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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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."

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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!"

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

May 29, 1453

God rings the bells, earth rings the bells, the sky itself is ringing,
The Holy Wisdom, the great church, is ringing out the message,
Four hundred sounding boards sound out, and two and sixty bells,
For every bell there is a priest, for every priest a deacon.
To the left the emperor is singing, to the right the patriarch,
And all the columns tremble with the thunder of the chant.
And as the emperor began the hymns to the Cherubim,
A voice came down to them from the sky, from the archangel’s mouth:

Cease the Cherubic hymn, and let the sacred objects bow;
Priests, take the holy things away, extinguish all the candles:
God’s Will has made our city now into a Turkish city.

But send a message to the West, and let them send three ships:
The first to take the cross, the second to remove the Gospel,
The third, the finest shall rescue for us our holy altar.
Lest it all to those dogs, and they defile it and dishonour it.
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.

Anonymous Song of Lamentation
for the Fall of Constantinople in 1453
Translated by Richard Stoneman

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Monday, May 26, 2008

On This Day, 1521

Martin Luther is condemned as a heretic; a judgment that cannot be undone.

The men gathered to address Luther and his Reformation were certainly perceptive:

He says that there are no such things as superiority and obedience. He destroys all civil police and hierarchical and ecclesiastical order, so that people are led to rebel against their superiors, spiritual and temporal, and to start killing, stealing, and burning, to the great loss and ruin of public and Christian good. Furthermore, he institutes a way of life by which people do whatever they please, like beasts. They behave like men living without any law, condemning and despising all civil and canon laws to the extent that Luther, by excessive presumption, has publicly burned the decretals and (as we might expect) would have burned the imperial civil law had he not had more fear of the imperial and royal swords than he had of apostolic excommunication.

- The Edict of Worms (1521)

The consequences of Luther's defiance continue to haunt us after 500 years, with the Church of Me (i.e. "I’m spiritual not religious"), being the most prevalent religion in the Western world today.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Serbian Orthodox Church Speaks

During its extraordinary session held at the Patriarchy on the 17th of February 2008, the following statement on the latest developments in Kosovo and Metohija was issued by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, aimed at the national and international public:

Just like uncountable times before, the Church is announcing once more today, that Kosovo and Metohija was and must remain an integral part of Serbia, in accordance to the Charter of the United Nations, Security Council Resolution 1244, as well as according to all relevant international conventions on human rights, the rights of peoples and on the inviolability of internationally recognized borders.


In this particular case, this means granting new legitimacy to centuries of Ottoman violence with its impact on the entire region, as well as re-applying the fascist solution (that of Mussolini and Hitler) to the Kosovo issue dating back to the times of WWII, when Kosovo and Metohija were annexed to so-called Great Albania, when thousands of Orthodox Christian Serbs were expelled from their secular homes, just like in 1999, with the objective of not having them return, ever.

We are deeply appalled by the fact that, according to the words of an American Ambassador, it was because of the presently announced illegitimate and illegal recognition on behalf of the governments of the United States of America, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and others, of the self-declared Kosovo independence - Serbia and Montenegro were bombarded in the first place. Thus, the presumed protection of human and minority rights by using bomb attacks with the code name "Merciful Angel", represented only a preparation for this final trampling on justice and tearing the heart out of Serbia's breast.

More HERE.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why December 25th?

The following might answer a few questions about Christmas falling on December 25th :

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus' birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the 'Birth of the Unconquered Son' instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the 'pagan origins of Christmas' is myth without historical substance.

More HERE.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

90th Anniversary of the October Revolution

Dear Comrades:

On the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, I have the honour to offer warm fraternal congratulations to my readers, and to all the comrades and friends present.

For thousands of years the working people of the world and all progressive humanity have dreamed of building a society in which there would be no exploitation of man by man, This dream was realized on one-sixth of the earth's land surface for the first time in history by the October Revolution. This revolution proves that, without the landlords and the bourgeoisie, the people are completely capable of building a free and happy new life in a planned way. It also proves that different nations of the world are completely capable of living together amicably once there is no imperialist oppression.

...or so it did, at least for a while.

Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, colour, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export.

A more careful review of the facts will show that socialism is not sustainable - it does not work. Period. Every experiment has failed; every treatise has been decisively refuted at its logical roots. Places where we continue to dabble - education, medicine, etc - in our "mixed" economy, are unmitigated disasters.

It comes down to this:

1) Free people are not equal - and equal people are not free. I'm not referring to equality before the law - that is to say, equality in income and material wealth. We shouldn't get hung up about differences in wealth as result of people being themselves. If it's a result of artificial political barriers then we should do what we can to get rid of them - but don't try to place fundamentally unequal people into a homogeneous heap - it won't work and you'll destroy everything in trying. Read up on the histories of Stalin, Khmer Rouge, etc.

2) What belongs to you, you take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair. This is the magic of private property - and a big reason why socialism fails.

3) If you encourage something you get more of it; if you discourage something you get less of it. We are creatures of incentives and disincentives. What to break up families? Offer a bigger welfare check if the father splits. Want to get less work? Impose such high tax penalties on it that people decide it's not worth the effort... Want to discourage investment? How about a high capital gains tax?

4) Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own.

5) Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes away from somebody, and a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you've got. This bears some serious reflection for those who think, "we can be different this time..."

To quote Lawrence Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy: "Liberty isn't just a luxury or a nice idea. It's not just a defensible idea or a happy circumstance. It's what makes just about everything else happen. Without it, life is a bore at best. At worst, there is no life at all."

Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea - in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.

Many of the intelligentsia remain convinced that if only there had been better leaders - people like themselves, for example - it would all have worked out fine, according to plan.

In all the very different societies around the world, however, the story of socialism has been a story of high hopes and bitter disappointments. Attempts to redistribute wealth repeatedly led to the redistribution of poverty.

Attempts to free ordinary people from oppression repeatedly led to what Mikhail Gorbachev frankly called "servility" to new despots.

Human nature has been at the heart of the failures of socialism to produce the results it sought, even when socialist leaders were idealists like Julius Nyerere in Tanzania or Pandit Nehru in India.

Nowhere have people been willing to work as well for the common good as they do for their own benefit. Perhaps in some other galaxy there are creatures who would, but the track record of socialism among human beings on earth shows that this is not the place.

Worst of all, the concentration of political power necessary to try to reduce economic inequalities has allowed tyrants like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot to impose their notions and caprices on millions of others - draining them economically or slaughtering them en masse or exploiting them sexually.

There is no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over other people is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.

Socialism has long sought to create a heaven on earth but an even older philosophy pointed out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Park ee Partsoons!

Glory to God!

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — A House committee voted on Wednesday to condemn the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in World War I as an act of genocide, rebuffing an intense campaign by the White House and warnings from Turkey’s government that the vote would gravely strain its relations with the United States.

- The New York Times, October 11, 2007

Wednesday’s vote by the US Congress on the Armenian Genocide was one of those rare moments when politicians did the right thing in the face of pressure.

It's about time.

American recognition of this atrocity has been long due:

The House of Representatives finds the following:

The Armenian Genocide was conceived and carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, resulting in the deportation of nearly 2,000,000 Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men and women and children were killed, 500,000 survivors were expelled from their homes, and which succeeded in the elimination of the over 2,500-year presence of Armenians in their historic homeland.

Turkey's response was not entirely unexpected. Turkish president Abdullah Gul alleged that some US politicians had "closed their ears to calls to be reasonable and once again sought to sacrifice big problems for small domestic political games".


Sorry, Turkey! There's no denying the truth.

It is high time that Ankara begin a process of introspection and come to terms with its own tragic past, thus gradually ending its vicious and wasteful (millions of dollars are being spent yearly by the Turkish government) campaign of denial and whitewashing of history.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

50 Years of Sputnik

Engineers, military officials and former cosmonauts on Thursday celebrated the 50th anniversary of the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which marked the dawn of the Space Age and sparked the race to land a man on the moon.

Ceremonies were held at the Russia's cosmonaut training center, Star City, outside of Moscow and engineers were to gather at the Academy of Sciences to recall the events leading up to the Oct. 4, 1957, launch of the spikey, 184 pound (83-kilogram) metal ball that beeped as it circled the globe for some 22 days.

Military officials held a small ceremony to lay flowers at the grave of the father of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolyov, who was buried with honors at the foot of the Kremlin walls.

The success of Soviet engineers in launching Sputnik stunned the world, and was followed just four years later by another historic achievement - the launch of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.

Sputnik galvanized the U.S. government to pour money into space research and technology with the goal of landing a man on the moon - an event that occurred nearly 12 years later.

"Of course speaking just for us specialists (the launch) sparked an unexpected furor around the world. No one expected this, even including our engineers," Viktor Frusmon, a co-worker of Korolyov's, said in a televised comments Thursday.

- Pravda.Ru, 10/04/2007 05:54

As a child, I was hugely fascinated by the cosmos and Man's remarkable attempts to reach even further.

The celebration of the this astonishing feat brings back happy memories; of hours spent over my picture-books on space travel. Sputnik had been one of my favourite satellites - it was not the most sophisticated nor advanced, it was certainly the cutest.

Wow, 50 years ago today. It is amazing how a little metal ball single-handedly jump started North America's science education and space programmes. We've certainly come a long way since then.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

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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