Reflections on the various dimensions of feminine vocation from liturgical homemaking and child rearing to education and the spiritual life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the Occassion of My Son's First Nameday

"Now she conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Now I will give thanks to the Lord.' Therefore she called his name Judah." (Genesis 29:35, Orthodox Study Bible).
Dear Jude,
Today is your first nameday, the day we remember your namesake whose feast the Church in the West celebrates every year on this day.* And so, I am writing to tell you all about your name.

We named you Jude, which is another form of the name Judah derived from the Hebrew word for praise or thanksgiving. There are at least three men with a version of the Judah/Judas/Jude name mentioned in the Bible and they all have something to teach us.

The first is Judah, Jacob and Leah's fourth son named in the quotation above. Judah is the brother who convinced the others to sell Joseph the dreamer into bondage rather than kill him (Gen. 37:26-27). Later he repented of the treachery entirely and offered to give himself over to slavery in exchange for Joseph's beloved brother Benjamin. In the intervening years, Judah was not very lady-wise (Tamar!), but, as the Bard has said, all's well that ends well!

And so it was Judah, the fourth son, who received the patriarchal blessing from Jacob who bypassed the older three because of their iniquities. In this way, Judah became predominant among the twelve tribes of Israel; from his tribe came the Lion, the Root of David, who prevails and overcomes (Rev. 5:5).
"Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; [. . . ] The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from his loins, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the expectation of the nations" (Gen. 49:8a, 10)

In the New Testament, beside Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, we find Jude Thaddaeus, the faithful disciple and apostle, and we find the epistle of Jude.

The Jude who authored the New Testament book bearing his name is the brother of James the Just (v.1), who in turn authored the epistle of James and presided at the first ecumenical council in Acts 15:13. (James the Just is not to be confused with James the son of Zebedee). James and Jude are both called "brothers" of our Lord Jesus as they were his kinsmen, usually thought to be legal cousins through Joseph.

In his epistle, Saint Jude the brother of Christ, exhorts his readers "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (v. 3b) and to reject the heretical teachers who had "crept in" to the Church and become hidden reefs "in your love feasts" (v.12). While his brief letter is hotly polemical, Jude's advice to the faithful is not to confront the false teachers with strong words or deeds but rather to "remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ," to "build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit" and to "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (v. 20, 21). Love and obedience to God as truly revealed in Christ and his apostles is Saint Jude's prescription against falsehood and his road map for salvation.

While both western and eastern liturgical traditions celebrate the Apostle Jude and Jude, the author of the last general epistle, as one and the same person, biblical scholars point to textual evidence suggesting they were really two separate individuals (see Jude v. 17).

Very little is known of Saint Jude the Apostle, but we are given a small glimpse of him in the Gospel story itself. We find it in the heart of Saint John's Gospel, in the extended telling of the Last Supper communion of Jesus and his disciples in the upper room.

In this last Passover feast before his passion, Jesus, in a most corporeal and intimate way, gives himself to "His own who were in the world," whom "having loved [. . .] He loved them to the end" (John 13:1). Christ, the pre-eternal Word of God, washes his disciples' feet, gives them his own body and blood in the appearance of bread and wine, and reclines with them at the table disclosing the very heart of God to them in the inaugural mystical and eucharistic "love feast." And so it is, as during the pillow talk of this intimate exchange, that Saint Jude's voice is heard in conversation with his Lord:
          "Whoever hears my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
          Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
          Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (John 14:21-24)
At this pre-passion point in the story, Saint Jude, along with all the other disciples, surely expected Christ to establish an earthly messianic kingdom. Here we see Jude asking how Christ could fail to manifest himself to the world in such a case. Perhaps he also wondered why Christ would withhold his salvation and glory from some while giving it to others.

Jude, my son, these are questions with which you, too, may struggle from time to time. I know I do. It is easy to want Christ to change our outward circumstances, to meet our "felt needs," to improve our earthly situation. It is also easy to struggle with the evil and desolation we see in the world and desire everyone to see and know the intimate love of Christ which we experience in communion with Him. How could God exclude any or allow any to be lost?

When we read John's narrative, it seems on one level as if Christ ignores Jude's question. Yet, we see in the both the repetition and differentiation of His reply the simple but profound answer: Christ's kingdom is not of this world; it is established in the interior castle, that is, in every believer's heart who individually chooses to love and obey the Savior.

Without doubt God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). It is equally sure that He does not demand our love without first giving us His; "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Christ demonstrates this chronology by first washing the disciples' feet and breaking bread with them. Then He spells out the relationship of His love to ours in His "new commandment" to love "as I have loved you" (John 14:11). It is this new commandment that is foremost when Christ urges his disciples to demonstrate their love for Him through obedience.

While there is a hard lesson is Christ's response to Saint Jude, namely, that not everyone will accept Christ's love nor choose to love and obey Him in return, the real revelation here is that the Father, Himself, will "come to him" who receives Christ, and the triune Godhead will "make our home with him." Many do not comprehend or receive the Light that shines in darkness, but for those who receive the Light, they themselves become the very abode of God.

Saint Jude understood and embodied Christ's response to his Last Supper question. Pious tradition tells us that Saint Jude went, along with Saint Simon, another of the twelve, to preach the gospel in Mesopotamia, Arabia, Idumea, and Syria, and that Jude was martyred in Beirut around 80 A.D.

Saint Jude so opened himself to the indwelling love of God that, incarnating Christ's Messianic Kingdom, he poured himself out in love and obedience to his Savior proclaiming Light to those in darkness, seeking the salvation of all.

This is your namesake, my son. And this is my prayer for you today as we remember and honor your patron, Saint Jude:

I pray that you, like Saint Jude the Apostle, will so open yourself to the inebriating love of God that you, too, embodying Christ's Kingdom, will pour yourself out in love and obedience to our Lord, sacrificially serving others and tirelessly witnessing to Christ's grace and truth.

I pray that, like Saint Jude the brother of our Lord, you will "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints [. . .] praying in the Holy Spirit" and "keeping yourself in the love of God."

I pray also that, like Judah the patriarch, you shall make repentance your friend and remember your obligation to brother, to lady, and to Lord.

I pray that as your name is so you shall be: perpetually giving Eucharistic thanks and praise to the Lord; for in so doing, you shall, like all the faithful Judes of Scripture, prevail and overcome, teaching the nations obedience, bearing the very Lawgiver in your soul.

Saint Jude, pray for us that we may be made worthy to join you at Christ's mystical banquet, bearing the Son in our souls, perpetually giving thanks to the Lord our God!

*Our Eastern Rite brethren commemorate St. Jude on June 19, while we Western rite folk commemorate Saints Jude and Simon together on October 28.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More About Early Language Acquisition

I don't think it is controversial to acknowledge that the Unites States is way behind Europe, Canada, and other developed countries in teaching and learning world (or "foreign") languages. One major way we go wrong is by leaving out world language education until the high school years.

There is a plethora of research verifying the observation that second (and third, etc.) language acquisition in the early elementary grades carries clear multifaceted benefit for students and society. Here are few general points summarized from the research:

Students who begin learning a second language early, namely, by third grade, show greater learning proficiency across subject areas and disciplines, and especially in basic English-language skills, because language learning enhances cognitive development overall and because literacy and thinking skills transfer from one language to another. Students also gain exposure to other cultures and people groups. Additionally, young students are ripe for language learning as research indicates the greatest plasticity in children's brains before the age of ten. (See Lipton 2003.*)

Society benefits from a multi-lingual populace, not only from the enhanced cognitive development and appropriate cultural sensitivity of multi-lingual individuals, but also from the advantages accrued to business and national security. Those who wish to advance the national good through government service in areas such as intelligence, diplomacy, or the armed forces can meet an acute, chronic need by acquiring second language proficiency, especially in certain "less commonly taught languages" (LCTLs). (See Malone, Rifkin, Christian, & Johnson, 2005.)

Minority groups also benefit when their mother tongue is preserved. Preserving such heritage languages seems similar to preserving fine art or archeological artifacts. As mentioned in the previous post, Greek is the special heritage group of the Christian Church, as are Hebrew and Latin.

Language is one of the highest and most complex of man's creative productions in which he images his Creator, the pre-existent Word. How will you incorporate secondary language development in your child's education?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Greek: The Language of Our Birthright

As Christians, we have our own heritage languages to preserve, the languages of Scripture and of the Church Fathers and saints, which are not simply artifacts but are living witnesses to Divine Revelation. When we lose our ability to access the original texts of the divinely-inspired authors, we lose our birthright as a community.

It seems that, even among pastors and clergy, fewer and fewer are acquiring and maintaining fluency in biblical languages and integrating such knowledge with their ministry in meaningful ways. Who then is left to create, maintain, and update our English translations? How do we as a faithful lay community participate in the preservation of this most sacred revelation and provide accountability to the seminarians and scholars who hand us translations for adoption?

Our primary heritage languages in the Church are Hebrew, Greek, and, in the West, Latin. Latin instruction, although perhaps not as strong as previously, has an established history in American education and continues to linger in private and classical schools.

However, I would argue, that especially for Orthodox Christians, Greek should be given priority because it is the language of the New Testament but also of the Septuagint, which the Orthodox Church considers a divinely inspired translation. Thus, you get both Old and New Testaments with one language, not to mention the early Church and Byzantine Fathers. Hebrew then, is important but not as essential as Greek.

Learning the Greek of the Septuagint, of the New Testament, of the Early Church and Byzantine Fathers is a huge task to attempt as an adult on the side. (I know, I've tried.) Most of us are too limited in terms of time, energy, and interest to even think of such an undertaking. But this is not the case for school children in the primary grades.

When given an interesting curricular program and an enthusiastic teacher, what first-grader wouldn't thoroughly enjoy the challenge and thrill of cracking and practicing a foreign language? For the well-loved and un-jaded school child (sans learning disability), the world is her oyster and learning is truly a delight—as God intended it to be. She is rightly uninhibited by adult concerns; she has no financial or time constraints to keep her from her seasonal vocation, namely, to discover the world and enjoy it. It is the parent-teacher's job to provide the structured and unstructured learning opportunities and encourage discovery and enjoyment in a fun and loving environment free from shame an inappropriate compulsion.

I don't think public or even very many private schools are about to start offering Kione or Byzantine Greek, so consider this one more compelling reason to homeschool!

Once students have tackled Greek and/or Latin in the early elementary grades before they think it's work, learning modern languages will be a breeze in middle school, high school, and/or college. By becoming multilingual we can seize the personal and community benefits of maximizing our God-given potentials in this area as well as in others.

Let's not profane our birthright by exchanging it for the porridge of monolingualism.

*See specifically "Foreign Language Instruction: What Principals Should Know" under "Articles on FLES*."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Diana the Huntress Serves Dinner

Photo courtesy Henrik Wann Jensen

People.  I am on a culinary roll.  Since the hottest day in L.A. in recorded history, your everyday domestic goddess has improved the venison meatloaf menu.  Here it is for you to enjoy.

Serves 4.

Sweet & Tangy Venison Meatloaf
  • 12 oz. venison breakfast sausage/ground venison (or ground beef, for all you mortals)
  • 3/4 cup onions , finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/8 cup peach preserves
  • 2 eggs , lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper Ingredients

Position baking stone on a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF for 20 minutes (or just 5, if not using a baking stone). Lightly grease a 9x5-inch (or smaller) loaf pan.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and knead mixture with your hands until everything is well blended but not overmixed.

Pour meat mixture into loaf pan and bake on baking stone until the meat is firm to the touch and has shrunk away from the sides of the pan or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 160ºF, 30-40 minutes.

Pour off excess fat and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Note: This makes a mini or short loaf. Recipe can be doubled; every ingredient is doubled except eggs--use three large.  Increase baking time.

Meatloaf "Gravy" for the Table
My three-year-old loves this!  Mix equal parts
  • BBQ sauce
  • ketchup, and 
  • peach preserves.

Ginger Mashed Twice-Cooked Potatoes
With a rack placed in the middle of the oven, preheat to 400º F.

Steam until soft when pierced with a fork, approximately 5 minutes:
  •  4 lbs. potatoes, chopped into chunks for quick cooking
(Leave the skin on! The skin has most of the nutrients and it adds a wonderful texture and flavor.) 

Mash potatoes together with
  • 1-2 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T butter or Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (vegan)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Lightly grease a casserole pan with
  • vegetable oil
Pour potato mixture into pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Zingy Peach Rocket Salad
Flash fry on a dry skillet over high heat until beginning to wilt and brown:
  • 1/2 cup red onion , sliced into rings
Let cool.

To make the dressing, combine and wisk or shake in a tightly sealed container:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayanne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 6 cups rocket lettuce (a.k.a., arugla)
  • 2-3 organic peaches, ripe and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces

with onions and enough dressing to moisten. Distribute to serving plates and serve as the starter. . . . Zing!

From Jean M. Zimmermann | New York private art dealer & fine arts appraiser on

Friday, October 8, 2010


Until a few months ago, I had never made a frittata. In fact, I think I had only eaten it once, maybe twice, before in my life. But, now. Now it is a household staple, a weekly menu item. And one of my almost-four-year-old's favorites. It's also pretty easy and quick to make.

Spinach Frittata*
Heat in large skillet over medium heat:
  • 2 T olive oil
Add and cook, stirring, until lightly browned:
  • 1 C chopped onion
Add and cook until heated through and wilted:
  • 2 C frozen chopped spinach
Season with
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 1 T fresh snipped basil (or 1 t dried)
  • 1 T fresh dill (or 1 t dried)
Stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the broiler.
Meanwhile, beat together until smooth:
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 t salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper
Add the onion-spinach mixture.
Heat in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat:
  • 2 T olive oil or butter or Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (vegan)
When just hot (before butter begins to bubble or brown) pour in egg mixture. Reduce heat and cook until bottom is set (about 3 to 5 minutes).  Place skillet under the broiler for 30 to 60 seconds to finish cooking; do not brown. Loosen with a spatula and slide onto a plate.

Serve in wedges with organic red grapes and french country potatoes. (I use Trader Joe's "Country Potatoes with Haricots Verts & Wild Mushrooms" from the frozen section.)

Serves 4.

*This recipe is inspired by/adapted from the Zucchini Frittata recipe in The Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition.  Also delicious!