Tuesday, February 28, 2006

6 More Days

Think about it - Lent is fast approaching

Contrary to what many think or feel, Lent is a time of joy. It is a time when we come back to life. It is a time when we shake off what is bad and dead in us in order to become able to live, to live with all the vastness, all the depth, and all the intensity to which we are called. Unless we understand this quality of joy in Lent, we will make of it a monstrous caricature, a time when in God's own name we make our life a misery...


Pope Quiz

Pius XII
You are Pope Pius XII.
You're efficient and dedicated, but not very approachable.

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Elizaveta & Mariuca

Or: How I learnt to stop worrying and love blue eyes

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Latin Phrases of the Month

They pretty much speak for themselves...

pulvis et umbra sumus
We are dust and shadow

sic vita est
Thus is life

sine scientia ars nihil est
Without knowledge, skill is nothing

quod licet Iovi non licet bovi
What is permitted to Jove is not permitted to an ox

ut desint vires tamen est laudanda voluntas
Even though the power is lacking, the will should be praised

video meliora proboque deteriora sequor
I see and approve of the better things, but I follow the inferior things

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Jesus Prayer…

In English, Greek, Russian and Latin, courtesy of Edward:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Κύριε Ιησού Χριστέ, Υιέ του Θεού, ελέησόν με τον αμαρτωλόν.
Господи Исусе Христе, Сыне Божий, помилуй мя грешнаго.
Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei, miserere mei, peccatoris.

A few days ago, I’ve found its Arabic translation:

ربي يسوع المسيح،يا ابن الله،ارحمنا نحن الخطأة

Now, I know there are a substantial number of readers who are able to read Greek and Cyrillic characters, so there is no need for transliteration, I think.

As for Arabic, it’s roughly pronounced “ya rabi yasoo almassieh, ya ebne ellah, arhamana nahno el khata”, which, I believe translates ‘a sinner’ as ‘the sinner’.

[Tip of the hat to Shaghayegh for the Arabic transliteration]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Perfection consists in doing..."

JESUS DEIGNED TO teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.

And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.


JUST AS THE sun shines simultaneously on the tall cedars and on each little flower as though it were alone on the earth, so Our Lord is occupied particularly with each soul as though there were no others like it. And just as in nature all the seasons are arranged in such a way as to make the humblest daisy bloom on a set day, in the same way, everything works out for the good of each soul.

GOD REJOICES MORE in what He can do in a soul humbly resigned to its poverty than in the creation of millions of suns and the vast stretch of the heavens.

AH! IF GOD had not showered His beneficent rays upon His little flower, she could never have accustomed herself to earth, for she was too weak to stand up against the rains and the storms. She needed warmth, a gentle dew, and the springtime breezes. Never were these lacking. Jesus had her find them beneath the snow of trial!

- Writings on nature from the autobiography of St Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I know what I want but pride will not let me see it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Frustration over Baptism

I have been incredibly distressed over this. I spent yesterday evening and practically the entire day today mulling over this issue. I really cannot tolerate any more of this.

I will attempt, with my mind made as clear as possible, to describe as well as to justify the cause of this distress and my being so affected by it. It will not include any of my usual fine-tuning of late-night language. It will be an unrestrained, no holds barred explanation of all the events leading up to yesterday. If you are from my parish and/or easily scandalised, I strongly suggest you stop reading right now and hit the ‘Back’ button.

So I was visiting my would-be godmother at her place yesterday – she just received news that the date for her returning to her country (she’s Romanian) has been confirmed, and it was a mere 13 days away. With such a constraint on time, I wasted no second and began to discuss my baptism with her. Apparently, she had a discussion with my priest on Sunday (I was not able to be present due to insomnia on Saturday night), and he still refuses to baptise me – until much later, that is. At that point, she told me that I may have to consider finding another sponsor. It grieved me further when she showed me everything she has prepared – from the baptismal robe, to prayer beads, icons and other assorted goodies. She wasn’t planning on showing them to me until my baptism itself.

I have acknowledged this lady as ‘godmother’ for the past two years, only to discover yesterday that this might not come to past for reasons that have still not been made clear. I was meant to be baptised last year during Pascha, but I was not, for I only turned 18 in November and prior to that, the church requires parental permission. My devoutly Presbyterian parents did not give their approval, of course. Now when I am finally 18, and being able to be baptised without seeking another’s consent, the church adamantly refuses to take me in.

The reasons I perceive for this include – my ecumenist leanings, my lack of faith and my concentration on the externals of Orthodoxy instead of the important aspects. I derived these largely in part from conversations (or should I say, admonitions) with parishioners and the occasional talk with my priest.

This is the straw man fallacy in effect. People who don’t know me well enough to begin with have misrepresented my actions and beliefs (along with fictitious beliefs and other assumed beliefs) and criticised them.

No faith my foot. No man may see into another’s heart. Just because I don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I extremely dislike talking about my personal faith in God and His works in my life – it highly resembles evangelical Protestantism in that manner – and besides, I don’t like discussing my faith with others (except for a select few) for the most part. It is not meant to be aired in public like dirty laundry – for me at least, it is personal and meant to be shared between the individual and God.

Being knowledgeable is no indication at all about the lack of faith. If that were the case, then many of our leading clerics and theologians have a disturbingly huge lack of faith, even Bishop Kallistos Ware. Faith and knowledge go hand in hand; we cannot do without one or the other. Knowledge without faith is empty spirituality. Blind faith leads to fanaticism.

My priest has confronted me about this – but I thought he didn’t mean what he said (given the context and tone of voice). The rest of it comes whenever I am rebuked by someone in the parish – when it was known I attended Coptic Nativity, I was accused of ‘spiritual licentiousness’ (yes, those were the exact words).

For all that I am, many often forget that I am, after all, only 18 years of age (the youngest individual convert in the parish, or so I hear) and am still subject to the hormonal imbalance that plagues most youths. It goes without saying that I am, of course idealistic and will challenge authority. Yet, so much is expected of me but at the same time nobody really takes me seriously on account of my age. I understand a certain level of obedience is expected of me, which many have yet to see. I know blaming my age is a lousy excuse for this, but I will go ahead and do so anyway.

I came to know about Orthodoxy while learning about Church History (on my own that is). I found the Orthodox to have a more complete theology than the other denominations, as well as a much fuller worship. I have been told that it was a rather rationalistic journey, without much consideration being given to faith. It seemed almost condescending when my journey was compared with that of the person who told me that. I have taken much offence in this. God works in mysterious ways – I am now in the Church and that is what matters.

I was accused of joining Orthodoxy because I was Russophile. Here’s one bit of information: I am first and foremost a Latinist (which explains why I know the Lord’s Prayer and various other prayers in Latin and not in Russian or Slavonic). I had considered the Roman Catholic Church (it turned out I was highly disturbed by many teachings) before I found Orthodoxy. My interest in the Slav lands and Byzantium began almost simultaneously with my journey to Orthodoxy. From the Roman Empire, my interest shifted to its successor, the Byzantine Empire and later, to the “Third Rome” – Moscow. Thus, it is highly presumptuous of anyone to say I’m becoming Orthodox purely for the reason of “becoming Russian”. Remember, I am not always as I seem.

Another move by the Church that has also scandalised and insulted my dignity as a convert is how people who are converting for marriage are being baptised so quickly and easily, with minimal fuss. All of them were only made catechumens 30 seconds prior to their actual baptism. Yet I (and another, as I recently found out) have to endure many months of being a catechumen. Why do I have to go through boot camp? What priority do these people have that they may escape being a catechumen? Is conversion to Orthodoxy to be run as how a country grants citizenship? What, marriage to a “local” makes becoming a citizen of the country easier??? At this rate, I might as well stop attending church now and come back only when I’m slated to get married – gets through the red tape a lot easier.

To think, I was recently told that I should consider going through the more traditional 3 years of being a catechumen before being baptised, just to sort out my priorities. I will do the full three years if every woman during the Divine Liturgy is properly veiled, the 8 different tones in chant are made more audible (up till now tone 1 to 8 sounds similar in whatever is being chanted) and my priest swears off meat, quits his day job and becomes a full-time priest.

I have been attending church for approximately three years now. During this period, I was regular (and by regular I don’t mean once a month) and my face soon became a familiar sight. You’d think that was enough indication that I won’t be changing jurisdictions anytime soon. My ecumenist leanings have nothing to do my faith. I seek reconciliation with our Christian (no, Protestants are not Christian, they’re heretical apostates) brothers, both in the West and East, but by no means will I compromise doctrine or theology for unification. Many do not know the extent I go to defend the absence of the filioque clause in the Creed.

Regular attendance for THREE years – that is more than I can say for those who have converted for marriage - and a catechumen for nine months already.

Come to think of it, my baptism was denied when I mentioned I attended Coptic Nativity. I spoke of one event, and my priest and many parishioners immediately began forming half-baked ideas about what I believe. Those parishioners told me I was wrong to attend churches that have fallen out of grace – now, I may have taken them at their word, but people who are not learned in theology should not talk about a phrase whose meaning is not clearly understood by them in the first place. I remember I was better liked when I still had convert mentality, that is to say – the adamant belief that the religion I’ve converted to is absolutely true, completely flawless and free of scandal. Also, hatred/dislike of the Roman pontiff along with Rome may be another effect of Orthodox convert mentality. Now since, I’ve purged this immature mindset, and have adopted a more conciliatory attitude toward other Christians, I have been chastised. I really don’t know what lengths I must go to prove that I am remaining Orthodox and have no intention whatsoever to join the Copts, Maronites or the SSPX, for that matter. I have been called more Catholic than the average Catholic, yes, but that is no indication of my willingness to convert over to the West. I merely know and understand their practices more than the average Catholic. Perhaps when I’ve carved “Orthodoxy or Death” in large Greek alphabets on my body, and begin to behave as if I were a brother of Esphigmenou monastery – will the parishioners then be convinced I’m remaining Orthodox.

If I remember correctly, some parishioners along with one or two readers did attend the same Coptic church on one occasion and returned to discuss about it. I do the same, and get punished by having my baptism postponed? For the love of God, I NEVER for a moment even considered becoming Copt – and I went, just once, for the experience. Wait, don’t tell me – these people are spiritually mature enough to discern what is wrong and right and thus they are allowed to do it for the sake of experience? Oh, for crying out loud, what sort of message do you think this sends out to impressionable young catechumens like me? That aside, the theological understanding of the aforementioned people do not run as deep as presumed.

Why people here seem so overtly concerned when I seemingly cross into heresy and at the same time, baptising people whose sole purpose in becoming Orthodox is for marriage? My soul is no more important than theirs, and I do not see the reasoning (if any at all) for the postponement of my baptism. I am also exceedingly upset at the double standards used to judge (if I may use such a word) me and the “marriage converts”. Nobody knows what sort of beliefs they may hold on to despite their conversion – after all, who receives catechism here at all – original sin could be the brand of a chocolate for all they know.

Some months ago, I began to ask (isn’t that what a catechumen is supposed to do – ask and clarify) what some would consider “disturbing” questions concerning the papacy and various heresies. This was interpreted as rebelling against the establishment, apparently. Some of these “marriage converts” don’t even ask! Does anybody care what they believe? No (apparently). Are you surprised? No.

I have not been nicknamed the parish grandmother without a good reason, and I know that many of these people attend less than 5 times a year. However, whenever I am late or miss Divine Liturgy on Sunday without a valid reason or good excuse, I get slammed. Why is there so much leeway given to people converting for marriage, damnit? What, God has brought them to the Holy Apostolic Church through marriage and thus they are to be given this privilege over me? I don’t buy that for one second. What about considerations to my journey to the Church?! I was not brought here by accident because of love of culture or marriage. I came here purely to seek the truth and I have found it. If people are not convinced about that, then perhaps they should ask why I attend church even when few people (by that I mean less than 2) turn up for the service. I hope (but as usual, my hopes usually count for nothing) that that will make them see that I am not attending church because I am obliged to, or because I am seeking friends.

Why are people being so damn difficult with me? Why are my actions singled out and microscopically scrutinised? If we wanted to play and see who could be more nitpicky, I’m more than game:

Women have married pagan/heathen/atheist husbands and its okay because they are still able to receive communion. I attend a Coptic service once and its not bloody okay at all.

My priest wed Inna and her non-baptised husband (they were already civilly married for years) in the Church, on the promise that he would return and undergo catechism before being baptised. Last month marked the 1st anniversary of that wedding… and the last time which I saw him at church. Say whatever you want about ekonomia; in practice, it really depends on how much a priest likes you.

All I desire is to enter the Orthodox Church. Damn it, if I die without ever being properly received in the Church, the fault does not lie in me; it will lie on them.

What am I to do to get baptised here – stop attending all other churches (or do so, and not tell anyone), become obedient and listen to what people tell me (or at least keep up a pretence) and stop the pursuit of knowledge? What they have taught me is not love, is not how to live the life of an Orthodox Christian, but to cynically manipulate the system. Congratulations. I hope they’re proud of what their handiwork.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


My view on sexuality has long been a subject of much speculation among my classmates as well as my more secular friends. Never being able to formally define my stand has led many to misapprehend what I, probably the only Orthodox Christian most have ever met, feel about the act of making love. This post should help to clear up much misunderstanding.

Now, many of you would most likely perceive an irreconcilable conflict between religious belief and carnal pleasure. Opinion prevails that one was only able to choose either. I find that logical, if at all, standpoint expressed in a very crass form; for any sensible and reasonable human would see how one-sided such a statement is on that position. However, it is just as well as that thesis is expressed unambiguously and plainly, if one wants to be able to resolve such an issue.

Firstly, allow me to state that I am in no way at all celibate. I have a desire to get married and procreate. Next, the act of sex itself is by no means offensive to God and/or the Church. It is dear to God, as long as it is an expression of true love (now, I speak of the love that lasts a lifetime, not for a few hours). Sex is the method we use to give ourselves to another person, not, I might add, for fun or for a moment, but completely. Sexuality expressed in an irresponsible moment is but another expression of love, no less delightful than a walk together down an empty beach. True love leads us straight to God, who blesses the union between husband and wife.

The art of making love – once an exclusive, sacrosanct activity between husband and wife – has been greatly perverted by the devil. The idea that sex is acceptable outside the boundaries of marriage and to be freely enjoyed among all is not only an insult to the dignity of marriage (which I may add, a sacrament between God and man, not merely between a man and a woman), but also to the dignity of us as human beings. We are so much more than objects to be used for sensuous pleasure. Learn to understand that we are much more than our genitalia. Learn to treasure people as living individuals with feelings.

You may be convinced that I am out of touch with the times. Perhaps I am a little out of fashion, but the fundamental truth about sex outside marriage being morally wrong and disrespectful to the human being is not subject to the whims of fashion.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Latin Classes

Email received from Edward:

Hello chaps!

I'm starting a Beginner's Latin class in Singapore, details below:

Thursdays, 7 p.m.
$10-15 per person, depending on the total number,
Location: in the west close to town.

Lessons will be weekly, lasting an hour. I'm not a clock watcher, so we may often go overtime to one and a half hours - depending on how? Saturated everyone is. If there is sufficient demand, I'll start up a second group on Monday or Tuesday evenings - and it'll then be a case of attending whichever one's schedule permits that week.

No prior experience of learning languages is necessary, so don't let your bad Chinese grades in school discourage you. A firm foundation in English grammar will be useful, as will any prior experience with French or Italian

The form of language taught will be a mix of Classical and Late Antique (otherwise known as Vulgar or Church Latin) forms - hence useful both for those who will eventually pass on to reading Classical texts as well as for those who wish to read Church texts. Usages from both will be utilised to keep the mood light and things interesting. This will be primarily a reading course for those who wish to understand written texts, so emphasis will be on translating from Latin into English, though ability to write Latin will also be acquired on the side.

If you're interested, message me for more details!

Naturally, for those who wish to do intense study and progress faster, one-on-one lessons are also available at competitive rates (though I honestly can't imagine with whom I'd be competing).

Ancient & Koine (New Testament) Greek lessons also available - rates upon request.


Anyone interested?

The Sheer Irony

- from Edward

A cartoon of Muhammed depicts him with a bomb in his turban.

Muslims get so upset over the image that they threaten to KILL lots of people... thereby proving the author correct?

Manic Mohammedans

You’ve read about it...
TEHERAN - Iran yesterday said it would cancel economic contracts with countries in which newspapers had reproduced the images - AFP
DAMASCUS – Several thousand Syrians set Denmark’s embassy here on fire - Reuters
LONDON – Up to 300 chanting Muslims torched the Danish flag outside Denmark’s embassy – AFP
Yudhoyono (Indonesian Prime Minister), Abdullah (Malaysian Prime Minister) join chorus of protests – Straits Times

You've seen it...

Now, we all know about the cartoons that appeared in the Danish newspaper that has incited violence among Muslims throughout the world. However, has anyone actually seen those cartoons? Here are two of them:

The media here mentioned that these images were insulting to the Prophet, but it failed to say how that demanding we take religious feelings into consideration is irreconcilable with a democracy that champions the freedom of speech. It is absolutely necessary for the paper to publish such images. Why? In the words of Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "...otherwise we will never have the dialogue we need to establish with Muslims on the most central question - do you really feel that every Muslim in 2005 should follow the way of life the Prophet had 1,400 years ago?"

"Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here" - from newspaper, France Soir

This episode shows to what extent Islam is a religion of peace.

Images: Waltz of Words

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Self-righteousness," Abba Solemnis reminded Orphanos "begets self-destruction".

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Love of God

O God, if I worship Thee in fear of Hell, burn me in Hell; and if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise; but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, withhold not Thine evelasting beauty.