Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The Prots are at it again...

Go to church, win a house
The New Paper, Tuesday, 27th December 2005
IF worshippers head to the house of the Lord, they might just land a new house of their own. In a game-show style giveaway, a Texas church plans to award a US$120,000 three-bedroom house to one of its worshippers on New Year’s Eve. Since 2003, Abundant Life Christian Center has given away a car, a motorcycle and furniture. Said pastor Walter Hallam: “It encourages people to attend the service. It helps keep people off the street with all that revelry going on.”

During this coming Saturday’s service, 20 names will be selected at random and placed with 100 others chosen from services throughout the year.

Twelve finalists – symbolizing the 12 Apostles – will be selected.

Each of the finalists will receive a key, which they will try in a door on stage. The person whose key unlocks the door wins the home.

Music, indoor fireworks and balloon drops will also be part of the festivities.

More than 2000 people typically attend the church’s New Year’s Eve service. – AP.

Even more disturbing - from The Byzantine Forum:
Evangelical Christians to develop biblical park in Galilee
By the Associated Press

Israel is offering evangelical Christians a chunk of the Holy Land.
Fourteen hectares (35 acres) of rolling hills and rocky shores of the Sea of Galilee, tucked between key sites in Jesus' ministry, would be leased to an association of evangelists led by American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, Israeli tourism officials say.

The potential deal for turning over biblical lands to develop a tourist destination underlines how ties have strengthened in recent years between Israel and evangelical Christian groups.

For other Christian denominations, which represent tens of thousands of Arabs living in the Holy Land, the deal raises questions about possible threats to the sensitive status quo in the Galilee region where they have owned land for hundreds of years.

"There is no central place today in Israel for the evangelical Christians,” Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson said. “Here they will be able to re-enact what happened.”

There is no place in Israel for the Evangelicals and there never will be. The Evangelical strain of Protestantism began in 18th century America and England with figures such as Jonathan Edwards, Robert Raikes and the Wesley brothers. The Evangelicals have had nothing to do with the Holy Land other than their attempt to forment war between Muslim and Jew in order to bring about Armageddon.

As far as I'm concerned, this is nothing more than a "manifestation of pseudo-Christian Zionism". I believe this a ploy of Israel to weaken the ancient Churches that have been there for over two millenia.

Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord & first bishop of Jerusalem, pray unto God for us!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Today the virgin, gives birth to the incomprehensible One;
and the earth offers a cave to the unapproachable One;
Angels and shepherds glorify Him;
the Wisemen journey with a star;
since for our sakes is born the ETERNAL GOD, as a little Child

Christ is born, glorify him.
Christ is from heaven, go to meet him.
Christ is on earth, be ye lifted up.
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing out with gladness, all ye people.
For he is glorified!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Transcending Secularism

We will not escape the secularization of this feast. We will not change the marketing of goods, the office parties and the exchange of gifts. We will not avoid the need to spend money we may not have, eat too much or party ourselves silly.

But with a little work to understand God's revealed truth, we can transcend and baptise the now secular images to bring us deeper meaning. I offer the following examples of what I mean:

Let every twinkling light on every bush and window remind us that Christ is the Light that brings us from darkness into light. Every light can bring us to him who is Light, just like the star that guided the Magi. Every light can remind us of the Christ child who enlightens us with Divine truth. This is the truth that sets us free. He is our light and our resurrection, the light of truth that will guide us from the manger to the empty tomb. This season of Christ's birth is ultimately the season of salvation.

Let every sale in every department store remind us of how God loves us more than the world can understand. The retailers draw us in with sales so that we will come and shop with them. How much more does Christ draw us close? Christ took on flesh to call us home to Him. He suffered at the hands of his own creation, humiliated and murdered. This is the epitome of love. Every retailer, every jingle, every commercial can remind us of God's own love for us.

Let every seasonal party remind us of the Joy of Salvation. To save us Jesus voluntarily came to take on flesh and suffer in his body. His sacrifice and his gift are reasons to celebrate. When we celebrate, we can remember all that God accomplished for us. We can remember His nature of love and mercy.

Let every Santa on the street collecting money, or posing for photos with children, remind us of the gifts God has given us and the opportunities God gives us to share with others. Think too of the example of St. Nicholas who taught us to fast, share our resources and love God with fervour.

Let every gift we present to one another remind us of the gift of life that Christ is for us. Christ gives us life as we are born anew into Him. Remember also that the Eucharist is life-giving and is given in his name.

Let every snowman, made of ice or styrofoam, remind us of how cold the world can be and how we need the warmth of our Saviour. The world needs your example, your love and your witness in order for it to be warmed by God's love.

Let every ribbon and bow on every package remind us how Christ has put Satan in bonds and freed us to love him and stay with Him. He who was born in a manger is He who could not die and defeated Satan in Hades.

Let every Christmas carol and seasonal song, remind us that we are called to praise God from the depths of our beings. Our soul wants to call out to Him who created us and who comes to us in this feast as a baby. Sing out, and let God hear your voice. Sing out and let others hear your testimony God has taken on flesh and dwelt with us as the prophets foretold. This is a time to sing out!

Find practical ways to use secular images to be less distracted, and to focus more on the real meaning of this Holy Season.

Excerpt from Christ is Born! Glorify Him! by Fr. John Abdalah, Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, December 1998

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Children's Christmas Tree

Visiting Anastasia's blog recently reminded about this photograph (featuring our patron saint and her sisters!):

In this picture, probably taken by Aleksandra (their mother), we see, from left to right, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Olga.

The children had their own tree in the Playroom, while their parents had another downstairs. There were other trees in the palace for the staff and the Ladies-in-Waiting . The children would drag their beds into the Playroom so they could sleep around the tree, which was decorated with ornaments chosen for their sentimental value and beauty. This tree had candles on it, but later electric lights were used.

Photo/text: A Romanov Scrapbook

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas is a time for...

This Christmas season is always a time for personal reflection.

Too often we don't examine our lives. This is a time to take stock and think about what's important.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Our Saviour, God and Man

We confess one and the same individual as perfect God and perfect Man. He is God the Word which was flesh.

For if He was not flesh, why was Mary chosen? And if He is not God, whom does Gabriel call Lord?

If He was not flesh, who was laid in a manger? And if He is not God, whom did the angels who came down from heaven glorify? If He was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if He is not God, in whose honour did the star appear?

If He was not flesh, whom did Simeon hold in his arms? And if He is not God, to whom did Simeon say: Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace?

If He was not flesh, whom did Joseph take when he fled into Egypt? And if He is not God, who fulfilled the prophesy: Out of Egypt have I called my Son?

If He was not flesh, whom did John baptize? And if He is not God, to whom did the Father say: This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased?

If He was not flesh, who hungered in the desert? And if He is not God, unto whom did the angels come and minister?

If He was not flesh, who was invited to the marriage in Cana of Galilee? And if He is not God, who turned the water into wine?

If He was not flesh, who took the loaves in the desert? And if He is not God, who fed the five thousand men and their women and children with five loaves and two fish?

If He was not flesh, who slept in the ship? And if He is not God, who rebuked the waves and the sea?

If He was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee sit at meat? And if He is not God, who forgave the sins of the harlot?

If He was not flesh, who wore a man’s garment? And if He is not God, who healed the woman with an issue of blood when she touched His garment?

If He was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if He is not God, who gave sight to the eyes of the blind man with that clay?

If He was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if He is not God, who commanded him to come forth out of the grave four days after his death?

If He was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest in the garden? And if He is not God, who cast them to the ground with the words: I am He?

If He was not flesh, who was judged before Pilate? And if He is not God, who frightened Pilate’s wife in a dream?

If He was not flesh, whose garments were stripped from Him and parted by the soldiers? And if He is not God, why was the sun darkened upon His crucifixion?

If He was not flesh, who was crucified on the cross? And if He is not God, who shook the foundations of the earth?

If He was not flesh, whose hands and feet were nailed to the cross? And if He is not God, how did it happen that the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened?

If He was not flesh, who hung on the cross between two thieves? And if He is not God, how could He say to the thief: Today thou shalt be with me in paradise?

If He was not flesh, who cried out and gave up the ghost? And if He is not God, whose cry caused the many bodies of the saints which slept to arise?

If He was not flesh, whom did the women see laid in a grave? And if He is not God, about whom did the angels say to them: He has arisen, He is not here?

If He was not flesh, whom did Thomas touch when he put his hands into the prints of the nails? And if He is not God, who entered through the doors that were shut?

If He was not flesh, who ate at the sea of Tiberias? And if He is not God, on whose orders were the nets filled with fishes?

If He was not flesh, whom did the apostles see carried up into heaven? And if He is not God, who ascended to the joyful cries of the angels, and to whom did the Father proclaim: sit at My right hand?

If He is not God and man then, indeed, our salvation is false, and false are the pronouncements of the prophets.

Taken from A Spiritual Psalter, from the works of St Ephraim the Syrian, excerpted by St Theophan the Recluse - via Father Joseph

Images: Coptic Centre UK, Isograph, OCA, TheoLogic

For God so loved the world...

+ B A R T H O L O M E W

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life
John 3:16

Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Children in the Lord,

The human soul feels deeply the need to be loved. The widespread sense that life has no meaning, which plagues in particular our young people, is to be blamed on the absence of love. Our fellow human beings are for the most part trapped within their individual pursuits and seek to fill the emptiness caused by the lack of love with the acquisition of material goods, carnal pleasures and fame. However, the soul is only satisfied with personal recognition and love, and not these other things.

For love exists in the Lord and holds the world together, recognizes everyone by their name and is offered generously. God created the universe through His Logos out of love, so that we all may participate in the joy whose source is this unifying personal love.

However, beginning with the first created human being and ending with today's, humankind, throughout its entire history, has been rejecting the love Creator has offered to them and turned love away from their hearts; instead, they turned to the faceless world and sought unsuccessfully the recognition of their personal existence in the pursuit of superiority and self-absorbing satisfaction; they did not accept the love offered to them nor did they offer it back. As a result, a world of competition, hatred and bloodshed emerged, which we continue to experience as our daily reality.

God's love never diminishes, regardless of our rejection of it; God sent His only begotten Son to the world in human form out of love, not to judge people for having gone astray but to save the world through Him (John 3:17). He was born in a humble manger by the Virgin Mary in order to show that might, fame and material riches, in which humankind has sought joy and salvation, are not the true sources of life and happiness. Christ came to Bethlehem to bring again the message of the unconditional love of God for humankind. God has continued to offer this immense love for the two thousand years since Christ's birth. He came to the world as a weak and innocent infant, filled with love, yet threatened with death by slaughter by Herod. Herod represents a humankind that loathes love even when it is offered through the innocent and peaceful eyes of a child.

Many of today's people, who erroneously think of God as an unyielding judge, rather than as an affectionate Father who awaits the return of His prodigal son with love and forgiveness, have distanced themselves from the Incarnate God Jesus Christ, the Logos and glory of God the Father, and the consubstantial Holy Spirit; they have broken away from the life-giving and loving Holy Trinity, and thus rendered their world secular, deprived of hope in God and genuine love. They turned to substitutions for divine love, and based their hopes on the expansion of their might in the secular world, on the amassing of more wealth, the subjugation of nations, the global expansion of trade, the promulgation of ideas against God. They disregard, even deny, the reality of death, and turn to anything to alleviate the stresses that come from living without love. Some, unable to find deliverance from despair in these pursuits, are driven to reject the greatest gift of God to humankind, life itself.

Nevertheless, beloved children, the love of God is an undeniable reality. Our Lord Jesus Christ waits to be born in the heart of each of us in order to bring to everyone the meaning of life. This means that He has chosen us to enjoy life in mutual love and to experience the fulfillment of our existence in our relationship with Him, the Incarnate God, and with our fellow human beings and all creation. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love" (Eph. 1, 3:4).

Love is the equivalent of the foundation and the roof of a building, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega of creation. The mysteries of the manger and the Birth, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the continuing presence of Christ on earth, in general, point to love. The hymn of the angels that is chanted during the Nativity service, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among men" (Luke 2: 14) is an expression of the admiration angels felt when they realized the inconceivable love of God. Christ tolerated his crucifixion among outlaws not out of weakness, which is a quality unbefitting an omnipotent God; He tolerated it out of His love. All God's actions are filled with love for every single person.

Let us, then, beloved children abandon the course that leads to secularism and let us return to our Father God in repentance; let us return to Jesus Christ who was born as our brother, who came to our world out of love for us who had been deceived and had distanced ourselves from Him. His love for us is a fact. In His presence there is no fear but forgiveness, peace and joy.

May the grace, blessing and abundant mercy of God be with you all during the Nativity season and throughout your lives, unto the ages of ages.

At the Phanar, Christmas 2005
+ Patriarch of Constantinople
your fervent intercessor before God

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Benedict trads would like to see:

"And now, my young apprentice, you will pay the price for your lack of vision..."

- from Hilary

Marriage in Singapore: the Numbers

Failed marriages in...
1984: 2313
2004: 6338

Singapore marriage failure triples

Marriage dissolutions at their second highest in 20 years

Highest divorce rate among people aged 20-24 last year

One of the most common grounds for divorce: unreasonable behaviour

Counsellors and lawyers say couples call it quits for silly reasons

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Message from Maria

Received this SMS text message this morning:

Hi, m flying 2nite 2 Greece, I'll b there 4 a month, my best wishes 4 the holidays 2 u n ur family, Maria.

Considering that I only receive around an average of around 4 SMS text messages a week, this one really brought a smile to my face today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It’s beginning to sound a lot like…

Unlike the great nation across the Pacific Ocean to the east, Singapore is mostly free from the “merry wars of Christmas”. There exists no other festival to compete for Christmas at this time of the year. The Moslem holiday of Eid al-Fitr (known as Hari Raya Puasa locally) and the Hindu festival of Deepavali have long passed. The next major holiday will be the Chinese New Year, but as its name implies, that is quite some time away.

Singapore does have the largest number of Jews in Southeast Asia (over 200), but they remain low-key most of the time. So inconspicuous are they that the vast majority of Singaporeans have no idea that they exist. Their celebration of Hanukkah is a quiet one.

Singapore is also free of secularists who wish to make this festive season as irrelgious as possible by removing all the references to the incarnation of Christ. So why have I lost my enthusiasm for Christmas this year?

Christmas used to be one of my favourite holidays when I was a child. It was a time of celebration, peace and goodwill among men. I grew to love the various symbols of Christmas – the tree, the lights, the nativity scene and even the fat old man who rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. When I was 12, my mother, in her Fundamentalist Christian fervour, threw out the Christmas tree (we had been using an artificial one) along with most of our Christmas decoration as they were “pagan traditions and had no place in a Christian festival”.

Ah, these fundamentalists – if only they knew the date for Christmas originally commemorated the birth of Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun” – one of the gods from the late Roman period.

What killed my enthusiasm for Christmas this year is probably the over-enthusiasm of others. My polytechnic – Republic – is awash with followers of Hope Church Singapore, one of the many non-denominational megachurches that one finds all around the city-state today. Their interpretation of Christmas is so horrendous I don’t even know where to begin.

From their advert for Christmas:
"A Series of X-XtRaOrdInarY Xmas Events": Who killed Santa?? Kopitiam ChrisTmas??? Shi zi Lu ko - Christmas style?? Join Us!

See what I mean?

Christmas is now dominated by money and greed at the expense of the holiday’s more important values, but it has not affected me as much as this warped celebration of a Christian festival. I have to admit, the colourful lights and decorations that now adorn Orchard Road are rather pretty. I would sooner celebrate the nativity of our Lord with the Mohammedans than these people who pervert the name of Christ. Have I given in to the Devil’s wiles by allowing my eagerness for Christmas to die so easily? Perhaps I have. Rather, I should endure all this mockery and proceed to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord with joy.

Christmas is not a secular holiday where people “traditionally” exchange presents and greetings. Christmas – a word derived from “Christ’s Mass” (Old English Cristes mæsse), a service celebrated in the Church of Rome marking the birth of Christ. The true meaning of Christmas is not, as many would claim, the time for giving; a time for peace, love and joy. The true meaning of Christmas is - as it always was - the celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God - He who took on flesh for our salvation.

From the liturgy of St. Basil the Great:
He lived in this world and gave us commandments of salvation; releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He brought us to knowledge of You the true God and Father. ...He gave Himself as a ransom to death, in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending through the cross into hell -- that He might fill all things with Himself -- He loosed the pangs of death. He arose on the third day, having made for all flesh a path to the Resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible for the Author of Life to be a victim of corruption.

This is why Christ was born – to free mankind from the chains of death.

Okay, rant over.

‘tis the season for forehead rug burns
fa la la la la, la la la la
To push away the plate to obtain what our heart yearns
fa la la la la, la la la la
To stare in awe at Christ Who joins our race
fa la la la la, la la la la
So that we like His mother, might one day touch His face
fa la la la la, la la la la

- from Gregory

The Calendar of Consumerism

It’s not even Christmas yet and they’re already playing Chinese New Year music in Chinatown!

- SMS text message received from Edward yesterday morning

Russian Words of Wisdom

Being the Russophile that I am, I was reading up on Russian proverbs earlier today. For those wondering – yes, I am able to read the Cyrillic alphabet, though whether or not I understand what I read is quite a different matter altogether.

The Russian language is replete with hundreds (possibly thousands) of proverbs and sayings, most of which were derived from folktales. I have selected these few to ponder upon:

Дуракам закон не писан
There is no law written for fools

Волков бояться — в лес не ходить
If you are afraid of wolves, do not go into the woods

Когда деньги говорят, тогда правда молчит
When money talks, the truth stays silent

Лбом стенку не расшибёшь
You cannot break a wall with your forehead

Баба с возу — кобыле легче
It is easier for the horse when the woman is off the cart
This one has several meanings – don’t let a woman do a man’s job, good riddance, etc

Всякому овощу своё время
Every vegetable has its time
It’s alright if it’s not looking good right now – everything needs time to be ready

Курица не птица, баба не человек
The hen is not a bird; the woman is not a human being

Раньше церковь да вино – а теперь клуб да кино
Before, we went to churches and bars – now we go to clubs and cinemas

Язык до Киева доведёт
Your tongue can get you to Kiev

Лучше один раз увидеть, чем сто раз услышать
Better to see once than to hear a hundred times

Яйца курицу не учат
Eggs don’t teach hens.

And my personal favourite:
Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей
Do not have a hundred rubles but have a hundred friends (it doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it as it does in Russian however – ne imey sto rubley, a imey sto druzey)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Solitudinem Faciunt, Pacem Appellant

We live at an exciting and demanding time when the vision of the Second Vatican Council is beginning to be realized in the Church

Today also marks forty years since the Second Vatican Council ended – forty ruinous years for the Western Church. The Council was followed by a great disaster after its implementation. Nowhere do the fruits of Vatican II show real growth. How is it that in a couple of decades the Catholic Church has plummeted from the courageous intellectual and spiritual giants of the pre-Vatican II days to the present cartel of bog-standard Modernists?

The answer is surprisingly simple.

…any council called to make drastic change in the Church is beforehand decreed to be void and annulled” – Pope Pius II, Execrabilis

It is shocking enough to realise that errors were possible in the documents of Vatican II. We now ask: are errors there? Does Vatican II contradict the teachings of the Church? Let us see:

On modernity:
"It is not fitting that the Church of God be changed according to the fluctuations of worldly necessity." – Pope Pius VI, Quod Aliquantum, March 10, 1791

"...the Church... can and ought to be enriched by the development of human social life... so that she may... adjust it [the Constitution of the Church] more successfully to our times." – Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #44

"No man can serve two masters, for to please one amounts to contemning the other... It is a high crime indeed to withdraw allegiance from God in order to please men." – Pope Leo XIII, Sappientiæ Christianæ, #6 & 7, Jan. 10, 1890

"Christians cannot yearn for anything more ardently than to serve the men of the modern world." – Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #93

On religious liberty:
"They do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, especially fatal to the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls... namely that liberty of conscience and of worship is a right proper to every man, and should be proclaimed and asserted by law in every correctly established society”– Pope Pius IX, Quanta Cura, #3, Dec. 8, 1864

"The human person has the right to religious freedom... this right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right." – Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, #2

Judge a tree by its fruits (Matthew 7:15 – 20):
Mass attendance has plummeted 66% in France, 54% in Holland, 50% in Italy and 40% in the USA.

Infant baptisms are down 50%, adult conversions 75%, while divorce rates among Catholics, along with birth control, have reached shocking proportions.

Seminaries are being emptied (e.g. seminary enrolment in France declined by 83% from 1963 to 1973).

(Source: New Jersey Catholic News, Summer)

The liturgy in many parishes is today more akin to a teddy bears’ picnic organised by Ronald McDonald than anything one could truly describe as Holy Mass. “Instead of worshipping God Almighty, we now worship God All Matey”, as one commentator put it so subtly.

Converts to the faith are down 70%! Put another way: for every ten people who found conversion to the faith attractive prior to Vatican II, only three do today. But even that is not the end of this miserable story, because many converts these days don't in actual fact become Catholics – i.e. Charismatic Catholics.

Many beautiful and cherished churches have either been closed or turned into ugly, unloved relativist worship spaces.

“...the Church finds herself in a time of uncertainty, of self-criticism, and even self-destruction. It is like an internal upheaval... as if the Church were striking blows to herself” – Pope Paul VI lamented the disastrous results of Vatican II

What have these reforms created? They did not create a renewal of the Catholic Church, that I assure you. This Council was the primary reason why I did not choose to become Catholic shortly after my exodus from fundamentalist Presbyterianism.

Something about Mary

The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is commemorated today in the Roman Church.

The dogma itself was proclaimed as an article of Catholic faith in the 19th century. It has long been an additional point of disagreement between East and West on the theological study of the role of Mary.

In what way is this so and what are the possibilities for overcoming the difficulties here?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Man behind the Legend

Apologies! This came a day late as your faithful blogger totally forgot St. Nicholas's feast day.

The Dutch call him Sinterklaas, which the Americans have morphed into Santa Claus. He was St. Nicholas – 4th century bishop of Myra.

Nicholas was born to relatively affluent parents in Asia Minor during the 3rd century at Patara in the province of Lycia (in modern day Turkey). He later came to Myra to continue his studies, where he was introduced to the local bishop, who took the young Nicholas under his patronage. He was ordained as a priest at an early age.

He received his inheritance when his parents died, but gave it all away in charity. He became renowned for his generosity to the poor and needy. Nicholas is also known for coming to the defence of the falsely accused, often preventing them from being executed, and for his prayers on behalf of sailors and other travellers. Nicholas rose to the position of bishop of Myra during the reign of the emperor Licinius. He was well-loved and respected in his diocese as a result of his charitable activities.

The destruction of a temple of Artemis (known to the Romans as Diana) is attributed to him. As the date of Artemis’s birth falls on December 6th, many have speculated that this date was deliberately chosen to overshadow/replace pagan celebrations.

The most famous of many stories told about him is how he saved three girls from a life of prostitution by tossing dowry money through their windows so they could get married.

There was a certain formerly rich inhabitant of Patara, whom St. Nicholas saved from great sin. The man had three grown daughters, and in desperation he planned to sell their bodies so they would have money for food. The saint, learning of the man's poverty and of his wicked intention, secretly visited him one night and threw a sack of gold through the window. With the money the man arranged an honourable marriage for his daughter. St. Nicholas also provided gold for the other daughters, thereby saving the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, St. Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and to conceal his good deeds.

- from OCA's Life of the Saint

Another (less) well-known story is how, at the First Ecumenical Council, he struck the heretic Arius:

St. Nicholas, fired with zeal for the Lord, assailed the heretic Arius with his words, and also struck him upon the face. For this reason, he was deprived of the emblems of his episcopal rank and placed under guard. But several of the holy Fathers had the same vision, seeing the Lord Himself and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and omophorion. The Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to God, and restored the saint to the office of bishop.

The popular veneration of Nicholas seems to have started relatively early. Emperor Justinian I is reported to have built a church in Nicholas’s honour in Constantinople. Myra was overrun by the Mohammedans during the early reign of Alexius I Comnenus. Taking advantage of the confusion, sailors from Bari, Italy raided and seized the remains of the saint despite the objections of the Greek monks then caring for them. Arriving on 9th May, 1087 to Bari, many people reported seeing myrrh exude from the relics.

A Greek chapel is now in place at Bari for the Orthodox, so nobody is excluded from the veneration of the holy relics. Turkey, most unusually, continues to demand for the return of the relics. In other news, Turkey replaces bronze statue of St. Nicholas with a plastic one of Santa Claus.

Iglesia de San Nicolas Cuenca, Spain

The legend of St. Nicholas crosses all over the world – revered as the patron saint of seamen, merchants, archers, children, prostitutes, pharmacists, lawyers, pawnbrokers, prisoners, Amsterdam and of Russia. In the West, he is the patron of sailors and thieves because his relics were stolen by sailors and transported to Italy. In the East, he is remembered with more reverence and less frivolity for his defence against the Arian heresy.

Images: St. Nicholas Center, OCA

Have you ever wondered why?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are flat?

Why do banks charge a fee for “insufficient funds” when they know there is not enough?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?

If we are here to help others, what are the others doing here?

Why doesn’t glue stick to the bottle?

Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Whose idea was it to put an “s” in the word “lisp”?

Are there special parking spaces for “normal” people at the Special Olympics?

If the temperature is zero and it’s going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it be?

– From The New Paper, 6th December 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Romanian National Day

The approximately 100+ strong Romanian community in Singapore celebrated its national day on Wednesday, 30th November – the actual day falls on the 1st of December. There was a severe error in logistics this year and the embassy failed to send out invitations – my prospective Romanian godmother, Carmen thinks the embassy was trying to cut costs by doing this. We can only speculate at this point.

It was held at the Shangri-La hotel off Orchard Road, and unlike the previous year, they served wine imported from Romania. The taste was, how shall I say, exquisite. I went there expecting that they’d serve finger foods and all, but no, there was so much good food present (especially the “Romanian flavoured meatballs” *snigger*) that I ate till I could eat no more.

Me @ Romanian National Day

Carmen with her lovely daughter

Edward was there too

Beautiful Romanian girls

Eddie enjoying a smoke after a heavy dinner

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Your Roving Reporter Returns!

Apologies for not updating at all during the past week!

I was afflicted with a particular ailment that comes only at certain times of the year – yes, it was the dreaded “last school week before holidays” syndrome. You know the feeling – when something you desire seems so near, and yet at the same time, so far away. During this time, I lost my will to write anything – be it academic or for my own leisure. I’ve been cured since the holidays have finally arrived.

Your roving reporter was investigating the ongoing standoff between the VPP proponents and the non-VPP followers in Life Bible-Presbyterian Church and all the churches affiliated with her. It seems that most parishioners (if such a word could be used on Protestants of this particular strain) are unwilling to comment. Those who commented only did so to be freed from this reporter’s doggedly persistent questioning.

The main point of contention in this conflict is whether or not the King James Bible is the inerrant, infallible and inspired Word of God (in other words, 100% accurate down to every dot and comma). The teaching had its beginning in June 2002, with the FEBC (Far Eastern Bible College) wanting to defend the King James Bible position by publishing a paper in “The Burning Bush”.

They had asked; must we possess a perfectly flawless Bible translation in order to call it the Word of God? If so, how do we know it is perfect? If not, why do some limit the Word of God to only one 17th century English translation? Where was the Word of God prior to 1611?

Indeed, where was the Word of God before 1611? Fundamentalist Protestants all need to be sent for history lessons, for their warped version of history (e.g. read Jack Chick’s The Death Cookie, Lorraine Boettner’s The Roman Catholic Church) begins only after the Deformation – with no recollection of what happened prior to that. Where was the Word of God? The Word of God was with the Church, as it was and always will be. The very Church these so-called Christians have rejected. The very Church they continue to attack till this day. The Church I speak of is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

There were some disagreements between the two main parties involved – Dr Jeffery Khoo and Rev Charles Seet over some amendments proposed by Dr Khoo to the paper. Later, Rev Quek Suan Yew joined in the discussions. The VPP proponents citing Psalms 12:6 – 7 as scriptural support for their stand. As the discussions went on, more disagreements emerged. In the end, Rev Charles Seet and Rev Colin Wong resigned from teaching at FEBC. Subsequently, the book KJV Q & A was printed in the following year.

The nominal leader of Life B-P Church, the aged Rev Timothy Tow has said that only the original manuscripts are inspired by God. Those at the other camp believe otherwise – the King James Bible too was an inspired work of God.


I don’t blame you. I don’t fare any better. Not knowing half the persons involved only adds to the confusion. Life B-P Church has been in Singapore since 1950 – that’s only been a good 55 years. Churches founded after the 16th century Deformation seem to have life-spans shorter than that of an average human being, splitting the moment the church leaders have disagreements about something – be it matters of doctrine, styles of worship, approaches to preaching/proselytizing or whether or not the church floor should be carpeted. The words of many pious Orthodox women ring with more truth than ever – these churches are without the grace of God.

Your reporter does not hold the King James Bible to be inerrant and infallible. As a mere translation – the work of sinful men – it cannot claim to be inerrant. Remember how St. Jerome’s great work, the Vulgate, translated beams of light as horns? Hence, Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses in the Vatican had horns. Every translation has its errors, and so too, does the King James Version.

As mentioned before, Protestantism divides. It does not reconcile.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The End

Despite pleas from many, he was executed by hanging at 6:07 a.m. today.

Requiescat in pace, Nguyen Tuong Vân
(17th August 1980 – 2nd December 2005)

He wrote several letters during his stay in prison, one of which noted, “Amidst these score of painful revelations an unspoken truth was exposed. I found myself in deep sorrow for the true victims; the families of those whom suffer as a result of losing a loved one to drugs. This truth has put many things in perspective for me.