Due to an ongoing health crisis in the family, blogging will be 'on and off' as time and circumstances permit for the foreseeable future. I also beg your indulgence if I am slow in responding to emails. New posts will appear below this notice.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Quote of the Day

"America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

-Rev. Gregory A. Boyd

Read the rest here.

Mel Gibson's Moment of Truth

By now anyone who pays attention to the news will have heard that Mel Gibson of "Braveheart" and "The Passion of the Christ" fame was arrested for drunk driving. It is not a secret and Gibson himself has been very open about the fact that he has battled alcoholism. Unfortunately the story does not end here. It is now being reported that during his arrest Gibson made all sorts of vulgar and very ugly remarks. Some of those remarks were anti-Semitic slurs. Among the things he is reported to have said are "F---ing Jews" and "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" and asking the arresting deputy "Are you a Jew?"

Where do I begin? I am crushed. Mel has always been one of my favorite actors and directors. Not just because of his skills in those professions. But also because he was one of the few people in Hollywood who seemed to have his head screwed on right. He has a reputation as a man who loves and jealously guards his family. No hint of scandal has ever touched his name in connection with another woman. He is by all accounts someone who is deeply religious (though his relationship with Rome has always been rather ambiguous) and is a man who overcame personal demons from his youth.

Thus when people were accusing him of being an anti-Semite because of his faithful rendition of the Gospel accounts of Christ’s passion and death and because his father is a certifiable nut case, I defended him. A lot of people did. Yes it’s true that Mel has been associated with some of the more extreme elements in the Roman Catholic Traditionalist movement. And yes it’s well known that some of these groups (not unlike Orthodoxy’s radical Old Calendarists) have a very nasty strain of anti-Semitism in them. But I was willing to set all of that aside noting that Mel was not his father, and there was no convincing evidence of his being hostile to Jews. Indeed I pointed out, how can you be an anti-Semite in such an open place like Hollywood which is well known for being overly fond of scandal and where anyone to the right of Ted Kennedy is viewed as a fascist?

The tragedy, here is pretty big. Mel has obviously fallen off the wagon and back into the bottle. And as anyone who knows anything about drunks can attest to, booze is like fire for the inner demons. It loosens all of your inner inhibitions and causes people to do or say things they would never normally do. But it is not something that typically makes someone act contrary to their nature. Some have called alcohol a form of truth serum. I am not inclined to argue with that from my own experience with drunks in the Navy and elsewhere. Those slurs did not come out of thin air. If they were not in his heart they would never have been given voice by the booze. The bottom line is that Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite.

Today Mel issued an apology which seems to be heartfelt. I am inclined to accept it at face value. But an apology is not going to be enough in this case. Drunk driving is a crime that can and will be dealt with by the courts. But the things he said are going to have a much longer impact. There are a lot of things a person can be forgiven for (especially in Hollywood). Anti-Semitism is not one of them. The Hollywood double standard (it’s perfectly OK to viscously slander certain people, groups and religions but others are off limits) is not an excuse. Mel is going to be crucified, and on a certain level he should be.

This may well be the end of his illustrious career in films. Talent can not overcome some things. Leni Riefenstahl was arguably the greatest female director ever to move on God’s Earth. But she was blacklisted by Hollywood for her close ties to Hitler and the Nazis during the 30’s. This is something where we will have to wait and see what happens. But if Mel were to ask for my advice, this is what I would tell him.

Don’t worry about saving your career. You have over a half billion in the bank by conservative estimates. You don’t need the job. Worry about salvaging your family and then your good name and reputation. That is going to be hard, but it’s doable. You need to get right with God. Go back to AA and work closely with your spiritual father confessor unless he is also an anti-Semite. Then get a new one. If your church is preaching anti-Semitism then you need to take several very big steps back and find another one. As for your name and reputation, start by going to a Synagogue and making a direct apology from the pulpit. Announce that you’re retiring from the film business and that you have made your last movie. Dedicate your life thereafter to public service.

Mel Gibson remains in my prayers as does his family.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Anti-Western Rite / Pro Vatcan II?

There is an interesting article with several links over at Ben Johnson's Blog Western Orthodoxy. It addresses some criticisms in a rather polemic attack on the WRV in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese and Western Rite in general. Its well worth a read.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

One man's solution to the current Middle Eastern crisis

The crisis in Lebanon is much in the news and on peoples mind. A spirited discussion has been going on in at least one forum I belong to. A short while ago I ran across an article on FR. What follows is more than a little simplistic. And it is couched in terms that I can only describe as brutal. But it has a ring of truth to it that I think is worthy of some note.

It also bears remembering that at the end of World War II our enemies stopped fighting not because of a cease fire or because they suddenly decided it was time to be more humanitarian but because they had been crushed. As in destroyed, smashed, utterly and completely defeated. They were no longer able to fight even if they wanted to. It was quite literally a knock down drag out fight to the bloody finish. And it bought the world a half a century of no more world wars and Europe in particular has known one of the longest stretches of relative peace in untold centuries. War is a truly horrific thing. And one of the sins of our age may be that we have tried to make civilized something that is inherently uncivilized. Maybe its time to take the gloves off and just do what needs to be done so we don’t have this hanging over the world’s head for the next 50 yrs.

On a purely personal note I spent 10 yrs in the Navy and saw a few bar fights up close. Mercifully I was only peripherally involved in one of them. But I still remember the advice I got from a 1st class Boatswains Mate named Jimmy Sandsbury on my first ship (a painfully long time ago). BM1 Sands as he was known was three days older than dirt. It was rumored he had taught Noah his knots and port and starboard. On the morning of my first liberty in a foreign port (Naples Italy), he took me aside gave me some advice which I thereafter carried with me. I will paraphrase this a bit since this is a Christian blog…

He told me that if I ever got into a fight in a bar or anywhere else that I should remember sailors don’t fight like gentlemen. He said my first punch or kick should be for the SOB’s private parts. And that then I should grab the nearest blunt object and commence to beating the ever living $*&^ out of my opponent. I was strongly advised to ignore the rule about not hitting a man when he is down. Someone knocked down in a bar room brawl was likely to get back up and hurt you if you didn’t finish the job. Sands said the subject of my wrath should be beaten until either he begged for mercy or until he was so severely beaten that there was no danger of him ever bothering me again. Words of wisdom from someone I doubt ever graduated from High School. I should also note that he said it was almost always better to walk away from a fight if I could. I never saw or heard of Sands ever being in a brawl. I am not sure if that’s because he walked away a lot, or if it’s because of the reputation he had as someone who could put a man in the hospital with his fists. Maybe it was a little of both.

The below is an article posted on Free Republic.

I once witnessed a bar fight in downtown Olongapo (Philippines) that still haunts my dreams. The fight was between a big oafish Marine and a rather soft-spoken, medium sized Latino sailor from my ship.

All evening the Marine had been trying to pick a fight with one of us and had finally set his sights on this diminutive shipmate of mine... figuring him for a safe target. When my friend refused to be goaded into a fight the Marine sucker punched him from behind on the side of the head so hard that blood instantly started to pour from this poor man's mutilated ear.

Everyone present was horrified and was prepared to absolutely murder this Marine, but my shipmate quickly turned on him and began to single-handedly back him towards a corner with a series of stinging jabs and upper cuts that gave more than a hint to a youth spent boxing in a small gym in the Bronx.

Each punch opened a cut on the Marine's startled face and by the time he had been backed completely into the corner he was blubbering for someone to stop the fight. He invoked his split lips and chipped teeth as reasons to stop the fight. He begged us to stop the fight because he could barely see through the river of blood that was pouring out of his split and swollen brows.

Nobody moved. Not one person.

The only sound in the bar was the sickening staccato sound of this sailor's lightning fast fists making contact with new areas of the Marine's head. The only sound I have heard since that was remotely similar was from the first Rocky film when Sylvester Stallone was punching sides of beef in the meat locker.

Finally the Marine's pleading turned to screams.... a high, almost womanly shriek. And still the punches continued relentlessly. Several people in the bar took a few tentative steps as though they wanted to try to break it up at that point, but hands reached out from the crowd and held them tight. I'm not ashamed to say that mine were two of the hands that held someone back.

You see, in between each blow the sailor had begun chanting a soft cadence: Say [punch] you [punch] give [punch] up [punch]... say [punch] you [punch]were [punch] wrong [punch]".

He had been repeating it to the Marine almost from the start but we only became aware of it when the typical barroom cheers had died down and we began to be sickened by the sight and sound of the carnage. This Marine stood there shrieking in the corner of the bar trying futilely to block the carefully timed punches that were cutting his head to tatters... right down to the skull in places. But he refused to say that he gave up... or that he was wrong.

Even in the delirium of his beating he believed in his heart that someone would stop the fight before he had to admit defeat. I'm sure this strategy had served him well in the past and had allowed him to continue on his career as a barroom bully.
Finally, in a wail of agony the Marine shrieked "I give up", and we gently backed the sailor away from him.

I'm sure you can guess why I have shared this story today. I'm not particularly proud to have been witness to such a bloody spectacle, and the sound of that Marine's woman-like shrieks will haunt me to my grave. But I learned something that evening that Israel had better learn for itself if it is to finally be rid of at least one of its tormentors:
This is one time an Arab aggressor must be allowed to be beaten so badly that every civilized nation will stand in horror, wanting desperately to step in and stop the carnage... but knowing that the fight will only truly be over when one side gives up and finally admits defeat. Just as every person who had ever rescued that bully from admitting defeat helped create the cowardly brute I saw that evening in the bar, every well-intentioned power that has ever stepped in and negotiated a ceasefire for an Arab aggressor has helped create the monsters we see around us today.

President Lahoud of Lebanon, a big Hezbollah supporter and a close ally of Syria, has been shrieking non-stop to the UN Security Council for the past two days to get them to force Israel into a cease fire.

Clearly he has been reading his autographed copy of 'Military Success for Dummies Arab Despots' by the late Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Ever since Nasser accidentally discovered the trick in '56, every subsequent Arab leader has stuck to his tried and true formula for military success:

1. Instigate a war.
2. Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of having your ass handed to you... get a few world powers to force your western opponent into a cease fire.
3. Whatever you do, don't surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy. That would ruin everything! All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population... and will force a truce.
4. Once a truce has been called you can resume your intransigence (which probably caused the conflict in the first place), and even declare victory as your opponent leaves the field of battle. This tactic has never failed. Not once. In fact it worked so well for the Egyptians in 1973, that to this day they celebrate the Yom Kippur War - a crushing defeat at the hands of Israel - as a military victory! No kidding... it's a national holiday over there!

President Lahoud has already begun to shriek like a school girl to the UN Security Council to "Stop the violence and arrange a cease-fire, and then after that we'll be ready to discuss all matters."

Uh huh. Forgive me if I find that a tad hard to swallow. He allowed Hezbollah to take over his country. He allowed the regular Lebanese army to provide radar targeting data for the Hezbollah missile that struck the Israeli destroyer. He has turned a blind eye while Iranian and Syrian weapons, advisers and money have poured into his country. And now that his country is in ruins he wants to call it a draw. As much as it may sicken the world to stand by and watch it happen, strong hands need to hold back the weak-hearted and let the fight continue until one side finally admits unambiguous defeat.

By Freeper MBombadier

The One Book...

The Pontificator has posted some questions about your reading preferences. Below are his questions and my answers to them. You can read his own answers and others or add your own by going here.

1. One book that changed your life:
Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis (Yes he is post schism and western. It’s still good.)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
The Lord of the Rings (OK. So everyone else is saying the same thing. I have read it more than any other books.)

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
The Jordanville Prayer Book with the US Navy Survival Manual as a close second.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Any book by Lewis Grizzard (Memory Eternal!)

5. One book that made you cry:
Books don’t make me cry. Movies do that.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
# 21 by Patrick O’Brien (Memory Eternal!)

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

8. One book you’re currently reading:
The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire By Edward Gibbon

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What price liberty?

I have just come across a report that Mr. Roy Valez of Lubbock TX has received news that his youngest son, Pfc. Andrew Velez, 22 was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. This news would of course be heartbreaking for any father. However, compounding this tragedy is the fact that Mr. Valez already has been down this sad road. In November of 2004 his older son Spc. Jose A. Velez, 23 was killed in Iraq. I am utterly unable to fathom the grief this father must be consumed by. The letter below was written to a lady suffering from a similar loss more than a century ago, and recently became somewhat famous from the movie "Saving Pvt. Ryan." I post it as a reminder of the dreadful cost of war. Memory Eternal!

Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:
DEAR MADAM: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Passing of a Legend


Carl Brashear (of Men of Honor fame) has died. He was a legend in the Navy anda true guant in so many ways. Memory Eternal!

Carl Brashear was the Navy's first African American diver.

Tuesday afternoon, 75-year-old Carl Brashear died at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth,

His story was told in the 2000 film “Men of Honor,” and he was portrayed by actor Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Brashear joined the United States Navy in 1948 at the age of 17. He became the only amputee deep-sea diver to reach the status of Master Diver and was the only black man to ever become Master Diver of the United States Navy, a position he held from 1975 to 1977, according to the Navy.

He retired as a Boatswains Mate Master Chief.

Naval hospital officials said Brashear died at 2:45 p.m. of respiratory and heart failure.

His Army helicopter pilot son, Phillip, was home from Iraq on emergency leave and was at his father’s side.

“Carl Brashear was a man of integrity. He was well-loved and admired by the hospital staff,” said NMCP Commander Rear Adm. Thomas Cullison. “It was an honor to provide the care for this American hero. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family

From WVEC

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene


Today is the feast of the The Holy Myrrh-Bearer Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene and patron of my home parish. In honor of the feast we had a special Hierarchical Liturgy celebrated by His Grace Bp. + Benjamin assisted by a small host (for our little mission anyway) of visiting clergy. Afterwards we retired on what was to date the hottest day of the year (112 was the last temp I saw) to a local restaurant for a pleasant luncheon. The heat very nearly overwhelmed the poor establishment's air conditioning but it was all good. I hope to be able to post some pictures of the occasion soon. The below is from the web site of the Orthodox Church in America.

The Holy Myrrh-Bearer Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene. On the banks of Lake Genesareth (Galilee), between the cities of Capharnum and Tiberias, was the small city of Magdala, the remains of which have survived to our day. Now only the small village of Mejhdel stands on the site.

A woman whose name has entered forever into the Gospel account was born and grew up in Magdala. The Gospel tells us nothing of Mary's younger years, but Tradition informs us that Mary of Magdala was young and pretty, and led a sinful life. It says in the Gospels that the Lord expelled seven devils from Mary (Luke. 8:2). From the moment of her healing Mary led a new life, and became a true disciple of the Savior.

The Gospel relates that Mary followed after the Lord, when He went with the Apostles through the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee preaching about the Kingdom of God. Together with the pious women Joanna, wife of Choza (steward of Herod), Susanna and others, she served Him from her own possessions (Luke 8:1-3) and undoubtedly shared with the Apostles the evangelic tasks in common with the other women. The Evangelist Luke, evidently, has her in view together with the other women, stating that at the moment of the Procession of Christ onto Golgotha, when after the Scourging He took on Himself the heavy Cross, collapsing under its weight, the women followed after Him weeping and wailing, but He consoled them. The Gospel relates that Mary Magdalene was present on Golgotha at the moment of the Lord's Crucifixion. While all the disciples of the Savior ran away, she remained fearlessly at the Cross together with the Mother of God and the Apostle John.

The Evangelists also list among those standing at the Cross the mother of the Apostle James, and Salome, and other women followers of the Lord from Galilee, but all mention Mary Magdalene first. St John, in addition to the Mother of God, names only her and Mary Cleopas. This indicates how much she stood out from all the women who gathered around the Lord.

She was faithful to Him not only in the days of His Glory, but also at the moment of His extreme humiliation and insult. As the Evangelist Matthew relates, she was present at the Burial of the Lord. Before her eyes Joseph and Nicodemus went out to the tomb with His lifeless Body. She watched as they covered over the entrance to the cave with a large stone, entombing the Source of Life.

Faithful to the Law in which she was raised, Mary together with the other women spent following day at rest, because it was the great day of the Sabbath, coinciding with the Feast of Passover. But all the rest of the peaceful day the women gathered spices to go to the Grave of the Lord at dawn on Sunday and anoint His Body according to the custom of the Jews.

It is necessary to mention that, having agreed to go on the first day of the week to the Tomb early in the morning, the holy women had no possibility of meeting with one another on Saturday. They went separately on Friday evening to their own homes. They went out only at dawn the following day to go to the Sepulchre, not all together, but each from her own house.

The Evangelist Matthew writes that the women came to the grave at dawn, or as the Evangelist Mark expresses, extremely early before the rising of the sun. The Evangelist John, elaborating upon these, says that Mary came to the grave so early that it was still dark. Obviously, she waited impatiently for the end of night, but it was not yet daybreak. She ran to the place where the Lord's Body lay.

Mary went to the tomb alone. Seeing the stone pushed away from the cave, she ran away in fear to tell the close Apostles of Christ, Peter and John. Hearing the strange message that the Lord was gone from the tomb, both Apostles ran to the tomb and, seeing the shroud and winding cloths, they were amazed. The Apostles went and said nothing to anyone, but Mary stood about the entrance to the tomb and wept. Here in this dark tomb so recently lay her lifeless Lord.

Wanting proof that the tomb really was empty, she went down to it and saw a strange sight. She saw two angels in white garments, one sitting at the head, the other at the foot, where the Body of Jesus had been placed. They asked her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" She answered them with the words which she had said to the Apostles, "They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." At that moment, she turned around and saw the Risen Jesus standing near the grave, but she did not recognize Him.

He asked Mary, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom dost thou seek?" She answered thinking that she was seeing the gardener, "Sir, if thou hast taken him, tell where thou hast put Him, and I will take Him away."

Then she recognized the Lord's voice. This was the voice she heard in those days and years, when she followed the Lord through all the cities and places where He preached. He spoke her name, and she gave a joyful shout, "Rabbi" (Teacher).

Respect and love, fondness and deep veneration, a feeling of thankfulness and recognition at His Splendor as great Teacher, all came together in this single outcry. She was able to say nothing more and she threw herself down at the feet of her Teacher to wash them with tears of joy. But the Lord said to her: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and tell them: "I ascend to My Father, and your Father; to My God and to your God."

She came to herself and again ran to the Apostles, to do the will of Him sending her to preach. Again she ran into the house, where the Apostles still remained in dismay, and proclaimed to them the joyous message, "I have seen the Lord!" This was the first preaching in the world about the Resurrection.

The Apostles proclaimed the Glad Tidings to the world, but she proclaimed it to the Apostles themselves.

Holy Scripture does not tell us about the life of Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Christ, but it is impossible to doubt, that if in the terrifying minutes of Christ's Crucifixion she was the foot of His Cross with His All-Pure Mother and St John, she must have stayed with them during the happier time after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Thus in the Acts of the Apostles St Luke writes that all the Apostles with one mind stayed in prayer and supplication, with certain women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and His brethren.

Holy Tradition testifies that when the Apostles departed from Jerusalem to preach to all the ends of the earth, then Mary Magdalene also went with them. A daring woman, whose heart was full of reminiscence of the Resurrection, she went beyond her native borders and went to preach in pagan Rome. Everywhere she proclaimed to people about Christ and His teaching. When many did not believe that Christ is risen, she repeated to them what she had said to the Apostles on the radiant morning of the Resurrection: "I have seen the Lord!" With this message she went all over Italy.

Tradition relates that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias (14-37 A.D.) and proclaimed to him Christ's Resurrection. According to Tradition, she took him a red egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: "Christ is Risen!" Then she told the emperor that in his Province of Judea the unjustly condemned Jesus the Galilean, a holy man, a miracleworker, powerful before God and all mankind, had been executed at the instigation of the Jewish High Priests, and the sentence confirmed by the procurator appointed by Tiberias, Pontius Pilate.

Mary repeated the words of the Apostles, that we are redeemed from the vanity of life is not with perishable silver or gold, but rather by the precious Blood of Christ.

Thanks to Mary Magdalene the custom to give each other paschal eggs on the day of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over all the world. On one ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of St Athanasius near Thessalonica, is a prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha for the blessing of eggs and cheese. In it is indicated that the igumen in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: "Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering."

Mary Magdalene continued her preaching in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. Evidently, the Apostle Paul has her in mind in his Epistle to the Romans (16: 6), where together with other ascetics of evangelic preaching he mentions Mary (Mariam), who as he expresses "has bestowed much labor on us." Evidently, she extensively served the Church in its means of subsistence and its difficulties, being exposed to dangers, and sharing with the Apostles the labors of preaching.

According to Church Tradition, she remained in Rome until the arrival of the Apostle Paul, and for two more years following his departure from Rome after the first court judgment upon him. From Rome, St Mary Magdalene, already bent with age, moved to Ephesus where the holy Apostle John unceasingly labored. There the saint finished her earthly life and was buried.

Her holy relics were transferred in the ninth century to Constantinople, and placed in the monastery Church of St Lazarus. In the era of the Crusader campaigns they were transferred to Italy and placed at Rome under the altar of the Lateran Cathedral. Part of the relics of Mary Magdalene are said to be in Provage, France near Marseilles, where over them at the foot of a steep mountain a splendid church is built in her honor.

The Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of St Mary Magdalene, the woman called by the Lord Himself from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

Formerly immersed in sin and having received healing, she sincerely and irrevocably began a new life and never wavered from that path. Mary loved the Lord Who called her to a new life. She was faithful to Him not only when He was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds and winning recognition as a miracle-worker, but also when all the disciples deserted Him in fear and He, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the Cross. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first, and esteemed her worthy to be first to proclaim His Resurrection.

Iran's long shadow...

God's army has plans to run the whole Middle East
Hezbollah, the group at the heart of the Lebanese conflict, is the spearhead of Iran’s ambitions to be a superpower, says Iranian commentator Amir Taheri

‘You are the sun of Islam, shining on the universe!” This is how Muhammad Khatami, the mullah who was president of Iran until last year, described Hezbollah last week. It would be no exaggeration to describe Hezbollah — the Lebanese Shi’ite militia — as Tehran’s regional trump card. Each time Tehran has played it, it has won. As war rages between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran policymakers think that this time, too, they can win.

“I invite the faithful to wait for good news,” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last Tuesday. “We shall soon witness the elimination of the Zionist stain of shame.”


Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Brief History of the Irish Orthodox Church


From Orthodox Info web site:
A Brief History of the Irish Orthodox Church
by Monk Nicodemus

1. How Did Orthodoxy Reach Ireland?

How did Orthodox Christianity come to this small green island off the shores of the European continent in the uttermost West? Unknown to many, Christianity in Ireland does have an Apostolic foundation, through the Apostles James and John, although the Apostles themselves never actually visited there.

The Irish people were the westernmost extension of the vast Celtic civilization—whose people called themselves the Gauls—which stretched from southern Russia through Europe and eventually into the British Isles. The vastness of Celtic/Gallic civilization is evident in the names used to designate countries within its entire territory: the land of Galatia in Asia Minor, Gaul (France), Galicia (northwest Spain), and the land of the Gaels (Ireland). The Celtic peoples (like the Jews) kept in very close contact with their kinfolk across the Eurasian continent. When Christianity was first being spread by the Apostles, those Celts who heard their preaching and accepted it (seeing it as the completion of the best parts of their ancient traditions and beliefs) immediately told their relatives, traveling by sea and land along routes their ancestors had followed since before 1000 b.c.

The two Apostles whose teachings had the greatest influence upon the Celtic peoples were the brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee. After Pentecost, James first preached the Gospel to the dispersed Israelites in Sardinia (an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the east coast of Spain, which was used as a penal colony). From there he went on to the Spanish mainland and traveled throughout the northern part of Spain along the river Ebro, where his message was eagerly heard by the Celtic/Iberian peoples, especially those in Galicia. This area continued to be a portal to Ireland for many centuries, especially for the transmission of the Good News.

John preached throughout the whole territory of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and the many peoples living there accepted Christianity, including the Celtic peoples known as the Galatians (in Cappadocia). These people also communicated with their relatives throughout the Greco/Roman world of the time, especially those in Gaul. By the middle of the 2nd century the Celtic Christians in Gaul asked that a bishop be sent to them, and the Church sent St. Irenaeus, who settled at Lyons on the Rhone river. Among the many works St. Irenaeus accomplished, the most important were his mastery of the language of the local Celtic people and his preaching to them of the Christianity he had received from St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Theologian.
Map showing many of Ireland's great monastic foundations.

By the 4th century Christianity had reached all the Celtic peoples, and this "leaven" was preparing people's hearts to receive the second burst of Christian missionary outreach to the Celts, through St. Hilary and St. Martin.

The seeds that St. Irenaeus planted bore abundant fruit in the person of St. Hilary of Poitiers, who, having lived in Asia Minor, would be the link between East and West, transmitting Orthodoxy in its fullness to the Celtic peoples. He was not only a great defender of the Faith, but also a great lover of monasticism. This Orthodox Faith and love for monasticism was poured into a fitting vessel—Hilary's disciple, St. Martin of Tours, who was to become the spiritual forefather of the Irish people. What Saints Athanasius and Anthony the Great were to Christianity in the East, Saints Hiliary and Martin were to the West.

By the 4th century an ascetic/monastic revival was occurring throughout Christendom, and in the West this revival was being led by St. Martin. The Monastery of Marmoutier which St. Martin founded near Tours (on the Loire in western France) served as the training ground for generations of monastic aspirants drawn from the Romano-Celtic nobility. It was also the spiritual school that bred the first great missionaries to the British Isles. The way of life led at Marmoutier harmonized perfectly with the Celtic soul. Martin and his followers were contemplatives, yet they alternated their times of silence and prayer with periods of active labor out of love for their neighbor.

Some of the monks who were formed in St. Martin's "school" brought this pattern back to their Celtic homelands in Britain, Scotland and Wales. Such missionaries included Publicius, a son of the Roman emperor Maximus who was converted by St. Martin, and who went on to found the Llanbeblig Monastery in Wales—among the first of over 500 Welsh monasteries. Another famous disciple of St. Martin was St. Ninian, who traveled to Gaul to receive monastic training at St. Martin's feet, and then returned to Scotland, where he established Candida Casa at Whithorn, with its church dedicated to St. Martin. The waterways between Ireland and Britain had been continually traversed by Celtic merchants, travelers, raiders and slave-traders for many centuries past, so the Irish immediately heard the Good News brought to Wales and Scotland by these disciples of Ninian.

About the same time that the missionaries were traveling to and from Candida Casa amidst all this maritime activity, a young man named Patrick was captured by an Irish raiding party that sacked the far northwestern coasts of Britain, and he was carried back to Ireland to be sold as a slave. While suffering in exile in conditions of slavery for years, this deacon's son awoke to the Christian faith he had been reared in. His zeal was so strong that, after God granted him freedom in a miraculous way, his heart was fired with a deep love for the people he had lived among, and he yearned to bring them to the light of the Gospel Truth. After spending some time in the land of Gaul in the Monastery of Lerins, St. Patrick (†451), was consecrated to the episcopacy. He returned to Ireland and preached with great fervor throughout the land, converting many local chieftains and forming many monastic communities, especially convents.

It was during the time immediately following St. Patrick's death, in the latter part of the 5th century, that God's Providence brought all the separate streams of Christianity in Ireland into one mighty rushing river.

While St. Patrick's disciples continued his work of preaching and founding monastic communities—it was his disciple, St. Mael of Ardagh (†481), for example, who tonsured the great St. Brigid of Kildare (†523)—several other saints who were St. Patrick's younger contemporaries began to labor in the vineyard of Christ. These included Saints Declan of Ardmore (†5th c.), Ailbhe of Emly (†527), and Kieran of Saighir (†5th c.).

Then came young Enda from the far western islands of Aran (off the west coast of Ireland). He studied with St. Ninian at Whithorn, and thus received the flame of St. Martin's spiritual lineage with its ascetical training and mystical aspirations. Having been fully formed in the Faith, St. Enda (†530) returned to the Aran Islands, where he founded a monastery in the ancient tradition. It was on the Aran Islands that the traditional founder of the Irish monastic movement, St. Finian, drank deep of the monastic tradition established by St. Martin. Before Finian's death in a.d. 548, he founded the monastery of Clonard and was the instructor of a whole generation of monks who became great founders of monasteries throughout Ireland, and great missionaries as well. The most famous of his disciples were named the "Twelve Apostles of Ireland," and included Saints Brendan the Navigator, Brendan of Birr, Columba of Iona, Columba of Terryglass, Comgall of Bangor, Finian of Moville, Mobhi of Glasnevin, Molaise of Devenish, Ninnidh of Inismacsaint, Sinnell of Cleenish, Ruadhan of Lorrha, and the great monastic father Kieran of Clonmacnois. By the middle of the 6th century these men and their disciples had founded hundreds of monasteries throughout the land and had converted all the Irish. And that was only the beginning...
2. Why was Christianity Received so Quickly in Ireland?

Why were the Celtic peoples able to receive Christianity so readily and so eagerly? The Church Fathers state that God prepared all peoples before the Incarnation of Christ to receive the fullness of Truth, Christianity. To the Jews He gave the Israelite revelation. Among the pagans, faint foreshadowings of the coming revelation were present in some of their beliefs and best qualities. The Celtic peoples were no different—in some ways they were better off than most pagans.

On a natural level, the Celtic peoples had a great love of beauty which found overflowing expression as the Christian Faith, arts and culture developed in Ireland. Their extreme and fiery nature, which had previously been expressed through war and bloodshed, now manifested itself in great ascetic labors and missionary zeal undertaken for love of God and neighbor.

Their great reverence for knowledge, especially manifested in lore, ancient history and law, made it easy for them to have great respect for the ancient forms and theology of the Church, which were based in ancient Israelite tradition. They had a great love for, and almost religious belief in, the power of the spoken word—especially in "prophetic utterances" delivered by their Druid poets and seers.

These perceived manifestations of "the wisdom of the Other World" were held in great respect and awe by the Irish, as transmissions of the will of the gods, which could only be resisted at great peril. When many of their Druid teachers wholeheartedly accepted Christianity, and as Christians spoke the revealed word of God from the Scriptures or from the Holy Spirit's direct revelation, the people listened and obeyed. The Irish possessed an intricate and detailed religious belief system that was primarily centered in a worship of the sun, and a tri-theistic numerology—often manifesting itself in venerating gods in threes, collecting sayings in threes (triads), etc.—which led to the easy acceptance of the true fulfillment of this intuition in the worship of the Holy Trinity. They also treasured a very strong belief in the afterlife, conceived as a paradisal heavenworld in the "West" to which the souls of the dead passed to a life of immortal youth, beauty and joy.

Even the societal structure of the Celts in Ireland prepared its peoples for Christianity. In contrast to the urban-centered and highly organized mindset which prevailed in the lands under Roman rule, Ireland (which was never conquered) preserved the ancient family- and communal-based patterns of rural societies. They did not build cities or towns, but settled in small villages or individual family farm holdings. The only recognized "unit" was the tribe and its various family clans, centered around their king's royal hill fort. The economy remained wholly pastoral, in no way resembling the Roman urban and civil systems. There were no city centers. The original apostolic family-based model of an ascetic community, and its later monastery-based form, manifested themselves in Ireland as a natural completion of what was already present. Finally, the leadership and teaching roles previously held by the Druids, poets, lawyers and their schools were naturally assumed by the monks and bishops of the Church and their monasteries.
3. How Christianity Manifested Itself in Ireland

It was precisely because the monastic communities were like loving families that they had such a long-lasting and complete influence on the Irish people as a whole. These schools were the seedbeds of saints and scholars: literally thousands of young men and women received their formation in these communities. Some of them would stay and enter fully into monastic life, while others would return to their homes, marry, and raise their children in accordance with the profound Christian way of life that they had assimilated in the monastery. Some of the monks, either inspired by a desire for greater solitude, or by zeal to give what they had received to others, would leave the shores of their beloved homeland and set out "on pilgrimage for Christ" to other countries. Once again they would travel along paths previously trodden by their ancestors—both the pagans of long ago, and Christian pilgrims of more recent times.

Because these monastic communities were centers of spiritual transformation and intense ascetic practice, they generated a dynamic environment which catalyzed the intellectual and artistic gifts of the Irish people, and laid them before the feet of Christ. In these monasteries, learning as well as sanctity was encouraged.

The Irish avidly learned to write in Latin script, memorized long portions of the Scriptures (especially the Psalms), and even developed a written form for their exceedingly ancient oral traditions. When the Germanic peoples invaded the Continent (a.d. 400–550), the Gallic and Spanish scholars fled to Ireland with their books and traditions of the Greco-Roman Classical Age. In Ireland these books were zealously absorbed, treasured and passed on for centuries to come. Many Irish monks dedicated their whole lives to copying the Scriptures—the Old and New Testaments, as well as related writings—and often illuminated the manuscript pages with an intricate and beautiful art that is one of the wonders of the world.
4. The Significance of the Orthodox Church in Ireland for Today

Much has been written about Ireland's wandering missionary scholars (see Thomas Cahill's bestselling book, How the Irish Saved Civilization). The vibrant, community-centered way of life and the deep, broad, ascetic-based scholarship of the Irish monks revitalized the faith of Western European peoples, who were both devastated by wave after wave of barbarian invasions and threatened by Arianism. More than this, the Irish monks evangelized both the pagan conquerors and those Northern and Eastern European lands where the Gospel had never taken root.

For Orthodox Christians, however, there are further lessons to be gained from the examples of the Irish saints. These saints were formed in a monastic Christian culture almost solely based on the "one thing needful" and the otherworldly essence of Christian life. They represented Christ's Empire, and no other. They were Christ's warriors, motivated solely by love of God and neighbor, acting in accordance with a clear and firmly envisioned set of values and the goal of Heaven. Such selfless embodiments of Christian virtues are all the more important to us today, who live in an age characterized by the absence of such qualities. The unwavering dedication of the Irish monks drew the Holy Spirit to them. And when He came, He not only deepened and established their already-present resolution, but also filled them with the energy and grace to carry it out. This is what is needed and yearned for today.

The task of the Orthodox Christian convert in the West today is to bridge the gap between our time and the neglected and forgotten saints of Western Europe, who were our spiritual forebears. As St. Arsenios of Cappadocia (†1924) said: "Britain will only become Orthodox when she once again begins to venerate her saints." In this task we are very fortunate to have had a living example of one who did this: St. John Maximovitch. During his years as a hierarch he was appointed to many different lands, including France and Holland. One of the first things he set out to do upon reaching a new country was to tirelessly seek out, venerate and promote the Orthodox saints of that land, that he might enter into spiritual relationship with those who did the work before him, and enlist their help in his attempts to continue their task. He considered the glorification and promotion of local Orthodox saints as one of the most important works that a hierarch could do for his flock.

We too must actively labor to venerate our ancestral saints, and must enter into spiritual relationship with them as St. John did. While we should not merely "appreciate" their lives and their example as an intellectual or aesthetic exercise, neither should we selectively reinterpret their examples and way of life in the light of modern fashions and "spiritualities." We should, through our efforts, strive to bring these saints into as clear a focus as possible before our mind's eye, reminding ourselves of the fact that they are alive and are our friends and spiritual mentors. The saints are, according to St. Justin Popovich of Serbia (†1979), the continuation of the life of Christ on earth, as He comes and dwells within the "lively stones" (cf. I Peter 2:5) that constitute His Body, the Church (cf. Eph. 1:22–23). Therefore, honor given to the saints is honor given to Christ; and it is by giving honor to Christ that we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit.

May the saints of Ireland come close to us and bring us to the Heavenly Kingdom together with them. Amen.
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Short Lives of Irish Saints Found in the 2003 St. Herman Calendar
ST. KIERAN OF CLONMACNOIS

September 9 (†545)

The great St. Columba of Iona (June 9, †597) described St. Kieran as a lamp, blazing with the light of knowledge, whose monastery brought wisdom to all the churches of Ireland. This earthly angel and otherworldly man was born in 512, the son of a carpenter who built war chariots. He was spiritually raised by St. Finian in Clonard (December 12, †549) and was counted among his "twelve apostles to Ireland." After spending some time in Clonard, the childlike, pure, innocent, humble and loving Kieran set off to dwell in the wilderness with his God. After three years, when more and more disciples began to come to him, he finally established a monastery in obedience to a divine decree shortly before he reposed. He was taken by his Lord to dwell with Him eternally at the age of 33. "Having lived a short time, he fulfilled a long time, for his soul pleased the Lord" (Wisdom 4:13).
ST. KENNETH OF KILKENNY

October 11 (†600)

St. Kenneth was the son of a scholar-poet from Ulster. By race he was an Irish Pict and spoke the Pictish language. He was a disciple of the great monastic Saints Finian of Clonard (December 12, †549), Comgall of Bangor (May 11, †603), Kieran of Clonmacnois (September 9, †545) and Mobhi of Glasnevin (October 12, †544). After the death of St. Mobhi he took counsel from St. Finian. As a result (says the Martyrology of Oengus), St. Kenneth sailed off to Scotland. There he lived for a while on the isle of Texa, according to The Life of St. Columba by St. Adamnan of Iona (September 23, †704). While there he often visited his old friend St. Columba (who had lived with him in Glasnevin before departing for Iona) and helped him in his missionary labors to the Picts. Later, he traveled back to Ireland, where he founded the Monasteries of Aghaboe and Kilkenny before his death in the year 600.
ST. FINIAN OF CLONARD

December 12 (†549)

St. Finian, known as the "Tutor of the Saints of Ireland," stands with St. Enda of Aran at the head of the patriarchs of Irish monasticism. He showed great zeal and piety for God from his youth. He had already founded three churches before he set off for Wales to study at the feet of St. Cadoc at Llancarfan (September 25, †577). In Llancarfan he became close friends with St. Gildas (January 29, †ca. 570), another of St. Cadoc's disciples. Upon his return to Ireland, he founded the great Monastery of Clonard during the very same year the great St. Enda (March 21, †530 ) reposed in Aran. A multitude of illustrious and holy men studied under St. Finian, including the famous "Twelve Apostles of Ireland." St. Finian founded many other monasteries during his lifetime, including the famous island monastery of Skellig Michael off the southwest coast of Ireland.
ST. ITA OF KILEEDY

January 15 (†570)

The gentle and motherly St. Ita was descended from the high kings of Tara. From her youth she loved God ardently and shone with the radiance of a soul that loves virtue. Because of her purity of heart she was able to hear the voice of God and communicate it to others. Despite her father's opposition she embraced the monastic life in her youth. In obedience to the revelation of an angel she went to the people of Ui Conaill in the southwestern part of Ireland. While there, the foundation of a convent was laid. It soon grew into a monastic school for the education of boys, quickly becoming known for its high level of learning and moral purity. The most famous of her many students was St. Brendan of Clonfert (May 16, †577). She went to the other world in great holiness to dwell forever with the risen Lord in the year 570.
ST. BRIGID OF KILDARE

February 1 (†523)

The well-known founder and abbess of the Monastery of Kildare has been revered and loved throughout Europe for almost fifteen hundred years. While she was still a young woman, her unbounded compassion for the poor, the sick and the suffering grew to such proportions as to shelter all of Ireland. St. Brigid's tonsure at the hands of St. Mael of Ardagh (February 6, †488) inaugurated the beginning of women's coenobitic monasticism in Ireland. St. Brigid soon expanded it by founding many other convents throughout Ireland. The gifts of the Holy Spirit shine brightly upon all through her—both men and beasts—to this day. After receiving Holy Communion at Kildare from St. Ninnidh of Inismacsaint (January 18, †6th c.) she gave her soul into the hands of her Lord in 523.
ST. GOBNAIT OF BALLYVOURNEY

February 11 (†7th c.)

The future abbess and founder of the Ballyvourney Convent was born in the 6th century in the southern lands of Ireland. To escape a feud within their family, her household fled west to the Aran Islands and dwelt there for some time. It is possible that her family accepted Christianity while living in the islands. Gobnait began to zealously manifest her faith through her deeds, founding a church on the Inisheer Island. When she returned east with her family, she encountered St. Abban of Kilabban (March 16, †650), who became her spiritual mentor. Her family, greatly moved by their daughter's faith, gave her the land on which she and St. Abban founded the Monastery of Ballyvourney. In Ballyvourney her sanctity quickly revealed itself, especially through the abundant healings God worked through her prayers. Even the many bees that she kept paid her obedience, driving off brigands and other unwelcome visitors.
ST. OENGUS THE CULDEE

March 11 (†824)

While still a youth St. Oengus entered the Monastery of Cluain-Edneach, which was renowned for its strict ascetic life and was directed by St. Malathgeny (October 21, †767). He had an especially great love for the Lives of the Saints. After his ordination to the priesthood, he withdrew to a life of solitude. For his holy way of life many called him the "Céile Dé" (Culdee) or "the friend of God." After many people disturbed his solitude, he slipped away secretly and entered the Monastery of Tallaght, which was then directed by St. Maelruin (July 7, †792). He entered the monastery as a lay worker, laboring at the most menial tasks for seven years until God revealed his identity to St. Maelruin. There he mortified his flesh with such ascetic feats as standing in icy water. St. Oengus wrote the Martyrology of Tallaght with St. Maelruin. After Maelruin's death in 792, St. Oengus returned to Cluain-Edneach and wrote many more works in praise of the saints, including his well-known Martyrology and the Book of Litanies. He reposed in 824 and became the first hagiographer of Ireland.
ST. PATRICK OF IRELAND

March 17 (†451)

The most famous of all the saints of the Emerald Isle is undoubtedly her illustrious patron St. Patrick. Reared in Britain and the son of a deacon, St. Patrick was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders while still a youth. Thus, he was carried off to the land he would later enlighten with the Gospel: Ireland. During his captivity, the faith of his youth was aroused in him, and shortly thereafter he miraculously escaped his servitude. Some years later, he received a divine call to bring his new-found faith back to the Irish. For this task, he prepared as best he could in Gaul, learning from St. Germanus of Auxerre (July 31, †448) and the fathers of the Monastery of Lerins. While in Ireland he ceaselessly traveled and preached the Christian Faith to his beloved Irish people for almost twenty years until his blessed repose in 451.
ST. ENDA OF ARAN

March 21 (†530)

St. Enda is described as the "patriarch of Irish monasticism." After many years living as a warrior-king of Conall Derg in Oriel, St. Enda embraced the monastic life. His interest in monasticism originally grew as a result of the death of a young prospective bride staying in the community of his elder sister, St. Fanchea (January 1, †ca. 520). St. Fanchea suggested that he enter the Whithorn Monastery in southwestern Scotland. After some years in Whithorn he returned to Ireland and settled on the fallow, lonely Aran Islands off her western shores. During the forty years of his severe ascetic life there, he fathered many spiritual disciples—including Sts. Jarlath of Cluain Fois (June 6, †560) and Finian of Clonard (December 12, †545)—and laid the foundation for monasticism in Ireland. St Enda reposed in the year 530 in his beloved hermitage on Aran.
ST. DYMPHNA, WONDER-WORKER AND MARTYR OF GHEEL

May 15 († early 7th c.)

St. Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan king and a Christian mother in Ireland. When her mother died, her father desired to take his own daughter to wife. Dymphna fled with her mother's instructor, the priest Gerberen, to the continent. Her father followed and eventually found them. When Dymphna refused to submit to his unholy desire, he had them both beheaded at Gheel in what is today Belgium. Throughout the centuries she has shown special care and concern from the other world for those suffering from mental illnesses and is greatly venerated throughout Europe and America.
ST. KEVIN OF GLENDALOUGH

June 3 (†618)

The path of St. Kevin's early life was well laid. When St. Kevin was between the ages of seven and twelve, he was tutored by the desert-loving St. Petroc of Cornwall (June 4, †594), who was then studying in Ireland. After St. Petroc left for Wales, the twelve-year-old St. Kevin entered the Monastery of Kilnamanagh. There his humility and the holiness of his life amazed all. After his ordination to the priesthood he followed his tutor's desert-loving example and set out to establish his own hermitage. He settled in an ancient pagan cave-tomb on a crag above the upper lake of Glendalough. For many years he lived in this beautiful desert wilderness like another St. John the Baptist. All the animals behaved toward him as with Adam before the Fall. Disciples soon gathered around him and St. Kevin was constrained to become the founder and Abbot of the famous Glendalough Monastery. He died at the great old age of 120 in 618 and went to his Lord.
ST. COLUMBA OF IONA

June 9 (†597)

St. Columba (or Columcille) is one of the greatest of all the saints of Ireland. Born into an exceedingly prominent noble family, the Ui-Niall clan, he forsook his wealth and all earthly privileges and laid his ample natural gifts at the feet of the Lord, becoming a monk at a young age. He studied under some of the holiest men of his day, including Saints Finian of Clonard (December 12, †549) and Mobhi of Glasnevin (October 12, †545). After St. Mobhi's death, St.Columba went on to found the monasteries of Derry and Durrow. He traveled as a missionary throughout his beloved Ireland for almost 20 years. In 565 he settled on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, where he remained for 32 years and brought about the conversion of many. He reposed on Iona in great holiness on June 9, 597.
ST. COWEY OF PORTAFERRY, ABBOT OF MOVILLE

November __ (†8th c.)

St. Cowey is a little-known monastic saint who lived near the tip of the Ards Peninsula in the late 7th and early 8th centuries. For many years he labored there as a hermit, sending up his prayers to God during his long nightly vigils in the depths of the forest. Three holy wells are still to be found where he labored, as well as an ancient church built amidst them, which looks eastward over the Irish Sea. Beside the church, an ancient cemetery completes the view that greets the pilgrim's eye. St. Cowey's holiness attracted many to his quiet, little hermitage. Tradition holds that he was made abbot of the great Moville Monastery further north on the peninsula in 731, possibly shortly before he reposed around the middle of the 8th century. His memory has been kept and treasured by the local inhabitants of the nearby town of Portaferry for over twelve hundred years.
ST. SUIBHNE OF DAL-ARAIDHE

(† late 7th century)

Both the early Church of Syria and the early Church of Ireland were famous for their extraordinary ascetics—men and women who were so affected by the touch of Divinity that they fled from all that might interfere with their struggle, even renouncing their reason. Syria gave the Church the stylites, and also the "grazers": severe ascetics who lived almost like animals, having no dwellings and eating whatever vegetation grew in their vicinity. The Irish manifested a similar form of sanctity in the geilt, who were a cross between fools-for-Christ and the Syrian grazers. The most famous of all the geilt was St. Suibhne of Dal-Araidhe, formerly a violent Irish chieftain whose murdeous ways brought the curse of God upon him. In his profound repentance, he took upon himself the extreme ascetic way of life of the geilt, living in the open-air wilderness. Before St. Suibhne died he gave a life confession to his spiritual father, St. Moling (†722). St. Moling preserved this account in the form of a long poem. This poem has come down to us today, having been only slightly altered over the years (in very obvious places). It is not only very beautiful poetry but also a spiritually instructive autobiographical document. The Saint foresaw that since he had previously lived by the sword, he would die by violent means. He was murdered at the end of the 7th century in St. Moling's monastery and buried nearby.

Commemorated today: Uncovering of the Relics of Saint Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov:


The glorification of St Seraphim of Sarov (January 2), took place in 1903, seventy years after his repose. On July 3, 1903 Metropolitan Anthony of St Petersburg, assisted by Bishop Nazarius of Nizhni-Novgorod and Bishop Innocent of Tambov, transferred the saint's relics from their original burial place to the church of Sts Zosimus and Sabbatius. Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra provided a new cypress coffin to receive the relics. This cypress coffin was then placed inside an oak coffin and remained in the church until the day of the saint's glorification.

At noon on July 16, the first day of the festivities, Metropolitan Anthony offered a Memorial Service for the ever-memorable Hieromonk Seraphim in the Dormition Cathedral. Services also took place in the monastery's other churches.

The next day Metropolitan Anthony and Bishop Nazarius served a Memorial Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral. At 5:00 that afternoon, the bells of Sarov began to ring, announcing the arrival of Tsar Nicholas and his family. Metropolitan Anthony greeted them and then led them to the Dormition Cathedral for a Service of Thanksgiving.

The royal family attended the early Liturgy on July 18th and received the Holy Mysteries. Later that morning, the final Memorial Service for the repose of Hieromonk Seraphim's soul was offered in the Cathedral. These would be the last prayers offered for him as a departed servant of God. From that time forward, prayers would be addressed to him as a saint. At 6 P.M. the bells rang for Vigil, the first service with hymns honoring St Seraphim, and during which his relics would be exposed for public veneration.

At the time of the Litia during Vespers, the saint's coffin was carried from the church of Sts Zosimus and Sabbatius and into the Dormition Cathedral. Several people were healed of various illnesses during this procession. During Matins, as "Praise ye the Name of the Lord" was sung, the coffin was opened. After the Gospel, Metropolitan Anthony and the other hierarchs kissed the holy relics. They were followed by the royal family, the officiating clergy, and all the people in the cathedral.

On July 19, the saint's birthday, the late Liturgy began at 8 o'clock. At the Little Entrance, twelve Archimandrites lifted the coffin from the middle of the church, carried it around the altar, then placed it into a special shrine. The long awaited event was accompanied by numerous miraculous healings of the sick, who had gathered at Sarov in large numbers. More than 200,000 people came to Sarov from all across Russia.

The festivities at Sarov came to an end with the dedication of the first two churches to St Seraphim. The first church to be consecrated was over his monastic cell in Sarov. The second church was consecrated on July 22 at the Diveyevo convent.

In 1991, St Seraphim's relics were rediscovered after being hidden in a Soviet anti-religious museum for seventy years. Widely esteemed in his lifetime, St Seraphim is one of the most beloved saints of the Orthodox Church.

The above is from the web site of the Orthodox Church in America.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins

This from the LA Times(!)...
Out-of-the-mainstream beliefs about gay marriage and supposedly sexist doctrines are gutting old-line faiths.
By Charlotte Allen
CHARLOTTE ALLEN is Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."

July 9, 2006

The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."

Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.)
Read the rest here...

I'm Back

Well it was a rough week. Lots of damage back home. And I found out two members of my family have serious medical problems. But it was good to get away for a bit. Now back to business.