Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This entry was written following a heated argument with a person has repeatedly failed to keep her word. Though generally patient with others (especially foreign females), her excuses and failure to apologise broke the last straw, leading this blogger to accuse her of being devoid of what seems to have become a forgotten word: honour.

Honour is hard to define and is even harder to put into practice. Many today associate honour with murdered girls and blood feuds. We remember women murdered simply for listening to their hearts, refusing the wishes of their clans, and men left dead in attempts to 'defend their honour' after seemingly mild insults. It reminds us all too much of a culture that remains only in today’s street gangs. Or football pitches.

These people, however, did not kill over honour – they were saving 'face'. There is a distinction between the two. 'Face' represents social perceptions of one's prestige; a loss of which would lead to a (perceived) loss of authority. Honour cannot be taken away by an insult. Honour is lost when one believes the insults and seeks revenge, but it can never be taken away. Honour lies within oneself, and is demonstrated in how one responds to others.

Honour was developed in a violent time where society was driven by class and sex distinctions. This code disciplined the individual, permitting him to take a stand on principle, to become a reformer and to take on injustice.

Honour is first and foremost defined as the deferential recognition by word or sign of another's worth. Thus one would show honour to another by giving him his title if he have one, or by raising one's hat to him, or by yielding to him a place of precedence. One thereby gives expression to one's sense of his worth, and at the same time professing one's own inferiority to him.

We honour God first of all, as the source of all that is and will be. We honour our rulers, who have authority over us, being given by the Almighty. We honour our parents to whom we owe our life. We honour our fellow man, who is made in the image of our Creator.

It is right and proper that marks of honour should be paid to worth of any kind, if there be no special reason to do so otherwise. We are obliged to honour those who stand are superior to ourselves, and even those who are not, for being created in the image of God, they are worthy of basic courtesy and respect.

Why, the Apostle bids us give honour to whom honour is due. To withhold it or to show dishonour to whom honour is due is a sin against justice, and one is obliged to make suitable restitution.

The feudal world that gave life to honour no longer exists, and yet this very notion of 'honour' persists in this very different age. Honour occupies an interesting place in the human conscience. It enhances morality and understanding of God's will. In determining how our conflicts are handled, it aids us as we strive for the perfection of character. In it we are encouraged to return kindness for kindness, to uphold justice and treat all with respect.

There is a story of a master swordsman who sat calmly through numerous insults from bandits. Expertly catching four flies with his chopsticks, he walked away – thus avoiding a fight. A misunderstanding of honour would see this man rising to avenge himself, but nothing the bandits said would have diminished the swordsman’s honour or skill, and fighting them would neither enhance his honour nor skill. It was honourable to walk away.

Honour is courtesy and prudence. Without honour, cherished virtues would be meaningless. Truthfulness without honour leads to embarrassment. Courage without honour brings unnecessary harm to oneself and others. Loyalty without honour is blind obedience. Honour is clearly the hardest virtue to define, and yet the most essential. One must demonstrate courage, courtesy, benevolence, loyalty and truthfulness, finding the balance between humility, glory and respect – even if it means to swallow pride and ambition.

Honour is in right action, goodness and courage on behalf on those who cannot defend themselves – and what one decides to do everyday, one will be honourable. Or not.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Western Christmas in an Orthodox Land

In Russia, there are about 500,000 Christians who follow the Western usage, and everything is almost ready for Christmas celebrations. The last decoration has been placed on the tree, and the last figurine has been placed in the Christmas cave. As in previous years, Catholic churches in Russia shall tell their believers the wonderful story of Christ's appearance in the world.


The New Testament does not give an exact date for the birth of Jesus, and it was not until the fifth century that a date for the feast was indicated. In 431, the Third Ecumenical Council agreed to celebrate Christmas on 25 December. Evil tongues say the first Christian clergy set this date to fight pagan practices that were very popular in ancient Rome. Indeed, at that time, the people celebrated the heathen Saturnalia, a merry feast commemorating the dedication of the temple of Saturn, the god of agriculture, fertility, and time.

A believer prays in a Novgorod church

A difference between the Gregorian and the Julian calendar systems also made it unclear when to celebrate Christmas, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, Fr Sergei Zvonaryov said in an interview with the Voice of Russia. "The difference in the dates for the celebration of Christmas is connected with what calendar is used [for the determination of the fixed feasts], there is the Julian calendar, which is used by most Orthodox Christians, and there is the Gregorian calendar, which is used by the Western Churches and by a minority of Orthodox Christians. There is a 13-day difference between these two calendars. This is the reason why the Gregorian calendar marks Christmas on 25 December and the Julian calendar celebrates it on 7 January.

In Russia, Western Christmas is a quiet family holiday. After solemn mass at church, as a rule, believers go home to lay a festive table. When the first star appears in the sky, the Nativity Fast is over, and people are welcome to eat whatever they will. The table is usually laid with a white cloth and is decorated with fir-tree branches. A separate place at the table is meant for an unexpected guest. It is believed that unexpected guests on Christmas night are sent by Christ. As a rule, in the centre of the table there is a small pillow spread with special Christmas wafers, and each member of the family eats a piece of it, whilst others give their Christmas wishes to a person as they break a piece off the wafer. The rite is finished by a joint recitation of the prayer, 'Our Father'.

There is a beautiful custom arising in modern Russia, for, today, the Orthodox clergy take pains to greet the followers of the Western confessions with Christmas good-wishes on 25 December. We have common values and Christianity is our common faith. That is why we always greet other Christians when they celebrate Christmas and are glad to see them enjoying their holidays. Indeed, we are all Christians, and Christmas is a very significant time for all of us since it emphasizes the importance of the history of salvation of mankind, which occurred here on earth due to the birth of Jesus Christ".

- Voice of Russia World Service, 24th December 2008

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas!

...never mind that is on the day according to the heretical, innovative, thrice-cursed, popish calendar.

We at Memoirs wish all Western Christians, as well as the Orthodox on the Revised Julian calendar, a most blessed feast of the Nativity!

To Christians who will be rejoicing in 13 days' time, we encourage you to prepare yourselves, persevere in the St Philip's Fast, and make ready to receive the most glorious incarnation of Our Lord!

"...Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born. Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history."

- Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas 2008

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This just in: Singapore has "extreme weather conditions"

The world's largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer, will be closed until investigations into Tuesday's incident are complete.


The last time a technical glitch occurred was just three weeks ago, on December 4. The wheel was stuck for nearly five hours due to extreme weather conditions and some 70 people were affected. In July, the Flyer stopped due to a minor fault in the braking system.

- Channel News Asia, 23 December 2008 1843 hrs

You heard of science-fiction?

Well, this is news-fiction!

Uniquely Singapore!

via Ben

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

In Holy Russia...

...even reporters cover their heads in church.

A reporter from Telekanal Rossiya interviews a priest of Pyanitsky parish at the consecration of a chapel for cancer patients.


Labels: , , ,

"EU More Atheist Than USSR"

This bit of news is somewhat "dated", but news of the ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty on 9 December compelled me to post it anyway.

Renowned French traditionalist philosopher, geopolitical thinker, and founder of the intellectual movement Nouvelle Droite Alain de Benoist believes that modern Europe "has beaten the record of the USSR" in the depths of its mass atheism.

"Now, Europe has reached a level of atheism higher than that found in Russia, even after the forced totalitarian policy of the Soviet period", M de Benoist said at a meeting with Russian scholars at the Conservative Studies Centre of the Sociology Faculty of Moscow State University.

In his observation, today, religious values "are good for Russia, but, not for Europe. Indeed, I believe that a political party based on religious values would win absolutely no votes in elections in the EU", he said.

In particular, he said that 30 years ago France had a law providing punishment for the advocacy of homosexuality, but, today, it has another law that "bans saying anything critical concerning homosexuality". For instance, French schools are using textbooks entitled 'Against Homophobia'.

Professor Valery Rastorguyev, the Head of the MGU Political Theory Department, concluded, "Conservatism is possible only in Russia, for true conservatism should answer the question: Is there a place for God in this ideology?"

- Interfax-Religion, 25 November 2008, 11:18

[via Voices from Russia]

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Patriarch Aleksey II (1929 – 2008)

Aleksy II, the Russian Orthodox patriarch who led a revival of the Church after the fall of Communism and built close ties to the Kremlin under Vladimir V. Putin, died Friday at his residence in Moscow, news agencies reported.

The patriarch was 79, and the Church did not disclose the cause of death. He had long suffered from heart problems.

- The New York Times, December 5, 2008

Покой, Господи, души усопших раб Твоих.

Сам един еси безсмертный, сотворивый и создавый человека. Земнии убо от земли создахомся, и в землю туюжде пойдем, якоже повелил еси, создавый мя, и рекий ми: Яко земля еси и в землю отыдеши, аможе все человецы пойдем, надгробное рыдание творяще песнь: Аллилуия, аллилуия, аллилуия.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Thy servant.

Thou alone art immortal, who didst make and mould man. But we mortals were formed from earth, and to the earth we return, as Thou who created me did command and say to me, "Thou art earth, and to the earth shall thou return," where all we mortals are going, and for a funeral dirge we make the song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why Can't Everyone Have Courts Like This?

Last month the Court of Cassation Italy's highest appeal Court banned a couple from naming their son Friday - Venerdi - because the name "could expose the boy to ridicule".

The court said the name was derived from the manservant in Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe, and was therefore associated with "subservience and inferiority". The judges ordered the boy to be renamed Gregorio, after the saint's day on which he was born.

Times Online, December 1, 2008

[via Orwell's Picnic]

Aside from it being assigned to a boy, I'm not opposed to 'Friday' as a name. After all, we do have a major saint who bore that name...

NOTE: I am told that St Paraskeva, like the Martyr Sophia and her daughters Faith, Hope and Love, was a pious analogy that became personified over the centuries. Edward, if you are reading this, please provide an explanation =P

Labels: , ,

24 Hour Wonder

Despite the inclement climate, three wooden churches have been built under just 24 hours in the capitals of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus; just in time to celebrate the great feast of the Presentation of Our Lady! Слава Богу!

"Можем когда захотим! Русские - великая, сильная, но ленивая нация.", went a comment left at the video on YouTube by an impressed Russian.

"We can do anything when we want to! Russia - great, strong, but lazy nation".

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Monks and Religious Vesture‏

I received a rather humourous email from a seminarian friend some days ago, which I thought my readers (especially those familiar with the vestments of the Roman rite) might enjoy:

"I was just reading this book entitled Vestments and Vesture by Dom. E. Roulin OSB, a monk of Ampleforth Abbey. Unfortunately, I was reading this in the library during the period of Grand Silence. I say 'unfortunately' because in the middle of my reading I would interrupt myself with suppressed snorts of laughter, attracting curious glances as if enquiring what one could possibly find so amusing in such a seriously titled book.

Among other things, the book discusses lace. Dom Roulin's position is that lace is nothing more than Renaissance worldliness and frivolity to be reserved to domestic articles such as 'tablecloths, curtains and dresses'.

He goes on to mention that some priests have lace on their albs from the chest down with the soutane showing through, so much so that it is no longer an alba but a nigra. Any apparels or ornamentation should be strictly reserved to the skirt of the alb.

He goes on to mention surplices and how St Charles Borromeo required that they go past the knee. But I digress, I am supposed to mention what was so funny about the book."

In the centre stands Don Saturnino, who is wearing a baroque chasuble and lace alb. Flanking him are Fr Jim Tucker and another priest in the matching dalmatics. Easter Sunday in Macchia di Giarre, Sicily.
(Credit and more photos: Dappled Photos)

"Well, every so often, there would be pictures of a Roman Chasuble decorated in the Baroque fashion - what some of us would even say is beautiful. Underneath these pictures would be a clinical and snobby caption like 'This is an example of a chasuble decorated in a most vulgar and ostentatious manner; is suitable only for domestic curtains', 'observe the rubbishy design', or 'a flowered frontal - puerile work'.

The 2 pictures that produced the loudest snorts of laughter was a picture of some stoles in various designs. The first was of a Baroque stole (Fig. 120) in the fishtail ending and another with a trapezium ending (Fig. 123). Fig. 120 caption, Horrible shape and mincing ornament. A good stole should never end in a spade. Fig 123 caption, Stole in the new style; more suitable for a necktie.

The other picture was a drawing of a prelate in one of those super tall mitres (which I am rather fond of, to be honest). The caption read, A pretentious construction, badly shaped and much over-decorated. The face is not a portrait.

There you go! Hopefully this provided you at least 5 minutes of amusement."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

1020 Years of Orthodoxy: 3 Churches, 3 Cities, 24 Hours

The Povest' Vremennykh Let (English: Primary Chronicle; Church Slavonic: Повѣсть времяньныхъ лѣтъ), a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, records for us the miraculous tale of Prince Vladimir's acceptance of the true faith:

Vladimir was suffering at that moment from a disease of the eyes, and could see nothing, being in great distress. The princess declared to him that if he desired to be relieved of this disease, he should be baptised with all speed, otherwise it could not be cured. When Vladimir heard her message, he said, "If this proves true, then of a surety is the God of the Christians great," and gave order that he should be baptised.

The Bishop of Kherson, together with the princess's priests, after announcing the tidings, baptised Vladimir, and as the bishop laid his hand upon him, he straightway received his sight. Upon experiencing this miraculous cure, Vladimir glorified God, saying, "I have now perceived the one true God."

When his followers beheld this miracle, many of them were also baptised.


On the morrow the prince went forth to the Dnepr with the priests of the princess and those from Kherson, and a countless multitude assembled. They all went into the water: some stood up to their necks, others to their breasts, the younger near the bank, some of them holding children in their arms, while the adults waded farther out. The priests stood by and offered prayers.

There was joy in heaven and upon earth to behold so many souls saved. But the devil groaned, lamenting: "Woe is me! how am I driven out hence! For I thought to have my dwelling place here, since the apostolic teachings do not abide in this land. Nor did this people know God, but I rejoiced in the service they rendered unto me. But now I am vanquished by the ignorant, not by apostles and martyrs, and my reign in these regions is at an end."

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Georgian Christian Mothers

...of whom Ketevan Geladze (Joseph Stalin's mother) was a perfect example.

N. Kipshidze, a doctor who treated her in her old age, recalled a visit by the Soviet leader to his mother in 1935, when she was very ill:

He asked,
"Why did you beat me so hard?"
"That's why you turned out so well."

After a pause, she asked him,
"Joseph - who exactly are you now?"
"Remember the tsar? Well, I'm like a tsar."
"You'd have done better to have become a priest!"

Labels: , ,

See, I Live!

Apologies, faithful readers, for the lack of posts!
However, I have a fairly good reason (I know, I know – no excuses). Much work and procrastination has taken me away from posting.

Hopefully, matters will be resolved by this week, and I can start regular posting by the weekend.

Thank you to those that are still checking this sites and join us this weekend for a long due November update!