Monday, January 31, 2005
WORSHIP: Attractive & Orthodox
Thanks to FWD from Fr Josiah Trenham.
Therefore, my brethren, let us stand on the rock of faith and in the Tradition of the Church, not removing the landmarks [Prov.22:28] set by our holy Fathers --- not giving room to those who wish to introduce novelties and destroy God's holy, universal, apostolic Church. For if everyone is allowed to do as he pleases, the entire body of the Church will, little by little, be destroyed.
-- St John of Damascus
Sunday, January 30, 2005
An article in today's Washington Post fits right in with last week's running dialogue on Attractive Worship on Touchstone's Mere Comments.
The WP article is about Joel Osteen, "the smiling preacher." Notice I didn't say PASTOR -- because if you're sick, he ain't calling; if you're dead, he ain't burying; if you need counseling, buy the books, tapes, or CDs; got a shotgun?, still no wedding.
But if you want to feel better about yourself after having been jacked up, entertained, and self-motivated at church, well ... Joel's your man.
Here's some excerpts (read it all H E R E):
HOUSTON -- The pastor once startled his own mother by exhorting the women in his congregation to shop at Victoria's Secret to improve their marriages. Last weekend, his glamorous musical director led four services in a hot pink coat and black spiky boots, stomping around the stage and singing the praises of Jesus in rousing, original rock sounds.Thanks to NEWS FORUM for the link.
The crowds he attracts in Houston come away inspired. "He pushes us to a level God wants us to be at," said Juli Hain, who attends regularly. "He kicks us in the rear to take steps that will take us to a higher [personal] level."
"Joel is doing it better than most," said William Martin, a sociology professor and religion expert at Rice University. "He is purposely seeking to lower the barriers that keep people from going to church. They don't know the hymns; they don't have to learn the creed. It's all there for them."
He is unapologetic that he lives well in a $1 million house in an upscale neighborhood and that he is pouring the church's offerings into the Compaq Center these days, not into charities.
"I feel like God wants us to prosper," he said. "My dad grew up in the Depression. . . . It is not God's will for anybody to live where you can't support your family. . . . [Houston Astros pitcher] Roger Clemens just signed for $18 million -- man, don't tell me I can't have a nice house and send my kids to college."
The church service and the meet-and-greet are the only opportunities his followers have to get close to Osteen. Unlike his father, Osteen does not perform weddings or funerals. He avoids sickbeds and doesn't do personal counseling. For those needs, the church employs another 60 ministers. Members said that is fine.
"I'm not here to meet the pastor; I'm here to meet God," said Pam Hall, 47, who has been coming to Lakewood for 15 years but who acknowledged that Osteen does not know her name. "He is a great inspiration to me."
The church is run by the Osteen family and a cadre of 4,000 volunteers, 1,200 of whom are needed for each service. It is a tightly organized Sunday operation at which ushers looking like Secret Service agents wear earpieces and microphones and manage to get 6,000 to 8,000 people to their seats quickly. Parents are able to check their infants and toddlers at the door with volunteer caregivers. They are given a numbered token, and if there is a problem with their child, the token number flashes on the big screen during the service.
He knows that some people just come for the music. And that is a good thing, he said. Whatever gets them in the door.
Someone left a comment on NF's site:
"At the risk of sounding judgmental, (okay, I am being judgmental) that just turns me off. I'll stick with my poor, tiny church."
Uh ... no comment.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
The Other Holocaust
(Each + represents 8,000 human lives)
Capital Punishment killed 98 Americans
War in Iraq killed 100,000 people + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Abortionists murdered 1,750,656 American infants + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
"The common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life is not defended with maximum determination." - John Paul IIFor visual effect, I stole the above blog post from Ecclesia Anglicana.
This is from newadvent.org. Don't listen to the liberals when they say that the War in Irag is the greatest evil of our time. Abortion (that which that promote) is the true holocaust. Do everything you can to stop it.
I would add that the blood of the innocent is not only on the hands of the abortionists. It stains the hands and hearts of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We are killing our babies. Eternal consequences, sure. But even in the here, now, and not too distant ...
This, from TOUCHSTONE:
"By 2050, people aged 60 and over are expected to outnumber those under 15 for the first time in known history," observed Kyung Hee Universtity's Sanghan Yea in the Journal Futures. Yea, and economist, predicted that "between 2040 and 2050, the world's population would fall by about 85 millon ... and would [then] shrink by roughly 25% with each successive generation." Because population growth is necessary for economic prosperity, the decline will bring an economic "crash" in which "the world economy will contract faster than [the world population] does and [will] never reach the previous levels attained with the earlier smaller populations." A shrinking population means "sharply winnowed and less competitive work forces," too many retired people, and a decline in efficiency, creating a "chain reaction" of economic problems from which "the economy would never recover." [Vol.18,No.1,p.52]As mentioned before, Pregnancies don't just happen; our culture, the Culture of Death, is part of the problem. This past week much was reported about a holocaust that happened over 50 years ago. Lord have mercy!
But then ...
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Read rant here. Caveat lector!
Here & There ...
For those of you familiar with Karl of St Stephen's Musings ... here's a
MUST READ,posted by his sister-in-law, about the birth of a miracle baby. Glory to God for all things! Many years, Kristen, mom & dad!
In case you missed it, due to much controversy, I took it upon myself to uncover the true sexual orientation of Mr Sponge Bob Square Pants. It turns out that Mr Square Pants is, honest-to-goodness, a Hermo.
Kinda Good News: PBS has PULLED an episode ("Sugartime!") of the cartoon "Postcards from Buster" which features a lesbian couple in Vermont.
THX: Classical Anglican
Speaking of sex -- Gosh, is there nothing else? -- Christianity Today has an article about these bad ol' days vs them good ol' days. Here's a sample:
When, in Tom Wolfe's most recent novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, Charlotte's mother asks her during Christmas break where students go on dates at Dupont University, Charlotte responds: "Nobody goes out on a date. The girls go out in groups and the boys go out in groups, and they hope they find somebody they like." This is Charlotte Simmons's description of "hooking up." "Hooking up" has replaced traditional courtship and dating among today's college students. "Hooking up" is dating sans courtship or expectations of a future relationship or commitment. It is strictly about user sex. I use you and you use me for mutual pleasure. And liquor is more often than not the lubricant that makes things go.I confess, I read I Am Charlotte Simmons. While the subject matter is shocking -- just reading the book, with all of its true to life colorful language, was in itself shocking. It do make one wanna keep yo babies home from da college.
But really. Is it all that bad? Better yet, What do you say at a naked party? Frederica answers.
Okay, sure, college has gotten a bit out of hand. What about high school? Have you heard about the latest Prom Dresses?
Maybe Papa was right:
In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI warned that the wide-spread use of contraception would lead to "conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality"; he also warned that man would lose respect for woman and "no longer [care] for her physical and psychological equilibrium"; rather, man would treat woman as a "mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion." Why? By breaking the natural and divinely ordained connection between sex and procreation, women and especially men would focus on the hedonistic possibilities of sex and cease to see sex as something that was intrinsically linked to new life and the sacrament of marriage. [Touchstone, Vol.18, No.1, p.39]But I thought all that stuff was due to heterosexism (scroll down).
Not everything is out in the open these days -- out of the Closet, so to speak. HERE's a story of a Closet Crosser.
Recently, I mentioned Rolling Stone's rejection of an ad for yet another Bible translation. Rolling Stone has since reversed its decision.
World Blog comments on the reversal:
Considering the TNIV’s gender-inclusive language, Rolling Stone’s anti-Christian agenda may yet realize some fruit.There's also a couple new tidbits here:
1) A story on the sad state of Christianity in Bethlehem
2) Stats on what brings new folks to church
3) Curious facts regarding the Crusades
The Crusades Were a Good Thing?
• With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt -- once the most heavily Christian areas in the world -- quickly succumbed.
• By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul.
• The Byzantine Empire was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
• The end of the medieval Crusades did not bring an end to Muslim jihad -- Islamic states like Mamluk Egypt continued to expand in size and power, and the Ottoman Turks built the largest and most awesome state in Muslim history.
• Under Suleiman the Magnificent the Turks came within a hair's breadth of capturing Vienna, which would have left all of Germany at their mercy. At that point Crusades were no longer waged to rescue Jerusalem, but Europe itself.
• It is often asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne'er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. Recent scholarship has demolished that contrivance. The truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.
• The Ottoman Turks conquered not only their fellow Muslims, thus further unifying Islam, but also continued to press westward, capturing Constantinople and plunging deep into Europe itself. By the 15th century, the Crusades were no longer errands of mercy for a distant people but desperate attempts of one of the last remnants of Christendom to survive. Europeans began to ponder the real possibility that Islam would finally achieve its aim of conquering the entire Christian world.
• In 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. If not for a run of freak rainstorms that delayed his progress and forced him to leave behind much of his artillery, it is virtually certain that the Turks would have taken the city.
• Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. Without the Crusades, Christianity might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.
From A Concise History of the Crusades by Madden, Thomas F.
What Led YOU to Church?
to the church where they had an opportunity to enter into a relationship with
2% -- Special need
3% -- Walk-in
6% -- Pastor's influence
1% -- Home visit
5% -- Sunday school
5% -- Evangelistic outreach
3% -- Special program
79% -- Influence of a friend or relative
Thanks to FWD from from Fr. Michael Laffoon via Father Josiah Trenham.
Faith in Bethlehem?
The struggle to keep the faith in Bethlehem
by Michael Binyon
After 2,000 years Christianity is in danger of extinction in the land of its birth
FOR the first time in several years, a few rays of hope have begun to shine over Bethlehem. The recent elections for a Palestinian president passed off relatively peacefully and fairly, despite complaints about Israeli barricades and bureaucracy. Almost twice as many visitors as last year thronged Manger Square to celebrate midnight Mass at Christmas, and there were also more Orthodox Christians who came to celebrate at their Christmas on January 7.
Could this mean that the terrible events of recent years - the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity, the curfews, blockades and violence - may now be followed by desperately needed calm and stability?
Christians in Bethlehem ardently hope so. For, despite the brief upsurge in pilgrims and tourism, there is a bleak midwinter. Unemployment, economic collapse and emigration have devastated their community. Many fear that Christianity, after 2,000 years, may soon be extinguished in the land of its birth.
For hundreds of years and throughout Ottoman rule, Christians formed a majority in Bethlehem. In the last century they were 90 per cent of the population. But since the Israeli occupation, and especially after the start of the first Palestinian intifada, they have been leaving.
Since the Pope's visit in March 2000 (six months before the second intifada and when there was still hope of a political solution with Israel), an estimated 3,000 people have moved abroad. They have left behind a community now down to 21,500, barely a third of the Palestinian population.
Christians with education, savings or ambition are leaving for America, South America, Canada, Australia - anywhere where they can escape the occupation and economic stagnation. Those who remain are increasingly old, poor and despairing. They cannot even reach the churches of nearby Jerusalem without difficulty. The new separation fence hems in the little town, and Israeli checkpoints make what was once a short and easy journey over the stony hills a frustrating experience.
In Jerusalem itself, the Christians are equally demoralised. Their numbers, too, are falling fast. At the time of the British mandate, Christians formed about 10 per cent of the Palestinian population. Now they are probably no more than 2 per cent.
It is not simply that many are leaving. The Christian birthrate is about half that of Muslims. And Christians find themselves caught between two communities. They have suffered as much as their Muslim neighbours from the recent violence. But many say the Muslims believe them to be less active in the struggle against occupation, and they are seen as more ready to co-operate with the Israelis - a perception that makes for bad blood between the two communities.
These mutual suspicions were intensified by the Christian-Muslim clashes that took place in Nazareth in 1999 over the proposal to build a mosque, authorised by Israel, next to the Basilica of the Annunciation.
In Jerusalem, the Christians are suffering, as in Bethlehem, from the lack of pilgrims and tourists. But in recent years they have come increasingly into conflict with the Israelis over the management and status of their churches. Partly this is because of the churches' extensive land holdings, partly because Israeli settlers are determined to expand their presence in the Old City, and partly because Christian clergy now identify themselves more than before with the Palestinian cause and have become suspect in official Israeli eyes.
The leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church, which has the largest Palestinian membership, has run into conflict with Israel over its appointments. The present Patriarch, Irenous I, is 140th in a direct line of succession. His appointment was confirmed only in the autumn after a two-year delay. Israel saw him as too close to Yassir Arafat, and delayed recognition of his appointment through a court case accusing him of anti-Semitism, finally dismissed by the Israeli Supreme Court. Another priest of Palestinian origin, Father Atallah Hanna, was appointed church spokesman in Jerusalem in 2001 and became outspoken in denouncing the occupation. He was frequently stopped and questioned, placed under house arrest and finally disinvested by the Patriarch under Israeli pressure.
Other denominations have had other disputes, many concerning land sales. The St John's Hospice building in the Old City was occupied by a group of Jewish settlers, causing general concern among Christians at the lack of an official response.
One of the main concerns is the Christian claim that Israeli authorities are indifferent to the observance of the age-old status quo - the complex balance between the various factions which has for centuries maintained a precarious peace between the Greek Orthodox, the Armenians, the Latins, Copts, Ethiopians and others who claim rights in the custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In the negotiations leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Israel signed a Fundamental Agreement in 1993, giving the Vatican also an official say in church affairs in Jerusalem. This has yet to be ratified by the Knesset.
Samuel Jacob Kuruvilla, a specialist in Middle East politics at Exeter University, details many of the clashes in the current issue of the Palestinian journal al-Aqsa. He argues that recent Israeli proposals, such as opening a new entrance to the Holy Sepulchre and ending the 800-year tradition that entrusts its keys to two prominent Muslim families, have elicited intense suspicion from Jerusalem's Christians who fear that they will upset the status quo.
"The churches were suspicious whether the Israelis had any plans of extending a foothold into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre much as they had done on the Temple Mount," Kuruvilla said. They feared that the Israelis were planning "to do what no rulers of Jerusalem had ever succeeded in carrying out, namely to interfere with the sole right of the churches themselves to manage affairs within the precincts of the church".
Church frustration is directed not only against the ruling authorities, however. Kuruvilla said that many Christians in Jerusalem were angry that the European powers had failed to recognise the sensitivities and traditions of historic churches in the land in which they were born.
Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd. Thanks to FWD from Fr Victor Potapov.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Of Course Sponge Bob is Gay!
Hate to break it to you: Bugs Bunny? Gay.
Ever seen Mrs Fudd? Gay, I say!
Barney? Never trust a man who giggles ... much less a dinosaur.
Droopy Dog? Don't get me started ...
For the record, about the record, I believe the Tolerance Cause a slippery slope. As Dr Peter Toon taught us in seminary, "Read the Bible, cover to cover, and you will not find a 'tolerance commandment'." (Neither am I advocating "intolerance" as a virtue.) Secondly, you don't love a sinner all the way to Hell ... but I digress.
When sexual sin is no longer defined by the way you ACT, what you do, but an inherited, genetic, predisposition (mannerisms, tastes, bachelorhood, etc) -- well then it becomes a whole lot easier to label something as queer. Then, that being the case, tolerance for a passive quality is dictated by sheer good manners.
James Dobson's campaign against a video starring popular cartoon characters is justified in one sense -- that being that we're on our way down that slippery slope and have been for some time. But painting beloved cartoon characters as sodomites does justice to no cause.
Wait. It seems Dr Dobson's words have been misconstrued: "I said no such thing."
The above linked article goes on to quote from literature previously distributed by the We Are Family organization. Mind you, this is given to schools to educate our children:
"The institutionalization of heterosexuality in all aspects of society includes the idealization of heterosexual orientation, romance, and marriage," the guide states. "Compulsory heterosexuality leads to the notion of women as inherently 'weak,' and the institutionalized inequality of power: power of men to control women's sexuality, labor, childbirth and childrearing, physical movement, safety, creativity, and access to knowledge. It can also include legal and social discrimination against homosexuals and the invisibility or intolerance of lesbian and gay existence."Visit their site. Read the Pledge. Is there any doubt that this organization promotes a Cause that is contrary to Christian ideals?
Though I like Sponge Bob, in this regard, I'm on Dobson's side. I'm intolerant, I guess you'd say.
The Flintstones invited us to have a "gay ol' time" (Wiiillll-maaa! Yelling for a woman; definitely not gay). Instead, we've allowed the homosexual movement to corrupt a perfectly good word -- GAY -- to describe a lifestyle that is anything but .
Thus, using the Flintstone's definition, Sponge Bob is Gay.
But he's not a Gay Homosexual ...
Sponge Bob Square Pants is a Gay Hermaphrodite.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Robert E Lee Won't Orthodox ... St Elvis?
Welsh saints to adorn Orthodox church
Jan 24 2005, Rhodri Clark, Western Mail
A CHURCH in North Wales could be decorated with frescoes of hundreds of Welsh saints to cement its links with ancient Celtic Christianity.
The long list of Welsh saints includes each one commemorated in a place name starting with "Llan", as well as St Patrick and others remembered mainly for their work outside Wales.
Father Deiniol, who founded the Wales Orthodox Mission more than 20 years ago, said there were so many saints that there would not be enough room in his Blaenau Ffestiniog church for each one.
"We could include one from every part of Wales," said Fr Deiniol, known locally as Y Tad Deiniol.
A religious artist in Colwyn Bay has expressed interest in the job, but would first have to learn how to paint icons in the traditional Orthodox style.
Fr Deiniol has decided against building an onion tower - a powerful symbol of Orthodox churches in Russia and elsewhere - on his former Anglican church in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
"We thought about that once but we asked, 'What would that be saying?' It's very foreign. We're not Russians or Greeks, we're Welsh. The onion tower is not part of our tradition."
He is chaplain in Bangor and Aberystwyth, where some of the university students are from Greece, Russia and other countries with a predominantly orthodox faith. Services at his church in Blaenau Ffestiniog can attract up to 300 people at key festivals in the calendar such as Easter.
The history of Fr Deiniol's mission will be retold in an hour-long documentary on S4C on Tuesday, February 1.
Monday, January 24, 2005
I was recently reminded of the Prophecy when poking around on the Canadian Classical Anglican site (an otherwise excellent forum). It was strange to see St Nilus Prophecy sandwiched between traditional Anglican polemics. Then again, if I were an orthodox Anglican these days I'd be waxing apocalyptic too.
Here's the text of the Prophecy; commentary to follow:
The Prophecy of Saint NilusObviously, the text is spot on concerning our own times. But, speaking of time, the above text has been altered for in some earlier versions it read "toward the middle of the 19th century". Since what began in 1900, was the 20th century, not the 19th century, it was necessary to change the text. You may be able to google "St Nilus" and find earlier versions still littering the Net. Secondly, the century began in 1901, not 1900.
The Plight of the World and the Church during the 20th Century
By SAINT NILUS (d. circa AD 430)
After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century, the people of that time will become unrecognizable. When the time for the Advent of the Antichrist approaches, people's minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable.
People's appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair. These people will be cruel and will be like wild animals because of the temptations of the Antichrist. There will be no respect for parents and elders, love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops, and priests will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right-hand way from the left.
At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions, and woe to those who pile up treasures. Lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds and murder will rule in society.
At that future time, due to the power of such great crimes and licentiousness, people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in Holy Baptism and equally of remorse. The Churches of God will be deprived of God-fearing and pious pastors, and woe to the Christians remaining in the world at that time; they will completely lose their faith because they will lack the opportunity of seeing the light of knowledge from anyone at all. Then they will separate themselves out of the world in holy refuges in search of lightening their spiritual sufferings, but everywhere they will meet obstacles and constraints.
And all this will result from the fact that the Antichrist wants to be Lord over everything and become the ruler of the whole universe, and he will produce miracles and fantastic signs. He will also give depraved wisdom to an unhappy man so that he will discover a way by which one man can carry on a conversation with another from one end of the earth to the other.
At that time men will also fly through the air like birds and descend to the bottom of the sea like fish. And when they have achieved all this, these unhappy people will spend their lives in comfort without knowing, poor souls, that it is deceit of the Antichrist.
And, the impious one! -- he will so complete science with vanity that it will go off the right path and lead people to lose faith in the existence of God in three hypostases. Then the All-good God will see the downfall of the human race and will shorten the days for the sake of those few who are being saved, because the enemy wants to lead even the chosen into temptation, if that is possible... then the sword of chastisement will suddenly appear and kill the perverter and his servants.
Quoting Fr Dimitri Cozby from the Indiana List:
In the second place, the practice in the 4th century was to date from the Creation, from the founding of Rome, from the accession of the current emperor, or from the Era of Diocletian and according to the Indiction. The practice of dating from the birth of Christ was introduced by Dionysius Exiguus ("the Short"), a Roman monk, in the 6th century. It did not enter into general use in the West for a couple of centuries. Orthodox countries did not generally date things from the Nativity until after the Fall of Constantinople. The practice did not become official in Russia until Peter the Great.OCA Bishop Tikhon, on the same List enters the fray:
Thus, IF the writing is by St Nilus (a big IF), then he certainly was not referring to the century just past. Or, IF the writing is by St Nilus, whoever did the translation has monkeyed with the text.
After all, this is by no means the first time the "Prophecy" of Pseudo-Nilus (that appellation is used to distinguish the creator(s) of the "Prophecy" from St. Nilus himself) has been discussed on this panel or elsewhere in the Church. I remember in the days before anyone thought of an Internet how a very conservative Republican Priest and friend of mine used to brandish that prophecy about in order to show that Hippies were evil and predicted by a Saint (long hair, don't you know) but, most serious of all, a clear sign of the end times. How many times was the 20th century held up as being clearly depicted in not only such dubious "Prophecies" but even in the Apocalypse of St. John!! Now, here we are in the 21st century...Another problem is, there being more than one "St Nilus," who wrote it? The above text purports to have been authored by St Nilus of the 4th-5th century. You can read about him on, of all places, the Opus Dei site:
But others claim that the Prophecy was written by St Nilus the Myrrhstreamer of Mt Athos in the year 1651.
There's even a site claiming the Prophecy comes from the 14th century.
The Prophecy has been discussed on various boards, here's an example:
It's also, as they pointed out, a fake prophecy.Poking around on Google, I even found someone on an e-board who incorporated St Nilus prophecy into the mysteries of the Tsunami tragedy!
When you get a "prophet" who writes only one prophecy and it concerns YOUR century, it's time to haul out the "skeptic-o-meter." When you get a prophecy that's a rip-off of another faked prophecy (Mother Shipton), it's time to get out your "skeptic-o-meter".
When you get a saint who howls warnings about the 20th century and very conveniently forgets the Middle Ages when the rule of the robber barons was widespread and sex and licentousness (in the church as well as in the secular world) was widespread, when men openly kept mistresses, when there were two classes (the rich and the slaves), when men sinned as they liked and bought penance on Sunday... when a prophet has no problems with behaviors like those and rails against the 20th century (where such practices are frowned on), then you can bet your booties that you've got a Faked Prophecy.
Either that -- or you've got a prophet of a diety who wants to see the humans dragged back to the time when there were only the rich and the serfs (so you who are not rich better start looking for a wealthy person to sell yourself to as a slave); a deity who will excuse a wealthy man who contributes to the deity's temples; a deity who condones land-grabbing and killing off villages and towns in the name of religion. A deity who condemns abortion but approves of babies and children and old people being thrown out on the hillsides to be starved to death and eaten by the wild beasts (yep. common practice then.)
A prophet of a deity who condones all the above... and gets bent out of shape when women cut their hair and wear trousers.
Golly. That's quite a set of ethics.
A little research will show that this "prophecy" didn't exist before 1950.
And finally, according to that "prophecy" the Antichrist should already be here... and about 70 years old. Getting kinda late for him to make a move, eh?
It's obvious, thanks to Google, that Roman Catholics of the Marian Visions stripe love them some St Nilus. But, other RCs doubt it no matter what:
Then why would Inside the Vatican, along with a traditionalist website print it?Even Lutherans are captivated by the little Prophecy of St Nilus.
It would be better to ask them that. But I've seen this in several trad and neo-Cat places. No one ever provides where the source document is, though.
You don't have to be a lit crit to realize that no fifth-century author would ever say "After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century." They just wouldn't.
So even if there is some sort of sermon castigating sinners, or even Nilus' actual prophecy, you know the text has been tampered with, at the very least.
But to me the whole thing sounds contrived. When I first saw it, I tried to search out a source, any shred of a textual source, behind it, and came up empty-handed. Everyone just repeated the whole thing verbatim. Some said it was approved by Pope So-and-so, but that thread led nowhere.
It also started circulating fairly recently (late-80s or mid-90s, I think), and does not appear in, say, Catholic end-time books from the '50s.
I'm even a bit suspicious of the use of the name "Nilus." It sounds to me like whoever invented it was making an "inside joke" about the Protocols of the Elders of Sion, published by Sergei Nilus in 1905.
Folks, it just goes on and on ... here's the ROCA positing an e-worry from someone in 1986.
If you wanna get really spooky, there's even a site that incorporates the Prophecy into Fatima and other visions.
All of this is to say ... what?
First of all, I think there's a segment of folks that really major in this kind of Spooky-Doxy. I must confess it gives me the willies. Makes me, an Orthodox priest, wonder: What would Jesus do?
Secondly, the Prophecy is popular, no doubt, because it seems factual, real. Right? I mean it contains elements of foresight -- even if it's hindsight -- that ring true to modern ears.
But, to my mind, it portrays God as just sitting there waiting till we invent the proper number of gizmos and wear the wrong hair styles and clothes ... and then WHAMO! Spanking time!
I best go make my bed and clean my room. No time to waste.
Better still, I think I'll say my prayers ... to the Good God who lovest mankind. Cuz, you know, that's often harder to believe than fiction. But at least we know it is true.
And, just in case there's any Anglicans reading this: Beloved! It shouldn't take a dubious prophecy to help you in your plight! As an old friend and seminary mate stated as he was leaving ECUSA ... "What constitutes proper health care changes entirely when the hospital is on fire."
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [Phil.4:8]
Saturday, January 22, 2005
My Annual "Me Too"
We prayed the Office for the Victims of Abortion and the Akathist to Saint Nicholas, patron of children. In the past, our parish had volunteered for the 5-6 AM slot. Due to my secular job, that was not possible this year.
When we arrived there was a group of folks just ending their stint in front of the killing place. They were loud, laughing, socializing. It seemed odd to hear such chatter out front of such a horrid place. The noise was a source of temptation for me. The Enemy. He never lets you alone, ya know?
They eventually left after we were about 10 minutes into our service. I couldn't help but imagine that the woman who kept laughing loudly, tempting, was probably a much more faithful Pro-lifer than I. And here I come, for my once a year prayer at the abortuary, and mentally demand quiet. Lord have mercy!
Frigid and facing a bitter wind, we persevered and, eventually, sounded pretty good singing together. We usually hold beeswax candles. No hope, that, this year. The choir sang by flashlight.
The building we faced, FemCare, is a sterile looking place, fenced in, camera ever vigilant. It's hard to imagine the agony enveloped therein: the emplyoees' hardness of heart, the horror of the procedure, and the eternal scars borne by the girls and women who exit. Peculiar, ain't it, how incarnate evil can, on the outside, look so benign and boring.
The slowly cruising police car was a silent reminder that we were being watched. The second time they passed by was timeless ... slowly. It seemed to take forever. Probably due to nerves, I sang louder. God bless 'em. They're just doing their job. Protecting an abortion mill.
Before leaving, we all greeted the organizer of the annual vigil, Mick Hunt of Life Advocates. Mick's a serious and pious man. I've always felt a spirit of serenity in his presence. I wish I were more like him. I selfishly wish he were Orthodox. My conscience convicts me that I should help him, the movement, more. I've attended the annual March for Life in DC a half dozen times. I've prayed out front of local abortion mills a dozen times. And in between, what? Yeah, I feel a spirit of serenity ... and guilt.
Knowing that Mick was hoping to fill the early morning with prayer volunteers, I asked if all the slots were filled. He said, "Yep, we only have one opening ... now ... till 6 am." God bless him. He and his family will be there through the night, tending the sidewalk milkjug candles and struggling to stay warm, awake.
Seeing my disappointment that others had not come forth to pass the wee hours, he said, "But it's all right. I believe it's important to be here. We're here for the children. I mean those are our children that are being killed in there ... And if we really believed that, that those were our children, wouldn't we be here for them? At least praying? So, I'm glad we're here."
I am too, Mick.
I am, too.
Friday, January 21, 2005
"What Bible Do You Use?"
See the delimma? For the majority of American Christians, particularly here in the South, what VERSION you use helps to define what you believe. It's a label folks can understand.
[For Southerners it's a big deal. Here in Asheville we even have an AM Christian radio station whose call letters are: WKJV (The King's Radio). And, no, they're not referring to King James.]
Yet there's a big contemporary Bible translation squabble now playing out in Prot circles. It seems that Zondervan, the nation's largest publisher of Bibles, has gone and done what they swore off doing a while back. They've produced a new hip inclusive language translation, Today's New International Version (TNIV), in order, so they say, to reach the youth.
They even wanted to market the new translation in Rolling Stone magazine. Have you SEEN recent issues of Rolling Stone? This is a magazine that praises every vice known to be condemned in older translations of the Bible. I mean, really.
Well, anyway, Rolling Stone has standards, too, you know ... and they rejected the advertisement.
In a way, good for them. The NIV -- much moreso I guess, the TNIV -- is not a TRANSLATION of the Scriptures at all -- but a Protestant gloss of the sacred text. All right-believing Christians should avoid it, new version or not. But, of course, that's not why the magazine rejected it. An exec for the parent company said:
The copy is a little more than an ad for the Bible. It's a religious message that I personally don't disagree with," Brownridge said, citing "a spiritual message in the text." But, he said, "we are not in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages.Again, please avoid the translation. But the logic in the above quote is misleading. I guarantee you that you will find Rastafarian messages in Rolling Stone. I promise you that you will, from time to time, find images of Stone Henge. What do you think? Satanist symbols as well? Duh. Please.
But again, AVOID the new translation.
I would guess that the news story of the rejection is a cheaper form of advertising than the one million they'd planned to spend. Believe me, surf the Net, the publicity is in full (free) swing. There's even a site you can visit to add your name to a petition against the new translation. I wish they had a petition to boycott the old one!
As World's blog states, we live in curious times. I mean, there's a teenage girl version of the Bible called "Revolve" -- and a teen guy issue entitled "Refuel." Hats off to Dave Barry, I am not making this up. Oops! I did forget to mention that these are much hipper than your Daddy's ol' Good Book ... these are Bible ZINES.
Managing editor of Sightings, Jeremy Biles, writes:
What are we to make of an ostensibly religious artifact that so blatantly mixes the sacred with the secular? Focusing on American religious life, Colleen McDannell, author of Material Christianity, points out that while today’s vigorous Christian retailing campaigns have reached new heights in merchandising religious paraphernalia, this kind of thing is really nothing new. “American religious life” has always exhibited a thoroughly “material dimension”; the sacred has never been rigorously ‘set apart’ from the profane. Indeed, refuting Durkheim’s claim that “the religious life and the profane life cannot exist in the same place,” McDannell insists that religious devotional practices are largely characterized by the “scrambling” of the sacred and the profane. Religion and popular culture are not separate realms; they are thoroughly enmeshed in American life.I hope the nice folks at Touchstone will forgive my stealing this quote from the wonderful Anthony Esolen:
If American culture prizes sports, then it is a worthy enterprise for the Christian missionary to show that the spirit of sport, the willingness to embrace danger, the sacrifice of oneself for one’s team, is but a shadow of the spirit of adventurous brotherhood that breathes in the army of Christ. It is not a worthy enterprise to reduce Christianity to the blaring brainless marketing of narcissistic and overpaid giants, or to whip up the Exodus Bowl, or produce a sitcom called My Twelve Sons, or to draw cartoon versions of Bible stories that are so oozingly saccharine that they would make any redblooded American boy want to smash the screen with a hatchet, or maybe a couple of slingshot pebbles from the Kidron brook.(Ain't that great? Sort of like throwing rocks with commas; sane sentiments, nonetheless.)
Second, she does not understand that we have NO popular culture. What she is talking about is mass entertainment, and that is a caustic solvent that eats away the last traces of culture. We have no culture to speak of, because we inculcate nothing; we till no fields; we do not gather in celebratory worship of anyone or anything; we can hardly remember our own dead, let alone heed their wisdom. For Christian publishers, musicians, and artists to hawk their wares as part of that ectoplasm, that all-homogenizing and all-flattening blob, is not only to sell out Christianity but to squander what small chance we have of reviving something like a culture, popular or otherwise.
What’s next, centerfolds of Bathsheba?
So if you're indeed wondering what translation the Orthodox use ... I'd say stick with the KJV or the RSV. Soon, we hear, there'll be a full version of the Orthodox Study Bible, Old & New Testaments (NKJV). The Oxford Study Bible - RSV with Apocrypha is a good find.
Better still, if able, stick with the Greek.
The Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants do disagree on the number of books in the Old Testament Canon, however. But that's a topic for a different day.
NEWS FLASH! NEWS FLASH! $9.99 $9.99 $9.99 NEWS FLASH! NEWS FLASH!
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Here's a review from Amazon:
"Hiding Lincoln's sex life has been an American tradition, but sexuality should never be an embarrassing secret. Dr. Tripp, who learned his research methods from Alfred Kinsey, has brought together amazing data about Lincoln, never before assembled. Finally, the secret can be revealed."Yes, well, if you read the article in the Weekly Standard, Dr Tripp may have accumulated more than just data (aka facts) about his subject.
-- George Weinberg, clinical psychologist and author of The Heart of Psychotherapy: A Journey into the Mind and Office of a Therapist at Work
God save us!
Orthodoxy's Influence on Protestantism?
Think of the standard theological debates in Western Christianity: Is conversion a matter of divine grace or human free will? Are theological disputes to be arbitrated by appeals to the Bible or to church tradition? Do the church’s authority and unity cohere in the pope, in a set of bishops, or in assemblies of the faithful?From an article, "Looking East: The impact of Orthodox theology," by Jason Byassee. Read it H E R E.
These sorts of questions expose a traditional line of demarcation from which Catholics and Protestants generally break in opposite directions. Yet in none of these cases do Eastern Orthodox Christians feel obliged to choose sides. That’s a key reason why theologians in the West have recently been looking to Orthodox theology for help in getting beyond their theological impasses.
Long overdue in the margins of this site is a link to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green's.
Both are now added to the side margin.
BTW, I understand that those using Mozilla, Foxfire, are not seeing the material in the side margin until late in the page. Sorry. Hope to figure out a fix soon.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the center, by its side a reading-desk—that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh—a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that this room belongs.Thanks to Mere Comments (and a host of other links) for alerting us all to this long but worthy read by Christine Rosen in the New Atlantis. Here follows a few excerpts but, really, do go read the whole thing ...
Taken from a 1909 story, "The Machine Stops," by E.M. Forster.
This avoids the more important question of whether watching TV is really what we should be spending so much time doing in the first place. We are talking about the technology, not about what it encourages us to do. Like e-mail, TiVo offers us a more efficient way to perform a particular task, but in this case that “task” is watching television. For those who worry about the negative impact of television, this is akin to celebrating the invention of an easier and more effective syringe for injecting heroin.Seriously, if you haven't already, GO HERE.
Meat powder made Pavlov’s dog drool; television does something similar to our brains. As an extensive treatment of television viewing habits in Scientific American noted in 2002, “Psychologists and psychiatrists formally define substance dependence as a disorder characterized by criteria that include spending a great deal of time using the substance; using it more often than one intends; thinking about reducing use or making repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce use; giving up important social, family, or occupational activities to use it; and reporting withdrawal symptoms when one stops using it.” Researchers have found that “all these criteria can apply to people who watch a lot of television.”
An April 2004 study in Pediatrics concluded that “hours of television viewed per day at both ages one and three was associated with attentional problems at age seven,” even controlling for factors such as socioeconomic status. “Limiting young children’s exposure to television as a medium during formative years of brain development,” they concluded, “may reduce children’s subsequent risk of developing ADHD” (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
When he introduced the iPod, Apple CEO Steve Jobs claimed that “listening to music will never be the same again.” Judging by the testimonials of iPod users, this was not merely marketing overstatement. One iPod enthusiast spoke of his device in tones one usually reserves for describing a powerful deity: “It’s with me anywhere, anytime.... It’s there all the time. It’s instant gratification for music.... It’s God’s own jukebox.” Like TiVo, iPod inspires feverish devotion in its users.
Like TiVo, control is the reason people give when asked why they love iPod. In a February 2004 interview with Wired News, Michael Bull, who teaches at the University of Sussex and writes extensively about portable music devices, argued, “People like to be in control. They are controlling their space, their time and their interaction.... That can’t be understated—it gives them a lot of pleasure.” Like TiVo, this degree of control, once experienced, inspires great loyalty; the praise of iPod users echoes that of TiVo owners, both of whom often remark on how they can’t believe they ever lived without the devices. But because the iPod is a portable technology, just like the cell phone, it has an impact on social space that TiVo does not. Those people with white wires dangling from their ears might be enjoying their unique life soundtrack, but they are also practicing “absent presence” in public spaces, paying little or no attention to the world immediately around them. Bull is unconcerned with the possible selfishness this might foster: “How often do you talk to people in public anyway?” he asks.
It is no coincidence that we impute God-like powers to our technologies of personalization (TiVo, iPod) that we would never impute to gate-keeping technologies. No one ever referred to Caller ID as “Jehovah’s Secretary.”
University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein engaged this dilemma in his book, Republic.com. Sunstein argues that our technologies—especially the Internet—are encouraging group polarization: “As the customization of our communications universe increases, society is in danger of fragmenting, shared communities in danger of dissolving.” Borrowing the idea of “the daily me” from M.I.T. technologist Nicholas Negroponte, Sunstein describes a world where “you need not come across topics and views that you have not sought out. Without any difficulty, you are able to see exactly what you want to see, no more and no less.” Sunstein is concerned about the possible negative effects this will have on deliberative democratic discourse, and he urges websites to include links to sites that carry alternative views. Although his solutions bear a trace of impractical ivory tower earnestness—you can lead a rabid partisan to water, after all, but you can’t make him drink—his diagnosis of the problem is compelling. “People should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance,” he notes. “Unplanned, unanticipated encounters are central to democracy itself.”
Sunstein’s insights have lessons beyond politics. If these technologies facilitate polarization in politics, what influence are they exerting over art, literature, and music? In our haste to find the quickest, most convenient, and most easily individualized way of getting what we want, are we creating eclectic personal theaters or sophisticated echo chambers? Are we promoting a creative individualism or a narrow individualism? An expansion of choices or a deadening of taste?
Now for something completely different ...
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Following Up ...
A while back, I mentioned the Essence magazine article regarding the degrading of black women by Hip Hop music videos and culture.
H E R E's more.
And, in case you haven't heard, Kid Rock will NOT be jammin' with the Bushes.
Monday, January 17, 2005
MLK & Remembering the Culture of Death
For those unable to make it to the annual March for Life in our nation's capitol on January 24th, here is the Office for the Victims of Abortion which our Mission will pray outside a local killing place.
O most merciful, all gracious and compassionate Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, Son of God: we entreat Thee, most gracious Master: look with compassion upon Thy children who have been condemned to death by the unjust judgement of men. And as Thou hast promised to bestow the heavenly kingdom on them born of water and the Spirit, and who in blamelessness of life have been translated unto Thee; and Who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" - we humbly pray, according to Thy unfailing promise: grant the inheritance of Thy kingdom to the multitude of spotless infants who have been cruelly murdered in the abortuaries of this land; for Thou art the resurrection and the life and the repose of all Thy servants and of these innocents, O Christ our God.
Turn the hearts of those who seek to destroy Thy little ones. We beseech Thee to pour forth Thy healing grace upon them, that they may be convicted in their hearts and turn from their evil ways. Remember all of them that kill our children as on the altars of Moloch, and render not unto them according to their deeds, but according to Thy great mercy convert them: the unbelieving to true faith and piety, and the believing that they may turn from evil and do good.
O Holy Master, Almighty Father and pre-eternal God, Who alone made and directs all things; Who rises up quickly against the evil of the impious ones; who, by providence, teaches Thy people preservation of justice and the obliteration of evil on earth; Who condescends to raise up warriors for the protection of the people of God: we entreat Thee with compunction, that as Thou didst give David power to defeat Goliath, and as Thou didst condescend through Judas Maccabeus, to seize victory from the arrogant pagans who would not call on Thy Name; so too, grant protection to us, Thy servants against the enemies rising against us as we go forth to do spiritual battle against the evil one and those who do his will rather than Thine.
For Thou art a merciful God, and lovest mankind, and unto Thee do we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
(Concluding prayer of the above noted Office)
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Spiritual Poverty: Death to Life
Mindfulness of death raises man from the age-long torpor of sin and offers him a vision of divine eternity. This vision serves to convey knowledge of God through the mystery of God's absence. Man learns the consequences for all the created world of separation from Him. The uncreated divine Light illumines initially from "behind" and at a distance from the spiritual "place" man is situated in; the knowledge he gains is of the "hell" of his spiritual poverty, not to say his destination. It is nevertheless the first glimmer of grace, and it inspires fear of God: "fear of proving unworthy of God made manifest to us in Light that never sets." The sight of one's spiritual poverty and the awareness of one's fallen state, far from God, is the foundation for new life. It is the starting point in the journey, the first rung on the ladder of perfection in Christ, as the Lord certifies when he calls blessed the "poor in spirit" [cf Mt.5:3]. It is also the prerequisite for spiritual mourning, which, according to the Lord's Beatitudes [cf Mt.5:4] is the second rung.NOTE: Phrases in quotation marks, other than Scriptural references, refer to writings of Archimandrite Sophrony.
Spoonge Bob + Snoop Dog = End of Time?
I'm thirty-three years old now. I see a lot of things differently now than I used to. I try to do more right than wrong and to keep God in everything I do and to keep the devils away from me. But I know by trying to stay so right, the devil is going to keep on working on me. That's going to be a curse around me all the time. But I don't think it's going to get me. I really dont think that it is.Perhaps if the Inaugural Committee had known of Snoop's strong "religious beliefs," he'd have been invited, like Kid Rock, to the President's Doings, too.
My allegiance is to Satan and I hate Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but I don't hurt anyone," Mr. Romano said. "I take out my anger in mosh pits and S-and-M clubs. I think it's ironic that the Christians got violent with the Satanist.Now that we've rung in the New One ... What year is it?
THX: Dcn Raphael
And, if this is really the year 2011 ... does this mean it's the End of Time?
Orthodox conversion testimony & exegesis from a former Calvinist.
Monday, January 10, 2005
St Gregory of Nyssa
St Gregory of Nyssa pray to God for us!
Saturday, January 08, 2005
God in the Tsunami?
1) they don't hesitate to mention God (the Incarnate one)
2) they're fearless of questions that we Americans are too naive to ask, much less answer
3) being a creedal Christian culture, though few go to church, their opinions and articles are spiked with traditional Christian terms and jargon (which is obviously woven into the fabric of the culture)
For example, in a piece by Frank Johnson, entitled "Satan is always trying to pick up Left-wing and liberal support," we read:
During the ages of Christian belief, most people would not have thought the tsunami was evidence of God's non-existence. In paradise, tsunamis did not happen. But God peopled paradise with men and women. He could have kept them in a state in which they would have been unconscious of bad, but then we would only have been mute animals.Then there is a piece by Charles Moore, also in the Telegraph, which is a MUST READ.
God raised them above the beasts by giving them a choice between good or bad. So they had to know what bad was, including in the natural world around them. The moment they became capable of being bad, the natural world became capable of it, too.
Mankind's acquisition of the ability to choose is symbolised by Eve's eating from the tree of knowledge - the knowledge of good and evil. "Forth-reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat," says Milton's Paradise Lost. But significantly the poem adds: "Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat, sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe "
From the above, it will be gathered that I have no trouble with God and the tsunami, and I believe that millions do not either. The trouble is with archbishops and others, who assume that, in a secular age, we cannot take it.
One of my pet peeves is when folks say, "We're all children of God." We are not. The traditional Christian understanding is that, through Christ, we become so by the Father's adoption. In that spirit, a few excerpts ...
If God loves us, it is asked, why did He let tens of thousands of innocent people die in this catastrophe?Ain't that the truth! In the past few weeks I've heard Westerners on the radio saying that this tragedy has now caused them to doubt the existence of God. But, those who've survived the horrors -- not just this one but other personal tragedies as well -- are more wont to praise God for mercy and preservation.
One traditional answer, no longer popular in the West, is that humanity deserves it. When Jim Callaghan was home secretary, dealing with the sudden explosion of conflict in Ulster in the late 1960s, he had an argument with the young Protestant firebrand, Ian Paisley. "After all,'' said Callaghan, in a conciliatory tone, "we are all children of God." "No, we are not," replied the Reverend Doctor. "We are all children of wrath." A similar belief has been expressed by some Muslim clerics in regions affected by the disaster: the tsunami is God's judgment on our wickedness, they have claimed, the result of His justified anger. From earliest times, people detected divine fury in the weather. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Flood is caused by gods in a rage at the ever-increasing noise floating up to Heaven from all those gabby people on Earth.
This is not, naturally, a view that appeals to the Church of England. In the latest Sunday Telegraph, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams would not even contemplate the suggestion that there could be anything punitive about such death. And he was extremely reluctant to find excuses for his boss. He suggested that "making sense" of such disasters was almost insulting to those affected by them. Dr Williams's piece has been unfairly maligned: most of it seemed to me true and subtle, and I was particularly struck by his point that "those most deeply involved... are so often the ones who spend least energy in raging over the lack of explanation''.
A friend of mine who almost drowned in the Maldives on Boxing Day speaks only of his good fortune, of the woman who saved his life, of how well fellow tourists and hotel staff behaved. One of his party died, but this makes him feel humble, guilty and sad, not angry against his creator. He says he learnt to pray better.Don't get me wrong, I absorb the pampering. But perhaps we in the West have grown too pampered by our lush, painless, and -- for all intents and purposes -- seemingly deathless living?
Talk about God can only be by analogy. The most familiar is of the father. The father helps bring his child into the world. By doing so, he gives it the chance of everything good it will ever receive. But at the same time, he also condemns his child to life, with everything horrible that will happen to it, and, eventually, to death. Is he therefore wrong to do so?[Above emphasis mine.]
A less common analogy is with a creative artist. In his creation, the artist includes cruelty and suffering. Shakespeare has the innocent Desdemona killed unjustly; he bumps off the loving Cordelia; he sends Hamlet off the rails. This does not lead the reader to think that Shakespeare himself is cruel, only that the cruelty is necessary to the art. If God is the artist of the world, of everything that is, the suffering of the people He has created is no more to be criticised than that created by the playwright. It is tragic, yes, but tragedy is a word for a form of art, the highest form of art. In the Christian account, God did not absent Himself from the tragedy of His own creation, but, through becoming man, became part of it. So even if the whole thing is a ghastly mistake, it is one for which the author has paid the highest price.
Sorry, Moore's article is too good to not read in its entirety [H E R E]. But for those just scanning it here, here's the ending ...
Yet even these ways of speaking come out too pat. They may be right, but they do not answer the question of what human suffering feels like. The near-universal experience of people who have come close to death - in war, through illness, in accidents or natural disaster - is that they have contemplated something that is true. The truth has been so terrible - by which I mean not bad, but inspiring of terror - that the experience of it proves almost incommunicable. People often emerge feeling that they now understand more about life, with the paradoxical result that they have less to say about it.Thanks to News Forum links.
In this respect, the encounter with death is very like the encounter with God. The Book of Job remains by far the greatest account of man's suffering in the face of his creator. God lets Satan persecute Job precisely because he is "perfect and upright", so that everyone may know the incalculable distance between the ways of God and those of man. When God finally speaks to Job, it is to tell him how little he knows, how puny he is: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?", "Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?", "Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook?". It is only when Job accepts that he knows nothing that he begins to know something: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee."
This story is terrible and true, like a great tempest. It is not an accident, surely, that when the Lord speaks to Job, He does so "out of the whirlwind".
Friday, January 07, 2005
Apocalypse ... NOW?
"Today's Herod would seek the baby Jesus to implant a computer chip somewhere deep under his skin as the mark of that beast that, in poet William Butler Yeats' phrase, "its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born."On December 17, 2004, President Bush signed into law measures that gaurantee a National ID system. With the overwhelming coverage of the horrendous tragedy in Southern Asia, I totally missed this news item -- though there was some coverage.
However, some of the coverage may have been less than full disclosure:
"What Reuters doesn't mention is the section of the bill that would drastically overhaul each state's driver's license regulation. According to [Sec. 7212] Driver's Licenses and identification cards., the minimum requirements of a federally approved identification card would "subject each person applying for a driver's license or identification card to mandatory facial image capture." The bill doesn't specify what portion of the face, so this could be an entire facial scan, or a retinal scan. The biometric data would be saved on the card, as well as in a database, so that the card holder could be verified at a later time."What does it all mean?
"The new generation of ID cards must be able to digitally store biometric data such as facial photographs and fingerprint images, bear contact and contactless interfaces, and allow the encryption of data that can be used to electronically verify the user's identity, according to NIST draft standards."Should it even be a concern?
Yes. At least some think so. (Thanks to Slightly Rough.) Though I've read that William F. Buckley sees no harm in such measures, the Cato Institute opposed it in 2001.
"A national I.D. is coming soon, perhaps disguised as your state driver's license but carrying a unique code such as your Social Security number. It may in the beginning even be "voluntary," like the airline traveler I.D. that will permit you to bypass the two-hour inspection lines at airports but soon those refusing to submit to this carding process will be suspect and surveiled. Within a decade, the national I.D. card will also be your United Nations I.D. card."The purpose of the measure is, alledgedly, to combat terrorism. For example, unless you are registered in the National ID system you will not be able to board a plane. These measures may be in place as early as the end of this year (2005). The bill also allows sharing of this information from state to state.
Britain's House of Commons passed a similar measure a few days later, December 20, 2004.
"The Government and Opposition have joined forces to back the world's most far-reaching and comprehensive identity measures. The Identity Cards Bill passed its Second Reading in the lower house on 20 December despite widespread and passionate opposition from almost 100 rebel MP's. A national campaign www.no2id.net chaired by Privacy International's director has vowed to stop the plans. The legislation must pass through the House of Lords before it becomes law. Political observers believe the proposals will meet stiff opposition there. See our ID card page for coverage of ID cards around the world and in the United Kingdom.
One could assume that, given other countries' participation in similar programs, this National ID system -- or, for all intents and purposes, ID Card -- will actually have international uses (FAQ.) Hitting some of the links listed in this blog post would lead one to believe the info would be shared among "friendly nations."
Such programs are already in place in Thailand:
"In one of the most ambitious Java-based smart card deployment schemes in the world, the Thai government plans to issue the high-tech national ID card to all 61 million citizens. The card will contain biometric identification, as well as insurance, tax and welfare benefit information. The scheme is expected to be launched later this year."Is it the Mark of the Beast, 666, yada yada yada? I don't know. Similar measures were debated in Russia (March, 2001) when they introduced their tax ID number (INN). At that time the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei said:
"that the fear of INN had, like the fear of the ecumenical movement, been encouraged by those who wanted to push the Russian Orthodox Church into isolation."The Greek Orthdoox clergy went nuts over the ID system introduced in Greece for a different reason. The government had decided to drop the ID designation of one's religious preference. This was due in large measure to pressure from Jews and Muslims. The GOC strongly objected.
"In his message to be read on Sunday, the Russian Patriarch reminds Christians that neither salvation nor spiritual death can occur simply "for some external reason, without our personal participation."
But he promised that the church would continue to monitor technological developments which could hinder individual freedom."
For Romanians -- and here's an idea for American Liberals -- the National ID Cards played a role in the recent election.
"To prevent multiple voting, the CEC required a stamped sticker recording the fact that a person had voted to be attached to the rear-side of Romanian citizens laminated ID cards, which were required to identify a voter. This precaution was far from infallible."Yet, here in America, one would think there would be great opposition to the ID Card by its Evangelical President and the great host of "Left-Behinders." Not so. Yet.
For those interested, particularly Federal Employees ...
"On Jan. 19, the agency will hold a public meeting at the Potomac Center Plaza in downtown Washington to discuss policy, privacy and security concerns associated with the development of the new ID card standard."
Thursday, January 06, 2005
THEOPHANY ... etc
Fr Patrick Henry Reardon's offering for the Sunday before Theophany helps to explain the essence of the Feast.
Thanks to Karl, here's some more info & family ideas for the celebration of the Feast.
Fr John Whiteford and others await the Winter Pascha, the Feast of the Nativity.
THEOPHANY: I Thirst
I'm not worthy.
To quench is my fate.
All can relate.
Before Eden thou wast; even before the flood.
I parted for Thy people at the behest of Moses, Thy chosen one.
I’ve whetted e’ery path man’s trod; every field he’s plo’d.
At Thy command I came to be; my rest shall be in Thee.
Tell me Lord, what brings Thee to me? I’m not worthy,
I must confess.
Me? I cleanse from sweat, dirt, sand, and disease.
Washed away are cares and burdens -- the soot of the day --
in my waves.
John calls forth the people.
In their salvation I participate.
Yet, to Thee, how can I relate?
For without, I’d not be.
Jest it seems!
Agent of cleansing feels dirty in the presence of the King.
Cleanse me, O Lord, that I may be worthy of Thee.
I am water.
I lack nothing but Thee.
At Thy baptism, O Lord, Thou hast found me worthy.
paths, fields, people,
shall ne’er be the same.
Come Lord Jesus,
cleanse Thou me!
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
So it was that I found myself clandestinely heading to a farm in Lenoir, North Carolina, in December of 1987. My client met me there. She was very apologetic. Her mother, doggonit, had given away the grey cat. BUT. But, she said, "I looked at the other cat and she's not nearly as ugly as I'd thought." "Oh great," I thought. I peered into the big cardboard box. That was my first meeting. She was a sweet kitty. Ultra-soft fur. Not much to look at. Great personality.
We called her "Blotch."
I'd been saving money for a few months to buy my bride a string of pearls. I believe they set me back over $600. I should have saved them for another occasion. Because when she received the surprise cat gift, all other gifts paled in comparison. She was thrilled. We were newlyweds. No kids. Blotch became part of the family.
Blotch was a people person. Unlike standoffish felines, Blotch always wanted to be where the people were. She slept on your head, sat on your lap, would jump up and lay across your shoulders. She was always wherever you were. She liked tuna, loved bacon; was a good kitty.
In the summer of 1989 we headed off to Nashotah House, Wisconsin. The seminary had a "No Pets" and "no sweet talking" policy. So it was that Blotch went to live with my wife's folks for three years. We got to see her a couple times a year when we came home and, in the meantime, they would take pictures and send them to us. My wife missed her cat.
Upon graduation and moving back to North Carolina, we were reunited. We lived near my wife's work and, most days, Blotch would be perched on my shoulder peering out the front door window, watching for her return. Cats don't smile and women don't purr, so they both did their own thing.
We'd been trying to conceive a child for a number of years and, lacking success, we thought we might never have children. The pressure was on: Blotch was it. Yet God saw fit to allow otherwise. We have a picture of Blotch in the bassinet ... jealously daring anyone to take her place. When Mary Catherine arrived in 1994, it took a while before Blotch warmed up to her. But, when she finally figured out that the new arrival was here to stay, they became buds.
We also have a pic of Blotch in the bassinet "awaiting" the arrival of Basil in 1998 and maybe even Helen in 2002. She eventually let them all join the family. She was a good kitty.
Several years ago we noticed that Blotch was deaf. Later, she become a water-holic. She would grab a drink whenever an opportunity was present: bowl, sink, shower, your glass, Christmas tree stand, whatever. The vet said that her old kidneys were probably giving out on her. So it was that, little by little, we began trying to prepare ourselves for the inevitable day.
That was yesterday.
Over the past few months her health kept sliding ... to the point she couldn't properly feed or clean herself. She drooled. But she would still sleep on your head, climb on your shoulders, warm your lap -- and drink all waters in sight. She was a good kitty.
I always dreaded the day. (That would be yesterday.) I dreaded the day when I might have to deal with her death. Knowing that my wife would take it hard, I knew I was not the patient, compassionate man she would need to help her. Heck. Who'm I fooling? I dreaded the day for me. But, we took her to the Vet. It was way hard. That was my last meeting. She was a sweet kitty. Ultra-soft fur. Not much to look at. Great personality.
Blotch made my wife (me & our kids) happy for almost two decades. Glory to God! Other than the three years of seminary, that would leave 14 years, Blotch has always met us at the door upon our return. The inevitable that made my heart ache yesterday will soon be replaced by a sinking moment of sadness upon entering an empty house.
That would be today.
(I bet the grey cat with white boots died long ago.)
For a list of bona fide relief agencies go H E R E.
For an account of an heroic effort by a small community go H E R E.
Thanks to Cheese & Crackers.
Monday, January 03, 2005
I hope it's okay for a conservative to say: "Keep hope alive!"
The Deification of Man
What is this “image?” St Gregory Palamas claims the “image” resides in man’s intellect. “For that which is in the image resides not in the body but in the intellect, which is the highest aspect of human nature. If there was something else still higher, that which is in the image would reside in that” (p.17).
One of the “truths” of Orthodoxy that has meant a great deal to me is the Fathers’ understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son. Here I speak specifically of the understanding of what it means to say that he “came to himself” (Luke 15:17a). Georgios Mantzaridis writes:
Developing the parable of the prodigal son, and speaking of the dissipation of the father’s fortune by the younger son, Palamas gives the following allegorical interpretation: man’s chief wealth is his inborn intellect. While he keeps to the path of salvation, he keeps his intellect concentrated in itself and on the first and highest Intellect, God. If, however, he is led astray into misuse, then his intellect is dispersed and adheres to earthly things, and to the pleasures of the flesh. Man is required to fight against this pathological deviation through his return to himself and elevation towards God (p.82).I have found this to be a valuable tool during periods of personal discernment. For, as Mantzaridis states, “If there exists something that man can and must seek and find within himself, it is not the self which deviated but the new man in Christ, born through baptismal grace and the other church sacraments” (p.83).
Thus, we do not come to our base nature which is corrupted by sin. Rather, we come to that which is good, beautiful and true. We come to that which Adam was before the Fall -- we come to Christ, Who is within us.
We are called to “put on Christ.” We are to become like God -- thereby regaining the “likeness” that we have lost by transgression. The first step in this process is the we “come to ourselves.” This coming to oneself is the first step toward repentance and reconciliation that leads to communion with God and neighbor. This is true when “man, ‘having entered wholly within himself’, becomes aware of himself and awaits within himself the coming of God and the divine transformation” (p.85).
Over the years, I’ve become aware of these moments of “coming to self” in my own life and ministry. It is an enlightening moment. It is a sober moment. It is a “reality” moment. Most often, it is a sudden moment -- one which was seemingly long in coming.
This reflection, and page numbers referenced, is based on Georgios Mantzaridis's book, The Deification of Man: St Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition.