Friday, April 28, 2017

Queen to dress down for State Opening of Parliament

The Queen will undertake a dressed-down State Opening of Parliament for the first time in more than 40 years, as ceremonial plans suffer major disruption because of the general election.

The Queen will not wear her Imperial State Crown or robes for this year’s State Opening, with the annual service of the Order of the Garter also cancelled for the first time since 1984.

The changes to the Royal schedule, announced by Buckingham Palace today, will see the State Opening of Parliament take place on June 19, with the Order of the Garter service previously in the diary for the same day now cancelled.
 
Some observers were quick to note that the timing would allow the Queen to attend Royal Ascot, which runs from June 20th to 24th.

Sources said the 19th was the first suitable date after the election, with a quick turnaround of 11 days agreed to maintain continuity.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Portland rose parade canceled after ‘antifascists’ threaten GOP marchers

For 10 years, the 82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association has kicked off the city of Portland’s annual Rose Festival with a family-friendly parade meant to attract crowds to its diverse neighborhood.

Set to march in the parade’s 67th spot this year was the Multnomah County Republican Party, a fact that so outraged two self-described antifascist groups in the deep blue Oregon city that they pledged to protest and disrupt the April 29 event.

Then came an anonymous and ominous email, according to parade organizers, that instructed them to cancel the GOP group’s registration — or else.

“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” the anonymous email said, referring to the violent riots that hit Portland after the 2016 presidential election, reported the Oregonian. “This is nonnegotiable.”

The email said that 200 people would “rush into the parade” and “drag and push” those marching with the Republican Party.

“We will not give one inch to groups who espouse hatred toward LGBT, immigrants, people of color or others,” it said.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In case you haven't read a good old fashioned anti-Orthodox screed lately... (updated)

One of the biggest complaints against Pulpit & Pen we get consistently is that we somehow don’t “have all our facts,” or are “misrepresenting” someone or something. I received countless emails claiming that I “misrepresented” Greek Orthodoxy in my recent posts regarding Hank Hanegraaff and that I should do more research. Well, what better way to research than to go straight to the source in person? Saturday, April 15, known as Holy Saturday in the Orthodox tradition, I along with a couple of friends went to visit St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC–the church that Hanegraaff was recently chrismated in. The service began at 11:30 pm, and was still going strong showing no signs of slowing down when we decided to leave at around 2:00 am. While we hoped to have the opportunity to confront Hanegraaff in person, being that we all had to get up early the next morning to worship the living God on Easter morning, we decided to call it a night early. However, there are quite a few things that we can take away from this experience in this church.
1.) I have sat through many Catholic masses. I was married in a Catholic church, and I can definitely say I’ve “been there done that.” But I’ve never sat through anything so long and tedious as the Greek Orthodox mass. Perhaps being a special Saturday night “resurrection service,” this wasn’t the norm, but it was excruciatingly long. 2 1/2 hours in and no sign of slowing down.
2.) The cliche, “bells and smells” is actually a true reality. The burning of incense and ringing of bells was a noxious combination. It reminded me of being in a college dorm smoking weed and blowing the smoke through toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer sheets.
3.) The liturgy was vain and repetitious. Literally, the same ritualistic prayers and chanting were sung over and over. Every prayer included an invocation of Mary and the Saints.
4.) While there was actually quite a bit of Scripture reading, there was absolutely no teaching. In fact, the vast majority of Scripture reading was sung in the eerie Byzantine chant. You’d really have to pay attention and try to listen really hard to even understand what they were reading or reciting.

Read the rest here if you must.

It's been a really long time since I have read such ignorant tripe. I don't know what denomination this man affiliates with but if their idea of "Christian behavior" is going to another church for their Easter service for the purpose of trashing it and "confronting" one of its new members, you may color me unimpressed. 

Update: And now there is this "apology" from JD Hall.  Be sure to put down your coffee before reading this.

HT: Bill Tighe

Friday, April 21, 2017

Damian Thompson: Francis will retire- but only after appointing enough liberal cardinals

Allies of Pope Francis are saying that he’s planning to follow the example of Benedict XVI and retire. But he’ll only do so once he’s appointed enough liberal cardinals to make sure that the next conclave doesn’t elected a conservative who will interpret Catholic doctrine more strictly than he does.

This, at least, is what allies of the Pope have been telling colleagues – claiming that they’ve heard it from the pontiff himself. (Francis himself is a notorious chatterbox and so are some of the cardinals close to him.)

The Pope, now 80, apparently wants to hold three more consistories at which he will bestow the red hat on bishops who share his vision of reform (whatever that may be: the details are still sketchy, four years in).

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Met. Seraphim of Piraeus calls on Turkish President to abandon false religion of Islam and convert to Christianity

The staunchly traditional and outspoken Greek hierarch Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has written an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in which, among other things, he calls upon him to turn from the false religion of Islam and accept “Christ the Savior and Redeemer of the world,” even advising him who to take as his godfather, reports AgionOros.ru.

Beginning with an analysis of the crisis situation in the Middle East, the metropolitan writes that good relations between Turkey and Russia are “very important,” and stresses that they are what allows Turkish authorities to speak equally with the US and the European Union.

The prelate goes on to express his confidence that in the case of Turkey’s failed attempt to join the EU, the president has already for many years been preparing “Plan B”—the recreation of the bygone glory of the Ottoman Empire.

“Every state would like to have a political leader who respects and confesses the religion of the majority of its people,” Met. Seraphim stressed, calling Erdoğan the destroyer of Kemal Atatürk’s secularized Turkey, and the restorer of Islam in Turkey.

However, the choice of Islam as a consolidating factor is, in the Greek bishop’s view, of course a mistake.

The metropolitan then goes on to offer in his letter a number of historical and theological examples demonstrating the “fallacy of the Islamic religion,” arguing that “it is based on a number of illusions.”

As a conclusion to the many-paged religious and theological study, the hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Church calls upon the Turkish president to denounce his “demagogic false religion,” and “for the sake of true benefit to [him]self and [his] family and [his] people… to repent, reject [his] delusions, and believe in the God-Man Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.” He advises him to undergo catechism and accept Orthodox Baptism, further advising him to “ask [his] current ally, the president of Russia Vladimir Putin to become [his] godfather, and the Patriarch of Constantinople himself to celebrate the Mystery.”

Source.

Christ is risen!

Wishing all a blessed feast!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If the Titanic Sank Today




For the record...

Noted evangelical Hank Hanegraaf, aka "the Bible answers man," along with his wife and two of his twelve(!) children were received into the Church on Palm Sunday. Predictably the blogosphere has lit up with commentary on this event. And also predictably, much of that commentary has ranged from highly critical to scathing.

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
-Mark 13:13

Many years!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Turkish President Erdoğan to read Muslim prayers in Agia Sophia on Great and Holy Friday

President Erdoğan of Turkey has announced that he will read Muslim prayers in Agia Sophia in Constantinople on April 14, Holy Friday, one of the holiest days of the year for the Christian faith—a move that has provoked the Greek and broader Orthodox world. 

Furthermore, he has claimed that Kemal Ataturk’s order to transform Agia Sophia from a mosque into a museum is a fake, reports AgionOros.ru

The Agia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom) church is one of the greatest and most important churches for Orthodox Christians, serving as the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople from the time of its construction in 537 by Emperor St. Justinian, until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Under the Ottomans it was converted into a mosque until 1931, being secularized and opened as a museum on February 1, 1935. The church is considered the apex of Byzantine architecture, and is home to many of the most famous mosaics in Christendom. 

Erdoğan is not the first to claim that the order to turn the building into a museum is a fake. Turkish historian and author Mustafa Armaga has also claimed that Ataturk’s signature under the act is a forgery, claiming the mosque became a museum due to “American machinations,” with American diplomats putting pressure on Turkish authorities. 

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold Muslim prayer on Friday, the eve of April 16, in Agia Sophia, together with all the government and leading officials,” stated a source within the Turkish government. The source also told Turkish media that the prayers “will be a performance against the Crusades,” and a symbolic act of transforming the museum back into a mosque...

Source

An unbelievable and obviously calculated provocation.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

100 Years Ago- The United States Declared War on the German Empire

One hundred years ago today, Congress voted to enter what was then the largest and bloodiest war in history. Four days earlier, President Woodrow Wilson had sought to unite a sharply divided populace with a stirring claim that the nation “is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.” The war lasted only another year and a half, but in that time, an astounding 117,000 American soldiers were killed and 202,000 wounded.

Still, most Americans know little about why the United States fought in World War I, or why it mattered. The “Great War” that tore apart Europe and the Middle East and took the lives of over 17 million people worldwide lacks the high drama and moral gravity of the Civil War and World War II, in which the very survival of the nation seemed at stake.

World War I is less easy to explain. America intervened nearly three years after it began, and the “doughboys,” as our troops were called, engaged in serious combat for only a few months. More Americans in uniform died away from the battlefield — thousands from the Spanish flu — than with weapons in hand. After victory was achieved, Wilson’s audacious hope of making a peace that would advance democracy and national self-determination blew up in his face when the Senate refused to ratify the treaty he had signed at the Palace of Versailles.

But attention should be paid. America’s decision to join the Allies was a turning point in world history. It altered the fortunes of the war and the course of the 20th century — and not necessarily for the better. Its entry most likely foreclosed the possibility of a negotiated peace among belligerent powers that were exhausted from years mired in trench warfare.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

For the SSPX Bishop Williamson is like a bad cold that you just can't get rid of

A British Catholic priest who has been excommunicated twice by different popes is allegedly harbouring clergy accused of sexual abuse in his renegade religious order.

Richard Williamson, who was illicitly ordained as a bishop in 1988 by an ultra-conservative group, the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), and later convicted of Holocaust denial by a German court, is now head of the “SSPX Resistance”, based in Broadstairs, Kent.

Two Catholic SSPX priests who have been accused of sexual abuse have found a refuge in Williamson’s breakaway movement, according to an investigative documentary to be aired on Swedish television on Wednesday.

The Golden Jail, made by Ali Fegan, a Swedish journalist whose interview with Williamson about his Holocaust denial was broadcast in 2009, claims that the SSPX protected priests and failed to report claims of abuse to the police or civil authorities. Internal canonical trials of two men – one French, one English – were allegedly conducted with Vatican approval.

The English priest, referred to as Father S, left the SSPX before the conclusion of the trial to join the SSPX Resistance in 2014, going to live in Broadstairs. He declined to speak to the documentary team.

The French priest, Father P, was found guilty and banned from working with children. He joined the SSPX Resistance, and was filmed celebrating mass at a church in Bordeaux last November. He also refused to discuss allegations against him with the TV journalists.

Williamson’s movement, also known as Respice Stellam, describes itself as “a group of traditional Catholics who wish to practise their faith without compromise to liberalism or modernism”. It says reforms over recent decades have “contributed and are still contributing to the destruction of the church, to the ruin of the priesthood, to the abolition of the sacrifice of the mass and of the sacraments, to the disappearance of religious life.”

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Former Queen's Chaplain Gavin Ashenden quits 'liberal' Church of England

A former Queen's chaplain has quit as a Church of England priest after a long-running objection to what he saw as the liberalising trend of the CofE.

Canon Gavin Ashenden made the unusual move of resigning his orders on Friday, Christian Today can reveal, leaving more than 35 years of ordained ministry.
 
Gavin Ashenden used to present the BBC's weekly Faith and Ethics radio programme and was a member of general synod for 20 years.
 
An ardent conservative on both sexuality and women priests, Rev Ashenden confirmed to Christian Today he had signed the 'deed of relinquishment' under the Clerical Disabilities Act 1870. This starts a six-month interim period before he officially leaves the Church.

He declined to comment on the move until his six-month waiting time is up.

It comes after the long-standing critic of the Church left his post as Queen's chaplain in January following a row over a Quran reading in Glasgow Cathedral. The Shropshire-based priest criticised the decision by Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, for inviting a reading from the Islamic holy book at the Epiphany service on January 6.

Read the rest here.

Monday, April 03, 2017

With the Queen about to turn 91 Britain quietly prepares for the inevitable

She is venerated around the world. She has outlasted 12 US presidents. She stands for stability and order. But her kingdom is in turmoil, and her subjects are in denial that her reign will ever end. That’s why the palace has a plan.

Read the rest here.

I think this is a generally good article that mostly (for a left leaning paper) deals with a sensitive topic reasonably well. But I do disagree with one point. The author characterizes The Queen's reign as a period of decline for Britain. I think that is inaccurate unless one is focused solely on the loss of the Empire. I don't view that as a negative. The Empire was hugely expensive and a great burden to the people of Britain. The modern day British Commonwealth is a vast improvement. Also the author completely ignores the dramatic improvement in the standard of living for most Brits over the last 65 years. When she took the throne the UK was still recovering from World War II and there were staggering gaps in income and standards of living. Rationing was still in effect for some items into the middle 50's. Housing for the lower classes was dreadful. And the country was effectively bankrupt. All of that has changed and the UK is the 2nd largest economy in Europe with one of the highest standards of living in the developed world. The Empire may be gone but Britain enjoys good relations with most of her former colonies and at least 15 still recognize The Queen as their head of state. So, I think the author got that part wrong. But otherwise it's a good read.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Hello Angry Losers



Don't you just hate people who won't say what they are thinking? Yeah, he's an atheist. But he is right far more often than not on other subjects.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fifty Athonite cells cease commemoration of Ecumenical Patriarch

According to the Greek site vimaorthodoxias.gr, more than fifty Athonite monastic kalyves and cells have ceased commemoration of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, as reported by a monk of one of these cells. 

These small monastic dwellings have taken this step in response to the “ecumenical course” of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, especially following last June’s “Great and Holy Council” which gathered representatives of ten of the fifteen autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches, producing documents that several Synods, hierarchs, clergy, theologians, and monastics have taken issue with.

As previously reported, prominent theologian Archpriest Theodore Zisis announced on the Sunday of Orthodoxy that he was ceasing commemoration of his local hierarch of Thessaloniki, as had another priest, Fr. Nicholas Manolis. The same day, four Crete priests made the same move, although one has since resumed commemoration. Bishop Longin (Zhara) of Banchensk of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has taken a similar stand, as have a host of clergy of the Moldovan Church and of the Romanian Orthodox Church

Those who have ceased commemoration have not sought to join another or form their own synod, but rather have decided to practice a “walling off” as a form of protest, without committing the grave sin of schism. These hierarchs, monasteries, and fathers appeal to Canon 15 of the First-Second Council held in Constantinople in 861, presided over by St. Photios the Great, which states that if a bishop clearly preaches a heresy previously condemned by either a council or the holy fathers, priests are allowed to cease commemorating him in the Liturgy, and are to face no canonical penalties. 

Objections following Crete have mainly been focused on the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church With the Rest of the Christian World,” which many feel gives, at best, an imprecise understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one and only true Church of Christ, or at best, contradicts this self-understanding. 

Met. Athanasios of Limassol, who did not sign the controversial text, wrote after the council: 

I maintain that giving the title “Church” to heretical or schismatic communities is entirely incorrect from a theological, dogmatic and canonical perspective because the Church of Christ is one, as also stated in Article 1, and we cannot refer to a heretical or schismatic community or group outside the Orthodox Church as “Church”… I humbly maintain that texts of such importance and prestige as those of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church must be very carefully formulated with theological and canonical precision in order that these ambiguities or untested theological terms do not also give rise to incorrect expressions which could lead to misconceptions and distortions of the correct attitude of the Orthodox Church.
 
Cells and kalyves on Mt. Athos are smaller monastic dwellings that are dependencies of the ruling monasteries. It is also reported that two of these twenty ruling monasteries on Mt. Athos are also considering ceasing commemoration of the patriarch. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Venezuela is now a leftwing dictatorship

Not that there was much doubt about where things were heading, but it's pretty much official now. The so called Supreme Court (stacked with leftists loyal to Dear Leader Maduro) has declared the national legislature "illegitimate" and announced that it will now make all laws for the country or it will pass the legislative power to another entity. Three guesses who that would be. Things have gotten so bad that even Venezuela's neighbors are openly calling Maduro a dictator amidst talk of expelling the country from the Organization of American States.

Mike Pence doesn’t dine alone with other women...

...and people are flipping out.

Bill introduced into Ukrainian parliament to significantly restrict abortion

People’s Deputy of Ukraine Dimitry Golubov has introduced a bill proposing to ban abortions except in cases where the mother’s health is at risk or the conception was a result of rape into the Verkhovna Rada, reports strana.ua

Bill No. 6239 on amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine regarding restrictions on the artificial interruption of pregnancy (abortion) was registered in the Ukrainian Parliament on Monday, with the text being released on the Rada’s website on Wednesday, March 27.

The legislator has proposed to eliminate the Ukrainian civil code provision that allows for abortions by desire up to the twelfth week of pregnancy. The new proposal would allow abortions only in certain legal circumstances, up to the twenty-second week of pregnancy. 

If the proposed bill is passed, abortions may be carried out by health facilities if the pregnancy poses a direct threat to the life of the mother, if there is evidence of a serious abnormality in the child, or if the conception occurred due to rape. The bill’s author is a member of the parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and Justice. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Are we entering a golden age of the conspiracy theory?

“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phoney, fake. A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people …”

Donald Trump’s assault on “terrible, dishonest” journalists (“the lowest form of life”) has become one of the hallmarks of his fledgling administration. But as many have noted, this posturing echoes developments closer to home. It was Michael Gove, of course, who claimed during the Brexit campaign that “people in this country have had enough of experts”.
 
Scott Pruitt, the new chief of the US Environmental Protection Agency, certainly seems comfortable dismissing scientific consensus: “I believe that measuring, with precision, human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

From a certain perspective, this is knockabout political theatre. And a little scepticism is prudent, for sure. Blithely accepting whatever we’re told is clearly unwise. Information can be unreliable; cover-ups do occur. But if we dismiss everything we hear in the media, if we assume that scientists and scholars are untrustworthy, we leave ourselves vulnerable to manipulation, misinformation, and rumour. This makes us wonder: are we entering a golden age of the conspiracy theory?

Read the rest here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Russian Church to continue adding Western saints to its calendar

At its March 9 session, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to add St. Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland, St. Alban the Protomartyr of Britain, St. Genevieve of Paris, and twelve other Western saints from the first millennium, before the West departed into heresy, to its official calendar.

As Interfax-Religion reports, the Russian Orthodox Church intends to continue adding such revered Western Church figures to its calendar for annual celebration. Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk stated on the “Church and the World” television program that “This process is not completed. It has only started.”

According to the bishop, St. Patrick and the others were added to the calendar at the request of Russian dioceses in the diaspora which have already been venerating such saints. “There are other Western saints whom I hope will also soon be included in the calendar of our Church,” His Eminence stated.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Some Notable Anniversaries

Pope Constantine became Pope on this date in AD 708. He was among the last of the so called "Byzantine Popes" and would be the last to visit the imperial capital Constantinople until Paul VI.

In 1917, only days following the abdication of the Czar Martyr Nicholas II, the Georgian Orthodox Church unilaterally proclaimed the restoration of its autocephaly.

The great French Roman Catholic Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre reposed on this date in 1991. Whatever else one may say of him, the traditional Roman Rite of the Mass is alive today almost entirely due to his defiance of the modernists in Rome. Memory eternal.

A Tough Team

A local ball team from Indiana circa 1908

On consideration, I think I'd just let them win. I have a bad feeling about their idea of picking off base runners.View the photo full size here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pope Francis to proclaim Fatima visionaries saints during Portugal trip

ROME - Two of the visionaries of the Marian apparitions of Fatima - young shepherds Jacinta and Francisco Marto - will be canonized by Pope Francis when he visits the Portuguese shrine in May.

The Vatican announced the pontiff approved the miracle attributed to their intercession on Thursday, the final step necessary before they could be made saints.
Francis had already been scheduled to be in Fatima for a two-day trip from May 12-13.

Italian media reports say he will canonize them at the Mass already scheduled for May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the 100th anniversary of the date when the two children - along with their cousin Lúcia Santos - said the Virgin Mary first appeared to them.

Read the rest here.

Poll: Majority of Russians against revival of monarchy (1 in 3 support)

Two-thirds of Russians oppose the revival of Russian monarchy, believing that its historical time has passed, according to recent research from the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion. At the same time, 28% of Russians are not against reviving monarchy in their country, but say they don’t see a worthy candidate at this time, reports Interfax-Religion.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (82%) believe the current republican form of government is more suitable. Smaller towns and villages approved of the current form slightly more, at 84-86%. In specifically choosing between monarchy and a republic, only 11% inclined towards monarchy.

Were the monarchy to be restored, respondents favored looking to public figures and politicians to fill the role (13%), rather than to a Romanov descendant (6%). 70% say that the revival of the monarchy in Russia at this time would be impossible and incorrect.

According to the poll, among those who oppose the autocracy, most are supporters of the Communist party (74%) and elderly Russians (70%). Electorates of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia are more in favor of the monarchy (36%), and younger, 45-59 year-olds (31%).

The poll was conducted March 9-10, with 1,600 people in 138 locations in 46 regions and republics responding. The margin of error is 3.4%.

Discussion about the possibility of reviving the Russian monarchy has started up again after a March TV broadcast in which the head of Crimea Sergei Aksenov said, “We do not need democracy in this form, as it is presented in the Western media… We have our traditional Orthodox values… In my view, today, Russian needs monarchy.”

Source.

So, on the 100th anniversary of the Revolution somewhere near 1 in 3 Russians want the monarchy back. Times are a changin.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Of possible interest

There are several posts now up at Orthodox Ethos, mainly dealing with the recent controversies in Greece over the Creten Event, that may be of interest to readers. Do take a look.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

St. John of Damascus on the Veneration of the Cross

The word “Cross” is foolishness to those that perish, but to us who are saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:23). For he that is spiritual judges all things, but the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit. For it is foolishness to those who do not receive in faith and who do not consider God's goodness and omnipotence, but search out divine things with human and natural reasonings. For all the things that are of God are above nature and reason and conception. For should any one consider how and for what purpose God brought all things out of nothing and into being, and aim at arriving at that by natural reasonings, he fails to comprehend it. For knowledge of this kind belongs to spirits and demons. But if any one, under the guidance of faith, should consider the divine goodness and omnipotence and truth and wisdom and justice, he will find all things smooth and even, and the way straight. But without faith it is impossible to be saved (Hebrews 11:6). For it is by faith that all things, both human and spiritual, are sustained. For without faith neither does the farmer cut his furrow, nor does the merchant commit his life to the raging waves of the sea on a small piece of wood, nor are marriages contracted nor any other step in life taken. By faith we consider that all things were brought out of nothing into being by God's power. And we direct all things, both divine and human, by faith. Further, faith is assent free from all meddlesome inquisitiveness. 

Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvelous: but the most marvelous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death Romans 6:3, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27 Further, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Lo! The death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God's might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God's power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained. 

This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. This is the shield and weapon against, and trophy over, the devil. This is the seal that the destroyer may not touch you (Exodus 12:23), as says the Scripture. This is the resurrection of those lying in death, the support of the standing, the staff of the weak, the rod of the flock, the safe conduct of the earnest, the perfection of those that press forwards, the salvation of soul and body, the aversion of all things evil, the patron of all things good, the taking away of sin, the plant of resurrection, the tree of eternal life. 

So, then, this same truly precious and august tree, on which Christ has offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sakes, is to be worshipped as sanctified by contact with His holy body and blood; likewise the nails, the spear, the clothes, His sacred tabernacles which are the manger, the cave, Golgotha, which brings salvation, the tomb which gives life, Sion, the chief stronghold of the churches and the like, are to be worshipped. In the words of David, the father of God, We shall go into His tabernacles, we shall worship at the place where His feet stood. And that it is the Cross that is meant is made clear by what follows, Arise, O Lord, into Your Rest. For the resurrection comes after the Cross. For if of those things which we love, house and couch and garment, are to be longed after, how much the rather should we long after that which belonged to God, our Savior, by means of which we are in truth saved. 

Moreover we worship even the image of the precious and life-giving Cross, although made of another tree, not honoring the tree (God forbid) but the image as a symbol of Christ. For He said to His disciples, admonishing them, Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven Matthew 24:30, meaning the Cross. And so also the angel of the resurrection said to the woman, You seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified (Mark 16:6). And the Apostle said, We preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). For there are many Christs and many Jesuses, but One crucified. He does not say speared but crucified. It behooves us, then, to worship the sign of Christ. For wherever the sign may be, there also will He be. But it does not behoove us to worship the material of which the image of the Cross is composed, even though it be gold or precious stones, after it is destroyed, if that should happen. Everything, therefore, that is dedicated to God we worship, conferring the adoration on Him. 

The tree of life which was planted by God in Paradise pre-figured this precious Cross. For since death was by a tree, it was fitting that life and resurrection should be bestowed by a tree. Jacob, when He worshipped the top of Joseph's staff, was the first to image the Cross, and when he blessed his sons with crossed hands (Hebrews 11:21) he made most clearly the sign of the cross. Likewise also did Moses' rod, when it smote the sea in the figure of the cross and saved Israel, while it overwhelmed Pharaoh in the depths; likewise also the hands stretched out crosswise and routing Amalek; and the bitter water made sweet by a tree, and the rock rent and pouring forth streams of water (Numbers 20), and the rod that meant for Aaron the dignity of the high priesthood (Exodus 4): and the serpent lifted in triumph on a tree as though it were dead, the tree bringing salvation to those who in faith saw their enemy dead, just as Christ was nailed to the tree in the flesh of sin which yet knew no sin. The mighty Moses cried, You will see your life hanging on the tree before your eyes, and Isaiah likewise, I have spread out my hands all the day unto a faithless and rebellious people (Isaiah 65:2). But may we who worship this obtain a part in Christ the crucified. Amen. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Tragic Anniversary


Saint/Czar Nicholas II abdicated 100 years ago today setting in motion events leading to a century of brutal repression by Communists both in Russia and around the globe. In some places such as North Korea and Cuba, that repression continues today. Untold millions (some global estimates put the number at near 100 million when including China) were murdered for a variety of reasons, and in some cases for no reason at all. The number of New Martyrs will never be known with any exactness but in Russia alone it is almost certainly in the millions.

Disturbing News from Greece

Fr. Theodore Zisis, of whom I am a huge fan, has ceased to commemorate his bishop over disputes revolving around the Creten Event.

Update: More detailed report from Pravoslavie...

On March 5, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, well-known theologian Archpriest Theodore Zisis announced from the ambo of his church that he was ceasing commemoration of Metropolitan Athimos of Thessaloniki, reports Credo.ru.

After years of involvement in the ecumenical movement, since the 1980s Fr. Theodore has become one of Greece’s strongest and most-trusted outspoken critics of ecumenism. Most recently he has been a vocal critic of the June 2016 Pan-Orthodox Synod on Crete, both before and after its convocation. Critics of the council have mainly focused on the text “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World,” arguing that when the Church is coming together to give voice to its dogmatic self-understanding, it cannot use the term “church” in reference to any other confessions, but must strictly speak of the one Church confessed by the Nicene Creed.

In November, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called upon Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens to defend the documents produced at the Crete Council and to quell criticism of them, warning that he would break communion with those individuals who vocally criticized the council, after which Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki instructed Fr. Theodore to cease expressing any criticisms of the council.

After a time of prayer and discernment, Fr. Theodore has decided that his conscience will not allow him to be silent about what he sees as a danger to the Church, and thus he has responded by ceasing commemoration of his ruling bishop, stating, that the metropolitan has shown “bareheaded” his alignment with the heresy of ecumenism through his acceptance of the Crete Council and his push for a Church-wide acceptance of it at the Holy Synod meeting of November 23-26, 2016.

In using the term “bareheaded” Fr. Theodore alluded to Canon 15 of the First-Second Council, held in Constantinople in 861 and attended by 318 holy fathers, including St. Photios, the Patriarch of Constantinople, which allows for a priest to cease commemorating a bishop who is “preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church.” The canon notes that this “walling off” is not an act of schism, but is indeed praiseworthy, done in defense of holy Orthodoxy.

Fr. Theodore also stated that the Crete Council cannot be justified as it was neither holy, nor a synod, nor representative of the mind of the fullness of the Church. Then directly citing Canon 15, Fr. Theodore announced that on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, when the Church proclaims its triumph over all soul-destroying heresies, he would cease commemoration of his bishop, as he is unable to commemorate all the great saints who have battled against heresy, while commemorating a bishop he believes has fallen into heresy.

His announcement was met with cheers and applause from the congregation.

Both Fr. Theodore and another Thessaloniki priest, Fr. Nicholas Manolis, who has also ceased commemoration, have been summoned to a spiritual court and face the possibility of being defrocked from the holy priesthood. In his announcement, Fr. Theodore asked Metropolitan Anthimos to defer to Canon 15 of the First-Second Council and to allow Fr. Theodore to continue his work.

Note that among critics of the Crete Council there is disagreement over how to proceed. In January, Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos), one of the most respected bishops and theologians in the Church today, who has offered several weighty critiques of the council, urged others not to cease commemoration of their hierarchs.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Foul Weather

In my hometown of Binghamton NY they were told to brace for between 8-14 inches of snow between last night and tomorrow morning. My sources inform me that they are currently at about 30" and it's still coming down at 2-4 inches per hour.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Igumen Nektary (Morozov): What Makes a Priest Rejoice at Confession


(Speaking of the great champion of Roman Catholic orthodoxy Fr. Z, see the previous thread, confession is one of his favorite subjects.)

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…

Source.

Fr. Z on the Synodikon of Orthodoxy and the Great Anathemas

For the Orthodox, Sunday 5 March was the Sunday of Orthodoxy.   They had solemn proclamations of “ANATHEMA” against heretics.   It is very festive.  I envy them conviction and this solemn ceremony.  We Latins really should have something like this.

Here is looong video from Holy Trinity Monastery, Ekaterinburg in Russia, yesterday.  Yes, this is 2017, not 1054. Click around in it if you can’t watch/listen to the whole thing. It is grand...

Read the rest here. The comment thread is also quite interesting.  And yes the video of the service is really very good.

Divine Liturgy for the Second Sunday of Great Lent (St. Gregory Palamas)



In Church Slavonic

Friday, March 10, 2017

St. Patrick of Ireland and other Western saints officially added to Russian Orthodox Church calendar

St. Patrick, the great enlightener of Ireland, will be officially celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church for the first time this year on March 17/30. At its March 9 session, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox, under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, officially adopted St. Patrick and more than fifteen other pre-schism Western saints into its calendar, according to the report published on the patriarchate’s official site.
The decision was taken after hearing a report from His Eminence Metropolitan Clement of Kaluga and Borovsk, chairman of the commission for the compilation of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Menaion, or calendar of saints, with the proposal to include several ancient saints who labored in western lands before the Great Schism of 1054.

The commission, created on September 18, 2014 by the blessing of His Holiness, had been working on compiling a list of western saints guided by the following criteria: their unblemished confession of the Orthodox faith; the circumstances in which their glorification took place; the absence of their names from polemical works against the Eastern Church and rite; and their present veneration in foreign dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Local Churches.

Also considered were the “Complete Menaion of the East” by Archbishop Sergius (Spassky), the report of St. John Maximovitch to the Holy Synod of the Russian Church Abroad in 1952, the articles of the Orthodox Encyclopedia and the Snaxarion compiled by Hiermonk Macarius of the Athonite monastery of Simenopetra.
The Western saints added into the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church are:

Hieromartyr Pothinus, bishop of Lyons, and those with him (June 2/15; c. 177)
Martyrs Blandina and Ponticus of Lyons (June 2/15; c. 177)
Martyr Epipodius of Lyons (April 22/May 5; c. 177)
Martyr Alexander of Lyons (April 24/May 7; c. 177)
Hieromartyr Saturninus, first bishop of Toulouse (November 29/December 12; c. 257)
Martyr Victor of Marseilles (July 21/August 3; c. 290)
St. Alban, protomartyr of Britain (June 22/July 5; c. 304)
St. Honoratus, archbishop of Arles and founder of Lerins Monastery (January 16/29; 429)
St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre (July 31/August 13; 448)
St. Vincent of Lerins (May 24/June 6; c. 450)
St. Patrick, bishop of Armagh, and enlightener of Ireland (March 17/30; 451)
St. Lupus the Confessor, bishop of Troyes (Gaul) (July 29/August 11; 479)
St. Genevieve of Paris (January 3/16; 512)
St. Germanus, bishop of Paris (May 28/June 10; 576)
St. Procopius, abbot of Sazava in Bohemia (September 16/29; 1053)

Also approved and recommended for Church-wide liturgical use was the texts of the service to the Synaxis of Saints of Diveevo, the service to St. Hilarion of Optina, and the troparion and kontakion to St. Adrian of Ondrusov.

Source.

USDA Threatens To Shut Down Farm For Conservative Article In Break Room

Maybe it’s just nostalgia talking, but the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals used to be so much simpler.

For hundreds of years, the meat-packing industry bore the responsibility for transforming Bessie the Cow into carnivores’ favorite source of protein, and more recently the Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture ensured that the finished product was “safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.”

Not so anymore. Due to agency rules issued during the Obama era, FSIS inspectors enjoy expanded duties, including monitoring facilities for any “disrespectful” or “insult[ing]” communication (no, not among the animals). Should they uncover any such communication, inspectors are empowered to take “corrective action,” even if that involves slicing and dicing fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The Fateful Day Don Put an Article in the Break Room

Predictably, unleashing meat inspectors to police the exercise of free speech—with guidelines that provide only vague directional prodding—is the equivalent of releasing a bull in a china shop. At least, it was for Don and Ellen Vander Boon, the owners of West Michigan Beef Company. (To be fair, Mythbusters found that bulls can be surprisingly respectful of grandma’s china. The same cannot be said for the USDA and the First Amendment.)

The USDA threatened to shut down this family-owned company, not because of health concerns, or because short ribs were incorrectly labeled as plate ribs (incidentally, you would not believe the labeling requirements), or because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals infiltrated their ranks in some sort of hostile takeover bid. Rather, the so-called offense consisted of an article Don placed in the breakroom.

The breakroom at West Michigan Beef includes tables that essentially serve as a repository for newspapers, magazines, articles, and other forms of literature that employees or the owners wish to share with those who care to read them. Think of it as a pre-technological Facebook. Importantly, no one is required to read the materials, any more than I am required to flip through a two-year old copy of People while sitting in my dentist’s lobby, or to read my friend’s Facebook post about replacing smoke detector batteries (true story).

In 2015, following the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that purported to redefine marriage for the entire country, various employees shared articles and information related to the decision. Don participated by sharing an article that expressed the traditional Christian view that God designed marriage as a union between a man and a woman and set forth reasons for that position.

When a USDA public health veterinarian, the on-site inspector, saw the article in the breakroom, well, he had a cow. He removed the article and reported it to his USDA supervisor. The pair stampeded into Don’s office and threatened to remove USDA inspectors—effectively shutting down the facility—if Don returned the article to the breakroom, stating the article was offensive and harassing under expanded agency rules.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Trans Rights

Surely a compassionate society must recognize this individual's right to be recognized as a member of whichever species he self identifies with.

Friday, March 03, 2017

156 Years Ago Today


On the eve of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and a civil war that would claim upwards of half a million American lives, Czar Alexander II of Russia issued an imperial decree abolishing slavery (serfdom) with a stroke of a pen.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete for Clean Wednesday


Feds: After wettest winter in at least 20 years drought appears over in California


Hans Kung: End the schism!

...A further pivotal point in the commemoration process will be the main Service of Repentance and Reconciliation that the Council of the Protestant Churches and the Catholic bishops' conference will celebrate together at Hildesheim on March 11, 2017.

We have, however, heard Vatican declarations of intent and suggestions of repentance and reconciliation all too often. We ecumenically committed Christians at long last want to see actions. Unfortunately, the "Common Word" does not mention the deadlock that exists in both church hierarchies on the decisive issues and disregards the fact that in many Protestant and Catholic communities, ecumenism has already been practiced for a long time now. For these communities, mutual recognition of each other's ministries and Eucharistic hospitality are no longer a problem. Church leaders lag far behind them. If the leaders do not take the matter of "overcoming the still remaining obstacles" seriously, they alone will have to bear the responsibility for not doing so before God and the faithful.

In the 2017 Jubilee Year, those responsible should consistently put the results of the ecumenical Dialogue Commissions into practice. The Catholic Church should consider the following issues:
  • Martin Luther's rehabilitation,
  • Lifting all the excommunications that were pronounced in the Reformation era,
  • Recognizing Protestant and Anglican ministries,
  • Mutual Eucharistic hospitality.
Innumerable Christians want to see the Protestant side bring these postulates to the attention of the Catholic Church just as clearly and outspokenly — but naturally not without the necessary self-criticism. Merely celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation without really ending the schism means incurring yet more guilt. May the pressure exerted by theologians, grassroots Christians, Christian communities, and many committed men and women help the church leadership in Rome and elsewhere, which is so often hesitant and afraid, not to miss this historic opportunity but to wake up, otherwise yet more people will turn away from the Church and more communities and groups will take the law into their own hands! In today's globalized, secularized world, Christianity will only come across as credible if it presents itself in truly reconciled diversity.

Read the rest here.

The President's Speech

It was a home run. In all likelihood it was, at least rhetorically, the best speech he has delivered. If you look at the evolution of Trump's public speaking from the early days of the campaign to the primaries, then his generally good but not great speech at the convention and most recently his inaugural, I think we can say with some safety that he is getting better. Trump appears to be a quick study. If this also applies to the job he now holds the next four years could be very interesting times.

For lefties who are feeling a bit blue (pun intended) this morning, take a deep breath. Yes, Trump did much better than most expected last night. He looked and sounded presidential. But... he's Donald Trump. And as far as I know he has not given up his twitter account. So just wait a while. He's bound to do or say something that will get people riled up again.

If/when he gives up Twitter, that will be a sign that it just might be time for the left to panic.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vacation


Sorry for the blog blackout. I'm taking a pre-lent vacation and should be back next week. I'd post more but the sun is making it hard to see the screen and the sand is getting into my keyboard. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

For the record...

The Church of England has declined to affirm marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Anyone who has not been asleep for the last decade or so will find nothing surprising in this. The CofE and the Anglican Communion are lost. More disturbing are the increasing number of Catholics, including some bishops, who are making noises suggesting their agreement with this apostasy.

That is extremely alarming.

All in the family

It appears the North Korea's left wing dictator does not believe in family first. Having already dispatched his uncle (executed by antiaircraft canon) it now appears that he has successfully assassinated his older half brother. Kim Jong Nam was murdered at an airport in Kuala Lumpur under circumstances that sound like the opening scene of a James Bond movie. Since the late Mr. Kim was under the tacit protection of China it remains to be seen what, if any effect this will have on relations between China and its out of control client state.

The latest from the Telegraph.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

RIP... well maybe not

Have you ever rolled your eyes at some sappy obit or eulogy for someone you knew well enough to think privately that s/he was really an SOB and good riddance? Well apparently a family in Texas has decided to be brutally honest in their final remembrance of Leslie Ray Charping.

Lord have mercy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Reopening the question of women priests

La Civilta Cattolica has published an essay by its deputy editor, Father Giancarlo Pani, which seeks to reopen the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. This journal, published by the Jesuits but vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State, has long been a means of communicating lines of thought which reigning popes consider important. Therefore, the kindest way to describe this particular article is “peculiar”. It is, in fact, peculiar in at least three serious ways: politically, administratively, and theologically.

When I say “politically peculiar”, I am applying the idea of political correctness to the Church. The question here is what sort of “political atmosphere” prevails in the Vatican under Pope Francis. What viewpoints do the subtle clues of the powerful indicate are open for discussion, and what viewpoints are discouraged to the point of exiling those who articulate them? We already know, for example, that it is considered very good form to lament the “rigidity” of all who choose to emphasize that adherence to Catholic doctrine and moral teaching is required of us by Jesus Christ.

This consideration of the “political atmosphere” is relevant to La Civilta Cattolica because of its unique status. Since its establishment in Rome in 1850, the journal has served as a kind of unofficial voice of the Holy See. It is the only periodical in the world for which each issue is examined and revised as needed by Vatican personnel, and each issue must be approved prior to publication. At the very least, then, the current understanding within the Vatican is that challenging established Catholic teaching is not frowned upon. Such challenges are not the kind of thing that gets a writer into trouble.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Jack Bogle: Putting Clients Second

THE Trump administration recently announced that it intends to review, and presumably overturn, the Obama-era fiduciary duty rule that is scheduled to take effect in April. The administration’s case was articulated by Gary Cohn, the new director of the National Economic Council.

Mr. Cohn, most recently the president of Goldman Sachs, called it “a bad rule” and likened it to “putting only healthy food on the menu, because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger.” Comparing healthy and unhealthy food to healthy and unhealthy investments is an interesting analogy.

The now-endangered fiduciary rule is based on a simple — and seemingly unarguable — principle: that in giving advice to clients with retirement funds, stockbrokers, registered investment advisers and insurance agents must act in the best interests of their clients. Honestly, it seems counterproductive to go to war against such a fundamental principle. It simply doesn’t seem like a good business practice for Wall Street to tell its client-investors, “We put your interests second, after our firm’s, but it’s close.”

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Trump's Supreme Court pick and why he is a done deal

Gorsuch is an outstanding choice. Obviously the other side is apoplectic, and not entirely without reason. When they accuse the GOP of "stealing the seat," well they are right. To which the GOP seems to be responding 'yeah we stole it fair and square, get over it.'

On a more practical note, barring some hitherto undetected scandal coming to light, Gorsuch is in. As in he will be confirmed.

The Democrats are livid but there really is nothing they can do. To be sure they will foam at the mouth and there will be heated speeches on the Senate floor. The committee hearings will be a spectacle. But ultimately Gorsuch is in because the GOP has 52 seats in the Senate and the filibuster is as dead as Jacob Marley. It was killed by Harry Reid when he decided the filibuster was standing in the way of Obama packing the US Federal District and Circuit Courts.

Reid and his fellow Democrats saw an opportunity to reshape the legal landscape which had been decidedly conservative since the 1980's. In fairness the vacancies were there and Obama was within his rights to nominate the judges. Seeing what was at stake the GOP did its best to block this and Reid finally said enough and killed the filibuster.

It was a calculated risk of course, but in the short term it paid off huge. For the first time since the 1970's a solid majority, roughly 2/3, of Federal judges below the Supreme Court are Democratic appointees and they clearly lean left.

Ah, I can hear the objection already... "But but the Democrats left the filibuster in place for Supreme Court Justices!" Well yes they did. There were no open seats at the time on the SCOTUS and if that should change they could easily repeat the process to include Supreme Court nominees. Point in fact, right up to election day, prominent Democrats were openly warning Republicans not to even think about trying to block President Clinton's anticipated SCOTUS nominee or the presumptive Democratic Senate majority would do away with the last vestiges of the filibuster.

So yeah, the filibuster is dead. It may live on in some theoretical form on paper, but like a brain dead man on those machines that keeps the body breathing, it's really dead. The simple truth is that once the Democrats killed the filibuster for political gain they set a precedent. And this particular bell cannot be unrung. If the Democrats try to filibuster Gorsuch, I do not doubt for one minute that the GOP will simply finish what Harry Reid started.

Pope accuses Christians of cowardice for overfocus on following ‘all’ 10 Commandments

February 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In another in a long stream of apparent attacks on his critics, Pope Francis gave a homily last week accusing Christians who avoid taking risks out of concern for the Ten Commandments as suffering from “cowardliness,” warning that such people become “paralyzed” and unable to “go forward.”

“‘Not taking risks, please, no... prudence...Obeying all the commandments, all of them...,'” the pope said, characterizing the thinking of such Christians. “Yes, it’s true, but this paralyzes you too, it makes you forget so many graces received, it takes away memory, it takes away hope, because it doesn’t allow you to go forward.”

Such people become “confined souls” who suffer from the sin of “cowardice,” the pope added. “And the presen[ce] of a Christian, of such a Christian, is like when one goes along the street and an unexpected rain comes, and the garment is not so good and the fabric shrinks...Confined souls...This is cowardliness: this is the sin against memory, courage, patience, and hope.”

Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The latest on the Knights of Malta scandal

Pope Francis Declares All of Festing’s Recent Acts ‘Null and Void’

Pope Francis has declared that all actions taken by the head of the Order of Malta and its governing council since the dismissal of Albrecht von Boeselager last month are “null and void,” including the election of Boeselager’s replacement.

Writing on the Pope’s behalf to members of the Order’s governing council Jan. 25, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin stated that the Holy Father, “on the basis of evidence that has emerged from information he has gathered, has determined that all actions taken by the Grand Master after December 6, 2016, are null and void.”

He added: “The same is true for those of the Sovereign Council, such as the election of the Grand Chancellor ad interim.” The Council elected Fra’ John Critien as Boeselager's temporary replacement.

Cardinal Parolin began his letter by re-emphasizing that the Grand Commander, Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, is now in charge of the Order, adding that “in the renewal process which is seen as necessary,” the Pope would “appoint his personal Delegate with powers that he will define in the act of appointing him.”

Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing submitted his resignation Jan. 24, according to a Jan. 25 Vatican statement. The Vatican added in the communiqué that the next day “the Holy Father accepted his resignation.”

The Vatican also said the governance of the sovereign Order would henceforth be undertaken “ad interim by the Grand Commander pending the appointment of the Papal Delegate”.

The Pope summoned Fra’ Festing to the Vatican on Jan. 24 on the strict instruction not to let anyone know about the audience — a modus operandi that has been used frequently during this pontificate, the Register has learned. During the meeting, Francis asked Fra’ Festing to resign immediately, to which the Grand Master agreed. The Pope then ordered him to write his resignation letter on the spot, according to informed sources.

The Register has also learned that the Pope told Fra’ Festing that the reason for asking for his resignation was the Pope's conviction that he has to do a new, “complete investigation” of the Order, and that such an investigation would be “more easily conducted” if the Grand Master resigned.

The Register has been told that the Pope then had Fra’ Festing include in his letter of resignation that the Grand Master had asked for Boeselager's dismissal “under the influence” of Cardinal Raymond Burke, the patron of the Order. However, as patron the cardinal has no governance in the Order and can only counsel the Grand Master, meaning the decision to dismiss the Grand Chancellor belonged solely to the Grand Master.

Asked if it could confirm this version of events surrounding Fra’ Festing's meeting with the Pope, the Vatican told the Register Jan. 26 it gives “no comment on private conversations.”

Read the rest here.

More on the Knights of Malta: Is Freemasonry invoved?

Things are starting to get a little... weird.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pope seizes power from the Knights of Malta, brutally ending 900 years of their sovereignty

Damien Thompson writes...

The Knights of Malta – an ancient Catholic order that dates back to the crusades – have enjoyed the privileges of a sovereign state for 900 years. Last night the Order of Malta was effectively stripped of its sovereignty in what appears to be a brutal power-grab by the Vatican.

Pope Francis has demanded and received the resignation of the Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, a devoutly orthodox Englishman of (even his critics agree) unimpeachable orthodoxy and personal morality. The Vatican has now taken charge of the order while the knights search for a grand master acceptable to Francis. Canon lawyer Dr Edward Condon this morning tweeted out the reaction of many Catholics:
In terms of international law, the Holy See just annexed another sovereign entity.
A source close to the order puts it more bluntly: ‘It’s like an invasion. Nine hundred years of sovereignty wiped out overnight.’

Festing’s ‘resignation’ follows a complicated row over the dismissal of the order’s Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, who was accused of permitting the distribution of condoms by the order’s international charitable arm.

Boeselager appealed to his friend, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, who set up an inquiry made up of Boeselager’s allies. Festing and the leadership of the order refused to accept the authority of the inquiry, because – they argued – the Vatican had no temporal authority over a body that is independent under international law.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sources say Trump may have his Supreme Court pick

Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit is rumored to be at the top of President Trump's short list of potential replacements for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. If true, this would be a very solid and encouraging choice based on his track record.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Team Trump: Off to a rough start

Accusing the press of fabricating easily verifiable reports on something as mundane as the size of the crowds at the inauguration is probably not the best way to start your tenure in Sodom on the Potomac. But when the press then calls you on your obviously false statements, and your reply is "we have alternative facts" then all I can say is you need staff with at least one foot firmly planted in the real world. During the campaign Team Trump pretty much was playing to the far right wing of the party and his base was evidently prepared to overlook Trump's deficit in reality based communication. But he is in an altogether different league now and this kind of naked mendacity over something so trivial is going to make him and his staff look like fools.

And seriously, who cares about the size of the crowds? This was a Republican inauguration being held near the middle of one of the most heavily Democratic population centers in the country. He wasn't going to get Obama's crowds because a large percentage of attendees at these things are locals, here blacks and Democrats, but I repeat myself. It's also expensive for out of town people to travel to an inauguration and more than a bit of a hassle with the security bubble. All things considered I thought the crowds were quite respectable.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Theophany in Russia



Our annual video of Russians taking the traditional ice water plunge for Theophany.

Patriarch Ilia of Georgia becomes Godfather to 800 children

The feast of Theophany is one of the twelve great feasts of the Orthodox liturgical year, celebrated with great fervency and pious traditions throughout the Orthodox world. In recent years the ancient Orthodox nation of Georgia has added its own unique celebration.

It first took place on January 19, 2008, and again this year in Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Sameba Cathedral a mass Baptism was celebrated, with Patriarch-Catholicos Ilia II becoming the Godfather of around 800 newly-baptized children, reports Sputnik-Georgia, with a video of the event.
 
“I congratulate all on this sacred feast and may the grace of this bright day come down upon all people. Our whole family is very happy and joyous that our third child has become a Godchild of the patriarch of all Georgia himself and I would like to thank him for it,” said Mariam Lomsadze, the mother of one of the children newly-entered into the Orthodox ranks.

Patriarch Ilia had pledged to baptize the third and later children of parents who have been married in the Church, in a bid to improve the nation’s poor demographic situation. The number of abortions in Georgia was cut in half from 2005 to 2010, with the birth rate rising by 25%. This was the forty-seventh such mass Baptism, the patriarch’s Godchildren now numbering more than 32,000.

Source.

AXIOS!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Divinity Schools: Use Gender-Neutral Language to Refer to God

The divinity schools at Duke and Vanderbilt Universities have instructed their professors to start using more “inclusive” language when referring to God because the masculine pronouns “have served as a cornerstone of the patriarchy.”

For example: This year’s divinity course catalogue at Vanderbilt tells professors to give “consistent attention to the use of inclusive language, especially in relation to the Divine,” because the school “commits continuously and explicitly to include gender as an analyzed category and to mitigate sexism.”

“It is up to the individual professor’s interpretation for their classes and is suggestive rather than mandatory,” the associate dean for academic affairs at Vanderbilt’s divinity school, Melissa Snarr, said in an e-mail to Heat Street.

Now, that may sound fair, but in many cases, it’s really not up to the professor. For example, if we are talking about the Christian God, every single reference to Him in the Bible uses a masculine pronoun . . . which kind of gives you the vibe that Christians have decided that their god is a dude. The fact is, teaching anything else would be giving inaccurate information — which is what makes Duke’s particular guidelines even more absurd.

According to Heat Street, Duke’s particular divinity school is “geared toward people already working in the Methodist church, taking supplemental weekend or summer classes.” Yes, “Methodist,” as in the Christian religion that has already completely, officially, 100 percent decided that their God is a man. And yet, Duke’s guidelines suggest avoiding gender specific pronouns when discussing Him and suggest using “God” and “Godself” instead.

Read the rest here.

Vatican to issue stamp featuring Martin Luther

January 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — If you happen to receive a piece of mail from the Vatican this year, don’t be surprised to see the face of Martin Luther.

The Vatican office charged with issuing stamps, known as the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, confirmed Tuesday to LifeSiteNews that Luther, who broke away from the Catholic Church in a schism 500 years ago, will be celebrated with a postage stamp in 2017. The office is in charge of the annual commission of stamps, coins, and other commemorative medals.

The Vatican regularly issues such memorabilia for special events, including papal trips and holy years. Honoring Luther and the Protestant Reformation is an unlikely choice, trumping other significant events in the Catholic Church such as the 100-year anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima and the 300-year anniversary of our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil.

Major events such as Christmas, Easter, the Holy Year of Mercy, and the World Meeting of Families have also merited a commemorative stamp. In the time before a Papal election, when the seat of Peter is vacant, the Philatelic and Numismatic office issues a “Sede Vacante” stamp.

Usually if individuals are commemorated on stamps they are saints, such as Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, and Pope John XXIII, who most recently were honored with stamps.

While the Vatican has in the past collaborated with other national post offices to create stamps that are not of explicitly religious content, such as Charlie Chaplain or the fall of the Berlin wall, the Luther stamp has an undeniable religious connotation linked with much hostility to the Catholic Church.

In 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses against the Catholic Church and began what thereafter has been known as the Reformation, leading to a schism in the Church. This was followed by the formation of Protestant denominations that later spilled into other countries, fueled by others such as John Calvin and Jan Hus. The confessional war that followed, the “Thirty Years’ War,” with its 10 million deaths was known to be the bloodiest war in Europe until World War I.

Luther, an Augustinian monk, was excommunicated in 1521 by Pope Leo X with the papal bull, Decet Romanum Pontificem. At age 41, he married Katharina von Bora, a run-away Cistercian nun of 26 years.

Pope Francis was criticized in the fall for his trip to Lund, Sweden for a commemoration of the Reformation's 500th anniversary. He held an ecumenical event with Lutherans in the Vatican on October 13 with a statue of Martin Luther displayed. He has also suggested an openness to some Lutherans receiving the Eucharist. A Vatican office under his direction recently referred to Luther as a "witness to the Gospel."

Source.

I checked and it is not April 1st on any calendar I could find.