Thursday, June 21, 2007

Orthodoxy in Popular Culture

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Pilgrimage of Marquise Immacolata Solaro del Borgo

An aging Italian Roman Catholic noblewoman, her grey hair covered with a white veil, in a church packed with nearly 1,000 Russian Orthodox, today, in a simple but moving ceremony, handed over to the Russian Orthodox bishop of the city seven precious relics of saints -- including a tiny fragment of the robe of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Some women in attendance wept openly.

"I bring these relics as my gift to you, and to the people of Russia, as a sign of my respect and love for Russia and all her people," the Marquise Immacolata Solaro del Borgo, 77, a member of Rome's historically powerful Colonna family, said to Bishop Anastasi as she handed over the gift to him at 10 a.m. today in a packed church. "I hope the relics can enrich the new Marian sanctuary you are building around the icon of Our Lady of Kazan."

"We appreciate these gifts very much," Bishop Anastasi later told "Inside the Vatican." "We are grateful to Immacolata that she made this long and tiring journey to bring us these gifts personally. The city of Kazan will appreciate them forever."

- Spero News, Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Divine Liturgy was celebrated

The cathedral was packed

The relics were later taken on procession around the city

News via The Western Confucian

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Crazy Eights

Tagged by the Western Confucian:

Here are the rules...

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when I was 10.

2. I was taught to play the piano and violin as a child; I play neither instrument today (or any other instrument, for that matter).

3. I am utterly addicted to the fragrance of sesame oil.

4. The nouveau riche irritate me. These parvenus are conspicuous and tasteless with their spending and constantly use their wealth to flaunt their newfound status. Why can't they just acquiesce to the accepted behavior of their social class?

5. Cultural ignorance is the bane of my existence.

6. Save for Anglican evensong, I haven't really been listening to songs performed in the English language until I began listening to the lovely Regina Spektor this year.

7. I love taking care of babies and young children. I find it quite calming, really.

8. I've been accused of anti-Semitism on more than one occasion, usually after criticizing Israel's defense policy. I don't hate Jews; I merely disagree with Zionists (and that includes many Christians).

Eight more people: Karen, Francis, Paul, Edward, Julia, Norman, Dominic and Vernon.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Western Christendom

Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius II, wrote shortly after the Fall of the City, on the state of Western Christian interrelations at that time:

"...neither Pope nor Emperor is adequately esteemed or obeyed; they are treated as fictitious names and painted figures. Each city has a king of its own; there are as many princes as houses. How might one persuade the numberless Christian rulers to take up arms? Look upon Christianity! Italy, you say, is pacified. I do not know to what extent. The remains of war still exist between the King of Aragon and the Genoese. The Genoese will not fight the Turks: they are said to pay tribute to them! The Venetians have made a treaty with the Turks. If the Italians do not take part, we cannot hope for maritime war. In Spain, as you know, there are many kings of different power, different policy, different will, and different ideas; but these sovereigns who live in the far West can not be attracted to the East, especially when they are fighting with the Moors of Granada. The King of France has expelled his enemy from his kingdom; but he is still in trouble, and will not dare to send his knights beyond the borders of his kingdom for fear of a sudden landing of the English. As far as the English are concerned, they think only of taking revenge for their expulsion from France. Scotch, Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians, who live at the end of the world, seek nothing beyond their countries. The Germans are greatly divided and have nothing to unify them."

The same might be said of Western Christianity today. How curious.


554th Year

O, city, city, head of all cities!
O, city, city, center of the four quarters of the world!
O, city, city, pride of the Christians and ruin of the barbarians!
O, city, city, second paradise planted in the West, including all sorts of plants bending under the burden of spiritual fruits!
Where is thy beauty, O, paradise?
Where is the blessed strength of spirit and body of thy spiritual Graces?
Where are the bodies of the Apostles of my Lord?
Where are the relics of the saints, where are the relics of the martyrs?
Where is the corpse of the great Constantine and other Emperors?

Nicetas Acominatus

Monday marked the 554th anniversary of the fall of the Constantinople, Queen of Cities and New Rome, to the Turks. The City, by 1453 militarily insignificant and economically dependent on the fickle Italian maritime republics, faced her end with dignity and courage. A sorrowful event still to all true Christians, and lovers of the Classical world.

On the fifth of the month of April, one hour after daybreak, the sultan Mehmet came before Constantinople with about a hundred and sixty thousand men, and encamped about two and a half miles from the walls of the city.

Appeals to Rome and the West yielded no results, save for empty promises and expressions of sympathy. The Venetian senate was still deliberating about sending a fleet even in the middle of May. The Genoese colony of Pera, the opposite the City, stayed neutral. To the people of Constantinople, the only thing that mattered now, at the end of freedom and the beginning of a long darkness, was holding on to the true Faith.

Forty days later, in the early hours of 29th May, the final assault of the Turks began. Under the deafening noise of trumpets and drums, irregular bashi-bazouks and the elite janissaries alike poured through the walls of Constantinople. The Emperor, Constantine XI, realizing that everything was lost, threw off his imperial insignia, and followed by his cousin Theophilus Palaeologus, the Castilian Don Francisco of Toledo, and John Dalmatus, all four holding their swords, charged into the sea of the enemy soldiers, hitting left and right in a final act of defiance, never to be seen again.

Smashing through the great bronze doors of the Hagia Sophia, the Turks burst in, interrupting matins, massacring the congregation and priests. Later, the sultan Mehmet would walk into the great cathedral and claim in for Islam.

An empire which lasted for 1123 years, inheriting Greek thought and propagating the Christian faith, fell in a single night into the hands of infidels. When the sultan entered the City the sun, as it is said, veiled its brightness behind thick clouds in tokens of mourning. For us, 1453 does not only signify the beginning of the modern era; it evokes the memory of a world of grandeur, and all the memory of regret.

That Monday, being the anniversary of the Fall, as well as my name day (my patron saint is the Emperor Constantine XI), Edward, Anthony, Ernest, Norman and I went out to commemorate the occasion. We dined at Philia, one of the few Greek restaurants in this country. The staff, being ethnically Greek, agreed to play a music CD, Songs from the Fall of the City, that Edward had brought.

An icon of my patron saint was placed by the table

Starters: Feta cheese, tzatziki - a yoghurt dip with cucumber and garlic puree, and wholemeal bread

I had souvlaki - grilled pork, marinated in oil, salt, pepper, oregano and lemon, on skewers. Edward had the same, Norman had moussaka (eggplant casserole) and I can't remember what the rest had.

We had loukoumades for dessert, which are similar to donuts, essentially fried balls of dough drenched in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon

Norman enjoying his dessert

The Holy Virgin was distressed, the very icons wept.
Be calm, beloved Lady, be calm and do not weep for them.
Though years, though centuries shall pass, they shall be yours again.


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Dedicated to Alina

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

Anna Akhmatova, Lot's Wife


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rest in Peace, Father Elias

Father Elias Wen
(1896 - 2007)
The servant of God, Father Elias Wen, fell asleep in the Lord at 2:30PM PDT on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at age of 110 years old. He was the oldest living Orthodox priest to date.

Father Elias Wen (Chinese: 文子正; Pinyin: Wén Zǐzhèng) was born in China, 1896. At the age of seven, he converted to Holy Orthodoxy at the Chinese Orthodox Mission in Peking. Between 1905 to 1925, he studied at the Mission, entering seminary in 1916. He was ordained a deacon in 1924, and a priest seven years later.

In 1946, he became rector of the Cathedral of the Mother of God, Surety of Sinners, serving under the Archbishop of Shanghai, St John Maximovich. Along with several members of the clergy, including St John, he fled to Hong Kong in 1949, when the communists came to power. He was later assigned to the Cathedral of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow, in San Francisco in 1957, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Until the age of 100, Father Elias conducted all Sunday and holiday services at the Cathedral, and sang on the kliros daily, morning and evening. It has been difficult for Father Elias to make the trip to the Cathedral the last few years, so the Cathedral clergy visits him and administers the Holy Mysteries to him at home. Father Elias walks unaided, his mind is sound, but he has difficulty with his sight and hearing.

In the words of Father Elias, the greatest punishment for him is being unable to sing on the kliros on a daily basis.

Memory Eternal!

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Indian Bin

One of my pet peeves about ethnic Chinese Singaporeans (those born and bred here) is their frighteningly oversimplified categorization of all non-East Asian languages and cultures. There is this overwhelming tendency to think of any language/culture one is unfamiliar with as "Indian". It makes any discussion of music and the performing arts of various cultures extremely difficult on my end.

These languages have all been identified as "Indian" by friends/classmates:
* Arabic
* Armenian
* Chechen
* Farsi (Persian)
* French (yes, FRENCH)
* Georgian
* Greek
* Mongolian
* Romanian
* Russian
* Serbo-Croat
* Ukrainian

Just look at the list. Are any of the languages listed even remotely close to any of the myriad Indian tongues?

One can only wonder how the thought process actually plays out:
1) Hears unfamiliar music Constantine is playing
2) Music is unfamiliar, then language must be unfamiliar too
3) Unfamiliar = Indian
4) Therefore, music/language must be Indian

First of all, the Indian language does not exist! There are well over 20 official languages in India, ranging from Hindi to Malayalam to Urdu. The languages of the India are as diverse as the geography and people of the land.

It is not so much not being able to identify languages that bugs me, but the derogatory use of the "Indian" description. Anything strange and unfamiliar is automatically tossed into the "Indian bin". Nobody wants to hear strange, unfamiliar Indian music. Nobody wants to watch strange, unfamiliar Indian videos. Nobody wants anything to do with strange, unfamiliar Indian things.

We like to think ourselves as a cosmopolitan city-state - but what does it matter if the majority of the population (over 75%) think of a minority group as merely a synonym for all things bizarre and outlandish?

Are they so culturally illiterate that they can't tell Romanian (a LATIN language, closest to Italian) from Tamil (the most widely-spoken language by local Indians)? Even the well-read among us disappoint me sometimes - Kenny of the Sleepless Eye once mistook Russian and Persian for "Indian".

This habit has absolutely NOTHING to do with one's knowledge/education. It is rooted in the individual mindset. We must change this if we are truly to become a cosmopolitan state.

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This is Good (I think...)

You Are 51% Addicted to the Internet

You're somewhat addicted to the internet - but who isn't?
You can keep it under check, and you're by no means a hermit.


Be Careful for What You Wish For

Tony Stewart of the ruling Labor Party in the New South Wales state parliament, said he would rather go to hell than take orders on how to vote from Cardinal George Pell. "Maybe I'll go to hell, but if I go to hell I'm going to do so by saving a lot of lives, because that's what this bill is about," Tony Stewart said in a radio interview.

Cardinal Pell said recently that cloning is unethical and "a serious moral matter", which could see the creation of human and animal hybrids.

- Catholic News Agency, Sydney, Jun 7, 2007 / 09:26 am

Tony Stewart should be reminded that the choice is up to him.

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