Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Guide to Practical Atheism

When you hear people uttering these phrases, it may indicate they are functional atheists:

"I speak my mind."

"I say what I want."

-- note the opportunistic ambiguity that conflates the two possible connotations: "I say whatever is passing for thought in my cerebral apparatus," or "I am committed to the expression of my wants, and I have substituted my true logos and telos with the acquisition of my demands ... I have become a Ferengi in my soul."

..."Celibacy is the cause of scandal."

-- celibacy, by definition, cannot ever be the cause of pedophilia: there are other reasons, but not celibacy, and female ordination will not help, either.

"Chastity is impossible. Asceticism is impossible. Effectuality and righteousness and sacrament are all unrelated. Prayer is just, you know, an intrapsychic epiphenomenon within a closed biological and predictable system."

-- what matters today is not atheism so much, nor immorality, nor wahhabist sharia, nor even globalized idiot quotidianism: what matters today is today's complete renunciation of Christian prayer -- for prayer is, after all, predicated on the union of the Divine nature with the human, the intersection of eternal predestination with psychic freedom: if there is no prayer, there is no remembrance of the Incarnation, and the spirit of antichrist will coalesce into identity and cultural power: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith?"

"We need progressive religion. We need church to meet our felt needs."

-- the single greatest heretical challenge against apostolic, Nicene Christianity. It is the slogan for the establishment of autonomy in opposition to ecclesial authority.

"We all worship the same God."

-- uh, no, we don't.

..."I feel that ..."

-- the conflation of feeling and thinking is one of the great strategic triumphs of the dark age.

The full list is here.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Religion and Terror: Death of a Myth

I'm pleased to bring this blog's readers the first original article on this blog written entirely by someone else (which should guarantee the quality will vastly outshine everything on this site). This guest post was written by Dom James Deschene, a priest and monk at Christ the Savior Monastery (colloquially known as "Christminster"), a Western Orthodox monastery in the Benedictine tradition. After reading our blog post on how the KGB of Belarus is trying to discourage veneration of the Russian New Martyrs, this obedient son of the Russian Church sent in this reflection on militant atheism, the sources of violence, and a wizened slander of religion:
by Fr. James M. Deschene

In the wake of 9/11 – its memory still fresh in our minds – we tend, somewhat understandably, to cling to a myth common to our age: that the primary source of violence, terrorism, and persecution in history has been religion and its dogmas. And to put an even finer point on it, it is alleged that the prime offender in this (at least until the recent rise of Islamic terrorism) has historically been Christianity. The myth usually alludes at this point to witchcraft trials, the Inquisition, and similar atrocities, all of them propagated by religious powers, usually the Christian Church in the days when it wielded the power to commit such offenses. The myth includes, usually implicitly and without stating it, the belief that we have come a long way since those darker ages and have made much civil progress, having left behind us in the detritus of history such blots on our humanity. Our belief in our own modernity adds to our shock at recent terrorist attacks, as if they were a curious relic of the middle ages, an alien and benighted anachronism oddly popping up in our own allegedly enlightened times.

But have we lived in enlightened times? Have we really progressed that much from these crimes of a former age? And has religion really been the bloodiest contributor to human evil? In fact, a case can easily be made that the bloodiest century in western history – a century marked by martyrdoms, persecutions, massacres and holocausts on an unprecedented and epic scale – is the century just past: the twentieth. There is a greater irony still: the deaths of these millions by violence, terror, and holocaust were carried out not by any dogmatic church or religious power, nor by isolated terrorist groups, but by militantly and explicitly atheistic regimes. These killings were carried out not in the name of God, but of men – Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot. These men ruled with absolute power, unchecked by any higher divine authority, and their killing and terrorism were systematic, sustained, governmental – not at all like the limited and random acts of underground terrorist organizations. It has been estimated that Communists in Russia killed in a single day more martyrs than the Inquisition executed in its entire history. We are understandably appalled by the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11, having seen it with our own eyes. But no less real, though hidden among the facts of history, is the appalling amount of death-dealing committed in the twentieth century in the name of a powerful atheistic mentality able to incarnate itself in governmental and social forms.

By happy circumstance, a part of that tragically tattered twentieth-century tapestry of death has been mended. On 17 May 2007, one of the greatest wounds inflicted by Stalin’s atheistic regime was healed, after nearly a century of pain. With the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, there began in that vast empire a programmed and systematic attempt to deconstruct the long-established Orthodox Church. From that date, until shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union seventeen years ago, literally millions of churchmen, both clergy and layfolk, were brutally and systematically imprisoned, humiliated and put to death for no reason other than their religious beliefs. So powerful was the machinery of death that some prominent church leaders were persuaded, in exchange for their lives and some measure of comfort, to tell the world outside the Soviet Union that there was no persecution of religion at all in their country, that all was well. Those who refused to proclaim the party line – i.e., those who refused to lie – were snuffed out or took themselves into hiding into what became known as the Catacomb Church.

Meanwhile, Russian émigrés, having fled successfully this dark regime to the safety of Europe and America , struggled to keep alive the flame of the persecuted Orthodox faith. Blessed with the freedom permitted in their adopted countries, these émigrés spoke out against the godless regime in their former “Holy Russia” but their voices were often drowned out by the more strident messages coming from their fatherland, where both civil and church authorities, in a united front, proclaimed that there was no religious persecution in Russia. The world outside Soviet influence had to make up its own mind whom to believe, and it was often, for reasons of politics or diplomacy, that the voices of the émigré Church – known then as the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile – were ignored or disbelieved. Subsequent history, of course, has proven their claims of persecution to be true and by no means exaggerated.

Inevitably, in the ensuing seventy years, relations between the two parts of the Russian Church were strained and volatile. But with the death of the former Soviet Union and its systematic and governmentally administered atheistic program, the long divorce between the two estranged parts of the Russian Church has reached a point of healing. In May 2007 the numerically small, but symbolically significant Church in Exile (known in recent years as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad or the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia), rejoined its mother church – numerically the largest of the Orthodox Churches – in a series of jubilant celebrations in Russia as all past divisions were buried and forgiven. The united Russian Church firmly believes that its present fortunate state is due in no small part to the blood and sacrifice of its millions of martyrs under the scourge of an atheist regime.

What makes this so very poignant for me, as a native American with no Russian roots, but as a convert to Russian Orthodoxy, is a book that vividly sets forth much of the bloody history I have referred to here, written by Father Seraphim Rose, also an American convert to Russian Orthodoxy. Russia's Catacomb Saints is a harrowing but edifying history of the humiliations and torments these modern martyrs underwent in defense of their faith. But the real eye-opener for me is the epigraph Fr. Seraphim wrote after the title page: “Today in Russia, Tomorrow in America.”

What a tragic irony indeed if that were to turn out to be true. But there is no open religious persecution in America – yet. On the other hand, one can legitimately ask whether this country is as solidly religious as it once was; whether it is as religious as it still thinks it is and claims to be. If the Russian experience is any example, the first downward step is the desire for liberation from the past, especially the religious past. The next step, inevitably, is civic godlessness – abolishing God from the public square. Only then, with any higher court of appeal or value abolished and nullified, can persecution freely begin. In the mean time, perhaps we can lay aside the baseless modern myth that religion is the cause of most human suffering and oppression. Modern history just doesn’t bear that out.

And there is this further hopeful sign. In 1931 under orders from Stalin, the magnificent Cathedral of Christ the Savior was dynamited and reduced to dust and rubble. And yet, even with unprecedented military might and absolute political power on its side, an officially atheistic regime in power for eighty years has itself passed into dust and rubble; and the Russian Church it sought to divide and spoil and demolish celebrated its resurrection on May 17th in a newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. On that happy day the words of Fr. Seraphim Rose took on a new poignancy for us: “Today in Russia, tomorrow in America.”

Fr. James Deschene
Christminster Monastery
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Copyright 2008, James M. Deschene. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note: As always, Dom James has given us much to think about, perhaps also to comment upon. I hope we'll have many more such contributions in the future.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Maybe Try Ethiopia?

German Archeologist on Trail of the Ark of the Covenant

More scientific and archeological support for Church tradition:

German researchers claim to have found the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba — and an altar that may have held the Ark.

The discovery, announced by the University of Hamburg last week, has stirred skeptical rumblings from the archaeological community...

Professor Helmut Ziegert, of the archaeological institute at the University of Hamburg, has been supervising a dig in Aksum, northern Ethiopia, since 1999.

"From the dating, its position and the details that we have found, I am sure that this is the palace," he said.

The palace, that is, of the Queen of Sheba, who is believed to have lived in the 10th century B.C.

After she died, her son and successor, Menelek, replaced the palace with a temple dedicated to Sirius.

The German researchers believe that the Ark was taken from Jerusalem by the queen — who had a liaison with King Solomon — and built into the altar to Sirius.

"The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant, and continued until 600 A.D.," an announcement by the University of Hamburg on behalf of the research team said.

The story adds some people have claimed the Ark is in Yemen and Ireland.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The KGB Still Persecutes Russia's New Martyrs

Belarusian KGB Discourages Veneration of Russian New Martyrs.

Even now, the Communists are trying to force their Christian victims down the memory hole:
Belarus discourages the commemoration of Orthodox Christians killed for their faith by the Soviet Union, Forum 18 News Service has found. Today's KGB secret police have sought to have icons of the New Martyrs, as they are known by the Orthodox Church, removed from Grodno Cathedral...

Bishop Artemi (Kishchenko) of Grodno and Volkovysk refused to take them down. "He told the KGB that he couldn't rewrite history." KGB officers also often monitor visitors to Kuropaty, where New Martyrs are probably among mass graves of Stalinist repression victims, a local Orthodox source told Forum 18. The act of going there - even to light candles - is "fraught with tension" with the current Belarusian regime, according to the source. An Orthodox chapel planned for the site has never been built.
The KGB has never learned its lesson. As the Psalmist and the Church services (both Eastern and Western Rite) declare, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." Doing our part to combat this, here is a beautiful, interactive icon of the New Martyrs.

Of course, undoubtedly among the many holy saints numbered with the New Martyrs would be those who provided for St. Tikhon's Liturgy just a decade before the Revolution. (They would join St. Tikhon, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, and St. Nicholas of Japan as saints who approved of, and actively sought to create, a Western Rite Orthodox liturgy adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.) In addition to their own sanctity, this is an another reason the New Martyrs are commemorated in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate's Orthodox Missal (on February 4). The Collect is as follows:
O God of unspeakable mercy, Who didst enable Thy holy Russian martyrs to overcome their enemies by dying for Thy name: deliver us, we beseech Thee, at their intercession from slavery to sin: that wtih them we may come to Thy perfect freedom in the heavenly fatherland. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
New Martyrs of Russia, pray for the suffering faithful in Belarus, and for us! May their intercessions keep the faithful of Belarus safe. And if the Parousia does not intervene, may the faithful venerate the New Martyrs generations after the State's faceless thugs have been forgotten by history.

(Hat Tip: Mere Comments)

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Off-Topic: A Tax Hike I'd Support

California considers a porn tax.

There's an economic truism: "If you tax something more, you get less of it." I'd prefer we had none of this product, but at least this would be a getting Al Capone for not paying his taxes.

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Bp. DANIEL Consecrated by Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The newly ordained Bp. Daniel of UOCUSA, blessing the people with dikiri and trikiri.

Lest I forget, in all the excitement about Abp. HILARION, I failed to report that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA consecrated Bp. DANIEL (Zelinsky) last Saturday. In addition to Met. CONSTANTINE and Abp. ANTONY, six Orthodox bishops, three Ukrainian Catholic bishops, 60 Orthodox priests and deacons, and 400 faithful were present for the consecration at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, Ohio.

His predecessor, Abp. VSEVOLOD (Kolomijcew-Majdanski) reposed in the Lord last December 16, at the age of 80.

Axios! And as Met. CONSTANTINE said, Mnohaya Lita! May God grant him many years!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Abp.HILARION: World Council of Churches Meaningless

From Interfax:
The new First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) doubted the relevancy of the World Council of Churches.

"The Moscow Patriarchate participates in the World Council of Churches for the purposes of maintaining a dialogue among Christians, but we can see that there is hardly any union reached, and this organization has lost its importance," said the First Hierarch Hilarion in his interview published by the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Tuesday.
What's worse are the few "agreed" statements the WCC produces on holy orders, etc.

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Gaudium Magnum: ROCOR's New Hierarch a Friend of WRO

Fr. James Deschene sent out this e-mail this evening (Monday):

NEW YORK: May 12, 2008
Archbishop Hilarion Is Elected First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

May 12, 2008, at 12:00 noon, at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York, His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand was elected Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and shall be elevated to the rank of Metropolitan. In accordance with the Act of Canonical Communion signed on May 17, 2007, the Council of Bishops will send the Act of Election, drawn up by the Counting Committee, to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, with a request from the elected First Hierarch for his blessing to assume the duties placed upon him by his brother archpastors, and for confirmation by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate of his election.

The Enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, Primate-elect of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, will be held on Sunday, May 18, 2008.

The schedule of services relating to the Enthronement of the new First Hierarch is as follows:

May 17, all-night vigil at 6 pm. At the end of the evening service, the newly-elected Primate will emerge from the Royal Doors in a black klobuk [monastic headdress] and a simple episcopal mantle and will stand on the ambo facing the people. Two senior bishops will bring the light blue mantle and white klobuk to the Metropolitan, who will don them with the help of subdeacons. During the vesting of the mantle and klobuk, the senior bishop will intone "axios" ["he is worthy"], which will be repeated first by the bishops and clergymen, then by the choir. Afterwards, the Metropolitan will bless the clergy and people.

The light blue mantle and white klobuk will first be blessed with holy water by the senior archbishop during the reading of the first hour.

May 18, Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am. After the entry prayers are read and the customary blessing, two senior bishops will lead the new Metropolitan to the vesting platform and will declare "axios," which will be repeated first by the bishops and clergy, and then by the choir.

The newly-elected First Hierarch will then be vested in the middle of the church, while the other bishops are vested in the altar. Thereafter, two senior archimandrites or protopriests will bring out the mitre and will silently present it to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

After the moleben, the senior hierarch will bestow the staff to the First Hierarch—a gift from the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, which was blessed upon the relics of St Tikhon, Patriarch and Confessor of All Russia—and will declare:

"May the Almighty and Life-giving Trinity, Boundless Sovereignty and Indivisible Kingdom, grant to you this great throne of episcopacy, to be Metropolitan and Primate of the Russian Church Abroad, through the election by your brethren, the bishops of the Russian Church Abroad. And now, lord and brother, accept this pastoral staff, and ascend the throne of the episcopal seniority, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and beseech His Most-Pure Mother for all Orthodox Christianity and for the Russian people in the diaspora entrusted to you and save them as a good pastor will, and may the Lord God grant you health, well-being and many years."

The Archdeacon will then intone Many Years to the new First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The choir will sing Many Years.

In accordance to the Rite of Enthronement, the newly-elected Primate will address his brother archpastors with the following words:

"May the Almighty and All-Sovereign Right Hand of the All-Highest preserve and strengthen us all. May He grant peace and calm to His Holy Church and save our Fatherland from enemies visible and invisible, and grant strength to Orthodoxy. And to you, brother archpastors of the Russian Church Abroad, and to all Russians in the diaspora, and all Orthodoxy Christians, may He grant health and many years."

The choir then sings Many Years (without an intonation by the Archdeacon).


On April 29 (May 12), 2008, on the feast day of the Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus, we, the undersigned bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, having gathered in the church of our Most-Holy Queen, the Mother of God and Most-Pure Mary, in honor of the Miracle-working Icon of the Sign, by means of secret ballot, elected the Primate of the Russian Church Abroad, for which 8 written ballots were submitted by the bishops in attendance and 3 ballots from absent bishops. Upon unsealing the ballots, the following votes were revealed:

Archbishop Hilarion 9
Archbishop Mark 2

+Archbishop Kyrill
+Bishop Agapit
+Bishop Peter

[End of Dom James' e-mail.]

Abp. HILARION of Sydney has played a role in helping Dom James over the years, and he has more recently presided over Fr. Michael's missionary work in Tasmania (and well beyond).

Here is a film of his sermon at St. Petroc's Monastery on Michaelmas (February) 2004 (Quicktime Movie), after presiding over Fr. Michael's celebration of The English Liturgy.

May God grant Vladika in peace, safety, honor, health, and length of days, and rightly dividing the word of His truth. (And dividing wheat from chaff, and sheep from wolves.)

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