Monday, January 26, 2009


The Year of the Ox we do now see,
Long life and peace be e'er with thee.
Prosperity and plenty and plenty may'st thou enjoy.
Wherefore we say Gong Hey Fatt Choy!

Adapted from an original prose by Edward

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Христосъ Крещается!

This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Matthew 3:17

Today we remember how the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the great mystery of the Trinity were demonstrated. It is also from this that the present feast is called 'Theophany', that is, the divine manifestation, God's appearance among men. On this venerable day the sacred mystery of Christian baptism was inaugurated; henceforth also began the saving preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In commemoration, photography blog Photo Polygon has presented a series of photographs on its celebration across Russia.

Theophany celebrations on the island of Sviyazhsk in Tatarstan

The faithful hurry to collect blessed water in Novosibirsk

In every church, water is blessed (typically in large water tanks) and faithful bring a little home with them. For more daring believers, however, there is a more challenging way to benefit from the sacred waters. Shedding their fur coats and parkas, Russian Christians cross themselves and jump into freezing river, lake or sea water, through a cross-shaped hole cut in the ice.

A young girl prepares to take the plunge in Sestroretsk

People anxiously wait their turn, Vladimir Oblast

A young lady crosses herself before she takes the plunge in Tsaritsiyno

A believer flashes the "horns" as he immerses in the waters of St Petersburg

As one emerges, another prepares to immerse, Moscow

Christians believe that on this day, all water becomes sacred and immersing oneself in it prevents ill health.

Taking the plunge in Volkhov

As some immerse in the water, others collect it

A child hurries out of the icy Istra river near New Jerusalem Monastery

All over Russia believers take a dip three times in icy water through these cross-shaped holes, called 'Jordans' after the Jordan River where Christ was baptised by John the Baptist.

Emerging from freezing waters around Sviyazhsk

This cossack doesn't seem to mind the cold Dnepr

This young lady in Sestroretsk hurries to dry off

An elderly man chooses to collect the blessed water instead of immersing in it

Helping a young lady out (or in, I really can't tell) of the icy waters

Warm refreshments await those who have taken the plunge

You appeared to the world today, and Your light, O Lord, has left its mark upon us. With fuller understanding we sing to You: "You came, You were made manifest, the unapproachable light."

Kontakion of the After-Feast (4th tone)

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Right to Exist

Anarchist Catholic blogger Steph makes fine points regarding Israel's right to exist and defend itself:

Israel has no legal argument for its actions but likes to cite the right to exist as a quasi-legal defence for atrocity after atrocity. But this is a smoke screen, even though Israel was admitted into the UN on the 11 May, 1949, there is no international law that guarantees Israel a 'right to exist' and there is no legal justification for genocide or ethnic cleansing.

No state has the right to exist, if it was put to a plebiscite as Iran has suggested, a majority of Palestinians and Israelis, would elect to live in a single state of Palestine, as is there right. Israel can only exist by force of arms and denying Palestinians an equal democratic vote. But not only does Israel not have a right to exist the Palestinians have a right to resist occupation.

Israel’s other defence of its atrocities is the right to defend itself, which is no justification for genocide, and actually Israel doesn’t have a right of self-defence in Gaza. Israel is unlawfully occupying Gaza and the West Bank, which is a violation the United Charter and invalidates the right of self-defence under article 51. Israel also refuses to acknowledge Palestinian sovereignty.

So the Israeli argument is completely bogus.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

What Do They Mean, Primary?

The Vatican has just completed its report on the health of U.S. seminaries, which resulted from questions about the formation of priests brought on by the sexual abuse crisis. The report finds that most American seminaries are healthy and that seminarian morality has improved, particularly in regard to homosexual behavior.

- Catholic News Agency, Jan 15, 2009

Roman Catholic bloggers and friends alike wonder if journalists actually read the document in question past the first three lines.

How US Roman Catholic seminaries really fare, however, is none of my concern. What I am particularly perplexed by is this line from the report:

"It is, unfortunately, rare for American seminarians to have a proper grounding in Latin, which, as well as being of use for the liturgy, is indispensable if students are to have the ability to consult primary theological sources."

...Latin? Primary theological sources?



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Rant about the Constant Orthodox/SSPX Comparisons I Get

Originally posted to Facebook, 10 January 2009

I got another one yesterday. And I've just about had it.

So most of you Roman Catholics seem to either find:
a) the SSPX preferable to Eastern Orthodoxy when converting from a non-Roman Catholic faith
b) the Eastern Orthodox no better than the SSPX (both schismatic, cut from the True Vine, etc)

Well, I did a rudimentary comparison between the two, and here's what initial findings show:

Orthodox Communion
Founded: Pentecost, 33 AD
Rite: Byzantine, "Western"
Liturgical Music: Byzantine, Kievan, Znamenny, Valaam, Georgian, Carpatho-Russian, Galician, Gregorian (Western Rite Orthodox)
No. of Adherents: 225 million
Majority Religion: Belarus (80%), Bulgaria (82.6%), Cyprus (81%), Georgia (83.9%), Greece (98%), Macedonia (66%), Moldova (93.3%), Montenegro (74.24%), Romania (86.7%), Russia (80%), Serbia (84.1%), Ukraine (83%)
Significant Religious Minority: Bosnia & Herzegovina (36%), Croatia (4.4%), Estonia (13.9%), Finland* (1.1%), Kazakhstan (7.8%), Kyrgyzstan (10%), Latvia (6.6%), Lithuania (4.9%), Turkmenistan (9%), Uzbekistan (9%)
Notable Saints: Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Basil the Great, John Climacus, Clement of Alexandria, Nicholas of Myra, Athanasius of Alexandria, John Cassian, Anthony the Great, Maximus the Greek, Cyril of Alexandria, Dorotheus of Gaza, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, John Chrysostom, Sava of Serbia, Gregory Nazianzus, Barlaam of the Kiev Caves, John of Damascus, Dionysius the Areopagite, Seraphim of Sarov, Basil the Confesor, Dimitri of Rostov, Sergius of Radonezh, Olympia the Deaconess, etc
Notable Religious Contributions: First seven Ecumenical Councils, iconography, hesychasm, foolishness for Christ, etc
Notable Literary Works: Philokalia, The Way of a Pilgrim, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, The Spiritual Life
Notable Cultural Contributions: Cyrillic alphabet (used by 11 languages), architecture (Byzantine, Muscovite Baroque, Neo-Byzantine, Russian Revival, etc), Byzantine art, Classical Antique heritage
Notable Culinary Contributions: Paskha, kulich, kutia, kolliva, etc
Notable Churches: Hagia Sophia (Constantinople), St Basil's Cathedral (Moscow), Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Sofia), etc

* Has national church status

Society of St Pius X
Founded: 1970
Rite: Roman
Liturgical Music: Gregorian
No. of Adherents: 150,000 (approx.)
Majority Religion: None
Significant Religious Minority: None; Ecône probably
Notable Saints: None
Notable Religious Contributions: Highlighting the dangers of Modernism & the Novus Ordo mass, insight into what *exactly* constitues a valid mass/whether excommunication was incurred latae sententiae during consecration of bishops (only in 1988), directly/indirectly influencing the issue of Ecclesia Dei/Summorum Pontificum
Notable Literary Works: 100 Years of Modernism, Against the Heresies, Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Notable Cultural Contributions: First to put lace on Byzantine vestment (no wait, that was the Greek-Catholics)
Notable Culinary Contributions: Ask Kenny
Notable Churches: St Nicolas du Chardonnet (Paris)

By their fruits, you shall know them, so the good book tells us. I think the results are clear. There is NO comparison. Any comparison done to liken the Orthodox to the SSPX in relation to the Roman Catholic Church is clearly derogatory/offensive and WILL incite anger - so if you absolutely must say it, stay clear of cossacks.

If you are a Roman Catholic who believes points a) and/or b) mentioned earlier, congratulations - you are no better than a racist. You think the Roman rite (it doesn't matter whether it's the Novus Ordo or Tridentine mass) is the ONLY worthy, divinely approved liturgy. The Byzantine liturgies are good too, but only for strange people with beards from the forests of East Europe. Worth a visit, but it's really not for decent, English-speaking, educated folk. Oh, and really, who gives a @#$% about the theological and liturgical contribution of the Orthodox East - heck, who cares about doctrine these days - because we know that once you sever that all-important, life-or-death link with the bishop of Rome, you ain't worth nothing.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christians? What Christians?

The conflict in the Middle East is commonly presented as a simple, two-sided conflict between Israeli Jews and Arab Muslims — and that is, in fact, how most Muslims in the Middle East regard it. Everyone, however, tends to forget the presence of Palestinian Christians.

Today it is believed that the number of Christians in Israel and occupied Palestine number some 175,000, just over 2 percent of the entire population.

Christianity - which has its origin in the Middle East - was once the dominant religion of the region from as far back as the 4th century (when the Edict of Milan was proclaimed) and for some time after the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, but that number is dwindling fast today.

The Christians of Lebanon, for example, once made up around 55% - a majority - of its population, but after repeated incursions and domestic instability, this majority has been lost.

It is one thing to be simply forgotten by Christians in West, who are usually quick to take up the cause of persecuted Christians abroad, but in Palestine, in a bizarre twist, they aid and abet those who would persecute these Christians. The Christians leave in their hundreds, and those who choose to remain have only Islamic militants as allies.

"We have received far more support and comfort from the Hezbollah in Lebanon than from our fellow Christians in the West," remarked one Christian Palestinian refugee in Damascus. "I want to know, why don’t the Christians in the West do anything to help us? Are the teachings of Jesus nothing but empty slogans to them?"

- The American Conservative, May 24 2004

Why is this?

The majority of Palestinian Christians belong to Apostolic Churches, and perhaps, in the eyes of Protestants, are Mary-worshipping idolaters who deserve no better than Muslim terrorists? That is, however, not the case - most Protestants are unaware of the existence of Palestinian Christians, much less the Churches they belong to.

It is Christian Zionism, a broad movement among Christians (especially the Evangelical Protestants) to champion the Zionist cause. The very establishment and existence of Israel heralds Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. There can be no redemption for mankind without the expansion of Israel to her "historical" borders - and thus, a key tenet of Protestant dispensationalist theology is absolute, blind support for the Zionist state. Palestinian Christians are, of course, acceptable collateral damage in this apocalyptic quest.

This view is, however, not shared even by Protestants who live there. Quoting Anders Strindberg's article from The American Conservative again:

Abbas is one of the handful of Palestinian Christians that could be described as Evangelical, belonging to a group that appears to be distantly related to the Plymouth Brethren. Cherishing the role of devil’s advocate, I had to ask him, "Is the State of Israel not in fact the fulfillment of God’s promise and a necessary step in the second coming of Christ?" Abbas looked at me briefly and laughed. "You’re kidding, right? You know what they do to our people and our land. If I thought that was part of God’s plan, I’d be an atheist in a second."

Apparently, it is up to them to ensure that the conditions as supposedly described in the Book of Revelation are established. Gee, isn't God capable of taking care of a simple task like that?

As Protestants continue to pray for the "triumph" of Israel, these incidents continue:

In a phone conversation today, from Gaza the Latin Patriarchate Church priest, Father Manaweil Musallam, clearly shaken, said, "her name is Christine, a tenth grade student. Her father is a doctor and she lived near the YMCA in Al-Remal area. She died of fear. Since the war started she felt apprehensive of the danger. She suffered from neurotic disorder and a hysteric situation just as many children are suffering. On Friday, during the shooting of F-16 missiles, she fell on the ground due to the dreadful sound. Her father tried to help, but he couldn't. Then he held her in his arms hoping to rescue her in the hospital, but she died before reaching there."

He continued, "the Latin Patriarchate school [where Christine attended] did not face any damages, however, the Rosary Sisters School did face physical damages, since it is located near to the Preventive Security building. Today, no one attended Sunday Mass, no one was able to reach the church... we tried to find an alternative place in the school to do the prayers…I tried to gather the nuns with my own car. Today, the area in which the church is located was shelled, we cannot go there."

Being part of the Greek Orthodox Church, the other congregation in Gaza, means that Christine and her family were looking forward to celebrating their Christmas on January 7th. Instead, they will bury Christine at a time where funerals are a rare commodity, for Gazans cannot keep pace with the mounting dead.

-, Jan 4, 2009

If anyone ever needed a reason to regard the actions and the beliefs of conservative Evangelicals as both hypocritical and unworthy of serious consideration, this would have to be it. Their support — sometimes tacit and sometimes overt — of actions which harm Palestinian Christians just goes to show that they care far less about humanity and fellow Christians than they do about the ego boost they experience at the idea of coming out on top after Armageddon when everyone else suffers a horrible death.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Me, a Terrorist Sympathiser?

Before anybody jumps to conclusions and accuse me of supporting terrorists in my last post, let me ask again: is it illogical and impossible for me to be on the side of the innocents who have borne the brunt of Israeli and Hamas atrocity?

Hamas ≠ Palestine

Remember that.

To Christians:
I am appalled that so many of you continue in your ignorance regarding the existence of the Zionist state and thus persist in supporting whatever the Knesset decrees.

Israel NO LONGER exists. It was created by God for His people, and was taken away from them when they rejected Christ. Israel can only be re-created by God, and for the Jews to presume that they have the authority to make Israel a nation by themselves is an act of arrogance so supreme that it boggles the mind.

Orthodox Jews would fully agree with me. Indeed, they loathe Israel more than most Muslims.

Anyone who defends Israel - as a Jewish state - is close to rejecting the exclusivity of the Church, and is drawing close to two-covenant heresy.

In the Old Testament, Israel was the physical nation as well as the spiritual people of God. When they ceased to be the people of God, they lost any claim to the land. The land now belongs to the Arabs (some of which are Christians). The fact that the majority of them are Muslims makes no difference.

The modern Zionist state is nothing but a collectivist agglomeration of people attached and made drunk by an idea of nation hatched in the dark workshops of Potsdam like a counterfeit that keeps passing as legal tender.

Regarding the establishment of [ersatz] Israel being prophesied in Sacred Scripture... where is that?

Indeed, the League of Nations approved the British creation of a Jewish state from the Palestine Mandate and the UN approved the creation of Israel along with an Arab state in Palestine in 1947.

And if that's the case, do you claim the League of Nations and/or the United Nations to be God?

And regarding assertions that the "re-creation" of Israel is an example of prophecy being fulfilled, I can only suggest that you have been reading far too much Darby and LaHaye. You may be right, but the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church has never given any authority to such a viewpoint, and to base politics on unproved eschatology is extremely dangerous.

That said, I haven't the faintest idea whether or not the average individual living in Israel believes in a Zionist ideal. I for one, have never spoken with the average individual Israeli. What I do know is that Hamas has killed, and will likely continue to kill innocent people by deceitful, cowardly, and insidious means.

So while I do not know the individual opinions of the modern-day Israelis, I am certain that they and their families do not want to die to and I am even more certain that they have a right to live. They have a right to defend themselves, but one cannot in good conscience say that the death and destruction wrought on the Zionist state was completely unwarranted.

British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, "The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 (and 1948) was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis. Though nor comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality."

If you fail to grasp this point, then there is no point to continue reading. Dismiss me as a drink-sodden anti-Semite if you so wish, but I will not gloss over the ethnic-cleansing of non-Jews merely to 'win' an artificially-created war against Islam.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Israel Invades Gaza: What You Need to Know

Hamas (which does not equal "the men, women and children of Gaza")... piss off Israelis with their evil terrorist tactics and they tell the people who are walled into the ghetto and getting the crap blown out of them by Israelis that it's the Zionists who are killing and starving their kids. When your kids all die while they are sitting in geography class because an Israel shell blew the flesh off their bones, that's a fairly plausible take on things. So Palestinians rally round Hamas. What conceivable reason have they to trust Israelis?

Mark Shea
Catholic and Enjoying It!, 6th January 2009

Does it really believe it can stop the rocket fire from Gaza when previous Israeli governments have tried and failed, using every military means?


Israel's politicians are pursuing a parallel campaign, too - an electoral one... The Israeli public has a generally low opinion about how their government has handled what they call "Hamastan" - Hamas-controlled Gaza. Until it started talking tough, the hawkish opposition leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, was leading in the polls. Now the gap has narrowed.

Katya Adler
BBC News, 27th December 2008

What we’re talking about here, what the IDF has in mind, is more what the Romans called “decimation”: killing enough of the right people to make Hamas weak for five or ten years, which may, just may, be long enough to give Israel’s allies the PLO/Fatah the edge in the Palestinian Civil War. That’s what this is about, getting your guys to win that war.

Will it work? Depends on the time frame. For a few years, yes; in the long run, Hell no. But if you’re the IDF, there are no good options in the long term. Demographics, dude; no way out of that spiral. The short term is all you’ve got, and in the short term Hamas is going to find out why it’s not a good idea to pretend you’re Hezbollah when you can’t back it up.

The War Nerd
Hamas Ain't No Hezbollah, 6th January 2006

Americans shouldn't be in the position of endlessly debating Israel's security situation and its endless religious and territorial conflicts with its neighbors. That should be for Israeli citizens to do, not for Americans.

Glenn Greenwald
George Washington's warnings and U.S. policy towards Israel

The Israelis don't want to exterminate the Palestinians; they just want to occupy the land they stole from them, fair and square, by killing 2550 Palestinians for the 17 Israelis killed in the past eight years.

It's eye-opening to see what a Qassam Rocket really looks like. (Not that I'd want one aimed at me, but let's have some proportionality for G-d's sake.) I was imagining V-2s, not what I used to make as a kid when model rocketry was my hobby.

Joshua Snyder
The Western Confucian, 6th January 2006

Qassam Rocket

US-Made Weaponry

The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. Jihadists, enraged by the injustices done by Israel and the United States, seek to carry out reciprocal acts of savagery, even at the cost of their own lives. The violence unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli children.

This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel.

Chris Hedges
Party to Murder, 30th December 2008

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Thy Nativity

...hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.

Apolytikion (4th Tone)

The incomprehensible and inexplicable Nativity of Christ came to pass when Herod the Great was reigning in Judea; the latter was an Ascalonite on his fathers's side and an Idumean on his mother's. He was in every way foreign to the royal line of David; rather, he had received his authority from the Roman emperors, and had ruled tyrannically over the Jewish people for some thirty-three years. The tribe of Judah, which had reigned of old, was deprived of its rights and stripped of all rule and authority. Such was the condition of the Jews when the awaited Messiah was born, and truly thus was fulfilled the prophecy which the Patriarch Jacob had spoken 1,807 years before:

A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a prince from his loins, until there come the things stored up for him; and he is the expectation of the nations.
Genesis 49:10

Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem celebrates the Nativity

Thus, our Saviour was born in Bethlehem, a city of Judea, whither Joseph had come from Nazareth of Galilee, taking Mary his betrothed, who was great with child, that, according to the decree issued in those days by the Emperor Augustus, they might be registered in the census of those subject to Rome. Therefore, when the time came for the Virgin to give birth, and since because of the great multitude there was no place in the inn, the Virgin's circumstace constrained them to enter a cave which was near Bethlehem. Having as shelter a stable of irrational beasts, she gave birth there, and swaddled the Infant and laid Him in the manger (Luke 2:1-7).

From this, the tradition has come down to us that when Christ was born He lay between two animals, an ox and an ass, that the words of the Prophets might be fulfilled: "Between two living creatures shalt Thou be known" (Abbacum 3:2), and "The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib" (Esaias 1:3).

Priests gather in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

But while the earth gave the new-born Saviour such a humble reception, Heaven on high celebrated majestically His world-saving coming. A wondrous star, shining with uncommon brightness and following a strange course, led Magi from the East to Bethlehem to worship the new-born King.

The faithful prepare to receive Christ

Certain shepherds who were in the area of Bethlehem, who kept watch while tending their sheep, were suddenly surrounded by an extraordinary light, and they saw before them an Angel who proclaimed to them the good tidings of the Lord's joyous Nativity. And straightway, together with this Angel, they beheld and heard a whole host of the Heavenly Powers praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.
Luke 2:8-14

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Friday, January 02, 2009

"Year of the Chinese and Russian Languages"

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev exchanged congratulatory messages on New Year's eve on Wednesday, and announced the start of "the Year of the Chinese and Russian Languages".


China and Russia will embrace the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 2009, when China will launch "the Year of Russian Language," while Russia will launch "the Year of Chinese Language" in 2010, the Chinese leader said.

- China View, 2008-12-31 19:00:11

Those are incidentally the languages I need to devote this year to improving.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Dear friends, the time has come to welcome the new year. Let us congratulate our relatives, our dearest people. Wherever you celebrate this holiday – at home, with friends, or maybe even at work, this very moment we all think about our nearest and dearest.

New Year's Eve is a time of hope. I would to wish every one of us peace, love and the fulfillment of all your wishes.

I wish you happiness! Happy New Year!

- Dmitry Medvedev

At New Year’s, normally, people reflect on the past year. For Christians, this should be a time of prayerful recollection, perhaps, asking repentance for their sins. Of course, it is a time to thank the Lord for all the good that we received in the past year and for those things we shall receive in the coming year.

- Fr Mikhail Prokopenko, Communications Service of the Department for External Church Relations

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