Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tolle, Lege!

The July issue of The Lion is out: the official parish publication of St Mark's parish, a member of the Antiochian Western Rite. One of its articles is "The Joys of Oblature" by Dom James Deschene.

Happy reading!

(Hat tip: Pr. Weedon for catching my typo! Dyslexic ring fingers.)

A Thirst for Spooky Religion

Huw has a good post on the widespread Orthodox thirst for "spooky religion." So many of people, and not a few Orthodox converts, are searching for "The Most Unique Orthodoxy Ever" -- something otherworldly, exotic, cryptic, ethereal, irrationally exuberant, a spiritual high, etc. Hence, the oft-repeated litany of differences between the poetic, mystical East and the staid, logical, moralizing West. This is, in fact, a form of spiritual sickness. Instead of negating the world we've been given or seeking an irrational ecstasy mystery religion, we are called to love the world God created, because it reflects His glory. Indeed, true Orthodoxy states whatever "spooky" elements we've experienced are misleading -- apophatic theology seeing God primarily in negative terms.

I recently read an Orthodox writer who emphasized: our spiritual feelings are not proof of our relationship with God. They merely react to it. Those who judge their relationship with God by their feelings will soon become shipwrecked in heresy. I wonder how much of this thirst for "spooky religion" is emotion-driven? (Not that we WRO are exempt from these outbreaks by any means.)

BTW, I've been meaning to say something about those Ochlophobist blogs, too. You must read these posts: Parts One, Two, Three, and Four.

And Best Wishes for Pope Shenouda III

Having posted that last article on the Coptic Church, perhaps I could take a moment to express my wishes for recovery and best health to Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria. The papal residence released a statement on July 6 stating he is currently in the United States due to health concerns, but they anticipated his return on July 9. However, I have read no follow-up that he has recovered and returned.

Having grown accumstomed to seeing this photo of Pope Shenouda III:

It was painful to see this picture from Cleveland, Ohio (presumably he's in The Cleveland Clinic?) from this spring:

May God grant him a long, healthy, and happy life -- many blessed years.


Patriarchal Letter on the Coptic Church

There had been some question about a speech reprinted in Al-Ahram Weekly (issue no. 740) of April 2005 by an Orthodox patriarch. Below is the text of an explanatory letter from H. H. the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria THEODOROS II concerning the faith of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

This documents referenced in the letter, and others, can be read at


Friday, July 21, 2006

Anti-WR Byzantines Are Also Pro-Vatican II, '79 BCP

The fact that the Roman Catholic Church jettisoned 1,900 years of its liturgical heritage at Vatican II should be a major problem for Orthodox-RCC rapproachment, though only a few "throwback" RCCs and Western Rite Orthodox ever mention it. To my doleful surprise, I found -- to the contrary -- some Byzantines have applauded this liturgical order to bash the Western Rite!

A Fr. Michael Johnson (no relation, to my knowledge) of the Greek Church, in a polemical article he wrote to demean the Western Rite Orthodox, claims, it would be "ludicrous for the Orthodox to tell the Roman Catholics" that "revisions made by Vatican II to the Roman anaphora...were somehow misguided." He then praises the 1979 Book of Common Prayer -- the one that allows for the ordination of women, the one that has an entire Communion Rite that could be a happy-clappy revival service -- saying, "Many of the recent revisions to the Book of Common Prayer (as with the Roman Missal) have been based on sound liturgical scholarship."

He continues:

Furthermore, since both of these "western-rite" liturgies are being celebrated in "King James" English, are we telling the Christians of the various western confessions that modern English is unacceptable as a liturgical language? This, in spite of the fact that modern English is now used in many translations of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom?
If you want to tell the Byzantines this, be my guest.

I wonder: have others encountered this sentiment from Byzantine Orthodox, or does it only rear its head when they're attacking their own?

Incidentally, Fr. Michael's arguments against the WRV are expertly answered by the paper "Lux Occidentalis," written by Fr. John Connely, Archpriest. And as I always hasten to point out, not all Greeks, much less all Byzantines, are hostile to the Western Rite.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Modern Desert

A contemporary holy man -- perhaps we should say a contemporary Desert Father -- sent in this article. It contains good insights for all who would follow the first ascetics:

Orthodox Theologian Speaks on Modern Deserts (from

We can only appreciate the mystical dimension of our world and our soul if we go through the stage of the desert, says Orthodox theologian, John Chryssavgis.

"I would say that the secret of the desert is learning to lose," he says.

Author of several books, husband and father of two, Doctor Chryssavgis has recently released In the Heart of the Desert. The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

Q: Seeking God through silence and prayer like the 4th and 5th century Christian ascetics still has much to teach us now?

Chryssavgis: It is so easy today to consider silence and prayer as something historically outdated or merely as spiritual virtues. In fact, for the life of the early desert fathers and mothers in the fourth and fifth centuries, silence was a way of breathing, a way of going deep.

In a world, such as ours, where so much is determined by the immediate and the superficial, the desert elders teach us the importance of slowing down, the need to pay attention and to look more deeply.

Silence is letting the world and yourself be what they are. And in that respect, silence is profoundly connected to the living God, "Who is Who He is." Silence and prayer mean creating space for those moments in our life where integrity and beauty and justice and righteousness reign. Of course, all this requires toil and tears, labor and love. It is the art of living simply, instead of simply living. It resembles the skill of gardening: you cannot plant unless, first, you cultivate. You cannot expect to sow unless you dig deep. And you certainly cannot expect fruit unless you wait.

The search, then, is for what lies beneath the surface. Only in taking time and looking carefully can we realize just how much more there is to our world, our neighbor, and even ourselves than at first we notice or than we could ever imagine.

Q: Is there a secret to live a rich and healthy spiritual life?

Chryssavgis: In some ways, the secret to living a rich and healthy spiritual life may well be the fact that there is no secret. One of the problems along the spiritual way is that most of us seek -- or resort to -- magical solutions to profound issues.

Reading the texts of the early ascetics, I have come to realize that perhaps the most essential lesson learned in life is the lesson of surrender, of letting go.

It is a hard lesson, and one that is only reluctantly embraced by most of us. But I am convinced that this life is given to us in order to learn how to lose.

We think that the purpose of a good spiritual life is to acquire virtues, or perhaps to lead a solid, productive, dignified, admirable, and even influential lifestyle. In fact, every detail -- whether seemingly important or insignificant, whether painful or joyful -- in the life of each one of us has but a single purpose, namely to prepare us for the ultimate act of sharing and sacrifice.

I would say that the secret of the desert is learning to lose. When you know how to lose, you also know how to love! In some ways, every moment in our life is a gradual refinement so that we are prepared to encounter death, which is the ultimate loss.

Q: What unifies the desert fathers and mothers?

Chryssavgis: If there is one element that unites the desert fathers and mothers, in my mind it is their realism. The unpretentious dimension of their life and experience, of their practice as well as their preaching, is something they share with one another and with all the communion of saints through the centuries. And precisely because they are truthful and down-to-earth, the desert fathers and mothers are not afraid to be who they are. They do not endeavor to present a false image; and they do not accept any picture of themselves that does not reflect who they really are.

"Stay in your cell," they advise us. Because so often we are tempted to move outside, to stray away from who and what we are.

Learning to face who and what we are -- without any facade, without any make-up, without any false expectations -- is one of the hardest and at the same time, one of the finest lessons of the desert. Putting up with ourselves is the first and necessary step of learning to put up with others. And it is the basis for recognizing how all of us -- each of us and the entire world alike -- are unconditionally embraced and loved by God.

Q: Is there another kind of "desert" nowadays?

Chryssavgis: In our day, the desert is not necessarily to be found in the natural wilderness, although it may certainly be located there for some. The institutional church and the institutional parish have their place; and the natural desert has its place.

But there is more to the spiritual life than these could ever provide alone. Alongside the institutional, there must be room for inspiration. The two are not necessarily opposed, but they must work together integrally if the Body of Christ is to function in all its fullness.

We need to discern the mystery in life. And we can only appreciate the mystical dimension of our world and our soul if we go through the stage of the desert, if we experience that contemplative dimension of life. Yet the desert today is found in the marginal places of the world and the church, where the prophetic and critical word is spoken in response to the cry of suffering in human beings and in the natural environment.

Those who put themselves on the edge of the conventional church or society in order to see clearly what is happening in our world are contemporary desert fathers and mothers.

This article discusses certain issues I myself have been dealing with, and somehow this holy man knew to send it to me today. I remind him (for he'd never believe me) as much as our readers: clairvoyance may be a sign of sainthood.

Which Literature Classic Are You?

The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose.

You are a mystery novel dealing with theology, especially with catholic vs liberal issues. You search wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that learning is essential in life.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

BTW, I prefer at least two of the other alternatives.

(Hat tip: Richard.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

St. Augustine of Hippo: Before All Else

St. Augustine of Hippo, Ora pro nobis.

"Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments given to us." -- The opening of The Rule of St. Augustine.


Monday, July 17, 2006

A Timeline of the Mass

I promise I'm not turning into Ross Perot with my recent love of charts. This one, though, is a gem: a graphical timeline of the Mass, noting how each section of the Mass developed at Rome. One may choose to quibble with a stray comment here-and-there, but overall it's a good resource.

It also confirms much of what I wrote here on the Roman Mass's history.

(Hat tip: Ari, on Ely Forum)


Charming Story

Congrats to Fr. Matthew Thurman, now settled in at St. Columba's Orthodox Church (WRV) in Colorado. He has a charming story on his blog about his ByzRite son's reaction to hearing the Sanctus bells for the first time in his life. Read it here.

BTW, it reminds me of a reverse incident: one of the misguided parishes that went ByzRite from the WRV tried to become as exotically "Eastern" as possible. When the parish children saw people doing full prostrations for the first time, they pushed people over face-first. When their grandmother sternly asked them why, the angelic girl replied, "They couldn't get over, so I helped them finish their somersaults!" (For the record, yes, this is absolutely true; I got it from the mouth of the grandmother!)

And who said cultural familiarity means nothing in choosing a rite?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Three Masses Compared

This is a fascinating side-by-side-by-side comparison of the Classical Roman Rite ("Tridentine"), the Dominican Rite, and the Novus Ordo "Mass." If you ever wanted to know what the Novus Ordo gutted from the classical Roman tradition, this illustrates it starkly. Note the large amount of white space on the right, except for the "Memorial Acclamation."

(Hat tip: York Forum)


Genuflection, Orthodox and Lutheran

Pastor Weedon has posted a nice comment on genuflecting during the Nicene Creed. Although Western Christendom is accused of diminishing the importance of the Incarnation, this traditional devotion shows a holy balance.

This post also serves as a decent reminder why many Lutherans will never convert to Roman Catholicism: they're higher church than the RCC, where genuflection is typically replaced with a bow or (more frequently) nothing at all. (More on this another time.)

I post this despite my history with quoting Lutherans. :)


Blogger Keeps Eating Sentences

Thanks to those who pointed out my last post had gotten truncated by Blogger. For some reason, Blogger regularly deletes words and whole sentences from my post. Any of my other bloggers have this problem?

At any rate, Fr. Jack edited a Roman Breviary and Fr. Michael is compiling St. Colman Prayer Book. I've changed my post to express what it said in the first place, before Blogger's logo-cannibalism! :)