Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Feast Commemorating the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
More can be read here.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Quote of the day...
"I would take all the money (lump sum) in cash and fly over Calcutta India, or Rio, and dump the cash out the window. I would keep enough to pay for the flights."From the New York Times.
-Bill Boga on what he would do if he won the mega millions lottery ($250 million)
Monday, August 27, 2007
Relics of the Holy Royal Passion Bearers Are Believed Found
Read the rest here.
Hat tip to Fr. Joseph.
Evangelicals swimming the... Bosporous??
Read the rest here.
When Wilbur Ellsworth ministered at First Baptist, a typical Sunday service--held inside the church's immense but unadorned white-walled, burgundy-carpeted sanctuary--went something like this: Wearing a suit and tie, Ellsworth would stand at a pulpit and preach. Aside from occasionally rising in prayer and joining the church choir and orchestra in some traditional Protestant hymns, the congregants would largely refrain from any activity during the one-hour-and-15-minute service--except for once a month, when they would receive communion.
The service Ellsworth now leads at Holy Transfiguration, by contrast, has an entirely different feel. Wearing his priestly vestments and standing inside the church's small sanctuary--which boasts yellow walls covered with hundreds of tiny iconic pictures of saints and Oriental rugs on the floor--Ellsworth conducts much of the service from behind the iconostasis (or icon wall) where he is out of view of the congregation. The congregants stand for most of the two-hour service, constantly prostrating and crossing themselves, and the only music is rhythmic Byzantine chanting. At the end of the service, they file up to the front of the sanctuary--as they do every Sunday--and take communion. It's easy to see how, for someone reared in an evangelical church, the Orthodox Church might seem like something not just from another culture, but another world.
And yet it is precisely that otherworldliness that is part of what is attracting a growing number of evangelicals to the Orthodox Church. Since the late nineteenth century, when fundamentalism emerged as a response to the increasing cosmopolitanism of mainline Protestant denominations, evangelicalism has been an anti-modern movement. But, at the same time, with its belief in the importance of saving lost souls, evangelicalism hasn't been able to completely divorce itself from modern culture--and, in the latter half of the twentieth century, it began to increasingly try to employ or co-opt aspects of the modern world in its efforts to lure "seekers" and others to the faith. As Ellsworth explains, one of the principal attractions of the Orthodox Church for him is its solidity--and lack of interest in integrating modern life. "There is, in the Orthodox Church, an enormous conservatism," he marvels. "There is not going to be a radical change in the worship life of the church next week."... But it wasn't just the foreignness of the Orthodox Church; it was its bigness that appealed to DeRenzo, as well. Indeed, as she continued to talk, it became clear that, as an evangelical, she had felt very small and alone. It was a surprising sentiment to hear from someone about the evangelical movement. After all, ever since the rise of the Moral Majority, American evangelicals have arguably been the most politically powerful religious group in the country. But perhaps the most telling revelation of the Orthodox conversion trend is that this political power has not translated into a sense of spiritual power--or belonging. For these converts, it seems, the Orthodox Church has solved the unbearable lightness of being evangelical. "When I was in [an evangelical church], I was thinking, This is great, I love this,'" DeRenzo said. "But I thought, and I don't mean to be morbid, but eventually some day this pastor is going to die or I'm going to move away, so if this is the only place in the world where the truth is, that's tragic." DeRenzo paused and looked around the sanctuary at the icons and the candles. She went on, "Coming to the Orthodox Church means that I am in communion with that church no matter where I am in the world, that I can go into that church wherever I am and have the same liturgy and celebrate the same way. I'll be in communion with other people. And that is so huge. That hugeness is so exciting."
*The only significant point I took issue with was that the number of Orthodox in America quoted in the article is almost certainly far below the real figure. Most authoritative sources indicate there are a little over 6 million self identified Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada (mostly in the USA). In fairness, it is unlikely that more than half are regular church goers. But even if you cut that number (6+ million) by 2/3 you are still going to wind up with a number roughly twice what was quoted in the article. It is perfectly fair to note that we are not the biggest church in the United States. But we do have respectable numbers (confused somewhat by the unfortunate jurisdictionalism prevalent here).
Friday, August 24, 2007
What's in a name?
Referring to God as Allah will bring Christians and Muslims closer together, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Breda in the Netherlands said last week. Speaking on Dutch television on Aug 13, the Rt Rev Tiny Muskens urged Christians to call God Allah and predicted that within 100 years the name would be used in Dutch churches.Read the rest here.
Orthodox Western Saints
From Interfax via Directions to Orthodoxy
On whining about church
Hat tip to the Young Fogey.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Sharing the cup: Orthodoxy and inter-communion
Originally Posted By: MattMy Reply:
The Orthodox churches are self-governing. It is up to the Antiochian Orthodox Church to decide how, or whether, to apply church cannons. There is not some universal agreed upon way of applying them. Some "Super Orthodox" still follow the prohibition of praying with schismatics and heretics. Wanna know how closely that is followed by the Orthodox churches and believers? Even at St. Tikon's (the "conservative" Orthodox seminary) I believe it is usually the "spirit" of the cannon that is appealed to rather then the "letter". Moreover, it is quite possible that some Antiochians do not believe the Melkites are heretics and schismatics as you seem to suggest. If such is the case then Antiochian actions seem even more justified.
Also, if the Melkites are not Orthodox because they are not in communion with your bishop then what of the old-calendarists? Are they also out of your Orthodox circle? What about seemingly random folks like "Patriarch Photios" (aka Joseph Farrel)? Heck, some Eastern Orthodox now believe the Copts are Orthodox and you haven't been in communion with them for 1500 years. I just don't think your system works.
In any event, I hope I am not coming off to harshly.
All the best
Again I do not dispute your point that there have been instances of inter communion. The question is whether or not it is proper and correct. You correctly point out that each (canonical) Orthodox Church is self governing. And yes that means the Antiochians have very broad rights in determining whom they are in communion with. So let me ask the question. Is the Antiochian Patriarchate in communion with Rome? Have they formally repudiated the Council of Constantinople of 1484? If they have then I missed the memo.
You ask if certain groups are "Orthodox" or not. My answer in most cases is that I leave that up to God and the legitimate hierarchs of The Church to determine. The question I would ask is; are they in communion with me via my bishop? If the answer is yes then there is no problem. If the answer is no than we have a problem which may or may not (there are many reasons for not being in communion) touch on matters intrinsic to The Faith.
You say that each Orthodox Church can decide how or when to apply Church Canons. Thats a very broad statement that I am not able to fully agree with. Yes, there is such a thing as oikonomia which is far better understood and more widely practiced in Orthodoxy than in the Latin Church. But economy is not carte blanche to disregard the immemorial disciplines of The Church. If some in the Antichian Church are communing in the Melkite/Latin Church then the question which needs to be asked is; is this with the blessing of their bishop?
If the answer is yes than I am constrained to express my respectful disagreement with that policy. But beyond that it is indeed up to their Synod to determine if anything improper is going on. If they are doing so without the blessing of their bishop than it is a serious sin which by default places the offending party outside communion with his/her own bishop. While Orthodoxy is not quite as legalistic as some might think neither are we a do it yourself church either.
Finally another question looms. Even if there have been some instances of inter-communion sanctioned (or at least tolerated) by one or two bishops mostly in Lebanon, what are the broader implications? My answer is very few. Even after 1484 there were isolated cases of inter-communion between Orthodox and Latins. But they were "isolated." They were, and I would argue, are today extremely rare.
You refer to the Church Canons prohibiting praying with schismatics and heretics. And you correctly note that few outside of the Old Calendarist sects practice akria (a strict application of the letter of the law as opposed to oikonomia). But as far as I know all of the canonical Orthodox prohibit communion with non-Orthodox. That for us is the litmus test of your relationship to The Church. Are we in communion with one another? Is it possible that there have been aberrations and tolerances or abuses of this canon? It is more than possible. It is certain. But thats not to be seen as restoration of communion. If any Orthodox jurisdiction wishes to restore communion with Rome they are free to do so. But actions can have consequences.
This is where I note my objection to your assertion that each jurisdiction has absolute authority to determine if, when, or in what manner they will obey Church Canons. If a jurisdiction strays too far from what the rest of the Orthodox world is prepared to accept they may find themselves isolated to one degree or another. Orthodoxy (despite some superficial similarities in ecclesiology) is not the Anglican Communion where one jurisdiction can do whatever it wants and the rest just have to lump it. Orthodox jurisdictions have severed communion with one another for far less significant things than permitting open communion. While I will not make concrete predictions I think that any Orthodox jurisdiction that chose to restore communion with Rome before there was a consensus within The Church as a whole that the time was right, would find itself quickly isolated. That isolation would likely (IMO) also extend to communion with the other Orthodox Churches.
This brings us back to my litmus test. Is the church / parish you wish to commune in itself "in communion" with your bishop? If the answer is "no" then do not do it, unless it is your intention to sever communion with him.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Memory Eternal: Brooke Astor
With her passing New York has lost an icon and true class act as also one of the last living links to pre-war society and the very different values it embodied. Today one feels there is little sense of duty or noblesse oblige on the part of the wealthy but rather one of entitlement. Her life after Vincent's death was a testament to the productive use of great wealth. In this respect one can only hope that someone will pick up the torch she so nobly carried for half a century. Mrs. Astor was 105. May her memory be eternal.
Read her New York Times obituary here.
Odds & Ends... (mostly non-Orthodox)
CNA reports that Professor Gregorio Peces-Barba, a leading Spanish socialist and staunch anti-clericalist has written a blistering attack on the Roman Catholic Church. He accuses the Roman Church of working to undermine the sovereignty of the Spanish Parliament and of opposing a progressive (read radical liberal) education program authored in part by Peces-Barba. In his article he compares the Roman Church to the regime in Iran and makes none too thinly veiled threats against the church if they do not accept the radical left agenda being pushed by Spain's socialists.
The Telegraph reports that in the CofE women priests will at least equal male clergy by 2025. This of course presupposes that the CofE will still exist in 2025. Read the story here.
The former Episcopal Bishop of Ft. Worth (TX) Clarence Pope has opined in a recent interview that the Catholic Movement within Anglicanism is now dead. He felt this to be especially true within the Episcopal Church. Given that situation he felt that as a matter of conscience he could no longer remain a member of TEC and that it was time for him to go. He has since entered communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI has begun penning the first draft of his second encyclical letter while on vacation. (When I go on vacation I prefer lying on a beach, which aside from being Orthodox is one reason I will never be Pope.) The new letter seems set to again confound his liberal critics who have been atwitter lately with claims that B-16 has finally run up his true colors with his Motu Proprio and the recent CDF "we are THE CHURCH" memo. According to the London Times (via Rocco Palmo), the new encyclical appears to be focused on social justice issues following in the footsteps of Popes +Paul VI and John +XXIII as also +Leo XIII. He is expected to make a case for a more humane global economy that will protect against discrimination and exploitation of the poor. Additionally he supposedly will specifically condemn the use of various schemes by the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share of taxes such as off shore bank accounts and tax havens.
Again via the Telegraph we learn that of the more than 800 Anglican bishops worldwide invited to next years Lambeth conference only a little over 200 have responded before the deadline. At least 6 archbishops have already sent their regrets and a significant number of others appear to be holding out until it becomes clear if the Americans (The Episcopal Church) will be showing up. If they come it is likely that there will be a mass rejection of invitations from the rest of the world wide Anglican Communion which although divided on many issues is overwhelmingly opposed to the pro-homosexual positions adopted by TEC. It is not beyond possibility that more than half of the bishops would decline to come. Further evidence of the death of Anglicanism.
Apparently inspired by the wonderful success being seen in the Episcopal Church with their abandonment of elemental Christianity, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) took a big step in following TEC's lead. They adopted a resolution calling on bishops to refrain from disciplining homosexual clergy in committed relationships.
Orthodox worship and the language of the people
In reference to worship, the early Church in the East adopted a principle of worship in the language of the people -- not a single sacred language inaccessible to the average person. So there was variety of languages, but basically, one Divine Liturgy. In this the Orthodox Church followed the lead of St. Paul, who in discussing the uttering of incomprehensible "tongues" in worship, declared in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth, "If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:14-15).Read the rest here.
Like two trains traveling in opposite directions on parallel tracks, the Roman Church is returning to its Latin past, with the hope of recapturing a sense of sacred transcendence in its now popularized worship, while the Orthodox Church is in many ways traveling its historic track of worship toward as fuller practice of worship in the language of the people, while through its rich worship practices, allowing contemporary worshipers to sense the holiness, sacredness and other worldliness of the Kingdom of God.
But there is a rub in all this for the Orthodox. Though we use many different languages in our worship, Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Romanian and other traditional languages, for many Orthodox these function just like Latin does for the Roman Catholics. It is the language, precisely because it is not understood, because it is exotic, and because of the lack of understanding, that carries for many people the sense of the holy, and not what actually is said and done in worship! Language becomes a barrier to true worship, that is, worship that invites the Orthodox Christian to say with St. Paul "I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also."
What this seems to point to for the Orthodox is the restoration of the fundamental principle of Orthodox worship, that worship take place in a language understood by the worshippers. However, like the Roman Catholics, but moving in the opposite direction, we have to relearn our tradition, and to do it in a way that accommodates all the faithful Orthodox Christians.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Feeling a draft in the air?
If we are to remain in Iraq then I concur.
The United States all volunteer military was not designed for a prolonged war fought on two fronts (Afghanistan and Iraq), while also remaining in a ready to respond condition in other potential hot spots such as the Korean Peninsula. The all volunteer military has been strained far beyond what was envisioned when it was designed. Barring a swift withdrawal from Iraq it is very unlikely that we can continue to meet operational commitments with the current force structure. And at present I see no reasonable hope for the pacification of Iraq in less than five years. It is very likely that the current surge will be shown to be inadequate although a step in the direction we will need to go in if we remain serious about suppressing the islamo-fascists there.
What we as a nation now need to do is to decide whether or not Iraq is a war worth continuing or not. And part of the answer to that question will have to be based on an honest and realistic assessment of the measures likely necessary to continue the war. I believe those measures include (but are not necessarily limited to)...
1. A surge to about 400-500 thousand men probably for a period of 2-3 years with a very slow draw down to take place over a period of 3-5 years thereafter.
2. Sealing the borders between Iraq and Iran and Syria.
3. A universal ban on private ownership and possession of firearms in Iraq.
4. Martial Law in Iraq and the suspension of Habeas Corpus with large scale detentions of suspect groups and individuals.
6. Introduction of military conscription (the draft) to sustain these operations while maintaining a military force that is a credible deterrent to other would be trouble makers in the world.
6. Adding 2-3 divisions to the regular army to permit this surge and relive pressure from the National Guard and Army Reserve who will need time to rebuild.
7. Substantial tax increases to pay for a war which has thus far been largely financed on the national credit card.
It is time to stop burying our head in the sand and as the younger generation is wont to say, do a "reality check" about the costs of "victory" in Iraq. War is not a game. And it can not be fought on the cheap. It is also time to stop expecting that a military force designed to fight the opening stages of the Third World War against the Evil Empire in Europe (but was never expected to continue for a long time without a draft) can continue a war of occupation on the other side of the world for what will ultimately almost certainly be 10 years or longer on an all volunteer basis. The Army is already strained to the breaking point and the National Guard has been so taxed that a significant chunk of it is no longer combat effective.
I strongly suspect that the very idea of a military draft in support of a war of occupation on the other side of the world would be so unpopular that it will effectively compel the United States to end its involvement in Iraq, at least on a major scale. Whether or not that is a good thing, is debatable. There is a growing sense even within the political right that Iraq has gone beyond the point where it is cost effective to continue. And there is a near universal consensus that it was horribly mismanaged and bungled from the word “go.”
Of course what only the neo-con hawks who got us into this mess, seem to be willing to talk about is the question of what will happen if/after we leave. Which only goes to prove the old adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. This is of course the great weakness in the liberal / neo-isolationist “get out now” theme. Irrespective of whether or not we should have gone there in the first place, we are there now. And just leaving will have very real consequences for the United States, the region and perhaps most urgently for the people that will be left to the not so tender mercies of the new management in Iraq. Those are consequences which the neo-isolationists do not want to discuss.
All of which makes me ponder the mental faculties of those who are running for president. Whoever gets the job next year is going to have to fix this mess. I do not pretend to have all of the answers. And I am deeply conflicted about what to do in Iraq; i.e. stay or pull out. But I am going to go out on a limb and make one prediction. Based on where we were before we went into Iraq and where we are now, history is not going to be kind in its judgment of the presidency of George W. Bush.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Some news from the OCA
1. The Holy Synod discussed, and plans further detailed discussion in October, of the OCA's membership in the National Council of Churches (NCC). This was apparently brought on by a letter from Archbishop +Nathaniel. Unfortunately the details of that letter were not posted. The NCC is of course a very liberal (both politically and theologically) Protestant ecumenical group whose positions are for the most part incompatible with Orthodoxy. The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese withdrew from the NCC recently. Let us pray the OCA follows them out the door.
2. Reading between the lines it appears that the bishops are concerned that Met. +Herman may have been overstepping the bounds of his office. The web version refers in the most general terms to a discussion on the role of the Metropolitan as first among equals. There was talk of conference calls to resolve issues that required input from other bishops.
3. Alaska was briefly discussed. Again no real details on the OCA website. Those interested in what is prompting this can go here.
4. The Holy Synod sent what sounded like proforma congratulations to the Russian Church on its reconciliation with the Church Abroad. Of course what the reunion portends for the future between ROCOR and the OCA remains to be seen. Sadly the two jurisdictions have at times had a very chilly relationship.
Quote of the day...
- Platform of the Ukrainian Communist Party
Hat tip to The Young Fogey
Oh... Friday is President Herbert Hoover's birthday.
Update: As I prepare to retire for the night reports are coming in that Asian financial markets are seeing steep sell offs in Friday morning trading. The Bank of Japan injected one trillion yen (about $8.1 billion) into the system to stabilize interest rates in short term loans between banks. The Nikkei Index (the Tokyo Stock Exchange) is down by just under 500 points or about 2.7% and the Korean Composite Stock Price Index is off by a little over 3%.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
For those who like their debates HOT...
Even so it is worth noting that Orthodoxy has never spoken definitely on the current nature of the Roman Church; thus the opinions expressed on this subject are essentially theologumen pending an authoritative decision. Of course this has in no way impeded the discussion of the "do Rome's sacraments retain grace or not" debate over the years. While I am not planning on joining the fray some of the points being made are bound to be worth reading for those who don't mind mind a little hot sauce on their debates.
For anyone interested in my own views they remain pretty much unchanged from what I wrote here.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
What's wrong with these pictures?
These pictures (originally posted at Rorate Caeli) are from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Poland.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Economics and the Gold Standard
I used to be a huge fan of gold as a store of value to back money. However, over time I have come to the unhappy conclusion that an inflexible currency is a bad idea. It was almost certainly a contributing factor to the severity of the depression in the early 30's when the Hoover Administration refused to take the country off the GS. As the economic crisis gathered steam most people sought something safe to put their money in and gold was an obvious choice. Since money was backed by gold what happened is that people began to sit on their money. Thats not something you want happening in a period of economic trouble.
After the Bank of England took the pound off the GS in 1931 a run on currency occurred in the United States where money was still backed by specie. President Hoover was confronted with a major choice. He either had to take the country off the GS or sharply curtail the supply of money to prevent the out flow of specie. The alternative was to watch our nations gold reserves disappear, and with it our limited supply of money which was being hoarded. Unfortunately he chose to exert pressure on the Federal Reserve to tighten the amount of money in circulation. Interest rates were raised drastically and credit all but disappeared. The result was that what in the summer of 1931 was a serious economic crisis had by the summer of 1932 become a full blown catastrophe of epic proportions.
More than a few people today continue to feel that reviving the GS is a good idea. At least one candidate for president (Ron Paul) is a strong supporter of it. And as I said I was once an enthusiastic believer. But almost no serious economists believe it's a good idea anymore. A short and fairly readable (you won't need a PHD in economics) essay against the Gold Standard can be found here.