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REFLECTION - Needed Oxymorons - 03/13/18

by Archpriest Lawrence Russell

Most of us remember the first time we heard or read the word “oxymoron,” a funny-sounding, funny-looking word; right? Oxymoron is a combination of two Greek words: oxys (sharp) and moros (stupid). Together, they mean “pointedly stupid.” As a figure of speech, an oxymoron describes an idea built of opposites, antonyms. Try “living death,” or “cruel kindness,” for instance. What strikes us in such pairings is contradiction, in and of itself. Finding oxymorons can be mere amusement, but discovering “needed oxymorons” can be riches indeed for our journey to the Kingdom.

Oxymorons generally are not used by scientists or engineers, but by writers – who choose them as a literary device – and especially (for our purposes) by Christian Theologians, who need them because the paltry categories of this limited world are not broad enough to express Divine Truth. They provide the “new wineskins” needed for the “new wine” – “else the wine will burst the skins, and the wine perisheth, and the skins” (Mk. 2:22).

In the spiritual realm, we find great depths in each oxymoron when we choose to look. After all, this is the realm in which God truly has brought together Life and death: Christ is, as the eternal Son of God, deathless Life; and He dies, as the God-man, a Life-filled death. When our Immortal, Life-giving Lord enters our world—a world subject to death—He bridges the chasm that separates Life from death! We see this in His Incarnation, in His Passion, in His Resurrection. This is what the Apostle Paul dared to call the “foolishness of God,” which is wiser than the “wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Did you catch it: wise foolishness?

Icon Workshop - 03/05/18

In June 2018, the master iconographer and world renowned icon painting instructor Theodore Papadopoulos will be coming to Los Angeles to provide his 6-day icon painting workshop and 2-day gilding workshop. This is his only stop in Southern California, and we are honored to have him come to our "Joy of All Who Sorrow" OCA mission in Culver City to teach. Mr. Papadopoulos will be providing most supplies, including boards, pigments, brushes, etc. The daily sessions will run from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (or up to 6:00 pm, as needed). The best accommodations are through Airbnb, which are readily available in Culver City, including houses or apartments/condos to share, if desired. One of our participants has already found a walking-distance Airbnb for $60 per night. 

There is limited space in both workshops in Los Angeles, so if anyone is interested, I can be reached at or via cell at 310-849-9451. Interested individuals can either email (with "Los Angeles Icon Workshop" in the subject line), call, or text. Time is of the essence, as all of our spaces may be filled soon.

For both workshops, June 8-9 and June 11-16, the total cost is $900, including a $350 non-refundable deposit.

The icon painting workshop alone is $680, including a $250 non-refundable deposit.

The gilding workshop alone is $270, with a $150 deposit. However, the price listed above for both workshops includes a $50 discount off the gilding portion. 

This year, Mr. Papadopoulos will be conducting his icon workshops in London, Ireland, Germany, and the United States.  

One can see Mr. Papadopoulos website by visiting:

-Matushka Deborah Tomasi

REFLECTION: Total Surrender to God - 02/24/18

Hieromonk Innocent
St. John's Monastery, Manton, CA

Eighteen years ago, I converted to the Orthodox faith. During my years as an inquirer, I tried to follow the ascetic practices if the Church, including keeping the fast of Great Lent. For the particular parish that I attended, fasting meant the type of food (essentially vegan) and the quantity. Eager to follow all the customs, I requested that my apartment be blessed. The priest set up an appointment for the afternoon during one of the days of the Fast. 

"How are you?"

"I'm hungry."

"I am glad." A smile teased his lips. "That is music to my ears!"

For a moment, his reply struck me as sadistic--for him to be glad at my misery while I tried to follow all the rules! Then I realized that his smug satisfaction was actually proof of his pastoral success. As he had taught us, Lent was supposed to be uncomfortable, it is supposed to cause real hunger pangs. His future catechumen was starting to get it.

Real hunger, in fact, is extremely beneficial. At my monastery, as in many parishes and monasteries in the Orthodox world, the first three days of Lent are spent attending many services in the chapel and eating nothing at all. It is amazing how at peace the body becomes when it is free of the burden of digestion. Thinking becomes easier. The perennial mental fogs lifts. The pounding onslaught of thoughts slows down. During the long services, the words of the Psalms, in particular, seem to sink in as never before.


Go Fund Me Campaign for Matushka Priscilla Shipley - 02/22/18

After years of suffering from chronic pain and other enigmatic symptoms, Matushka Priscilla Shipley was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). According to the MS Society, symptoms of MS are often mistaken for other conditions including Lyme Disease for which she tested positive for several years ago.  Mat. Priscilla has tried every treatment under the sun to address what doctors thought were Lyme symptoms, all the while leaving her MS untreated for years.  Unfortunately, the MS progressed rapidly and just recently Mat. Priscilla was rendered blind in one eye and unable to walk.  Last week they went to Stanford, and had a very long informative appointment. It turns out that not only does Mat. Priscilla have MS, she also has a rarer disease called Neuromyelitis Optica or NMO. It's similar to MS, but much more serious and can be fatal. She will have to do more tests to rule out cancer, and then if there is no evidence of cancer start treatment for the NMO as soon as possible. This means immune suppressing infusions and steroids, among other things.

Her husband, Fr. Ian (the full time priest at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Chico, CA) has been caring for her at home.  Doctors are unable to tell whether these debilitating conditions will be permanent or not.  Until then, the family is in great need of outside assistance while they travel to Stanford and UC Davis so that Matushka can begin her tests and treatments.  We ask for everyone’s prayers, and we also ask that you please consider helping to contribute financially, not only so that they might be able to work with home health aides who can provide much needed support, but also to help fund necessary renovations to their bathroom (to accommodate a wheelchair), travel expenses to and from Stanford and probably UC Davis and any additional medical costs not covered by insurance.  Thank you.  

To support the Shipleys, please click on the link: https://www.youcaring. com/priscillashipley-1089613



To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Diocese of the West

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:14-21, Gospel reading for Forgiveness Sunday Liturgy)

Dearly beloved,

Mere moments before we enter the Great Fast, the Church in her wisdom calls us to reflect on the essential elements of a truly Lenten effort. Prayer is a part of every Orthodox Christian’s life — it almost goes without saying. That prayer becomes the foundation of everything else we do during Great Lent. Besides our personal prayer, the Church calls us to more corporate worship, giving us the Eucharist as many as four times a week to strengthen us in our efforts.

But the Lord brings our attention to the other great tools of true spiritual effort. First, fasting. The true fast does not find fruits in following mere “rules.” “What can I eat? Does this have any milk in the ingredients? When can we have fish, wine or oil?” Those rules are there as guidance and not as ends in themselves. We can feel so proud that we have “followed the rules.” But the self-denial of fasting also leads to peace, calm, a new look at the things we too often see as important. In our consumer society, we never deny ourselves anything at any time. We have truly come to believe that man does “live by bread alone.” The lengthy, and sometimes grueling, fast strips us of the superfluous and leaves only the essential. We learn to eat to live, and not live to eat.

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