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reports and thoughts on legal issues, music, Orthodox Christianity and/or whatever else strikes my interest

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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Upcoming Shows

02/01 – Greg Brown @ McGonigel's Mucky Duck (sold out)
02/01 – Hayes Carll @ the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe (Galveston)
02/02 – The Octanes @ the Continental Club
02/03 – The Umbrella Man @ the Continental Club
02/05 – Johnny Falstaff @ Armadillo Palace
02/05 – Dr. John & The Neville Brothers @ House of Blues
02/05 – Craig Kinsey @ the Big Top
02/06 – Susan Tedeschi @ House of Blues
02/06 – Randy Weeks @ the Mucky Duck
02/06 – Bill Cade @ Anderson Fair
02/06 – Cross Canadian Ragweed @ Big Texas (Spring)
02/07 – Gov’t Mule @ House of Blues
02/07 – Tom Russell @ the Mucky Duck
02/07 – Randy Weeks @ Cactus Music (in-store)
02/07 – Denice Franke/Clive Gregson @ Cactus Music (in-store)
02/07 – Denice Franke/Clive Gregson @ Anderson Fair
02/07 – Jesse Dayton/John Evans @ the Continental Club
02/08 – Tesla @ House of Blues
02/08 – Swingfield Playboys @ the Mucky Duck
02/09 – Devotchka @ Warehouse Live
02/09 – Howe Squire White of Yes @ House of Blues
02/10 – Fred Eaglesmith @ the Mucky Duck
02/11 – Chris Knight @ the Continental Club
02/12 – Ian Moore @ the Mucky Duck
02/12 – Paula Nelson @ Dosey Doe’s
02/13 – Danny Schmidt/Idgy Vaughn/Will Sexton @ the Old Quarter
02/13 – Radney Foster @ Dosey Doe’s
02/13 – Dana Cooper @ Anderson Fair
02/13 – Stoney Larue @ Big Texas (Clear Lake)
02/13 - Macon Greyson @ Armadillo Palace
02/14 – Shake Russell @ the Mucky Duck
02/14 – Carrie Elkin/Sam Baker/Aimee Bobruk @ Anderson Fair
02/14 – Jerry Jeff Walker @ Dosey Doe’s
02/14 - Micky & the Motorcars @ Firehouse Saloon
02/15 - Notorious @ the Mucky Duck
02/17 – Hank III @ the Meridian
02/18 – Robin Williams @ Verizon Theater
02/19 – Joe Ely/Joel Guzman @ Dosey Doe’s
02/19 – Clandestine @ the Mucky Duck
02/20 – Austin Lounge Lizards @ the Mucky Duck
02/20 – The Hudsons @ the Old Quarter
02/21 – Lucinda Williams @ Warehouse Live
02/21 – Sisters Morales @ the Mucky Duck
02/21 – Matt the Electrician/Southpaw Jones @ Anderson Fair
02/21 – Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys @ the Continental Club
02/22 – Brennen Leigh @ the Mucky Duck
02/24 – Son Volt @ the Continental Club
02/25 – Mary Gauthier @ the Mucky Duck
02/25 – The Chieftains @ Jones Hall
02/26 – California Guitar Trio @ the Mucky Duck
02/27 – Two Tons of Steel @ the Armadillo Palace
02/27 – Jonny Lang @ House of Blues
02/27 – Adam Carroll/Michael O’Connor @ Anderson Fair
02/27 – James McMurtry @ the Continental Club
02/28 – The Pretenders @ House of Blues
02/28 – Patrice Pike @ the Mucky Duck
02/28 – Band of Heathens @ Dosey Doe’s


Russian Church monasteries increased thirty-six fold, parishes and clergy – more than fourfold under Alexy II

Original article at Interfax-Religion published on Jan. 27th:

Russian Church monasteries increased thirty-six fold, parishes and clergy – more than fourfold under Alexy II

Moscow, January 27, Interfax – The number of the Moscow Patriarchate monasteries has increased thirty-six fold and a half - from 22 to 804.

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Patriarchal Locum Tenens Metropolitan Kirill has cited this data in his report at the Local Council in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Tuesday.

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Russia has opened 234 monasteries and 244 nunneries, the CIS-countries and Baltic States – 142 monasteries and 153 nunneries, other foreign countries – three monasteries and three nunneries. Besides, the Russian Church Outside of Russia supervises over 16 monasteries and nine nunneries. There are 203 monastery representations and 65 hermitages.

The number of parishes increased fourfold for 20 years (from 6 893 to 29 263 parishes), the number of dioceses - twofold (from 76 to 157), clergy - more than fourfold (from 7 397 to 30 670) and the number of bishops increased almost thrice (from 74 to 203).

The number of acting churches in Moscow has increased twenty-two fold - from 40 to 872. The city had only one monastery acting before 1990, now there eight monasteries, 16 monastery representations, three seminaries, two Orthodox higher education establishments.


Icon starts streaming myrrh at Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Excerpt from this article from Interfax-Religion:

Icon starts streaming myrrh at Cathedral of Christ the Savior

Moscow, January 27, Interfax - The Softener of Evil Hearts Mother of God Icon at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow has started streaming myrrh.

Vesti television channel reported citing evidence of numerous churchgoers that the icon was "streaming myrrh very intensively."

In line with a long-standing church tradition, the icon has been specially brought to the Church Council meeting currently being held in Moscow, at which over 700 of its participants earlier cast their ballots to elect a new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

More information on the "Softener of Evil Hearts" icon can be found here.


Epistle of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church

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MOSCOW: January 28, 2009

Epistle of the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church

Dear in the Lord Pastors, Divinely-Wise Monks and Nuns, Beloved Brothers and Sisters, faithful children of our Holy Church!

The Local Council [Pomestny Sobor], held on January 27-28, 2009, at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, addresses you with the words of the Apostle: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Council has deemed worthy the fruits which, by the mercy of God, our Church has brought to the Lord over these last eighteen years since the last Local Council. At that Council, by the will of the Holy Spirit, the Hierarchy and the people of God chose His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia of blessed memory. This Council approved the works of the Councils of Bishops from 1990-2009, and the ecclesiastical efforts in various areas made during the Patriarchal service of His Holiness the late Patriarch. Expressing due gratitude to him for all his labors and cares, we appeal to our pastors and children of our Church to prayerfully remember our late Patriarch. His Holiness strove tirelessly to preserve the unity of the Church, protecting her from schisms and divisions, uniting people of various nationalities, generations and social strata. The main deed achieved by His Holiness the Patriarch, together with the late Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, was the reestablishment of the unity of the Russian Church Abroad and the Church in the Fatherland. And today, remembering the legacy of our late Patriarch, we must preserve and strengthen church unity, not allowing anyone to sow the seeds of discord among us.

Keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3) is a sign of the presence of Christ Himself in the community of His followers. Even as we preserve unity in the main thing—the Holy Orthodox Faith—we can have differences in individual questions relating to the life of the Church or society. But these differences must not lay the foundation for enmity, division and unfair accusations. The Local Council supports the document of the Holy Council of Bishops of 2008 "On the Unity of the Church" and calls upon the Fullness of the Church to follow it.

On January 27 of this year, by the will of the Holy Spirit, the Council elected His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

We ask the entire Church flock to fervently pray that our Chief Pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ, bountifully pours forth His mercies on the service of the new, sixteenth Patriach of Moscow and All Russia, that He grant him undiminished help in all his efforts, strengthen his spiritual and physical powers towards service to the Holy Church, that the Patriarchal labors of His Holiness Vladyka, our Father, the newly-elected Patriarch Kirill, bring fruits blessed by God.

During the last century, our Church passed through the furnace of tribulations, preserving faith and devotion to Christ. Today, new possibilities arise before her: missionary work, which we must actively pursue, for the Christian mission is the direct legacy of the Savior. The Resurrected Christ calls upon His disciples to follow Him and preach Divine Truth. The Lord came to save, but, in the words of the Apostle, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). May we all be servants and preachers of Christ the Savior, "by whom we have received grace and apostleship" (Romans 1:5).

The pastoral word and the example of Christian good works must reach the hearts of those who call themselves Orthodox Christians, but do not live a churchly life. For they are also a part of our Church, called by the Lord towards salvation. Rejoicing at the growing number of churches and priests, we must remember that it is the condition of the souls of men, their participation in the Mysteries and divine services, their moral and spiritual image that are the essential criteria of the efforts of the Church. We are called upon to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel of Christ, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). We must declare that only by following the eternal and unchanging moral values granted by Divine Revelation will we be able to overcome internal individual crises, the disintegration of the family and social problems. The Church carries this testimony to the entire world, to all people, especially children and youth. This is precisely why we must take the opportunity today to boldly turn to the young generation through preaching, through school, through the mass media.

Service to the church has always been yoked to care for people, those who need help and sympathy. Our duty is to feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, defend the unfairly injured, help the elderly, support the lonely, lighten the burden of the ailing, console those in despair.

The Local Council calls upon all the devoted flock of our Church to strengthen their unity in the name of Christ under the omophorion of our new Primate, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Through unified effort we must "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) and participate in the spiritual education of those near and far. "Pray," said the Apostle, "that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified" (2 Thessalonians 3:1). The most important thing is that we abide in the love of Christ, which supersedes state borders, national or other divisions, that we may fulfill the testament of the Savior, Who prayed his Heavenly Father for those who believe in Him: "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).

May the Lord God, glorified in the Holy Trinity, through the intercession of the Most-Pure Mother of God, by the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors and all the saints of our land, have mercy upon us and save us, through His grace and love for mankind. Amen.

Press Service of the Local Council

More info on the Archbishops and Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church can be found here (in Russian).


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Metropolitan Kirill Elected as Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church

His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad has been elected Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

More details can be found in this article from Interfax-Religion.

Photos from the election of the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia can be viewed here, here and here.

May God Grant His Holiness Kirill I Many Years! Axios! Axios! Axios!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Snowin' On Raton"

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Townes Van Zandt sings about Raton Pass along the Colorado and New Mexico border (h/t PTLDME).


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Executive Orders

The Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda signed (thus far) by President Obama can be viewed here.

A historical overview of Presidential Executive Orders can be viewed here.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Sola Scriptura Debunked

Fr. John Whiteford gives a masterful discourse on the fallacy of Sola Scriptura (the Protestant doctrine of scripture as the final authority of Christian doctrine) here.

This talk is part of The Illumined Heart podcast series available on Ancient Faith Radio.

An article by Fr. John on Sola Scriptura can also be read here.


Monday, January 12, 2009


I realize that this video has been available on youtube for over two years...but I just discovered it today.

It is one of the rare videos featuring a live performance by the incomparable Eva Cassidy.

Forgive me if you have seen this video a number of times already. If you have, it is worth watching again. If you haven’t, you really should take 5 minutes and 30 seconds to watch this sublime performance.

For those who don't know, Eva Cassidy died at the age of 33 of skin cancer. Eva and her music were not widely known during her lifetime but interest in both has increased dramatically since her death.

To this day, the Nightline story on her life and death remains the show's most popular episode ever. You can view that episode in three parts below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

You can view more videos of Eva Cassidy's live performances here.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

December Shows

It's been awhile since I've posted a recap of the concerts I've attended recently. I've been recovering from a surgery and work has kept me busy. I did manage, however, to make it out to a few shows in December.

The first show I attended was Michael Fracasso at Anderson Fair. I was not familiar with Michael or his music. I have to thank my friend Christi for inviting me to come out and see this show. Michael has a wonderful high tenor voice that is reminiscent of Roy Orbison or Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. Michael is an accomplished musician with a lot of poise...which became evident when he broke a guitar string on the very first song. He didn't miss a beat, however, and finished the song by singing a capella and alternating with some fine harmonica playing. He played a number of great songs but one song, in particular, made quite an impression. His song "Red, White & Blue" from his newest cd may well be his masterpiece. You can watch a video of Michael performing this song here.

Here's a video of Michael performing his song "1962" with Patty Griffin:

Next up was the Mike McClure and Scott Miller show at the Mucky Duck. Both artists performed solo acoustic sets. Mike opened up the show and was then followed by Scott. Here's a clip of Mike McClure playing his song "Haunt Me No More":

Here's another clip of Mike performing his cover version of Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic":

Scott Miller hails from Virginia. His songs are often humorous and he has many songs that deal with historical events.

Here is a video that features one of Scott's "historical" songs "The Rain" (sorry, there aren't many "clean versions" of Scott's songs):

Here is another clip that features Scott's humorous side with his song "Eight Miles Per Gallon" (once again not a "clean version"):

Then I saw the phenomenal Justin Townes Earle perform at Cactus Music and the Mucky Duck.Justin first performed a free in-store appearance at Cactus and then did a full show at the Duck with Samantha Crain opening.

Here is a clip of Samantha Crain performing her song "Traipsing Through the Aisles":

I had seen Justin perform once before at a very sparsely attended concert at another venue over the summer. His performance at the Mucky Duck was far superior and has to rank as one of the best concerts I saw in 2008. The well known music blog This Mornin' I am Born Again featured a great post on this very concert.

Here's a music video of Justin's song "The Good Life" which is the title track from his newest cd:

Here's a clip of Justin performing two songs by Townes Van Zandt..."Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold" and "Rex's Blues":

Here's another clip of Justin playing one of his dad's songs "Tom Ames' Prayer":

Next up was the Band of Heathens and Hayes Carll show at Warehouse Live. This show was very well-attended and was close to a sellout crowd. Local musician John Evans opened the show.

Here is a clip of John Evans performing his song "Goin' Down Loud":

The Band of Heathens took the stage next. Here's a clip of the Heathens playing their song "This I Know":

Finally, the always terrific Hayes Carll took the stage to close out the show. Hayes and his band played a loud and raucous set in front of an equally boisterous crowd. Here's a video of Hayes performing his song "Highway 87" (which was written about his experiences while living in Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula):

Here's another clip of Hayes performing his song "Beaumont" live on a British television show:

The last concert of the year I made was Clandestine at the Mucky Duck. Clandestine is a local Celtic band that has been playing together for several years. Here’s a clip of them playing the tune “Craig Gallagher’s” composed by E.J. Jones:


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Nativity Epistle of Metropolitan Volodymyr

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Nativity Epistle of His Beatitude Metropolitan Volodymyr to Reverend Archpastors, pastors, monastics and all faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Make merry, O heaven and earth, as the Prophets foretold! Celebrate in the spirit, O Angels and men! God is born from the Virgin and appears in the flesh to those who sit in darkness and shadow.

Sticheron at Litiya

Beloved in the Lord Archpastors, reverend pastors, honourable monastics of Christ, God-loving laymen, brothers and sisters!

Sharing with each of you the joy of the great feast, I greet you from all my heart on this wonderful triumph of the Heavens and the earth - on the Nativity of our God - the Lord and the Savior Jesus Christ!

The Son of God is now on the earth together with us! "Today Christ is born, Today the Unoriginate appears, the heavenly hosts rejoice, and all men and the earth rejoice..." (Sticheron of Nativity). The whole world has bated the breath on these holy days, since again the angelic glorifying chant comes from the sky down on the earth. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2: 14). We believe that this jubilation of the heavenly host echoes in every Christian heart, since the blessed peace, brought by the born God, also enlightens our souls today. Christ has reconciled the humanity with Himself, not imputing to men their transgressions, and committed to them the word of reconciliation (cf.: 2 Corinthians. 5: 19). Together with the angels we praise God in the highest, since it is in the incarnation of the Son of God that all the depth of God's Wisdom has revealed itself, redeeming the lost, restoring the falling, renewing the rotten. Celebrating the Nativity of Christ, we extend our gratitude to God, who has not left man, but has loved the world so much that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3: 16). We testify that Jesus Christ is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity... And came and preached peace." (Ephesians 2: 14-15, 17).

Today, when our society is preoccupied with the daily, earthbound matters, overtaken by anxiety, and is fully busy looking for the better tomorrow, we perceive by our whole being the extreme need of listening to the voice of the Saviour, Who has come to the world, calling: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11: 28). Everything in the soul of man that rises above vanity and troubles of the everyday life, everything that is not created for the momentary needs, but works for eternity - all that is the result of the Christ's peace. As never before, man needs to discover in his heart that almost childish joy and blessed peace that came down to the souls of the shepherds, who heard the good news from the sky of Bethlehem (Luke 2: 8-14).

Infant Christ was born in poverty, simplicity and deep humility. The Son of God shared with us our human nature to relieve Adam from the former damnation and to reconcile us with God.

Holy Evangelist John tells us that "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). The Orthodox people, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, hold this light in their hearts. Therefore, in spite of the darkness of the world around us we cannot but rejoice. This light enlightens the way of our new life, the life in Christ, and the festive jubilation comes from our lips: "Christ is born! Glorify Him!"

Last year we have prayerfully celebrated the prominent date - the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. The Primates and the representatives of all the Orthodox churches of the world, having gathered for the joint prayer in the ancient Kyiv - the mother of all Russian cities -have witnessed their brotherly love and support. It was not only the common history that we have recollected due to the celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of our people. Having gathered at the banks of the Dnieper, our common baptismal font, where the great orthodox soul of our nation was born, we have experienced together the firmness of our brotherly bonds, the spirit of unity in Christ, which has united all of us. It is important for us to preserve this feeling of brotherly unity today, not to lose that spiritual bestowal that our ancestors obtained from the font of the Dnieper.

The past year also brought mournful event to all of us. His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia had passed away to the Lord. All his life was dedicated to the selfless service to high Christian ideals, love of God and neighbour. He had given himself totally to the service to the Holy Church; he had truly become good pastor to all his numerous flock. The response of the God's people to the death of their Primate proved that the service of His Holiness had touched every Christian heart, leaving no one indifferent. Truly has the words of the Apostle fulfilled: "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." (Romans 6: 22).

Let's now turn away from the worldly concerns and worries and listen to the voices of Angels, proclaiming the true unheard-of joy to the world. This good news has brought the greatest spiritual joy to all creation, since today we are given the fulfillment of salvation, expected for ages by many generations of the forefathers, foretold by the prophets and longed to be seen by the righteous. What joy it is for us, and what jubilation it should be for us! Celebrating this day, the Holy Church calls us: "Come and rejoice unto the Lord, telling the true mystery!" (Sticheron of the feast).

Rejoicing with the whole world, with the angels of glory, bowing to the God-infant with the magi, let's rejoice with the holy joy of the Nativity! I wish to the God-loving children of the Holy Orthodox Church peace and joy in the Lord! The angel proclaimed us now "the good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2, 10-11). Amen.

Nativity of Christ
2008 / 2009


† Volodymyr,
Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine,
Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church


Nativity Encyclical of the Serbian Orthodox Church

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The Serbian Orthodox Church

to her spiritual children at Christmas, 2008


By the Grace of God

Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Christmas greeting:

Peace from God! Christ is Born!

Every year, dear spiritual children, and so it is this year as well, we anticipate and welcome Christmas, the birthday of the Son of God, with joy, faith, hope and love. Why? Because it is in this event that the "fullness of time" was fulfilled, and so God the Father, "gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This event is the fulfillment of all cosmological and historical events: everything that had happened in God's creation and mankind's history received in that day "which the Lord had made" its fulfillment and realization. The entry of God into the innermost part of life represents, also, a fulfillment of all of mankind's deepest yearnings as attested and proclaimed in all earthly nations before the birth of Christ. With His birth, the light of the knowledge of God shone forth. In that Divine light the meaning of the world, nature, and the ultimate goal of man's existence and the existence of all creatures, both visible and invisible, was revealed to us.

In Christ God, Whom we in the Creed confess as "the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made; being of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made, Who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and became man..." - the victory has been realized once and for all over imperfection, sin and death. With the manifestation of the fullness of His Divinity and His unification with human nature, man's fullness and perfection has also been realized. Without mingling or change, the undivided unity and community of the divine and human natures in the God-man Jesus Christ bestows upon the world and man humanity, through the indestructible truth and the eternal, Divine-human community which is God's Church.

From the day of Christ's birth the world is not nor can it ever be that which it was before. Man's nature and the world, filled with the yeast of eternal Life, received the potential to be a new man, a new heaven and a new earth, a new eternal mankind. This is why Christ was the only one Who could say these words: "Behold, I create everything new" (cf. Rev. 21:5). He, as "the Only new under the sun," eternally renews everything that exists; His Light enlightens everyone and everything, enlightening every man that comes into the world (cf. John 1:9).

As such, Christ is the "fullness of the Law and Prophets" as He Himself said: "I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it." (Matthew 5:17) This word - "to fulfill" - has dual meaning: to accomplish, on the one hand, and to give to the world fullness and perfection, on the other hand, so that we humans and the world may be filled and grow in Him until, as the divinely wise Apostle Paul says: "we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

It is on this all encompassing truth about the Person Christ, as the beginning and the endlessness of all that exists, that everyday life is founded, and which enlightens man's way of life and behavior. This is why we always come back to the Nativity of the God-child, His Theanthropic work, with which we enlighten our own works and our relationship with each other, with God and with His creation.

With His birth as a man, the holiness of every birth and of all life is affirmed. It is fearful to imagine - let alone to accept and legalize as something normal - that defiling attitude towards the sanctity of life which would allow that even the Mother of God could be a child killer, just as are many contemporary women who kill their offspring in their wombs. Those mothers who kill their children become not only child murderers, but also God murderers, since every human being is a God-bearer and Christ-bearer. We will mention only one distressing and sad example of one mother who gave birth to a few daughters, and together with her husband wanted to have a son. When she conceived again, because the doctor wrongly determined that she was carrying another girl, she underwent an abortion, despite the pleas of her husband and others. It was discovered after the fact-oh, how heartrending-that she was carrying two boys, twins! What then, can comfort and heal this unfortunate mother's deep wound?! May our Lord have mercy upon her and all other child destroying mothers who, in their selfishness or some similar reason, sacrifice their most holy gift from God. Don't they turn the mother's womb - that workshop of life - into a shop of death and nothingness!

The selfishness and self-indulgence of man, such as that cited above, leads to the endangerment and misuse of the very nature into which we are born and live. As man lives and breathes with love, likewise all creatures and all nature's elements need mercy, love and goodness: the water which we drink, the air that we breathe, the flowers and trees in the field, the fish in the sea, the beasts in the mountains, the domestic animals - all yearn for mercy, love and goodness. If we misuse any part of creation or infect and pollute it - it becomes alienated, falls apart and disintegrates, and retaliates against its abusers. In this way the God-given order is broken : water loses its healthiness, and so does the earth, and with it the earthly fruits are polluted, and in turn they contaminate those who consume them - man and other living beings. The climate is changing, the ice is melting in the North Pole, the change of seasons is diminishing; the rising heat is preparing the globe to be one day, God forbid, consumed in fire.

Together with this, contemporary man, in conquering with his technology far-flung territories, imperils the living space of numerous other beings. Instead of turning to the inner spiritual dimensions which are limitless and conquering those territories which endanger no one, but rather which give fullness to all things, opening up inexpressible horizons of growth and perfection - instead, man turns to that which is by it's very nature limited and transient, and thus himself becomes limited and crippled. The real and true fullness of all things is precisely the Theanthropic Person of Christ in Whom is the "plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God" (Ephesians 3:9). When "Christ enters into our hearts through faith," only then can we be "rooted and grounded in love...comprehending with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Aside from this, today's mankind is very concerned with the beginning of a severe economic crisis. More frequently than not, it is overlooked that the crisis is not only economic, but rather its nature is more complex and deeper. Is it no wonder that it is manifested first of all among the wealthiest: the most frightened are those who are the most affluent. Their unquenchable greed for money and enjoyment, their over-consumption of natural and material goods, produces an imbalance in human relationships - the relationship towards the deepest mysteries of life and the relationship towards the entire creation. This means that behind the economic crisis is hidden a spiritual and moral crisis, and with that a crisis of all of mankind. It has been rightly stated that the economic crisis is connected with political calamity; as is the disregard for international rights and the ignoring of the United Nations Charter on human rights - as well as the extinguishing of justice in general, engenders a political crisis, and this in turn engenders economic and financial chaos. The law and justice, both God's and man's, are ignored because of lust for power and economic interest. The consequences of placing the economic and global interests of the world's mighty ones above justice and human rights are best seen in the tragic situation of our country and of the Serbian people, as well as other countries and peoples in the modern world.

The new hedonistic-utilitarian myths, today placed on the pedestal of divinity and propagated with all the modern means, are endangering most of all those most innocent and least able to repel them: children and youth. Drugs and immorality, the narrowing of life to instinct and the satisfaction of carnal lusts, the desire of the eye and of vanity (cf. 1 John 2:16), are the fruit of these ancient myths dressed in new and eye-catching clothing.

In the midst of all this we Christians, as before and as always, "wait for Christ, and not better times" (St. Nicholai of Zicha); we wait for Him Who is "the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow." We always go back to Him - "to a Young Child, the pre-eternal God," as the absolute measure and criterion of everything that happened and happens in all of human history. In Him as God's Son and Man's Son, as perfect God and perfect man "we have known and believed the love that God has for us" (1 John 4:16). Since God appeared to us with His Birth and lived with us, we know that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this..." (1 John 4:16-17), and with "this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:21).

In the name of such a God Who is Love, and in the name of such a Love to which all peoples and nations are called, we greet you all, dear spiritual children - most especially you in the suffering Kosovo and Metohija and throughout the world, with the greeting of God's truth, justice and eternal love:


And may the crown of the goodness of the new year of our Lord be blessed!

Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, at Christmas, 2008.

Your prayerful intercessors before the Divine Christ-Child:

Archbishop of Pec,
Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch PAVLE

Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVAN
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Midwestern America CHRISTOPHER
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ

Bishop of Sabac-Valjevo LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Nis IRINEJ
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Banat NIKANOR
Bishop for America and Canada (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJE
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Timok JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Valjevo MILUTIN
Bishop of Western America MAXIM
Bishop of Gornji Karlovci GERASIM
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJ
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Vicar Bishop of Lipljan TEODOSIJE
Vicar Bishop of Dioclea JOVAN
Vicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE

Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Bishop of Bregal and locum tenens of the Diocese of Bitolj MARKO
Vicar Bishop of Stobija DAVID


Russian Orthodox Christmas in Houston

Here is a small gallery of pictures from the Christmas Vigil service at St. Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas. The photos are courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas Epistle of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

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NEW YORK: January 2, 2009
Christmas Epistle of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Most Reverend brother Archpastors, Reverend Fathers, beloved brothers, sisters and children in Christ!

I address with heartfelt greetings the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia for the first time. For the new and lofty ministry which has been placed upon me I am in need of God's great mercy which completes that which is wanting. I ask for your prayers that the Lord will strengthen me in this new and responsible obedience.

During these holy days I congratulate you with the great feast of the Nativity of Christ from the distant city of Sydney, the cathedral see of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese. It is my prayer that we may all partake of that sublime and inalienable peace, of which the angels sang on that holy night above the town of Bethlehem, when "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).

With the Nativity of Christ there comes also a new year. Time races by, year after year, day after day. It is not revealed to us what will come to pass with us in the course of a year. We know that all that transpires is for the good of a person. If one were to know beforehand what fortune lies in store for him, he would be in danger of becoming inactive; on the other hand, to know what inescapable sufferings are approaching us would be too difficult and unbearable. It is probably for this reason that the Lord conceals future events from us and teaches us in this way to have hope in His merciful Providence, faith and humility.

At the beginning of this past year Metropolitan Laurus, our Abba who was beloved by all, reposed in the Lord, while at the end of the year - our kind Great Lord and Father, His Holiness Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and All Russia. Both will go into history as unifiers who healed the church divisions within the Local Russian Church. We all know how easy it is to cause division, for which no special effort is needed; but to unite and help sinners to make peace demands patience, tremendous inner strength, a loving heart, magnanimity and immeasurable faith in God's mercy. Let us all honor their memory not only with ardent prayer, but also by actively following their example of service to God and to people.

With the repose of His Holiness, Patriarch Alexis, a Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church is being convened in Moscow to deal with "church needs which have arisen" (Canon 20, Council of Antioch). Delegates from the Russian Church Abroad will take part in the election of a new Patriarch for the first time. For this reason we appeal to our delegates to address the matter of this election reverently and responsibly, for it is Christ Himself, the Head of the Church, Who beckons each of us to participate in the work of the Council.

May we all beseech the Lord with heartfelt prayer that the forthcoming Church Council will proceed in accordance with His salvific will which wisely directs all things towards good. May the participants of the Council become a vibrant power, able to bring joy to the hearts of all the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church with the election of a new Patriarch.

Once again I greet you all with the saving and joy-filled feast of the Birth in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Church, the New Year and the approaching feast of the Lord's Baptism. I hope that you will spend these holy days in a radiant, pious and joyous manner. May the heart of each one of us become a manger for the Divine Christ Child to illumine with His grace, so that in our eyes and in our life people will be able to see reflected the light of the Star of Bethlehem, a light of hope for all of humanity.

I believe that celebrating the feast in this manner will be the best way to witness Orthodoxy to those around us who are not yet members of the Holy Church. I hope that in this radiant manner we will likewise approach the work of the Local Council.


Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia
Nativity of Christ, 2008/2009


Christmas Message from Metropolitan Kirill


Christmas Message of the Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad to the Archpastors, Pastors, Monastics and All Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church

Beloved in the Lord my brethren archpastors, honourable presbyters, pious deacons, God-loving monks and nuns and all faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church. ‘Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied’ (Jude 1:2).

It is in these days that we recall how the Son of God came down to men so that each of us may be united with him. Yet so that this opportunity may become a reality, there is required of each of us a response worthy of the divine love – our love, a love which is actual and sacrificial, a love which ‘vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil’ (1 Cor 13:4-5).

An example of this love was revealed to us in the life of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, whom we recently accompanied on his final journey from this earthly life. Like the good shepherd of the Gospel, he ‘gave his life for the sheep’ (Jn 10:11), entrusted to his care by the Сhief Shepherd Christ. An undoubted merit of the late Patriarch is the preservation of Church unity granted by God and which no attempts to bring schism and division into Church life could sway. The celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia in Moscow, Kiev and Minsk demonstrated clearly the will of the people of the Church for unity. Many thousands of people have again bore testimony that it is in the one Church, that it is in the fullness of the Body of Christ that the truth abides.

With the demise of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy a most important period of the history of our Church has come to a close, a time of great social change. Today we live in a completely different society, dissimilar to the society that emerged from the period of godlessness which was imposed upon us.

At the same time today the peoples who are spiritually nourished by the Russian Church are encountering difficulties in the economic and social sphere that have befallen them externally. Many people have been deprived of work and are enduring material hardship. The Church embraces with compassion all those who are now finding it hard. May the Lord strengthen and bring wisdom to all – those in power, entrepreneurs and simple workers – so that we, through the common labour of accord, mutual aid and the search for proper solutions, are able to help each other to overcome the current difficulties and emerge from them, preserving ourselves and our beloved ones, and preserving peace and harmony in our communities.

Today our Church is going through a special time: we are all drawing closer to the Local Council, at which by the will of the Holy Spirit a new primate – His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia - will be elected. In preparing for the coming election, let us remember that love alone creates true conciliarity. ‘Love unites the many into the one body and makes their souls abodes of the Holy Spirit, for it is not in division among ourselves but in souls united that the Spirit of God abides,’ St. John Chrysostom teaches us. St. Paul warns us, ‘Look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled’ (Heb 12:15). This root is sin; and the root of all sin is pride. There is no room for love in a proud heart. It is only when we leave no room in our souls for hatred, envy and rivalry, but when we open our hearts to love and unity that divine grace will be effective in our lives. It heals our infirmities and compensates for the paucity of our efforts. It grants to us boldness, strength and wisdom, leading the Church by the way of Christ who according to his promise abides with us ‘always, even unto the end of the world’ (Mt 28:20).

On this joyful day I congratulate you from the depths of my heart on the great and world-saving feast of the Nativity of Christ and the New Year of 2009. May it be beneficent and successful, and may we be accompanied on our pathways through life by ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost’ (2 Cor 13:13).

+Kirill, Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad
Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne

Nativity of Christ 2008/2009 AD, Moscow

Translation: DECR MP


Friday, January 02, 2009

Benefit Concert for the Old Quarter

Here is a nice article from the Galveston County Daily News on the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe and the benefit concert to be held tomorrow night at Anderson Fair.


Thursday, January 01, 2009


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“What I do is between me and the Lord, to examine and possibly alter the state of grace in which I live, and thereby the state of grace of anybody who listens.”
- Townes Van Zandt (as quoted in this excellent article)

Townes Van Zandt died on January 1st, 1997. Tonight the 12th Annual Townes Van Zandt Wake will be held at the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston.

There is also a wonderful documentary of his life available on DVD titled: Be Here to Love Me.

Here is the trailer for the film:

Here is a tribute video with Lyle Lovett performing his version of Townes' song "Flyin' Shoes":

R.I.P. Townes...