Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ember Saturday

A reminder to all readers that today is Ember Saturday.

The Ember Days are a distinctive practice of the Western Rite, without an exact counterpart in the East. At four times a year near the onset of the four seasons, the Western Church decreed that everyone must fast on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the week. In Latin, the quarterly fasts were remembered as the "four times" (Quatuor Tempora). John Mason Neale recorded this couplet that describes their timing:
Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie
The latter two refer to Holy Cross Day (Sept. 14) and St. Lucy's Day (Dec. 13). Wikipedia notes, "According to the Julian calendar the night of Lucia was the longest night of the year." J.M. Neale adds the Roman practice is to observe the winter Ember Day during the third week of Advent.

The Ember Days add solemnity to the penitential seasons, while reminding us during the most joyous of feasts that fasting and mortification are an indispensable part of the Christian life. May we make the most of it.
O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Orthodoxy of St. Augustine and Dickens

Christopher Orr has an inspiring quotation about two of the three authors whose works he is reading this Lent: Charles Dickens and St. Augustine of Hippo. He writes:
Kyriacos Markides, in his book The Mountain of Silence, includes the following quote taken from the biography of Fr. Seraphim Rose (+1982), Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works:

"The experience you just described [one of initial spiritual work being floor-scrubbing] is similar to that of another novice who went to Mount Athos to become a master of spiritual secrets," I interrupted while taking out of my handbag a book I was reading. I began flipping through the pages. I then translated a relevant passage into Greek, sentence by sentence.

"Not many years ago," I read, "a young monastic aspirant went to Mount Athos. In talking with the venerable abbot of the monastery where he wished to stay, he told him, `Holy Father! My heart burns for the spiritual life, for asceticism, for unceasing communion with God, for obedience to an elder. Instruct me, please, Holy Father, that I may attain spiritual advancement.' Going to a bookshelf, the abbot pulled down a copy of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. `Read this, son,' he said. `But, Father!' objected the disturbed aspirant. `This is heterodox Victorian sentimentality, a product of the Western captiviity! This isn't spiritual, it's not even Orthodox! I need writings which will teach me spirituality!' The abbot smiled, saying, `Unless you first develop normal, human, Christian feelings and learn to view life as little Davey did--with simplicity, kindness, warmth, and forgiveness--then all the Orthodox spirituality and Patristic writings will not only be of no help to you--tthey will turn you into a spiritual monster and destroy your soul.'"

Thus, per Fr. Seraphim's advice to my 'complex, cruel, cold and unforgiving' heart, David Copperfield is my Lenten reading this year.

Fr. Seraphim also made it a habit to read Blessed Augustine's spiritual classic, The Confessions, during Great Lent. So, this is my 'spiritual' or 'patristic' reading for Great Lent this year.

If only we all had this spirit of charity! Happy reading, and may Christopher experience all the joys of Lent.


Flee the Pseudodox: Your Life May Depend On It

Christopher Orr has added an important comment to our post about the Romanian woman killed during a several-day exorcism that failed:
My Romanian-American priestmonk said that this priest and monastery were either fully 'independent' or part of an Old Calendarist sect, and not a part of the mainstream Romanian Orthodox Church. FWIW.
I should have guessed. If true, it would certainly fit a growing pattern of Pseudodox monasteries involved in abuse. Somehow, Pseudodox monastics seem to be disproportionately represented in child molestation, visitor abuse, financial scandals, embezzlement, and phony "miraculous icons." They and their apologists are terrific people to stay away from. Thank you for reminding us of this caveat!

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Update: Jesus Tomb Hoax

Looks like I was right about this story. Scholars say the alleged "Jesus Tomb" is a fraud. (Not that I was concerned.) In fact, it's not even a new controversy:
In 1996, when the British Broadcasting Corp. aired a short documentary on the same subject, archaeologists challenged the claims. Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.

"They just want to get money for it," Kloner said.
[James Cameron isn't interested in money; that would make him like the rich people on the Titanic. - BJ]...

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name "Hanun." Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.
Paging Eric Jobe!

James Cameron showed his keen intellect here, too:
"I'm not a theologist. I'm not an archaeologist. I'm a documentary film maker," he said.
Yes, documentaries, like Titanic. (Rolls eyes.)


Off-Topic: News Roundup

Not only that, but see what happens when you make them watch Oprah: Pollution may change male frogs into female frogs

And I thought cell phones were irritating:
Police: Using laptop in car caused deadly head-on...

The Next Blanco Monk?
ROCK GREAT PETER TOWNSHEND: PRAY FOR BRITNEY... (What's the Blanco similarity? This. BTW, Britney could use prayer.)

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