Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Shroud of Turin: A Mystery Across the Ages

 Science, although not incompatible with faith when properly understood, has more often served to reduce the wonders of nature to molecular conglomerates than to awaken man to the infinite wisdom and power of God as reflected in His creation. Because it acts to unlock the mysteries of nature, science has long been cast in the role of a protagonist by those seeking to destroy the stronghold of faith. Historian Lewis Spitz writes:

"The scientific revolution, which made its first giant strides in the 17th century, has won such a total victory through its apparent domination of nature that the Western mind has virtually capitulated to its truth."

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.    (Heb. 11:1)

If scientists are gradually losing their position as high priests of society, generations educated in a system governed by the scientific method still carry the burden of doubting Thomas. Although faith does not rest on scientific evidence, unbelievers continue to clamor "Show me," "Prove it." Ultimately the case rests on the question of Christ's Resurrection. While there is not, and can never be, a scientific test for the resurrection of Christ, skeptics have used the lack of material evidence in their favor. Is it not providential that today, in this age of science's hegemony, they are being challenged by a mysterious piece of cloth, the Shroud of Turin, believed by many to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ?

To say that the Shroud is a challenge to hard-line materialists is not to say that the debate over its authenticity is neatly divided between believers and unbelievers. Not at all. In fact, until quite recently, most people-even Christians-have readily dismissed it as a fake. But over the past two decades the debate has sharpened as proponents of the Shroud's authenticity have been joined by number of eminent scientists, This has brought considerable publicity, to the subject, and understandably so, for science has not generally been kind to religion, and most scientists have a reputation for regarding relics of this nature as so much "flummery from the Dark Ages." 

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Archbishop Cupich calls for mercy toward nontraditional families

CHICAGO – Catholics must avoid being rigid, embrace change, and show mercy, not harsh judgment, toward nontraditional families.

That was the message from Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich Sunday afternoon after receiving his pallium, a wool stole that is a piece of liturgical regalia symbolizing his connection to the pope, from the papal ambassador to the United States.

In a 15-minute homily, Cupich said bishops and other Catholics should avoid “absolutizing one particular era” by remembering the richness and diversity of their faith.

Read the rest here

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Maltese bishop: remove ‘barriers’ to those who have remarried outside the Church

Four years after the legalization of divorce in Malta, the head of one of the nation’s two dioceses has issued a pastoral letter on mercy for those who have divorced and entered into a civil marriage outside the Church. 

“It is no secret that there is expectancy about the conclusions of the Synod regarding the pastoral situation of those who are divorced and are in a second relationship,” Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo said in his August 15 letter. “Those who propose that certain barriers between those who are in an ‘irregular relationship’ but who believe in Christ as Savior, and the rest of the community, should be removed, are in no way putting at risk the teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, but they are eager to make possible the experience of the balm of God’s mercy, particularly that kind of mercy which according to the Tradition of the Church, the penitent accedes to it when he is on the road of conversion, known as the via poenitentialis [penitential way].”

“God’s mercy is not only a doctrine alongside the doctrine of marriage and the family, but is at the heart of Christian doctrine,” he continued. “The promoters of ‘God’s justice’ may feel uneasy when confronted with this pastoral view.” 

Read the rest here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The worst op-ed of the month

Yeah I know; there is still a little over a week left in the month. I don't care. No one is going top this idiocy.
Thanks to a compromise between Southern slaveholders who wanted enslaved blacks counted in the population, for the sake of boosting Southern congressional representation, and Northern whites who didn’t, the framers enshrined the three-fifths clause in the Constitution. This agreement set the census value of a slave as 60 percent of the value of a free person. Even after the 13th Amendment neutralized the political (and moral) compromise by abolishing slavery, Jim Crow laws, which contravened the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equality, stopped blacks from voting. The just answer today is to invert that ratio. If black Americans were once counted as three-fifths of a person, let each African American voter now count as five-thirds.

Reparations in America have come to mean “free” money, so any serious discussion about them also mandates a discussion of how much — an exercise doomed to failure. Other ways of imagining reparations (as the spilled blood of more than half a million Union soldiers during the Civil War; as affirmative action in universities and workplaces; as subsidized education) don’t involve cash payments, but they also don’t do enough to combat the structural disadvantages black Americans face — disadvantages that have gone largely unaddressed by our legislative and executive branches.

Under the constitution an African American slave was originally counted as three fifths of a person for the purpose of determining a state's electoral vote count and House representation. That boosted the power of slave states in the federal government.

 What if we now turned that ratio upside down? To make up for past racial injustices, what if in elections the United States counted an African American voter as five thirds of a person?

Read the rest here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

ISIS bulldozes ancient Syrian monastery

ISIS fighters have demolished a monastery in central Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Mar Elian monastery in the town of Qaryatain near Homs, was captured by the terrorists  from the Syrian Army two weeks ago. This week they used bulldozers to raze the holy site,

Mar Elian is also where Fr Jacques Mourad was kidnapped in May. He remains one of six clergy in Syria who have been kidnapped by rebel groups, their fates unknown.

Qaryatain is near a road linking the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, also ISIS-controlled to the Qalamoun mountains on the border with Lebanon.

ISIS has also kidnapped 230 people including dozens of Christian families after taking Qaryatain. Of those captured, 48 had been released and 110 were transferred to Raqqa province, the headquarters of the Islamist group.

From here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Migrants crisis: Slovakia 'will only accept Christians'

Slovakia says it will only accept Christians when it takes in Syrian refugees under a EU relocation scheme.

The country is due to receive 200 people from camps in Turkey, Italy and Greece under the EU plan to resettle 40,000 new arrivals.

Interior ministry spokesman Ivan Netik said Muslims would not be accepted because they would not feel at home.

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) called on countries to take an "inclusive approach" to relocation.

But Mr Netik denied the move was discriminatory and said it was intended to ensure community cohesion.

Read the rest here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

SCOTUS: Sleeper case sharply limits governments power to regulate speech

WASHINGTON — It is not too early to identify the sleeper case of the last Supreme Court term. In an otherwise minor decision about a municipal sign ordinance, the court in June transformed the First Amendment.

Robert Post, the dean of Yale Law School and an authority on free speech, said the decision was so bold and so sweeping that the Supreme Court could not have thought through its consequences. The decision’s logic, he said, endangered all sorts of laws, including ones that regulate misleading advertising and professional malpractice.

“Effectively,” he said, “this would roll consumer protection back to the 19th century.”

Floyd Abrams, the prominent constitutional lawyer, called the decision a blockbuster and welcomed its expansion of First Amendment rights. The ruling, he said, “provides significantly enhanced protection for free speech while requiring a second look at the constitutionality of aspects of federal and state securities laws, the federal Communications Act and many others.”

...It would have been easy to strike down the ordinance under existing First Amendment principles. In a concurrence, Justice Elena Kagan said the ordinance failed even “the laugh test.”

But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for six justices, used the occasion to announce that lots of laws are now subject to the most searching form of First Amendment review, called strict scrutiny.

Strict scrutiny requires the government to prove that the challenged law is “narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.” You can stare at those words as long as you like, but here is what you need to know: Strict scrutiny, like a Civil War stomach wound, is generally fatal.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

St. Gregory Palamas: A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Both love and duty today fashion my homily for your charity. It is not only that I wish, because of my love for you, and because I am obliged by the sacred canons, to bring to your God-loving ears a saving word and thus to nourish your souls, but if there be any among those things that bind by obligation and love and can be narrated with praise for the Church, it is the great deed of the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. The desire is double, not single, since it induces me, entreats and persuades me, whereas the inexorable duty constrains me, though speech cannot attain to what surpasses it, just as the eye is unable to look fixedly upon the sun. One cannot utter things which surpass speech, yet it is within our power by the love for mankind of those hymned, to compose a song of praise and all at once both to leave untouched intangible things, to satisfy the debt with words and to offer up the first fruits of our love for the Mother of God in hymns composed according to our abilities. 

If, then, "death of the righteous man is honorable" (cf. Ps. 115:6) and the "memory of the just man is celebrated with songs of praise" (Prov. 10:7), how much more ought we to honor with great praises the memory of the holiest of the saints, she by whom all holiness is afforded to the saints, I mean the Ever-Virgin. Mother of God! Even so we celebrate today her holy dormition or translation to another life, whereby, while being "a little lower than angels" (Ps. 8:6), by her proximity to the God of all, and in the wondrous deeds which from the beginning of time were written down and accomplished with respect to her, she has ascended incomparably higher than the angels and the archangels and all the super-celestial hosts that are found beyond them. For her sake the God-possessed prophets pronounce prophecies, miracles are wrought to foreshow that future Marvel of the whole world, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. The flow of generations and circumstances journeys to the destination of that new mystery wrought in her; the statutes of the Spirit provide beforehand types of the future truth. The end, or rather the beginning and root, of those divine wonders and deeds is the annunciation to the supremely virtuous Joachim and Anna of what was to be accomplished: namely, that they who were barren from youth would beget in deep old age her that would bring forth without seed Him that was timelessly begotten of God the Father before the ages. A vow was given by those who marvelously begot her to return her that was given to the Giver; so accordingly the Mother of God strangely changed her dwelling from the house of her father to the house of God while still an infant . She passed not a few years in the Holy of Holies itself, wherein under the care of an angel she enjoyed ineffable nourishment such as even Adam did not succeed in tasting; for indeed if he had, like this immaculate one, he would not have fallen away from life, even though it was because of Adam and so that she might prove to be his daughter, that she yielded a little to nature, as did her Son, Who has now ascended from earth into heaven. 

Read the rest here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Reconsidering Warren Harding

The aura of scandal that has plagued Warren G. Harding, our 29th president, has almost obliterated the substance of the man as a senator and as president. Breaking news that DNA testing may now prove that Harding fathered a child with one of his paramours, Nan Britton, will no doubt play to the stereotype of Harding as a womanizer and reinforce his already miserable reputation as president — a reputation that regularly lands him at the bottom of historians’ lists of our worst leaders.

That’s a shame because, unlike the DNA samples from the Harding and Britton families, the reputation of Warren Harding the man and the record of Warren Harding the Republican politician do not match. At the time of his death, Harding enjoyed tremendous popularity. It was only later, when details of his infidelity scandalized the nation, that his legacy took a nosedive. Our obsession, past and present, with Harding’s sex life has obscured the truth: This man was a good president.

Among his more important accomplishments was stabilizing the country and the world after the catastrophic war in Europe, a true Armageddon that left most “civilized” nations in economic, political and social chaos. The United States alone was capable of steadying the world. Harding started by lifting our country out of a sharp postwar depression and then placed the federal government on a budget for the first time — establishing the Office of the Budget (the forerunner of the modern OMB).

He addressed severe racial tensions that the war stirred up, in part because of the great migration of African Americans to the North to work in war industries. Harding traveled to Birmingham, Ala., in his first year in office to deliver a courageous civil rights speech. “Democracy is a lie,” he said, without political equality for black citizens. He also supported a federal anti-lynching law.

Harding oversaw the first world arms limitation treaty, the Washington Conference, aimed at reducing the number of battleships in the world. He formally ended the war with Germany and its allies

Read the rest here.

I have long felt that Harding has gotten a bum rap from the usual suspects in academia. My own take is that he was an amiable, moderately progressive (for the time)  president who was not a great judge of character in some of his appointments. Overall I'd give him a B- for a grade. I am of course much more a fan of his successor who I regard as by far our most underrated president, Calvin Coolidge.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Taking a Blog Break

It's getting on to late summer, the Dormition Fast has begun and I need to spend some time on things other than blogging and the internet. Expect very limited posting until after the Feast of the Dormition.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Planned Parenthood and the barbarity of America

Executives of Planned Parenthood’s federally subsidized meat markets — your tax dollars at work — lack the courage of their convictions. They should drop the pretense of conducting a complex moral calculus about the organs they harvest from the babies they kill.

First came the video showing a salad-nibbling, wine-sipping Planned Parenthood official explaining how “I’m going to basically crush below, I’m going to crush above” whatever organ (“heart, lung, liver”) is being harvested. Then the president of a Planned Parenthood chapter explained the happy side of harvesting: “For a lot of the women participating in the fetal tissue donation program, they’re having a procedure that may be a very difficult decision for them and this is a way for them to feel that something positive is coming from . . . a very difficult time.”

“Having a procedure” — stopping the beating of a human heart — can indeed be a difficult decision for the woman involved. But it never is difficult for Planned Parenthood’s abortionists administering the “procedure.” The abortion industry’s premise is: At no point in the gestation of a human infant does this living being have a trace of personhood that must be respected. Never does it have a moral standing superior to a tumor or a hamburger in the mother’s stomach. 

Read the rest here.

Craig Rowland - Why the Euro and European Union Will Fail

Everything I needed to know about why the European Union would fail I learned at a truck stop.

It was in 2001 when a bus tour I was on stopped at a truck stop on the German Autobahn. For the American readers, you must understand that European truck stops are much different from what you get in the states. In Europe, the facilities are clean and the food is actually decent. They don’t have the same hot dogs sitting in the cooker for five days. And no, you can’t buy six gallon soda cups.

As it were, in this truck stop the inside was what you expect to see in Germany. It was clean and efficient. You grabbed your tray, stood in line quietly, pointed to the food for the scowling German lady cook to serve you, and moved to the next station. It had just enough order, cleanliness, and gray color inside to remind you that you were in Germany, but without making you feel like you were in East Germany.

As the bus wound its way across Europe we eventually stopped in Italy at the identical chain of truck stop. This is where I had an epiphany about the European Union, the Euro, multiculturalism, and why it’s all a bunch of garbage.

Italy is a great country, but nobody is going to tell you it’s like Germany unless they are a completely clueless moron. Instead of the quiet line of people collecting their food and proceeding to the next station, you instead had a mob of people yelling, waving their hands, and rushing the counter in a huge mass. If you didn’t push forward, you didn’t get food. In other words, it was Italian.

This is when I realized the EU and the Euro would never work. The idea that you were going to get Italians, Germans, Spaniards, Greeks, French, Dutch, etc. to live under one government and one currency is simply madness. Not only are the Germans far too impatient to deal with the hyper-emotional Italians, but the Italians are far too laid back to want to deal with a bunch of controlling Germans. This of course applies to the other countries as well. The Dutch really don’t like the French telling them what to do. The French don’t like the Germans. The Germans don’t like the Spaniards (or anyone else), and everyone dislikes the Swiss mostly because they were smart enough to not join the EU and share the misery.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What Makes a Priest Rejoice at Confession

What gives you joy when one person after another lines up to take confession? Not when you hear the confession that many call, “on duty”, but when you become a witness to change that’s happened (perhaps even before your very eyes) in a person; when you have become the witness of his struggle, the result of his work on himself and the action of God’s grace that goes with it. This is always experienced as a marvelous miracle—the most important and most necessary of all miracles, the most unbelievable and most saving.

However, it’s not only the miracle that makes you rejoice, but even the more for the person standing before you. He just now stood far from God, was veritably shrouded in a twilight shadow, and in an amazing way happened this turnaround, this conversion and return to the Father; and he is no longer in that deathly shadow, but in the light that illumines him and you together.

A person can repent of the most terrible sins, the most barbaric evil-doing; his tale may be bitter and worthy of tears. But if an inner change occurs, that very “metanoia”, that is, a change of mind, or more precisely, of the entire human personality, there is no feeling of weariness. To the contrary: the soul becomes so light, like after a thunderstorm when the thunder claps and the lightning strikes, and the water pours down to cleanse and refresh the poor, sinful earth.

Usually when you hear another’s confession or when you yourself confess, you think, “For what does the Lord love us so much?! No, of course He doesn’t love us for something, but in spite of everything…” And here something reveals itself to you... It’s the beauty of the human soul that words cannot express—wondrous, primordial, hidden usually by the deformity of the passions, the wounds of vice, the scabs of sins. It reveals itself—and you understand at last why the Creator loves His creation: As St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) says, in a drop of dew, in the human soul is reflected the light of the Sun, the light of the Divinity, and you admire it in a moment, giving thanks for this mercy and gift.

And more… you rejoice because you feel that you are not standing there in vain in your priest’s stole before the analogion with the Gospels and Cross; nor is your tiny labor in vain or futile, and there is some benefit from your service, your prayer, your words, or at least from your attention and inner sympathy. You are only a witness, and not the performer (there is only one true Performer!), but how good it is that this witness is not fruitless!

And, of course in order to feel and experience all this it is not necessary to see another Mary of Egypt turning from a harlot into a great saint, or Abba Moses the Ethiopian, a murdering thief who once brought fear to all but later became the humblest of monks. You don’t necessarily have to hear a confession filled with dramatic details, “unusual” or “out of the ordinary”. There may not be anything particular to its content. The main thing is that very feeling of change spoken of above. The main thing is the feeling that the person is truly laboring, and the Lord accepts and blesses that labor. And that painful, by no means swift, modest and yet infinitely glorious—ascent to the heights…

-Igumen Nektary (Morozov)

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Park Avenue, a Picture of the Catholic Church Divided

Here’s the broad outline: Our Saviour was a sleepy parish in the Murray Hill neighborhood of midtown Manhattan when Father George W. Rutler, noted author and preacher, was appointed its pastor in 2001. He breathed new life into it. He hired and collaborated with Ken Woo, an artist who filled the sanctuary with stunning iconography. It won awards. Rutler added the traditional Latin Mass to the weekly schedule. During his twelve-year term, twelve parishioners entered the seminary. That’s a lot. When Rutler arrived, he inherited a deficit. When he left, Our Saviour was running surpluses and had money in the bank. 

In 2013, Rutler was reassigned to a parish on the other side of town, in Hell’s Kitchen. The incoming pastor at Our Saviour told Rutler that he would keep the Latin Mass. A few weeks into his term, he discontinued it, without notice. Last summer he started removing the icons — again, without notice.

...Shortly after his arrival in 2013, the new pastor invited a man who was a server at the Latin Mass at Our Saviour to leave the parish. He left. By now, most parishioners of a more conservative or traditional sensibility have probably moved to parishes they find more congenial. If Our Saviour has been distilled to a core who are mostly okay with the new tone, what’s wrong with that? 

One possible answer is “Nothing.” We might shrug and say, “Let people sort themselves out. The Ancients are no longer welcome at Our Saviour, but the Moderns are. Good for the Moderns. Bad for the Ancients. They can go to Holy Innocents.” At that point, we’ve accepted that the Church is riven. It is, but we shouldn’t accept it. 

To the chancery at the Archdiocese of New York, a parish touched by traditional Catholicism, rooted in the Latin Mass and the preconciliar Church, may seem analogous to the immigrant ethnic parish of a century ago: Old World, un-American, unassimilated, non-English-speaking, embarrassing. They see “phase me out” written all over it. To those who assumed that Latin and all the foul dust that floated in its wake were disappeared two generations ago, it must seem like nasty, stubborn mold. “Eww, I thought we painted over that.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Illinois Moves to Slash Welfare for the Dead

As anyone paying any attention at all will be aware, Illinois is a fiscal train wreck, plagued by years of one party government (guess which one), coupled with rampant cronyism and corruption. The legislature has been the object of excoriating criticism for its stubborn refusal to face budgetary reality and take urgently needed steps to rein in the state's dangerously high level of debt.

But no more.

Acting under the strong encouragement of Illinois' new Republican governor, the legislature has passed a bill that effectively strips all welfare benefits... from the deceased. Now the state's Department of Social Services will be required to cross check every month the entire roster of those receiving state aid against death certificates on file with the Department of Health, with the requirement that those who have joined the Great Majority are to be cut off. Yes, even their food stamps.

I am reliably informed that there was also active discussion of disenfranchising deceased voters. However this was dropped following a threat by the ACLU to file a civil rights suit if any attempt was made to deprive the dead of their constitutional right to vote for the Democratic candidate in general elections.

One step at a time...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fr. John Whiteford on Monarchy

... So is monarchy superior to democracy? St. John of Kronstadt once observed "Hell is a democracy but heaven is a kingdom." However, we live in a representative democracy that has afforded us freedom of religion -- and we are grateful for that. But on the other hand, we have also begun to see in recent years that the problem with democracy is that it only works well for a moral people, and given fallen human nature, it can facilitate a rapid decline in morality. The 20th century, especially in the wake of the two world wars, saw the rise of democracy around the world and the rapid decline in monarchy, and in the course of just under a hundred years we have essentially seen the end of Christendom as a result.

Read the rest here.

A good and nuanced, albeit short discussion of the topic.The problem with democracy, including in its more limited forms, is that it asserts the sovereignty of man. And that proposition, born in the so called Enlightenment, has served as the catalyst for the appalling collapse of Christian Civilization.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The LCMS Calls a Post a Post

If the role of religion in America today is to teach the faithful to bend over and kiss the ring of postmodernity and beg for forgiveness for actually believing something, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod just failed spectacularly, flubbed its lines, and fell off the stage. I, for one, am elated. 

Tuesday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed the grand faux pas with this somewhat ironic lede: “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod recently carried out what various members consider the equivalent of a modern-day heresy trial.” 

My enthusiasm is, of course, mixed with sadness. The Rev. Dr. Matthew Becker (the hero/victim of the breathlessly Hawthornean Post-Dispatch piece) has agitated against the church’s plainly worded doctrinal statements, to which he was bound, for many years, and should have been removed from the LCMS’s clergy roster a long time ago. Though he teaches at Valparaiso University, which is not affiliated with the LCMS, he has managed to maintain his status on the clergy roster, despite several previously unsuccessful attempts to remove him. Tuesday’s news is therefore a victory for orthodoxy. Nonetheless it is tragic to witness a man persisting in promoting false and harmful doctrine, and tragic to see him face the consequences. And yes, the rich etymology of tragic traces back to the Greek tragos, which means “goat,” and yes, the sheep needed to be separated from this one.

Read the rest here.
HT: Dr. Tighe

Some welcome news from our Reformed Protestant brothers and sisters and a break from the almost unending stream of bad news from the mainline denominations.

Monday, July 20, 2015

America the Great?

...America has not yet become Babylon the Great, despite the recent legal ruling. But even if it does, so what? We can peek at the end of the Book, and see how the story will end. And it turns out that it will end with glory, with the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Babylon the Great will fall, and when it does, the saints and apostles and prophets in heaven will rejoice, for it had become the dwelling place demons, the haunt of every foul spirit, and every foul and hateful bird (Rev. 18:2). 

Read the rest here.

Judge slams State Department over Hillary Clinton-related records

A federal judge is lashing out at the State Department for delaying for years in providing responses to Associated Press Freedom of Information Act requests seeking records about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's schedules and her top staffers.

At a contentious hearing last week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon demanded explanations for why some of the AP's requests received no reply for four years or more before the wire service filed suit in March.

Leon said he was determined to establish "what has been going on in the State Department for four years dragging their feet, not addressing these issues for four years."

"I want to find out what's been going on over there. I should say, what's not been going on over there," the judge added. "The State Department, for reasons known only to itself ... has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

On the Sacramental Nature of Marriage

One of the obvious differences between the Orthodox and Western understanding of marriage is that in the West, marriage is what two people do, while in the East, it is something that is done to them. This difference is expressed in the wedding service. In the West, the two people give a set of vows, thus entering into a contract with each other. In the Orthodox service, no vows are exchanged; after the initial inquiry as to whether they want to be married to each other (more on that later), they say absolutely nothing. They also do nothing: something is done to them—crowns are placed on their heads, they are led by the priest around the gospel stand, the common cup is given to them, even their wedding rings are placed on their fingers by other people. Whatever the historical development of the Orthodox rite may have been, its form points to the belief in the sacramental nature of marriage. In this way, the rite of marriage similar to the Eucharist. One does not produce the Body and Blood of Christ the way that one would negotiate and produce a contract. All of the actions of the priest and the congregation are not aimed at the production of the Gifts, but at preparing their own hearts and souls for receiving the sacrament.

But when we speak of the sacramental nature of marriage, I think that we have mean some specific thing. Marriage is not a sacrament because it is listed as such in the catechism; and it is not a sacrament because God blesses the couple in some general way. One of the ways we can define a sacrament to be more precise for the purposes of this study is to look at it as transformation: it is not quantitative (whereby vows, blessings, certificates, etc. are added to the couple) but qualitative—the couple does not remain the same two people they were before the weddings but is transformed (“changing them by Your Holy Spirit” in the Eucharistic sense) into something they were not–a specific icon of Christ and His Church.

Just saying this, however, does not make it so. Many—if not most!—of our Orthodox marriages do not resemble the icon of Christ and look very similar to whatever model of marriage that our current society presents. If our theology is not having any practical effect in the actual marriages, then we must strive harder to make theology relevant to the lives of Orthodox spouses. The sacramental nature of an Orthodox marriage and the real presence of God as the third Person in the “trinity” of God, man and woman, needs to be made real in order to help move toward the sacramental transformation of the spouses. 

Read the rest here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Donald

Donald Trump is a political chameleon and always has been. He will say whatever he thinks will score him points with whoever he is trying to get something from at the given moment, whether it’s the Clintons or conservative voters. The man is playing conservatives for a bunch of suckers, and so far he is succeeding. I honestly have no idea what his real political convictions are because he keeps changing them. Do I like what he is saying on immigration these days? Yes and no.

But do I trust him? Not for a New York minute.

Feast of the Royal Martyrs of Russia

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New York City Council Moves To Decriminalize Urination In Public and Turnstile Jumping

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (left) is moving forward with a controversial plan to decriminalize such offenses as urinating in public — part of an effort to rollback on criminal offenses used by police to stop and detain suspects under the “broken windows” approach of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Critics have charged that the murder rate and other crimes are already up under Mayor Bill de Blasio due to the tensions with police and new policies against stop and frisk maneuvers. 

Read the rest here.

Man Says He Danced on Police Car's Roof to Summon Aid Against Vampires


In a world where men are being encouraged to believe they are women, and to submit to surgical mutilation, who am I to judge?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How liberalism became an intolerant dogma

At the risk of sounding like Paul Krugman — who returns to a handful of cherished topics over and over again in his New York Times column — I want to revisit one of my hobby horses, which I most recently raised in my discussion of Hobby Lobby.

My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism's decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.

The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.

The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of "weaponized secularism."

The rise of dogmatic liberalism is the American left-wing expression of the broader trend that Mark Lilla identified in a recent blockbuster essay for The New Republic. The reigning dogma of our time, according to Lilla, is libertarianism — by which he means far more than the anti-tax, anti-regulation ideology that Americans identify with the post-Reagan Republican Party, and that the rest of the world calls "neoliberalism."

Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Solzhenitsyn Mourned Bastille Day - So Should All Christians

Tuesday, July 14 probably passes without much fanfare in your home, but the date, Bastille Day, marks the beginning of the greatest organized persecution of Christians since the Emperor Diocletian. This day, the beginning of the French Revolution, also planted the seeds for the murderous ideologies of socialism and nationalism that would poison the next two centuries, murdering millions of believers and other innocent civilians. Between them, those two political movements racked up quite a body count: In Death By Government, scholar R. J. Rummel pointed out that
during the first 88 years of this century, almost 170,000,000 men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners.
But the first such modern genocide in the West took place in France, beginning in 1793. It was undertaken by modern, progressive apostles of Enlightenment and aimed at pious peasants in the Vendée region of France. By its end up to 300,000 civilians had been killed by the armies of the Republic.

This story is little discussed in France. Indeed, a devout historian who teaches at a French university once told me, “We are not to mention the Vendée. Anyone who brings up what was done there has no prospect of an academic career. So we keep silent.”

It is mostly in the Vendée itself that memories linger, which may explain why that part of France to this day remains more religious and more conservative than any other region. The local government opened a museum marking these atrocities on their 200th anniversary in 1993 — with a visit by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who noted during his eloquent address that the mass murders of Christians in Russia were directly inspired by those in the Vendée. The Bolsheviks, he said, modeled themselves on the French revolutionaries, and Lenin himself pointed to the Vendée massacres as the right way to deal with Christian resistance.

Read the rest here.

Firefox blocks Adobe Flash, the much-loathed, bug-plagued relic of a browser plugin


Thank God! That thing has been nothing but a giant pain in the @$$ for ages. Constant computer slowdowns and even outright freezing of the browser.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pope Francis Calls for More Church Openness

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay— Pope Francis called for a more welcoming Catholic church, open even to those don’t accept its teachings, as he preached at a large open-air Mass on the last day of a weeklong South American tour.

Speaking to hundreds of thousands of people at a military air base on the outskirts of Paraguay’s capital city on Sunday, the pontiff taught a lesson in how the church should—and shouldn’t—attempt to spread the Gospel.

He called for “welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it, at times through our own fault. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, with which this land is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners.”

Read the rest here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.

Read the rest here.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Lotteries, payday lending, and the swindling of America’s poor

...But there is one set of related policy ideas that would dramatically help the poor and should not be ideologically divisive. How about a renewed effort to help the poor by refusing to cheat them?

I am referring to a broad and growing collaboration between government and business to systematically defraud and exploit the poor through state lotteries, payday lending and payday gambling.

The lottery is a particularly awful example of political corruption. Here government is raising revenue by selling the Powerball dream of wealth without work. Studies in a number of states have shown that lottery ticket sales are concentrated in poor communities, that poor people spend a larger portion of their income on tickets and that the poor are more likely to view the lottery as an investment. “This could be your ticket out,” promised one typical billboard in a distressed Chicago neighborhood.

Think on this a moment. In a place where government has utterly failed to provide adequate education and public services, government is using advertising to exploit the desperation of poor people in order to raise revenue that funds other people’s public services. This is often called a “regressive” form of taxation. The word does not adequately capture the cruelty and crookedness of selling a lie to vulnerable people in order to bilk them. Offering the chance of one in a 100 million is the equivalent of a lie. Lotteries depend on the deceptive encouragement of mythical thinking and fantasies of escape.

Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Revisiting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's warnings to the West

... According to Solzhenitsyn it was no coincidence that Soviet Russia shared certain common problems with the West, for he saw socialism and liberalism as kindred ideologies. Both were rooted in a common utopian project that began during the Enlightenment, he claimed, and thus both were marked by anthropocentricity—the belief that man is the measure of all things. Each ideology began by rejecting tradition and transcendent authority in favor of theories of liberation, and each was destined to afflict mankind with moral chaos. Although more economically efficient than socialism, liberalism will in the end prove just as unsatisfying, he concluded, for “the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer” than “commercial advertising, TV stupor, and intolerable music.”

Unsurprisingly, the Harvard address shocked Americans, particularly journalists, and even struck some of them as ungrateful. How could a man who had escaped the jaws of a despotic regime have the nerve to criticize the country which had taken him in? While Solzhenitsyn insisted that his criticisms were meant to be constructive, coming “not from an adversary but a friend,” he alienated Americans across the political spectrum by condemning a “destructive and irresponsible freedom” that had, in America, been granted “boundless space.” President Ford, put out by Solzhenitsyn’s intransigent anti-Communism, had already declared the dissident a “horse’s ass.” Now others agreed.

Asinine or no, Solzhenitsyn’s speech must be read in the context of Russian conservatism, a tradition which differs in key respects from its American counterpart. Whereas the American conservative imagination is typically informed by the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers, the Russian conservative takes his bearings from iconography, liturgical music, and folk tales. For better or worse, Russian patriotism is bound up with Slavic heritage and the Orthodox Church, not the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

Read the rest here.

Thank you Aleksandr Isayevich. May your memory be eternal.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Bill Cosby

I don’t pay much attention to celebrities and their often bizarre lifestyles and politics (this criticism coming from an avowed monarchist, so take it for what its worth). But Bill Cosby was an exception. I really liked the guy, enjoyed his humor and respected him for having the courage to stand up to the PC crowd and say some uncomfortable truths.

That said the evidence that he is a serial rapist, liar and all around creep has reached the point where I don't think rational people can pretend it is anything but damning. Rarely have I been more disappointed in someone I had hitherto held in high regard. I really feel let down in ways I would have thought unimaginable when talking about an entertainment personality.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Tolerance is Dead

...What does this show us? Three things, I think.

It shows us that tolerance is over. I’m not breaking new ground here–but this must be said. Tolerance is dead. Oppenheimer’s piece ran all of two days after the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. He wants to crush those who dare to stand against the fullest possible acceptance of what Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield has called “samesexuality.” Sexuality liberated from any constraints is now a full-blown worldview. This is paganism, 21st-century version. The body is all; sex is all.

The hippies now wear steel-toed boots. The earlier “free love” movement was all about doing what you want–live and let live. Today’s version of this pagan impulse is militaristic–live and you better approve. There’s a menace, a fury, in this cultural momentum. There will be no tolerance. There will be no dissent. Churches and organizations that stand bravely against the rushing tide of the late stages of the sexual revolution will be crushed.

Read the rest here.

State Silences Bakers Who Refused to Make Cake for Lesbian Couple, Fines Them $135K

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling today ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they denied service.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” Avakian wrote. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”

In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

“This effectively strips us of all our First Amendment rights,” the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which has since closed, wrote on their Facebook page. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”

Read the rest here.
HT: The Deacon's Bench

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Quote of the day...

"The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character. We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!'"

-Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and all Russia

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Memory Eternal: Sir Nicholas Winton

On the eve of the Second World War, Sir Nicholas, a private citizen, undertook a plan that saved more than 600 children, mostly Jewish, by getting them out of Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. He kept this part of his life secret for decades until his wife found the records in the attic.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Perry Robinson

For the first time in my life I slightly regret not being on Facebook. I am sure that the sensation will pass. In the meantime Perry Robinson, who once upon a time ran one of the better blogs in the Orthosphere, has apparently posted something of interest...

And it is on Facebook.  :-(

ROCOR Responds to Supreme Court Ruling

Word via Fr. Patrick (Reardon) that priests in the Russian Church Abroad are no longer blessed to sign any civil marriage documents in the United States.