Thursday, August 31, 2006


Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Footballer gets criminal record...

...for making sign of the cross

I thought political correctness in the United States was ridiculous; but this has to take the cake. You'd think law enforcement in Scotland had nothing else better to do.

Crossing oneself is now a "breach of the peace"! What is the world coming to?!

When making the sign of the Cross is a problem, it is in the people who are provoked, not the person who is making the sign.

You can just bet the section of angered section of home support was made up of virulent anti-Catholics - Ian Paisley types.

Should anyone be charged, it is the Procurator Fiscal - for being terminally stupid in charge of public office.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

August 27: Phanourios the Great Martyr

Little is known of the holy martyr Phanourios, except that which is depicted concerning his martyrdom on his holy icon, which was discovered in the year 1500 among the ruins of an ancient church on Rhodes, when the Moslems ruled there. Thus he is called "the Newly Revealed".

The faithful pray to St Phanourios especially to help them recover things that have been lost, and because he has answered their prayers so often, the custom has arisen of baking a Phaneropita ("Phanourios-Cake") as an offering of gratitude.

Readers interested in making their own Phaneropita may find two recipes here.

From a vile captivity, thou didst deliver the Lord's priests,
and, O godly-minded one, didst break their bonds by divine might;
thou didst bravely shame the tyrants' audacious madness,
giving joy unto the Angels, O thou Great Martyr.

O Phanourios most glorious, we all revere thee as a true warrior of God.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The 23rd Channel

The T.V. is my shepherd.
My spiritual growth shall want.

It maketh me to sit down and do nothing for his name’s sake,
because it require all my spare time.

It keepeth me from doing my duty as a Christian,
because it presenteth me so many good shows that I must see.

It restoreth my knowledge of the things of the world,
and keepeth me from the study of God’s word.

It leadeth me in paths of not attending evening worship service,
and doing nothing in the Kingdom of God.

Yea, though I live to be a hundred,
I shall keep on viewing my T.V. as long as it will work,
for it is my closest companion.

Its sound and its picture,
they comfort me.

It presenteth entertainment before me,
and keepeth me from doing important things with my family.

It fills my head with ideas
which differ from those set forth in the word of God.

Surely no good thing will come of my life,
because my T.V. offereth me no good time to do the will of God;
thus I will dwell in the place of the devil and his angels forever.

Author Unknown

Monday, August 21, 2006

Stolen Icon

A major police operation is under way in southern Greece to try to find a team of burglars who stole one of the country's leading religious icons.

- BBC News, 19th July, 20:45 GMT

The icon of the Theotokos at the monastery of Elona in the Peloponnesus has been stolen. The Archdiocese of Greece has not yet made any comment on this matter, but I doubt they will remain silent for long.

So important is this particular icon that the deputy chief of the national police force is leading the inquiry.

Roadblocks have been set up, boats leaving nearby harbours have been searched, and a festival that should have attracted thousands of people has been cancelled so as not to obstruct the police hunt.

We also see in the report yet another sign of the militant secularism in Europe, as the deeply religious villagers are being described as "superstitious" (in conjunction with the word "rural").

Let us pray that this wonderworking icon may be returned to its rightful owners, to the Orthodox faithful of Greece:

O God, our help in time of need, Who are just and merciful, and Who inclines to the supplications of His people. Look down upon us and have mercy on us and deliver us from the trouble that now besets us. Deal with us not according to our iniquities, but according to Your manifold mercies, for we are the works of Your hands, and You know our weaknesses. I pray to you to grant me Your divine helping grace, and endow me with patience and strength to endure my hardships with complete submission to Your Will. Only You know our misery and sufferings, and to You, our only hope and refuge, we flee for relief and comfort, trusting in Your infinite love and compassion, that in due time, when You know best, You will deliver us from this trouble, and turn our distress into comfort. We then shall rejoice in Your mercy, and exalt and praise Your Holy Name, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

St Andrew, pray for us.
St Nicholas, pray for us.
St Phanourios, pray for us.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I concur.

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it?

It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armour, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... you give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should just be friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.

I hate love.

Neil Gaiman

The One God

The following is an excerpt from the sermon His Grace Coptic Bishop Daniel of Sydney delivered during his visit here some two months ago:

The first commandment is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Mark 12:29

Why do we have one God?

Our God is one because if there are two gods, this would mean that one of th two is greater than the other. This would also mean one of the two existed before the other and the one who existed before is greater - as such, the one who existed later will not be god.

Only one god will reign, should two gods exist. The second would not be god, because he must follow the one who leads.

God is omnipresent, there is no need for another.

In the Bible, we read that the one Lord cannot give His glory to another:

When the people of Israel worshipped idols (e.g. the golden calf) - God became angry at them.

When the Egyptians of old worshipped an entire pantheon of gods, God commanded Moses to lead His people of Egypt, that they may worship Him.

Likewise, people who worship idols, animals, plants and even other human beings are not right because they are not gods - they do not possess the power or the might to do everything and to be anywhere at any time.


Contrary to popular fiction, our Lord cannot procreate with a human being. We cannot accept, by all means, the marriage of the divine to the carnal because:

Humans can only procreate with humans. Anything else is not logical, acceptable nor biblical. This is very clear. We see this even in the animal kingdom. Never in the history of mankind, have we seen an elephant mating with a lion - but we certainly have seen the mating between a male elephant and a female elephant. If this is the case with animals, so it is for humans, let alone the one God.

In addition, we have witnessed some people, ordinary people, who were not married - like the great saint, Anthony, and the monastics and hermits. If a man like St Anthony was able to be celibate for God, what more can we say about the one God who created St Anthony?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Book Meme

This book meme has been floating around the blogosphere for quite a while now and it's finally my turn to do it! I was memed by Mimi.

I haven't read books in a while - most of my readings are done on the Internet nowadays. I may just be inspired to pick up a book after doing this meme. Thanks Mimi!

1. One book that changed your life:
After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity, published by Reader's Digest
Had I not come across this book, I might never have discovered Apostolic Christianity and in the process, making many new friends and enjoying wonderful experiences.

2. One book that you've read more than once:
Horrible Histories: Rowdy Revolutions by Terry Deary
There are probably other books I've read more than once, but as of late, I seem to be reading this one over and over again.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:
I can’t possibly imagine that one book I'd choose to take with me to spend eternity on a desert island - I’ll have to go with the easy answer and say the Bible (preferably The Orthodox Study Bible).

4. One book that made you laugh:
The Orthodox Eastern Church by renowned Catholic scholar, Adrian Fortescue
The jurisdictional problems in Orthodoxy highlighted in this highly educational books were simply hilarious - the Cypriot schism of the 1900s due to the rivalry of the two Cyrils, for example.

5. One book that made you cry:
It sounds a little odd, but it was this little book that wrung tears from me -
A Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians (1956), published by the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

6. One book that you wish had been written:
A World Without Protestants - alternate history fiction =P

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
I can only choose one book? I'm going to cheat on this one and state all the books I wish had never been written (in no particular order):
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln
Justine (The Misfortunes of Virtue) & Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man; both books written by the Marquis de Sade

8. One book you're currently reading:
Introducing the Orthodox Church by Anthony M. Coniaris
It's back to the basics for now...

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
The Spiritual Life by St Theophan the Recluse
I received this book from Australia some months ago, but I've only managed to read up till the sixth chapter before giving up. I ought to pick it up and read it soon.

I'm tagging Julia, Edward, Kenny, Royston and Norman.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dormition of the Ever-Virgin Mary

In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.
Apolytikion (First Tone)

To all Christians celebrating today's Feast (especially to those named Mary, Maria, Panagiotis & Despina), to those still persevering in the Dormition Fast, and even to those yet to honour the Mother of God... through her prayers, may God grant good health and many years!

On Dormition & Assumption
Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty.

He asked, "Where is it; where is the body?"

The other Apostles replied, "We are not quite sure, but we think her body has been taken up to heaven along with her soul."

"Really?" Thomas queried.

To that, the Apostle Peter said, "Well, that's the assumption."

Most (Catholics & Orthodox alike) often confuse the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary with the Ascension. The Theotokos was assumed (i.e. taken up) into heaven by God's divine power and grace. She could not and definitely did not ascend into heaven as her Son did. Whether she had an earthly death or was assumed into heaven as Elijah was, the Western Church has chosen to remain silent. Both possibilities are allowed.

In defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus, left the question open:

"...the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

Well, I hope that little post clears up some doubts!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Holy Women

Several young women often lament how hard it is to be religious, given that their precursors - the female saints - are almost always virgins and uh, dead. The know-it-all intellectual in me would immediately take this moment as an opportunity to name a number of sexually active (not all were necessarily married; e.g. St Mary of Egypt, St Photini, etc) female saints who were not martyred. While this may prove helpful to some, I doubt most would actually be inspired by this verbal diarrhoea to make another attempt at the religious life.

Holiness is not a virtue that perished along with monarchy in the last century. Piety is not a characteristic of certain male oddballs and grandmothers. Holy women do exist in this day and age - one need only look to find them. In my experience however, I have learnt that such women cannot be found in all the denominations of Protestantism I had come across. The conservative evangelical sort, all too often caught up in their love of divine election and tribalism, were self-righteous and sometimes, supercilious. The happy-clappy, charismatic type were often excessively and sentimentally religious. It appeared as if their emotions sustained their faith - and remember, there is absolutely no correspondence between one's feelings and one's spiritual state. Call me prejudiced - but note that I do not state fact, only how it all looked to me.

Holy women exist, as I wrote earlier, and they exist in every age and ethnicities. Here a few who have inspired me to live a better life:

I met her some three years ago when I begun attending Orthodox services. Though somewhat aloof, she impressed me with her incredible devotion and piety. During every one of our long services, she never yawned or was distracted. Her piety seemed to have rubbed off on her son as well - he was one of the most well-behaved and quiet young boys I had ever met.

She is perhaps the nicest person I've known. Those of us who know her see her as the very incarnation of kindness and friendliness. Not a single angry word I have heard coming from her - she is always patient and her words wise & pleasant. She is, by far, one of the most spiritually mature person I have ever met - she does not feel enmity toward any of the other Churches (she's Coptic, but doesn't seem to mind us Chalcedonians). She has reached an understanding of Christianity that even the most learned of us young converts is unable to comprehend.

Yet another devout and pious Orthodox lady; her case is rather unique, given that she was quite a different person some years back. She tells me she wasn't always religious - but I find that hard to swallow; looking at her now, you'd think she was always religious. She admonishes me at times, like a caring elder sister would. She is blunt, but knowing how she truly feels about my actions has been rather helpful. She's helped me tide across many difficult times, especially in the wake of my godmother's migration and the postponement of my baptism.

I often wonder how hard it is to be living a Christian life in a place like Tehran. She plans to be baptised at some point, but for now, she is doing a marvellous job of living the good life. She reads the Scripture and prays often; I am confident that her faith is greater than mine.

Sonia & Elizaveta
They'd rather attend the Divine Liturgy than be at Sunday school. 'Nuff said.

Now which mention of holy women in my life would be complete without a reference to my dear godmother? I've known her for about 3 years now - she was caring as a friend and devoted as a mother. A woman of uncompromising morals, she was my guiding light in Orthodoxy during my tenure as catechumen and will continue to be for years to come.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wealth & Religion

Dmitry Orlov, in Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century, writes of the religious differences between the Soviet Union and America - which reminds me why I am more at ease in Orthodoxy, than I could have ever been in fundamentalist Protestantism:

In spite of the architectural ostentation of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the pomp and circumstance of its rituals, its message has always been one of asceticism as the road to salvation. Salvation is for the poor and the humble, because one's rewards are either in this world or the next, not both

This is rather different from Protestantism, the dominant religion in America, which made the dramatic shift to considering wealth as one of God's blessings, ignoring some inconvenient points rather emphatically made by Jesus to the effect that rich people are extremely unlikely to be saved. Conversely, poverty became associated with laziness and vice, robbing poor people of their dignity.

Thus, a Russian is less likely to consider sudden descent into poverty as a fall from God's grace, and economic collapse as God's punishment upon the people, while the religions that dominate America - Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam - all feature temporal success of their followers as a key piece of evidence that God is well-disposed toward them.

What will happen once God's good will toward them is no longer manifest? Chances are, they will become angry and try to find someone other than their own selves to blame, that being one of the central mechanisms of human psychology. We should look forward to unexpectedly wrathful congregations eager to do the work of an unexpectedly wrathful God.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Nancy Ajram Cries For Lebanon

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram has recorded a new patriotic song, "Lebnan Ya Habib El Umor" (Lebanon My Only Love), to express her grief over the horror her dear country is experiencing with endless Israeli raids that are killing so many innocent civilians, and destroying the core of Lebanon, according to the singer.

The song is being aired on several Lebanese radio stations at least once every half hour.

Nancy had the chance to flee Lebanon the night the air raids began, but chose to stay with her family and her people, canceling all scheduled events around the Arab world.

- Al Middle East Information

Readers who wish to hear the song may do so here. Do note that since it was recorded from a radio, the quality isn't very good. Plus, you can hear the DJ's voice every now and then.

As with the blatantly copied header banner, this song is from

Sunday, August 06, 2006

This Week in Brief

Pentecostal Pastor Sunday Adelaja poaches Eastern Christians in Kiev
One can only wonder why the Moscow Patriarch condemns Roman Catholics for proselytising and remains silent on the massive Protestant inroads into traditional Orthodox lands. For crying out loud, it's Kiev - where Rus was baptised!

2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict
Christian Lebanon Bombed
It was the first time Israel struck a major Christian population center to the north of the Lebanese capital. And when the Israelis hit four bridges north of Beirut, in the Christian heartland, any sense that the Christian areas were still safer, is shattered.

Orthodox prelates call for peace in the Middle East
Metropolitan Herman of the OCA: "Knowing that every human life is precious in the sight of God, we are asking our faithful to unite all the more fervently in 'prayer and fasting' (Matthew 17:21), that this present crisis will be resolved quickly, ending its toll of suffering and death."

Israel's imperialist plans
This is a war to annex a major chunk of Lebanese territory without necessarily saying so, under the pretext of security buffer and deterrence against future attacks on Israel.

The Neocon's next war
By secretly providing NSA intelligence to Israel and undermining the hapless Condi Rice, hardliners in the Bush administration are trying to widen the Middle East conflict to Iran and Syria, not stop it.

[via The Western Confucian]

The Galileo Affair

George Sim Johnson have a very good and more indepth overview of the Galileo affair then you normally see even in apologetics circles (published in 2003). We seldom hear the fact that Galileo got more in trouble for his dipping into theology then for proposing heliocentricism. That he was condemned more by the scientists of the day than by the Church. Nor is it ever mentioned that proof of the theory was not seen till centuries after his death and yet he wanted to teach it as more than a hypothesis. There are also a couple interesting facts in the article of items that Galileo contended that turned out not to be true such as that planets orbit in perfect circles and that comets are exhalations of the atmosphere.

The article does not mention the fact that Galileo famous expression of eppure si muove (and yet it moves) has no historic reliability and was later added to the myth of the Galileo affair.

[via The Curt Jester]