Friday, December 14, 2012

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

When I was at the top of my game. Very young, a thriving and growing business, brimming with health, houses and cars owned out right, no debt whatsoever, beautiful young children, faithful wife and mistress. I had just become friends with Robert Shaw and taken the chief concert tuner position at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It seemed that whatever I touched turned to gold.  My best friend of that decade, Bob Smith (his real name by the way) said to me, "Butch, if you died today, do you realize that those people who are singing your praises as a very talented piano technician, musician, artist, etc, would be saying six months later, 'What was that follow's name that used to tune at Symphony?'  I did not realize the truth of his statement, until a week later, the head of maintenance at the Arts Center Complex dropped dead of a heart attack.  We were great friends - shared conversations three times a week at least. I knew his hopes and aspirations, shared holiday parties, and many, many stories. He played tenor sax for Dorsey and toured for many years, he knew by boyhood friend Ed King (a generation older) who also toured with Jimmy and Tommy Dorseys' Bands and even played in the Glen Miller Band before the military days.  He was by far the most popular person at the Atlanta Arts Center complex.  Six months later almost to the day, I pulled into the alley way, my privileged parking spot, next to the stage door (the one the orchestra member envied) looked straight ahead at the office door of my dear deceased friend, and could not recall his name.  To this day, I have never recovered his name, and have never asked his name of others who might know as a lesson to the wisdom of Bob Smith's words. It is true. We can be forgotten by most people we have met, even some we have love, very quickly.

People accuse me of being an egoist.  What they don't realize is that I'm an "ego-all-ist." I really want to see everyone that I see, friend and stranger, do more than survive but thrive, to be imbued with LIFE.  I really want to see everyone that I see, close, and mere stranger on the street, develop the talents the Good Lord has given them. I have always basked in the success of all around me and grieved for their loses. On any day I would have taken a bullet to save friend or stranger, alike.

I've never hidden myself from my sinful self or denied the need of God's healing/salvation. But rather as a flawed man I have loved Our Father in Heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ and the Blessed and Life engendering Holy Spirit, more than I have loved myself. On any given day in my years of living I would have flung my body to be burned, for the sake of those I love, or a stranger in harms way. For whatever reason, maybe the Holy Spirit bound to me at Baptism, if I dare love myself, I could not help but love everyone I see, also. In my years as Prison Chaplain when I hugged every inmate, and guard, and officer, and deputy Warden and Warden, and some in each category wept upon my shoulder, others would say, "How can you show such affection when he is a serial murder, or rapist. . . etc." I would say, it is worse than that, "That one sacrificed his infant son to Satan, on a cook stove, (this isn't fiction) and that one took his daughters as "sister wives", and that one murdered his girl friend and abuse her corpse for a week afterward, and when they managed to convict that one on a single charge of murder, they close the books on fifty one other murders – and he still gets a glint in his eye and enjoys talking about his handiwork. (He was known as The Hillbilly in Mafia circles, a valued “hit man” for the mob.) There is no human being so low that God does not love them, and if I claim THAT God to be in my heart and do not Love, I am a liar.” - Some would look at me as if I were insane. And of course when you choose radical love, those not possessed of it, but who see themselves a 'righteous' automatically hate you and are willing to invent any scandal against you. 

In these many decades of living, flawed as I am, sinful as I am, egoist as I am, I have never missed thanking God for my life and the life of others - not one day lived without acknowledging the blessing of mere breath, life, light in my eyes, beauty, truth, justice, liberty, the experience of just "being." 

How do I want to be remembered? - as a serious man who would kill you for abusing another, but who would take a bullet to keep you from suffering abuse. Do you understand what I am saying?  I am talking about in our sinfulness and imperfection standing for the GOOD. Perfect people don't stand for the Good, instead they stand in constant protection of their own egos, and self-image.  Being possessed of radical love is something very different. It is being willing to accept being thought a genius or a fool, a saint or a sinful man, whatever it takes to help the person who will never be able to repay you, to love the unlovely as well as the lovely, the broken as well as the strong, the user as well as the used.  But most of all, I want to be remembered for having let the following words pass my lips in song at least once a week, most time in a beautiful little chant of my composition.

The Akathist Hymn: "Glory to God for All Things"
This Akathist, also called the "Akathist of Thanksgiving," was composed by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov shortly before his death in a prison camp in 1940. The title is from the words of Saint John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. It is a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings. 
(Chanting Key:  / = re me fa  ;      \ fa me re ;      _   = do do re '     ~  =  re me do re :     ^ la re re re re etc. 

Kontakion 1:  /Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is \ full of power. /Thy right arm controls the whole course _ of human life. / We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and \ unseen. ~ For eternal life,  /for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which \ is to be.  /Grant mercy to us who sing Thy  \  praise, ~both now and in the time to come. 
~Glory to Thee,  O God, ~from age to age. 
Ikos 1: /I was born a weak, defenceless  \child, /but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle _ to defend me. /From birth until now Thy love has illumined my \path, ~and has wondrously guided me ~towards the light of eternity; /from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered \upon me. ~I give Thee thanks, ~with all who have come to know Thee, ~who call upon Thy name.   
/Glory to Thee for calling me \into being
/Glory to Thee, for showing me the beauty \of the universe
/Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and \earth
~Like the pages in a book ~of eternal wisdom
/Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting \world
/Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, _seen and unseen
/Glory to Thee through every sigh \of my sorrow
/Glory to Thee for every step _of my life's journey
~For every moment of glory
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 2:  ^O Lord, how lovely it is to ~be Thy guest. ^Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching ~to the skies; ^waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun's golden rays and ~the scudding clouds.  /All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the \depth of tenderness. /Birds and beasts of the forest bear the _imprint of Thy love. /Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy \fleeting loveliness, ~which wakens our yearning ~for happiness that will last for ever, ~in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, ~the cry rings out: ~Alleluia!  

Ikos 2:  ^Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. ^We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, /where in the azure heights the _birds are singing. ^We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and ~the melodious music of the streams. ^We have tasted fruit of fine flavour and the ~sweet‑scented honey. ^We can live very well on Thine earth. ^It is a pleasure to ~be Thy guest.  
/Glory to Thee for the Feast \Day of life
/Glory to Thee for the perfume _of lilies and roses
/Glory to Thee for each different taste of \berry and fruit
/Glory to Thee for the sparkling silver ~of early morning dew
/Glory to Thee for the joy of \dawn's awakening
/Glory to Thee for the new life _each day brings
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 3  ^It is the Holy Spirit who makes us find ~joy in each flower, ^the exquisite scent, ~the delicate colour, /the beauty of the Most High in the _tiniest of things. /Glory and honour to the Spirit, the \Giver of Life, /who covers the fields with their \carpet of flowers, /crowns the harvest with gold, and gives to us the joy of gazing at it _with our eyes. /O be joyful and sing to Him: \Alleluia!  
Ikos 3 /How glorious art Thou in the \springtime, /when every creature awakes to new life and joyfully sings Thy praises _with a thousand tongues. /Thou art the Source of Life, the \Destroyer of Death. ~By the light of the moon, _nightingales sing, /and the valleys and hills lie like \wedding garments, _white as snow. /All the earth is Thy promised bride awaiting her \spotless husband.  /If the grass of the field is like this, how gloriously shall we be transfigured in the \Second Coming /after the Resurrection! How splendid our bodies, _how spotless our souls!  
/Glory to Thee, bringing from the depth of the earth an endless \variety of colours,
 ~tastes and scents
/Glory to Thee for the warmth and tenderness of the \world of nature
/Glory to Thee for the numberless _creatures around us
/Glory to Thee for the depths of \Thy wisdom, ~the whole world ~a living sign of it
/Glory to Thee; on my knees, I kiss the traces of Thine \unseen hand
/Glory to Thee, enlightening us with the clearness _of eternal life
/Glory to Thee for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of \immortality
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 4 ^How filled with sweetness are those whose thoughts dwell on Thee; ^how life‑giving Thy holy Word. ^To speak with Thee is more soothing than anointing with oil; ^sweeter than the honeycomb. /To pray to Thee lifts the \spirit, ~refreshes the soul. /Where Thou art not, there is on_ly emptiness; /hearts are smitten with sadness; nature, and life itself, become \sorrowful; /where Thou art, the soul is _filled with abundance, ~and its song resounds ~like a torrent of life: ~Alleluia!   
Ikos 4  /When the sun is setting, when quietness falls like the peace of \eternal sleep, /and the silence of the _spent day reigns, /then in the splendour of its \declining rays, /filtering through the clouds, _I see Thy dwelling‑place: ~fiery and purple, gold and blue, /they speak prophet‑like of the ineffable beauty \of Thy presence, ~and call to us in their majesty. ~We turn to the Father.  
/Glory to Thee at the hushed hour \of nightfall
/Glory to Thee, covering the earth _with peace
/Glory to Thee for the last ray of the sun \as it sets
/Glory to Thee for sleep's repose _that restores us
/Glory to Thee for Thy goodness even in the \time of darkness
~When all the world ~is hidden from our eyes
/Glory to Thee for the prayers offered by a \trembling soul
/Glory to Thee for the pledge _of our reawakening
~On that glorious last day, ~that day which has no evening
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 5 ^The dark storm clouds of life bring no terror to those in whose hearts Thy fire is burning brightly. ^Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, ^but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, ~there is light and peace, silence: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 5  /I see Thine heavens re\splendent with stars. /How glorious art Thou _radiant with light! /Eternity watches me by the rays of the \distant stars.  ~I am small, insignificant, _but the Lord is at my side. /Thy right arm guides me _wherever I go. 
/Glory to Thee, ceaselessly \watching over me
/Glory to Thee for the encounters _Thou dost arrange for me
/Glory to Thee for the love of parents, for the \faithfulness of friends
/Glory to Thee for the humbleness ~of the animals which serve me
/Glory to Thee for the unforgettable \moments of life
/Glory to Thee _for the heart's innocent joy
/Glory to Thee for the \joy of living
/Moving and being able _to return Thy love
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 6 ^How great and how close art Thou in the powerful track of the storm! ^How mighty Thy right arm in the blinding flash of the lightning! ^How awesome Thy majesty! /The voice of the Lord fills the fields, it speaks in the \rustling of the trees. /The voice of the Lord is in the thunder _and the downpour. /The voice of the Lord is heard a\bove the waters. ~Praise be to Thee ~in the roar of mountains ablaze. /Thou dost shake the earth _like a garment; /Thou dost pile up to the sky the _waves of the sea.  /Praise be to Thee, bringing low _the pride of man. ~Thou dost bring from his heart ~a cry of Penitence: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 6  /When the lightning flash has lit up the \camp dining hall, ~how feeble seems the light from the lamp. /Thus do You, like the lightning, unexpectedly \light up my heart ~with flashes of intense joy. /After Thy blinding light, how drab, how colourless, how illusory _all else seems.  ~My souls clings to Thee.  
/Glory to Thee, the highest peak of \men's dreaming
/Glory to Thee for our unquenchable thirst _for communion with God
/Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with \earthly things
/Glory to Thee, turning on us _Thine healing rays
/Glory to Thee, subduing the power of the \spirits of darkness
_And dooming to death _every evil
/Glory to Thee for the signs \of Thy presence
~For the joy of hearing Thy voice ~and living in Thy love
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 7 ^In the wondrous blending of sounds it is Thy call we hear; ^in the harmony of many voices, ^in the sublime beauty of music, ^in the glory of the works of great composers: /Thou leadest us to the threshold of \paradise to come, ~and to the choirs of angels. /All true beauty has the power to draw the soul \towards Thee, ~and to make it sing ~in ecstasy: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 7 /The breath of Thine Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets and \scientists. /The power of Thy supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters _of Thy laws, /who reveal the depths of Thy cre\ative wisdom. ~Their works speak unwittingly of Thee. ~How great art Thou in Thy creation! ~How great art Thou in man!  
/Glory to Thee, showing Thine unsurpassable power in the \laws of the universe 
/Glory to Thee, for all nature is _filled with Thy laws 
/Glory to Thee for what Thou hast revealed to us \in Thy mercy
/Glory to Thee for what Thou hast hidden from us \in Thy wisdom
/Glory to Thee for the inventiveness _of the human mind
/Glory to Thee for the dignity \of man's labour
/Glory to Thee for the tongues of fire that \bring inspiration
/Glory to Thee, O God, _from age to age 
Kontakion 8 ^How near Thou art in the day of sickness. ^You Yourself visit the sick; ^You Yourself bend over the sufferer's bed. ^His heart speaks to You. /In the throes of sorrow and suffering Thou bringest peace and unexpected \consolation. ~Thou art the comforter. /Thou art the love which watches over \and heals us. ~To Thee we sing the song: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 8 /When in childhood I called upon Thee consciously \for the first time, /Thou didst hear my prayer, and Thou didst fill my heart with the \blessing of peace. /At that moment I knew Thy goodness and knew how blessed are those who \turn to Thee. /I started to call upon Thee _night and day; /and now even now _I call upon Thy name.  
/Glory to Thee, satisfying my desires \with good things
/Glory to Thee, watching over me _day and night
/Glory to Thee, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing \flow of time
/Glory to Thee, no loss is irreparable \in Thee, ~giver of eternal life to all
/Glory to Thee, making immortal all that is \lofty and good
/Glory to Thee, _promising us the longed for meeting ~with our loved ones who have died
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 9 ^Why is it that on a Feast Day the whole of nature mysteriously smiles? ^Why is it that then a heavenly gladness fills our hearts; ^a gladness far beyond that of earth and the very air in church ~and in the altar becomes luminous? /It is the breath _of Thy gracious love. /It is the reflection of the glory \of Mount Tabor. ~Then do heaven and earth sing Thy praise: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 9 /When Thou did call me to serve my brothers and filled my soul \with humility, /one of Thy deep, piercing rays _shone into my heart; /it became luminous, full of light like iron glowing \in the furnace. ~I have seen Thy face, ~face of mystery and of unapproachable glory.  /Glory to Thee, transfiguring our lives with \deeds of love 
/Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the \keeping of Thy commandments 
/Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy \on his neighbour 
/Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the \sorrows of others /Glory to Thee, rewarding us so well _for the good we do 
/Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse \of our heart's love
/Glory to Thee, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in \earth and sky
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 10 ^No one can put together what has crumbled into dust, ^but Thou canst restore a conscience turned to ashes. ^Thou canst restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope. /With Thee, there is nothing that \cannot be redeemed. _Thou art love; ~Thou art Creator and Redeemer. ~We praise Thee, singing: ~Alleluia! 
Ikos 10 /Remember, my God, the fall of Lucifer \full of pride, /keep me safe with the power \of Thy Grace; /save me from falling _away from Thee. /Save me from doubt. Incline my heart to hear Thy mysterious voice every moment \of my life. /Incline my heart to call upon Thee, present in \everything.  
/Glory to Thee for \every happening
~Every condition Thy providence has put me in
/Glory to Thee for what Thou speakest to me \in my heart
/Glory to Thee for what Thou revealest to me, _asleep or awake
/Glory to Thee for scattering our vain  i\maginations
/Glory to Thee for raising us \from the slough _of our passions through suffering
/Glory to Thee for curing our pride of heart by hu\miliation
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 11 ^Across the cold chains of the centuries, ^I feel the warmth of Thy breath, ^I feel Thy blood pulsing in my veins. /Part of time has already gone, but now \Thou art the present. ~I stand by Thy Cross; ~I was the cause of it. /I cast myself down in the \dust before it. ~Here is the triumph of love, 
~the victory of salvation. /Here the centuries themselves cannot  re\main  silent, _singing Thy praises: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 11 ^Blessed are they that will share in the King's Banquet: ^but already on earth Thou givest me a foretaste of this blessedness. ^How many times with Thine own hand hast Thou held out to me Thy Body and Thy Blood, ^and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Mystery, ^and have tasted Thy love, ~so ineffable, ~so heavenly.  
/Glory to Thee for the unquenchable fire \of Thy Grace
/Glory to Thee, _building Thy Church, ~a haven of peace ~in a tortured world
/Glory to Thee for the life‑giving \water of Baptism ~in which we find new birth
/Glory to Thee, restoring to the penitent purity \white as the lily
_Glory to Thee ~for the cup of salvation ~and the bread of eternal joy
/Glory to Thee for exalting us to the \highest heaven
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 12 ^How often have I seen the reflection of Thy glory in the faces of the dead. ^How resplendent they were, with beauty and heavenly joy.   ^How ethereal, how translucent their faces. ^How triumphant over suffering and death, their felicity and peace. /Even in the silence _they were calling upon Thee. /In the hour of my death, enlighten my soul, too, that it may \cry out to Thee: ~Alleluia!  
Ikos 12 ^What sort of praise can I give Thee? ^I have never heard the song of the Cherubim, a joy reserved for the spirits above. /But I know the praises that \nature sings to Thee. /In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight the whole earth \offers Thee prayer, ~clad in its white mantle of snow, ~sparkling like diamonds.  /I have seen how the rising sun re\joices in Thee, /how the song of the birds is a chorus of \praise to Thee.  /I have heard the mysterious mutterings of the forests \about Thee, /and the winds singing Thy praise as they \stir the waters. /I have understood how the choirs of stars pro\claim Thy glory  /as they move forever in the depths _of infinite space. ~What is my poor worship! ~All nature obeys Thee, _I do not. /Yet while I live, I \see Thy love, ~I long to thank Thee, ~and call upon Thy name.  
/Glory to Thee, \giving us light
/Glory to Thee, loving us with love so deep, di\vine and infinite
/Glory to Thee, blessing us with light, and with the host of \angels and saints
/Glory to Thee, Father all‑holy, promising us a share_ in Thy Kingdom
/Glory to Thee, Holy Spirit, life‑giving \Sun of the world to come
/Glory to Thee for all things, _Holy and most merciful Trinity
~Glory to Thee, O God, ~from age to age 
Kontakion 13 ^Life‑giving and merciful Trinity, ^receive my thanksgiving for all Thy goodness. ~Make us worthy of Thy blessings, /so that, when we have brought to fruit the talents Thou hast en\trusted to us, ~we may enter into the joy of our Lord, ~forever exulting in the shout of victory: ~Alleluia! 
(repeat Kontakion 13 and Alleluia three times  * Then repeat Ikos 1 and then Kontakion 1) 


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