Friday, December 27, 2019

My Top Ten Albums of the Decade (2010-2019)

With the close of this decade fast approaching, and reading various top ten lists of the decade, I figured I would make up a few lists myself, beginning with my favorite albums of the decade. My criteria for my choices were simple: the album had to be on my phone playlist, one that I still listened to, I had to own the CD, and it couldn't be a compilation or a soundtrack. These are my own personal favorite albums of the decade, which I'm sure will be very different from most lists, and is not meant to be objective at all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

An Appropriate and Timely Quote for Today's Feast of St. Sebastian

"St. Sebastian, having sent so many martyrs to heaven before him, was himself impeached before the Emperor Diocletian; who, having grievously reproached him with ingratitude, delivered him over to certain archers of Mauritania, to be shot to death." - Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73) emphasis mine

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

"Amadeus": An Allegory of Donald Trump and His Haters

The 1984 movie Amadeus is one of my favorite films of all time. As a child I would watch bits and pieces of it over and over again on television, because something about it fascinated me. I never really understood it until I saw it again, this time from beginning to end, in my twenties on television. This past weekend, however, I got the chance to finally see it on the big screen on 35mm film, and now it has firmly established itself within me as one of my all time favorite films.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Recommended Movies for Thanksgiving Weekend

I was asked twice yesterday for any movie recommendations for the weekend, so I thought I would promote some of my currently released favorite movies for people to watch that you can probably catch in theaters this weekend. I've seen most of them, so I will rank them from my favorite to least favorite. My current list comes from three theaters in my area, so maybe all of these are not yet available in your area. I should note, even the lowest ranked movies I liked and not necessarily hated, they just happen to be liked less than the others. The ones I have yet to see I will probably watch this week; these I will list at the end and won't include them in my ranking. In numerical order my favorites are:

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thoughts About Mister Rogers

A little over five years ago I moved into the apartment building I still currently reside in. The previous place I lived in had a roof problem and I was forced to move out in order to have the issue fixed, so when I had to find a new place I was not prepared to move. Because it's expensive to live in Boston, I tried in vain to look for a new place that was affordable near the city. Finally, my dad informed me that a friend of his owned an apartment building just down the street from where I was living, and he was willing to give me an apartment at a set price for a cheaper price than the average of the area. His only request was that I light a candle for him when I go to church, unbeknownst to me that he was soon about to die. His son took ownership of the apartment building and has always honored the agreement I made with his father. But there was a problem - my neighbors.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

My Most Embarrassing Academic Moment

Prof. Francois Bovon

With it being the feast of the Apostle Philip, I was reminded today of perhaps my most embarrassing academic moment that still makes me cringe when I think about it. In 2005 I took a class at Harvard Divinity School on the New Testament Apocrypha with probably the foremost expert on the subject in the world, the late Professor Francois Bovon (+ 2013). It was one of my favorite classes I ever took as a graduate student, mainly because I knew he was such an expert on the subject, who had done the field work and made huge discoveries. The reason I was reminded of him today was because he discovered the most complete text of the Acts of Philip with Bertrand Bouvier in the library of Xenophontos Monastery on Mount Athos in 1974.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Thoughts of the Week (2)

It's been a month since I last wrote my Thoughts of the Week, and now I have about four weeks worth of Thoughts of the Week to write. Part of the reason why is because for about two weeks I was trying to get settled with buying a new computer after my old computer began dying on me shortly after a power outage in my area. Thanks to a few generous donations, for which I am very grateful, I was able to get a new computer, but I also had a few financial setbacks that forced me to concentrate more on working to make some extra money. Not wanting more time to go by, I decided to start once again my Thoughts of the Week before I have five weeks of Thoughts of the Week to write about.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Thoughts of the Week (1)

My original purpose for this website was to just write down random thoughts about things I was interested in writing about. One way I wanted to do this was to offer a brief overview of my activities and thoughts every Monday from the previous week. This will be my first attempt at doing this, but as I pondered over my thoughts and activities from the previous week, I was a bit overwhelmed by how much I could possibly write about, so I will just go over a few of the events I have attended since last Thursday, and offer some thoughts about each.

While box office numbers showed that most of the country if not the world went out to see the movie Joker this past weekend, and while I usually watch movies like this the first weekend they come out, I was busy with other things, so I haven't seen it yet, but hope to talk about it next week. The reason I didn't see it is because October in New England is a time to attend unique events that I preferred to attend. Among some of these, I will highlight the following:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Priest Who Tried To Investigate the Skull of the Apostle Andrew

My father was born and raised in Pratsika, a Greek neighborhood in the southern part of the city of Patras. This was a poor neighborhood where my grandfather John and grandmother Anastasia settled after they got married, soon after coming to Greece as refugees during the Asia Minor population exchange of the 1920's. When my father was growing up after the German occupation and the Greek civil war, Pratsika was known for being the worst part of the city to live in, not only because it was among the poorest, but it was also among the seediest, with prostitutes walking the streets, and the youth often causing problems. However, it was by choice that my grandfather stayed there, since he actually made a lot of money as one of the best electricians in the region, bringing electricity to places often for the first time. His reputation as an electrician was so good, that when the German Nazi's came rolling into town, he was forcefully taken by them and brought to Dachau Concentration Camp to be the electrician there for two years. But upon his return, he became an enraged alcoholic at home and spent all his money taking care of his friends at the coffee houses, which is why it was said of him that he was a great friend but a terrible family man.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What My High School Taught Me About the End of the World in 1994

Not long ago I was going through some old files where I discovered some of my high school writings. Among these was a brief overview about a class I took in my senior year called "The Future." This was an elective course I took as a senior in 1994 because I thought the subject matter was somewhat interesting, and I wanted to take as easy a class as possible for my final semester, which also included watching three or four movies.

What I found unfortunate about this class was the teacher. Despite being Greek and the son of one of the most distinguished Orthodox priests of the Greek Archdiocese, he was a hardcore atheist. When he was my Social Studies teacher, he would spend significant time talking about how stupid it is to believe in God, and he would deny the historical existence of Jesus. Once he asked on a test who was the founder of Christianity. I wrote down Jesus. He marked it wrong, because he considered the Apostle Paul as the founder of Christianity. With his background we should have gotten along great, but he seemed to dislike me because I reminded him of that background which he seemed to totally disavow. But such atheistic rants were common in my high school, so common that I would often skip my classes, not being interested in attending what I called "a communist daycare center."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My 9/11 Story

My 9/11 story is pretty typical and nothing special, but I remember every moment of it as if it was stamped on my mind.

I was 25 years old at the time and had just returned about a month before 9/11 from a six week trip with my wife traveling throughout Greece and Turkey. While in Constantinople, as my wife and I were walking around one evening, we saw a big mosque up on a hill that I wanted to check out, so we went in to take a look. The imam saw us, a young man with a kind smile, he came up to us, asked who we were and where we were from, and when he found out we were Greek-Americans, he asked us to have tea with him, as he was curious about us and had a bunch of questions, and thus began a nearly three hour conversation that I later wrote down and will share one day. Among the things I asked him was what he thought, as a Muslim imam, about Islamic terrorism, and people like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Remember, this was about a month before 9/11. He replied that they were not Muslims and do not represent true Islam, that they belong to a radical form of Islam and that most Muslims despise them. I was glad and must say a little relieved to hear his response.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Benny Hinn Rejecting the Prosperity Gospel?

Yesterday the news spread that Benny Hinn has publicly rejected the teachings of the prosperity gospel. One of the last people I'd ever expect to hear criticizing the prosperity gospel — the idea that God wants you to be rich — is Benny Hinn. After all, while he was preaching this, he was waving his arms and touching people on the forehead causing them to fall down in forceful and often silly ways, saying it was the power or force of God, yet I haven't heard him reject this. It was this power, which he claimed to be from the "Holy Ghost", that confirmed his teachings and his ministry as a prophet of God. And there is no word yet on what he is going to do with all the wealth he accumulated, though we do hear now that he no longer flies on private jets (whether he flies coach or first class we also don't know). For this and for many other reasons, I am still a bit skeptical how far his rejection goes, though undoubtedly he is heading in the right direction.

Friday, August 23, 2019

How I Participated in a Dutch Ritual Against My Will

On July 21st I read an article in the New York Times that brought back some disturbing yet fond memories. The article was titled "A Peculiarly Dutch Summer Rite: Children Let Loose in the Night Woods", and it describes a crazy Dutch scouting tradition known as “dropping,” where groups of children, generally pre-teenagers, are deposited in a forest and expected to find their way back to base. To make it more difficult, adult organizers may blindfold the children on their way to the dropping. It is meant to be challenging, and they often stagger in at 2 or 3 in the morning. Clearly the Dutch do parenting a little differently than most other parents around the world, especially today's helicopter parents in America.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

"Proud God Loving Christian" Kills 20 in Mass Shooting in El Paso

I just went online to get the latest updates on the mass shooting in El Paso, and to no surprise the liberal left in their desperation to gain some moral high ground and give themselves an excuse to express outrage against those who disagree with them, are quick to place blame on President Donald Trump, with most of the headlines I saw now reading something like "Trump Supporter Kills 20 in Mass Shooting in El Paso." However, the shooter also describes himself as an "amateur ghost hunter," a "gamer," and a "proud God loving Christian." When I googled the shooters name with "Trump" added, numerous headlines about the shooting came up calling the shooter a "Trump supporter," as if this had a major role in his decision to kill people, but when I googled the shooters name followed by the word "Christian" there was not one headline that identified him as a Christian or follower of Christ. This means that media sources are assuming him being a Christian had nothing to do with his decision to kill a bunch of people. Nor do they blame video games or ghosts, because I looked those up too. So why single out Trump? Because liberal reporters don't care about the victims, just about gaining a political advantage. They actually think our memory is so short that we don't remember the fact that these things happened long before Trump came on the scene.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Top Twelve Movies of 2019 (So Far)

Here is a list of my personal favorite movies of 2019 so far. Of course, most if not all these movies will be off my top twelve list at the end of the year, but every year I like to document what I was into six months into the year. These are only films I saw in the theater, and are a reaction of the full intended experience, though I saw a few good movies through streaming services that could have made this list. Here are my twelve favorites:

Thursday, July 4, 2019

My 4th of July Traditions

Though I am always open to change, for a number of years now these have pretty much been my 4th of July traditions:

1. Read the Declaration of Independence (read here). To this I usually add the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and all the Amendments (read here).

2. Watch the 1938 short film The Declaration of Independence (see here). Quick, concise and patriotic.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Remembering Dr. Norman Geisler

It was with much sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of Dr. Norman L. Geisler at 2:10am on July 1st. With this sadness came also a flood of fond memories I have of him. I first heard of Dr. Geisler (this is what his students called him) when I was in high school, and every year Hank Hanegraaff would have him on the Bible Answer Man radio show for a week to answer audience questions and plug his new books. The year I listened he had written an apologetics book on the resurrection of Christ, and after listening to him that week I knew that I would never entertain a doubt in my mind that the resurrection of Christ was a real historical event. That an Evangelical Protestant could have such a profound effect on me moved me, and it changed me. Till this day, when I feel tempted to do something I shouldn't, I always remind myself that it is because I believe without a doubt that Christ rose from the dead that I will resist the temptation. This is how my conscience first reacts. It usually works too.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Thank God I Never Met Fr. John Geoghan

The critically acclaimed movie Spotlight opens in 1976, at a Boston Police station, where two policemen discuss the arrest of Catholic priest Fr. John J. Geoghan for child molestation, and a high ranking cleric talks to the mother of the children. The Assistant District Attorney then enters the precinct and tells the policemen not to let the press get wind of what has happened. The arrest is hushed up, and the priest is released.

The whole movie is centered around the abuses of Fr. John Geoghan, which were hushed up by the Boston Archdiocese. He was the priest who had helped spark the investigations of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church around the world.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Feeling Haunted by Joan ... and in Love

Renee Falconetti as Joan of Arc

It is said that if you put a frame around something, then it will be considered a work of art. This should tell us something about how important a frame is to art. When incorporated in just the right way, the frame is what can make the art.

One of my favorite movies is Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. He knew how to frame his art. When I was a child, a commercial came on the television advertising a showing of the movie Psycho on a local TV station. I didn't know about framing at the time, as I was only about 4 or 5 years old, but the images from the movie haunted me, and even though the commercial only implied the shower scene, for years every time I took a shower I would only think of Psycho and who could be in the room with me as I shut my eyes to shampoo my hair.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

A Reflection on D-Day

US Army troops waded ashore at Omaha Beach in northwestern France on June 6, 1944.

Like most children before Saving Private Ryan was released in 1998, I knew very little about D-Day from school. It was pretty much taught to us as a day that began the United States involvement in the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. I had also read a little about it, but was still very ignorant of its significance. It wasn't until college in 1997 that my girlfriend (and future wife) asked if she could see the 1962 film The Longest Day she had rented from Blockbuster in my dorm room (I was one of the few that had a TV and VCR in my room) for a report she was writing that I began to learn more about D-Day. D-Day had been a special day in her family, because her mother's uncle had stormed the beaches of Normandy, survived for about three days after, until he was finally shot dead by Nazis. Still, she did not know much about D-Day herself, so for both of us The Longest Day would be our first major introduction to the subject.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Welcome to Praxis and Theoria!

Dear Readers:

Thank you for visiting Praxis and Theoria. Here you will read about my random thoughts on random subjects. This is the most personal of all my websites associated with the Mystagogy Resource Center, where any topic will be discussed that I feel I want to write about in a less formal way than anywhere else. It is somewhat of a personal diary that I will be sharing with the world.

Here you will read about anything I choose to share, such as an opinion I have on something I read, or saw on TV, or heard on the radio, or a conversation I had, a song I heard, or a movie I watched. I may choose to write about somewhere I visited, a memory from the past, a hope for the future. Politics and other controversial topics will be addressed at times. Anything and everything goes here.

When I first started writing a blog in 2008, this was basically what I did. I did it for my own personal reasons and never expected anyone to read what I was writing. Nor did I want anyone to read it. That blog became pretty popular and eventually turned into an international ministry providing Orthodox Christian resources online, and it became more confined to that. Everything I wrote in 2008 I erased, and I began to focus on particular subjects in 2009, which eventually turned into the Mystagogy Resource Center in 2012. Now with Praxis and Theoria, I am returning to my original form. I am writing as if no one is listening, and I am sharing this with the public. 

Though Praxis and Theoria have a specific meaning in Orthodox Christianity, another way to look at it is in an Aristotelian way. In Ancient Greek the word praxis (πρᾶξις) referred to activity engaged in by free people. The philosopher Aristotle held that there were three basic activities of humans: theoria (thinking), poiesis (making), and praxis (doing). Corresponding to these activities were three types of knowledge: theoretical, the end goal being truth; poietical, the end goal being production; and practical, the end goal being action. Aristotle further divided the knowledge derived from praxis into ethics, economics, and politics. He also distinguished between eupraxia (εὐπραξία, "good praxis") and dyspraxia (δυσπραξία, "bad praxis").

Meanwhile, Saint Gregory the Theologian says that theoria and praxis are beneficial, because theoria elevates man's nous above earthly things; it guides him to the Holy of Holies and restores him to his original nature; whereas praxis receives and serves Christ and tests love with actions. Clearly, theoria is the vision of God - the nous' restoration and return to God; praxis is whatever deeds it takes to lead to this love (agape). Within the whole of Patristic tradition it is clear that praxis is the purification of the heart's passions and theoria is both the illumination of the nous and the vision of the uncreated glory of God.

The reason this website is part of the Mystagogy Resource Center, is because part of being human is expressing our humanity freely. People do this in various ways, and sometimes the most random things become a part of our journey. Not necessarily a spiritual journey, though that may be a part of it, but also an intellectual journey, an emotional journey, an artistic journey, a journey within, a journey without, a journey of discovery. Reading about my thoughts and feelings about random things may inspire you to embark on a similar journey, one that does not necessarily reflect my own, but its purpose is your own self-discovery. This is a part of our Praxis which may help one on the path to Theoria.

With love in Christ,

John Sanidopoulos