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Exhausted Faster Just Can’t Lent Any More

An extreme case of Lenten despair required intervention from friends and neighbors at Duwamish College last week.

Anna-Marie Andrews, 21, was found in her dorm room with a recording of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete at extreme death metal volumes on her stereo. They found her lying on the floor, twitching, exhausted and despondent.

Anna-Marie announced that she just couldn’t make it to Pascha, which was two weeks away. She said that she’s done eating Lenten food, or any food. She said she’s giving up, and no one can help her.

She started Lent hearing about how the body objects during the Fast, but the heart rejoices. She enthusiastically gave up meat, egg and dairy products; she stopped using social networking, instead sending handwritten letters to friends from Orthodox camp from years ago; she stopped going to movies and parties, instead choosing to spend quiet nights at home; and she stopped all dating activity (which in her case meant not logging in to eharmony.com, but she still thought it was meaningful).

At first, the absence of distractions did change her perceptions, but she spent four weeks discovering that even if you cook tofu correctly, it doesn’t help, and her fervor waned. She had been hoping for a boost in the latter part of Lent, when the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and the Divine Ladder of St. John Climacus are all read, but nothing has helped.

Word got out among her non-Orthodox friends about her despair, and they tried different things to cheer her up. One friend with culinary talents offered to cook her a fancy chicken dinner, another offered to take her to concerts and movies, and a boy she’d had a crush on for years even offered to stop by and give her a kiss, but Anna-Marie responded with indifference to all of these temptations, saying, “That’s like looking at a pepperoni pizza when you’ve got the flu. Yes, I could break the fast, but that would be too much work.”

After her secular friends left, her one local Orthodox friend, Olga, stopped by to try to provide some assistance. Olga told her she needed a new plan.

Anna-Marie thought for a moment and said, “I could rob a bank and leave the money where the cops could find it. Then I’d go to jail and I wouldn’t have to deal with all this.”

Olga said, “No, don’t do that.”

Anna-Marie asked, “Why? Why should I keep struggling?”

Olga, also exhausted by vegetable dinners and slowly read priestly prayers in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, had a difficult time coming up with a reason. They sat in silence for a while, until Olga said, “I’d miss you.”

After another few contemplative moments, Olga said, “Did you know you can use walnuts as a topping on vegan pizza? It sounds weird, but it’s better than you think.”

This report was filed by Recovering Reporter Thomas Eric Ruthford.


Lenten Cooking with Father Vasiliy

Vegan Meatloaf(first broadcast in March, 2011)

AR: Hello, and welcome to this first broadcast of Lenten Cooking with Father Vasiliy, starring everybody’s favorite Australian-Russian Orthodox priest and five-time winner of the Mr. Australian Lenten Chef contest, Father Vasiliy Vasileivich.

VV: Spacebo. Is good to being here.

AR: I’m your host, Reader Alexiy (“Alexiy the Tsarevich and martyr or passion-bearer, depending on whom you ask”) Riggle. Father, what will be cooking today?

VV: Today we are cooking this tofu-oatmeal loaf.

AR: Sounds delicious.

VV: You are out of mind. Listen, foolish reader. Lenten cooking is not about the delicious. Is about the self-denial. We give up what is good to pursue what is better. We prepare for Great and Holy Pascha. We are not seeking to please taste buds, but to please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

AR: Very true. So, why don’t we get started? We have preheated the oven to 350º Fahrenheit, that’s 175º Celsius, and Father Vasiliy has gotten out his food processor and is tossing things into it. What are you putting in there, Father?

VV: First we put in one chopped medium onion, one clove of this garlic (two cloves if you don’t have to work tomorrow), and 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the tamari soy sauce, and blend until is minced of the fineness. Then we add one tablespoon (15 ml) of the Dijon mustard. Is okay to use this, even though is French, because blessed Mother Maria of Paris lived in France.

AR: Of course.

VV: Next we are putting in 1/2 cup (125 ml) of this ketchup. Or brown sauce or barbecue sauce or whatever it is one is liking here. Also big grind of black pepper or two or three, to taste, and one and one half pounds the silken tofu, or 750 grams, whichever comes first. Add this in the chunks or it will to choke food processor.

AR: With you so far.

VV: I noticed you had not gone anywhere.

AR: Was it tofu in nineteenth century Russia?

VV: No. Please to be quiet, I am trying to have cooking show.

AR: On we go.

VV: Yes. Once this is blended together, we pour into large bowl, and fold in handful of fresh chopped parsley, or these other herbs.

AR: Which other herbs?

VV: Whatever you are to like. How am I to know what herbs you are liking?

AR: Pray continue.

VV: Yes. And also one cup, this is 250 ml, of the rolled oats.

AR: Instant oats?

VV: Instant? Is outrage! What in Orthodoxy is instant? Always this instant, instant, instant. Silly foolish westerner. Is slow-cooking oats. Better to take 1000 years to cook oats than instant.

AR: Of course, Father. Forgive me.

VV: Yes, yes. Now I see it is time for commercial for Monastery Tofu Gardens. You are reading commercial today, Reader Alexiy.

AR: Okay here goes. “Are you wondering what to fix for your family that is not only nutritious but also supports hard-working Orthodox monks in the wilds of coastal Southern California? Why not fix a far-from-delicious tofu-oatmeal loaf using Monastery Tofu Gardens tofu? Made with only the finest soybeans, filtered mountain water, and all the other ingredients that go into tofu, this tofu will be nutritious and properly unpleasant for Lent. Every block of tofu comes embossed with a three-bar cross, and has appropriate prayers printed on the package. Monastery Tofu Gardens. Always nutritious, always bland, always a little bitter.”

VV: Is beautiful. Now we are taking of the loaf pan, and spraying with the cooking spray, and putting goop into pan. Press with the wooden spoon to make flat on top. Then baking in oven for one hour or until is golden like top of church dome.

AR: Like an Onion Dome!

VV: You are harshing my groove.

AR: Sorry.

VV: Cool in pan for 15 minutes then turn out or cut from pan. Is not matter.

AR: And how does it taste?

VV: I do not know. I have never made it before. We will soon find out.

AR: The show isn’t an hour long.

VV: We will eventually find out.

AR: Wait. If you have never made it before, where did you get the recipe?

VV: Stole from website.

AR: Whose?

VV: Am not saying.

AR: Okay. Well, would you be willing to take some questions from our studio audience?

VV: What studio audience? We are in your kitchen, foolish Reader Alexiy. Only studio audience is large white dog waiting for me to drop something.

AR: Work with me here.

VV: Oy.

AR: Okay, fine. How about some calls from our radio audience?

VV: You are ever optimist.

AR: Why don’t you give the phone number, Father?


AR: That’s an awfully long number.

VV: Always “too long, too long” with you. Perhaps chrismation did not take? Let me see baptismal cross.

SFX: Phone ringing.

AR: Oh, listen! Here’s our first caller.

SFX: Phone picking up.

Caller: Oooh, am I on the air with Father Vasiliy?

AR: Yes. The tofu monks aren’t paying us enough to hire a screener. What is your question, please?

Caller: Father, we all know that trans-fats are bad for us, and hydrogenated oils are—

VV: Wait! I know what you are going to be saying! It is question about margarine, is not? Always the margarine! Is okay? Is lenten? Is pravoslavye? I am saying, No! Do not to eat the margarine! It will fool the guardian angels, and they will not stump for you at the tollbooth number 27, concerning eating of butter during Lent. Avoid all appearance of evil! Flee all earthly temptations! Do not eat of the margarine!

Caller: Actually I was going to ask about seasoning my cast-iron skillet. Can I use just plain cooking oil if I don’t want to use shortening?

AR: (unintelligible)

VV: Oh. Yes, this is okay. Heat pan in oven until warm. Smear all over with oil and bake in low oven for at least 1 hour. Put cookie sheet on rack underneath to catch any of drips. Rinse with water. If necessary, repeat.

Caller: Thank you, Father Vasiliy! You’re the best!

VV: Thank you caller. You are very kind.

AR: Well, that’s all the time we have today! Tune in next week when we have another exciting recipe on Lenten Cooking with Father Vasiliy. Goodbye, Father Vasiliy.

VV: Goodbye, Reader Alexiy.

Copyright © 2011-2014 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved

1 Comment

Book Sale!

Is Outrage! (the book)THANK YOU! to all my readers who have purchased a copy of my book, IS OUTRAGE! The Wit and Wisdom of Father Vasiliy from the Onion Dome.

If you haven’t yet bought this seminal work of Orthodox satire, or wish to buy all your loved ones (and several enemies) a copy for Pascha, I am temporarily discounting the book to 50% off, ONLY ON THE LULU SITE (the sale price will not show up on Amazon or Barnes & Noble). The regular price is $24.95, and it will be on sale for $12.48 now through Ascension.

So run don’t walk to the Lulu page and buy multiple copies at the new low price! It outrage not to!

Copyright © 2014 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Best Wishes for 2014!

Dear Readers,

YIE making saladAs you know (if you’ve been paying attention), I just finished a year of doing one blog entry per day, usually giving a brief overview of the lives of two different saints, one from the Orthodox (new) calendar, and one from the Catholic (Latin) calendar. Of course some of the saints on one calendar were also on the other, although often not on the same day. When they coincided I often did just one saint that day, which allowed me to go into further depth. Some days I did the feast of the day (e.g. Christmas), or an icon (e.g. Joy of All Who Sorrow), or an apparition (e.g. Our Lady of Guadalupe) instead.

It’s been a fun series, although a heck of a lot of work (about 2-3 hours per day between research, writing/editing, and formatting). I’ve learned a lot about the saints, and I hope my readers have as well. I hope you don’t stop reading about the saints, but go and do your own reading. My favorite sites have been the OCA’s Lives of the Saints, SQPN’s Calendar of Saints, and the St. Patrick Catholic Church (in DC)’s Saint of the Day series by Katherine Rabenstein. Add Wikipedia, which often has some dirt on the less saintly things the saints have done, and you can learn a lot about these wonderful people the Church holds up to us for edification and emulation. God is truly glorious in His saints!

I am now taking some time off, although the website will still be here, and publishing, albeit on a much more rarefied schedule. I hope to have pieces from time to time by my remaining staff member, Terce Reporter Brigid Strait, who has written many pieces for the Dome down through the years (all of them funny, too!), as well as guest writers such as Thomas Eric Ruthford, who wrote the “cute family” article recently. Persons wanting to try their hand at Orthodox satire are invited to send submissions or ideas to FatherVasiliy at yahoo dot com. Can’t promise I’ll publish it, or that I won’t edit it (that’s my job after all), but if I do run it, it will have your name on it (or your pseudonym if you don’t want your priest (or, if you are a priest, your khouria/presvytera/matushka (or as we say at the Dome, khourvytushka)) to know you’re spending your Friday nights writing satire).

Thanks to everyone who wrote encouragement, a big Bronx cheer to people who wrote nasty stuff, and a happy Gregorian New Year to everybody who doesn’t live in St. Julian Calendar’s Cave on that secret, uncharted island 300 versts south of Mt. Athos.

God grant you all many, many years.

Your Intrepid Editor,
Alex Riggle

Copyright © 2014 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


December 31 Saint of the Day – Melania the Younger

On this day in 1695, a window tax was imposed in England. Many shopkeepers bricked up their windows to avoid it. Fortunately, Parliament did not impose a brick tax.

Melania from the Menologion of Basil IIMelania the Younger (ca. 383 – 439) was a member of the famous Valeri family, one of the richest, or the richest, Roman patrician family, depending on whom you asked (somebody from the family or outside of it) and who was asking (a doting plebe or a tax collector). They had honors granted no other Roman family, and supplied no fewer than six emperors.

Melania was granddaughter to St. Melania the Elder, whose influence caused our Melania to desire a monastic life. Being the last of the Publicola (“The people’s soda”) line, however, she was forcibly married to her cousin, Pinianus. They were 13 and 17, respectively. Melania tried to convince Pinianus to lead a life of virginity, promising to give him her inheritance in exchange (which says something about women’s rights vis-à-vis inheritance), but he insisted on having two sons first. As it turned out, they had first a daughter, who died young, and a son, who died within days of birth. Melania went into post-partum depression and looked like a goner. “I don’t think I can take any more of this,” she said, and Pinianus, who loved her more than progeny itself, agreed to toss in the reproductive towel (so to speak). Melania recovered.

Pinianus then turned the reins over to Melania. My most conservative Orthodox source says (and I quote directly lest you think I’m making this up), “Blessed Melania, the Lord’s wise handmaiden, kept a careful watch over both herself and her husband, for she was his teacher and guide, always taking the initiative as she led him on the way of the Lord.” (Not unlike Macrina the Elder and her hubby.) Together they took care of the sick, the dying, the indigent, the poor, prisoners, and people raising teenagers.

Melania Stained Glass WindowAfter Melania’s father died, she and Pinianus began giving away their money in earnest. This proved difficult, as their joint land holdings rivaled many smaller modern European countries (and we’re not talking San Marino here). They endowed monasteries, churches, hospitals, orphanages, and internet cafés across the Empire. They had a particularly hard time selling the family’s house in Rome, as it was so expensive that nobody could afford it, even at fire sale prices (figuratively speaking). When the city was sacked by the barbarians and the home was burned, the literal fire sale price became affordable.

They fled down the length of Italy just ahead of the barbarians, and lived monastically for a time in Sicily while they sold off their holdings there. They then headed for North Africa, but their ship, being an Italian cruise liner, foundered in a storm. They found themselves on an island that had been captured by barbarians, who were preparing to sell the inhabitants as slaves (whether at fire sale prices or not, our sources do not say). Melania redeemed them all (at this point in the narrative Pinny’s name drops out until near the end), and there was much rejoicing. They sold off their holdings around Carthage, gave the proceeds to local churches and charities, met Augustine, increased their asceticism, and, after seven years, set sail for Jerusalem.

Melania IconIn the Holy Land, Melania commissioned her mother to found a monastery near Mount Olivet, then took a tour through the desert. She tried to give money to the desert fathers and mothers, but they refused it. As one said, not unreasonably, “We’re in the middle of a desert. Where are we going to spend it?” Melania returned to Jerusalem, gave the last of her coin away, and attempted to live as a hermit, seeing only her mother and her husband. But women (and men) flocked to her wisdom, so out of compassion she became a spiritual guide (and wonderworking healer) to many, although she refused to be abbessified.

After burying her beloved Pinianus, Melania whirlwindedly toured Constantinople, where she converted a pagan uncle to Christianity (from “Hellenic impiety”) just in time for him to die, and (somehow) fought Nestorianism. Back in Jerusalem she found her long-lost cousin Paula, met Jerome, and died. Her last words, which will also serve as the final words of this series, were: “May the Lord’s will be done.”

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

This Day in History for 31st December
Great collection – Main source
Melania the Younger, Widow, and Pinian (St. Patrick DC)
Venerable Melania the Younger of Rome (OCA)
Melania the Younger (Wikipedia)
Melania the Elder (Wikipedia)
Valeria (gens) (Wikipedia)
Miniature of Melania from the Menologion of Basil II via Wikimedia (Public domain according to this rule).
Stained glass window (provenance unknown) from onkel-hh.de (copyright unknown)
Icon of Melania (provenance unknown) also from onkel-hh.de (copyright also unknown)

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