Moses And Goldschläger

This evening I had the pleasure of speaking at First Church Marlborough (who are celebrating their 350th (!) anniversary) on the topic of the theology of food.  I spent about half the talk going over uses of food in the Bible – a topic for another post – and then spoke about fasting practices in the Orthodox Church.  Today is, for us, the second day of Lent while our Western friends will have Holy Week next week – it is one of those years.  In going over food (and drink) in the Bible, I came across a point I had long forgotten.  In Exodus 32, the Israelites have fashioned an idol to worship – the Golden Calf.  Moses, in his anger over this, has the idol pulverized and makes the Israelites drink water mixed with the powder.  While I have not seen this anywhere, I figure this must be the origin of Goldschläger, a Swiss schnapps that has tiny flakes of gold in it.   The name of the liqueur – “gold-beaters” – refers to those who pound gold into thin leafs.  There is an urban myth that the gold cuts your digestive apparatuses and the alcohol goes straight into the blood stream.  I remember, though, a story from 20-odd years ago of someone who drank it regularly and ended up with a problem of too much gold in his bloodstream – internet searches have proved fruitless on this one.  In any case, if you have a friend drinking Goldschläger, you have an opportunity to talk about Biblical events.

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March 15th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

New Article Coming Soon

A new Our Faith article will soon be up on the church’s website.  Here is the first paragraph:

I have a fun fact book about the Bible called Why Are There No Cats In The Bible?.  It is a good read and contains many lists and short articles about the Good Book.  But think about it – aren’t there lions in the Bible, as in the story of Daniel in the lions’ den?  Lions appear in several places in scripture, and lions are indeed cats.  In the section of the book called Animals and Birds of the Bible, there is clarification – the author says there are no domestic cats in the Bible and in parenthesis says that the cats mentioned in Baruch 6:22 are thought to be wild cats rather than house ones.  I decided to look up the reference and opened my Bible (only Orthodox and Catholic Bibles have the book of Baruch; Protestant Bibles will not have it unless there is a section for “deuterocanonicals” or “apocrypha”).  I turned to the book of Baruch and was surprised to find that Baruch ends with chapter 5 verse 9.  There was no Baruch 6:22.  What was going on here – where was the missing chapter?

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February 24th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Look For The Lion

I have a new “Our Faith” article up on the church’s website.  Below is the first paragraph:

If you look at the iconography and artwork in Orthodox churches you will see a veritable menagerie of animals. Those depicted include both real and imaginary creatures – peacocks, dragons, horses, two-headed eagles, and many more. Often, if you look carefully enough, there is also, amidst all of this fauna, a lion.

Read the rest of it here.

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January 25th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Relief To Displaced People

Several months ago we passed a tray after church to benefit displaced Assyrian Christians in the Near East.  We ended up raising over $500!  Here is a thank you letter from ACERO, an excellent and very reputable charity:



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December 11th, 2014 by Fr. Greg


Almsgiving is a crucial part of our faith and one that I fear we Orthodox forget about sometimes.  The holidays offer us a good chance to help people out – giving away turkeys at Thanksgiving, doing coat drives at Christmas – but the reality is that there is need year round.  One of my favorite examples of almsgiving is something our Philoptochos did last year.  The ladies brought in a classical music trio to perform in our hall and had various local charities bring people – mostly those living in shelters – to come and enjoy the show.  The idea is that people going through tough times don’t get to do stuff like this and are too busy trying to survive.  But music and art are good for the soul and should not be neglected.

The word alms comes, ultimately, from the Greek eleemosyni, which means mercy.

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November 27th, 2014 by Fr. Greg


Our blogging subject today, as part of the 40 Days exercise, is to talk about Sunday best, whether it refers to attire, behavior, etc.  I immediately thought of this fun article from a July edition of the New York Times.   There is an apparently very active group called the National United Church Ushers Association of America which meets yearly and sets the tone for silent church usher signals.  There are various hand and arm motions for seatings, offerings, need more envelopes, etc.  I have never seen these signals used in an Orthodox church – we Americanized things by adding organs, carpet, pews, etc. but never made it this far – but I can see how the system is useful.  My personal favorite is the distress signal – this could not doubt find some use in many of our churches on Sunday mornings 🙂 .

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November 16th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Oil Lamps

Fr. John continues to give us interesting topics on which to blog – the latest is oil lamps.  We have four of these at our church – the three on the altar and the one on the sacrament table on the soleas.  If you are wondering what happens to the olive oil left over from baptisms, well, there you go – it gets used to fuel the lamps.  They are only lit during services – they do not burn continuously.  The oil lamps at the seminary chapel do burn continuously, and so when filling those we were always told to put a layer of water in the bottom and then add oil.  This way, if the oil burns out, the water will extinguish the flame and thus prevent a possible glass explosion.

Because we had a catastrophic fire at the church we have a special agreement with the city of Marlborough concerning candles (even though the cause of the fire had nothing to do with candles or anything in the church).  The votive candles in front of the iconostasis must be extinguished before we leave the building, while the ones in the narthex can burn throughout the week.  This is why you will often see red votive candles stuck in the sand in the boxes in the narthex along with the regular beeswax candles.

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December 13th, 2013 by Fr. Greg