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Posts Tagged 'theodore harvey barrett ii'

I think I need to be concerned

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In which St. John Chrysostom shows up on another digital bumper sticker

This has been one of the more stressful semesters of my college career. Not quite the most stressful, but there has definitely been plenty of pressure.

I started off with my Latin exam. Then I was going to have a relatively nice and easy semester preparing for my quals, for which I sit on 29 March. Flesh of My Flesh had a cushy-ish research assistantship that could be done from home, so there was supposed to be very little going on to distract from what we needed to do to get through the term.

Er, well, no.

Megan got a last-minute teaching assignment right after I took my Latin exam; one of her faculty members had a personal concern that took him out of the classroom on literally a couple of hours’ notice, and she got handed his class — a 400-level content course in German. It meets an hour before the class I’m assisting with on Monday and Wednesday, and then at the same time as one of my lecture sections on Friday. This means every day is a juggling act with Theodore Harvey Barrett The Second The Bouncing Baby Boy, and has effectively meant that for either of us to get anything done, we either have to have a babysitter or the other person has to get nothing done. In a way, this really has turned out to be an ideal semester to give up having four services a week to chant (although I am chanting at Holy Apostles now, which has been really nice on several levels), but it’s still been, shall we say, less than restful.

I’m also in full-blown “Hi, I’m a professional late antique Roman historian” mode, which means that when I see quotes that purport to be from somebody I study but with no citation, I instinctively start asking questions, as I’ve done before.

So, yesterday, I see a few people start to post this on Facebook:

“A young husband should say to his bride: ‘I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.’” — St. John Chrysostom

That’s a lovely sentiment, it truly is, and it is one that I would never want to slap down, exactly. If Chrysostom said it, that’s fantastic. Still, something about it felt “off”, and without the citation, it seemed like it would be worth seeing if I could track it down. Part of it was that I’m sure my previous effort likely struck some as an ideological project; I tried to make it clear that it wasn’t an ideological project at all, but rather an accuracy project. If that “quote” about how the rich “will joyfully share their wealth” isn’t legitimate (and so far nobody has come up with anything substantial to indicate that it is), then it doesn’t help anybody’s side to continue to circulate it under Chrysostom’s name. (No, I’m not going to tell you which side I agree with on that — i.e., whether or not I wish it were authentic. My politics are my own business, and current politics are actually among the things in the world in which I am least interested.) So, anyway, if that wasn’t ideological, then I should be willing to do that kind of work even when it’s a greeting-card sentiment that surely everybody should unambiguously approve of, right? Exactly.

Off to Google I went. I couldn’t come up with anything searching on that text except for, well, the quote presented as the quote. A TLG search on Greek keywords like νύμφη (bride) and ὄνειρος (dream) came up with nothing that looked anything like it. I also didn’t find anything in Chrysostom on Marriage and Family Life that resembled the passage in question. None of this necessarily meant anything except that I hadn’t found the right keywords, of course.

Finally, somebody pointed me to this page, which presented the text this way:

The words of one of the greatest-ever preachers, St John Chyrsostom, might deepen the question. He said that a young husband should say to his bride: “I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us” (Homilies on Ephesians, 20,8).

There are a couple of useful bits of information there. There is the citation, of course. There’s also the incipit of the quote as it appears on Facebook, “…a young husband should say to his bride”, except it’s not actually in the quoted text. It’s the introduction to the quote, not part of the quote itself. By the time it gets to Facebook, however, it’s part of the quote. Someday, I’m sure, textual criticism of the Internet will be its own scholarly field. Things like this will be among the phenomena to study, I’m sure.

The citation allowed me to look up the Greek text on TLG. I have to say, at best, the quote is a rather, uh, free paraphrase of the Greek, and it’s also somewhat out of context. Here it is with some context (translation mine):

“For if Paul did not refrain from saying, ‘Do not deceive each other,’ and he was speaking the words of a bridesmaid, or rather not of a bridesmaid but a spiritual soul, by much more we will not refrain from saying [the same thing]. What, then, is it necessary to say to her? With great grace indeed [it is necessary] to be saying to her: ‘I took you, child, as a sharer of life, and I led you in to the most serious and necessary things as one sharing them with me, [namely] in the begetting of children and the leadership [or protection — the word is προστασία, the same word we call the Mother of God in the usual Sunday kontakion — “Protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame…” etc.] of the household. How, then, will I encourage you?’ Rather, before this, speak of the matters of love [ἀγάπη]. For there is nothing that thus avails to persuade the ones hearing to welcome the things said [to persuade one to listen to what you’re saying] than to learn that it is spoken with much love [ἀγάπη]. How then do you show love [ἀγάπη]? If you say, ‘Being able to take many women, both more well-provided-for and of clear lineage, I didn’t choose [them], but I was longing for you, and your conduct, your propriety, your graciousness, your prudence.’ Then immediately from these things prepare a way of words concerning philosophy, and in a roundabout way [lit. ‘with a way around’] denounce wealth. For, on the one hand, if you simply prolong your speech against wealth, you will be burdensome; but on the other hand, if the subject is taken up, you will finish quickly. For you will seem to do this thing in the manner of explanation, not as somebody strict and graceless and of small account. But when you take up this subject in a way related to her [lit. ‘from her things’], it will even be enjoyable.

You, then, will say (for again it is necessary to take up the speech)…”

Here I must pause to note that everything up to this point is what the Facebook quote glosses as “A young husband should say to his bride…”, and we’ve still got some other stuff to go:

“…’it was possible and easily done to marry a rich woman [or, “it was was possible to marry a rich and well-provided for woman”], but I did not suffer it. Why, do you suppose? Not simply, or haphazardly, but I was educated well, that wealth is no possession but a contemptible thing, belonging to thieves and prostitutes and grave-robbers. On which account giving up these things, I came upon the virtue of your soul, which I value above all gold. For an intelligent and free young woman cultivating the fear of God is worthy of the entire known world [οἰκουμένη, which strikes me as also being something of a pun on the idea of the household]. On account of these things…”

…and now we finally get to what the quoted passage says:

“I embraced you for my own, and I am giving you affection [φιλῶ], and I am setting you over my own soul [προτίθημι is the same word used to denote a liturgical offering to God, so Chrysostom may be suggesting something of the sacramental nature of marriage here]. For the present life is nothing, and I pray and I request and I do everything so that we are counted worthy to stand this present life, and to be able to be with each other there in the age to come with much freedom from fear.”

And that’s the end of the quotation. As I said, what’s on Facebook is a rather free paraphrase that shades it more towards notions of romantic love that, while not necessarily wrong, aren’t really what Chrysostom is talking about. The next little bit also seems quite relevant:

“For on the one hand this time [χρόνος, earthly time] is short and perishable; on the other hand, if we, being pleasing to God, are counted worthy to change this life for that one, we will be always both with Christ and with each other with the fullness of pleasure. I set your love [ἀγάπη] before everything, and nothing is thus difficult or burdensome to me as when I quarrel with you. Even if it should be necessary that I lose everything, that I become poorer than Irus [a beggar in The Odyssey], that I endure extreme dangers, that I suffer anything whatsoever, to me everything is tolerable and bearable, as long as matters for you are well-ordered for me. And children will then be desirable for me, as long as you are favorably disposed towards me. But it will be necessary that you do these things too.'”

The whole homily is very much worth reading, but again, it’s pretty clear to me that what Chrysostom is saying is very different than what the short paraphrase suggests. The old Schaff Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation can be found here; if you read Greek, you can find it in TLG (PG 62.146-147).

So, yeah. Don’t trust greeting-card-style quotes that are attributed to Chrysostom, I guess. He was a pretty grumpy saint for such quotes to be reliably authentic.

Back to exams…

The baptism of Theodore Harvey Barrett II

Please consider yourself invited to Theodore’s baptism. He will be baptized at 9am on 25 November 2012 at All Saints Orthodox Church in Bloomington, Indiana; his godparents will be our friends Anna Pougas and Benjamin Czarnota. If you can come, I’d love to have you there.

A couple of people have asked me about baptismal gifts. Let it be said first and foremost that nobody is under any obligation or expectation of a gift. Your prayers (and your attendance, if we’re fortunate enough to have you there) are gift enough! However, if you want to do something, there are certainly still items left on Theodore’s gift registries (on Amazon, at Target, and otherwise), and there are also some online forums that talk about appropriate Orthodox baptismal gifts. Links for all of those are below. If none of those quite speak to you, perhaps you might make a gift to All Saints’ building fund; you could also make a gift to the St. John of Damascus Society; and then there is also a restoration project for an 11th century church dedicated to Mar Tadros (St. Theodore the General) in Lebanon that perhaps you could make a gift to in Theodore’s name. More information on the project is here. I am trying to find out how individuals might give to this project; watch this space for details if that’s something that intrigues you.

In the meantime, please pray for him, over the next couple of weeks especially!

That’s my boy.

That's my boy.

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“When we name our children, we should do so as ones who are identifying them as God’s heirs”

There’s a page from a church website making the usual rounds right now titled about Orthodox practices with a newborn. As somebody who is going through those steps right now and having to explain various things (what’s the difference between churching and baptism? Why do you have to do the churching? What’s the whole naming thing when you’re going to do a christening? etc.), I think it’s pretty good. We wound up churching Theodore after, well, ten days, I suppose — it was sort of curious how it worked out, since our priest came over to do the naming on a Tuesday, and told us, “Well, there’s no hard and fast reason to do 40 days if it’s not practical to do 40 days, but it’s theoretically supposed to be the first real trip outside of the house for the mother and child.” Megan looked sheepish and said, Um, I went to Target yesterday. The priest gave a dismissive wave and said, not a big deal. Let’s just do the churching on Thursday.

Well, the reason we could do the churching on a Thursday was because it was the same day that Fr. Peter E. Gillquist’s body was lying in the center of the church, and we were serving a Divine Liturgy before he was to be taken up to Holy Trinity in Indianapolis for the funeral services proper. (There were around 32 clergy at the altar for his funeral. There’s no freaking way All Saints could have done that.) So, Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist carried Theodore Harvey Barrett II down the aisle, past the body of his own father, Fr. Peter E. Gillquist, into the altar. There was something weirdly normal-seeming about the whole thing — in the midst of death, we are in life — and there were a number of people who said to me that it wasn’t every day that the whole circle of life seemed to get represented like that.

Anyway. Something that hit me about the Orthodox newborn practices piece was this bit about names:

Orthodox Christian naming practices vary. A child is sometimes named after the saint commemorated on the day of birth, sometimes in honour of some other saint or biblical figure. Sometimes, however, the child receives the name of a virtue, an ancestor, or some other name entirely (see for example, early saints who were named after pagan philosophers like Plato). There are no “hard and fast” rules (as there might have been in ancient Judaism), except that Christian parents should name their child in a thoughtful and prayerful manner, not whimsically, idly, or merely according to some prevailing fashion. Our names embody our identities and point to our vocation. When we name our children, we should do so as ones who are identifying them as God’s heirs and dedicating them to His service.

A philosopher (and by a “philosopher” I mean Bruce Willis speaking Roger Avary’s words) once said, “I’m American, honey. Our names don’t mean shit.” Well, that’s not quite right. My name has a meaning; “Richard” means “king” (it’s cognate with rex, Reichert, etc. and it’s the semantic equivalent of the Greek name Βασίλης), “Raymond” means “protector”, and then “Barrett” can mean “strong man”, “hatmaker”, or something like “con man”, depending on what part of Europe your family is from. My family appears to be from the part of Europe where it means “con man” (evidently the only remaining reflex of this meaning in Modern English is the legal term “barratry”, which itself seems to mean something akin to “ambulance chasing”); of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m the strong king of con men (…or does it…?). No, what it means is that my father, Richard Ellis Barrett, wanted me to have his name but didn’t want me to be a junior. My middle name comes from my maternal grandfather, Raymond Myrick, whom I never got to meet.

Theodore is named for his great-great-great-grandfather, about whom I’ve written a decent amount. Theodore means “gift of God” (Theo- “God” doros “gift”, with the appropriate inflected Greek masculine ending), and is apparently semantically equivalent to the Hebrew form of “Matthew”. His namesake was a general (if perhaps not necessarily a great or even a good one, although this much is not entirely clear to me), so it was a no-brainer to us that Theodore the General should be his patron saint. But wait — “Harvey” apparently meant “battle worthy” in Breton. So he’s the battle worthy general who’s a gift from God. Of course, there’s still the whole problem of being a con man — but anyway.

Of course, the point isn’t that our firstborn is going to be a battle-worthy general of an army of con men who all think they’re God’s gift. (Although he might be, I suppose.) The point is that, “Harvey” and “II” and all, he has the best name we could give him, with the best link to his family’s legacy that we could possibly provide, however tenuous of a connection it may be and however forgotten his namesake may have been. The argument could be made that it’s constructed and contrived and trying to revive a memory that had already apparently passed away within two generations, but one doesn’t rebuild bridges by throwing up one’s hands and saying, “I guess we can’t get there from here.”

Perhaps it’s a lot of weight to place on a little boy’s name, but at the same time, there’s no question at the very least that he’s a gift from God. Besides, Theodore has gained 23 ounces and grown an inch since being discharged from the hospital, and he was eight pounds to begin with. I think he’ll manage.

Fr. Peter E. Gillquist and Theodore Harvey Barrett II: In the midst of death we are in life

A little over nine years ago I read Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith by Fr. Peter E. Gillquist. It was one of a flurry of books I read around this time, starting with the Ware The Orthodox Church and Pelikan’s The Vindication of Tradition, and including Schmemann’s For the Life of the World and Clark Carlton’s The FaithThe WayThe Truth, and The Life. I wouldn’t say the book had an overabundance of things to say to me, since I didn’t really have the conceptual problems of an evangelical per se, but given where I was at the time (the full story of which will have to wait), and given how I generally approach things, I remember thinking, Well, if this guy’s job is supposed to be missions and evangelism, then maybe he’ll know what to tell me. I wrote him a fairly lengthy letter explaining to him a lot about where I was at, and sent it off not really expecting a response, figuring that he had to get letters from perplexed Catholic-wannabe Protestants all the time.

A couple of weeks later, I got a large envelope in reply from Fr. Peter, containing a copy of Matthew Gallatin’s Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells, and a handwritten note that advised me to get in touch with a local priest named Fr. James Bernstein. “He will understand you!” the note said.

That turned out to be a fruitful pairing indeed, and I would say that Fr. Peter’s willingness to take me seriously enough to pass along some kind of useful response was a big factor in becoming Orthodox two years later.

I finally met Fr. Peter a few months after his son was assigned to All Saints, the parish in our adopted home of Bloomington, Indiana. He gave a wonderful presentation for IU’s OCF that was also attended by a good 80 people from the greater community. He continued to make appearances at All Saints every so often over the next couple of years, until finally he moved here in 2009.

Fr. Peter and I worked together on a number of projects, related to All Saints’ building project as well as Orthodox Hoosiers, the Orthodox IU alumni association that never quite achieved critical mass. It was Fr. Peter’s brainchild, he and I poured a lot of time and effort into it, and it really was (and is!) a wonderful idea. Alas, it just was the wrong time, and neither of us really had it in us to try to get it going past the first big push. We both hoped that the initial response would be sufficient to get some momentum going and to convince somebody else to take it on, and even with a mailing list of 500 people, that just didn’t turn out to be reality. I think that perhaps we had a shared vision that was nonetheless harder to realize than it could have been given a rather marked difference in methodologies — he was always very up front about trying to approach things from what he understood to be the science of marketing, and I was less trying to get people to “buy”, as such, than I was trying to get them to see the particulars of the vision for themselves. We were further hampered by some broader chicken-and-egg problems at All Saints that Orthodox Hoosiers was at once intended to help solve but also severely limited by itself. In the end, we both tried our hardest, but it was perhaps the right idea at the wrong moment.

Fr. Peter E. Gillquist with his son and baptizands on Lazarus Saturday, 2012.

Fr. Peter passed away earlier this evening after an old struggle with cancer had reared its ugly head again in the last several weeks. It was a blessing and honor to have known him, and I can truthfully say that he made a difference in my life and the lives of those around me. May his memory be eternal, and my heart goes out to his family, particularly Fr. Peter Jon.

Theodore Harvey Barrett II was born at 6:49pm on 25 June 2012; he was born in the same hospital where Fr. Peter was also undergoing some last-minute surgery. Fr. Peter Jon was able to come down to post-partum from his father’s recovery room to give the first blessing to the child after he was born. That is very much its own story, one that I do not have time to detail here in full, except to say that he and his mother are healthy and thriving. I wish that there had been more overlap of time on this earth between Theodore and Fr. Peter than simply the last week. I would have loved for Theodore to have known Fr. Peter, with his gravelly voice, his ability to grab a crowd with either a joke, a prayer, or a Bible quotation, and his insistence on treating you like he’d known you for years even if he just met you.

In the midst of death we are in life. I have more to say about both transitions, but this will have to do for now.


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