own parish for services while I’m on sabbatical, I have been attending services at local monasteries. I stayed overnight at St Gregory Palamas Monastery near Hayesville, OH, for Ascension last week, not only because it was a feast day and I should be in church, but also because I wanted to see a Vigil served in the Greek style before I went to Mount Athos, so that I might follow the Athonite service better, despite the language issue. The eve of Ascension at St Gregory Palamas consisted Little Vespers (there is such a thing) at 5 pm, dinner, then Vigil at 8, which included Compline, Great Vespers, Litya, Matins, and 1st Hour. The Abbott, Igumen Joseph, apologized that the Vigil was only 4 hours long, but they had only short melodies to sing, not long ones, like they have on Mount Athos. So we started at 8 and finished at midnight. In the morning, 3rd and 6th Hour preceded Liturgy at 9 am. I left after an excellent lunch.

Last Sunday I attended Liturgy at the Monastery of St John the Theologian near Hiram, OH, which is a monastery of my own diocese, and I know the fathers there well. I got there about 8:30 am, Liturgy was at 10, and there were but five visitors, myself included. Perhaps because there are only two monks at St John’s, meal time is not as structured as it is at St Gregory’s, meaning we didn’t listen to patristic readings during the meal, but got to talk freely, which is always pleasant. I will be going back to St John’s on Saturday evening and staying the night to attend the services of Pentecost. They will not be serving a full Vigil for the feast, but will be keeping their usual cycle of services: Great Vespers at 5 pm, then Matins on Sunday morning at 4:30 am, and Liturgy at 10 am.

Next week I do something unrelated to my sabbatical, but noteworthy nevertheless: I will be attending Acton Institute’s Acton University in Grand Rapids, MI, where I am privileged to be lecturing on “Orthodoxy and Environmentalism”. You can see more about Acton University here.