Friday, September 29, 2006


Riddles are perhaps the oldest of all games played today. The gods & goddesses of ancient Greek myth constantly teased each other with riddles. The academics of Imperial Rome employed them as teaching tools. Several good riddles can be found in the Bible.

The riddle posed by the Sphinx to Oedipus in Sophocles' play, Oιδίπoυς τύραννoς (Oedipus the King) is perhaps history's most famous:

Which creature in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?

The Sphinx strangled anyone who was unable to answer.

However, customs have changed since then and you won't be killed for failing to solve this one. The answer to that riddle came from Oedipus: Man — he crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age. Finally defeated, the Sphinx threw herself from her high rock and died.

If your appetite for solving riddles has been whetted, here are some to try your hand at - answers are located at the end of this post.

Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.

One of Gollum's many riddles for Bilbo in The Hobbit (1937)

I have billions of eyes, yet I live in darkness.
I have millions of ears, yet only four lobes.
I have no muscles, yet I move two hemispheres.
What am I?

The "Minotaur's Riddle", from episode #39 of the Batman Animated Series (1992)

It's a part of Heaven, though it touches the Earth.
Some say it's valuable, others say no worth.

The riddles of the Sphinx from the PC game Heroes of Might and Magic II

With no wings, I fly.
With no eyes, I see.
With no arms, I climb.
More frightening than any beast, stronger than any foe.
I am cunning, ruthless and tall; in the end, I rule all.

Stephen King's Wizard and Glass

I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will
And yet I am the confidence of all
To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.

They follow and lead, but only as you pass.
Dress yourself in darkest black,
And they are darker still.
Always they flee the light,
Though without the sun there would be none.

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

Another of Gollum's many riddles for Bilbo in The Hobbit (1937)

And here are the answers for those who need them:
1) Fish
2) The human brain - as Batman explains, "It has billions of optic and auditory nerves, four lobes and two hemispheres, and it's the only thing Edward Nygma (the Riddler) respects."
3) Rainbow
4) Imagination
5) Tomorrow
6) Shadows
7) Time

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Metropolitan Vitaly, Memory Eternal

Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) of New York
(8.3.1910 - 25.9.2006)

His Eminence, Metropolitan Vitaly reposed yesterday (25th September 2006) about 3:45pm Eastern Standard Time.

Sympathies to my brothers and sisters of the ROCOR on the loss of Vladyka Vitaly.

Memory Eternal!

Announcement from the Synod

Боже духов и всякия плоти, смерть поправый, и диавола упразднивый, и живот миру Твоему даровавый: Сам, Господи, упокой душы усопших рабов Твоих Виталий: в месте светле, в месте злачне, в месте покойне, отнюдуже отбеже болезнь, печаль и воздыхание: всякое согрешение содеянное ими, словом, или делом, или помышлением, яко Благий Человеколюбец Бог прости. Яко несть человек, иже жив будет, и не согрешит: Ты бо един кроме греха, правда Твоя правда во веки, и слово Твое истина.

Яко Ты еси воскресение, и живот, и покой, усопших рабов Твоих Виталий, Христе Боже наш; и Тебе славу возсылаем, со безначальным Твоим Отцем, и с пресвятым и благим и животворящим Твоим Духом, ныне и присно, и во веки веков.


O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death, defeated the devil, and given life to Thy world. Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Vitaly, in a place of light, in place of green pasture, in a place of revival, whence all pain, sorrow and sighing have fled away. Forgive every sin committed by him, in thought, word and deed, in Thy goodness and love for men, O God. For there is no one who lives without sinning: Thou alone art without sin, and Thy justice is eternal justice, and Thy Word in Truth.

For Thou art the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy departed servant, O Christ our God, and to Thee we send up glory, with Thy Eternal Father, and Thy all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Edward's 25th Birthday Celebrations

In what was probably the largest social gathering of Eastern and Western Christians outside the Church and the context of œcumenical relations, over 8 of us gathered yesterday to celebrate the 25th birthday of the man who has spared no effort in the contribution to the mutual understanding between Eastern and Western Christians. I was charged with the planning of this little jamboree (which was held 2 days after the day itself).

Originally, only Anthony, Norman and Ernest were the only Latin Christians invited. Notified of the presence of two more - John and Michael - at the last minute was a rather pleasant surprise. Consisting of 5 people, the Latin Christian contingent was unsurprisingly, the largest.

The ever-witty Vernon represented the Protestants, completing the Western Christian pie.

Russian Orthodox Jana, Edward the Very Eastern Very Russian Eastern Russian Greek-Catholic and myself of the Œcumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople constituted the Eastern Christians.

It's a pity the Oriental Orthodox were unable to attend.

I was at my church at 5 for vespers and confession - which meant I had approximately 2 hours to wait before I rendezvous with the rest. And what better way to spend those 2 hours than in the company of a charming young lady such as Jana?

Dinner was held at the Old Shanghai at Chinatown, which serves authentic uh, Shanghainese cuisine.

Our birthday boy offers a toast with piping hot tea.

After dinner concluded, the lot of us headed down the street to some random coffee shop for a few drinks.

Edward and Vernon and their peculiar facial expressions.

Jana & I - this was shot after much coaxing and inveigling, since Jana is incredibly camera-shy.

I was glad Michael turned up - and feeling completely fine at that.

Thank you, Edward for sharing your Western heritage and experiences with us, along with the rich Eastern legacy and viewpoint with us, so we can now also learn to breathe with both lungs of the Church.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Voting For Your Favourite Mother - Results

Greetings to my beloved readers on the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin.

Approximately two weeks ago, Memoirs held our first ever poll, allowing readers of this blog to vote for their favourite mother (out of 10 featured). The votes have been counted and the results tallied. Unsurprisingly, the All Holy Virgin Mother of God stands at first place, garnering a whopping 12 votes.

Mother of God of All Creation

As many have commented, however, the Most Honoured of Virgins is beyond comparison (really, nothing comes close to bringing salvation to this world). In this case, the three saints who have won the most number of votes are, in order:

1. St Monica (9 votes)

2. St Gianna Beretta Molla (8 votes)

3. St Emily (7 votes)

We at Memoirs would like to make it clear that this competition (of sorts) does not show anything, save for popularity among laity. None are "better" than the rest. These incredible women are all equally deserving of our admiration and respect.

On a side note, this blogger notices a blatant Latin bias in the casting of votes.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What Language Are Your Thoughts In?

I posed this question to friends who spoke more than one language. Their answers were rather curious:

Edward, who speaks 8 languages, answered, "English mostly, but Cantonese and Shanghainese on occasion. Modern Italian is pretty much the only modern language I can think in, though."

Vernon, another collaborator at Poblem Engrish said it was "English always".

Natalia said, "Depends. Mostly Georgian."

Jana also said it "depends" - "mostly Russian, but I calculate chess variations in English."

I know you spell it "Yana" according to the English transliteration, but J is so much prettier than Y.

Jie Xiong and Julia were two who answered, "Mandarin".

Most of the other Singaporean students - Sue Lynn, Clement, Windez, Esther, Beng Han, Kai Yan, Norman - answered, "English".

My facilitator at polytechnic, Shaun, thought likewise.

Kenny stood out by saying he thinks in "English and Cantonese".

Devin across the Pacific in America mentioned that he also thought in English. His compatriot Francis also did likewise, but was "starting to get in some German, Spanish, and French".

I'm still awaiting replies from a few more people, so this post will most likely be updated tomorrow - when their answers reach me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mediaeval Mentality

The Mahometans love to accuse anyone who "insults" them of having a "mediaeval crusader" mindset.


A Turkish mosque existed, under imperial protection, in Constantinople from the 900s.

But look - not one church (or any other religious building) stands in all Saudi Arabia today.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Proving Manuel II Palaeologus Right

Islam is a religion of peace. Death to all who disagree!
- Edward's Instant Messenger name

United States Muslim leaders in New York demanded that the Pope apologise for what he said.

"He is declaring war by his words," Imam Kadhim Mohamad said at the Ahlul Bayt Mosque. "He should either apologise or at least prove to the people that what he says is true."

- The Sunday Mail, September 17th, 2006

To quote Hilary, he really doesn't need to prove it is true. I think that's being covered:

On 15 September, a Greek Orthodox and an Anglican church in Nablus were firebombed. The Lions of Monotheism claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they were carried out to protest the pope's speech.

Moslem Palestinians bombed and engaged in shootings against five churches in the West Bank and Gaza.

A cleric of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin, of Somalia has called for the Pope's assasination, urging Moslems to "hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements".

On 17 September, two Somali gunmen entered a children's hospital in Mogadishu and murdered an elderly nun and a Somali bodyguard.

The Iraqi militia Jaish al-Mujahedin (Holy Warriors' Army) announced its intention to "destroy their cross in the heart of Rome... and to hit the Vatican".

A Baghdad-based group, Kataab Asbal Al Islam Al Salafi (Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions) threatened to kill all Christians in Iraq if the Pope does not apologise to Mahomet in 3 days in front of the whole world.

And those are only the events that took place LAST week. Let's delve further into history to cement the claims:

2006, March: Amer Cheema, a Pakistani student was overwhelmed by police in Berlin as he entered the office building of Die Welt newspaper, armed with a large knife. He admitted to attempting to murder editor Roger Köppel for reprinting the Danish Muhammad cartoons in the newspaper.

2005, February: Moslem militants attack the Christian community in Demsa, Nigeria, killing 36 people, destroying property and displacing 3000 people.

2004, September: 344 civillians, including 186 children, are murdered by Chechen terrorists in the Beslan school hostage crisis.

2004, May: 4 simultaneous attacks carried out by the Salafaia Jihadia in Casablanca leave 33 civillians dead (Casablanca Attacks).

1996, June: Hezbollah guerillas explode a fuel truck in a housing complex, killing 19 US servicemen and 1 Saudi citizen (the Khobar Towers bombing).

1991, November: Islamic gunmen attack tourists in Luxor, Egypt, killing 71 people, mostly European and Japanese vacationers.

1955, September: A pogrom (Istanbul Pogrom) was directed by the Turkish government primarily at the Greek minority in Constantinople (Istanbul to some of you). Jews and Armenians were also targeted. Over 16 Greeks and at least 1 Armenian were killed. Dozens of Greek women were raped and a number of men were forcibly circumcised.

1916-1919: Over 300,000 Pontian Greeks are systematically murdered by the Turks (Pontian Greek Genocide).

1915-1917: Hundreds of thousands, possibly more than a million, of Armenians are murdered by the Turks in a forced mass evacuation (Armenian Genocide).

Remind yourself that the Mahometan faith is one of peace.

If the historical facts aren't convincing enough, take a look at some pictures:

Moslem Albanian terrorists have destroyed more than a hundred Orthodox churches in Kosovo since the end of the civil war. Many of these were built in the Middle Ages and belong to the World Heritage, protected by UNESCO.

The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Djakovica was vandalized and set on fire. Precious mosaics were smashed into peaces. The cathedral was completely destroyed by explosive on July 24, 1999.

The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin, Dolac was built in 1620. It was vandalized, set on fire and its altar smashed to pieces. By 1999, the church was completely demolished.

The tomb of St Joankijie is desecrated.

Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish Islamic scholar, claimed that a "real Muslim", who "understood Islam in every aspect" could not be a terrorist. Well then, not many Moslems understand their faith very well then.

If it isn't obvious enough already:

Why doesn't the Times, or anyone, point out that riots and threats are not a constructive way to demonstrate that Islam is actually peaceful?

Why doesn't the Times, or anyone, invite Muslims to bring us, and live out, teachings of Muhammad that are not "evil and inhuman"?

Why doesn't the Times, or anyone, take any serious note of the ongoing persecution of Christians by Muslims, as examples of Muslims "fomenting discord" with Christians not just with words, but with lethal deeds?

- Robert Spencer

Coming only weeks after the forced conversion of the two Fox News personnel show that not much has changed since the 14th century when Emperor Manuel Paleologos II said those words. Progress in this case was that instead of a sword they used a gun instead, though they will still fall back on tradition and use a dull sword to lop off a head or two for old times sake.
- Jeff Miller

Here's a clue: stop flying airplanes into buildings, stop shooting nuns in the back, stop setting fires every time your itty bitty wittle feewings are hurt over the slightest of slights - and we'll stop with the "demonising", m'kay?
- Relapsed Catholic

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Should war come upon us, are you willing to take up arms and defend, to the death, the Church?

An anxious Roman Catholic asked me this question thrice today, probably in response to the rising levels of Moslem anger toward the Catholic Church due to the Pope's comments.

But I did not know that; I assumed he was speaking of the Crusades.

I mentioned, in jest of course, that if the aim of Crusade was to establish Latin patriarchates throughout the East, I'd join the Moslems and fight off the Latins.

When the current situation was made clear to me, I understood why he asked.

Will I join a Crusade, not for land or glory, but "merely" for the defense of the Church?

Make no mistake, this Orthodox Christian will join his Latin brethren in defense of the Church, should the Saracen sword fall on them.

And then, I remembered the original meaning of Crusade.

They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them.

On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent.

Moreover, Christ commands it.

- Pope Urban II, speech at the Council of Clermont, 1095

The Moslems have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches, said Pope Urban. He could have been speaking about our times. Elderly Catholic priests have been murdered in Turkey. Coptic Christian women continue to be kidnapped and forcibly converted in Egypt. Moslem Albanians continue to burn Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo. One wonders how much longer we Christians will continue to turn the other cheek.

Let us then use the weapons of heaven to assist these Christians living under the Moslem yoke. Let us fill heaven with requests for the continued survival of Christianity in lands under the Moslem yoke.

Never forget the multitudes of Christians (Orthodox, Catholic, Oriental and Assyrian alike) who live in lands where the Mohammedan persecutions make Diocletian look mild by comparison.

Emperor Manuel II, Pope Benedict and the Religion of Peace

The Byzantine Emperor Manuel II (the historians among you will recognise him as the father of my patron saint, the blessed martyr Emperor Constantine XI) was recently quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in a speech at Regensburg University.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the Pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

You won't find him kissing the Koran any time soon. Anybody catch the subtle overture to us in the East?

The quote and the placing of it in context was certainly illuminating. Remember, Byzantium was subject to jihad for nearly eight centuries.

The Mohammedan reaction was as usual, predictable. Ali Bardakoğlu, president of Religious Affairs in Turkey opined that Pope Benedict had a "crusader mentality" and Mohammed Mahdi Akef of the Muslim Brotherhood called for Mohammedan states to discontinued relations with the Vatican.

Was the Pope offensive? Probably.

Taking a stand often hurts feelings. If the Pope truly desires to restore a Christian Europe, then he is going to have to address the Islamic threat - and this threat goes beyond demographics.

Was the Pope thoughtless and insensitive? I don't think so.

In effect, the Pope has asked Moslems to apply reason to the fundamental questions of theology, violence and ideology. Islam cannot, and never will, sustain critical intellectual engagement. It is a disturbed belief, born from the marriage of a tribal pirate's megalomania and the confusing madness of heresies spread out along the fringe of the Christian world.

The Pope, for having dared to merely hint that Islam is by nature violent and evil, Muslims are threatening violence and evil. If the situation weren't so precarious in so many countries, I would laugh.

I leave you with Professor Indrek Wichman's words:

I am offended... by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey!), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France.


I counsel you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceeded with your infantile "protests".

Friday, September 15, 2006


I have a such a headache tormenting me right now. I think it started when I attempted to concentrate on three completely different matters earlier today.

I was having my weekly Latin lesson as usual at Coffee Bean in Holland Village. During the break, I met Maria while buying a cup of coffee, whom I've not seen in ages, and she liked my haircut. Preoccupied with that thought (remember, Maria is a valued friend and elder sister to me), I returned to Latin class, sipping on iced cappuccino which I ordered by mistake. I'm not particularly fond of cappuccino - iced or not.

Seated to my right were two girls who were discussing (albeit a little loudly) their love lives. At the same time, the class continued translating 'The Bacchises', a play by Plautus. Interested in both topics, I began listening to both - Latin on my left and the love lives of two strangers to my right. You can just imagine:

"Obscero, cur tu vis me talis litteras ad patrem mittere?"
"You know, I think God wants me to break up with him..."
"Obscero... I beseech, mittere, that's the imperative of send, right?"
"The signs I've been seeing..."
"Litteras in the singular literally means 'letter', as in part of the alphabet. In the plural, it refers to letter, as in the one you mail"
"Hey, do you get suspicious if he goes out with female friends?"
"Quid vsus erit..."
"Really? I didn't know that!"
"What does vsus erit mean?" "'Benefit will it be'."
"Say, did you hear about..." "No, I haven't!"
"Officium means 'of my office'." "Nice try, Norman. Try again. What does it mean?"

It didn't help that Edward was speaking Latin with the weird English accent.

At the same time, I was drinking cappuccino and feeling extremely ecstatic that I've seen Maria in the flesh after so long. She has the uncanny ability to brighten up my day like no one else in Singapore can.

My brain has suffered a dangerous overload of information. I think I'll stop here and rest.

Remember, the Vote For Your Favourite Mother contest is still on. So those who have yet to vote, remember to do so! Also, please note that everyone is entitled to THREE votes - you may vote for the same person thrice, or for three different people - it's up to you, really.

Vote by clicking "Отправить комментарий" at the bottom of the page and entering your choices.

The Cross Worldwide

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

It was on a cross that Christ stretched His hands and raised us up to our former blessed state, of which the enemy of old deprived us.

There is no greater weapon than the sign of the Life Giving Cross of Christ. It is the Cross that subdues the enemy! It is the Cross that delivers fallen mankind! It is the Cross that is victorious!

Fr Alexander Schmemann wrote of the Cross; "In spite of everything, the Cross is still elevated, exalted and triumphant. The Cross is the beauty of the universe. For in whatever darkness people find themselves, and however great the outward triumph of evil in this world, the heart still knows and hears the words, 'Take courage, I have overcome the world.'".

It comes as no surprise then, that the Cross represents hope and victory for Christians worldwide. The Cross stands highly visible in many places, a poignant symbol of triumph, and a promise fulfilled. Here are some of the most well-known:

The Monumento Nacional de Santa Cruz (National Monument of the Holy Cross), at 152.4 metres high, is the tallest cross in the world. Located at Cuelgamuros in the Guadarrama Valley near Madrid, Spain, it was built under order of Generalissimo Francisco Franco to honour the people killed in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

The World Trade Center Cross (also known as the Ground Zero Cross) is a group of steel beams found amidst the debris of the World Trade Center following the September 11 attacks, resembling a cross. Many who saw the crossed metal bars felt its survival was symbolic, describing it as a "symbol of hope... faith... (and) healing".

A 31.4 metre high illuminated cross crowns Mount Royal on the Island of Montreal, Canada. A cross was first placed on the mountain by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, founder of Montreal, in fulfillment of a vow he made to the Virgin Mary when he prayed to her to stop a disastrous flood. The current cross was installed in 1924 by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

The Kryžių Kalnas (Hill of Crosses) located near Šiauliai, Lithuania is a site of pilgrimage. The first crosses were placed on the former hill fort in the 14th century and in the following years, thousands of crosses (along with rosaries and statues of the Virgin) have been placed by pilgrims. During Soviet rule, the communists worked hard to remove new crosses, and the site was bulldozed at least three times, but new crosses continued to appear and by 1985, the authorities gave up.

(Don't ask me why most of these crosses were raised by Roman Catholics. It seems that we Eastern Christians aren't too fond of erecting large crosses any where else other than atop churches.)

To Eastern Orthodox Christians, the largest fragment of the True Cross is preserved at the Holy Monastery of Xeropotamou on Mount Athos.

Western Christians believe the largest surviving piece of the True Cross is held in Santo Toribio de Liébana, a Franciscan monastery in Spain.

Come, all ye peoples of our fatherland, let us honour the Cross of the Lord with hymns, crying Rejoice, O Cross, thou perfect deliverance of fallen Adam; for in thee do most faithful rulers boast, for through thy power are the Moslem hordes mightily subdued! And now, venerating with fear thee upon whom God was nailed, we Christians render glory, saying O Lord Who wast nailed thereto, have mercy upon us, in that Thou art good and lovest mankind!
- Hymn from Orthros, Elevation of the Holy Cross

Today's Lyrics


Je ne dors plus

Je te desire

Prends moi
Je suis a toi
Mea culpa

Je veux aller au bout de me fantasmes
Je sais que c'est interdit
Je suis folle
Je m'abandonne

Je suis la et ailleurs
Je n'ai plus rien
Je deviens folle
Je m'abandonne

Mea culpa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Elevation of the Cross

Angels from Heaven invisibly circle the life-bringing Cross in fear, and seeing it now brilliantly shed light-bestowing Grace upon the faithful, amazed they stand and cry to thee such words as these:

Rejoice, O Cross, guardian of the world!
Rejoice, the glory of the Church!
Rejoice, thou that dost bountifully gush forth with healings!
Rejoice, thou that dost enlighten the ends of the earth!
Rejoice, wood-fragrant with life, and treasury of wonders!
Rejoice, fitly-joined, thrice-blessed, and bestower of Grace!

Rejoice, for thou art the divine footstool!
Rejoice, for thou wast ordained for the worship of all!
Rejoice, bowl of nectar, full to the brim!
Rejoice, torch of the radiance above!
Rejoice, thou through which the creation is blessed!
Rejoice, thou through the Creator is worshipped!
Rejoice, O Tree most blessed!

O thou thrice-blessed and all-worshipped Cross of Christ, all we the faithful venerate and magnify thee, being joyous at thy divine Exaltation. But as the trophy and unconquered weapon that thou art, by thy Grace, protect, cover, and shelter those who cry to thee:

Rejoice, O Tree most blessed!

Taken from the Akathist Hymn to the Spiritual Ladder, the Precious Cross (Jordanville, 1994)

[via Fr Joseph Huneycutt]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dual Baptisms

This Sunday, on the feast of the Martyrs Mendora, Metrodora & Nymophodora, the Church of the Holy Resurrection welcomed Vladimir and Tatiana into the Orthodox Christian faith. The baptisms were held by the sea.

The day started out rather ominously, with dark clouds blanketing the sky.

Within minutes, however, the clouds rolled away to reveal an unforgiving sun.

"The servant of God, Vladimir, is baptised..."

"When you come to the sacred initiation, the eyes of the flesh see water; the eyes of faith behold the Spirit."
St John Chrysostom

The congregants watched from the shade.

Elizaveta & Sonia having fun with headscarves.

The day wrapped up with a parish lunch.

Unable to Log Into MSN Messenger?

Follow these steps:
Go to c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc

Open the file called "hosts" using WordPad

Add these lines to the bottom:

Friday, September 08, 2006

Vote For Your Favourite Mother!

In celebration of the Birth of the Mother of God, Memoirs is holding an exhibition (of sorts) to honour ten notable mothers. Read about these exceptional women and cast your vote for your favourite among them!

The Virgin Mary
The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born to Joachim and Anna and resided at Nazareth in Galilee. At the age of three, her mother brought her to live in the Temple in Jerusalem. She was later bethrothed to Joseph of the House of David. During their bethrothal, the angel Gabriel announced to her that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son. She asked how that would be, since she was still a virgin. The angel replied that she would conceive through the Holy Spirit. Her unconditional obedience to God was seen in her consent, in which she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word".

After three months, by a decree of the Emperor Augustus, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for an enrolment. While they were there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. The family's joy was short-lived, however, and they fled to Egypt to escape King Herod's agents sent to kill the Messiah. They returned after the death of King Herod and took up residence in Nazareth, where she remained for some thirty years. She was presumably widowed during that time, for Joseph was not mentioned since.

Mary was often present during Jesus' ministry. She was present when Jesus worked his first public miracle at the marriage in Cana by turning water into wine at her intercession. Mary was also present during the crucifixion of her beloved Son, where no doubt her heart was pierced (Luke 2:35). Her last appearance in the Biblical account was in the Upper Room, after the Ascension, on the occasion of the election of Matthias to the vacancy of Judas. She was the only person mentioned by name other than the Apostles and candidates.

Fifteen years later, she died, while surrounded by the Apostles. Her tomb was found empty when the Apostles opened it and concluded that she was assumed into heaven, body and soul.

Her spiritual purity and her wholehearted devotion is certainly to be emulated by all Christians.

St Anna
St Anna was a daughter of Matthan the priest, of the tribe of Levi; as was Aaron the High Priest. She was married to Joachim, who was of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. They were married for fifty years, and were barren. They lived devoutly and quietly, using only a third of their income for themselves and giving a third to the poor and the rest to th Temple.

Once, when they were already old and were in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, the High Priest Issachar upbraided Joachim, "You are not worthy to offer sacrifice with those childless hands". Others who had children jostled Joachim, thrusting him back as unworthy. This caused grief to to the two aged souls, and they went away with heavy hearts. The two gave themselves to prayer.

God sent the angel Gabriel, who gave them tidings of the birth of "a daughter most blessed, by whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and through whom will come salvation of the world". Anna conceived at once, and in the ninth month gave birth to the Virgin Mary. She lived for 79 years and entered into the Kingdom of God.

St Elizabeth
St Elizabeth was the mother of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. She was descended from the lineage of Aaron and St Elizabeth was the sister of St Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary. She and her husband, Zechariah, were "righteous before God, living blamelessly" (Luke 1:6) but were childless. Later, Zechariah was visited by the angel Gabriel who told him his wife would conceive a son who "will be great in the sight of the Lord" (Luke 1:15).

When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years of age at Bethlehem, hoping that the Messiah would be among them. Herod knew of John's unusual birth and he sought his death, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. Zechariah, however, was not so fortunate. Failing to learn the whereabouts of John, Herod had him stabbed between the temple and the altar. Elizabeth died forty days later, but John, preserved by the Lord dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to Israel.

St Monica
She was born in Tagaste and brought up as a Christian by her parents. She was married to an older, pagan man named Patritius, who had a short temper and led an immoral life. Her mother-in-law did not like her, and often troubled her.

Monica attended church daily and found patience. Eventually, she converted her husband to Christianity and won the favour of her mother-in-law by her gentle disposition. Monica bore Patritius three children: Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. Augustine made her happy with his successes as a scholar and teacher, but also shamed her with his debauchery. For ten years, he lived with his mistress and was under the influence of the heretical sect of Manichaeism. Monica sought the help of a bishop to convince her son of his errors. However, the bishop, unable to reason with the young man, told Monica to contine praying for her son "for it is not possible that the son of these tears should be lost". At the age of 28, Augustine received grace and came to orthodox Christianity.

Shortly after her son's baptism by St Ambrose, Monica fell asleep in the Lord at the age of fifty-six.

St Helen
(also called Helena or Elena)
She was born a Christian in Drepanum (later renamed Helenopolis) and was married to Constantius Chlorus, a Roman general. She bore him a son, Constantine. He later divorced her to marry Theodora, the step-daughter of Maximian.

After her son's elevation as emperor of the Roman Empire, she undertook a journey to Jerusalem and found the Holy Cross on which our Lord was crucified. While in Palestine, the holy empress did much for the benefit of the Church. She ordered that all places connected with the earthly life of the Lord and His Mother be freed of all traces of paganism and commanded that churches be built at those places. She distributed generous alms at Jerusalem and feeding the needing (serving them herself at times), the holy empress returned to Constantinople, where she died in the year 327. Famed for her piety, she is also credited with the finding of the relics of the Three Wise Men.

St Athanasia
St Athanasia and her three young daughters were arrested because they were Christian. Ss Cyrus and John hastened to the prison to help them, for they were concerned that the women might renounce Christ when faced with torture. Learning of this, the ruler of the city had Ss Cyrus and John arrested and forced Athanasia and her daughters to witness their torture. The tyrant did not refrain from any form of torture against the holy ones, but the women were not frightened and continued to confess Christ. They were flogged and then beheaded, receiving their crowns of martyrdom.

St Emily
(also called Emmeleia, Emelia or Emilia)
She was the daughter of a martyr and the daughter-in-law of St Macrina the Elder. Her husband was St Basil the Elder, to whom she bore ten children. She instilled the Orthodox faith in her children, and as a result of her zealous yet maternal instruction of her children, five of them are commemorated as saints on the Church calendar: Ss Macrina, Basil the Great, Peter of Sebaste, Gregory of Nyssa and the Deaconess Theosebia. It is without exaggeration that St Emily is often called "mother of saints".

After her children left home, she was persuaded by her eldest daughter, Macrina, to forsake the world. Together, they founded a monastery for women. Emily divided the family property among her children and freed her slaves. Retaining only meager possessions, she and Macrina withdrew to a secluded family property in Pontus. A number of liberated female slaves joined the pair and a convent was formed. They lived under one roof and held everything in common: they ate, worked and prayed together. The harmony of this model community of women was unspoiled by anger, jealousy, hatred or pride. Indeed, they lived like angels in the flesh.

Living in this manner for many years, Emily reached old age. When an illness signalled her departure from this world, her son Peter came to her side. Together with Macrina, he tended to his mother in her last days. She was buried with her husband in the chapel of their estate in Annesi.

Martyr Sophia
Sophia was a pious Christian widow who named her three daughters for three Christian virtues. Faith was 12, Hope was 10 and Love was 9. St Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. She and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ, but openly confessed it to everyone.

An official named Antiochus denounced them to the emperor Hadrian, who ordered that they be brought to Rome. When they appeared before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composure. They looked as though they had been brought to some happy festival. Summoning each of the sisters in turn, Hadrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls refused to yield. They were then tortured.

Sophia was subjected to the most grievous torture: the mother was forced to watch the suffering of her daughters. She displayed adamant courage, and urged her daughters to endure their torments for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens were later beheaded. Sophia was permitted to take the bodies, which she buried on a high hill. After sitting by the grave of her daughters for three days, she gave up her soul to the Lord. Even though she did not suffer for Christ in the flesh, she was not deprived of a martyr's crown. Instead, she suffered in her heart. She was buried by believers beside her daughters.

St Alexandra the Passion-bearer
Alix Victoria Helena Luise Beatrice, Princess of Hesse and by Rhine was born in Darmstadt (then part of the German Empire). She was baptised into the Lutheran Church and given the names of her mother and each of her mother's four sisters. She was engaged to the Tsarevich Nicholas. She was first troubled by the requirement to renounce her Lutheran faith, but she was persuaded and eventually became a fervent (some say fanatical) convert.

Upon being chrismated into the Russian Orthodox Church, she assumed the name Alexandra. Tsar Alexander III died that year and Nicholas became Tsar of all Russia. They were married the same year and had five children. Unfortunately, Alexandra was a carrier of haemophilia, inherited from Queen Victoria (her grandmother) and transmitted the disease to her son, Alexei.

She was unpopular at court and with the Russian people, lacking charm and social skills. She attended as few court occasions as possible and was unfavourably compared to her popular predecessor, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. She later confided in the mystic Grigori Rasputin who was the only one who could successfully treat her son. Rasputin's political power grew during this time, which would later seriously undermine Imperial rule.

In the third year of World War I, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne both for himself and his son. The Imperial family were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia where they remained until the Bolshevik Revolution in November, when they were moved to the Bolshevik-controlled Ekaterinburg. The family never gave up hope and their piety was known to have greatly increased during their months of imprisonment.

They were excuted by firing squad on the night of of July 16 1918 by the Bolsheviks. Alexandra was reported to have made the sign of the cross before she was killed with a gun shot to the left side of her head.

St Gianna Beretta Molla*
St Gianna was the tenth of thirteen children born to Alberto and Maria Beretta. She was raised in a pious family; two brothers became priests and a sister became a nun. She worked with the poor and elderly while in college, joining the St Vincent de Paul Society. Physician and surgeon, graduating from the University of Pavia in 1949, she started a clinic in Mero, Italy. She considered a call to religious life, but was married to Pietro Molla in 1955. She became a mother of three and continued her medical career, treating it as a mission and gift from God.

During her pregnancy with her fourth child, she was diagnosed with a large ovarian cyst. Her surgeon recommended an abortion in order to save Gianna's life; she refused and died a week after childbirth, caring more for doing right by her unborn child than for her own life. Today, that child is a physician herself and is involved in the pro-life movement.

* St Gianna is recognised only in the Roman Catholic Church

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Prayer

When you pray to God in time of temptation do not say, "Take this or that away from me", but pray like this: "O Jesus Christ, sovereign Master, help me and do not let me sin against Thee..."

Abba Isaiah the Solitary

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Meeting a Monk

I met Fr Filimon, a Coptic Orthodox hieromonk (i.e. "priest-monk") from Australia, on Sunday afternoon for tea at the Grand Plaza Parkroyal. Also present was Ernest, who initiated the meeting, and Amira from the local Coptic church.

Fr Filimon was here to serve the liturgy at St Mark's Coptic Church. The local Coptic Orthodox community, being of modest size, does not have a permanent priest stationed here. They rely on the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Sydney to send a priest up north to celebrate the Eucharist every first Sunday of the month.
(Photo courtesy of Ernest; your blogger was at his parish)

We asked about prayer. Fr Filimon said one could pray any where, any time - but contemplative prayer was another thing altogether. He suggested that one read the lives of the saints, or the Bible before prayer. If one's eyes were tired, then perhaps one could listen to a few hymns before that. In any case, one had to get one's mind prepared for listening. One may think that one is not making any progress when one does not hear Him, but one is. Do not imagine that He'll shout in your ear - remember that God met Elijah in a small whisper of a voice instead of earth-shaking phenomena.

Fr Filimon was only in Singapore for two days; he had to travel to Bangkok to celebrate the liturgy for the Coptic community there - he may be back again soon as he has to transit through Singapore. I for one look forward to seeing Abouna again =)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Beslan Remembered

"The whole world now knows this little town. It would have been better if no one knew where Beslan was," a man said softly during a funeral ceremony.

- Taipei Times, September 7th, 2004

Russians of all ages have been remembering the Beslan school bloodbath, two years on.

A woman lights a candle in the destroyed school gym, where more than 1,000 hostages were held by pro-Chechen gunmen.

Flowers and bottles of water adorn the floor of the gym to remember those who perished. The bottles of water are a stark reminder of how the children were left without food or water by their captors during those 3 days. One, as I am told, still sees fresh flowers everywhere one looks. So many that their sweet scent is overwhelming; so strong that one can almost touch it.

Two years on, this incident still remains a raw nerve for many - myself included. And if it pains me to even think about it, I can hardly imagine the anguish felt by the people of Beslan.

Moving on would seem impossible - it would seem a betrayal of their memory. They seem to be living in two parallel worlds; one where life goes on and another where it has stopped on the last day of the siege.

I ask that my readers pray continually for the residents of this town. In particular, we must pray for them in order that they may once again have peace in their hearts. Let the following story give testimony to the extent of horror and trauma experienced:

In a small flat in one of Beslan's characterless compounds, nine-year-old Laima draws a picture. It shows an armed terrorist, his face covered by a mask.

She draws several pictures until she is finally happy with the result. Then she picks it up, tears it to pieces and sets it on fire with matches.

"I draw the terrorist and burn them for all the children who died in the school. I want to take revenge on them for killing those children."

Since her lucky escape, Laima has been engaged in drawing and burning these pictures almost every day.

September 1st - 3rd: Remembering Beslan

During these 3 days, we remember those who perished at Beslan 2 years ago.

On September 1st, 2004, armed Chechen terrorists took more than 1200 adults and schoolchildren hostage at School Number One. On the third day of the standoff, Russian security forces intervened and the siege ended. According to official data, 344 civillians were killed, 186 of them children with hundreds more wounded.

I ask that my readers, where possible, light a candle for them.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Orthodoxy Taught In Schools

Russian Orthodox Christianity is made a compulsory school subject in 4 of Russia's regions

What better way to begin a new academic year in Russia than to have the basics of Orthodox culture made mandatory for schools in the Belgorod, Bryansk, Kaluga and Smolensk regions and optional for a further 11 regions.

Western Europe could learn a lot from this move - along with the influx of Mohammedan immigrants as well as many secular values taking over many aspects of life, she is fast losing her status as the most cultured region on earth. As Patriarch Aleksey said, "If people practicing other religions live in our country, they should study their culture, of course, but they should also know the culture of the country they live in".

All cultured people should know their nation's history and basics of its culture.

"...all young people studying at school should know the histoy of their culture," Patriarch Aleksey II of Moscow and all Russia told journalists at the State History Museum.

Education Minister Andrei Fursenko voiced support, saying "schoolchildren must know the history of religion and religious culture".

Unsurprisingly, secular advocates (many of whom are probably bitter that state atheism has lost its hold on Holy Russia) have protested the introduction of such a course in schools.

[links via The Western Confucian]

Evangelist Drowns Trying to Walk on Water

An evangelist who tried replicating Jesus' miracle of walking on water has reportedly drowned off the western coast of Africa.

Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle, and he attempted it from a beach in Gabon's capital of Libreville.

"He told churchgoers he'd had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus," an eyewitness told the Glasgow Daily Record.

"He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back."

- WorldNetDaily, 30th August

Someone please tell me this is a joke. Are these "born-again" Protestants really so starved for media attention that they take on one outrageous stunt after the other? I am reminded of a similar incident last year in Taiwan, when a man jumped into the lions' enclosure in a zoo, shouting "Jesus will save you!".

I really am quite speechless. However, Mike the Geek over at The Waffling Anglican, has quite a few words to say:

Okay, one more time. Let’s get this right. We’re not Him! It’s not “What would Jesus do?” It’s “What does Jesus want me to do?”

The answer is probably not “pretending that I’m Him!”

This “if I just have enough faith” bilge is causing more grief to people that can be measured. Folks are actually being told by some of these word-of-faith preachers that whatever bad happens to them is because they lack faith. Got cancer? Your faith is weak. Your daughter died of an overdose? Your faith is weak. Halitosis? Forget the Listerine; you gotta have faith, man! And people actually seem to buy it – probably as the result of decade upon decade of really bad catechesis.

Where did this nonsense come from? I first encountered it watching big-hair, pancake-makeup, hollering nut jobs preaching on the cable channels, and thought it was just another wacko fad that would disappear faster than you can say “Holy Inquisition.” Instead, it seems to be spreading. I’ve actually heard variations on it from Episcopal and even Catholic sources.

Faith is faith in the cross, and faith in the cross is acceptance of the cross. If faith makes you healthy and wealthy, then where the heck are the apostles? What’s that you say? Oh yeah, except for John, they were martyred. And John got exiled.

Guess they just didn’t have enough faith.

Sorry for the rant, but really, now! The ghost of Charlie Darwin lurks around every corner, waiting to naturally select the unwary out of the gene pool. That’s pretty insensitive, I suppose, and I hope the Rev. Kabele is in the presence of the Lord, but I also hope his congregation learned something from the demonstration. Remember, the same Lord who said our faith could move mountains also said, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble." (Luke 17:2, NASB). Sometimes, the millstone seems to be optional.

Œcumenical Statement Condemns "Christian" Zionism

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:19

Background Information
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, together with her Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran counterparts, has issued a joint statement condemning what has come to be called "Christian" Zionism:

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!

[via Fr Jim Tucker]

One wonders why Orthodox patriarch Theophilus III was not among the signatories...