Friday, April 29, 2005
Boogie to the Royal Hours
This morning, arriving at church -- knowing it was going to be a busy day and hoping not to miss anything -- I left my cell phone on.
Before service, I took it out of my pocket and laid it on a shelf in the altar.
My wife, long ago, as a gift to her husband, had set the ring tone on my phone. I don't think much of it these days.
But I was quickly reminded of its oddity during the great censing at the beginning of the Royal Hours of Great & Holy Friday. Dimly lit church; candles burning in front of the icons; a large Cross with an image of our Lord on it in the middle of the nave; the sweet smell of incense, acapella chanting ...
That's when my phone "rang" ...
to the tune of ...
"Play That Funky Music White Boy" by Wild Cherry.
(Luckily there were no first time visitors present.)
Which begs two questions.
1) Did anyone else's Great & Holy Friday service begin this way?
2) Must we now repeat this every year?
Thursday, April 28, 2005
The Book's Cover
I had to stop and ask directions to the library, where my son and others would be reading some of their award winning writings. I'd thought of asking the janitor, but he was too far ahead of me. Was I ever surprised to see the "janitor" sitting in the section reserved for the parents and grandparents. He seemed a nice chap. But as the room filled up with young authors' kin, all white, I wondered how he felt amid a sea of Caucasians.
Eventually a white woman -- really white, red hair, flushed cheeks -- arrived and sat beside him. Very close beside him, with other chairs vacant. Ahhh, I get it. At least I did when their blended-race daughter arrived.
My gaze shifted back toward the students. I spotted a young Hispanic gal staring at the mixed-race family. I wondered what she thought. That sort of thing's no big deal these days, I guess, especially among Hispanics. Right?
I remembered back when I was in middle school one of the white teachers started dating a black man. This would have been around 1973. That gossip grew long legs and provided fodder for kids, parents, staff, church, etc, for quite a while. But the teacher was a class act and she took it all in stride. Last I heard, they were still married.
One of my first weddings as an officiating priest was between a white woman and a black man. I didn't try to talk them out of it. But I did encourage them toward the reality of such an arrangement in the South. I felt it might be rough for the children. They were determined; I said "I do" and they did.
The students' talks were now under way. By the way, my son was chosen from among all of his classmates to present his writing, "My Construction Set". Each classroom of each grade (he's in the first) was represented.
It came time for the pretty Mexican gal's reading. Our area being known for apples, where many legal and illegal aliens from south of the border find employment, I quickly wondered about her home life. She opened her mouth and I was stunned. She was articulate.
I thought how silly -- Of course she's articulate! That's what this is all about, no? What, did you think maybe she was chosen as the token Hispanic?
Her subject? Martin Luther King, Jr. Here was a girl, perhaps in the 2nd grade, speaking about the 60's and how blacks and whites weren't allowed to be together back in those days. As she talked of 1968 and the slain civil rights leader, I cut my eyes over to the "mixed couple" and they were staring and beaming. As she finished, I felt foolish. What a jerk.
First of all, the sole black man in the room was not the janitor. The white woman with the red hair was his wife. And the Mexican gal could write and speak clearly. Well, duh.
Which brings me to my son. He did great! I mean really great! His reading had never been clearer; diction near perfect, volume optimal. I was so proud. As his certificate was presented to him, the lady said, "Maybe someday when you grow up, Basil, you can be an engineer and build houses right here in Henderson County."
Growing up. Now that's hard to imagine. But I thought about it, mine that is, sitting in that elementary school library, dressed like a priest. And how I have a long, long way to go ...
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Dear Reporter ...
Rumour has it that he's visited this Blog, so I'm going to use the medium to conduct an interview with myself in hopes that, when he next visits, he'll lift any quotes and info necessary for his story. (God knows our little mission appreciates the publicity!)
Q: First off, why are you celebrating Easter on a different date than everyone else?
A: Because candy's cheaper that way.
Q: But aren't the lilies are more expensive?
A: You're right! HERE's a better explanation. Fr John Whiteford also offers an excellent answer.
Q: How old is your church?
A: As for the ORTHODOX CHURCH, here's a snarky reply. As for our Mission parish of St Raphael, we are just about one year old. We are named for a "modern day" saint, Raphael Hawaweeny of Brooklyn.
Q: Tell me about your congregation.
A: Compared to your average Baptist church, we're small -- about 20-25 souls in attendance on Sundays. However, we're a faithful group. We have about the same number for Wednesday & Saturday evenings as well! Most of our members are American Converts to Holy Orthodoxy. Our services are 100% in English. About half of our community is kids.
I've worked with convert missions for over 12 years now. It takes time, perseverance, and many sacrifices to make it work. All we're called to do is be faithful. And that's exactly what we're doing right now as we plant this new Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Western North Carolina.
Q: Tell me about your reasons for converting to Orthodox Christianity.
A: Here's the answer; and a few other bits of personal info.
Q: What are some of the struggles you've encountered with Orthodoxy in the South?
A: Some of the problems are within Orthodoxy itself. That being said, most people in North Carolina have never even heard of Orthodox Christianity. The question that is inevitably asked is,"So how is Orthodoxy different than, say, the Baptist church?" In reality, given the confines and brevity of normal conversation, there's just no way to do justice to a question like that! From the outside we may look like exotic [Roman] Catholics. But starting with another Communion is not the way to properly answer the question. Come and see! That's the best answer.
Q: How do you hope to draw people into the Church?
A: The Holy Spirit does a pretty good job of that. Over the past several hundred years the Orthodox have not been known for their great campaigns of evangelism. And, in our zeal for the Kingdom, we often make mistakes. Currently, the Orthodox Church is benefiting by all the changes taking place in mainstream Christian groups -- like the Episcopalians, Methodists, Charismatics, etc. But converting to Orthodoxy solely because others are sliding toward heresy is not the most God-pleasing and long-lasting solution. It takes about two years AFTER being Orthodox for a person to really begin to struggle well within the Ancient Faith. Pastors often refer to this as the "Two Year Itch". If the Convert can get past that, they're probably home for good.
Q: Back to Pascha (Easter), tell me about the service.
A: We begin at 11:30pm on Saturday evening, having had a whole slate of Holy Week services. By the time we get to the Pascha service, Orthodox Christians have fasted from meat, dairy, wine, and oil for the past 50 days. Practically speaking, just knowing that the Fast is only a few hours from being broken is pretty exciting! :)
Anyway, the service begins in total darkness. Eventually a single candle emerges from the altar, held by the priest, and the faithful come forward to light their own candles. [This passing of the fire is symbolic of the miracle of the Holy Fire which occurs every Great & Holy Saturday at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.] After the candles are lighted, we process outside (weather permitting) and around the building three times singing the hymn:
Three circuits being completed, the first Gospel of the Resurrection and the initial singing of the Paschal Troparion is done outside:
Thy Resurrection O Christ, our Saviour
The Angels in Heaven sing
Enable us on Earth
To Glorify Thee in purity of heart.
Christ is Risen from the deadThis hymn will be repeated many times during the service once back inside the building.
Trampling down Death by Death
And upon those in the tombs
Before reentry, the Priest knocks on the door with a Cross, saying:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall enter in.A voice from inside, representing the devil, asks:
Who is this King of glory?The priest answers:
The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.The priest the knocks again saying:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall enter in.And again the voice asks:
Who is this King of Glory?The priest then replies:
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.After this dialogue has been repeated the third time, the doors are swung open and the priest reenters followed by the congregation.
The faithful reenter the building -- which is now brightly lighted. The atmosphere is one of great joy -- not just because the Fast is ended, but the glorious light of the Resurrection enlivens the Christian heart like no other. It is truly a blessed event!
Following the Communion service, the priest gives out red eggs to the faithful, Pascha baskets are blessed, and we proceed to break the Fast by enjoying all of the previously forbidden foods: Lamb, Ham, Cheese, Mayonnaise, Wine, etc. This party lasts until about 4 or 5 am. For our community, after a bit of rest, we shall resume the celebration with Agape Vespers, Sunday at Noon -- followed by yet another feasting meal. (Larger parishes may have daily Paschal services all week long.)
The Orthodox service of the Resurrection -- PASCHA -- is a wonderful time for folks to visit an Orthodox church.
Come & See!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
An Orthodox Choice
April 22, 2005 - ROBIN GALIANO RUSSELL / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
The Eastern Orthodox Church, as far removed from a nondenominational or evangelical congregation as you can get, is nevertheless attracting a growing number of converts who are drawn by the tug of an ancient faith.
Converts are trading in their PowerPoint sermons and praise bands for the ancient rhythms of a liturgy that hasn't changed in thousands of years - a pendulum swing from the casual, seeker-friendly services that have dominated contemporary evangelicalism.
Their numbers are still small compared to megachurch growth patterns, with 1.2 million Eastern Orthodox Christians in America and an estimated 10,000 in the Dallas area. But adherents say there's been a surge in people drawn to the faith.
The Antiochian Orthodox Church, the most evangelistic of the American Orthodox churches, has tracked conversions for several decades. The number of its churches in the U.S. has doubled in 20 years to more than 250 parishes and missions. About 80 percent of its converts come from evangelical and charismatic backgrounds, 20 percent from mainline denominations.
Many go on to become Orthodox priests. About 78 percent of clergy in the Antiochian Church are converts, up from 10 to 15 percent 25 years ago. Nearly half of the students in America's two largest Orthodox seminaries are converts.
Those who convert say they are drawn to an aesthetic beauty and spiritual mystery in Orthodox worship that are often lacking in their own Protestant services. It's like entering a time machine that allows congregants to worship as the early Christians did.
Not that it doesn't take some getting used to.
Orthodox services are based on the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which can last two hours or more. Congregants stand much of the time, while priests in vestments offer incense and chant the Psalms.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, a former Episcopalian and author of Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy, said the experience of Orthodoxy was "startlingly different" from anything she'd known in Western churches. But it clicked when she saw it was directed toward God rather than her own emotional needs.
"It called us to fall on our faces before God in worship and to be filled with awe at his glory. I could never go back. I now find Western worship tedious and sentimental. To me, the contrast is jolting."
Ms. Mathewes-Green also prefers the Orthodox view of the Christian life as a healing process and a journey, rather than a one-time "sinner's prayer." She and her husband converted from a liberal Episcopal Church in 1993 and helped found an Orthodox church made up mostly of American converts.
"It's not about getting the sin-debt paid, the ticket punched and now you wait around to die and go to heaven. Orthodoxy is a transforming journey where every day the Christian is being enabled to bear more of God's light. That's exciting," she said.
Stan Shinn of Wylie, who was raised in the Assemblies of God denomination and attended Oral Roberts University, recalls feeling nearly overwhelmed when he stepped inside Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in North Dallas for the first time.
What looked good on paper - definitive answers to his search for early Christian worship and doctrine - had taken him to a "very bizarre and strange" church with icon-filled walls, heavy incense and Byzantine chanting.
"I felt like there was a gauntlet thrown down in front of me," he said.
He and his wife, Janine, and their three children converted in 2002 from their nondenominational church to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Like the Shinns, those who convert are joining 350 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
"Orthodox" means "right belief." The Orthodox Church traces its origins back to Jesus' apostles and first-century practice. The Roman Catholic Church makes that same claim, but the two branches of ancient Christianity differ in ecclesiastical hierarchy and a few doctrinal points.
Roman Catholics believe the pope has ultimate authority, while Orthodox Christians say their council of bishops is more in line with Scripture and church tradition. (The early church had five centers of Christianity - in Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople, which is now Istanbul.)
Orthodox Christians also disagree with the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which states that Jesus' mother was born without sin herself.
The two branches of ancient Christianity split in 1054.
Today, the Orthodox community is led by patriarchs and a hierarchy of bishops who must be celibate. Unlike Catholic clergy, Orthodox priests can marry before ordination.
Archbishop Dmitri, 81, leads the Archdiocese of Dallas and the South for the Orthodox Church in America. He grew up as Robert Royster in a Southern Baptist family in Teague, Texas, but converted to Orthodoxy as a teen because he wanted more out of faith.
"Everything was true, but it was not complete. It wasn't that I needed to repudiate it. I just went on to find the rest of it," he said.
The Orthodox consider themselves to have a bond with other Christians but believe they have a more accurate understanding of the faith. At a recent daylong festival in Dallas about Orthodox Christianity, Archbishop Dimitri encouraged people in other denominations to cling to the elements of the historic faith that their churches uphold, but added an invitation: "If you find there are holes at the bottom and you have to abandon ship, then head for one that's still afloat," he said.
In search of history
Conversion to Orthodoxy often begins with an intellectual quest, Mr. Shinn said. He began searching when he saw modern churches abandoning historic Christian tenets, such as the Nicene Creed, and stripping their sanctuaries of any religious symbolism to be more seeker-friendly.
"The elements of Christianity were disappearing before me like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. What kind of Christianity would my grandchildren inherit, and would the Gospel even be recognizable?" he said.
Studying church history and tradition raised even more questions: Why was the Apocrypha a part of Scripture until the Reformation? Did the early church really have bishops instead of the congregational rule that governs most Protestant churches? Why did they have such a high view of Communion and baptize infants?
And the ancient liturgies, chants, incense and sacraments used in Orthodox services, he discovered, were not taken from medieval Catholicism - as his Protestant upbringing taught him - but from early church worship.
"It all caused me to re-evaluate my core assumptions. Instead of me judging history, I decided I wanted history to judge me and tell me what should I practice," Mr. Shinn said.
The unchanging nature of the Orthodox Church is a strong draw for "serious Christians" who are tired of Protestant individualism yet disagree with the Catholic Church's teachings, said the Rev. Peter Gillquist, chairman of missions and evangelism for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
"It's charismatics and evangelicals, those diamonds in the rough who are looking to find Christ's church. There's a lot of people who love the Lord and his word, but they're still looking for his church."
Father Gillquist was a "card-carrying evangelical" himself before his conversion to Orthodoxy. He attended Dallas Theological Seminary and Wheaton College, and was a director for Campus Crusade for Christ, a nondenominational evangelistic campus organization.
Now he uses evangelistic strategies to promote Christianity and the Orthodox Church. Most who come into the church now are people from other denominations who are confused by the hundreds of Protestant denominations and disturbed by increasing theological liberalism, he said.
But some who are ready to convert still think the church might be too exotic for them, said the Rev. Anthony Savas, pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas.
"They're afraid it's too ethnic. They wonder, 'What will my friends think?' " he said.
It's true that the Orthodox Church in America took on the ethnic flavors of 20th-century immigrants. The dozen Orthodox churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area reflect these geographic and ethnic heritages. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is Dallas' largest, with 1,500 active members. The church holds services in Greek and English and hosts an annual Greek festival with ethnic foods, dance and crafts.
St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in the Oak Lawn area is predominantly Russian. At Sts. Constantine and Helen, an Antiochian Orthodox Church, 80 percent of the families speak Arabic. Services at both are in English. There's a Hispanic congregation in Oak Cliff - Holy Transfiguration Hispanic Orthodox Mission.
Converts become more familiar with the church through catechism classes and the guidance of spiritual godparents (individuals and couples in the congregation who mentor new converts). If they've already been baptized in another church, they also must be chrismated, or anointed, to be received in the Orthodox Church.
Americans who convert to Orthodoxy know they will be part of a minority faith. That doesn't bother Father Savas at Holy Trinity, who grew up Orthodox among Mormons in Salt Lake City.
"It's wonderful to practice the ancient Christian faith in an environment that doesn't know what to do with it. A minority can be a beacon of light, like the apostles, who took it beyond their own country," he said.
"It's a beautiful eye-opening experience for people to see the church of the New Testament is alive and thriving today. We don't define ourselves by who we're not. The church is just here. And we're here to lift it up."
Adherents say there is only one Orthodox Church, which is administratively organized into several jurisdictions. The faith, worship and doctrine is the same, but churches differ in language and administration.
Dioceses of Orthodox Churches are administrated by bishops in North America, as well as archbishops and patriarchs abroad.
Thanks for FWD from Fr Victor Potapov.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Sometimes it Snows in April
May God grant all a spiritually profitable Passion Week and a glorious & bright Paschal Feast.
(Now, where did I put those snow boots?)
Saturday, April 23, 2005
By Michael Spears, Staff Writer, Friday April 22, 2005
Fort Saskatchewan Record — For seven months several former members of the Anglican Church have been meeting in the Chapel of the Riverview Funeral home to lay the foundations of a new church in the Fort. The ‘new’ church will in fact be one of the oldest branches of Christianity, the Antiochian Orthodox Church. The church will be a part of the Archdiocese of North America, Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
"We were looking for a stability that doesn't exist any more in the Anglican Church," said David Johnston, Mission Coordinator of the Fort Saskatchewan Antiochian Orthodox Christian community. "And stability is exactly what we've found - a stability that is rooted in the doctrines and teachings of the Apostles, and that doesn't shift with the last public opinion poll." The months spent studying the literature and text of the scriptures, have served to prepare not only Johnston but those who will form the congregation too.
The congregation numbers eight converts and three Orthodox members. "It’s been a journey to Orthodoxy. We are at a point now where we will become full members of the Orthodox Church and we will be able to participate in the whole life like be able to receive the sacraments. To describe it, the best description I have is that, it feels just like coming home," said Johnston.
"For me this journey has given me more confidence in my life in Christ, and being Christian. It certainly also has changed the disciplines of my life. Orthodoxy has a very strong ascetical element in terms of practicing spiritual disciplines. "
This Saturday the Orthodox congregation will take part in a Chrismation ceremony. It is open to the public and it takes place at St. Philip's Antiochian Orthodox Church, 15804 - 98 Ave, in Edmonton, Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. following the regular Orthos or Matins. Then the Divine Liturgy will be given and the Fort Saskatchewan congregation will then receive their first Communion.
"Chrismation and Baptism are two of the sacraments. Chrismation is the anointing with oil. In the Western Church the closest thing to it would be Confirmation," said Johnston. "What will happen, this Lazarus Saturday, is that we will all be presented by our sponsors. We will then affirm our faith by saying the Nicene Creed. Then we will be annoited with oil as prayers are said over us. The prayers will include in them asking the Holy Spirit to fulfill in us whatever is lacking."
From reading and practicing the teachings of the Bible in the Orthodox fashion he has noticed a few changes in himself. "Now I am experiencing more personal strength over the temptations and the things in me that I don’t like. Just belonging to the Orthodox Church has brought a real sense of personal victory. Things like getting angry are very different. I find that I am not getting angry the same way about things that I used to. Part of that is due to the ascetic discipline which includes fasting," said Johnston. "When we fast as Orthodox Christians we don’t eat certain foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating food, but by saying no to certain foods we train ourselves to say no to the things that we should say no to. We are not in the habit in today’s society of saying no to anything," said Johnston.
It is through this spiritual strength that he has reached what could be perhaps likened to an new evolution of self. "By practicing through fasting we become more equipped to say no to the sins like anger, lust, gluttony and all of the seven deadly sins. Within Orthodoxy the fasting is entirely voluntary. The only required fast is that to receive communion you are to have fasted from food for that day. The other fasting during the week and during the fasting season like Lent is entirely voluntary," said Johnston. "The church in Her wisdom says that if you want to grow, become more mature and more Christ-like you should fast, pray and give alms. Fasting is a way to do that and it is a proven way to do that for over 2,000 years."
Mentorship has been immensely valuable to David Johnston. "Father John Finley has been coming up every month and that has been invaluable. First of all because he has been through what we’ve gone through. He’s able to zero in on just the right issues that we need to. He’s been a Father in Christ, a brother, and a dear friend, that mentorship has just been invaluable," said Johnston. "I think that anybody who converts to Orthodoxy ends up with somebody in that position. Instead of a father it will be a week by week relationship with their parish priest."
In future the Fort Saskatchewan Antiochian Orthodox Community will be expanding on its services. "We hope starting in May to start having two Divine Liturgies here in Fort Saskatchewan each month," said Johnston.
Thanks to anonymous FWD.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Some good ol' Christian Basics.
If you must, more Pope news.
Wanna go to a GodBlog convention in California? H E R E.
Pope Bites Dog
The American Spectator reveals a very interesting bit of
Oh, just go read it all the way through!
H/T: New Forum
What Himself said about: the Orthodox Church, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, the Ordination of Women, Sex Abuse & Homosexuality ... Read it H E R E.
Holy Smoke Batman! I believe we're at the wrong Canasta party!
Pink Smoke Rising!
Antioch Abouna on the New Papa.
Oh, by the way, Lent ends T O D A Y.
Classic Christian Fundamentals
The Three Theological Virtues
Faith. Hope. Charity.
The Four Cardinal Virtues
Prudence. Justice. Temperance. Fortitude.
The Christian Duties.
Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.
The Ecclesiastical Duties.
To keep the Festivals and Fasts of the Church.
To observe the commands, customs, and ceremonies of the Church.
To attend public worship and receive the Holy Communion.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding.
The Spirit of Counsel and Ghostly Strength.
The Spirit of Knowledge and True Godliness.
The Spirit of Holy Fear.
The Twelve Fruits of the Spirit.
Love. Gentleness. Patience.
Joy. Goodness. Modesty.
Peace. Truth. Temperance.
Longsuffering. Meekness. Chastity.
The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.
To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To correct offenders.
To endure injury.
To forgive wrong.
To pray for others.
To comfort the afflicted.
The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy.
To feed the hungry. To visit the sick.
To clothe the naked. To help prisoners.
To shelter the stranger. To bury the dead.
To visit the widows and the fatherless.
The Seven Capital Sins*
The Seven Godly Virtues
Ways of Sharing in the Sins of Others.
By evil counsel. By command. By defense.
By provocation. By silence. By praise.
By concealment. By flattery. By consent.
Seven Stages of Sin.
7. Spiritual blindness.
Three Dangers to the Soul.
The World. The Flesh. The Devil.
The Four Last Things.
Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell.
The Seven Sacraments.**
The Marks of a Real Repentance.
I. In the Heart: Contrition.
II. In the Mouth: Confession.
III. In the Life: Amendment.
* - changed "Covetousness" to "Avarice" in order to form the memorable anagram: PALE GAS (Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Avarice, Sloth).
** - changed "Confirmation" to "Chrismation" to reflect Orthodox belief & practice. Also, though the Orthodox do recognize these 7 Sacraments, the number of the Holy Mysteries is not limited to seven.
Taken from The Practice of Religion, Morehouse-Gorham, NY (1944).
CONFESSION: Self -Examination
PRIDE is putting self in the place of God as the center and objective of our life, or of some department thereof. It is the refusal to recognize our status as creatures, dependent on God for our existence, and placed by him in a specific relationship to the rest of his creation.
Irreverence. Deliberate neglect of the worship of God every Sunday in his Church, or being content with a perfunctory participation in it. Disregard of other Holy Days or of additional opportunities for giving God honor. Failure to thank God or to express our gratitude adequately.
Disrespect for God or holy things by deliberately treating them, in thought, word or deed,in a profane, contemptuous or over-familiar manner. Use of holy things for personal advantage, or the attempt to bribe or placate God by religious practices or promises.
Sentimentality. Being satisfied with pious feelings and beautiful ceremonies without striving to obey God's will.
Presumption. Dependence on self rather than on God, with the consequent neglect of the means of grace -- sacraments and prayer. Dispensation of ourselves from ordinary duties on the grounds that we are superior persons. Satisfaction or complacency over our spiritual achievements. Refusal to avoid, when possible, immediate occasions of temptation. Preference for our own ideas, customs, schemes or techniques. Foolish optimism.
Failure to recognize our job as a divine vocation or to offer our work to God. Unwillingness to surrender to and abide in Christ, to let him act in and through us. Failure to offer to God regularlry in intercession the persons or causes that have, or should enlist our interest and support.
Distrust. Refusal to recognize God's wisdom, providence and love. Worry, anxiety, misgivings, scrupulosity, or perfectionism. Attempts to discern or control the future by spiritualism, astrology, fortune-telling or the like. Magic or superstition.
Over-sensitiveness. Expectation that others will dislike, reject or mistreat us; over-readiness so to interpret their attitude, or quickness to take offense. Unfounded suspicions.
Timidity in accepting responsibility, or cowardice in facing difficulty or suffering. Surrender to feelings of depression, gloom, pessimism, discouragement, self-pity, or fear of death, instead of fighting to be brave, cheerful and hopeful.
Disobedience. Rejection of God's known will in favor of our own interests or pleasures. Disobedience of the legitimate (and therefore divinely ordained) laws, regulations or authority of the Church, state, husband, parents, teachers, etc.; or slow and reluctant obedience. Failure when in authority to fulfil responsibilities or to consider the best interests of those under us.
Refusal to learn God's nature or will as revealed in Scripture, expounded in instructions or expert advice, or discernible through prayer, meditation or the reading of religious books. Absorption in our own affairs, leaving little time, energy or interest for the things of God.
Violation of confidence. Breaking of legitimate promises or contracts. Irresponsibility. Treachery. Unnecessary disappointment of another, or the causing of shame or anxiety to those who love us.
Impenitence. Refusal to search out and face up to our sins, or to confess and admit them before God. Disregard of our sins or pretense that we are better than we are. Self-justification or discounting our sins as insignificant, natural or inevitable. Self-righteous comparison of ourselves with others.
Refusal to accept just punishment or to make due reparation when possible. Deceit or lying to escape the consequences of our sins, or allowing another to suffer the blame for our faults. Overcompensation or attempts at self-reform or self-vengeance, to avoid surrender to God in humble penitence.
Shame (hurt pride), sorrow for ourselves because our sins make us less respectable than we like to think we are, or because we fear punishment of injury to our reputation, rather than sorrow for what sin is in the eyes of God. Refusal to admit we were in the wrong or to apologize. Refusal to accept forgiveness from God or others. Doubt that God can forgive our sins, or failure to use the means of getting assurance of his forgiveness when we need it. Unwillingness to forgive ourselves.
Vanity. Crediting to ourselves rather than to God our talents, abilities, insights, accomplishments, good works. Refusal to admit indebtedness to others, or adequately to express gratitude for their help. Hypocrisy. Pretense to virtues we do not posses. False humility. Harsh judgments on others for the faults we excuse in ourselves.
Boasting, exaggeration, drawing attention to ourselves by talking too much, by claiming ability, wisdom, experience or influence that we do not have, or by eccentric or ostentatious behavior. Undue concern over, or expenditure of time, money or energy on looks, dress, surroundings, etc., in order to impress others; or deliberate slovenliness for the same purpose. Seeking, desiring or relishing flattery or compliments.
Arrogance. Insisting that others conform to our wishes, recognize our leadership, accept out own estimate of our worth. Being overbearing, argumentative, opinionated, obstinate.
Snobbery. Pride over race, family, position, personality, education, skill, achievements, or possessions.
ANGER is open rebellion against God or our fellow creatures. Its purpose and desire is to eliminate any obstacle to our self-seeking, to retaliate against any threat to our security, to avenge any insult or injury to our person.
Resentment. Refusal to discern, accept or fulfil God's vocation. Dissatisfaction with the talents, abilities or opportunities he has given us. Unwillingness to face up to difficulties or sacrifices. Unjustified rebellion or complaint at the circumstances of our lives. Escape from reality or the attempt to force our will upon it. Transference to God, to our parents, to society, or to other individuals of the blame for our maladjustment; hatred of God or antisocial behavior. Cynicism. Annoyance at the contrariness of things: profanity or grumbling.
Pugnacity. Attack upon another in anger. Murder in deed or desire. Combativeness or nursing of grudges. Injury to another by striking, cursing or insulting him; or by damaging his reputation or property. Quarrelsomeness, bickering, contradiction, nagging, rudeness, or snubbing.
Retaliation. Vengeance for wrongs real or imagined, or the plotting thereof. Hostility, sullenness or rash judgment. Refusal to forgive or to offer or accept reconciliation. Unwillingness to love, to do good to, or to pray for enemies. Boycotting or ostracizing another for selfish reasons. Spoiling others' pleasure by uncooperativeness or disdain, because we have not got our way, or because we feel out of sorts or superior.
ENVY is the dissatisfaction with our place in God's order of creation, manifested in begrudging his gifts and vocation to others.
Jealousy. Offense at the talents, success or good fortune of others. Selfish or unnecessary rivalry or competition. Pleasure at others' difficulties or distress. Belittling others.
Malice. Ill-will, false accusations, slander, backbiting. Reading false motives into others' behavior. Initiation, collection or retailing gossip. Arousing, fostering or organizing antagonism against others. Unnecessary criticism, even when true. Deliberate annoyance of others, teasing or bullying.
Contempt. Scorn of another's virtue, ability, shortcomings, or failings. Prejudice against those we consider inferior, or who consider us inferior, or who seem to threaten our security or position. Ridicule of persons, institutions or ideals.
COVETOUSNESS is the refusal to respect the integrity of other creatures, expressed in the inordinate accumulation of material things; in the use of other persons for our personal advantage; or in the quest for status, power or security at their expense.
Inordinate Ambition. Pursuit of status, power, influence, reputation, or possessions at the expense of the moral law, or other obligations, or of the rights of others. Ruthless or unfair competition. Putting self or family first. Conformity to standards we recognize as wrong or inadequate in order to get ahead. Intrigue or conspiracy for self-advancement.
Domination. Seeking to use or possess others. Overprotection of children; refusal to correct or punish lest we lose their affection; insistence that they conform to our ideal for them contrary to their own vocation. Imposing our will on others by force, guile, whining, or refusal to cooperate. Over-readiness to advise or command; abuse of authority. Patronizing, pauperizing, putting others under a debt of gratitude, or considering ourselves ill-used when others' affection or compliance is not for sale.
Respect for persons, favoritism, partiality, flattery, fawning, or bribery to win support or affection. Refusal to uphold the truth to fulfil duties, to perform good acts, or to defend those wrongfully attacked, because we fear criticism or ridicule, or because we seek to gain the favor or approval or others. Leading, tempting or encouraging others to sin.
Avarice. Inordinate pursuit of wealth or material things. Theft, dishonesty, misrepresentation, or sharing of stolen goods. Cheating in business, taxes, school or games. Making worldly success the goal of our life or the standard for judging others.
Prodigality. Waste of natural resources or personal possessions. Extravagance or living beyond our income, to impress others or to maintain status. Failure to pay debts. Gambling more than we can afford to lose, or to win unearned profits. Unnecessary borrowing or carelessness with others' money. Expenditure on self of what is needed for the welfare of others.
Penuriousness. Undue protection of wealth or security. Selfish insistence on vested interests or on claimed rights. Refusal to support or help those who have a claim on us. Sponging on others. Stinginess. Failure to give due proportion of our income to Church and charity, or of our time and energy to good works. Failure to pay pledges promised to the Church or charities, when able to do so.
GLUTTONY is the overindulgence of natural appetites for food and drink, and by extension the inordinate quest for pleasure or comfort.
Intemperance. Overindulgence in food, drink, smoking, or other physical pleasures. Fastidiousness, fussiness, demanding excessively high standards, or dilettantism. Condemnation of some material things or pleasures as evil in themselves, attempting to prohibit their use rather than their abuse.
Lack of Discipline. Negligence in keeping the days of fasting or abstinence, or failure to use other needed means of self-discipline. Neglect of bodily health -- not getting sufficient rest, recreation, exercise, or wholesome nourishment. Failure to use or to cooperate with available medical care when ill. Use of sickness as a means of escape from responsibilities.
LUST is the misuse of sex for personal gratification, debasing it from the holy purpose for which God has given it to us.
Unchastity. Violation of the Church's marriage laws. Lack of consideration for one's partner in the use of the marital relationship. Refusal to fulfil the purpose of Holy Matrimony in the bringing forth and giving adequate care to children, or to take our full share in responsibilities or work involved. Unfaithfulness to one's spouse. Sexual indulgence outside of matrimony, in thought or act, alone or with others.
Immodesty. Stimulation of sexual desire in others by word, dress or action; or in oneself by reading, pictures, or fantasies. Collecting or recounting dirty stories.
Prudery. Fear of sex or condemnation of it as evil in itself. Refusal to seek adequate sexual instruction or the attempt to prevent others from obtaining it. Stimulation of excessive and harmful curiosity by undue secrecy. Repression of sex.
Cruelty. Deliberate infliction of pain, mental or physical. Tormenting of animals.
SLOTH is the refusal to respond to our opportunities for growth, service or sacrifice.
Laziness. Indolence in performing spiritual, mental or physical duties, or neglect of family, business or social obligations or courtesies. Procrastination of disliked tasks. Busyness or triviality to avoid more important commitments. Devotion of excessive time to rest, recreations, amusement, television, light reading or the like. Waste of employer's time, or shoddy or inadequate work.
Indifference. Unconcern over injustice to others, especially that caused by currently accepted social standards; or unmindfulness of the suffering of the world. Failure to become adequately informed on both sides of contemporary issues or on the Christian principles involved. Neglect of duties to state or community. Failure to provide adequately for, or to treat justly those in our employ.
Ignoring of needy, lonely or unpopular persons in our own or the parish family, or in the neighborhood; or unwillingness to minister to them. Insufficient attention to the religious and other needs of our family. Failure to fulfil our obligation of Christian missionary witness, or to take a full and informal part in the effort to make the Church's unity and holiness a manifest reality on earth.
Taken from Saint Augustine's Prayer Book, Holy Cross publications, West Park, NY.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
OCA Greets New Pope
Pope Benedict, the former Joseph Cardinal Radzinger, succeeds the late Pope John Paul II, who passed away over two weeks ago in Vatican City.
The text of the letter reads as follows.
"I greet Your Holiness with brotherly love in Christ on the occasion of your election as Bishop of Rome and successor to the ancient See of Saint Peter. As you assume the responsibilities and heavy burdens of the ministry with which you have been entrusted, I wish to assure you of my brotherly esteem and prayerful best wishes.
"Your ever-memorable predecessor, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, was greatly respected by many Orthodox Christians throughout the world. It is my sincere hope and prayer that Your Holiness will be inspired by his example and will continue to work for the realization of our Lord’s high-priestly prayer, 'That all may be one' (John 17:21).
"Be assured of my steadfast prayer that Almighty God will bless you with strength and good health, so that you may serve Christ and the flock with which He has entrusted you for many long and fruitful years. As you begin your pontificate, may the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the Saints, intercede for you before the Throne of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest."
Thanks: Directions to Orthodoxy
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Ah yes ... back to "normal"
Here's the Scoop.
Russian Patriarch Congrats New Pope
"Our Churches, which have authority and influence, should unite their efforts to spread Christian values to modern humankind. The secular world is losing its spiritual way and needs our joint testimony as never before," he said.
Benedict, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a close aide to John Paul, is known for conservative views on matters such as women priests and homosexuality, which commentators said would play well with the Orthodox Church.
Read the article H E R E.
New Testament (Now With More Cowbell!)
Well folks -- Dan Brown, you listening? -- get ready. READ THIS. (Especially the last sentence of the article.)
Saints preserve us!
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Orthodox Reactions, New Pope
It's still early yet, but here follows a couple e-reactions from Orthodox pals.
Fr Patrick Henry Reardon, pastor, author & senior editor of TOUCHSTONE:
This is one of the happiest events I can think of in a long time. Immediately after the Holy Father went back inside the basilica, I went over to church to give thanks and to pray for him.Read more H E R E.
Fr John Whiteford, pastor, blogger, and author of SOLA SCRIPTURA:
We have a new Pope! But he doesn't have us.Go H E R E.
Dr John Mark Reynolds, Prof, speaker & blogger: Go to April 19th and scroll down.
Huw Raphael ... This Side of Glory ...
While some American Catholics may be nervous about the new pope's conservative positions, that very philosophy makes him popular among Eastern Orthodox church leaders, who in recent years forged a friendly relationship with the Vatican.Read more H E R E.
"I don't like to use the word conservative," said Metropolitan Nicholas, bishop of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown, who has met Ratzinger several times, "but he very much follows the Orthodox tradition."
Having used a bit of this blog space in the past to diss HipHop and, from time to time, praise other genres of music (Country, classic Funk, etc), I am pleased to be able to enthusiastically endorse the latest from the Reverend Al Green.
Remember the 70s?
Remember Al Green?
"Let's Stay Together"
"I'm Still in Love with You"
"Love & Happiness"
Here's a song title refresher.
Okay, maybe you don't. No matter. Go buy his latest "Everything's OK". It's an album (well, CD) of real music, real background singers, real soul, and the unmistakable voice of the legendary Al Green. Good stuff. Really.
I had seven hours on the road last week. I must have played the Reverend's CD that many times. Hence the title of this post.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Bishops: East, West, Reposed & Proposed?
Archbishop Iakovos literally became the face of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in America when he appeared on the cover of the March 26, 1965, issue of Life magazine--a bearded patriarch bedecked in cassock and the black headdress and veil of Orthodox bishops. He was shown standing alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., labor leader Walter Reuther and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy.Read more H E R E.
The occasion for the photograph was a historic march for civil rights in Selma, Ala. Archbishop Iakovos was there, alone among his fellow Orthodox bishops--in fact, way out in front of the rest of the Orthodox community on one of the most vital moral issues of the day. For this visible prophetic stance, he earned acclaim from most of the members of his church but bitter enmity from others, who were not yet ready to embrace the civil-rights movement or its demands for equality.
The other key episode in the archbishop's life led to his forced retirement, or so it is widely believed. For three days in late 1994, 29 bishops from the various Orthodox "jurisdictions"--a convenient Latin term that describes the scandalous ethnic fragmentation of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Orthodox church in this country--met in Ligonier, Pa., at the invitation of the archbishop. Their purpose was to contemplate the formation of a united Orthodox community in America.
Farewell Remarks -- Archbishop Iakovos, 1996:
Orthodoxy is a religion and theology that places no boundaries or barriers along the way of those who search for happiness in unity, in peace, and in justice. Orthodoxy will one day, and hopefully soon, rediscover its essential oneness and disavow hunger for power, ethnic superiority and secularism which leads it to unchurchly ambitions. Orthodoxy must definitely identify itself as a religion that leans over all people with genuine compassion and declare that its chief concern is to gather and unify all those who drifted away from Christian truth.Read this short beautiful speech in its entirety H E R E.
Then again we read on NRO:
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, based in Istanbul, has acted as the leading voice in favor of freedom and democracy in the Orthodox world. A prominent promoter of interfaith ties and environmental issues (he has, somewhat unusually, been labeled “the green patriarch”), Bartholomew I has taken a special interest in the anti-authoritarian movement that has steadily gained steam in Orthodox countries over the last two decades. Standing at the center of coordination among all the Orthodox, he strongly supported the independence of the church in Estonia, which led to a major split within the Orthodox Church (between Russian and Greek churches). Today he is the key to the independence of the Georgian and Ukrainian churches, as well.
More H E R E.
From The Dawn Patrol ...
Hopes for a Lesbian-Related Pope:
If one were to give advice to these grand old men [of the College of Cardinals] -- and they are not, I notice, seeking advice -- it would be simple. Find a cardinal who was brought up with many, many sisters, who has a lesbian in the family, a cardinal whose life has been bound up and fully informed by women, who knows the problems and challenges they face in a church where they cannot minister. Even if the next pope and his cardinals were not to change the rule against female priests quickly, it might be important, as acts of witness and of love, to enter into real dialogue with women in the church, and to be seen to listen, to take heed, as St. Patrick did centuries ago, to the other's pain.Full story H E R E.
And finally ...
PHOTOS of Metropolitan Herman, Greek & OCA Clergy, praying by the body of Archbishop Iakovos.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
True Repentance ...
Taken from H E R E.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Ain't & Saint
But it is nearly impossible to avoid bumping into him in the news ever since the Episcopal Church decided that a sodomite, snuggling with his male bed partner, was a fit and God-pleasing man to serve as Bishop. Though many, self included, saw this train wreck coming, it flabbergasts nonetheless.
I don't usually do TV, though last night I found myself alone in a cabin with cable. It was around 11:00 pm when I arrived, needed to wind down, and there was nothing was on but news. Then I happened upon Bishop Gene Robinson speaking at a Planned Parenthood breakfast. If you can get a copy -- video, audio, text -- do. Don't let me spoil it for you, but it's just plain awful.
God help me.
Robinson kept linking the two movements -- theirs (abortionists) and his (gay & lesbian). Of course he had to link the liberation of blacks to the liberation of women to the liberation of homosexuals. He honestly admitted that he did not know where this liberation would end. But, he said, as soon as the current movements succeed, theirs & his, God would reveal another group that needs attention. Liberation. Honestly, if I were black, female, or a homosexual struggling toward celibacy & salvation I'd take offense. As it was, I sat with my jaw agape, tongue drying, unblinking & stupified.
Robinson said it was time that their movement (murderers) and his movement (perverts) took back the Bible. This met with applause.
God help me.
He went on to relate how he had lived the Exodus story. Mind you, as I'm sure he's aware, that title, "Exodus", also serves a group dedicated toward helping gay men out of the homosexual lifestyle.
Robinson, a Bishop, several times used the phrase, "My partner and I." He told a story of how he and his partner had donned bulletproof vests under their church vestments on the day he was consecrated an Episcopalian bishop. He said that as they processed into the service he couldn't help but think about the person behind him, fully vested, but armed with a semi-automatic weapon under his robe -- prepared to fall upon him and shoot, if needed, to protect him, [the movement] etc.
It really was amazing. I couldn't take much of it. I'm no homophobe, never have been. But, my Lord, the man does tempt.
Forgive me. (But do try to get a copy.)
All this and heaven, too?
Yes ... if you are St Mary of Egypt (commemorated on the 5th Sunday of the Great Fast in the Orthodox Church).
Read her story H E R E.
It's a little different than Mr Robinson's.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Greek Bean Salad (Lenten)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup green onion
1/2 cup chopped black olives
salt to taste
pepper to taste
oregano to taste
basil to taste
Dressing: 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
Drain beans and rinse lightly. Add garlic, red onion, green onion, black olives and seasonings. Blend dressing and mix into beans. Let marinate at least 8 hours in refrigerator.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The Da Vinci Code (Part 5)
For previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Addendum, Part 3, Part 4.
All of the source material for this section, unless otherwise noted, comes from an article by Carl E. Olson & Sandra Miesel for PLANET ENVOY (Parts 1 , 2).
"The Bible is a product of man, my dear. Not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book" (p.231).
The Bible ... merely an historical record of tumultuous times? The following is taken from an article on the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete:
[T]he Bible is not merely a history of the people of Israel. It is also a great chronicle of the soul of mankind, of the souls which would repeatedly fall and stand up again before the face of God, which repeatedly fell into sin and repeatedly repented. If we were to examine the lives of those mentioned in the Bible, we would see that each of them is presented not so much as a historical figure, an individual that did such and such, but as an individual standing before the Living God. The person's historical or other accomplishments are accorded second place.Brown's stand alone [partial] sentence -- "Not of God" -- could serve as the motto for The Da Vinci Code. Sincerely. I challenge anyone to find within its pages any acknowledgement that there even is a God. With Dan Brown, "Not of God" is par for the course.
Brown's right, though, the Bible did not fall magically from heaven. And of course, it was written by man. Yet, at least in the eyes of the Church, it is a record of God's revelation to and relationship with, man. As for a "definitive version of the book," the Bible is a collection of many books. And, as far as pre-Gutenberg Press ancient texts go, we do possess a pretty good accounting of the whos, whats, and wheres -- if not, in some cases, the originals themselves. Teabing's comment would play well in a Catechism class full of former Fundamentalists. Yet since Brown's book seems pitted against the Roman Catholic Church, a polemic against Biblical Fundamentalists seems out of place. Then again, if those readers have followed him this far, they might just go all the way.
"More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them" (p.231)
As my Old Testament Prof used to say, "Well ... that's a stretch." Or, "You can believe that if you want to." Yet again, "Almighty God will let you believe any fool thing you want for as long as you want." But, you get the picture.
We have no proof whatsoever that 80 "gospels" ever existed. By the mid-second century, before Constantine's time, there were only 5 or 6 being considered. By the end of that century, the Church recognized the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as being divinely inspired.
As [Philip] Jenkins shows [in his book, The Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way (Oxford)], "the process of determining the canon was well under way long before Constantine became emperor, and before the church had the slightest prospect of political power. The crucial phase occurred in the mid-second century . . ." (p. 85).
In fact, there was already a growing consensus about the entire New Testament canon by the middle of the second-century, even though it would not be defined on an official (though not universal) level until the late-300s and early-400s in a series of local synods. Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D. and explaining the liturgy of the Christians to his non-Christian readers, speaks of the apostles and "the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them" ("The First Apology," 66). Tertullian, writing around the same time, defends the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Pauline epistles, the epistle to the Hebrews, and 1 John and The Apocalypse against the Gnostic ideas of Marcion ("Five Books Against Marcion," 4.2, 4.5). A couple of decades later Irenaeus specifically refers to the four Gospels and their authors and implies that they are granted a unique status within the Church:
"The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great" (p.231)Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Against Heresies, 3.1.1)A bit further on, Irenaeus writes, "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are" (3.11.8) and again prominently mentions Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, further proof that that the number of gospels recognized as authoritative within the Church was set at four at least 150 years prior to Constantine and the Council of Nicaea.
Hogwash. Here's what the Council of Nicea did do.
Here's what it did not do: Establish a canonical list of books in the New Testament.
"[Constantine] was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest." (p.232)
In seminary we were taught that Constantine, a consummate warrior, was afraid of being baptized for fear of sinning (in war) after baptism, thereby damning his soul. Besides, it was common in Constantine's day for Christians to put off baptism till their deathbed because, in part, of the severe penances given for sins committed after baptism.
"[Constantine] had desired to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, where Jesus had been baptized, but it was not to be. Not long after the Easter of 337 he called together some bishops, removed his purple robe, and put on the white garments of a catechumen, then was baptized by Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia (Jones, 195-200). He died a few days later.""In Constantine's day, Rome's official religion was sun worship -- the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun -- and Constantine was its head priest. Unfortunately for him, a growing religious turmoil was gripping Rome. Three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Christ's followers had multiplied exponentially. Christians and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two. Constantine decided something had to be done. In 325 A.D., he decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity" (p.232).
Though Constantine may indeed have been a "sun-worshipper" ...
"Romes official religion was not sun worship. "Rome's official religion" states Dr. Margaret Mitchell, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, "was the cult of Roma 'the goddess' and of her deified emperors, and the Capitoline trio Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.One of our Orthodox Christmas hymns reflects the Church's "baptism" of the Sun cult:
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone upon the world with the light of knowledge: for thereby they who adored the stars through a star were taught to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee.
We find the origin of the winter feast of the Nativity not in the historical facts available concerning the birth of Christ, but in a curious astronomical phenomenon. In late December we reach the shortest day of the year with more hours of darkness than daylight. From this point the hours of daylight become gradually longer. This observable phenomenon was given a religious significance in the pagan Roman world. It became the feast of Sol Invictus (the Unconquerable Sun). It was popularly celebrated in Rome during the last two weeks of December as Saturnalia. What better time for the Christians to celebrate the coming of the true unconquered "Sun"? Thus the feast of Christmas was born; the celebration of the dawning on the world of the Sun of Righteousness.
[True, there existed two warring factions threatening to split Constantine's empire. But the factions were not Christians and Pagans -- but two different camps of Christians (please see previous posts).
The hymns of both Christmas and Epiphany reveal the origin of these days in the old winter festival of the Unconquered Sun. Note how many astronomical references we find in the Nativity Troparion: Christ is described as the "Sun" of Righteousness, who illumines those who worshipped stars (of which the physical sun is one). Jesus has come as the dawning from the East (as the sun does).
The Matins exapostilarion hymn speaks of: A newly risen day. Our Savior is the Dayspring from the East. Those who were in darkness and shadow found the Light.
Epiphany is still known as "ton Foton" (feast of Lights). Its hymns also concentrate on astronomical themes. In Vespers Christ is described as "Bestower of light," who desires to give light to those in darkness. In the Matins of the feast we find: "With Thy light that never sets, shine forth, O Christ." Taken from H E R E.
'The vestiges of pagan religion in Christian symbology are undeniable. Egyptian sun disks became the halos of Catholic saints. Pictograms of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus became the blueprint for our modern images of the Virgin Mary nursing Baby Jesus. And virtually all the elements of the Catholic ritual -- the miter, the altar, the doxology, and communion, the act of 'God-eating' -- were taken directly from earlier pagan mystery religions" (p.232).
Halos, blue nimbuses, were used to show the divinity of the Emperor. Christians may have adopted the art device to show the glorification of the Saints --- but I'm not too sure about Egyptian sun disks.
There's only so many ways one can depict a Mother & Child, no matter what you believe. Yet, in the East, iconography depicts not a suckling Babe perched on the Virgin's lap, but a little Man (in order to show that Christ was truly God and truly Man). Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll let the folks at PLANET ENVOY carry the rest of this section ...
"First, it should ... be noted that "mystery religions," strictly speaking, did not come into existence until the end of the first century at the earliest, making it impossible for the first Christians to take, borrow, or steal much of anything from them. The word "miter," or "mitre," is derived from mitra, a Greek word meaning "turban" or "headband." It is the liturgical head-dress and part of the insignia of the bishop (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1096). It didn't appear in the West until the middle of the tenth century and was not used by bishops in the East until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In the East it seems to have been derived the crowns worn by Byzantine Emperors; in the West is appears to have been a variation of unofficial hat, the camelaucum, worn by the Pope in processions. In both cases, the mitre has no connections with pagan mystery religions."Next time, in Part 6, we'll begin with this Da Vinci Code doozy:
Altars are a common element in most religions and there are over three hundred references to altars in the Old Testament. Thus, the first Christians, who were all Jewish, would hardly be new to the concept of an altar, especially when the altar in the Temple was a focal point of the Jewish religion. Not surprisingly, there are several references to altars in the New Testament, including references in the Gospels to the altar in the Temple (Matt 5:23-24; 23:18-20; Lk 1:11) and references in The Apocalypse to the heavenly altar in the throne room of God (Rev. 6:9; 8:3-5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:8; 16:7). There is also this passage in the epistle to the Hebrews: "We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat" (Heb 13:10). It is likely a reference to the Eucharistic table of the Christians and a similar use of language was common among the early Church Fathers. For example, Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110), writing to the church at Philadelphia, states, "Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for, one is the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood, and one altar, just as there is one bishop assisted by the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants. Thus you will conform in all your actions to the will of God" (Letter to the Philadelphians, par. 4). Other references to a Christian altar appear in the writings of Tertullian and Cyprian.
A doxology is simply a hymn or ascription of praise and glory (doxa = "glory"; logos = "word"). Almost all religions have statements about the glory and power of a deity, reflecting the natural human desire to recognize what is sacred and Other. Traditionally, in historic Christianity, there are three types of doxology: the Great Doxology, the Less Doxology, and the Metrical Forms. Langdon is probably referring to the Great Doxology, which begins with these statements of praise:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.
We praise You; we bless You; we worship You; we glorify You; we thank You, for Your great glory.
O Lord King, God in Heaven, the Father Almighty. O Lord, Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, the Son of the Father, Who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; You, Who takes away the sins of the world;
Receive our prayers, You, Who sits at the right hand of the Father, and have mercy on us .
For You alone are Holy; You alone are the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God, the Father. Amen.
All of this language is taken directly from passages in the New Testament; all of it reflects the unique beliefs of the Christians. Such language did not, of course, come from pagans, who were mostly polytheistic and did not believe in the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus Christ.
"Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras -- called the Son of God and the Light of the World -- was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity's weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans" (p.232).
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Arrivederci & A presto?
1 - CHIESE ORTODOSSE PATRIARCATO ECUMENICO
Sua Santita Bartolomeo I
Arcivescovo di Costantinopoli
Sua Eminenza Gennadios
Arcivescovo d'Italia - Esarca per l'Europa Orientale
[del Patriarcato ecumenico]
Sua Eminenza Cyril
Metropolita di Imbros
Sua Eminenza Johannis
Metropolita di Pergamo
Rev.do Diacono Dositheos Anagnostopoulos
[Sig. Nicholas Manginas, fotografo]
2- PATRIARCATO GRECO ORTODOSSO D'ALESSANDRIA E DI TUTTA L'AFRICA
3 - PATRIARCATO GRECO ORTODOSSO DI GERUSALEMME
Esarca del Patriarcato di Gerusalemme ad Atene
Prof. Spyridon Kontoyannis
Docente dell'Universita di Atene
4 - PATRIARCATO DI MOSCA
Metropolita di Smolensk e Kaliningrad
Presidente del Dipartimento per le Relazioni Ecclesiastiche Estere del
Rev. Igor Vyzhanov
Facente Funzione di Segretario per le Relazioni con la Chiesa Cattolica del
Dipartimento per le Relazioni Ecclesiastiche Estere del Patriarcato
5 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA UCRAINA (PATRIARCATO DI MOSCA)
Arcivescovo di Pereiaslav-Khmelnitsky
Incaricato per gli Affari della Chiesa Ortodossa Ucraina (Patriarcato di
6 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DI GEORGIA
S.E. Daniel [Datuashvili]
Metropolita di Tskhum-Abkhazia
S.E. Gerasime [Sharashenidze]
Vescovo di Zugdidi e Tsaishi
Incaricato per le Relazioni interecclesiali della Chiesa ortodossa di
Rev.do Arciprete Giorgi Zviadadze
7 - PATRIARCATO ORTODOSSO DI SERBIA
Metropolita di Zagabria, Lubljana e tutta l'Italia
Vescovo di Sabac-Valjevo
8 - PATRIARCATO ORTODOSSO DI ROMANIA
Metropolita di Moldavia e Bucovina
Metropolita per l'Europa Occidentale e Meridionale della Chiesa ortodossa
Rev.mo P. Ciprian Campineanul
Vescovo assistente del Metropolita per l'Europa Occidentale e Meridionale
Rev. Diacono Costin Spiridon
Ufficio del Protocollo Patriarcale
9 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DI FINLANDIA
Sua Eminenza Leo
Arcivescovo di Karelia e di tutta la Finlandia
10 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DI BULGARIA
Metropolita di Russe
Metropolita di Vidin
Vescovo Vicario del Metropolita della Chiesa ortodossa bulgara per l'Europa
Rev. Diacono Dionissii
11 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DEL PAESE CECO E DI SLOVACCHIA
Rev. Ladislav Bily
Cancelleria della Curia Metropolitana
Rev Jan Novak
Segretario della Curia Metropolitana
12 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DI CIPRO
Metropolita di Paphos, Facente Funzione di Arcivescovo di Nea Justiniana e
Vescovo di Trimithos, Vescovo Assistente
Vescovo di Kykko, Egumeno del Sacro Monastero di Kykko
Rev.mo Dyonisios Papachristophorou
Abate del Monastero di Chrysoroyatissa
Rev.do Archimandrita Isaias
Sacro Monastero di Kykko
13 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DI GRECIA
Sua Beatitudine Christodoulos
Arcivescovo di Atene e di tutta la Grecia
Metropolita di Demetrias
Presidente del Comitato Sinodale per le relazioni interortodosse e
Metropolita di Corfu
Metropolita di Syros
Il Rev.do Protopresbitero Thomas Synodinos
Cancelliere dell'Arcidiocesi di Atene
Il Rev.do Archimandrita Ignatios Sotiriadis
Segretario della Commissione sinodale per le relazioni intercristiane
14 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA DI POLONIA
Arcivescovo di Wroclaw e Szczecin
15 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA D'ALBANIA
Sua Beatitudine Anastas
Arcivescovo di Tirana e di tutta l'Albania
Rev.do Diacono Bakalbassi
16 - CHIESA ORTODOSSA IN AMERICA [OCA]
Vescovo di Ottawa
Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel
Docente, St. Valdimirs Orthodox Theological Seminary
NYT: The Great Unifier
New Haven - On June 3, 1979, a few months after Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became the first Slavic pope, he set out as the vision of his pontificate "that this Polish pope, this Slav pope, should at this precise moment manifest the spiritual unity of Christian Europe," even though "there are two great traditions, that of the West and that of the East," with roots in Old Rome and "in the New Rome, at Constantinople."
He spoke these words at a time when all the Slavic peoples, whether Orthodox or Catholic (or Protestant) were subject to the atheist tyranny of Marxism-Leninism, and one of his principal contributions to the realization of that vision was, in his native Poland but with ripple effects throughout the Soviet empire, to help set in motion powerful impulses of the mind and spirit - and of the Spirit -that would bring down the walls and topple the regimes. The relative importance of that contribution in comparison with Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and Ronald Reagan's defiance will continue to be debated by historians. But he did manage, by a curious form of divine irony, to answer the question attributed long before to Stalin: "How many divisions does the pope command?" The spiritual rebirth of all the churches of Slavic Europe, which is going on even as we speak, is a major consequence of that revolution.
With several Eastern churches his vision of spiritual unity has made significant progress. With the Assyrian Church of the East, traditionally referred to as the Nestorian Church, he signed a declaration in 1994 in which it was agreed that "the controversies of the past led to anathemas" and that "the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings." Two years later, in 1996, he signed a similar declaration with Catholicos Karekin I of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, acknowledging that "linguistic, cultural and political factors have immensely contributed towards the theological divergences that have found expression in their terminology of formulating their doctrines" and expressing the shared "hope for and commitment to recovery of full communion between them." There have been several noteworthy expressions of mutual charity and respectful visits between this pope and Bartholomew, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, cordial enough to elicit criticism from isolationist elements in the various Orthodox churches.
The least progress toward reconciliation has occurred in relations with the Orthodox Church of Russia. The end of Communist rule has brought with it a rebirth of the rivalry and mutual recrimination that have been tearing Slavic Europe apart ever since its conversion to Christianity more than a millennium ago by St. Cyril and St. Methodius of Thessalonica. The Venerable Bede gave the Gospel credit for unifying the peoples of Britain, but we Slavs are the only people to have been divided by the Gospel: whether to follow Cyril and Methodius in their affiliation with Constantinople (and therefore a Slavonic liturgy and autonomous national churches), or to follow them in their appeal to the authority of the bishop of Rome (and therefore a Latin liturgy and the centralized authority of the papacy).
The Bulgarians, Russians, Serbs and Ukrainians chose the first alternative; Croats, Czechs, Poles and Slovaks the second. The most ambitious attempt to heal that schism came in 1596, with the Union of Brest, in which several dioceses of the Church of Ukraine accepted the authority of the papacy while retaining their own liturgy and canon law. But the adherents of this union (disparagingly named "Uniats") have also been a major source of hostility between East and West. Ruthlessly persecuted by Stalin and forcibly reunited to the Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow, they regained their freedom and their properties only after the fall of Communism.
But as a consequence of the latter-day struggle over those properties and, more broadly, of obstreperous tactics from all directions, everyone's old suspicions have been confirmed. After decades of neglect (and worse), churches were in serious disrepair, but whose responsibility was it to put them back into shape for worship, the Orthodox or the Greek Catholics? As in any ancient feud, it is impossible to roll things back to status quo ante and to fix the blame.
For the old pope, this dispute was a major source of heartbreak. As he said to me at Castel Gandolfo a few months after I had been received into the Orthodox Church, he always believed that ever since the schism of 1054, "Western Christendom has been breathing on one lung." But, he was implying, so has Eastern Christendom! When so many of the historic sources of division between them have proved to be negotiable (even the central doctrinal question of the source of the Holy Spirit) and when, in the encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" ("That They May Be One"), this pope opened the question of papal primacy up for discussion, one cannot escape the feeling that everyone has missed a great opportunity.
Schisms, like divorces, take a long time to develop - and reconciliations take even longer. It will be a celebration of the legacy of Pope John Paul II and an answer to his prayers (and to those of all Christians, beginning with their Lord himself) if the Eastern and Western churches can produce the necessary mixture of charity and sincere effort to continue to work toward the time when they all may be one.
Jaroslav Pelikan, professor emeritus of history at Yale, is the author of the five-volume history "The Christian Tradition."
April 4, 2005; OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR; Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
FWD by Fr Victor Potapov.