Saturday, 17 April 2021

Last Post

 Sorry for my long absence, I am writing to say that this will be my last post.  Google have forced my hand.  They have been asking for my date of birth for some time. I have refused to give it because they say it is for my 'safety'.  They do not need to know who I am and I don't believe them.  Anyway, foolishly I gave a date of 25.10.20 and they asked me to get my parents to verify this as I am too young to have a Google Account.  The upshot of this is that I have had to give my real date of birth and my credit card details to prove this is me.  I object strongly to giving Google this amount of data and will be deleting my blog in the coming month.


What I wanted to write about is Informed Consent.  It is something that has been bothering me for some time.  Many moral commentators are saying that they subscribe to the notion that the vaccine must only be given under informed consent, it should not be compulsory.  I agree that it should not ever be compulsory, but I can not agree to the notion that it can be given under informed consent.  Informed consent suggests that if you have enough information you can process that information to make a reasoned judgement about the choices you make.  My head can not around this idea at all.  Information can never equal truth, you can never have enough information on which to base a decision.  Decisions are not made through objective reason, we can pretend to ourselves that they are reasonable, but self-interest and comfort always lie at the bottom of our decisions.  Also the science of vaccinations is so complex and the science of viruses even more complex and not very well understood that the facts we are chasing are relative, subjective and dependent on the experts who produce them.


Prehistoric Thinking Romanians (c 4000BC)

So if Informed Consent is impossible, are the moralists who say the vaccine is evil and that we sin in taking it correct?  Sorry, but I can't get my head around this either.  I maintain that taking the vaccine is morally neutral.  It has to be.  You can take it for the wrong reasons and sin in doing so, you can decline from taking it for the wrong reasons and sin in doing so. Indeed the latter of these two options is by far the most toxic: the sin of pride 'I'm not like those vaccine takers, I am superior to them and am keeping myself clean and pure through not taking it' ....... Pharisee and Publican  methinks......

The bottom line is that the fallacy of Western style individualism is really being shown up here.  It sees us as autonomous decision making individuals, each like a rat in a maze.  The truth of the matter is we are not, we are family, we are brothers.  The fact that this concept has been bastardised by the Freemasons is evidence of its validity.  Everything we do affects for better and worse every other member of the family, and this is why we must constantly pray for the loving kindness of God.  At best we can minimise the amount of damage we can do, it is only God that turn it around for His Glory.  Perhaps these vaccines work, perhaps they don't, perhaps there is something sinister behind them, perhaps there is not.... none of this matters and any decision we make regarding what we do in this mater is irrelevant next to the more important work of our earthly lives: constantly turning to God in bewilderment, humility, love and trust.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Travelogue

 I took advantage of the good weather to make a trip out of Bucharest whilst I am able to do so.  The stately old locomotives of CFR transported me to the town of Turnu Severin on the northern shore of the Danube and the border with Serbia  It is a journey of about 360km and it takes 6 hours.  The town lies on the line from Bucharest to Budapest via Craiova and Timișoara, this is technically an intercity journey though the speeds are such that most of the time you can read the mile posts.  First class cost the equivalent of 20 GBP and for that luxury I got a comfortable seat and a carriage that was running at about 20% capacity. First class also means some pestering from enterprising beggars who assist with baggage and try to sell you reading material or prayer cards before the train departs, they are harmless and I was glad of the help putting my luggage overhead. I had booked a short break at Turnu Severin's premier hotel (extremely reasonable pandemic pricing) overlooking the Danube mainly so that I could wake up in morning, draw back the curtains and see Serbia.  I am besotted with the place and my absence from that country is painful for me. Perhaps seeing but not touching adds to the pain..... but like any lover feels, even the pain is better than nothing!

Anyway this post will be about Romania not Serbia.  Romania is my home and we get along just fine and right now it is the best place for me to be.

The scenery from Bucharest to Craiova is desolate and was not helped by a thick mist and the lack of any fresh spring vegetation. Imagine Lincolnshire with nodding donkeys (Romania is proud of its petrochemical industry) and some abject poverty by the tracks and you may get the picture.  Endless, large, empty fields, stunted copses full of miserable looking trees, drab villages with no signs of life.... Craiova itself is where the majority of Romania's electric locomotives were made.  They are lovely old ladies in dirty cream and maroon livery with characteristic portholes along the side.  The town has a look of Derby to me and historically must have served a similar function.  To the West of Craiova I was transported to scenery that was reminiscent of the Pennines; bleak bare rounded hills, sheep and bogs. All that was missing was stone weavers' cottages. There was plenty of time to ogle the rolling stock on the railways.  It depresses me that nearly the entire freight system of Europe is German owned, and their swanky new locomotives proclaim who is really in charge and where ultimately all the wealth finds itself.  There are also some trains that are ex-Scandinavian railways and must be living out their retirement here in Romania after her own engineering industry was crippled.  (Reminiscent of England is it not?) My joy was seeing a locomotive proudly proclaiming that it was Yugoslavian.  As Yugoslavia has not existed for 20 years, was this an engine purloined by the Romanians on the break-up of Yugoslavia or was it one still working for masters on the other side of the Danube?  I may investigate further.  Later on my stay I saw some chemical wagons from Serbia which were waiting for a locomotive to take them home, so either tale is possible.

The people who work for the railways are lovely.  They proudly wear their uniform, which is probably identical to that worn in under Socialism.  The smaller stations which can hardly see more than a couple of trains a day are all looked after by station masters, there is obviously zero money for investment and the whole system is crumbling and held together solely by dignity and pride.

Turnu Severin was a much nicer town that I was expecting and I will return.  It reminded me of central Chișinău but without the Russian Imperialist architecture.  The town is well planned with parks and a great fruit and vegetable market, the supermarkets haven't yet wrecked local trade with their aggressive self-serving capitalism. There are great machines which dispense fresh milk into containers of your choosing. Turnu Severin also has very impressive Roman remains and an Ottoman era fortress. The local Orthodox diocese seems wealthy and has administrative headquarters in the swankiest building in the town.  They are building a fine new church in the centre of the town and I spent some time watching the frescoes being painted.  Less welcome to my eyes was the presence of NATO flags on many of the public buildings, they seemed to be mocking Serbia across the water and despite Romania's refusal to recognise Kosovo, you can see where this is heading.  Also I loathe the flag of the EU and it is everywhere, not even a hole can be filled in the road without it proclaiming to be part of some European initiative.  Surely the Romanians are perfectly capable of doing these things by themselves? The EU must be the major source of the necessary funds for the endless and open corruption that take place here.

I took a day trip to Orșova, it is 30 minutes on the train and there is an impressive ride past the Iron Gates, the controversial Socialist era dam across the Danube.  It is certainly an awesome construction.  Old Orșova disappeared under the waters when the dam was constructed and was rebuilt up the hill.  It is unimpressive even by Communist era housing standards but in holiday season there are plenty of boats for hire up the Danube to the magnificent gorge and beyond.  No such luck for me. No boats and no sign of a forthcoming holiday season.  A pox on this pandemic and all who are manipulating it for their own ends!  The town is however situated in a lovely bay, the air was clean and my phone thought I was in Serbia so I was happy to be there. Outside the town runs a major route through the Balkans to Turkey.  Lorries from the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, Hungary and Romania thunder past at such a rate you'd swear there was no world crisis.

Of note are the two main churches.  The Orthodox had lovingly rebuilt their church to St Nicholas further up the hill than the floodwaters.  It was a beautiful, peaceful and well loved place and you'd never know its lack of years.  The Catholic response seems to have been to salvage a few statues but to build a monstrous 'church of Sauron' style menacing dark concrete structure, in which the statues sit somewhat uncomfortably.   From what I can gather it was the only Catholic church to be built under Communism in Romania.  Make of the contrast what you will.

I've written enough.  Just thought it was worth painting a picture for you, wherever you are.






Thursday, 25 February 2021

Tradition Under Threat

I suggest you watch the following and look at the comments left behind on YouTube before you read what I have to say.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJj5iqdvWJk

It concerns a convent of Buddhist nuns in Nepal and it comes from the BBC.  The theme is girrrl power and breaking down masculine hierarchies: the nuns doing things traditionally only done by men.  This is not normal subject matter for my blog, but in many ways it is totally in keeping with what I consistently say.  Those who read my blog are for the most part wise to the liberal, globalist agendas which wishes to enshrine gender equality as a universal norm.  We ought to be able to read this news report for what it is and understand what is going on.

I was so puzzled by it that I contacted a longstanding friend with committed links to  Buddhist monasticism and asked him to comment. He reminded me that monasticism is based on humility which would prevent  nuns from giving interviews. He most definitely says that they are fake, in the sense that there is no tradition behind them and that they are very much a creation of the liberal, globalist West.  It got me thinking the the shiny new bicycles that they rode on their sponsored road trip to raise awareness for some cause or other, probably came from a very similar pot of money to the one that gave ISIS those shiny new Toyota trucks. 

The opening comments in the video seem to suggest a distain for meditation, in that active works are considered better.  The parallel with the enforced decline in Western Catholic monasticism at the expense of social justice movements should be noticed. And of course the BBCs Western audience is too illiterate to know that anything is up.

At the bottom of this is also something political.  The Dali Lama, as much as the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope in Rome, is very much on board with globalism and One World cosyness. It will be difficult to hear voices for tradition in the face of this. And here is where Westerners need a canny geopolitical head to decipher what is happening.  Nepal fairly recently and democratically elected a Marxist government, and ever since then the West has prevented it from taking root, and these liberal nuns are part of the soft power initiative to make sure that Western values rule. The West claims that China infiltrated Nepal and that the elections were not fair.  I am not sure the West has a leg to stand on in terms of the fairness of elections and you only have to look at the US, Bolivia, Venezuela and Belarus to see that people do indeed vote in large numbers for candidates which go against the grain of the hegemon. 

So without making a moral judgement on the political situation in the area and saying one side is right and the other wrong,  I think it is worth pointing out to my readers in the US that the liberal/globalist agenda is not backed by China.  Indeed they are diametrically opposed to each other.  Liberalism is being enforced on the area around China to weaken her influence.  In the process centuries of tradition, scholarship and faith are under threat.  China, like Islam is not the enemy, they are threats to the hegemon so 'fake' Islam is promoted like 'fake' Christianity and this  'fake' Buddhism. It is simply that people want us to think China is the enemy to distract from what is really happening. Everything that China says or does is weaponised by the West to the extent and if we play along with narratives which promote China as the enemy then we are playing along with the globalists.  They always love having conservative Christianity on board, we should be wise to this. 

And it is the same globalist forces which are seeking to undermine Christian Orthodoxy in Georgia and Ukraine (though this time the enemy is Russia) and replace it with something more rainbow, ecumenically and environmentally friendly.  It is all the same thing.

Please my Western brothers and sisters, lay off the China bashing.  It is 90% ignorance and is being fed by the very forces which you ought to be fundamentally opposed to.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Under the skin

 I’m increasingly bothered by the moral stance taken by my trad Catholic brethren against the vaccines that are being recommended for the current pandemic. However, I must stress that my irritability is not based on any hard evidence or expertise on my part.  I am a physicist not a biochemist, the science is beyond me.  There are however 2 types of vaccines available one using DNA and one RNA.  The DNA type (the ones speedily developed by the Russians) is basically the same sort of thing that has been routinely handed out for seasonal flu for years.  The RNA one is using a relatively new technique that my biochemist friends are terribly excited about because it is potentially a much more efficient and effective process. This is the vaccine type from the major Western pharmaceutical companies.  The two types are very different in how they work on the body and I don’t begin to understand how they differ or what are their relative advantages and disadvantages. I just know that two types exist.

There seems to be a lot of anti-vaccine talk coming from my Catholic brethren based around the origins of the RNA.  Apparently, it can be traced back to a foetus aborted in the 1970s. (*Latest* I have been informed by an avid reader that it is the DNA vaccines - Oxford and Russia that have this origin). Where does the RNA come from? Why is so much fuss being made of the aborted foetus issue, when apparently it is not in the mix of the much more common RNA vaccine?  Is my avid reader wrong? As I said, I know nothing.

I would certainly prefer to not take a vaccine derived from an aborted foetus, but I am struggling to define taking the vaccine as a sin.  Is cannibalism a sin?  It is certainly unpleasant and disrespectful of the human person.  The sin however must lie in the killing of the person to procure food, not in the eating. If you were in a siege and you and your family were about to die of starvation unless you ate human flesh from those already dead, do you sin in doing so?

Who do we sin against in taking the vaccine?  All sins are against God and it is impossible to be sinless.  We sin against others in our capacity to turn them away from the love of God; from murder, to slander, from lying to bullying this holds true. We sin against ourselves when we let passions rule us and give into lust, greed, avarice, anger and the rest. How do we sin against another in taking the vaccine? How do we sin against ourselves? We don’t sin against the aborted child, his mother or the doctors involved in the murder or subsequent scientific research.  Just who do we sin against, just who are we turning from God? Is taking the vaccine a violation of God’s Laws to love God and neighbour, an act of self-abuse, an act of fornication, an act of idolatry?

Is it not more important in the scheme of things to pray for the child, his mother and the doctors who performed the abortion which unwittingly and unknowingly has had such global significance?

My concern is that the anti-vax noises are just so terribly modern and belong to our consumerist age, an age where personal choice has been elevated to be the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. Liberty and the right to choose can easily become idols.  In choosing one option over another we are proclaiming our righteousness over those who choose the other option.  Be this a choice of who to vote for or whether or not to take the vaccine, such choices and the righteousness we feel in making them are just spiritual pride, and there are few more deadly things that that.



Saturday, 19 December 2020

The bleak oracle of a barking dog

 The bleak oracle  of a barking dog - (a line from a Louis Macneice poem), that my dear reader is all that I am hearing at the moment at it is bothersome.  You know how it is, the dog keeps barking and barking, endlessly and often without cause. Some imaginary danger has fired it up (or it might just be the moon) and the noise is persistent and illogical. Even if we spoke 'dog' we would not be any wiser.  But yet the dog barks and if we choose to do so we may at length believe in the danger, even if it is imaginary. True or not, the dog offers no enlightenment or nuance and only the message of danger is repeated and repeated until it is simply an earworm that is there to remind you of the constant dangers you face. I once had the pleasure of visiting a nuclear fuel processing plant, they are fairly low risk establishments, the fuel itself it incredibly low risk provided you don't have too much of it lumped together.  The plant emits a constant alert like an electronic dog bark, it is when the barking stops that you know something is wrong.

I do not live or work in a nuclear fuel processing plant and I would rather not hear the 'dog bark' of danger, but perhaps, when the barking stops, it will be too late and something truly terrible will befall us.  

The problem is that once one dog starts to bark, others join in. I want to throw the dogs a bone and give them something else to occupy themselves.Silencing dogs who are barking at an imaginary danger is worthwhile.  A true guard dog would continue barking.

We live in a world where the loudest barking come from the most ignorant of dogs; 'dogs' with little understanding of history, geography or culture.  Sadly also 'dogs' so used to the rhetoric of barking that other forms of communication are alien to them. They bark and bark and sarl at what they have been told to snarl at.  What they have been told to bark at is their master's enemy. The dog is never master. The master needs an enemy because it gives him an identity and a need to show how different he is from his emeny and he can then coerce people to work for him against this enemy and build up their sense of identity and loyalty to the master in the process.

I leave it to the reader to discern if as a Christian, this is a tolerable state of affairs. If we truly believe that all are made in the image and likeness of God, is it truly wise to take sides and work for a master who pits one set of people against another?

I wish to take issue with the barking of one particular dog. The dog that says that everything anti-Christian is a Communist plot, that Communism is an evil that must be stopped at all costs. Take the time to read Marx and you will not find him anti-religion.  His critique is against the somewhat cosy middle class 'feel good'  superiority of suburban religion.  The atheism in a lot of modern Marxism one I have sympathies with.  They smply can't believe in a god who is little more than Santa, dealing out presents to the good and being vindictive and spiteful to everyone else. True, such a god is a lie.  We ought to state form the ourset that the god they don't believe in is also a god we don't believe in.  History will also tell you that religion under Communism is much more nuanced than the dogs would have you believe.  The devil will use anything to damage the Church (both from within and without), and he does so by stirring the emotions of those he can reach and manipulate.  Great atrocities have been committed and I am not denying that however it is a far more complicated picture.  The fact remains that Chritsianity survived the Soviet Union and actually came out stronger. Communism was its refining fire.  

[An intersting side note for all you 'Infiltration' fans is that in the 1930s the Soviet Union was convinced that it has been infiltrated by the West under the guise of effiminate, enfeebling, materialistic bourgeois homosexuality. Tolerance of homosexuals is one thing, using it to create opposition to the state is another!  Catholic Church take note.]

In any state there will be several types of Christian: those who go along enthusiastically with the regime but who have no supernatural faith and see the regime as the best way to build a kingdom of heaven on earth, those who go along with the regime reluctantly but for the sake of souls who they wish to minister to, those who just keep their heads down and get on with life and whose faith wavers between luke-warm and a low simmer, those loyal to a regime with ideas which are politically opposed to the ones they find themselves living under and those fired up with the love of God who don't hear the dogs bark and simply and humbly pray to do the will of God whatever the cost. God, in His benevolence will make saints out of every category if we let Him.  If that is the only take away form this bilge that you have, then I will be happy.

Marxism is interested in curbing the enthusiasm of those they suspect of having a political idealogy diametrically opposed to  their own. It is religious souls from that group or those suspected of being in that group who have disproportionaltely found themselves with the unwelcome attention of the authorities.  The Marxist purges have nothing to do with religion per se as they are genuinely not interested in religion. The evidenece is overwhelming that religion is usually left alone unless there is a suspicion of a foreign political power using it to destabilise the state. That many of the Communist states became paranoid is human nature. That religion can be used as a 'soft power' by agressive foreign idealogies is undeniable. 

Protestantism has flourished in China, especially the non-denominational house church variety.  It has largely been left alone because it has been seen as a home grown phenomenon. The recent purges came with the foreign investment and interest in these churches.  The West know this will bring about suspicion and repression but every bit of negative press about the Chinese authorities is good press for the West. I can't help feel that the West is  using Christians somewhat cynically for political gain both at home and abroad. Something similar can be said about the Moslem Uyghur, the Western backed jihaadi infiltration is undeniable, terrorist attacks in China were a reality, calmpdown inevitable, weaponinsing of the methods of clampdown and deliberate lying by the Western media is sadly also reality. It is important for the West to damn China whatever she does, is it important to keep that dog barking. Excuse me if I prefer the approach taken by the rest of the world; by Russia, the countries of Eurasia, Africa and S America (when they are not bullied into doing otherwise). A policy of working together without top note moralistic rhetoric and cold war scaremongering. China's foreign policy and standard of behaviour on the world stage is impeccable compared to the US. That its goverment is what it is, loved by many, loathed by many is simply a fact. It is certainly more stable and offers a better health care, education and soclial care than its self-styled enemy.  That China is not part of the Rothschild-Gates-Soros wet dream is also an undeniable fact and one ordinary people in the West ought to wake up to.

Be careful which barking dogs you believe.





Sunday, 13 December 2020

That my house may be filled

Sorry for the lack of posts, dear reader.  There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, working from home means spending all day infront of the computer and the last thing I want to do is then spend any precious leisure time infront of it aswell.  Secondly, the new format for Blogger has reduced the size of the writing screen to such unnecessarily small proportions and I can find no way to enlarge the view.  I am simply middle-aged with a cataract.  Nothing desperately serious, but the smallness of the type and its insipid greyness are so wearying on the eyes; again, time is too precious to exhaust myself in this way.

The third reason is trickier.  Something is niggling me and I can't put it into words, so prayerfully I think it best not to add to the cacophony of Anglosphere 'Christian' tub-thumpers on social media. However, here in Byzantium, the reading for today focussed my niggle to such an extent that I actually feel I want to write. The Gospel for today is Luke 14:16-24.  It is Jesus's story of the man who invites loads of people to a lavish feast and the people he invites are so full of worldly cares that they make excuses not to come, so he orders his servants to bring in the blind and the lame and even to search the hedgerows 'so that my house may be filled'.

There is plenty of room in the man's house, and his generosity is unbounded. He accepts the free will of those who know him but can't be bothered and offers a surprise to those who never had a relationship with him, yet accept the invite.

It is very much in parallel with the Gospel story of the labourers called at the 11th hour.

The thing is, so many of my fellow religionists are only too happy to be pouring over prophecies and predicting the end times and saying that we are living in them.  But it is always the end times.  It is just that we are so crap at living them that God hasn't yet pulled the plug. One day we will get it right.  But what is correct end times living?

I think this Gospel story gives us a glimpse of it.  It is a stark warning that worldly cares kill joy in the Lord. Those that are called, those that have 'relationship' with the Lord, will simply be too preoccupied.  Preoccupation with Covid, politics, paranoia of Commie takeovers, protecting individual liberty, fighting leftists, fighting fascists, fighting globalists, fighting for this or that cause and truly believing that the Lord will appreciate their efforts and understand their excuses for not sharing  in His joy.

Yes, dear reader, in the 11th hour few will actually hear the Good News amongst those who claim to be blessed with good fortune due to their relationshp with the Lord. But if all this is inevitable, why doesn't God just pull the plug now?  I think this has a lot to do with the 'poor, feeble, blind and lame' and those travellers on the wayside journeying somehwere and not really sure where they are going that God also invites to the feast. God is preparing to make them as receptive as possible. And all we do is keep queering His pitch; being ugly, hateful, self-righteous and titilated by the thought of impending doom.  If we Christians don't act like Christians, if we don't love people as people and treat them as brothers,  if we label them and  judge them and condemn them, we may turn them over to the enemy as our behaviour turns us over to the enemy.  We starve our soul and the soul of our neighbour. Nobody gets to heaven without helping another, nobody goes to hell without dragging others down with them. Individualism is a cult that has taken over the West since the Enlightenment.

So,  perhaps in His infinite mercy, He is waiting for a softening of our hearts towards  the little ones who do not know Him as they could, so that they may atleast recognise Him through us and our behaviour when He comes again in Glory.

His Kingdom as a lot of room!!  We may very well be surprised by who gets in there at the 11th hour. Please don't behave like you want to spoil the party. Afterall we are called to be as Christ, and sacramentally we are His Body. We are not simply called to have a relationship with Him that flounders on a sea of worldly cares. Where is our Christ-like generosity that God bestows on us through the gifts of the Holy Spirit?  Where are the feasts we are laying on?



Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Little Ease

Has anyone else noticed the plethora of adverts in YouTube this year for 'spiritual' things: Buddha bracelets that will bring you happiness and wealth, Gaia, Templeton Foundation or Messianic Jews promising to unlock the scriptures for you?.. and it is not just for the English speakers either.  In between adverts for the multitude of spineless Romanian political parties, I am also getting Romanian language adverts for meditation sessions, spirituality courses  and messages of 'hope' from Reformed Protestant pastors.

Is Christianity under attack?  Has it ever not been?

An interesting read, an one worth tackling as a Catholic is Fr Seraphim Rose's 'Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future'.  He was a hippy Hindu convert to Orthodoxy and he delivers a somewhat bombastic attack on the influence of Eastern spirituality on Christianity and in particular the Catholic Church's complete capitulation to the non-Christian ways of the East. The modernist breaches to the walls of Catholicism came from the East, the West and the Left and the Right. It makes for uncomfortable reading, and whilst it details the rise of the somewhat cultic, hippy driven spirituality movements in America in the 1970s, it is remarkably prescient for today. In particular he accurately predicted the the ecumenical nature of the 'new religion' and widespread syncretism in today's world. Man's natural state of being is religious and if 'orthodoxy' (here meaning 'right worship') is missing, anything will fill the void. The advertisers on YouTube are certainly having a go at tapping into the desperation and alienation felt by many in 2020. It is not just nature that abhors a vacuum. 

One of the things Fr Seraphin mentions is that these 'cults' are only successful because people hunger for something more than the mundane, they long to get in touch with something beyond the ordinary. That they will probably tune into the demonic and be unable to disern its nature is something that we are failing to tackle. Also, if religion is reduced to a rational thing and is stripped of its timeless and sensual ritual then souls will go elswehere looking for enlightenment of the senses.  I have a relative through marriage who grew up a Catholic but recently went over to Buddhism.  He says he has found peace, that his anger has gone, that he feels whole again.  I don't think his experience is unique.  

On the other side, I am always concerned by those who convert to Christianity through the sensual beauty of the Latin Mass or the Orthodox Liturgy well done. Amazing experiences and fuzzy feelings are not enough. In the same way, rational arguments are not enough.  Religion is a natural part of man because it is man in his wholeness, it has to become as ordinary as breathing. It is a discipline of mind and body and a battle against our most basic instincts and a control of our passions.  In that respect Far Eastern philosophy and Western monasticism do indeed meet and it is easy and lazy to link the two together and describe 'theosis' in terms of both traditions and link the traditions as the same.

But what does Christianity in its true form bring? What makes it unique? It isn't morals. When I was teaching students in the UK from mainland China, they were horrified by the immodesty, promiscuity and lack of manners of their Western school mates, they were extremely kind, generous and good natured, but they knew nothing of  God. It isn't virtue, I have seen more virtue and manly courage on display in Moslem coutries and indeed when I have been down on my luck, it was Moslems who have come to my aid with genuine, unconditional charity. I also have the example  of the Moslem doctor who treated my tyrannical Catholic great-grandmother. Nobody else had the patience to help her and nobody else kept caring up to the bitter end. It was his faith that gave him the strength to suffer her abusive ways. It  isn't intellectual rigour, or if it were, then that is no guarantee of the truth of the faith. It isn't niceness either. Christians would never win that award.

I'll leave that question unanswered for now, I am no preacher and you do actually know the answer, it lies at the very heart of our Trinitarian faith.  

There used to be an unlit room in the Tower of London where they would put prisoners after torture.  It was called the 'Little Ease'. The ceiling was too low to stand, the walls too narrow to stretch out. It was impossible to get comfortable. Whilst I am sure such a room would not phase a mendicant from the Far East. The Christian approach is repenting of your sins, living the discomfort and loving the Triune God and your jailors in all humility and meekness. St Edmund Campion, whose feast it is today, spend 4 days inside. Is it any wonder Eastern practices are so appealing?  The age of Covid seems to be everyone's 'Little Ease'.

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Patriarch Irinej (1930 -2020)

I am greatly saddened by the death of the Orthodox Patriarch of Serbia who died yesterday at the Military Hopsital in Belgrade aged 90. He was a short man (by Serb standards) and not a great orator but he was a strong and fearless defender of the faith and a real father to his nation.

Memory Eternal

His working schedule was overwhelming and some half his age would not cope wiith it.  He came in for a lot of criticism in the media for not being hard enough on the ruling elite, though I think a lot of that criticism was designed to draw people away from the church. Patriarchs have to work with the rulers of their countries, no matter how broken and shameful those in power may be.  P Irinej had a canon lawyer approach to his role: a stickler for orthodoxy but not necessarily a 'man of the people'. That so many of the Bishops and Metropolitans under him were also fearless, strong and uncompromising must in part be a credit to his leadership.

Three weeks ago he presided over the funeral of Metropolitan Amphilochius in Podgorica (Montenegro) and he looked worn out with grief and work.

He fought hard to instil in the faithful the fact that you cannot catch Covid-19 from the Eucharist, and we must carry on that legacy. Where Christ is in his fullness, Covid-19 isn't. It looks likely he died as a result of coronary complications as a result of hospitalisation from testing positive for the virus. If indeed he did catch it, it most likely came from his endless work with politicians, who must be the biggest vectors for spreading this pandemic and the misery that ensues.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Science fail

I am a professional scientist and armchair theologian, I ought to be able to speak more convicingly about matters scientific than matters divine. 

The doing of theology is the doing of prayer, liturgy, virtue and self-combat. It requires fewer and fewer books the more you do. It becomes simpler, more organic and more seductive the more you immerse yourself in it as the patterns it reveals maifest themselves over and over again in the cosmos, providing endless delight. What I say carries no authority but I say what I think needs to be said.

Science just frustrates. One is trained in scientific method. One believes in it to a certain extent. One likes the discipline and its strange beauty captivates.  As your doing of science progresses, you find science is frequently not so much 'science' but comprehending the limits of science.  Knowing where the boundaries are.  Knowing where it can't help. Knowing what is not science.  

And this is why these mad days are so frustrating. I can't help feeling science is being asked to do things for which it has no competency. 

We do not understand the complex relationship bewteen a pathogen and its hosts.

We do not know how much we may actually 'need' these pathogens as part of our existance or what they do in the vast majority of people who do not go on to become seriously ill.

We do not know how a pathogen would spread if left entirely to its own devices, or how its own mutations affect its strength.

We do not really know how the human body naturally fights pathogens (and it will) and what immunity is and how it develops, or how long lasting it is.

The science of vaccines is not exact and we do not know if they will be effecive.

 How much damage is caused by intubation and ventilators as opposed to not doing so? 

If there were no testing, how much illness would there be?

BUT we don't have the luxury of years of quiet, patient, rigorous, unglamorous scientific method to push the boundaris of our unknowing. 

Political science dictates that science must provide the answers to the crisis.

I am left wondering how much of this crisis is a product of our scientific age and very little to do with the infamous pathogen itself.

If Covid-19 had presented itself to the world say 250 years ago, what would have happened? Would there have been a global pandemic. Without global air travel, would it even have spread? With no outward spots or boils like plague, no instant dehydration like cholera, no falling down dead in the street would anyone have noticed anything was amiss? With no 24/7 information 'fear porn', how would we have coped?  Without the online technology to work from home, would so much have been shut down? And without the crippling fiscal political science and supply chain madness, would (for example) people in the 'former colonies' be left with such chronic food shortages, financial ruin and such high levels of death ? So many of the probles are problems of political science and not problems of even basic medicine and hygiene.

It is almost as if this pathogen is the Zeitgeist. The fear is generated by science, the fear is science, nobody is looking at anything but science for the solutions and as a source of hope, and all the time nobody really knows anything and the volume information grows and grows and none of it fits any patterns, makes any sense, or looks like data you'd expect to see from a nautural phenomenon. It is the perfect vehicle to carry the day and makes us realise how much science is the new religion and sadly this is to the detriment of both science and religion.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Life, Death and Freedom

As the readership of this meagre offering is predominantly Catholic, the passing of a great man yesterday may have passed you by.  Therefore I feel it is my duty to tell you about him and his witness to the Gospel.  The man was Metropolitan Amphilochius of Montenegro, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in that country.  He leaves behind him a people who have truly embraced the faith of their forefathers after years of harrassment in a repugnant secular dictatorship.  As my friends in Belgrade say; they have returned to their factory setting. And indeed such is the admiration in Belgrade that it is sparking a revival of the faith amongst the young in Serbia too.

He was a man of peace in a region not known for peace.  In his younger days, he buried the Serbian dead amidst bullets in the Yugoslav conflict.  Also when Serbs took retaliation on the mosque in Belgrade after the Albanian destruction of the monasteries in Kosovo, he stood outside the mosque and demanded the Serbs put the fire out and go in peace. He courageously stood up to the LGTB nonsense and denounced it for what it was, yet was a genuine shepherd to those in his flock who were struggling with sexuality issues.

Men of  peace can do great things, because they have the peace of Christ in their hearts.  This year saw somthing quite incredible.  As I have reported often on this blog, the Montenegrin dictatorship had tried to impose a  law which would strip the Serbian Orthodox church of its heritage and put the sacred sites in the owership of the state.  M. Amphilochius organised peaceful, prayerful protest after peaceful prayerful protest. Protests which weern't always met with a peaceful response... Yet he insisted in peace from the faithful.  His campaign was so successful it is estimated that atleast 50% of Montenegro, some say 60% had turned up to pray and march for the repeal of this unjust law.  He was so successful that in the recent elections, the ruling elite was hammered by a candidate of his approval. It was a popular regime change and one totally unreported in the press because it was not at the behest of the globalist neo-liberals. The elite are still there, clinging onto power, weakened but with friends in high places (EU and NATO).

This is how a true father to his people behaves. At 82, an age when Catholic clergy have been put out to pasture (unless they are the Pope), he was leading his 'troops' in to battle and ensuring they were fed with the noursishment of sound faith, faith with no compromise, faith rooted in love for all.

My favourite story about him though is slightly more off beat.  In Montenegro there is a small, pathetic, puppet church set up by the dictatorship and its cronies to try to wean the people away from their mother (Serbian) church.  It has been an abject failure.  Each Christmas, Serbs burn oak branches, and one year the two 'competing' chuches had gatherings for the oak burnings in the capital of Montenegro.  The Metropolitan cursed the stage on which the schismatics were doing their thing, and it collapsed. Minor injuries ensued, and the point was made in a gloriously Old Tesatment way. You have to be holy to utter a real curse.

 Memory Eternal.

The wider point I wish to make is that it is from a heart at peace that freedom comes: the freedom from fear, the freedom to be bold and the feedom to love as God loves.  There is a lot of talk about 'freedom' in upcoming American presidential election. Each side is saying the other is a blow to freedom, that freedom is under threat. Yet neither side has peace in their hearts. Both major candiidates have uttered venom and talked war-like rhetoric directed against some 'other' who they perceive as an enemy to freedom; be it the Chinese, the Iranians, 'white' people or anybody else.  I fear for America, the election is doomed no matter who wins.  There is no peace in anyone's hearts. There is no real faith.

We must wake up and realise that we live in a world where most of us are slaves; slaves to loans and credit, slaves with long work hours and little rest, slaves with no genuine say in how to make conditions better; unable to express dissent, unable to worship freely, with an education system that delivers indoctrination (identity politics and capitalism) rather than teaching people how to think and grow in virtue, people set against each other and made to see each other as enemies, maniplulated by the media, losing our privacy to big tech and each and everyone of us being streteched to breaking point by worldly cares. There is no threat to our freedom, we lost that type of freedom a long time ago!

It is into this world that we must find peace, the peace the world can not give, and it is only that which will bring freedom. Trump is not the last great hope, America lost something close to that that with Kennedy.  America's last great hope is a change of heart, an embrace of peace, humility and smallness, a ditching of idealogy and trying to rule the world and a love for herself and ALL her own people .....it is in these things that she will be great again.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Name Calling

 We have to be very careful when we name things. Afterall we are fallen creatures.  Adam naming the things in the Garden before the Fall, gave things their proper name and the things he named were real. We aren't so fortunate.  We neither know the proper name of things or indeed whether they are real at all.

Naming things that aren't real is a bigger and more theological problem than we care to acknowledge.  The bottom line is that evil is the absence of reality. Reality is created by God, lies and fakery are created by Satan.  Therefore if we give a name to something that doesn't exist we make evil 'real'.  Of course it is no more real that it was before we named it, but we do immense damage to ourselves buy filling our world with these things which aren't real.  We start to believe they are real. There is always the danger they will become 'real', they will become our gods and idols. 

Are all the unreal things we name evil?  Yes and no. If we name something in order to call it evil, we are exaserbating the problem.  We are making the evil real. If we name something that doesn't exist in order to claim is as our own, then we end up becoming a parent to it, and it grows with us, we nurture it and so we create an idol, something that occupies us apart from the Creator, we have made an idol and an object of fornication. God is not in it. Any of the countless names of things in the field of 'gender studies and sexuality' come into this category. That is why, they are best not addressed by the Church, she should not name them, evil or otherwise. They are unreal.  They spring from base desire and fantasy, condemnation only makes them more real for some, we have not helped the situation.  Therefore we must not name them and must not name people as 'doers' of them.  They can self-identify to those names, we must not identify the named things with the person, if we do we lose the image of God in that soul.

If we choose to dine (metaphorically at least) with the tax collectors and prostitutes of this world, we do not do so because of the labels we have just attached.  We do  not primarily see thoses souls as tax collectors and prostitutes or if we do we have 'named' them by false identiites. Tax collection and prostitution exist, yes, but don't call a person a tax collector or a prostitute; connotations breed lies. We are creating division; some poor sod who is not as righteous as ourselves, not as 'saved', and if we pray for them as 'other', this is hardly charity.  We should pray for them as brother, not other.

Much of contemporary religion is stuck in this world of false things, and may of them have become adjectives which is probably more dangerous than being nouns! We describe somebody as communist, fascist, sodomist, heretic or such without much thought to what these terms actually mean and we put them on a pedestal as 'other', the 'enemy', that which is fighting to destroy us.  This is nonsense.  If these things are evil, they don't exist so they can't destroy us.  If they are not evil, they are products of broken humanity and best understood for what they are, if you are so inclined to study them. If not, don't describe people by these names because it makes you look stupid. What we should be doing is naming ourselves as sinner, that is the productive thing to do.

Real evils exist in their non-existence, they are the sink holes on our journey home, only God can stop us falling in and we have little idea when they are going to appear. What we need to recognise is the voice of the Tempter who is wanting us to make real what is not really there, he wants us to engage with the absence  of the road, the absence of the real and hard road on which we walk.  

Those things we do name, we must name like Adam did.  We name them with care and husbandry, we name them to nurture as God names, nurtures and cares for us.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Lancashire Peeler

How are you getting on, dear reader? The battle to stay sane and to keep one's inner strength is a tough one.  Looking like and behaving like we have a Loving Father and an eternal home is not always easy.

I have been faced with little niggles that are usually a feature of Lent, the cumulative effect has been to make me grumpy but that has given me something to fight that I can fight as opposed to the things outside my control which are just wearing me down.  So Glory to God for the niggles!

Here is how it is chez Rita:

  • Firstly my Lancashire peeler broke.  The blade just curled over and lost all its strength, deformed and fell out of its orange string.  If you don't use a Lancashire peeler, you won't know how much this simple gadget is a must have in any kitchen.  It peels, removes potato eyes and gets sharper with age and it is stubby, easy to hold and prouduces satsifyingly long lengths of peel. On the weekly Zoom chat with the family back in the UK, I asked my mum if she could get me another from the local hardware store and post it over to me.  This unleashed a torrent of guilt tripping from my sister who was outraged that I was even suggesting my parents leave the house, that I might be responsible for them getting covid, and why couldn't I use Amazon like ordinary people.
  • I will not put money into Amazon. But my sister saying that in not doing so I may be responsible for the death of my parents, was a bit much. We are on different pages in the covid narrative. We have nothing on common.  I feel very estranged from my family and the UK does not feel somewhere I belong.
  • Chatting via Viber with chums in Serbia (I can do this on my desktop and don't need a smartphone) was also sobering.  They seem to be on a page in the covid narrative that is more like my own.  There is no sense of fear, they are getting on with life, and most importantly of all they don't need masks for church.  How I wish I were there.
  • My CD player of 30 years finally broke.  I think I know where I can find a Hi-Fi store, but it is another hassle.
  • The watermeters in the apartment were changed for digital ones. The water pressure has reduced to a value that makes the shower unusable, it barely cleans a toothbrush. The landlady is on the case but it is taking time. I had to use my neighbour's shower to wash my hair today.  He went to church early this morning and left me his key. I really don't like intruding into another's life like this.  The shower was 'interesting' and the water pressure poor but usable.  It is electric which means he doesn't have to wait for the hot water to travel from Moscow, like I have to. However it delighted in providing alternate scalding and feezing water and there were more controls for the radio and the lighting than there were for the water. 
  • A brief peek at his flat induced serious icon envy. Orthodoxy is extremely aquisitive.
  • I have had a run-in with the woman at work that it is dangerous to have run-ins with.  She has expected something unreasonable from me without my consultation and I had the temerity to tell her I thought it was unfair.  She is not very intelligent and such souls are a weakness of mine, I could destroy her intellectually and humiliate her, though obviously this is a temptation I should resist.  She is an enabler, she is a lackey for the real bully and tales will be told to the real bulley, I am fully expecting trouble.
  • Technology has been driving me bonkers, and this new platform for Blogger is no exception. The common theme of all the problems is the complete lack of control. We have been separated from the architecture of the machines, we are just users and they decide how they ought to be operated and what is best for us.  It is not a great development.
  • Masks: nuff said.
  • extremely long hours and difficult working conditions.
  • loud car stereos in the wee small hours
  • The temptation to be rude to virtue signalling thirty somethings who seem to be the moral police for upholding the rules of how we need to behave in the covid pantomime.
  • Building work near my apartment means a lot of fine dust in the air, in my flat and in my eyes. Quite unpleasant.
  • Rude chemists. I do miss the ability to pick items off a shelf like you can in the UK. Here you have to ask the chemist for everything and I invariably have to pay over the odds for the most expensive version of everything because I am a foreigner. Each visit is an ordeal of humiliation. And I can't get used to tablets in packs of 20, they run out so quickly!

So, I am having to control my frustration, annoyance and weariness, it is all mortification, it is all spiritual warfare and it all needs total trust in God and the praise of His Glory! I have such minor things to battle, my dung heap is a really luxurious one compared to real soldiers for Christ and I'm struggling even with these baby steps.




Saturday, 12 September 2020

Life in the Exonarthex

The exonarthex is the region of a church exterior to the narthex which was traditionally the closest catechumens could get to the mysteries of the sacred liturgy.  It is where I feel most at home. I am not blogging much because life is muzzled and I am little better than a dog. Most of the time I wear the muzzle but I don't have much understanding of why it is necessary.  It feels like a time for exterior silence in the hope that the exterior silence helps bring about a profound interior silence, through the grace of God.

Mask wearing is compulsoy in church here. I can't do it and it breaks my heart to see muzzling within the body of the church.  Those like me who attend the liturgy from the exonarthex are also mostly muzzled. I get strange looks for not doing so, but have not been challenged.  The Byzantine liturgy is such that the priest comes out to the exonarthex and imparts blessing on those there on several occasions, the chanting is loud enough to participate in the liturgy and it feels very much part of the sacred space. From the beginning of this pandemic I have felt unable to receive Communion.  I can't look at the distribution, I am too upset. Attending church is a trial in itself. The imposition of medical science into the saced space feels like a blasphemy. Hand sanitiser bottles, mandarory social distancing signs and masks are as erroneous as national flags, they have no place in the temple of the Lord. 

There is however a small voice that calms and says that I should not seek to upset myself. I should not try to do something beyond my strength.  It  says it is good to attend and we must worship as we are able. So I remain, waitng in joyful hope on the steps of the exonarthex.

It has occurred to me that those in the body of the church have brought the exonarthex in with them. The mask wearing is like a portable exonarthex.  It forms a symbolic barrier on true intimacy. Is it possible that this is the season for us to all be in a metaphoriacal exonarthex? A season for us all to increase our desrire for true communion. As season for us to learn true conformity to the Law of God. A season to accept the barriers bewteen us and God and to implore His help to overcome those barriers.

This is certainly the season for us all to become more human. There is no such thing as secular humanism. To be fully human is to be in the presence of God and to reflect His glory.  And the first steps to this are made by willingly embracing the challenges of the exonarhex of life. It is not where we want to be, but it is where we are.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The Ultimate Compliance

I am struggling to write much at the moment because right now I feel there is something very wrong, but I can't quite articulate exactly why the glass is clouding so rapidly.  Therefore apologies if you find this post a little disjointed.

I am naturally a person who dislikes compliance, and I find myself in a country of very compliant people.  The mask wearing, especially amongst the religious minded is well above what the state expects.  There is a high level of passivity here and acceptance of the status quo.  It is born of a certain fear of not appearing to be different, but is also born of an unwillingless to look at things critically.  However, in any conversation I have where people have opened up, the feelings, hopes and fears are the same as my own.  There is just an unwillingess to confront them and conversation rapidly changes to something else. For my part, I work in an environment where masks have to be worn. I have taken to wearing them inside out. It is a stupid act of rebellion, but it keeps me sane.  If it is recommended that we wear them blue side facing out, I wear them white side facing out.  One day I will grow up.

Meanwhile, in many countries not too far from here, there are protests taking place for various reasons.  Romanians can protest, but this is just not their season.  From Israel to Belarus, from Germany to Serbia, Ireland, UK and the US, the news is of protests in some shape or form.

Wherever I see images on the news where protests are predominantly of people of one age group and socioeconomic background, I am uncomfortable, they are not organic.  Wherever I see protests where the big powers are backing change in the name of freedom and democracy, I am aslo uncomfortable. Indeed I am uncomfortable with the ideas of Freedom, Individual Liberty and Democracy, and this is the main reason for writing today.

The problem is, it is quiet easy to develop a situation where competing factions both claim to stand for Freedom and Tolerance and where the opposition is labelled as Tyranny. It is obvious both sides can't be right. It is less obvious that both sides are wrong. Certainly, from a Christian perspective, both sides are wrong.  We can not fight for Freedom, Indivdual Liberty and Democracy.  Ours is a different battle but one few seem willing to engage in.

Ours is not a pro-lfe battle even, and here is where I will loose a lot of followers, but I think the pro-life movement is a side show that has taken a lot of our energies away from the real truth of our faith.  I know priests who feel the same but are too scared to speak out. Our fight is the same as Our Lord and Saviour's, it is the battle to reclaim death and bring the dead to life in God.

The scandal of this pandemic is not so much the masks, the talk of vaccines, the desire for a new world  order from some and the fight in the opposite direction from others, it is not the reduction in our liberty, the massive damage done to economies or the sheer failure of science to come up with anything sensible. The scandal is one that has been brewing for a long time now, and one that has just come to a head in the pandemic but its roots lie a lot earlier.  We are not embracing death as we should.

Death is our mark of being human, acceptance of our natural death is our necessary humility. Death will happen to us all.  Death is the final sacrament and we have let it be taken away from us and our community and given entirely to the state, to medicine and to the godless. To see death is to wake up, to see the shortness of life is to wake up and start living.  To hide from death, to be fearful of death is to be fearful of life. But this is what we are doing.  Death is disrespected either by leaving it to the hospital clinicians as an embarassing side effect of 'treatment' that doesn't always work, or through killing and disrespecting the lives of others. The breakdown of community is in no small part down to the farming out of death so that it is no longer a matter and sorrow for the community.

The world  is becoming more and more violent and factional because we are chasing ephemeral fluff like freedom and democracy, this chase only leads to tyranny. We want to forget death and that is why we are in the mess we are in.  Indeed because we no longer see death, and the bodies are not piling up on the street corners, we are living the illusion that we are not in a state of war.


 




Wednesday, 19 August 2020

When the levee breaks

 I recently spent a few days in Transylvania, staying on a small farm. The remote village had zero tourism and I was grateful to the Romanian who accompanied me as I found their dialect nearly incomprehensible.  Romanians are kind and generous.  We had a great time. And yes, if the pestilence Securitate are reading, 'social distancing' was observed. Simple food. Beautiful scenery.  Quiet. The event of the week was a funeral and we were invited to show our respects before the coffin. The air was clean. Masks were hardly to be seen and apart from mosquitoes that would beat Serbian ones into silver position in the medals tally of any mosquito Olypmics, the animals were lovely too. You can see buffallo in the hills, and apparently they are genuine Indian water buffalo that came West with the Roma. They have terrific blue/grey coats and magnificent horns.


What was particularly delightful were the answers that  were given to simple questions. When do you plant the maize? ans: Feast of St George.  When do the storks leave?  ans: the day after the Dormition.  Religion gives order to things.  So whilst there was quite a bit of nostalgia for the Communist times and the security of work they had back then, religion seems to be paramount and provide the true security and order to life. These people have always worked hard, but now they can hardly stay afloat financially. Deregulation means the milk from the cows fetches less worth than the bottles it goes into.



Orthodox Storks waiting fot the Feast of the Dormition

 

 And that is life, the order in the chaos is Christ.
Just tell me how we are supposed to cope when the world is so ordered and restricted by covid related regulations, that worship itself is regulated and restricted? Everything is upside down and the man-made levee holding back the sea of chaos is close to breaking point.  The question is, do we will it to break or do we suffer the stifling tyranny that holds it in place? Neither is a comfortable option, but we have to keep strong in our faith that Christ is with us come what may.


Saturday, 15 August 2020

Kicking Against the Pricks

It is the job of an artist to bring out the reality in something.   That is why the greatest art is religious and why many of the most brilliant artists are very far from being militant athiests.

One such artist who made a deep inpression in my teenage years was Nick Cave. A bean pole of an Australian, obviously suffering from the effects of heroin use, this man made music that was simply unlike anything I had ever heard.  Kurt Weil meets raw delta blues meets Iggy Pop and you may be half way there. His music was never easy listening, but he could paint a picture and the energy and clarity of what he painted was astounding.  The song that knocked me over was Tupelo, you can listen to it here, it describes the birth of Elvis Presley and his still born twin in a monster thunderstorm. It remains in my top 10 all time favourite pieces of music.

I did not keep up with his music.  The early intensity lessened and he actually started writing beautiful songs (the Ship Song is a good example of this), and I wasn't yet ready for beauty so I drifted away. However, Nick Cave can also write, his novel And the Ass Saw the Angel is great, and his website is well worth a read.

I mention this today because he has expressed views  on Cancel Culture with a clarity that deserves the widest audience. He has now incurred the wrath of the brittle Millennials whose emotions are leading the world towards peak stupidity and deep chaos, so bringing his writing to a wider audience can not be a bad thing. This is an extract from one of his latest pieces:

 As far as I can see, cancel culture is mercy’s antithesis. Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.

You can read the rest of the article here.
 
I think we have forgotten what religion is and why all society is deeply religious even those that claim to be secular. We have also forgotten what is good about religion and what is deeply toxic about corrupted religion. 

Moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn of even the capacity for redemption - sadly I fear that desciption could be applied to many who see themselves as the vanguard of True Faith.


Title is a quote from Acts 9:5. The pricks being the goads on the harnesses that would knock against oxen as they ploughed the field.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Masks and Veils

 I was joking with a friend that with the new regulations to wear masks inside church, I was going to turn up in a niqab.  As with all jokes, there is a serious side to it, and if I could effectively tie one of my scarves as a niqab, I may still make good my promise.

There is a difference between masks and veils.   A veil is to cover something beautiful, masks are for deceit or to provide a barrier to something harmful. Indeed in this light, the mask is a sort of anti-veil.  I fully understand the reason why women are veiled in church, why the chalice is veiled and why the holy of holys in the Orthodox church is veiled. The niqab is a veil, not a mask. If veiling now involves covering my mouth, then I will wear a niqab. (Obviously my logic does not work with men.) I remain uncomfortable being in church in a surgical mask which is being mandated on spurious scientific grounds, especially as the masks could technically be made out of even the finest silk and be legal but utterly ineffective against microbes.  The mask is about compliance not about effectiveness.
I wrestle with the fact that the Bishops have been compliant to the orders of the state and agreed to masking in church. I believe in obediece or at least loyalty to ones local bishop. Therefore out of obedience I ought to comply.  However, I simply can't!  So for now I am reduced to standing on the steps outside the church or being in the church yard in my own personal leper colony. We are in a worse state than when masks were not mandated but services were outside.  There is something sinister in the creep of the legislation.
The thing is, what the mask is saying is actually very unpleasant. It is saying you are unclean and a danger to others. It is forcing you into that position irrespective of the truth.  It is a form of dehumanisaton. If you like your Christianity shot through with Jansenist miserabilism, then I suppose this is OK. I do not.
Perhaps I am over sensitive. Indeed, I know I am over sensitive.  But the sorrow that fills me when I see masks being worn in church is too much to bear. The theatre around this pandemic becomes too much to take and darkenss hovers around me.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

A different unmasking

After my self-isolation ended last week, I went up to Pitești with a Romanian friend of mine.  We both wanted to visit the prison, or what remains of it, where arguably the worst atrocity ever to happen in a country not in  a state of war took place. It is certainly considered to be the most notorious of sites that were behind the Iron Curtain. It was so bad the Communist authorities executed those in charge of the 'phenomenon' once it became known. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn himself said that what happened in Romania was worse than anything the Soviets ever dreamt up. The prison building is now privately owned and it is largely left to its owners to tell the tale, the state, it seems, has little interest in doing so.



This is a meditation on the nature of tyranny and the nature of prayer.

Pitești (pronounced pi-tesht) was designed only to house those suspected of being 'enemies of the state'. There were no ordinary felons present.  At the time things went badly wrong many of those within its walls were suspected sympathisers of the Iron Guard. This was a truly odious nationalistic and crypto-fascist organisation that sadly had many sympathisers within the Orthodox Church. Sadly, it has armchair sympathisers to this day who are quite vocal in certain corners of the internet. Most, if not all the inmates were students and a significant number were theology students. Much of the evidence of  'wrong doing' was tenuous. 

What transpired was pure evil and how the descent happened is irrelevant for the purposes of this post. Basically some of the inmates turned guards and a systematic dehumanisation took place where the inmates were expected to beat each other, confess to crimes they did not commit, implicate others in crimes and because so many were theology students there were heavy levels of blasphemy, profanity and psychological torture based around destroying faith. There were very few deaths whilst the phenomenon took place.  Two inmates managed suicide. I think there were 11 deaths in total.  This was about destruction of what makes us human, it wasn't about extermination or punishment.  It was diabolical.

The tyranny started with a process called 'unmasking' where they would be all made to show how evil they were. Like a demonic AA meeting they would have to say who they were and 'confess' how they had raped, committed incest  and done all sorts of unspeakable things. From then on beatings were common and frequent and it was impossible to have any solidarity with the other inmates, because it was impossible to tell who would be giving the next beating. From there to the notorious 'Black Liturgies' where wax phalluses would have to be kissed instead of the cross and where faeces and urine were to be consumed, it was unremitting hell.

Tyranny is not necessarily the work of evil people. All it takes is compliance. If the compliance takes place under extreme fear and psychological bullying and then leads to a dehumanisation, it is difficult to ascertain just how reponsible anyone is for their actions. But how do you resist?  How do you know when you are in a situation where tyranny is happening. We are very good at normalising everything that happens and getting on with life.  I would argue that we can only recognise tyranny once it is too late.  Our ability to use reason is nearly always forensic, in other words, after the event. Something else also works against us and that is our desire for a bogeyman, we will often be compliant if we feel it will help deal with some nebulous and near fictitious 'evil' out yonder.

There is a need for compassion and prayers for everyone involved in this. Indeed the building itself does not feel haunted, the souls who suffered are prayed for, the room where the worst of the atrocities took place is now a chapel and there is weekly Liturgy. Do not be looking to blame an idealogy or an individual.  Tyranny happens, the diabolical can and does take over frequently in the course of our history, it doesn't need a colourful idealogy. Don't think you are immune.



Various accouts tell of two inmates who refused to particiapte in any of the beatings or inform on anyone.  They were exceptionally severely beaten. When they were able to give their testimonies they talked about being in a constant state of secret prayer. One was inspired by being able to just see the cross on the roof of a church from one of the windows.  Both talked about comfort from the Mother of God. The thing is, what they both said is that the more they prayed even though it was in secret, the worse the beatings.  Let that sink in for a moment.

We don't have a vindictive God, a God who enjoys punishment, but His ways are not ours. Think about the 'choice' offered to those students; pray and get beaten, don't pray and the beating stops. God never gives us simply a sticking plaster, a mere salve to ease the pain. God heals and gives eternal blessedness.  He was not beating these students as some sort of chastisment, nobody deserves that. But in never beating another inmate and in never telling tales on another inmate, they were doing something fundamental to what it is to be united to God. That unity involves suffering.

I think the message I took from my visit is that in a time of tyranny, if you truly Love as God desires, then faith and love are not there to save you from the blows. Don't expect an easy ride. This is sobering and humbling.








Saturday, 1 August 2020

Ушће

Rivers have featured a lot this holiday and not just in visitng them. They are something that feeds meditation about life. Life meanders like a river, it has its easy stretches and its difficult stretches. A river finds its course and there is only one end; somehow it meets the sea. They get polluted, redirected, damaged and very much abused. But still, they are what they are. They all tell a story.  They all have character and spiritual significance. Blessing of rivers is still common in Orthodox lands.

I made a somewhat sarcasic remark to a friend in Belgrade about how everything flows into the Rhine. How, no matter what happens in Europe, there are always some countries that do better than others, some coutries that naturally seem to take resources off others. How can the mighty Danube flow into the Rhine?  Then I find out that it does!!  In its early stretches, if the water table is low, then water seeps under the Danube and finds its way into the Rhine, which is at a lower altitude.  Oh how significant!

Ушће (pronounded oosh-chay) is Serbian for where two rivers meet. It gives its name to a district of Belgrade where the Sava flows into the Danube. It is also the name of a town I was supposed to be travelling to on my recent trip to Serbia.  I gave up that idea due to the political and virus uncertaintes during my visit. I spent the whole time in Belgrade, and was glad to be there. I did not do much.  I did not want to do much. Sitting on a bench watching the waters of the Sava mix with the waters of the Danube was enough for me. This was one of my favourite spots.  The ruined houseboat spoke volumes.


We, like a river seem to be finding a course and flowing to our end. We are altered by rivers that merge with our own. Our destiny is never truly our own or indeed something we have absolute control over.

But sit for any length of time and you will be visited by countless, huge and hungry mosquitoes, the time for meditation is over. Such is life.




Saturday, 25 July 2020

Window Dressing

You know that when I label a post 'I loathe Catholics', it is done with a certain amount of irony.  The phrase was that of a priest I knew and he said it whenever he had to explain to anyone why he never spent his holidays in Catholic countries. So bear that in mind as you read the following rant directed against some of my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church.

My first target are conservative, right leaning Catholics in the US and UK.  They are very vocal on the internet and I have now got beyond tired of them.  It needs repeating that your judgement before God will not depend on how you vote, period.  No divine judgement can be made based around an earthly mechanism (democracy and voting).  There is no correct way to vote, there is no correct candidate to endorse.  Who you vote for is just your window dressing, it offers a 'window' into who you are and the state of your heart, but it is not you anymore than a shop window is the shop itself. Voting is amoral. Not voting is amoral.  None of it actually matters.  The biggest danger of sin comes from the sin of pride that you think you have done something to make you fitter in the eyes of God. So please, please stop endorsing Trump as if he is God's choice.  He may be the lesser of two evils, but that doesn't constitute a choice. It is what you do for the 99.99999% of the rest of you time when you are not voting that matters.  I still maintain that true Christianity is attractive, like Herod was mesmerised by John the Baptist. Are you mesmerising enough to attract people to Christianity or are you just putting people off with your self-righteousness? Are you full of good cheer? Will people know you by your love?  Are you meek and humble of heart?  Are you generous and forgiving?

I am sorry but you come across as paranoid, self-righteous, uncharitable, and uneducated. Politically you spout McCarthy era anti-communism and it is laughable and shows a total lack of understanding of the polticial scene aound you.  What is bothering me the most at the moment is the laughable view that the Chinese are the new reds under the bed, and they are out to change America into a Communist dictatorship. And I am personally shocked by the level of racism directed aginst the Chinese in your invectives online.  I will explain why your position is nonsense if you insist, but let me show you a little flaw in your logic that will hopefully get you exploring your position a bit more. You are quite happy to identify the globalist banksters, George Soros and Freemasonry as enemies of freedom. You then identify these with the Democratic party, and because left is left in your eyes, somehow this must have something to do with Communist China.  How can a Communist country ever work with the Freemasons and banksters, they are fundamentally opposed? The First International was disbanded because of Freemason infiltration. Learn to tell the difference between globalism and socialist internationalism and perhaps you won't sound so embarrassingly uneducated.

Notice, I am not making a moral judgement against the Chinese government, or the US government for that matter. That is simply not the point.  Anti-Chinese rhetoric in the US is about the economy, and the conservative, Christian right is being manipulated to act as a Greek chorus of disapproval for all things Chinese.  Much of what is spouted is propaganda from known China haters. Finding the thuth is difficult, granted.  It is of the level of those other great tropes 'Assad who tortures and gasses his own people', or 'Iraq has weapons of mass destruction'  or 'the Russians did it'.

I'm not being very loving, am I?  I don't care.  This is what happens in families. When a family member has done something really stupid, you rant at them, it may take a stranger to bring them to their senses, but ties of  blood like this need some hard talking.  It is tough love

I will now rant at the heirarchy of the Catholic Church; the somewhat left leaning inner circle of high ranking Princes of the Church that surround the Bishop or Rome and indeed the Bishop of Rome himself. They too indulge in a sort of window dressing. But unlike the conservative Catholics who do it because they think it IS part of being Catholic. They do it to make themselves look more appealing to the world around them. All the time, what they put in the window bears little resemblance to what is actually in the shop and that bears no resemblance to what should be in the shop.  The dissonance between what should be there and what is there is beyond tragic.   Bishops are vital to the church, their role is to uphold the faith taught by the Apostles. Their role is primarily to the faithful. They should be with the faithful, like good Generals, leading from the front.  They should not be bending over backwards to accompany the world in general through its miseries.  THAT is  our job.  WE the laity are, if you like, 'the Church of accompanyment'.  We live in the world, mix with non Christians all the time; have to be the salt of the earth, the light to the world. BUT we need strong Bishops, strong in faith, Bishops who give clear instructions to their troops. We need Bishops who will be unpopular with the world and fearless in their defence of the Church. The taking over of the role of the laity by the clerical caste must stop. 

There, I feel a bit better for that.


Window from the 'coolest' shop in Stockport when I was a nipper. If I rememer, at one stage they kept a big cat (a leopard, I think) in the basement, in the 70s you could do things like that.

(again apologies for my spelling, this format is not designed for middle aged eyes)

Sunday, 19 July 2020

My thoughts on Hagia Sofia

Praise ye the Lord in His holy places - Ps 150

I'm breaking my own self-imposed silence! The reason being is that as I am confined to barracks and communication is entirely electronic.  One more week to go before the Sword of Damocles of a possible Serbia induced covid infection is removed.  I have been receiving a lot of communication from Orthodox chums regarding the re-turning of the Hagia Sofia into a mosque.  I wish to put my view on this out in the public domain.  I still maintain my silence regarding personal matters.

I will start by saying that I sympathise with the hurt felt by so many Orthodox about what has happened in Turkey.  There is no more important church outside of Jerusalem or Bethlehem for Christians.  I do not think St Peter's in Rome comes close. It is Early Modern and carries a badge of shame as it was the funding for the building that helped shoe-in the Reformation. For Latins, I believe  it is St John Lateran that has the parallel significance to the Hagia Sofia.  It is not nearly so spectacular, but has kept its use through the centuries and there is something to be said for that.

I live less than a mile from the church with the third largest nave in the world after the Hagia Sofia and St Peter's.  It is the People's Salvation Cathedral in Bucharest. It  is slowly coming to completion and the guilding on its dome means that it now towers over Ceaușecu's monstrous public work, the Palace of the Parliament (the second largest government building in the world after the Pentagon).  The two share the same patch of land. I have yet to develop any attachment to either building.  What the Romanian cathedral clearly shows is that large scale religious public works can not go ahead without the state, they are not independent of the state. This is as true now as it was in Emperor Justinian's time and the construction of the Hagia Sofia.  The question remains, how much are they actually buildings of the state? So for example, if Romania became an athiest state again, would its cathedral become an agent of the state rather than one of Christian worship? If Romania became a Muslim state, would it be legitimate for the building to become a mosque? It is hard to answer these questions. Ultimately, it is down to politics and finance and has little to do with religion and the consecrated nature of the building itself.

How things looked in Bucharest - Winter of 2018


Personally I hate to see consecrated buildings handed over entirely to the state, but it is a common thing..  I feel great sorrow going into any of the great medieval cathedrals of England.  They were butcherd, sacreligious acts have been performed in them and they are now part of the Kingdom's historical  heritage.  They are desecrated holy places. It is wrong to see them as remaining as cathedrals as there are no valid bishops on their cathedra. They are museums.  I have found myself praying before icons in the V&A, I may find myself praying in these cathedrals, but that doesn't stop them being simply museums.

The situation in France is worse where all Catholic churches built before 1905 are actually owned by the state.  When churches stop being used as churches, they are simply state run 'museums'.  One such former church is the Jacobin in Toulouse where the relics of St Thomas Aquinas are kept.  It is an awesome construction and there is some attempt to rope off an area around his reliquary and leave it for prayer.  The building is however a shell. The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved, and the state seems keen to use the cloister area for displays that go contrary to Catholic sensibilities.  There was a display on French involvement in the Spanish Civil War during my last visit.

Jacobin- Toulouse


What I am trying to say here is that Ataturk's turning of the Hagia Sofia into a museum in his secular state was natural but odious. Avowedly secular states are no friends of religion.  I think on balance, had it remained as a mosque less damage would have been done to its status as a holy place.

Re-verting the building to a mosque is a purely political thing from a very nationalist and avowedly Islamic leader.  The building has always been political and part of the state.  The last thing it could possibly be is a temple to Orthodox Christianity, not while Turkey is as it is and the Phanar is as compromised and broken as it is. Somehow, deep down I still find the idea of holy places being turned into museums nearly as bad as them becoming supermarkets or private dwellings.  If there is a change of worship, yes it is deeply wounding and hurtful but somehow, on the scale of things, it doesn't come close.

As an aside, if everyone wants to get paranoid about Islam taking over Europe, may I suggest they look to their own faith, the love in their own hearts and the centrality of Christ in their own lives.  The paranoia is unjustifed as is the demonisation of Islam. Indeed secularisation and indifferentism are far more damaging.