Sunday, February 25, 2007

Triumph of Orthodoxy

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Eastern Church celebrates a feast that commemorates the Church's official approval of holy images.

Holy images have been a part of Christian worship and spirituality since the earliest times. St Luke, in fact, is thought to be the very first iconographer.

But in the 8th century, the followers of the new religion of Islam invaded the Middle East--conquering, subjugating, and killing Christians. The formerly Christian lands of the Middle East and north Africa fell under the control of Islam. The Emperor of Byzantium, Leo, thought that perhaps this was befalling the Christians because of their use of holy images. Maybe God did not approve of them.

Thus, a heresy sprang up in the Eastern Church called iconoclasm - literally, "icon-smashing." Churches were whitewashed, and writing or owning icons were illegal. Icons were destroyed.

But defenders of the holy images, especially St John of Damascus (675-745), bravely wrote treatises explaining why veneration of icons was proper. St John argued that in the Old Testament, images of God were forbidden because He was invisible, but that Jesus was the image, or "icon", of the invisible God; the invisible God was now visible, and thus it was proper to make and venerate images of Christ, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints.

Finally, at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, the Church officially approved and encouraged the use and veneration of holy images. This day, which is on the first Sunday of Lent, has ever since been called the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

[via Karen]


Thursday, February 22, 2007

UPDATE: Last Week

First of all, I'd like to wish all my readers a very happy Lunar New Year!

It has been quite some time since I've posted anything worthwhile, so I suppose it would be appropriate to apologise for my lack of effort in updating.

The last week was fun, to say the least. Yes, there was the 'orrible secular celebration of Valentine's Day, which I spent considerable time raving against. The night of Valentine's, however, was better spent.

Edward brought us (Michael & I) to Zouk on Mambo Night; its experience is often regarded as an initiation ritual for many beginners into the local clubbing scene. It was, of course, the first time for both Michael and I - we never quite had the urge to do so, for some inexplicable reason, despite having most of our peers clubbing regularly. Norman accompanied the three of us.

Edward & Norman
It could very well have been hell, according to the many Presbyterian sermons I grew up listening to. It was dark, illuminated only by dim lights and ultraviolet rays, and ghoulish, thronged with hot, sweaty people gyrating suggestively to loud music. Despite all this, we managed to enjoy ourselves.

Norman, Michael & I
Long have I heard many describe clubbing, but it was the sort of thing one had to experience firsthand to understand - and what an experience. I learnt that gin and tonic glows under UV light, I cannot dance, Michael and Edward smoke pipes even in nightclubs, my parents keep calling me every 30 minutes just to make sure I haven't hooked up with anybody yet, and that clubbing is for people of all ages (we saw a wrinkled, balding bloke in his mid-50s dancing away with a pretty, young thing on the dance floor).

The week culminated with the Lunar New Year celebrations on Sunday (which by the way, marks the beginning of Great Lent - it really sneaks up on you, doesn't it?). The "haul" this year was better than the last - I collected a whole $100 more this year as compared to the last. However, I might not be able to enjoy this extra cash this time (more on this later).

And... that concludes last week.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Presentation of Our Lord

Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to Your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whomYou love, as only the loving One.

Kontakion (1st Tone)

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by the holy bishops Methodios of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilokios of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the sixth century.

In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

Church hymnographers adorned this Feast with their hymns: St. Andrew of Crete in the seventh century; St Cosmas Bishop of Maium, St John of Damascus, and St Germanos Patriarch of Constantinople in the eighth century; and St. Joseph, Archbishop of Thessalonika in the ninth century.

On this day we also commemorate the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or "Symeon’s Prophecy". The Mother of God is depicted without Her Child, with seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.

A similar icon, "Of the Seven Swords" (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right.

The icon "Symeon’s Prophecy" symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Symeon: "a sword shall pierce through your own soul" (Luke 2:35).


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Bah, humbug!

With my mind temporarily lobotomized by unhealthy levels of Russian techno, I can now safely write on the occasion of this day without trailing off halfway to jump off a bridge or something.

Ah, Valentine's Day.

What a surprise to find, when one looks at the Western liturgical calendar, that Valentine's Day is, well, the Feast of St Valentine (February 14). This is the day we remember a great saint who loved his Lord enough to die for Him. A wonderful feast it truly is, and how it has been perverted and made trivial.

I hate this holiday. I hold it in contempt for the same reason that I do Halloween. It has everything to do with commercialization and more. Like Halloween (and Christmas, to a certain extent), Valentine's Day is no more than superficial, imported Western kitsch.

Not only is it a vulgar, commercialized, pretend excuse for a holiday, Valentine's Day is actually harmful and discriminatory. Psychologically harmful and discriminatory, it does more harm than good.

Holidays can be divided into three categories - those of observance (Victory in Europe Day, International Women's Day), those of celebration (New Year's) and both (Pascha/Easter). The point of a holiday is this: to either remember/commemorate an important religious/historical event or for everyone to celebrate it happily. Now, we know that a good 100% of couples celebrating Valentine's Day all have no idea who St Valentine is. So moving on to the "celebration" aspect of today...

Anybody can celebrate Christmas/Halloween/St Patrick's Day/New Year's/Hanukkah if he/she wants to do so. Valentine's Day, however, actively excludes and humiliates those who do not meet its criteria - basically those not in a dyadic relationship (heterosexual or otherwise). So what else is Valentine's Day other than seeing a bunch of people who happen to have been lucky enough to be in romantic relationship lording it over those who haven't?

Valentine's Day isn't fun at all. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that Valentine's Day for someone who is single is unbearably excruciating. Nobody likes it when I start pontificating on a topic everyone thought I knew nothing about (just ask my classmates). And yet, to someone who is single - that is what Valentine's Day is all about: an exclusive cabal of smug people emphasizing the fact that you're still single (i.e. discrimination and harassment).

How anyone can tolerate or even like this farcical and anachronistic holiday is beyond me.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Portugal Chooses Death

Prime Minister Jose Socrates has said abortion will be legalised in Portugal despite the turnout for a referendum being too low to be legally binding.

Turnout was about 40%, far less than the 50% required, but of those who did vote, 59.3% backed a proposed change to the current law.

- BBC News, 12 February 2007, 01:42 GMT

In the words of a commentator, Portugal has "gone down the toilet".

The murderers have achieved their goal in Portugal.

If past trends in other European nations are any indication of what is to be, abortion rates in Portugal will soar in the first years after decriminalization, possibly leading to demographic collapse in a nation with already very worrisome birth rates.

With Portugal out of the way, only three countries remain in Europe stand in the way of death: Ireland, Poland, and Malta.

We remember the words of Father Seraphim Rose:

And we must be crucified outwardly, in the eyes of the world; for Christ's Kingdom is not of this world, and the world cannot bear it, even a single representative of it, even for a single moment. The world can only accept Antichrist, now or at any time.

No wonder, then, that it is hard to be a Christian - it is not hard, it is impossible. No one can knowingly accept a way of life which, the more truly it is lived, leads the more surely to one's own destruction.

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Sunday of the Last Judgment

On this day we commemorate the inescapable second coming of Christ, ordained by the most divine Fathers to be observed after the second parable of the Prodigal, so that no one who has learned of the love of God for mankind from it will live in laziness saying, "God loves mankind, and when I am separated from Him by sin, all is prepared for my restoration".

This fearsome day of judgment has been designated for commemoration at this point in time, that through fear of death and the expectation of future torment, those who live in laziness may be encouraged to the virtues, not trusting only in the love of God, but also realizing that He is the righteous Judge who will judge all men according to their deeds. In other words those souls who have passed over are obliged to undergo judgment.


The commemoration is appointed for this day of Meatfare, that in awe of this event we should limit our intake of earthly food, not giving ourselves over to gluttony, and be encouraged to love our neighbor. In other words, since we were banished from Eden, cursed and condemned through eating of the fruit, so the present event has been ordained at this time, as next Sunday we will be banished through Adam, until Christ comes again to raise us up to Paradise.

- Synaxarion of the Last Judgment

And so, it was on this day that our little band went down to Carnivore, a Brazilian churrascaria at VivoCity, to have all the meat we wanted before Great Lent.

Typical for churrascarias, one pays a fixed price and waiters bring an offering of food to each customer at several times throughout the meal, until the customers signify that they have had enough (here it was done with a card, red on one side and green on the other).

Our little band.

Michael has some vegetables before gorging on meat.

Servers come to the table with skewers, on which great cuts of meat are speared, which they carve out slices with knives.

Edward liked his roast beef rare.

Conversation after dinner dealt with 80s music, liturgics for Holy Week, Valentine's Day, dogs, the Sarum rite and various languages.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

This is bad...

Five days to Valentine's Day and I'm already depressed.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blog Posts Worth a Read

Three interesting must-read blog posts this week:

True theologians don't want to say anything new, they don't want to come up with novel ideas. They want to be as unoriginal as possible, to echo the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church. "I will say nothing new!" swore St John of Damascus.

- Karen talks about an important characteristic of Eastern Christianity: listening to the voice of the Church Fathers

The entire Protestant theological system rests on one single doctrine: Sola Scriptura. The other core Protestant doctrine, Sola Fide, is somewhat derived from Sola Scriptura, so demonstrating how Sola Scriptura is self-contradictory discredits Sola Fide as a Biblical doctrine.

Sola Scriptura, which is Latin literally meaning "Scripture Alone", hinges mainly on denying two things: history, and logic.

- Traditionalist Catholic Kenny writes once again on the inherent flaw in Protestantism

I think the banks have really outdone themselves in the quest to generate more profits. I cannot emphasize enough the need for the average "customer" at a bank to be extra careful and be informed enough to decide whether to buy these things. I have paid enough "tuition fees". A couple of years ago, they were promoting "savings plans". Insurance plans with a savings component - but in my view that is utter rubbish.

- Norman explains why banks are evil


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Europe's Old Churches Turn Into Bars, Eateries

"Its transformation ... is shocking and completely unacceptable," says Jiri Pesek, head of the European Center for Old Sacral Art. But protests often come too late. "People are just not aware of what is happening—until it happens to their church," says Brussels-based Chris Gillibrand, who runs a web site called that opposes the conversion of Catholic churches.

- 'Remodeling the Churches', Newsweek International, February 12, 2007 issue

[link via Catholic Church Conservation]

Shocking and completely unacceptable indeed.

While it is bad enough that disused churches be converted into mosques and temples, it is downright disrespectful and offensive that they be used for parties and clubs. You will never find the same being done to Moslem mosques or Buddhist temples, and this blogger wonders why.

There are not too many converted churches in this country, but whenever I pass the most well-known, the former Catholic Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), now CHIJMES (pronounced 'chimes') - dining, shopping and entertainment centre - I cannot help but sigh.

Its chapel, the finest example of Gothic style architecture in this country, is reduced to hosting dinner parties and fashion shows. It is truly unfortunate, but on hindsight, its sale to the Singapore government in 1983 saved it from the tasteless changes inflicted on Catholic churches following Vatican II.

Such secularism is not universal. Russia has seen the construction of 11,000 new churches and chapels since the collapse of communism.

"The further you head east into the Orthodox world, the more you will find church buildings being repaired and new ones going up," says the Rev. Darrell Jackson of the World Council of Churches.

Thanks be to God.

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(Yet Another) Relic for Sale

The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed indignation at an attempt to sell a skull and bone allegedly belonging to Saint Philip.

The advert for the remains appeared on a Russian website.

It described the relic as "remains of an Orthodox saint, in good condition, with an inscription on the cranium confirming the saint's name".

- BBC News, Monday, 5 February 2007, 17:36 GMT

Relic are not curios to be purchased for one's viewing pleasure.

This isn't even about simony - genuine relics or not, the sale of human remains is disgusting and immoral. Anybody in possession of an illegally (or accidentally) obtained relic has the moral and social obligation to return it to the Church, where it belongs.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Prayers for Portugal's Abortion Referendum

Rorate Caeli has invited all readers and their families to pray a novena for life to Our Lady, beginning on Our Lady's Saturday following Candlemas (February 3) and ending on February 11.

Before full communion is restored between our Churches, it is not yet common for the Orthodox to pray alongside Catholics. Yet, on this day, I humbly ask my readers to join the Catholics as they pray for right to life to remain protected in one of its last bastions in Europe.

The novena is not familiar among us Eastern Christians, so use the prayer of your choice.

"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does."
Tertullian, Apology 27, AD 210

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The Islamification of Kosovo

UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari has presented plans for the future of Kosovo which would allow it to separate from Serbia.

- BBC News, 2 February 2007, 13:53 GMT

What Ahtisaari will propose is whatever America wants. If it’s independence we’re not going to stay – that would be a dictatorship.

Slavka, ethnic Serb

If Ahtisaari’s proposals are accepted we will lose our educational system, health system and a lot of people will lose their jobs.

It’s going to be hard for us, and I think 80% of us will leave.

Vladan, ethnic Serb

The natives have made it clear - if Kosovo, the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy, secedes, the Serbs will leave, and with them the last vestiges of Christianity.

Let us pray for Kosovo!

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Are Computers Male or Female?

You decide:

You spend half your salary on accessories for them and even the smallest mistakes are stored in their long-term memory for use at a later date.

To get their attention you have to turn them on and as soon as you commit to one, you realise you could have got a much better model if only you'd waited a longer.