Monday, April 30, 2007

Freedom of "Choice": The Death of Freedom

I have taken the liberty to republish here in its entirety a recent letter from Paul Kokoski in Ontario, Canada to the Pravda. It should give advocates of the "pro-choice" movement much food for thought:

Where is the most dangerous place in the world to live? Is it Iraq, or perhaps Sudan? No, it is in the mother’s womb. More people are murdered through abortion than through any other source. A few days ago Mexico became one of last holdouts to fall under the spell of this evil that is gripping the world.

On a superficial level, we may be convinced that legalized abortion has not really changed much in our private lives and in the life of our societies. It all takes place in the silence of an operating room which ensures the woman’s safety. And it is as if the foetus that will never see the light of day had never existed.

However, the recognition of the sacred character of human life and of its inviolability - a principle admitting no exceptions - is not some trivial little problem or a question that may be considered relative, in view of the pluralism of opinions we find in modern society. There are no "small murders". The respect for every human life is an essential condition if a societal life worthy of the name is to be possible. When man’s conscience loses respect for life as something sacred, he inevitably ends by losing his own identity.

Today, in many people's consciences, the perception of the gravity of abortion has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.

To claim the right to abortion and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others.

This is the death of true freedom.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Ростропович ушёл...

Requiescat in Pace
Mstislav Rostropovich (1927 - 2007)

Сегодня плачут не только искренние поклонники прекрасной музыки. Сегодня плачет сама Музыка. ("Today, not only sincere admirers of fine music weep - music itself weeps today.")

So wrote Andrey Shcherbakov in his eulogy for the cellist and conductor for Pravda. With his passing, Russia, and indeed the world, has lost one of its greatest cellist as well as one of the greatest muses of the 20th century.

Mstislav Rostropovich played the cello with grace and vitality - and lived his life offstage the same way. He was one of modern Russia's most compelling figures, admired both for his musical mastery and his defiance of Soviet repression.

As a cellist, he was responsible for the creation of hundreds of new works, many from some of the greatest composers of the day.

As a conductor, Rostropovich was flamboyant and energetic, known for his extraordinary ability to speak directly to every member of the audience.

He is to be buried on Sunday in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery - where the graves of his teachers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev also lie - after a funeral in Christ the Savior Cathedral, which recently saw the farewell of Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin.

Slava, you will be missed.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Christ is Risen!

Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:10

Readers will forgive the dearth of posts following Holy and Great Friday - I have been extremely busy (well, not exactly busy but I've had my hands full). The past weeks have seen much joy and sorrow.

The Great and Holy Feast of Our Lord's Resurrection fell on the same day according to both the Julian and Gregorian Calendar this year. This feast of feasts is the most significant day in the liturgical year - it is a celebration of victory; the victory of the Cross over Death. In this victory that came through the Cross, Christ broke the bondage of sin, and through faith offers us restoration, transformation, and eternal life.

It may not appear obvious to a visitor at first glance, but much preparation went into the celebration, involving parishioner and visitor alike. Several women spent many days cleaning the church, readying the premises to receive massive numbers. Edward spent much time buried in liturgical sheet music, browsing through uncommon harmonies and obscure melodies to select the perfect mix of tunes for the evening. Whole families were involved preparing flowers and food. My role was minuscule by comparison: I merely cleaned the altar.

Inna brought traditional Easter fare - paskha & kulich

The evening of Holy Saturday bore witness to what was perhaps the largest gathering of Orthodox faithful in church to participate in the feast of feasts. All manner of visitors arrived, though Russians formed the bulk of the congregation this year. Edward was prepared for them - having prepared Slavonic texts for the music (in addition to Greek, Romanian, Arabic and Latin - yes, even Latin).

My little girls greeted visitors, giving out candles and other assorted paraphernalia. The girls were extremely useful in handling Russians: a bloke turned up and announced, "I am Russian; I do not speak English."

No light is present in church, symbolizing the darkness of the world without Christ. At midnight, the priest emerges from behind the icon screen and offers light to the congregation as the good news is proclaimed, "Christ is risen from the dead..."

"Come, receive the light from the unwaning light..."

The people are then led outside the church, where the Gospel of St Mark is read. Then comes the breathless moment as the people wait for the priest to start the hymn of Resurrection, which they join him in singing, repeatedly: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!"

Elena glances bemusedly at the camera as the people are led outside

Pondering over Mark 16:6: "He is risen! He is not here."

The large number of people spilled over from the church's small courtyard onto the street

Anxiously waiting the Paschal troparion

From that moment, the service takes on a joyous atmosphere. People greet with the triple kiss as they wish each other, "Christ is risen!" The hymns of Odes that follow express it well:

It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O ye peoples: Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God hath brought us from death to life, and from earth unto Heaven as we sing the triumphal hymn.

A predominantly Russian crowd remained after that. Most Greeks have a curious of habit of leaving at the Third Antiphon, when the line "Let God arise! Let His enemies be scattered!" is sung.

In addition to the Greek, Slavonic, Arabic and Romanian, Edward sang the pre-Nikonian Slavonic Paschal troparion: "Хрїстосъ воскресе изъ мертвыхъ, смертїю на смерть настѹпи, и гробным животъ дарова!"

Eggs (coloured red to symbolise the bloodshed for us by Christ), symbolic of new life, are distributed at the conclusion of the service. A traditional game is played where each player hits the other players' egg with their own. The winner is the holder of the last intact egg. The losers get to eat their eggs.

Edward & I knock eggs

Three princesses gather in the backyard after the Paschal celebration

I leave you with an excerpt from the marvelous sermon of St John Chrysostom, which is typically read during Pascha:

Enjoy the feast of faith;
receive all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one weep for his iniquities,
for pardon has shone forth from the grave.

Let no one fear death,
for the Savior’s death has set us free:
he that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it!

Many thanks to Kenneth & Yaroslav for the photographs!

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Holy Friday

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday

As the glorious disciples, in the washing of the feet, were enlightened, the profane Judas, ravaged by greed, was benighted. And to the lawless judges he surrenders You the just judge. Consider, you who love money, the one who hanged himself for the sake of it. Shun the insatiate heart that could dare such a deed against the Teacher. Lord, benevolent above all humans, glory to You.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, thy King cometh unto thee!
He is just and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.

And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off; and He shall speak peace unto the heathen, and His dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.

Zechariah 9:9 - 10

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