Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Know your enemy

Who is my enemy? I've been thinking about this a lot.  We are commanded to love our enemies.  Surely to love our enemies means to know who are enemies are.

Maybe I've been very lucky in life. Apart from my childhood and some rather odious behaviour towards me from my peers, I can not really think of any one person who has been an enemy.  I did once work for someone who set out to destroy my career.  His behaviour towards me was utterly irrational.  It was also verging on the illegal.  My Union was involved. I  got another job and he was reprimanded quietly once I was gone.  However I don't see him as an enemy. He set out to destroy my career.  I am not my job.  He was not destroying the essence of who I am.  He was something of a tragic figure going through a messy divorce and I was in the wrong place and the wrong time. He could bully me and exercise control over me at a time when his world was falling apart.......These things make you stronger.

Surely an enemy has to attack you personally and threaten your very existence.  This is rare.  Thanks be to God.

Indeed, once you start to see most human interactions as being decidedly impersonal, you start to realise that you are seen as nothing more than a projection into somebodyelse's world  view.  You do not exist for who you are.  You either fit comfortably into a compartment that somebody has already made for you: your behaviour being to type (pleasing or displeasing), or you are a complete discomfort. In the latter case, the person doesn't know what to make of you; you are an irritant because your very existence demands they change their perceptions.

And here lies an apparent paradox.  If we accept that human interactions are rarely personal, but somehow by our very existence we reach deep into another's being and challenge them, then suddenly the interaction becomes very personal indeed!

This reaching deep into another being and challenging them is the essence of being a Christian.  It is Christ who reaches into people, not us.  We only do it if we put on the armour of Christ and reflect His radiance.  But if we are in Christ, then we should fear nothing as no matter how we challenge, our life can not be taken from us.

There are other enemies that we are not asked to love.  These are the enemies that threaten all of  humanity, humanity that has been so fearfully and wonderfully made by God.  These enemies are attacking those who dislike us (and are made uncomfortable by us) more that they attack us ourselves.  They are the enemies of Truth. They are the powers and principalities of this world, they are supernatural and they will attack those who are weak.  Surely we ought to defend them from such attacks.  But you can only fight if you yourself are strong and confident of winning.... and few are.

Our fighting does not mean pitting one ideology against another, or one set of moral  norms against another. Christianity is not one religion amongst many. Our fighting is about being vulnerable enough to reach  into the hearts of individuals and see the need in them and aid their delivery from their supernatural foe.

But to do this, we must realise the power of the weapon that our supernatural foe actually has.  He has a weapon that transcends creeds and tribes. His weapon is to say there is no sin, that all our actions are inherently OK and that by ourselves we will achieve our dreams.  However, the reality is that each of our most trivial venial sins rip the delicate fabric of the universe because they are an affront to the delicate and gentle ways of God. It is only His mercy that keeps it all from unravelling and His mercy demands that we desire, truly desire to do His will and not sin.

The enemy's power is there in the empty rhetoric of the "virtue bombing" in Syria, it is there in the Occasionalism at the heart of the Wahaabi ideology, it is there in the heart of the Capitalist consumer society, at the heart of Communism, at the heart of the prosperity-gospel, at the heart of neo-darwinism, at the heart of nihilism, at the heart of gender-ideology, at the heart of modernism and liberalism, at the heart of Free-Masonry and Rosicrucianism and it is there in Nationalism and Federalism..... indeed there is nowhere it isn't.

Everyone has swallowed some of the enemy's elixir, every one of us has made his ways incarnate in our hearts..... do we really know what it means and the high price we will pay to truly love each other?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Religion in the Public Square

I can't abide stupidity.  It makes me cross. Stupidity is for adults, children are not stupid. Children simply misread the logic of situations and get frustrated with their inability to comprehend.  Children learn quick. In adults stupidity involves wilful disregard for reason, study, and carefulness, it often manifests itself in empty moral self-righteousness, humourlessness, indignation and tantrums. So on Saturday morning at 6am when I looked at the newsfeeds of the missile attacks in Syria, I could only see the stupidity of this and was more than a little glad that I'd booked myself on a train to Braşov in Transylvania. I felt dangerously close to becoming a stupid adult full of all those qualities I so dislike in others. I would be internet free, I would not look at the news.  There are times when one actually sees a situation more clearly, and is able to pray for a situation more clearly when one is away from all the "facts". Indeed, on Sunday Braşov echoed to the sound on the only Fact that matters.

Out here it was "Thomas Sunday" and in that city it was the Sărbătoarea Junilor which has been held every year for about 200 years.  In commemorates the time when Braşov was a Saxon town and Romanian speakers had to live outside the city walls. They were only allowed in on certain occasions. This colourful event marks Romanians entering the gate to the citadel. Basically it is just loads on Romanian men and boys on horseback riding into the city in groups, each with their own distinctive dress.  Some dress the horses beautifully, others themselves. And they shout the Easter Greeting and the assembled crowd shout the response back loudly.

Hristos a înviat! 
Adevărat a înviat!

And that is all that is said apart from the riders singing the Easter Hymn is a tuneless, enthusiastic, blokey, chanting-at-a-Third-Division-football-match way

Hristos a înviat din morți,
Cu moartea pe moarte călcând
Și celor din morminte
Viață dăruindu-le.

A little bit of Latin and you will understand the first two lines, especially of I tell you  călcând means trample.

There are no priests, no overtly religious banners, no fanfare. This is an entirely secular and  civic event but even then without the presence of any civic dignitaries. Nor does it seem to be put on for the tourists.  I could only hear Romanian being spoken in the crowd. Yet it rings out with the Faith, it rings out with the only Fact that matters. And the people say it  like they mean it!  Indeed, it seemed to me that if the riders say the greeting in anything like a half-hearted manner, the response is subdued.  If they say it boldly and with confidence, then the crowds respond with exuberance.  There were some quite young boys on horses and they were learning what to do, it was gratifying to see.

                                           Some men and horses posing for the cameras.

I can't help thinking that if the politically correct got hold of this event the exclamations would be different so as not to offend non-Christians and some loon would pester until women were allowed to ride too.  But this is Romania.

Long live Romania!!! 

I was thoroughly refreshed by my weekend.  It felt like the Sunday after the Resurrection should feel. We must not underestimate the supernatural power of the public proclamation of the Faith.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Of Trolleybuses and Apostolic Exhortations

I didn't meant to sit and read the Holy Father's latest Apostolic Exhortation last  night, but I did.  You will find out what I thought about it shortly.

It was Easter Monday yesterday (well it was for me) and I find it a very difficult day, I always have done.  I am not sure why.  But it is difficult and it can impart the most horrid bleakness into my being.  Therefore, I set out purposefully to "make the most" of the day.  I went to the Liturgy in the morning, to strengthen my spiritual armour and because I was still on a high spiritual cloud after the days before. Then I took myself on one of my "Mystery Tours" of Bucharest.  I have developed a set of rules for my tours and this is what I do: pick a destination not previously visited, go there by Metro, visit destination, then take overland public transport back home, no internet or maps allowed, compass and bottle of water allowed. This may not seem a difficult game, but there is simply no signage anywhere and none of the bus stop have a helpful map or list of routes. It can get interesting.

Yesterday, my destination was the Botanical Gardens.   They were the most underwhelming botanical gardens I have ever visited.  They sit, rather dejected and shabby in the shadow and drone of a Communist era power station and any grandeur they may have had has long since gone.  It is little more than  a local park, albeit one you have to pay to enter.

I wandered and read for a while and watched my fellow citizens.  It was pleasant enough and the interior bleakness was not there.  After a few hours I waited outside for my overland public transport.  Oh joy!  A troleibuz! (The Romanian spelling is very satisfying for a Mancunian) Now, I love those things and I am a bit reckless, I will simply get on one and ride it, I don't care where it is going. There is a thing a bit like London's Oyster card for paying. It is "cheap as chips", I put 100RON (£20) on one in August and it shows no sign of running out, there will be a nuclear winter or the next Ice Age before it does.

15 minutes later, I found myself completely disorientated deep in a forest of  blue-collar apartment blocks. The compass was no help. I couldn't even tell which sector of Bucharest I was in.  I got off the trolleybus and made for a bus, it had a sign on to somewhere I recognised.  But I stayed on till the terminus and it was not the place it was supposed to be.  The driver had not switched the sign.  Several buses later I did make it back home to Sector 3, it was dark and I was tired.  But no interior darkness, as far as I was concerned the day had been a success.

The day had sort of been a metaphor for the spiritual life.  One sets out purposefully.  Things aren't what you think they will be.  You do reckless things for the joy of being reckless.  The ride is interesting and the destination can wait. You get disorientated.  You misread signs.  You read signs correctly but the signs were wrong. You persevere.  You know you can't get lost.  You know where your help ultimately lies. You get home.

After a mooch on the internet, I found myself reading the Apostolic Exhortation: Guadete et Exultate. It is about growing in holiness, it is the Holy Father's equivalent of my day on Bucharest's public transport system. I happen to think it is very good.  If I were still in the UK and still taking Catechism classes, I would use it as the basis for a class or two.  It is a good introduction to the spiritual life  It is clear, amazingly so.  I find most of Pope Francis's work deeply confusing. A treatise on Mystical Theology it is not.  Fr. Adolphe "the Tank" Tanquerey's The Spiritual Life it is not.  But it never set out to be such a thing.  The Pope's Apostolic Exhortation is meant for a different audience; the most basic audience, one hungy for meaning and purpose, but one unlearned and religiously illiterate. He is being most pastoral in producing such a document. It is not perfect, but nothing is, not even Tanquerey's masterpiece. Any sulky criticism from Traddie quarters and it will prove that you have not gleaned one iota of spiritual insight from any of your more learned tomes or your increasingly petulant blogs. I suggest you disconnect the 4G and catch a bus.

RATB- Troleibuz

Monday, 9 April 2018

British Intelligence

This post is about the recent death of two Guinea pigs and a cat, but it will start back in the 14th Century.

There has been something at play in England which I will call British Intelligence but it pre-dates anything which may refer to itself as British Intelligence.  It goes back at least as far as the 14th Century.  It had its first martyrs in the 14th Century which helped seal its identity and those were the Lollards.  However Lollardism is not British Intelligence.

British Intelligence is an oxymoron.  It is not intelligent.  It is self-serving, it relies on the control of people in the name of their freedom, it thrives on moral panics and hysteria, and it needs enemies.  In its early days it was often at loggerheads with the sovereign rule of  England. Her  Monarchs loathed it, it was vulgar, it lacked wisdom and conservatism, and most of all it was entirely secular: it had no need for an Incarnate God and the Eucharist.  Then British Intelligence found a pliable monarch in the boy king Edward VI and British Intelligence became the state under the inglorious reign of Elizabeth I, and Robert Cecil, the grand master of British Intelligence carried its work on into the reign of James I/VI.

British Intelligence has always had an enemy in the form of genuine intelligence.  It is why traditionally the Catholic Faith was such an enemy; it empowers people and frees them.  British Intelligence has had other enemies in the form of genuine Toryism and early Christian Socialism.  Both of which it has effectively strangled.  There is also genuine intelligence in the British Military but because British Intelligence is so intertwined with British Government, that too is effectively starved, emasculated and infiltrated and sent on false errands.

British Intelligence loathes the Russians, probably because the Soviets infiltrated it and were cleverer and the legacy of this is that the Russians see through it.  Russians are undoubtedly cleverer than British Intelligence.

Perhaps Russians did attempt to poison the Skripals, not the Russian state, but some anti-Putin underground with whom British Intelligence would be only too glad to collude. Only such a group would have anything to gain from the episode.  Some half-baked group who found a recipe on the internet and tried to use it.  Then the British Government could say without lying that the Russians did it, but only if they already knew.

But it is frightening when the Russian Envoy to the UN reads out the trial of the knave from the end of Alice in Wonderland and you realise that the whole story line in this horrid affair is a mirror to the absurdity of the book... then you see how far things have gone. Genuine intelligence is not the hallmark of British Intelligence.


And what is the view from Romania?

I am not sure. There is not much interest in the story here.  At first, distrust of the Russians and a genuine fondness for the British meant people were willing to believe what the British Government were sayng. Romaninas are painfully polite, they will not criticise.  However, as things drag on I am hearing the following: Russia is a Christian country, Putin is a Christian leader, Putin works for the good of Christians... but they say it with an air of sadness.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Hristos a înviat!

Adevărat a înviat!

A blessed Easter to all my Eastern readers and Happy Low Sunday to my Western friends!

I feel truly blessed through my first experience of Lent and Easter in the Eastern rite.  Regular readers will know that I have felt stuck at the foot of the cross, that experiencing the Resurrection was something that had escaped me.  That my late husband whose final journey, seven years ago, which started with his final hospitalisation (as to quote the doctors "the sickest man in Oxfordshire") on a Maundy Thursday, as he said: "I will make you experience the Resurrection if it is the last thing I do".  Well, he has done it! Throughout Lent and into this Easter, I can truly feel the Resurrection: thanks be to God and thank you Paul for your prayers and sacrifice! I really don't think I will have another bleak, terrifyingly empty and desolate Easter Monday, and if I do I can give thanks to God for it!!!

And thank you Romania: I love you!

I will confess to spending the Easter Vigil at an Orthodox church.  The Greek-Catholic churches are a good 45 minutes walk away and it was not a journey I was prepared to make at that hour of the night with no food in my belly.

I will confess to enjoying my first Liturgy in an Orthodox church.  Strangely, it reminded me of being at one of the low key gigs of my youth.  I deliberately went for one of the less grand and ordinary churches close to my apartment.  The standing (but with lit candles in our hands rather than beer glasses) and young, blokey priests facilitating "divine music" in a relaxed yet holy manner, rather than some mordant post punk ambiance, the mainly young and t-shirt clad congregation and the robust, manly and playful replies to the Easter greeting, all played into this bizarre comparison. I felt at home, but I kissed the icon of the Pantocrator and left after the Cherubic Hymn (it was 02.15 by then), it seemed wrong to be there for the rest when I am not Orthodox.  I broke my fast with a glass of chefir and a bowl of buttery, cinnamon laden semolina and was in bed to hear the post-Consecration bells ring out loud and  clear in a beautiful Bucharest springtime morning of all mornings.

I went to the Greek-Catholics this morning for Communion.  I feels like home and it was lovely to see the frail elderly there,  many of them are giants of the faith, they will have known the beatified and martyrs of this butchered and near broken church, they have suffered much and as they shuffled in  on sticks and on the arms of younger relatives, it felt an honour to be amongst them.

My mouth is still greasy from my first taste of meat for 50 days. There is simply no point in vegetarianism!

Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!
Христос воскрес! Воистину воскрес!