See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Sunday, July 17, 2011

St. Alexis and other aberrations.



"If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat with them... let them grow together until the end of the age."

The painting shown here is by Carl Dobsky, titled The Lotus Eater, evocative of the episode in Homer's Odyssey when the men became enchanted by the Lotus Eater's island.  In this painting Dobsky reveals to us a homeless man lying abject, asleep on a threshold, surrounded by his spent intoxicants.
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I would call the painting, St. Alexis if it were mine.  I expect that would baffle every one, since clearly this man doesn't seem to be exemplary or saintly.  So why would I do that?  Maybe because he reminds me of a former Jesuit I used to see outside St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston.  He looked much like the Lotus Eater.  He always begged for money and cigarettes, his eyes often watering - probably because they stung from dehydration.  It made him more endearing however, since it suggested tears of repentance, and when he asked for 'donations' he frequently spoke about spiritual things, giving the impression he had once been very holy, and maybe still was, despite his apparent alcoholism and addictions.  Perhaps he was wheat amongst the other weeds or homeless men who panhandled with him?
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Yesterday as I was leaving my house I noticed an old black man sitting on my front steps.  He was just 'passing through' the neighborhood.  It was hot and he had sat down to drink his 6-pack of beer and smoke a few cigarettes.  He rushed over to the car as I pulled out of the garage, introduced himself and almost immediately started quoting scripture and informing me he was a Vietnam vet - all very good credentials meant to verify he was a good man despite appearances.  Then he asked if it was all right to rest himself on my steps - I said, sure, go ahead!  And then he had me repeat my permission to make certain he had a guarantee - just in case the police stopped by, then he invited me to join him and I told him I had to go because I was on my way to Mass.
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When I returned home he was gone.  A neighbor lady had called the police to have him move on.  She obviously didn't recognize that he was a distinguished guest relaxing on my staircase. 
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The poor scare us.  The indigent repel us.  They could be us.  I think their quoting scripture oftentimes mirrors our own quest for acceptance and approval - it proves, as it were, that they are us.  I think when we say, 'there but for the grace of God' it isn't really humility yet, because we still secretly think we are better than them.
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"Who would not have judged that poor Lazarus was supremely miserable and the rich man quite happy and content?  Yet such was not the case, for that rich man with all his wealth suffered more than poor Lazarus tormented by his leprosy. For the rich man's selfish will was alive, and this is the source of all suffering.  But in Lazarus this will was dead and his will was so alive in me that he found refreshment and consolation in his pain.  He had been thrown out by others, especially by the rich man, and was neither cleansed nor cared for by them, but I provided that the senseless animals should lick his sores.  And you see how at the end of their lives Lazarus has eternal life and the rich man is in hell." - The Dialogue, Catherine of Siena
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What?
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Art:  Carl Dobsky is represented by John Pearce Gallery, San Francisco.

23 comments:

  1. Terry--interesting that you post about St. Alexis, Man of God, on the 93rd anniversary of the murder of the Russian Imperial family. St. Alexis is greatly revered by the Orthodox, and the Tsarevich was named after him. Holy Passion-bearers of Russia, pray for us!

    Ace

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  2. 'It made him more endearing however, since when he asked for 'donations' he frequently spoke about spiritual things, giving the impression he had once been very holy, and maybe still was, despite his apparent alcoholism and addictions. Perhaps he was wheat amongst the other weeds or homeless men who panhandled with him?'

    That's how Charlie Sheen is viewed by his father, Martin.

    ”We lift him up and we ask everyone who cares about him to lift him up, and lift up all those who are in the grip of drug and alcohol abuse, because they are looking for transcendence.”

    http://bluenred.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/sunshine-daydream/

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  3. Beautiful post. I once encountered a man wrapped around a bottle in DC. I stopped to ask if he was okay, and he looked up at me and he looked just like the face from a Spanish crucifix. He wouldn't take the money I offered and I left him shaken...

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  4. Ace - little Alexi is a saint too.

    Shadowlands - good reminder - a father's love.

    Daniel - that too is beautiful. Thanks.

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  5. Yes Terry, and I often have recourse to the prayers of him and the Imperial Family, especially St. Elizabeth the New Martyr.

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  6. Terry, that is a disturbing, moving post. And so is the picture you show here, it doesn't allow us to be comfortable, because, "there but the grace of God...". I think you are right; we are afraid of the poor; also anybody with mental issues.

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  7. I had also read that the imperial family of Russia were considered saints and martyrs by the Russian Orthdox believers. Do you know how they decide someone is a saint; is it just by popular devotion, or is there a process like ours?

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  8. Coming out of lurkerdom to thank you for this very beautiful post. I was a little toddler around St. Anthony's in the 80s. My mom,dad, grandmother and Fr. John Lazanski used to take me around to visit the homeless people outside. We'd chat, and give them sandwiches or rosaries. I am so very, very grateful for the experience.

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  9. The Russia Orthdox Church Outside of Russia glorified them first as martyrs, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow later glorified them as passion-bearers. Either way, they are saints. I am not entirely sure of the process, but it is less legalistic and stringent than Rome's, more on a synodal or consensus basis. It's something like this: there is an investigation which usually stems from a grass-roots level of devotion. If miracles happen and continue, a service of glorification will be held. This service acknowledges that God has manifested that this person is a saint, but it does not make them a saint. This can be done on a local level by any bishop. Martyrs don't need a formal glorifcation as their death is the witness to their sanctity.

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  10. Melody - John answers the question. Thanks John.

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  11. I've been to their current place of burial; Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. They were first named martyrs of soviet oppression and later canonized as passion bearers due to the Christ like way they faced death.

    The Orthodox Church of America canonized them as martyrs first.

    Orthodox canonize for different reasons; for example, the royal family is said not to have been murdered for their faith, but it's indisputible that one of the objectives under Stalin was to purge religion from the country. He didn't succeed.

    There are three approved icons of the martyred family; images used in iconography are also canonized over time as they determine which is the most perfect image. Rublev's Trinity is canonized and Rublev himself was canonized for painting that image.

    Orthodox canonizations have not altered so much as Catholic ones; saints used to be proclaimed upon death due to popular demand but could also be canonized after achieving a cult following.

    Note that murdered servants were also named as martyrs of soviet oppression, including the Catholic tutor and Lutheran lady in waiting.

    Note also that before the imperial family was canonized, newmartyrs Elizabeth, a Grand Duchess and sister to the Czarina, and Barbara, a cousin, who had both taken holy orders, were canonized, together with the princes with whom they were killed; the OCA didn't canonize the princes.

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  12. Nan--what year did the OCA glorify the Imperial Family? ROCOR did it in 1981 and the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000. I was under the impression that the ROCOR glorification was the first.

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  13. Do you love Me?

    Take a day and meditate on that and the words

    Always

    and

    Never.

    Christ puts us to the test constantly.

    Do you love Me?

    *

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  14. Sorry, John, I was had bad information, probably from someone who doesn't realize that there's more than one Russian church entity in the US; OCA honors any canonizations that Moscow makes, rather than offering their own, so you're right, ROCOR was first.

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  15. That's OK Nan--I was confused as I had never heard of the OCA glorifying them. Actually after taking to an Orthodox friend, I found out that once the glorification service is done, the icon is unveiled and the new service to the saint is sung, the local Church that has done the glorification then notifies the other Churches who then add the saint to their canon so the feast becomes universal.
    Now with the Imperial Family, things were a bit different as ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate (and the OCA) were out of communion with each other in 1981. There would have been no universal recognition at that point.

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  16. I don't remember if the book of modern icons from St. Petersburg has an example of one of their icons. I have a postcard-sized reproduction from an iconography shop.

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  17. I think it is so wonderful that John and Nan are getting along so well. My job is done here. This blog's sole purpose is to bring people together.

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  18. It's so confusing trying to figure out which Orthodox group venerates which saint, which ones are in communion with the others, etc.

    Which one is the biggest? Russian (not ROCOR)?

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  19. Am I allowed to call b.s., Terry? :)

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  20. Yes you are Thom. Your comments are always welcome here.

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  21. FYI: My comment to Nan and John was supposed to be funny. "The purpose of this blog is to bring people together." That's like irony I think.

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  22. I knew that my instinct to post "Is outrage!" was right.

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  23. OMGoodness! You're from Boston or somewhere near?!?!

    Good post, BTW. I remember a couple of the regulars at St. Anthony's Shrine when I'd go there for daily Mass. There was Joseph C. from Somerville (Last name not given in full to respect his privacy). He had sores on his ankles that wouldn't heal, and he usually sat by the door. Then there was a younger man who would go for months to Atlantic Canada, where he would do some kind of work (fishing?); then he'd be back in Boston for a while.

    If I ever get to heaven, I think helping people like this out with a few dollars will have a lot to do with it.

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