Friday, October 28, 2005

On this day, the enemy of Rome shall perish

By 312, the Roman Empire was poised on the brink of civil war. The legacy of Diocletian’s reign – the tetrarchy – had failed. Four men were now fighting to rule the empire. To better their individual chances, Maximinus Daia and Maxentius conspired against Constantine and Licinius.

Anticipating his rivals, Constantine crossed the Alps in 312 and sped his troops toward Rome. As Constantine made ready for battle on the evening of October 27, according to various reports he had a dream, or possibly a vision, where he saw an unusual sign emblazoned in the sky and either saw or heard the words Εν Τουτω Νικα (in this [sign], conquer). The sign incorporated the first two letters of the name of Christ in Greek: chi and rho. He made a new imperial standard, or labarum, and ordered his men to emblazon the same symbol on their shields. This is often rendered in Latin as In Hoc Signo Vinces, sometimes abbreviated as IHS.

Before committing himself to battle, Maxentius consulted the Sibylline books – the entry for October 28 read, “On this day, the enemy of Rome shall perish”. Maxentius declared this was a good omen and prepared to fight, certain that the gods were granting him victory.

Heavily outnumbered, the forces of Constantine charged the imperial army of Maxentius the next day, on October 28 at Saxa Rubra – the “Red Rocks” – some nine miles north of Rome. Maxentius was forced to fight with his back to the Tiber River, where the only possible retreat was over the narrow Milvian Bridge. Constantine's men routed Maxentius’ armies, forcing them to retreat across the Milvian Bridge. Many of the escaping troops were taken prisoner or killed, with Maxentius numbering among the dead.

When Constantine emerged victorious, the path of Western civilisation, and indeed, much of the world, as it had been known was changed forever.

O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine,
who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross
Accepted the call that came straight from Thee,
as it happened to Paul and not from any man
He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care.
Preserve our country in everlasting peace,
through the intercession of the Theotokos,
for Thou art the lover of mankind.

Troparion of Ss Constantine and Helena (8th Tone)

Read more about the Great Sovereign and Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

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- from

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A certain Baptist church’s choice of name

The letter mentioned in the previous post requested that Bethesda Cathedral (a Baptist church) change its name, or at least remove the word “cathedral” since there no bishop has his throne there.

Bethesda Cathedral Wallpaper

There are currently two cathedrals in Singapore (excluding the one mentioned earlier) – St. Andrew’s Cathedral (the most recognised church building in this nation; see right), where Anglican bishop Dr. John Chew has his throne, and the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is the seat of Catholic Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

We in the modern era are confused as to what a cathedral is. When asked, most students thought it referred to any large and important church (regardless of denomination). What exactly is a cathedral? The word cathedral is derived from the Greek καθέδρα – cathedra, which translates as seat and thus refers to the presence of a bishop’s (or archbishop’s) throne. By this very definition alone, the tiny cathedral of St. Luke’s in Hong Kong has a more valid claim to that name than Bethesda Cathedral.

Cathedrals usually serve as the central church of the bishopric (or archbishopric). The seat marks the place set aside in the prominent church of the diocese for the head of that diocese, and is therefore a symbol of authority. Also note that cathedrals may have different levels of dignity:
1. the simple cathedral church of a diocesan bishop
2. the metropolitical church to which the other diocesan cathedral churches of a province are suffragan
3. the primatial church under which are ranged metropolitical churches and their provinces
4. patriarchal churches to which primatial, metropolitical and simple cathedral churches alike owe allegiance

Occasionally, two churches share the distinction of containing the bishop’s cathedra – in which case they are called co-cathedrals. Note that the aforementioned apply only in the Catholic Church.

This term is not used in Orthodoxy. The church of a bishop is known as ‘the great church’, although ‘cathedral’ is commonly used in most English translations.

Gee, I've always wondered why Hagia Sophia is always referred to as "the Great Church of Hagia Sophia"

More often than not, they are particularly imposing structures and the grandest of churches – especially so during the medieval and Renaissance times. Stunning examples of this include:

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), Italy

Notre Dame de Paris, France

Timişoara Cathedral, Romania

I have sent a modified copy of my rant to the clergy of Bethesda Cathedral, requesting that the word ‘cathedral’ be dropped from their name due to erroneous usage. Those who think I am overreacting should consider whether a school has the right to call itself a school if it does not teach or a fishmonger the right to call himself a fishmonger, if he sells clothing instead of fish.

Naming Churches

Inspired by a letter a friend sent in to the local newspaper about a certain Baptist church’s choice of name, I began noticing the names of churches. They may seem similar at first glance, but upon comparison, they’re about as similar as eggs and rocks. More often that not, the name of the church can tell you its theological stand and beliefs. I have selected some churches in Singapore as samples:

Most fundamentalist churches tend to be named after places mentioned in the Bible:
• Bethany Presbyterian Church
• Bethlehem Bible-Presbyterian Church
• Calvary Baptist Church
• Mount Carmel Bible-Presbyterian Church

Either that, or have a Jewish-sounding name:
• Shalom Bible-Presbyterian Church
• Zion Presbyterian Church

Or Greek, if you'd like:
• Agape Presbyterian Church
• Oikos Christian Church

The Assemblies of God has been following suit:
• Shekinah Assembly of God
• Smyrna Assembly of God

Relative newcomers “non-denominational” churches choose names based on the theological virtues:
• Grace Fellowship
• Grace Church
• Hope Church Singapore

Some churches, on the other hand, sound more like business organizations:
• International Baptist Church
• Marine Parade Christian Centre

Typical of Protestant sects, many tend to emphasize on a particular teaching:
• Bread of Life Church
• Foursquare Gospel Church
• Full Gospel Assembly
• Tabernacle of Christ
• Trinity Presbyterian Centre
• True Jesus Church
• The Bible Church
• World Revival Prayer Fellowship

Many others seem to be screaming for attention:
• His Sanctuary
• Pearly Gates Evangelical Free Church
• True Way Presbyterian Church

And some have names that seem to bear no relation to Christ or his teachings:
• Central Christian Church
• City Harvest Church
• New Creation Church

Catholic churches, on the other hand, are typically named after the saints or sacred objects they are consecrated to:
• Church of the Sacred Heart
• Church of St. Francis of Assisi
• Church of St. Mary of the Angels
An exception to this would be the Catholic cathedral in Singapore, which has been consecrated to the Good Shepherd.

Nowadays, it seems churches choose easy to pronounce, memorable names that have positive associations and can be easily shortened to one or two words. Many churches have dropped the once popular “Community” in their name since they want to have a regional appeal rather than to appear focusing only on the surrounding community. So many churches used “Community” in the past in their names that many in the past thought it was the name of a denomination. Modern churches prefer names that are unique and memorable.

What are the words that I see here – appeal, memorable and unique? Are you choosing the name of a boutique or a church?

Monday, October 24, 2005

And the plural is...

One Englishman, a bore; two Englishmen, a club; three Englishmen, an empire.

One Irishman, a drinker; two Irishmen, a fight; three Irishmen, a partition.

One Frenchman, a lover; two Frenchmen, an affair; three Frenchmen, a ménage.

One German, a burgher, two Germans, a beer-parlour; three Germans, an army.

One American, a businessman; two Americans, a market; three Americans, a cartel.

One Italian, a tenor; two Italians, a duet; three Italians, an opera.

One Russian, an anarchist; two Russians, a chess game; three Russians, a revolution.

One Japanese, a gardener; two Japanese, a cult; three Japanese, electronics.

- from Eats, Shites & Leaves by A. Parody

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Styles of Worship?

The ever-adorable and most lovable Natthida (see right) mentioned a few days ago that she believed that no matter what denomination/church one is in, we all worship the same God, albeit in different ways. This was exactly how I felt about the many denominations/churches about three years ago. It didn’t matter whether one was Catholic, Charismatic or Methodist – we were all worshipping the same God.

I abandoned this erroneous thought as I got deeper into Orthodoxy. Why the need to separate in 50,000 different churches if we were worshipping the same God? Surely it cannot be because of culture and/or style of worship?

How can we be worshipping the same God if our very understanding of God is different? Nestorians believe that two persons existed in Christ. The Oriental Orthodox holds the view that Christ only had one nature. Quakers can experience God directly. Mormons think the Trinity is in reality, three separate beings. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even believe in the Trinity. Modern “liberal” Protestants think that God is without gender – neither male nor female.

I shall not ramble on further, but I request my readers to take a look at the pictures below and decide yourselves whether we worship the same God:

Southern Baptists in joint prayer

Worship in the largest megachurch in the world - Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul

Tridentine Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh

Service held in the Crystal Cathedral, built by popular televangelist Robert Schuller in Garden Grove, California

Vigil celebrated in Sioni Cathedral, Tbilisi

Weekend Praise & Worship service in Singapore's largest megachurch, City Harvest

Sunday morning service in First Presbyterian Church

A "Bergmesse" - Mountain Mass

Service held in Conference Center of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City

Mass held in a parish church in Schweinfurt, Germany - what a Messe (Messe is German for Mass)!

Divine Liturgy celebrated in St. Innocent Cathedral, Anchorage

Pop-culture Mass in Austria

Some of the afore-shown churches can no longer distinguish between worship and a concert, or a dance club, or a rave.

Disturbing Fact

The Catholic Church is the world's largest religious body with over 1.1 billion adherents. However, in terms of practicing adherents, there are more Sunni Muslims (who currently number around 1 billion) than there are Catholics.

- from

Sunday, October 16, 2005

5th Annual Orthodox Prayer Service for the United Nations Community

On Tuesday evening, October 11, 2005, the 5th annual Orthodox Prayer Service for the members of the United Nations Community was held at Holy Trinity Greek Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York. Among those attending were the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCH).

SCOBA and SCOOCH hierachs

Among the attending hierachs were Archbishop Khajag Barsamian of the Armenian Church of America [Eastern], Metropolitan Herman of the OCA and Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

The cathedral was filled to capacity

The hierachs with ambassadors and UN representatives

Pictures/text: OCA

Ah, Christian unity!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yesterday's News

All hell broke loose - witness

This is ridiculous. 80 – 100 (Russian sources say 300) Chechen militants have attacked Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria autonomous republic in southern Russia in broad daylight. Dozens of men armed with rocket launchers were said to have involved in the fighting which broke out early on Thursday.

Of all things, a school was caught up in the running gun-battles.

It seems that the “good guys” have triumphed – the situation in the city has “normalised”, so to speak, but the cost is appalling – 61 rebels, 12 police and 12 civilians have died during the assault, and many more are left injured. Putin has given the orders to shoot any armed individual who resisted arrest.

If these trigger-happy Mohammedans are so willing to throw away their lives as well as that of others, I would suggest that we deny them that one wish. Do not execute captured/suspected militants – march them away to some uninhabited part of Siberia. Fence them away and out them under lock and key. I reckon you should have quite a handful by one year. Other nations might want to dump their captured terrorist waste there as well. While you’re at it, you might also want to revoke health benefits and pensions (if they’re retired) to these lazy, ungrateful bastards. Let the Sunnis and Shiites kill each other.

If they don’t go fast enough, FSB could incite them to fight each other from within. They can bomb each other to Muslim paradise. [Solution derived from Edward]

Nalchik is only about 100 km north-west of Beslan, where Islamic militants took hundreds of hostage (mostly children) in 2004. It was a dark time in the history of mankind. I was severely traumatised by that incident. The wounds left by the siege are still raw. To quote Joshua, "targeting civilians is barbaric; targeting children is nothing less than Satanic".

When will the Caucasus ever be free of Islamic tyranny?

Be mindful, O Lord, of thy people in Russia; grant them peaceful times, that they may lead a calm and tranquil life in all godliness and sanctity.

Κύριε, ελέησον
Κύριε, ελέησον
Κύριε, ελέησον

Photos: AP

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Rise of Relative Opposites

I write this post while being in mathematics class. Class lasts seven and a half hours – beginning at 8:30 in the morning and going on until about 4 in the afternoon – you can’t blame me for being bored.

Mathematical concepts have never been easy for me to understand. I do grasp a vague truth every now and then, but somehow the big picture manages to elude me all the time. The “lesson” deals with statistical calculation. Republic Polytechnic doesn’t believe in teaching, but rather on self-directed learning. I was bad enough at mathematics in secondary school even with all the additional classes and tutorials. Try and imagine me now having to figure this all up by myself.

In a nutshell, today’s problem goes something like this -
“What could she do to determine approximately how well she has done in this test, compared to all the other students who have taken the test?”

That made me realise that everything we know is based upon comparison. This is similar to the Taoist concept of relative opposites. Allow me to elaborate:

When the world has the concept of what good is; the concept of evil arises.

When the word has the concept of what beauty is; the concept of ugliness arises.

The concepts of have and have not appear upon comparison.

The concepts of difficult and easy are there only upon comparison.

The difference between long and short is noticed only when comparison is made.

High and low exist only when they are compared.

Two sounds become harmonised only when they are put together.

The order of front and back comes about when they are compared.

So the virtuous and saintly manage worldly affairs without motive and self-interest and teache without using words.

Because the saint abides by selflessness, his good work endures.

All values and concepts are conceived by people, and all value judgements arise upon comparison. The relationship between the opposite objects is always changing whereas the definition of value judgement is ever static.

Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
Ecclesiastes 8:1

Therefore, be calm about the difference beauty and ugliness, have and have not, difficult and easy, long and short, high and low, front and back. It is foolish to think that all these values will last forever.

“See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.
Ecclesiastes 1:10-11

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Nicene Creed

In recent days, I have taken great comfort in the Nicene Creed for some unknown reason. For those who do not remember (or have not heard of) the creed, here it is – without the filioque, of course:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;

And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;

And rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures;

And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;

And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets;

In One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.

I look for the Resurrection of the dead,

And the life of the age to come. Amen.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

On This Day

1554 years ago, at Chalcedon, a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor, the first session of the Council of Chalcedon begins. It would last 25 days until 1st November, 451.

It would later be known as the fourth of the first seven Ecumenical Councils – and therefore recognised as infallible in its dogmatic definitions by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

It repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism (holds that the human nature of Christ was essentially obliterated by the Divine), and set forth the Chalcedonian Creed, which describes the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Me - the idiot who seems to know everything about anything

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Also in the news

Smoking China chimp kicks habit
A female chimpanzee in a Chinese zoo has managed to kick the habit after smoking for 16 years.

Moon’s shadow moves across earth
Millions of people across the globe looked skyward on Monday to catch a glimpse of the Moon eclipsing the Sun.

Russia reburies Tsarist commander
General Anton Denikin, who led forces against the communist army in Russia's civil war has been reburied in Moscow in an act of national reconciliation.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Evangelism - Topic Resumes!

No use putting it off – as of today, Memoirs of a Catechumen resumes the topic of evangelism. Yesterday, during a visit to a shopping mall with Camillus and Patrick, we were stopped by a rather large middle-aged lady who held flyers in her hand. She was not there to advertise for a new brand of hair shampoo, but to warn us of our impending fate. Apparently, she was attempting to convince us (albeit aggressively) to renounce evil and proclaim Christ as our personal saviour. If not for the lack of time, I’m sure Camillus would’ve debated with her there and then. It got me thinking – why are Protestants (especially those of the evangelical “born-again” variety) so adamant on forcing their faith on others?

Chapter Two in Barbara Pappas’ book Are You Saved deals with the “instant salvation” theory that most of the aforementioned hold on to firmly. Personally, I believe that it is this very theory that causes them to act as such. This theory is not new, having been introduced by the author of the Reformation himself, Martin Luther, and having been promoted by various televangelists and renowned pastors in the recent past. I wish to post it online, but due to its length (over three pages long) I will post it in parts coupled with my comments on the particular topic dealt with.

More tomorrow

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I was at Oktoberfest!

No, I was not in Munich – in fact, I didn’t even leave Singapore.

Malcolm took Camillus and I to celebrate the festivities at the only German microbrewery in Singapore - Paulaner Bräuhaus. Located in a unique three-story glass building at Millenia Walk (a stone’s throw away from Suntec City), it offers freshly-brewed on the premises German beer and traditional Bavarian cuisine in a cosy and rustic setting.

Three mugs of Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen and seats by the bar at the second level, we enjoyed a once-a-year only performance by a Bavarian band. They played traditional Oktoberfest and German songs – Viva Colonia, etc as well as modern hits like I Will Survive. I don’t understand why kids would want to visit modern discotheques – I enjoyed this far better than deafening techno/trance hits.

Here’s a photograph of Camillus and I with a charming beer girl – Malcolm says the wider range of German beer girls aren’t slim and/or voluptuous – they are usually older women with large arms strong enough to carry up to eight or more mugs at one time.

Photo taken by Malcolm with cell phone

Saturday, October 01, 2005

O Lord, when will this end?

The religion of peace has done yet another benevolent and charitable act – once again in Bali, Indonesia.

One would have thought that the Indonesian police would be better prepared after the 2002 bombings on the same island. Guess not.