I Am Providence

One of my first internet adventures (probably around 1993) was to find and print out a picture of H. P. Lovecraft’s grave in Providence.  The printout is long gone, but I can still picture the graininess and remember how long it took to print.  Now I live 45 minutes away from his burial spot and am long overdue for a visit (and really a pilgrimage to various HPL sites).

H.P._Lovecraft's_grave

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December 20th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Day 25: Swimming

I can’t really swim – I mostly just splash around – so I thought today I would write about the Kraken, a giant squid or octopus of mythology.  Tennyson, my favorite poet, wrote an irregular sonnet titled The Kraken:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

The wiki article talks about Melville’s Moby-Dick and a reference to the kraken in there.  Think of Melville and his masterpiece next time you walk into a Starbucks.  Starbuck was  the first mate on the Pequod in the book.  In addition to being the namesake of a coffee chain, Starbuck gave his name to a great one-hit wonder 70s band.

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December 11th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Day 24: Light

The province of Nuristan – land of light – in Afghanistan used to be known as Kafiristan – land of unbelievers – before the inhabitants were (forcibly) converted to Islam in 1895.  They formerly practiced a Vedic religion – basically a precursor of Hinduism.  The Nuristanis were among the last holdouts practicing an ancient religion in a place surrounded by Islam.  The Kalash of Pakistan are still holding out and practice a similar religion.  There are theories that they are descended from Alexander’s soldiers but genetic investigation says the Kalash are purely Indo-Iranian with no Greek admixture.

A great, fun, easy to read book about Nuristan is A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush by Eric Newby – check it out here.

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December 11th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

St. Nicholas & The Sea

Today’s assignment in the 40 days of blogging exercise includes a very cool gallery of icons at Fr. Peck’s site.  The association of St. Nicholas with the sea or sailors is at first a little confusing – kind of like how Poseidon is the god of the sea and also of horses  in Greek mythology – the two just don’t seem to go together.  I certainly don’t think of mariners when I think of Nicholas, but there are several legends attached to him where he rescued or took care of sailors and ships.  Nicholas in a way represents the redemption of Jonah.  The term Jonah in sailing is used for someone who is seen to have brought bad luck to a ship (there is a nice passage in Dracula where the captain of a ship thinks there may be a Jonah on board causing problems.  Dracula indeed made a pretty effective Jonah).  St. Nicholas is a nice counterpoint to the Jonah factor.

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December 9th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Day 17: Sword

When studying Biblical languages, especially from the books I recommended in a previous post, be ready for some rather grim exercises and example sentences.  I say this not so much because of difficulty but rather the content – “the prophet commanded us to kill the enemy” or whatever – the material is rather violent.  Swords get mentioned a lot, and there are several different words in Hebrew and Greek that mean sword in English.  The Hebrew Herev is from the same  root as Mt. Horeb, which was where Moses received the 10 Commandments in Deuteronomy – an interesting connection.  In Greek we get both machaira and romphaia.  Machaira – machairi in modern Greek, where it means knife, as in kitchen knife or any knife – is from the root machi, which means war.  Romphaia -a broadsword – may come from a root meaning strength – romos – but likely is of foreign origin, much like the broadsword itself.  The latin root rump means to break free or tear, so this could be the source.  The English word rump seems to come from this – the rump of the empire meaning the remnant – but it actually comes from a Scandinavian word meaning torso.

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December 3rd, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Deja Vu All Over Again

It looks like I should have read ahead – today’s assignment is “Reading the Scriptures”.  I got into this yesterday, so let me take a different approach.  It is best to know scripture well in your own language, so you can make connections and put it all together.  When you are ready to take it to the next level, then it is time to learn Hebrew and Biblical Greek, followed by Syriac/Assyrian and Arabic (to help with the Hebrew).  I recommend these awesome books:

-Lambdin’s or Weingreen’s books on learning Hebrew – you can find them easily on Amazon.  They both take different approaches, so find the one that is right for you.  They are designed for self-study, as are all of the books here.

-For Classical Arabic and Syriac, get the intro books by Wheeler Thackston.  Thackston is great because he teaches without vowel markers, so there is no need to wean yourself off of them as your grasp on the languages develops.  Answer keys are also available.

-For Greek, Machen is the classic text.  I recommend Croy’s primer.  It is nauseatingly PC in its presentation but is an easy way to start out with Biblical Greek.

When I was at Holy Cross we used the Paine book on NT Greek (and it was a catastrophe) although the book store sold the Croy text as well.  We used Lambdin for Hebrew and Thackston for Syriac.  While at St. Vlad’s I had to adject to Weingreen for Hebrew, and I now prefer that text.

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November 30th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Salt

Our topic for today in the 40 Days of Blogging exercise is salt.  Salt is a big deal – our bodies need it to survive.  Roman soldiers were payed in salt, hence the word salary.  The wiki article has a nice section on salt and religion.  Our own Book of Needs has a prayer for the blessing of salt.  My friend Fr. Jesse tells me that the Episcopalian Church uses salt in baptisms.  A fun and very educational read is the book Salt: A World History.  You would not think that a book about salt would maintain your interest for long, but it is a wild tale.  One of my takeaways from the book is that towns ending in “wich” (or “wick” or some other variations) were places that had salt works.  So places we know like Norwich or Sandwich were once the site of salt mines (or at least the original towns back in Britain were).

Here is the Orthodox prayer for the blessing of salt mentioned above (I have modified it so it is modern English):

O God our savior, who coming to Jericho in the time of the prophet Elisha, healed the harmful water with salt; bless also this salt, and change it into a sacrifice of rejoicing.  For you are our God and to you we send glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

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November 23rd, 2014 by Fr. Greg