Friday, November 21, 2014

Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, also called The Presentation, is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on November 21.

According to Tradition, the Virgin Mary was taken —presented—by her parents Joachim and Anna into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served as a Temple virgin until her betrothal to St. Joseph. One of the earliest sources of this tradition is the non-canonical Protoevangelion of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James.

Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. She was led to the holy place to become herself the "holy of holies" of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her. The Church also sees this feast as a feast which marks the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.

Celebration of the feast

On the eve of the feast, Vespers is served and contains Old Testament readings that are interpreted as symbols of the Mother of God, for she becomes the living temple of God. In each reading we hear, "for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord God Almighty." (Exodus 40:1-5, 9-10, 16, 34-35; I Kings 7:51, 8:1, 3-4, 6-7, 9-11; and Ezekiel 43:27-44)

Sometimes Matins is served on the morning of the feast. The Gospel reading is from Luke 1:39-49, 56. It is read on all feasts of the Theotokos and includes the Theotokos' saying: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."

Divine Liturgy is served on the day on the feast. The epistle reading is from Hebrews 9:1-7, and speaks of the tabernacle of the old covenant. The gospel reading is taken from Luke 10:38-42 and 11:27-28 together; this reading is also read on all feasts of the Theotokos. In it, the Lord says, "blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"


Troparion (Tone 4) Today is the preview of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, O Divine Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.

Kontakion (Tone 4) The most pure Temple of the Savior; the precious Chamber and Virgin; the sacred Treasure of the glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, therefore, the angels of God praise her: "Truly this woman is the abode of heaven."

Forefeast hymn:

Troparion (Tone 4) Today Anna bequeaths joy to all instead of sorrow by bringing forth her fruit, the only ever-Virgin. In fulfillment of her vow, today with joy she brings to the temple of the Lord the true temple and pure Mother of God the Word.

Kontakion (Tone 4) Today the universe is filled with joy at the glorious feast of the Mother of God, and cries out: "She is the heavenly tabernacle."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople

Troparion (Tone 8)

Grace shining forth from your lips like fire hath enlightened the universe. It has shown to the world the riches of riches poverty; it has revealed to us the heights of humility. Teaching us by your words, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede before the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls!

Kontakion (Tone 6)

Having received divine grace from heaven, with your mouth you teach all men to worship the Triune God.  All-blest and venerable John Chrysostom, we worthily praise you, for you are our teacher,  revealing things divine!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our Father Among the Saints: Raphael of Brooklyn

"Several themes emerge as the story of St. Raphael's life unfolds. The first is the mysterious way in which God led him from his native homeland to the shores of the American continent. The second is his submissive attitude to the providence of God. And the third is his love for the people of God. Though during his lifetime he was neither a wonder-worker nor a clairvoyant elder, St. Raphael embraced a life of total abandonment of self for the service of God and his fellow man: a life of true spiritual asceticism."

(from The Life of Our Father among the Saints Raphael Hawaweeny)

On the first Saturday in November we commemorate our father among the Saints, Raphael (Hawaweeny). In 2015, the 100th Anniversary of the Falling Asleep of St. Raphael, the Archdiocese's Creative Festivals will feature the theme, "Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Indiction is a term given to identify an era or epoch of years of the calendar that was first used in the late third century to date agricultural and land tax cycles in Roman Egypt. By the late fifth century the indiction became widely used throughout the Mediterranean. Its use is still reflected in the Christian church calendars. The indiction in the Orthodox Church is on September 1.

While the measure of a day and year have been labeled, and changed over the years, for time immemorial, the tagging of a period of years has varied throughout history. Eras or epochs of years have been measured from various starting points have been based on various events. These measures have included counts based upon the cycle of Olympiads, epochs starting from the founding of Rome, on the reigns of monarchs such as used today in Japan (the Meiji or Showa eras), from the formation of earth, and so on. In much of the world today the enumeration of years is based on the birth of Christ, although this practice, or epoch, did not become common for centuries after Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, established this starting point in 527.

In the third century in the Roman Empire an epoch measurement became popular called the Indiction. When indictions began to be used about 287, it originated as a cycle of five years. By 314 an indiction cycle of fifteen years appeared which became the common measure at the same time that the Emperor Constantine the Great recognized Christianity. The use of indictions for dating documents not related to taxes began in the mid-fourth century.

Each indiction itself was not distinctly identified, only the year within the indiction. Thus, an indiction may need reference to some other event to identify a specific indiction. Additionally, different systems of calculating the indictions came into use of which the following are most common:

In the eastern Roman Empire, in the Greek or Constantinopolitan Indictions the first day (of the new year) of the indiction year was established initially as September 23, which was the birthday of Augustus. This date also became the start of the Eastern Orthodox Church year. By late in the fifth century the start of the new year, however, shifted to September 1, which is the present day beginning of the Church year.

In the west, the Imperial or Western Indictions September 24 was adopted as the beginning of the year, apparently based upon calculations under the authority of the Venerable Bede. 

Later, in the ninth century Roman or Pontifical Indictions were introduced in the west that began the year on either December 25 or January 1.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Saint Moses the Black and Saint Augustine of Hippo

It was a joy this evening to commemorate these two Saints at our monthly healing Vespers.

Troparion — Tone 1

You abandoned the Egypt of the passions, O Father, Ascending the mount of the virtues with fervent faith, Taking the Cross of Christ upon your shoulders; And being glorified in godly works, You proved to be a model for monastics, O summit of the fathers. Pray unceasingly with them that our souls may find mercy!

Kontakion — Tone 3

Your mind was filled with a holy inspiration from God, Turning you from the lust and pleasures of the flesh, Bringing you to the height of the city of God! O Holy Father Moses, intercede with Christ God that He may grant us great mercy!

Troparion - Tone 4

Let us acclaim the sublime Augustine, the holy bishop of the Church of Christ; The wise writer of the City of God; You are good, blessed Augustine and you served the Savior in sanctity as a wise and divinely inspired priest; Father pray to Christ our God to grant our souls the grace of salvation.

Kontakion - Tone 3

We praise you with resounding voices O heavenly trumpet of wisdom; You are the harmonious organ of theology O most blessed father Augustine; You have given us rich knowledge of Christ's faith, and you have increased the flock of the Church; You now take rest with the angels and still pray unceasingly for all of us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos

Troparion (Tone 1)

In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Kontakion (Tone 2)

Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Church Growth Done Right, a follow-up

To further my point in my last post, I offer this from:

Top 13 reasons the unchurched choose a Church:

  1. 90% – Pastor/Preaching
  2. 88% – Doctrines
  3. 49% – Friendliness of Members
  4. 42% – Other Issues
  5. 41% – Someone at Church Witnessed to Me
  6. 38% – Family Member
  7. 37% – Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church
  8. 25% – Relationship Other than Family Member
  9. 25% – Sunday School Class
  10. 25% – Children’s/Youth Ministry
  11. 12% – Other Groups/Ministries
  12. 11% – Worship Style/Music
  13. 7% – Location

So the next time your pastor tells you the worship style and music must change in order to reach the lost, feel free to tell him his preaching must change first.  And since doctrine is second on the list, we might as well make sure the preaching changes are doctrinally correct.  Apparently worship style and music are very low on the list.  Something some of us have been arguing for a while now.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Church Growth Done Right

Every year Father Andrew calls all of the students and teachers to the front of the parish the Sunday before school begins to give them a blessing and say some words to them about the coming school year, the culture, and how they are expected to behave as Orthodox Christians in a decidedly non-Orthodox culture. Every year, I am stunned at how many come forward. There are a couple of teachers and college kids in this photo, but most of those pictured are elementary, middle and high school kids.

It shouldn't surprise me. After all, one of the reasons we joined this parish is that kids are encouraged from the very earliest age to be in the Divine Liturgy, as I noted several years ago in this post. I should report as a follow-up that Emily is much better behaved after nearly 4 years of consistent attendance. We also pack up a bunch of those kids every year and send them to Camp St. Thekla to spend a week having fun and learning about the faith from some wonderful priests, deacons and bishops who devote their time to our youth. But it still surprises me how quickly the chairs empty when those kids go to the front of the Church when school starts.

One of the sad things I encountered in our previous traditions is the rise of the so-called "Church Growth Movement." We were told that youth do not appreciate traditional forms, and so we must change up the Church's worship practices and even her theology in order to "reach the lost." What I see, however, does not square with that claim. What I see is a bunch of baby boomers who tailor the worship service to their whims, their tastes, their wants and desires. And predictably, those traditional parishes that switch to this type of model end up as revolving doors, where a lot of people come through but few stick. This was detailed a few years back when Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association did a study, and found that they were very good at getting people in the door, but not very good at leading those people to lead spiritually fulfilling lives. Hybels was quoted in Christianity Today summarizing the findings as follows: "Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for." Well……yeah!

I still contend our parish model is the better approach. We don't grow a huge parish. We have maybe 100-150 people at most in a given service. But the thing is, if every little parish followed our model, we'd have a lot fewer rich and famous pastors, but a lot more faithful Christians. We have some who come and go, but most attend weekly. We have good participation in our after Church activities like our fellowship lunch every Sunday (most of our parish is at the Church for at least 3-4 hours on Sunday, and those who faithfully attend Matins before the Liturgy are there between 4-5 hours). We have great participation in youth events and special events like our Fall Festival and so forth. But what we have in abundance is people who stick. People raise their families here. They become Orthodox Christians and, with rare exception, they remain Orthodox Christians. And -- here is the Church Growth principle at work -- they raise their children as Orthodox, and again with rare exception, they remain Orthodox. Our college students come back when they are on break. They attend services. Holy Week is full of college students and children of members who have grown up and moved away. Nativity is as well.

We do other types of outreach. Most of it is organic, like the college student I spoke to this weekend before Vespers who keeps icons in her dorm room, or the parishioner I spoke to who is always presenting Orthodoxy to his frustrated Protestant friends in a welcoming, but not proselytizing way. But the single best way to reach the lost is to not lose the reached. That starts by having kids, raising them in a faith that is real, concrete, reliable, and stands the test of time. And then having those kids grow up into faithful Orthodox Christians who spread that light to the rest of the world, starting with their own future spouses and children. This is how the Church has always grown. She makes disciples, baptizing them (starting as children), and teaching them to obey all Christ has commanded. This is Church Growth. The rest is just marketing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Great and Holy Pascha - Agape Vespers

Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before His face.

Today Christ, our saving Pascha, hath been revealed unto us a noble Pascha; the Pascha new and holy; the mystical Pascha; the Pascha all august; the blameless Pascha; the great Pascha; the Pascha of the faithful; the Pascha which openeth unto us the gates of paradise; the Pascha which sanctifieth all the faithful.

As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire.

O come from the vision, ye women, heralds of good tidings, and say ye unto Zion, Receive from us the glad tidings of the joy of the Resurrection of Christ. Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and leap for joy, in that thou beholdest Christ the King like a bridegroom come forth from the grave.

So let sinners perish at the presence of God, and let the righteous be glad.

When the ointment-bearing women stood, very early in the morning, before the tomb of the Life- giver, they found an angel sitting upon the stone. And he cried out unto them, saying, Why seek ye the Living among the dead? Why mourn ye the Incorruptible amidst corruption? Go, proclaim the glad tidings to His Disciples.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad therein.

The joyful Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord, the Pascha all majestic hath shone upon us! The Pascha in which we embrace one another with joy! O what a Pascha, delivering from sorrow! For today from the tomb, as from a chamber Christ shone, and hath filled the women with joy, saying: Proclaim the glad tidings to the Apostles.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Today is the Day of Resurrection! Let us shine with the Feast! Let us embrace one another. Let us say, Brethren! And because of the Resurrection, let us forgive all things to those who hate us, and in this wise, exclaim: Christ is risen from the dead; trampling Death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! 

Great and Holy Pascha! Christ is Risen!

You went down to the deepest parts of the earth, and you shattered the everlasting bars of those that those that were fettered, O Christ. 

And on the third day, like Jonas from the whale, you arose from the tomb.

Keeping the seals intact, O Christ, you rose from the tomb, you who did not harm the locks of the Virgin’s womb at your birth, and you have opened to us the gates of Paradise.

O my Saviour, the living Victim unsuitable for sacrifice, as God offering yourself willingly to the Father, you raised with yourself all Adam’s race, in rising from the tomb. 

Paschal Canon - Ode 6

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday - Lamentations

Once a Joseph brought You
into exile, Savior;
another one now buries You.

Holy Friday Lamentations - Third Stasis

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Friday - Today He Who suspended the earth upon the waters is suspended on a tree

Today he who suspended the earth upon the waters is suspended on a tree.

A Crown of thorns is placed on the head of the King of angels.

He who wore a false purple robe covered the heavens with clouds.

He is smitten who, in the Jordan, delivered Adam.

The Bridegroom of the Church is fastened with nails, and the son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.

Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ!

Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ!

Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ!

Make us to behold thy glorious Resurrection.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Wednesday - Woe is me, for night surrounds me

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. "Woe is me," she said, "for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my heads, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgments, O Saviour of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure."

Hymn of St. Kassiane, Holy Wednesday Bridegroom Matins

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Tuesday - Behold the Bridegroom

Behold the Bridegroom cometh at midnight
And blessed is he whom He shall find watching
But unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless
Beware therefore, O my soul!
Be not weighed down with sleep
Lest you be given up to death and shut out from the Kingdom
But rouse yourself, crying, Holy Holy Holy art Thou O God

Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saint Mary of Egypt

Troparion (Tone 8)

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O mother,
For you took up the Cross and followed Christ.
By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away;
But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal.
Therefore your spirit, O holy Mother Mary, rejoices with the Angels.

Kontakion (Tone 3)

Having been a sinful woman,
You became through repentance a Bride of Christ.
Having attained angelic life,
You defeated demons with the weapon of the Cross;
Therefore, O most glorious Mary you are a Bride of the Kingdom!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Annunciation to the Theotokos

O Victorious Leader of Triumphant Hosts!
We, your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos!
As you possess invincible might, set us free from every calamity, so that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Memory eternal

It is with deep sadness that I first read yesterday morning of the repose of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip.  Being very new to Orthodoxy in general, and to the Antiochian Archdiocese in particular, I did not get to meet Metropolitan Philip, and the little I know of him is through conversations with my bishop, and our priest and Khouria, and things written about him on the internet.

The former were almost exclusively positive.  Bishop Antoun spoke positively of Metropolitan Philip, and of their relationship together.  When he spoke of the Metropolitan, it was almost as if the two men were one.  I believe this is because Bishop Antoun wanted to make clear that he and Metropolitan Philip spoke with one voice.  In this country, such solidarity is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness on the part of the subordinate person, but in Orthodoxy, it is a sign of great strength.  As the will of Christ and His Father are one, so should the voice of the shepherds Christ appointed be one.  This is not to say that disputes between bishops will never arise.  Only that our bishop was careful not to give any such disputes a public face (and I should be clear I am unaware of any between Bishop Antoun and Metropolitan Philip).  Our priest informs us that at a time when the Evangelical Orthodox were having difficulty being accepted into an Orthodox jurisdiction, Metropolitan Philip was very accommodating.  Not only did he work very hard to ensure their reception into the Church, he worked with them, setting a timetable to get liturgical issues in line.  For example, early on, the EOC set Orthodox Troparia to familiar Western hymn settings such as "Amazing Grace" and the like.  This is obviously improper, as the Troparia have a designated Tone, but rather than force the issue early and make the transition to Orthodoxy difficult, Metropolitan Philip gave EOC parishes several years to learn the proper settings and assimilate.  Through all of the public controversies surrounding Metropolitan Philip, Father and Khouria never let us forget their great love and appreciation for him and all he did to bring our little parish into the Church.

The news stories, particularly on the internet were unfortunately often negative.  From financial scandals to demotion of bishops to actually deposing bishops from their dioceses, news about Metropolitan Philip on the internet was not often edifying to read.  As a Lutheran convert, I also heard from Lutheran pastors who were quite unhappy that, from their perspective, Metropolitan Philip was picking off their pastors and convincing them to become Orthodox.  The face such stories and accounts put on our archbishop was not a pretty one.  And as a new convert, this was both disconcerting and helpful.  Disconcerting because one never wishes to read about scandal in his Church.  Helpful because it helped to quickly put to bed any thoughts that I had entered a perfect Church that was above criticism.  It's hard to be triumphalistic toward other traditions when your own back door needs a healthy sweeping.  This negative news humbled me and reminded me that joining the Church should be done in spite of her flaws, not because of the lack of flaws.

I have no idea how to reconcile these two widely divergent views of the man.  I expect, as with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  And I pass no judgment on the man, either for his accomplishments or his failings.  I will say that he was our shepherd, and we commemorated him every Sunday in our ektenias.  And we loved him, because he was our shepherd, not because he was perfect, for Christ loves us despite our flaws, and our Metropolitan loved us despite our flaws.  As we prayed for him in his life, we now pray for him in repose.  May his memory be eternal.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Forgiveness Sunday

Today marks Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church, the beginning of Great Lent.  The icon for today is the Expulsion from Eden, a reminder that the first sin was a breaking of the fast imposed by God.  In remembrance, we will also begin the great Lenten fast, which is why today is also called "Cheesefare Sunday" -- the last day we will eat dairy until Great and Holy Pascha, which this year coincides with Western Easter on April 20.

For all my many offenses, please forgive this sinner.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The approach of Great Lent

Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, which also marks the beginning of the Lenten Triodion.  Next week is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and after that we will have Meatfare Sunday, then Cheesefare Sunday, with Great Lent beginning the day after Cheesefare Sunday.

The more time I spend in the Church, the more I look forward to Great Lent.  At first, I was very apprehensive.  We had never fasted very strictly, and the ascetic discipline demanded of us seemed overwhelming at times.  But as time passes, I grow to appreciate the fasting seasons. 

Great Lent in particular is marked by repentance, fasting, almsgiving and prayer.  It is a quieter time, a time of great stillness and peace.  It is a time of renewal and love.  It is a time to put away worldly things and raise our thoughts to heavenly things.  It is a time to reflect on my own sinfulness, and to look past the sins of my brother, as the great Prayer of St. Efraim states:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages.  Amen.

As Great Lent approaches this year, I wish each of you a season of love for God and neighbor, and of hope and peace.  May the prayers of the most Holy Trinity be with us as we approach Christ's Pascha.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snowmageddon 2014 and Localism

I have learned a lesson this year, early in the year though it is.  For those who haven't heard, my fair city, Atlanta, has been shut down by what is jokingly being referred to as "Snowmageddon" or the "Snowpocalypse."  Please spare me the jokes from my friends up North about how a few inches of ice shuts down a Southern city.  We didn't make fun of you when Superstorm Sandy came through your towns recently.  It turns out preparedness often correlates with frequency.

At any rate, that is not the topic of this post.  Rather, the lesson I learned involves localism.  For the last 8 years, I have worked in Midtown Atlanta.  Very close to where these photos were taken.  But I live West of the city, about 30 miles from where my office was.  That isn't a long way, but the problem is, with Atlanta's sprawl and traffic congestion, it meant an hour-plus commute.  And if anything -- ANYTHING -- went wrong, I ended up driving a couple of hours or more to get home.  In January, I opened up my own office in Dallas, Georgia, just 10 miles from my house.  I did so in part because I wanted to practice in the community where I live instead of commuting into town to practice in an area where I do not live.  10 miles isn't particularly "local," but it's a step in the right direction.

So yesterday, when the snow first hit, I had been downtown for a client meeting, then I came back through Marietta (north of the city and about 10 miles due East from where I live) to run an errand, and the plan was to go to my office until the snow came.  I arrived in Marietta about 10:30 AM, and the snow was already pretty heavy, so I called my wife and told her I was going to run to the office to pick up a couple of files and head back home.  She needed me to run an errand on the way home, so I did that.  I left the office at about 11:45 AM, and I got home around 1:00.  The drive to my street took about 45 minutes, but the drive to the store (about 2 miles away) and back added 30 minutes to my commute.

A typical street near where I used to work
After I arrived home, I watched, first in mild amusement, but eventually in horror, as my friends who work in town or close to it ended up driving 5, 6, 8, 10 or more hours to get home.  Some of them didn't make it.  Some of them didn't get home until this morning.  At least a few slept in their cars last night.  Had I worked yesterday in the same location I worked last month, I would have been among them.  A huge part of the reason this was such a disaster is urban sprawl.  We simply don't live where we work and work where we live anymore.  Atlanta is a poster child for urban sprawl.  We seem to embrace it.

Having spent the last 8 years making this incredible commute, and now having spent only a month going against the grain of traffic for a much shorter commute, I can attest to the numerous benefits of the local commute.  My stress level is much lower.  Even yesterday, as bad as it was, I was home in time to play outside with the kids, build a fire, eat my wife's wonderful snow ice cream, enjoy a cup of coffee, and still get some work done.  On a normal day, when my commute is 15-20 minutes, and I can get the kids on the bus, leave my house later, come home for lunch if I like, spend some time talking to the people who work near me, and so forth, the benefits are much greater.  I am part of a community.  I have a stake in what happens here.  And because of those things, I take an interest in what goes on around me.  Instead of seeing my neighbor as some guy who cut me off in traffic, or who is driving too slow and keeping me from seeing my kids, he is a flesh and blood person with whom I can have a conversation and actually interact.  This affects my perception of those around me and how I deal with them.  I saw this in direct action yesterday as the people in my neighborhood organized to provide shelter to our fellow neighbors stuck in traffic.  Or those who needed kids picked up or watched until their parents got home.  Or those who needed to park cars on flat driveways so they wouldn't slide into the street, or get to the store or school on a 4-wheeler.  The community came together to help those in need.  How much more would we do so if those neighbors most in need of help were not imprisoned in a job working many miles from their home, embracing urban sprawl because that's where the jobs are, and that's how they can afford to live?  What if we all made it a point to deal locally where possible instead of sending our dollars to the lowest bidder?  What if we did business with our neighbors, and they did business with us?

The view from my office at 11:30 AM yesterday
More to the point of this blog, because I am now local, I can spend more time attending to spiritual matters.  I can get to Church on time for weeknight liturgies without stressing over what people will think of me leaving the office before 6:30 (both because I am now the only person who cares, and because I can actually leave at 6:30 and still make it to Church on time).  It is easier to make time for morning and evening prayers.  It is easier for me to interact with my wife and children, especially in spiritual matters.  Because my wife has been helping me at the office, it is easier for us to interact with each other.  And because we are working toward the same goal, it is easier for us to be on the same page and act as partners rather than being at cross purposes because I am gone 12 hours a day and she is at home with the kids all day trying to manage the household.  When she needs help, I'm now here instead of an hour away, so we have the ability to cooperate and help each other.  It is easier to attend to local charities and causes, and to be attentive to my neighbor, since I am actually here instead of stuck in an office an hour or more away.  I am a neighbor now, and I view my neighbors as such instead of as nuisances or strangers.

I fully acknowledge this is easy for me to say.  I have been blessed with the education and resources to make a move like this.  To be a local businessman instead of a cog in a corporate machine.  To be a part of my neighborhood instead of someone who commutes in to work, and then back out to "live" (such as a life spent going to bed and then waking up again can be called "living").  Not everyone has this ability.  But what if we as a country began to change our view of what it means to be a neighbor?  What if we embraced localism, community, neighborhood, neighbors?  What if we rejected the idea that living in one place and commuting an hour away to another simply to earn a little more money is the best way to live?

In short, in less than a month, I have seen firsthand how much Atlanta is a poster child for what is wrong with America.  And I am very glad to have taken a step away from that.  Glory to God for all things.