Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New Blogs on the Block

Well, these blogs aren’t exactly new – been around for a few weeks now – but nonetheless “new” compared to this venerable old one. They make interesting reading; and with a heavy heart, I must admit that I’ve found Catholic blogs to be more thought-provoking and fascinating than their Orthodox counterparts. =P

1. Vive Christus Rex!
Radical Catholic Traditionalist

“A furore Normannorum libera nos Domine”
O Lord, save us from the fury of the Norsemen!
9th century English/French prayer
2. St Olaf’s Axe
The Vikings are coming with a vengeance…
Traditional Catholicism with a Nordic theme

3. Filipino Flavour
Traditionalist Catholic blog with Filipino flavour (okay, like it wasn’t obvious enough already)

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Year of the Dog

The Year of the Dog we do now see,
Long life and peace be e'er with thee.
Prosperity and plenty and plenty may'st thou enjoy.
Wherefore we say Gong Hey Fatt Choy!

- from Edward

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The character above is shown upside down. At New Year's it is common to hang "fu" upside down because the word for "upside down" is a homophone for "arrived," the hope being that "fu" will arrive at your door.

- from The Useless Tree

The character 福, of course, means "good fortune," "good luck," "prosperity." A full explanation of the origin of the character may be found here. Yet there is another translation and meaning which makes it appropriate for anyone of the Christian religion - Fu/福 is the standard character used to translate "grace" in Christian texts. The first line of the 'Ave Maria'/'Hail Mary' prayer (and naturally, also Gabriel's greeting) is 萬福馬利亞,主與妳同在 - which literally may be translated as "O ten-thousand fortuned Mary, the Lord is with thee".

So, if the character 福 means 'grace' as well, then perhaps any Christians of Chinese ancestry may think it doubly appropriate to have the character 福 upside-down in their houses, thus giving the meaning 'may grace arrive'.

- from Edward

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Today we celebrate the feast of...

Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople

The pastoral flute of your theology
conquered the trumpets of orators
For it called upon the depths of the Spirit
and you were enriched with the beauty of words
Intercede to Christ our God, O Father Greogory, that our souls may be saved

Apolytikion (1st tone)

During the year 379, St Gregory came to the assistance of the Church of Constantinople, which had already been troubled for forty years by the Arians; by his supremely wise words and many labours he freed it from the corruption of heresy. He was elected Archbishop of that city by the Second Ecumenical Council, which assembled there in 381, and condemned Macedonius, Archbishop of Constantinople, the enemy of the Holy Spirit. When St Gregory came to Constantinople, the Arians had taken all the churches and he was forced to serve in a house chapel dedicated to Saint Anastasia the Martyr. From there he began to preach his famous five sermons on the Trinity, called the Triadica. When he left Constantinople two years later, the Arians did not have one church left to them in the city.

Like an unwandering star beaming with splendour,
Thou bringest us by mystic teaching, O Father,
To the Trinity's sunlike illumination,
O mouth breathing with fire, Gregory most mighty.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Veni, Creator Spiritus

I have never ceased to be awed by the sheer beauty of its expressive lyrics, as well as its exquisite melody. This hymn is, in my own humble opinion, perhaps the most magnificent the Western Church has produced in its long history.

In this day and age where the Holy Spirit has been relegated to the role of a mere assistant especially in most Protestant churches, this hymn stands out as being one that truly recognises the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, is together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.

The beauty and complexity of its lyrics coupled with the soft and emotional tune is more than enough to make it prominent among the other Latin hymns. Many who have listened to it have told me how this simple hymn always manages to raise their spirits. Personally, I feel this hymn is too unique to be sung in anything but Latin – but of course, that is just how I, a devout Latinist, feel. The English lyrics fit in with the tune perfectly, though.

To the Orthodox who think that I should not be listening to Latin music – this hymn was written almost a century before the Great Schism, so technically, just as Western saints canonised before the Schism are recognised also in the Eastern Church, so are its hymns. Just as Slavic hymns greatly differ from Byzantine ones, so one should expect those from the West to be different from the ones found in the East. Also – listening to Latin music won’t make me Catholic! ‘nuff said.

VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.

COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.

One of the most widely used hymns in the Western Church before the reforms of 1962 – Veni, Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest), is attributed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856). It is used at Vespers, Pentecost, the Dedication of a Church, Confirmation, Holy Orders and whenever the Holy Spirit is solemnly invoked.

Lyrics/info: Thesaurus Precum Latinarum

Friday, January 20, 2006

Али-ПУТИН и 70 рассбойников!!!

From a caption contest:
Али-ПУТИН и 70 рассбойников!!!
Путин, Распутин, Двапутин, Трипутин...

Ali Putin and the 70 thieves!!!
Putin, Rasputin, Two-putin, Three-putin...

- from Edward

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lesson Learnt

Things I've learnt never to do with Protties - explain the beauty of old languages, talk about the Old Calendar and discuss chant.

It always gets a blank, bewildered look.

Sometimes, I feel so sorry for them - they don't have anything even vaguely close to the rich culture and traditions we have.

Okay, so I'm obnoxious, opinionated and orthodox - sue me.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Two Heresies Today

Now, before I begin rambling on as to why this came a few days late, let us begin discussing two of the most prevalent heresies today – modernism in the West, and philetism in the East.

In the words of Pope Pius X, modernism is not so much a heresy, but a synthesis of all heresies. Modernism is much more than a combination of ideas from earlier heresies, however – it does not stop at rejecting points of doctrine but denied the notion of unchanging truth and all forms of authoritative teaching, thus, undermining Christian doctrine in a more fundamental way than any earlier heresy had.

Unique in the history of heresies, modernism teaches that dogma is able to, and can evolve over time (as compared to being constant and unchanging for all time). This concept of evolving doctrines allows proponents of this heresy to believe that the teachings of the Church along with their contradictory beliefs were both correct (for each had their own time and place). Thus, it was possible for modernists to introduce any type of new belief – for which Pope Pius X regarded it as the “synthesis of all heresies”.

The idea that dogmas evolve allows a constant “updating” (I’d have much preferred the word 'loosening') of the standards of morality. As moral standards changed greatly during the 20th century, someone would have to deny his faith in order to engage in certain actions. Now, with ever-changing dogmas, it has become possible to update Christian morality, allowing modernists to consider and believe themselves good Christians while having a significantly different interpretation to what that meant.

The Western Church today still suffers from this heresy – which I blame on the rise of the many Protestant churches. Orthodoxy in the Church is faithfulness to Holy Tradition. The disgusting doctrine of salvation by faith alone (sola fide) has led to many sins – adopting the modernist heresy is but one of them. Does sola fide not lead to a loosening of morals as well? Indeed – believe in Christ, and you shall be saved (Acts 16:31), but see how a person is justified by faith and not by works alone (James 2:24).

We in the East have been afflicted by another, more subtle, heresy – the heresy of philetism (or ethnicism). With it in place, we have been protected from modernism, along with converts.

Remember how, in 2002 movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Ian mentioned that he’s “Greek now” after his baptism into the Orthodox Church? How many times has a young inquirer to the Orthodox faith been asked that he/she must become Greek (or any other nationality for that matter) before he/she can become Orthodox? And how many times have we seen converts adopt an entirely new culture (even to the extent of speaking with really bad Russian accents)?

Notice how converts to the Orthodox faith usually end up particularly attached to a specific culture? Yes, I am among their number – being a Russophile and all. That however, is not a sin – but begin associating Orthodoxy with a certain culture and it becomes philetism.

Philetism serves to secularise the Church and turn its attention to this world. Yes, believe it or not, it is a secularising force in the Church. It exalts the worth of the societies of man, seducing us, in our love for them, and asks that we give up our own culture to become Orthodox.

Orthodoxy does not reside in any particular culture. Do not assume that any particular people are the only ones destined for heaven, for this is absolutely not the case. By that very statement one is saying that anyone not of certain culture is not accepted by the Church. That is not true – the Church is open to all.

We say we believe in the “Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” each time we recite the Creed at every liturgy, but the ethnic mentality which has been so deeply impressed on Orthodox mindsets for centuries has only served to deny – in practice – the catholicity of the Church.

It makes no difference as to whether one is Greek or Russian Orthodox – for “we are all one in Christ”.

One Lord, one faith, one baptism
Ephesians 4:5

The Joy of all that Sorrow

Пресвятая Богородице, спаси нас!
Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Listen to me, I will play the flute...

You are VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY. You brood, and look
sexy while doing it. Futurism and surrealism
appeal to you. As a young artiste you pulled
pranks like throwing tea at your audiences. You
really like your friend Brik's wife, so you'll
write her an epic poem deemed "the most
savage indictment of a woman in our time".
A couple years after the October Revolution, no
one will praise your work anymore, and your
crappy love life will make you depressed. So,
sadly, you'll commit suicide.

Which wacky 20th century Russian author are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sexy while brooding? I brood, but sexy is hardly the word I'd use to describe it...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Odd MSN Name

This (highlighted in red box) got me raising an eyebrow - click to enlarge.

Catalogue of Heresies

After requesting many friends to complete this quiz, many had questions as to what these various beliefs (if I may describe them as such). These beliefs largely died down by the 15th century, but many continue to exist today in various guises – Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are a curious blend of Arian and Gnostic theologies.

I have prepared a short summary of these beliefs below. Gnosticism is left out at this point, due to its complexity as a religion and its many and varied schools of thought. Come tomorrow (or tonight, if I have the time), I will discuss the worst heresy to have affected the Church for all time – the heresy of modernism.

View that Jesus was born a human only, not divine until his baptism – at which point he was adopted as the Son by God the Father
Declared heretical by Pope Victor I

Albigensian (Catharism)
View that God created heaven but Satan (a lesser deity) created the earth; thus the human spirit (the vital essence of humanity) was trapped in a flawed physical realm
Condemned as a heresy by Council of Tours (1163), Third Lateran Council (1179) and Fourth Lateran Council (1215)
Dominican Order established in 1216 to combat Cathars

View that Jesus had a human body but a divine mind
Condemned as a heresy by the First Council of Constantinople (2nd ecumenical council) in 381

View that the Father and the Son were not co-eternal (pre-incarnate Jesus being merely a divine being but nonetheless created by the Father at some point)
Condemned as a heresy by the First Council Nicaea (1st ecumenical council) in 325
Beliefs compared to Arianism include that of the Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians and Muslims

View that Jesus did not have a physical body, therefore the crucifixion was an illusion
Incidentally, Islam also teaches that the crucifixion was an illusion (see Qur’an 4:157)

Emphasized mystical union; placing great emphasis on sanctity
Looked upon by Anabaptists and other radical churches as historical predecessors

Modalism (Sabellianism)
View that three persons of the Trinity are merely different modes/aspects of God rather than three distinct persons

View that emphasizes God as being one (that God is the single and only ruler)
Not a complete theory of relation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

View that Christ only had one nature – two major monophysite doctrines exist (Apollinarianism and Eutychianism)
Eutychianism holds that the human nature of Christ was obliterated by the divine
Condemned as a heresy at the Council of Chalcedon in 451
Contrary to popular belief, the Oriental Orthodox Churches do not hold on to Monophysitism (or any variants), rather, they adhere to miaphysitism

View that Jesus existed as two persons – the man Jesus and the divine Son of God – rather than a unified person
Condemned as a heresy by the Council of Ephesus (3rd ecumenical council) in 431
Rather inappropriately named since Nestorius himself denied holding this view

View that original sin did not taint the human nature (which, being created from God was divine) and that mortal will is capable of choosing good or evil without divine aid
Condemned as a heresy by the Council of Ephesus (3rd ecumenical council) in 431

Socinianism (Psilanthropism)
View that rejected the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus
Condemned as a heresy by the First Council Nicaea (1st ecumenical council) in 325

O Lord, save Thy people
and bless Thine inheritance.
Grant victory over their enemies to Orthodox Christians,
and protect Thy people with Thy Cross!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Am I a Heretic?

Apparently not... but very close to being *gasp* an Apollinarian!

You scored as Chalcedon compliant.
You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant 83%
Apolloninarian 58%
Monophysitism 58%
Pelagianism 50%
Modalism 33%
Nestorianism 33%
Socinianism 33%
Donatism 25%
Gnosticism 25%
Monarchianism 17%
Arianism 17%
Albigensianism 8%
Adoptionist 8%
Docetism 0%

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

Having monophysitism up so high isn't gonna reassure fellow Orthodox that I'm really not going to become Coptic...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Grant me Thy Grace

Concede mihi, benignissime Iesu, gratiam tuam, ut mecum sit et mecum laboret mecumque in finem usque perseveret. Da mihi hoc semper desiderare et velle, quod tibi magis acceptum est carius placet. Tua voluntas mea sit, et mea voluntas tuam semper sequatur, et optime ei concordet. Sit mihi unum velle et nolle tecum, nec aliud posse velle aut nolle, nisi quod Tu vis et nolis. Amen.

O merciful God, I have such need of your mercy now. O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou doest as Thou wilt: Thy will be done also in me a sinner. Deliver me from the trials ahead.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year! Καλή χρονιά! С Новым Годом! Felix sit Annus Novus!

Шинэ жилийн баярын мэнд хvргэе!
This is the Mongol New Year greeting – it goes something like shine zhiliin bayariin mend hurgeye.

What went on during the past week:
*whew* The Christmas season sure can get exhausting. It was a time for joyful celebrating; tiring as it was – I must admit that it was beautiful. How shall I begin?

There was Christmas Eve – I spent the entire morning preparing Christmas cards (I make my own and deliver them by hand, except for recipients not living in Singapore) and rest of the day could be described as rushing from place to place.

First place I had to be at was Royston’s baptism. Caught in one of the worst thunderstorms this island has seen, I was lucky to have even reached St. Joseph’s in time – but, thanks to a lack of knowledge of the church and some dreadful advice – I was wandering around the church grounds for a good thirty minutes before I realised that the “wedding” was actually the baptism (people present at baptism will understand what I’m talking about). Royston the Traddiest among Catholic catechumens has finally joined the Holy Roman Catholic & Apostolic Church! =)

After that was another rush to my grandmother’s place where my maternal relatives were celebrating her birthday (I’ve lost count of my grandmother’s age – I’d place it anywhere between 71 and 77). The Christians (and by that I mean Protestant) among my relatives (majority of them are Buddhist/Taoist/agnostic) still think I’m becoming Jewish. Maybe the little wooden crucifix I wear around my neck wasn’t obvious enough – whatever the case, I’ve invited them to my baptism and perhaps then, they might finally witness Orthodoxy.

Then there was church – it was beautiful. Joy of joys, Edward and Timothy were there – I nearly burst into tears (metaphorically speaking) at their being home (both of them study overseas). Also, with these two talented individuals around, good singing can be assured during the span of the liturgy. I managed to get close enough to record the singing during Communion – if you would like to listen, drop me an email at theunconquerablesun@hotmail.com

My memory of last year’s Nativity service wasn’t too good – I seemed to have been trapped for what seemed like an eternity without knowing what was going on – ah well, there’s a first time for everything. The carolling after the service was a bit messy this year – but we did manage to sing my favourite carol “Ding Dong Merrily on High”! =)

Edward sang a few of the popular carols in Slavonic and their original languages. I swear that guy speaks more languages than my entire class combined (excluding me, of course). The food was great – managed to sample many ethnic Christmas dishes unavailable elsewhere in Singapore. I thought I’ve finally met my mysterious Russian that night too, but as it turns out that I’ve mistaken another striking Russian lady in a headscarf. Something good came out of that – I’ve got myself acquainted with Alicia, a young, pretty student from the Russian Far East.

Christmas Day was a complete bore – my family doesn’t really celebrate Christmas anymore. The following days were pretty uneventful too. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were pretty boring. Both were spent at my relatives’ place – and their idea of a wild night is just sitting around to talk, apparently. I played Efi Thodi’s Glyka Glyka on my brother’s laptop – almost immediately I got raised eyebrows and questions asking if “I was going Indian”. If you ask me, local parties could learn a lot from their Greek/Arab counterparts. =P

Thanks for reading! Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Beginning of Every New Year...

Archpastoral Message of Metropolitan Herman for the New Year
An excerpt:

The beginning of every New Year finds many people making resolutions to improve their lives.

While it is natural to make such resolutions at the beginning of a new year, it is also more often than not the case that, within a few weeks, such resolutions are broken or forgotten. Life returns to “normal,” to the “status quo”. During the subsequent months, little attention is paid to broken resolutions which, by the end of the year, have been thoroughly forgotten.

The very heart of the Gospel may be summed up into a single word: repent! To be a follower of Christ means to resolve to change our minds, our hearts, and our lives, resolving to discern not our own wills and desires, but the Lord’s.

Resolving to live according to God’s will and the example we have been given by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is something that is not restricted to the beginning of a new year, but faces us every day of our lives as Orthodox Christians. We are continually challenged to embrace change by growing stronger in our faith, by participating more regularly in the life of the Church, and by reaching out to others with compassion and love. As we begin every new day, we pray that our repentance will bring us into a more intense relationship with God, with others, and even with ourselves, seeking to accomplish not our own wills, but the will of our Heavenly Father.

The beginning of the new year offers us an opportunity to make a resolution that matters, that transcends the goals inherent in so many “New Year’s Resolutions” and offers us a foretaste of the very Kingdom of God that, while yet to be fully revealed, is already fully present in the life of the Church.

Ultimately, making the resolution to repent is not something restricted to the beginning of a new year; rather, it is the challenge – the Gospel’s challenge – to be renewed in body and soul every day of our lives, to change our focus and direction in our pursuit of holiness rather than our own trivial pursuits.

We are blessed by God with the beginning of a new year. In thanksgiving, let us make our resolution one of repentance and interior change, aimed at “the one thing needful” – pursuing our lives in accordance with the will of God and the example of our Saviour.

Let us “lay aside all earth cares” – and “resolutions” – replacing them with a firm commitment to seek renewal in the Lord. And let us resolve to remain vigilant in fulfilling this resolution, especially in times of temptation or distress – times when Our Lord is quick to hear our prayers for help, guidance, and direction. In so doing, we will discover that indeed the Lord is with us at every moment and in every circumstance, giving us the resolve to grow in and with Him now and in the days to come.

Let us resolve to remain vigilant in fulfilling this resolution, especially in times of temptation or distress – times when Our Lord is quick to hear our prayers for help, guidance, and direction. In so doing, we will discover that indeed the Lord is with us at every moment and in every circumstance, giving us the resolve to grow in and with Him now and in the days to come.

With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada