Slosh, don’t sprinkle

A dear friend of mine serves as an Orthodox priest in one of our coastal cities. He told me about a visit to his port of a Russian “sailing ship.” It was a wonderful visit, as he related. The ship had a small chapel on board and a Russian Orthodox chaplain. Together they celebrated a small prayer service in the chapel, which was packed with visitors and sailors. The service including the blessing of water. Traditionally at the end of the blessing, the people are sprinkled with the blessed water. My American friend took the sprinkling brush and (in a common American way) lightly sprinkled the water. He was interrupted, he said, by a loud, “Nyet!”

The Russian priest took the brush from him, plunged it in the water and proceeded to “slosh” the gathered congregation (“sprinkle” simply doesn’t describe such a application of water).

When my friend told me the story, I asked him if he understood what had happened. “We Americans sprinkle water as though we’re afraid to get wet. The Russians “slosh” the water as though they are getting blessed!”

from Glory to God for All Things

Hey, if you’re gonna do something, do it all the way.


February 9, 2011 at 10:28 am Leave a comment


Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle.

Galileo Galilei (1564 -1642), via James V Stone, via Idiolect

October 12, 2010 at 11:44 am Leave a comment


If the Gospels and the books of the Old and New Testament were written by men guided by the Holy Spirit, why don’t we know more about the mystery of God and of salvation? Is it possible for the Holy Spirit to transfer words from the Godhead to the mind of a man and through his pen to the paper without that man gaining some of this knowledge as it passes?

Why are there so many factual inconsistencies in the Bible if this was written by a Being who is clued into the mysteries of the universe and supposedly knows how the world works?

October 12, 2010 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

“Love after Love” by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

May 4, 2009 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

Scientists as priests

The emulation of Darwin’s heroic virtue and his passionate search for truth in science replaces the emulation of holy men and their search for truth in god.

Is this really progress? I think it might be or it would be if the practice of science could ever become as widespread as the practice of prayer. Behaving as scientists are supposed to do – looking humbly and devotedly for the truth wherever it may be found – is a morally good thing. But there’s no reason to suppose that science ever will in fact become a mass pursuit. All the figures that we have suggest that it is a less and less popular career path. And treating Darwin, or any other scientist, as a wonder-worker just turns science into a priesthood. That doesn’t do anyone any good, neither scientists nor the rest of us. Darwin was a good man and his theory was a great one. But believing it, even understanding it, won’t make the goodness and the greatness rub off on the believers.

Andrew Brown

The ‘scientist as priest’ or ‘science as the new religion’ meme is pretty old now. The interesting thing in this quote from Andrew Brown’s blog is the passivity of the nonbeliever and the believer.

People aren’t replacing religion with science. They are abandoning both. Or, better, they are giving the same passive attention to both. I don’t think that most people are very religious, despite what they think of themselves. They are content to know that the Church exists and is available for weddings and funerals. They are satisfied enough to know that God loves them. All of this is like insurance. Good to know you have it but not something you think much about.

The same seems to be true now of science. Nobody really does science, just as no one really prays regularly. It is sufficient to know that someone is doing science. It is enough to know that there is a priesthood keeping things in their place and overlaying order on the world.

March 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm 1 comment

The poor man’s son

The poor man’s son, whom heaven, in its anger, has visited with ambition, admires the condition of the rich. Through the whole of his life, he pursues the idea of a certain, artificial and elegant repose, which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquility that is at all times in his power, and which, if in the extremity of old age, he should at last attain to it, he will find to be in no respect preferable to that humble security and contentment, which he had abandoned for it.

Power and riches appear then to be what they are, enormous machines contrived to produce a few trifling conveniences to the body. They keep off the summer shower, not the winter storm, but leave him always as much and sometimes more exposed than before to anxiety, to fear and to sorrow, to diseases, to danger and to death.

Adam Smith
Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)

January 27, 2009 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

Why send prophets?

And al-Rawandi is another figure who questioned to the point of disbelief and was widely known for having done so, and suggested, for instance, that a good god would have never sent prophets. He would have told everybody what they needed to know. That the idea of sending a few people in a few moments in history to tell the truth and then hoping everyone else believed them, and allowing the doctrines to get changed over time and questioned and all that, why would a god do that? And that’s a really profound question, which hadn’t come up before.

Jennifer Michael Hecht

January 20, 2009 at 1:11 pm 1 comment

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