Friday, 16 November 2018

A bit of a mess

I've been a bit preoccupied with the mess you see below.  Us Physics teachers are very fond of our super-long slinky springs, they are endlessly satisfying in so many ways and we are just big kids.  A Biologist borrowed the one at school and it came back all knotted. I was not best pleased and to make things worse, as I was trying to fix it in the staffroom a very decent colleague decided to help, he'd been in the army for many years, he genuinely thinks he can turn his hands to anything.... sadly he made it worse.

So my spare time has been spent trying to unknot it away from the gaze of "helpful" men.  I am half way through.  I can do about half an hour on it at at time, then I have to walk away from it.  It is surprisingly physical work, it pulls on my shoulders and my fingers are cut.

There is away through, this is solvable, though there will be some kinks in it when I have finished and it will never look like new again.

In my days back in the UK as a voluntary mender of priestly garments, I faced similarly near impossible things to repair.  Ripped armpits on cassocks were a favourite.Then as now I leave these things with Our Lady Undoer of Knots, it is She who insists I walk away and try again another day.  Patience..... always patience.

It is all a bit of a mess.  Bit like life really..... Patience, patience.. patience.....

Glory to God for all things!


Sunday, 4 November 2018

Modern Communication

One of the absurdities of being a Physics teacher occurs when you realise just how old fashioned the subject material is.  Back in the UK, I fought for many years to keep the last remaining chalkboard in the school and the projector for showing overhead transparencies. They are extremely useful in our craft.  Out here, my lab only dates from last year and all the equipment has had to be bought from scratch.  Before coming out I'd been hoping there would be a goodly supply of Soviet era classroom equipment to be found.  Sadly I have not managed to find any of this, though with a colleague who is also a bit of a Russiaphile we have tracked down the Russian catalogues and they still seem to be making good quality, old school, science kit that will last till hell freezes over. The Euro equivalents are shoddy and expensive.

The students have to learn about AM and FM radio signals, and none of them can remember ever using a tunable analogue radio.  These are the same students who have never posted or indeed written a letter on paper.  Yesterday I spent the day wandering round flea markets looking for a portable radio.  I feel they need to experience the delights of an old fashioned radio: watch the air capacitor twiz round as you tune into a station, see the antenna coil, hear the rich analogue sound and differentiate between the quality of AM and FM for themselves. Internet radio just doesn't cut it.

It is a good job I live alone.  I don't think anybody would put up with me doing this.  It became a bit obsessive and when I did eventually find a radio, I was probably fleeced, but I don't mind.  I now have my very own 1963 Nordmende Stradella and spookily once I'd coaxed it into life, the first thing I heard from it was the Beatles "She Loves You" as if it had been hiding in the capacitors since it had been constructed.  I loathe the Beatles. Always have done.  I am only slightly disappointed it doesn't have Long Wave, it is always a delight when you pick up some far off crackly station and it would allow me to tell the students about the quirkier and brighter side of Blighty: the Shipping Forecast and Test Match Special.



A second bit of spookyness was its similarity to the radio that lived at the bottom of my pram when I was a baby. There are reels of silent cine film dating from the last days of the 1960s with me in my pram in my grandmother's garden in Rathgar with a crimson portable radio blasting out something to keep me amused.  Apparently I loved the radio. I can't have been listening to the Beatles.

I went to a Novus Ordo Mass in the morning.  This depresses me.  When I first returned to the church over 20 years ago, I was one of the youngest in the congregation.  I am still one of the youngest in the congregation. Indeed this is more than depressing, it is frightening. However the readings were good and indeed I am glad I heard them. The rest of the day has been spent cooking, planning my holiday to Iran, darning my socks and trying to learn to sing a psalm in Serbian.  Such are the delights of a dowager's life and right now I am very content.  I've decided to learn Serbian but I will learn to praise God before I learn how to buy a kilo of tomatoes, hence the psalm singing and psalm 135 is my psalm of the moment.

I'll never be this good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MkA1UeHi_4

Славите Господа, јер је добар; јер је довијека милост његова

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Love letter to Serbia (2)

I only went to Serbia for a holiday.  I only went for the guarantee of good food and nice smiles and to make sure I could get away from work. I deliberately switched off my Romanian phone,  kept e-mails unread, and left as soon as I could on a 5am flight after a day's work.... I needed a breather from the petty tedium of an unrewarding, back-breaking job.

But you have captivated me, Serbia. I am totally in love with you.  Fickle heart or what?!  Wasn't I supposed to give all I had to Romania, didn't I love her this intensely, didn't I care passionately for her people, didn't I love her beauty like I now love yours.  I have not tired of Romania, I just feel like she isn't my final destination, she doesn't know how to love me or return my affection.  Romania is beautiful and majestic, I love her but I never knew that love like I feel for you could possibly exist.

Much of the time I was with you felt like I was in a dream; you were guiding me from one place to another, showing me things I was meant to see; some sinister, others beautiful, others heartbreakingly ordinary. I have been deliriously happy.  I did crash a bit on Tuesday night and told God I couldn't take much more, my heart was bursting, I want to know why I am so happy in Serbia, what is Serbia to me?? For the first time in my life I feel like I have truly found a home. I mean Romania is infinitely better than the UK, but Serbia trumps that. Your people, they feel like family to me, kin, a bond deeper than anything I have ever known, we don't have to try, we don't have to make an effort

When I took the bus back from Novi Sad, I was the only foreigner, it was full of ordinary people coming home from work, but I did not feel like an alien... I can't describe it, Serbs even smell right!  But I am a foreigner, I have no contacts in this land, I was very much on a silent retreat, but I was being shown something..... some sort of destiny, if I choose to accept it. And I do. I snuck into the back of the old cathedral as the Liturgy was starting.  I pray like a Romanian. In an Orthodox church I don't know what else to to, I find the Liturgy totally humbling and I know I am not supposed to be there. Some of the women will get down on their knees and crouch with their heads nearly touching the floor.  In Romania you do this and a Baba will hurl a cushion at you from the side stalls.  In Serbia, nobody was on the floor but me, but from my position, weeping in joyful wretchedness I felt able to offer myself to God and fully accept His will for me, and the priest sung basso profondo that would make a Blue Whale blush... Deep calls unto deep.

And I know it is not wishful thinking or some trickery because I am now glad to be home in Bucharest, the sense of light at the end of the tunnel is not for going.
Glory to God for all things!
Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints!

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Bear trouble

I'm afraid that priest has done it again and has written an article in the Catholic Herald that I consider unjust and smug.  You can read it here if you wish; http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2018/10/25/russian-orthodox-leaders-are-terrified-they-will-go-the-same-way-as-constantinople/  I do wish he'd change the profile picture, as my favourite old lady in Bolton used to say: ee's gotta face tha' could stand cloggin'. It isn't helping me keep my composure.

The article concerns Moldova and a possible ramification of Constantinople's decision to grant autocephaly in the Ukraine: the creation of a national church in Moldova which is currently served by both the already autocephalous Romanian Orthodox Church and by the Moldovan Orthodox Church which is aligned to the Russian Church. The Romanian Orthodox Church uses a modified Gregorian calendar and major feasts (except for Easter) fall on the same days as those in the Latin Church. It must be one of the most liberal, western looking, Catholic-friendly of the Orthodox churches. I will not pass comment on that.  It is a very different animal from the Russian Church. The Russian Church uses a modified Julian calendar where the major feasts are out of step by 13 days. There are negative practical consequences to Orthodox fragmentation.  However this is besides the point. This is not the point of autocephaly.  Autocephaly, if it is to exist under the traditional canonical norms of Orhodoxy must not spring from political sources.  There is political nationalism and there is spiritual nationalism, the two are different.  The church has no place in political nationalism. Ukrainian autocephaly springs from and has been encouraged by political nationalism.  I fear the same thing will happen in Moldova.

Lets look at some facts.  Firstly, Moldova is not the poorest country in Europe, Ukraine is. Secondly when autocephaly was granted to the Romanian Church, it was granted to the territory of Romania as it existed at that time and which was mainly west of the Prut and did not include the lands which are now the Republic of Moldova. Then, what is now Moldova was a vassal state and bargaining chip of Tzarist Russia and prior to that had been part of the Ottoman Empire. The history of the land after the Russian Revolution is horridly complex and it is from what happened between then and WWII that fires most people's hearts out here for a greater Romania that includes the current Moldovan Republic.

A united country of all Romanain speakers would be a noble thing. However this has nothing to do with a the current fomenting for an autocephalous Moldovan Church or indeed for all Moldovan Orthodox churches to side with Romanian Orthodoxy. It is impossible to deny that the West will have a hand in encouraging this movement.  Atlanticism requires people to take sides for its very existence.  It feeds off binary bloc-politics in order to suffocate people with its cultural hegemony. Moldova is so strategically placed, it is being heavily treated with sweeteners to join the Western bloc.  Anyone who opposes this is painted as a Kremlin stooge and enemy of democracy.  I will not pass much comment on this either.  You know my views on the EU, NATO and Atlanticism. But I will say I have come close to falling out with some of my Romanian friends over this. I am desperately trying to remain neutral yet I always end up sounding pro-Russia and it doesn't go down too well with the younger generation out here. They are in love with the idea of "democracy and freedom" , I am not.

Here are some insidious words from a former CIA man regarding the situation, use your favourite translation software to render it comprehensible. http://inliniedreapta.net/stire/fost-angajat-cia-explozie-politica-si-religioasa-intre-moscova-si-romania-daca-patriarhul-ecumenic-va-declara-ca-doar-bor-are-drepturi-pe-teritoriul-canonic-al-r.-moldova?fbclid=IwAR0zQ0xSZx11CiN8lAVjFe3bwl-ux3L8jOZbic1UqvNKSdNc93zEKajVxDo

The point I am trying to make, if I have not bored you too much, is that there are big players involved here and Constantinople has long since abandoned behaving by the canonical norms of the Orthodox Churches. Constantinople is far from independent of Western political interference. The situation cannot be viewed as political struggle between two ecclesial powers fighting for supremacy and territory.  It is more apt to say that Moscow is fighting for the heart of Orthodoxy, Constantinople is not.

If we claim to be on the side of Tradition then we should have more sympathy with Moscow.

Should we as Catholic be bothered.  Hell YES.  That Orthodoxy is under threat as much as Catholicism just goes to show its validity. The Devil cares about ruining it as much as he cares about ruining the Catholic Church.  Think on that.

Also the wider political destabilisation of Eastern Europe fueled by paranoia from the decaying and morally corrupt Western powers can not be separated from this attack on the soul of Orthodoxy.  The battle is huge and I haven't begun to talk about the other "little" problems that are brewing in the Balkans.

I'm off to Serbia (again) for some sanity and a well earned holiday.  Play nicely whilst I am away.


Monk with bears

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Messy Church

I am fascinated by the relationship between the Church of Rome and the Russian Orthodox Church and this post is just a personal reflection on recent events within this relationship. It is not done with journalistic integrity (whatever that is) and nor do I claim to be an expert.  I remain in critical solidarity with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church and I am a Catholic. I also remain deeply concerned by the actions of Constantinople and if that makes me sympathetic to Moscow, then this is something I cannot hide. Scroll down a few posts on this blog and you will see for yourself. 

The growing cordiality between the current Pope and the Russian Orthodox Church strikes many as odd, yet to me it seems perfectly reasonable.  The Pope and Moscow share similar views on collegiality and synodality so there is common ground here. Also as Constantinople behaves like an increasingly autocratic papacy I can imagine that Francis will have some sympathy for those within Orthodoxy who are alarmed by the "pontifical" tendencies of the Eucumenical Patriarch of the New Rome.  Further to this, our Holy Father (unlike his predecessors) has zero interest in defending dogma or doctrine so there are no grounds on which the Russian Orthodox Church can argue with Rome. I imagine these days Moscow just sees Rome as first amongst the Protestants, a church which has devoided itself of authority but which would be welcomed back to the true Church at any point should she repent of her waywardness.  It is easy enough for Moscow to "do business" with such a church and I don't think Francis is intelligent enough to realise that that is how he is viewed. In my view, Moscow has warmed to Rome because Francis confirms to Moscow that Rome is devoid of authority, he confirms in Moscow their belief that they are right!. Francis just dreams the lie-dream of unity, a unity at all costs, an earthly unity created by man not God. He will do anything that he thinks will foster unity, even at the expense of doctrine. But unity without truth is empty and these days Moscow understands this better than Rome. There is also the matter of the Uniate Church.  Francis isn't the first Pope to be extremely dismissive of the Uniates (partly as he views them as a false road to unity).  He will garner much support from Moscow over this and much alarm amongst conservatives within the Catholic Church.

The ordinary people of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church don't necessarily share the cordiality expressed by their hierarchies.  The Russian Orthodox are largely deeply suspicious of Catholics and I personally don't see this as a problem, they are right to be suspicious. I am suspicious. Their suspicions regarding the extent to which the Petrine Office is corrupted and the extent to which the Catholic Church is involved with politics that undermine Russian sovereignty are not unhealthy suspicions. On the other side, based on what I have observed, ordinary Catholics are extremely ignorant of Orthodoxy and apart from getting somewhat mesmerised by the Liturgy, they simply don't get it. You ask the majority of Catholics in England if we are closer to Anglicans or closer to the Orthodox and they will say Anglicans. It is depressing.

Some of the Russian commentators are currently having a bit of a hissy fit that the hard working and very shrewd Metropolitan Hilarion of  Volokolamsk, Moscow's chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, had a private audience with the Pope yesterday. He had been addressing the Synod on Youth in Rome so it is not unreasonable that he should also have an audience with the Pope.  You can read what he said during the Synod at the end of the attached link.  Perfectly reasonable it is too and doctrinally sound also, so it will be completely ignored. Obviously the situation in Ukraine will crop up in their private discussions.  I am not holding my breath for any sensible outcomes to this conversation.

So I welcome the cordiality between Rome and Moscow though I do not believe it will achieve anything because there is a lie at its heart.  What that lie is, I cannot say. However, achievement and progress are such Modernist concepts and we really ought have no truck with such heresy.

 The Messy Church Anglicans of Reepham Benefice, Diocese of Norwich, show us how to build the Temple of Jerusalem




Monday, 15 October 2018

Blast from the past

Just over two weeks after the last NATO bombs dropped on the FR Yugoslavia in 1999, Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople released a joint declaration, the full text of which can be found here.  I don't think the two events were directly connected but ....

Through the lens of history, the document is a bland and crass affair and ends with a paragraph or two which I find ever so slightly sinister in the light of the current ruptures emanating from both Rome and Constantinople. Here are the paragraphs before the final prayer.  I can't help but underline bits that make me nauseous.

They therefore encourage dialogue, not only between the Christian Churches, but also with the various religions, and above all, with those that are monotheistic.
All this doubtless represents a contribution and a presupposition for strengthening peace in the world, for which our Churches pray constantly. In this spirit, we declare, without hesitation, that we are in favour of harmony among peoples and their collaboration, especially in what concerns us most directly; we pray for the full realization of the European Union, without delay, and we hope that its borders will be extended to the East.

At the same time, we make an appeal that everyone will make a determined effort to solve the current burning problem of ecology, in order to avoid the great risk threatening the world today due to the abuse of resources that are God's gift.

There are many unwise things afoot in Constantinople and Rome that are working contrary to Holy Tradition and the splendour of the Bride of Christ.  Our only hope is the prayers of Our Lady.  The alleged composer of the following magnificent hymn to the Theotokos is my patron for my stay out East, St Roman the Melodist, the hymn dates from before 556 and therefore is Universal. Surely we can all make one sincere offering, one sincere sacrifice of praise for the Church. She has never been in such need. If you don't know it, I invite you to atleast read it. You will be changed by it.  Glory to God!

AKATHIST TO THE HOLY VIRGIN


Kontakion 1
(Tone 8)
To Thee, the Champion Leader, we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride! (Customarily sung three times at the beginning of the Akathist, once at the end.)
Ikos 1
An archangel was sent from Heaven to say to the Theotokos: Rejoice! And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he was amazed and with his bodiless voice he stood crying to Her such things as these:
Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth:
Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease!
Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam:
Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve!
Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thoughts:
Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels!
Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King:
Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him Who beareth all!
Rejoice, star that causest the Sun to appear:
Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 2
Seeing herself to be chaste, the holy one said boldly to Gabriel: The marvel of thy speech is difficult for my soul to accept. How canst thou speak of a birth from a seedless conception? And She cried: Alleluia!
Ikos 2
Seeking to know knowledge that cannot be known, the Virgin cried to the ministering one: Tell me, how can a son be born from a chaste womb? Then he spake to Her in fear, only crying aloud thus:
Rejoice, initiate of God's ineffable will:
Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence!
Rejoice, beginning of Christ's miracles:
Rejoice, crown of His dogmas!
Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down:
Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to Heaven!
Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad:
Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar!
Rejoice, Thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none!
Rejoice, Thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 3
The power of the Most High then overshadowed the Virgin for conception, and showed Her fruitful womb as a sweet meadow to all who wish to reap salvation, as they sing: Alleluia!
Ikos 3
Having received God into Her womb, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth whose unborn babe at once recognized Her embrace, rejoiced, and with leaps of joy as songs, cried to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout:
Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit!
Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life!
Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies:
Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness!
Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight:
Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls!
Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:
Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!
Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:
Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 4
Having within a tempest of doubting thoughts, the chaste Joseph was troubled. For knowing Thee to have no husband, he suspected a secret union, O blameless one. But having learned that Thy conception was of the Holy Spirit, he said: Alleluia!
Ikos 4
While the angels were chanting, the shepherds heard of Christ's coming in the flesh, and having run to the Shepherd, they beheld Him as a blameless Lamb that had been pastured in Mary's womb, and singing to Her, they cried:
Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and the Shepherd:
Rejoice, fold of rational sheep!
Rejoice, torment of invisible enemies:
Rejoice, opening of the gates of Paradise!
Rejoice, for the things of Heaven rejoice with the earth:
Rejoice, for the things of earth join chorus with the heavens!
Rejoice, never-silent mouth of the Apostles:
Rejoice, invincible courage of the passion-bearers!
Rejoice, firm support of faith:
Rejoice, radiant token of Grace!
Rejoice, Thou through whom hades was stripped bare:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we are clothed with glory!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 5
Having sighted the divinely-moving star, the Magi followed its radiance; and holding it as a lamp, by it they sought a powerful King; and having reached the Unreachable One, they rejoiced, shouting to Him: Alleluia!
Ikos 5
The sons of the Chaldees saw in the hands of the Virgin Him Who with His hand made man. And knowing Him to be the Master, even though He had taken the form of a servant, they hastened to serve Him with gifts, and to cry to Her Who is blessed:
Rejoice, Mother of the Unsetting Star:
Rejoice, dawn of the mystic day!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst extinguish the furnace of error:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst banish from power the inhuman tyrant:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst show us Christ the Lord, the Lover of mankind!
Rejoice, Thou Who redeemest from pagan worship:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost drag us from the works of mire!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst quench the worship of fire:
Rejoice, Thou Who rescuest from the flame of the passions!
Rejoice, guide of the faithful to chastity:
Rejoice, gladness of all generations!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 6
Having become God-bearing heralds, the Magi returned to Babylon, having fulfilled Thy prophecy; and having preached Thee to all as the Christ, they left Herod as a babbler who knew not how to sing: Alleluia!
Ikos 6
By shining in Egypt the light of truth, Thou didst dispel the darkness of falsehood; for its idols fell, O Saviour, unable to endure Thy strength; and those who were delivered from them cried to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, uplifting of men:
Rejoice, downfall of demons!
Rejoice, Thou who didst trample down the dominion of delusion:
Rejoice, Thou who didst unmask the fraud of idols!
Rejoice, sea that didst drown the Pharaoh of the mind:
Rejoice, rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life!
Rejoice, pillar of fire that guideth those in darkness:
Rejoice, shelter of the world broader than a cloud!
Rejoice, sustenance replacing manna:
Rejoice, minister of holy delight!
Rejoice, land of promise:
Rejoice, Thou from whom floweth milk and honey!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 7
When Symeon was about to depart this age of delusion, Thou wast brought as a Babe to him, but Thou was recognized by him as perfect God also; wherefore, marveling at Thine ineffable wisdom, he cried: Alleluia!
Ikos 7
The Creator showed us a new creation when He appeared to us who came from Him. For He sprang from a seedless womb, and kept it incorrupt as it was, that seeing the miracle we might sing to Her, crying out:
Rejoice, flower of incorruptibility:
Rejoice, crown of continence!
Rejoice, Thou from whom shineth the Archetype of the Resurrection:
Rejoice, Thou Who revealest the life of the angels!
Rejoice, tree of shining fruit, whereby the faithful are nourished:
Rejoice, tree of goodly shade by which many are sheltered!
Rejoice, Thou that has carried in Thy womb the Redeemer of captives:
Rejoice, Thou that gavest birth to the Guide of those astray!
Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge:
Rejoice, forgiveness of many sins!
Rejoice, robe of boldness for the naked:
Rejoice, love that doth vanquish all desire!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 8
Having beheld a strange nativity, let us estrange ourselves from the world and transport our minds to Heaven; for the Most High God appeared on earth as a lowly man, because He wished to draw to the heights them that cry to Him: Alleluia!
Ikos 8
Wholly present was the Inexpressible Word among those here below, yet in no way absent from those on high; for this was a divine condescension and not a change of place, and His birth was from a God-receiving Virgin Who heard these things:
Rejoice, container of the Uncontainable God:
Rejoice, door of solemn mystery!
Rejoice, report doubtful to unbelievers:
Rejoice, undoubted boast of the faithful!
Rejoice, all-holy chariot of Him Who sitteth upon the Cherubim:
Rejoice, all-glorious temple of Him Who is above the Seraphim!
Rejoice, Thou Who hast united opposites:
Rejoice, Thou Who hast joined virginity and motherhood!
Rejoice, Thou through whom transgression hath been absolved:
Rejoice, Thou through whom Paradise is opened!
Rejoice, key to the kingdom of Christ:
Rejoice, hope of eternal good things!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 9
All the angels were amazed at the great act of Thine incarnation; for they saw the Unapproachable God as a man approachable to all, abiding with us, and hearing from all: Alleluia!
Ikos 9
We see most eloquent orators mute as fish before Thee, O Theotokos; for they are at a loss to tell how Thou remainest a Virgin and could bear a child. But we, marveling at this mystery, cry out faithfully:
Rejoice, receptacle of the Wisdom of God:
Rejoice, treasury of His Providence!
Rejoice, Thou Who showest philosophers to be fools:
Rejoice, Thou Who exposest the learned as irrational!
Rejoice, for the clever critics have become foolish:
Rejoice, for the writers of myths have faded away!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst rend the webs of the Athenians:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst fill the nets of the fishermen!
Rejoice, Thou Who drawest us from the depths of ignorance:
Rejoice, Thou Who enlightenest many with knowledge!
Rejoice, ship for those who wish to be saved:
Rejoice, harbor for sailors on the sea of life!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 10
Desiring to save the world, He that is the Creator of all came to it according to His Own promise, and He that, as God, is the Shepherd, for our sake appeared unto us as a man; for like calling unto like, as God He heareth: Alleluia!
Ikos 10
A bulwark art Thou to virgins, and to all that flee unto Thee, O Virgin Theotokos; for the Maker of Heaven and earth prepared Thee, O Most-pure one, dwelt in Thy womb, and taught all to call to Thee:
Rejoice, pillar of virginity:
Rejoice, gate of salvation!
Rejoice, leader of mental formation:
Rejoice, bestower of divine good!
Rejoice, for Thou didst renew those conceived in shame:
Rejoice, for Thou gavest wisdom to those robbed of their minds!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst foil the corrupter of minds:
Rejoice, Thou Who gavest birth to the Sower of purity!
Rejoice, bridechamber of a seedless marriage:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost wed the faithful to the Lord!
Rejoice, good nourisher of virgins:
Rejoice, adorner of holy souls as for marriage!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 11
Every hymn is defeated that trieth to encompass the multitude of Thy many compassions; for if we offer to Thee, O Holy King, songs equal in number to the sand, nothing have we done worthy of that which Thou hast given us who shout to Thee: Alleluia!
Ikos 11
We behold the holy Virgin, a shining lamp appearing to those in darkness; for, kindling the Immaterial Light, She guideth all to divine knowledge, She illumineth minds with radiance, and is honored by our shouting these things:
Rejoice, ray of the noetic Sun:
Rejoice, radiance of the Unsetting Light!
Rejoice, lightning that enlightenest our souls:
Rejoice, thunder that terrifiest our enemies!
Rejoice, for Thou didst cause the refulgent Light to dawn:
Rejoice, for Thou didst cause the river of many streams to gush forth!
Rejoice, Thou Who paintest the image of the font:
Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin!
Rejoice, laver that washest the conscience clean:
Rejoice, cup that drawest up joy!
Rejoice, aroma of the sweet fragrance of Christ:
Rejoice, life of mystical gladness!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 12
When the Absolver of all mankind desired to blot out ancient debts, of His Own will He came to dwell among those who had fallen from His Grace; and having torn up the handwriting of their sins, He heareth this from all: Alleluia!
Ikos 12
While singing to Thine Offspring, we all praise Thee as a living temple, O Theotokos; for the Lord Who holdeth all things in His hand dwelt in Thy womb, and He sanctified and glorified Thee, and taught all to cry to Thee:
Rejoice, tabernacle of God the Word:
Rejoice, saint greater than the saints!
Rejoice, ark gilded by the Spirit:
Rejoice, inexhaustible treasury of life!
Rejoice, precious diadem of pious kings:
Rejoice, venerable boast of reverent priests!
Rejoice, unshakable fortress of the Church:
Rejoice, inviolable wall of the kingdom!
Rejoice, Thou through whom victories are obtained:
Rejoice, Thou through whom foes fall prostrate!
Rejoice, healing of my flesh:
Rejoice, salvation of my soul!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
Kontakion 13
O all-praised Mother Who didst bear the Word, holiest of all the saints, accept now our offering, and deliver us from all misfortune, and rescue from the torment to come those that cry to Thee: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (This Kontakion is sung three times)
And again we sing Ikos 1 and Kontakion 1

reproduced from this site.  

Friday, 12 October 2018

I'm still fuming from having read the following:
http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2018/10/12/the-orthodox-stand-off-over-ukraine-is-about-more-than-just-religion/

If the Catholic Herald is your main source of information on such matters, may I suggest you also  read elsewhere:

This article will balance what was written in the Herald:
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/440230-orthodox-church-ukraine-poroshenko/

There is no such thing as an unbiased article.  I am not suggesting the RT article is any less unbiased. The stuation is serious and extremely dangerous.  The Herald's article is smug.  It is that I dislike.

The article below will also shed some light on the lack of fraternal support that Constantinople has over this matter:
http://orthochristian.com/116297.html

I think my army of readers in the Ukraine are just bots, however if you are real souls and you would care to add your view, I'd love to hear from you.






Saturday, 6 October 2018

Sturm und Drang

As individuals, I think a lot of us are feeling like some remnants from the Sturm und Drang movement that kicked off against the Enlightenment in the late 18th Century.  There is a raw emotion in us that goes beyond any call to virtue or heroism, it is an anti-heroic fatalism that screams at the world from the position of our own weakness and frailty.

That old rusting halberd of the British folk scene, Richard Thompson capture this brilliantly in one of his recent songs "The Storm Wont Come".  There is a longing for a storm that will destroy all that is fake, but the storm doesn't come so you go out looking for a storm to stand in, but it isn't the same and is unsatisfying, so you make a storm of your own, but that is weak and pathetic.  The only solution is a storm that comes to you, but it never comes.

It feels very real, it feels very human.  It needs to be lived prayerfully, no matter how painful it is.  Strum und Drang kicked off against the Enlightenment but really became part of it.  If we kick off we too will get sucked into that which we despise, but it doesn't stop the tension from being near unbearable at times.

I offer no solutions though we have faith and through that we know are not individuals each locked in our cells of pain, powerless to support each other, devoid of hope, devoid of love in action. Communion is real.

One gem of comfort came recently when I heard a senior cleric who, whilst acknowledging we should be grateful that we have no shortage of priests here, said "the strength of the church is not in the number of priests, a strong church is a church that tells the truth". Communion is real.

And if you want to know some of what we feel like kicking against, look at the money and slick delivery in this campaign against Romania's referendum this weekend.  It is encouraging people to stay at home and not vote to make marriage solely between a man and a woman in the Romanian constitution.  Its barely concealed anti-religious sentiment is horrible as is its emotional appeal.  Do watch, you don't need any Romanian to get the message that tradition is bad.  It is funny that nobody has complained that the money for this campaign could have been better spent on hospitals and schools........and there is enough money in this for it to be the add I see before I watch stuff on YouTube.

http://stauacasa.ro/

Romania is being manipulated. but then so is all the Western world.... I think a storm will come.

Friday, 28 September 2018

The Heart of the Matter

Having started Eamon Duffy's History of the Popes on my e-reader with great enthusiasm, I am now struggling to finish it.  I find the author's particular stripe of Catholicism colours latter pages and I'd prefer a drier objectivity about the subjects. Apart from me warming a lot more to JPII on reading this book, I can't say my opinion of any of the popes has changed considerably.  I still think Pius XI was a great man and a great pope and I still see the papacy of Pius X as one long train crash.  It will be for future historians to assess the current papacy. I currently rate it as a train crash, but not nearly on the scale of Pius X.

Nothing smells or feels like an old book and the need to get away from computer screens means I have been looking at my real book collection for inspiration recently.  Whilst wading with Duffy through the First Vatican Council under Pius IX, thoughts naturally turned towards two inspirational figures of nineteenth century British Catholicism, Cardinal Manning and Fr Faber.  I've always much preferred them over Cardinal Newman.  Though it was never their Ultramontanism that attracted me, neither does it detract from the quality of their writing and their sheer pastoral exuberance. Cardinal Manning's Glories of the Scared Heart has been my companion on the sofa these last few days. It smells good, feels good, has big enough print for my increasingly middle aged eyes and burgeoning cataract to deal with, and the content ain't bad either.

Manning wrote the book for seminarians knowing that as priests many of them would face potential converts from Anglicanism who had a profound distrust of devotion to the Sacred Heart.  His aim was to write a book that would help them win over the potential converts.  He masterfully steers clear of the emotional and sentimental and presents the Sacred Heart as no other writer has done, as far as I know.

The key point is that the Sacred Heart is the centre of all dogma and dogma is the source of devotion.

Let that sink in for a moment, it is really profound.

Manning defines dogma as 'precise enunciation of Divine Truth' and defines devotion as 'the love and veneration with which we regard God and His Divine Truth'.

Interestingly Manning also gives a definition of dogma that is used by the world as 'some positive, imperious, and overbearing assertion of a human authority, or of a self-confident mind'.

We seem to have got into a bit of a mess these days, there is no 'precise enunciation of Divine Truth' anywhere.  Such enunciation is often painful, blunt, scandalous and shocking and nobody wants to be like that. Dogma is like Gandalf shouting 'you shall not pass' to the Balrog on the bridge at Khazad-Dum, there is a futility in its utterance, yet it must be stated loud, clear and confidently.  Dogma is not stated for conversion or accompaniment, dogma will not convert the Balrog.  Divine Truth is stated for its own sake. It is stated because doing so is the act of the will that is the unsentimental praise of God in the face of adversity, it is the two edged sword that cuts both ways, it is the start of peace.

Is devotion suffering as a result of the downplaying of dogma these days.

What do the nineteenth century ultramontanists make of Pope Francis?




Wednesday, 26 September 2018

pressure

Being used to a more maritime location, I've never seen the barometer go this high before.

Still, it is now lovely and cool and I'm glad about that.

High pressure is one thing, tension and unease are another.  I'm rather restless at the moment.

Glory to God for all things!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Livin' the dream (2)

The last post was about choice and how we are all meant to be consumers whose actions are "free" and governed by the freedom to choose.  It was about the idealism that says that all borders and boundaries to those choices should be removed, that the individuals right to his own destiny is paramount.  It says that society organically develops based on the social interactions of the individuals and families and voluntary groupings of the individuals. Underlying this dream (and it is a dream) is the whole lie of free market economics. To me it is as big a lie as socialist utopias.  But the lie of the free market is all pervasive because it is very hard to argue against its enormous wealth creation and the increase in standard of living that it produces.

I've been against the free market since is was a teenager.  It was the deregulation of the buses that politicised me as a teenager.  One day there was a single bus operator, the next day there was a free-for-all of operators all competing for my fare.  It was absurd.  Here I was being FORCED to make a choice.  How is a choice a choice if it is forced?  Where is the freedom in that?  How would deregulation improve the services on offer? Some absurdly cheap fares from some operators saw other operators go to the wall and overall the fares went up and job security went down.  There was no increase in standard of living for those working on the buses, there was no improvement in the service I received.  I just felt like a victim of an ideology.  I loathe choice where it is so blatantly unnecessary.

And then there was the Milk Marketing Board.  A very sensible organisation that regulated the production of milk in the UK and ensured the survival of small dairies.  It was part of the machinery of the state, but it worked.  Its removal has made it very hard for small dairies to operate and the UK is increasingly full of milk and dairy products from elsewhere in Europe.  Milk is now big business and I don't think anyone benefits.  Cows are increasingly suffering from diabetes, farms are increasingly reminiscent of factories, supply and demand  are not regulated so there is a shocking surplus of products and the small farmer can't compete. And I look on in dismay as Danone and Nestle are unceasingly pushing out independently owned milk producers here in Romania....

I return to the idea of my last post that it is the things that  are not a consumerist choice that are of fundamental importance. On one level this is a matter of the land we live on and the climate we have.  Free-market economics rides rough shod over anything natural and organic,  it has a truly repugnant disregard for the Earth. It disregards those things that are not a free choice and just like Soviet collectivisation, seeks to master and manipulate the environment for an ideology. On another level this is about the Truth.  Truth is not a consumer choice. We have free will to embrace the Truth or to kick against it.  But it is not a choice. The Natural Law works against us when we kick against the Truth and it is only the Mercy of  Divine Law that prevents the consequences of the rebellion from being fatal. You can not choose to kill someone.  This is the Truth, though this is what happens when one elects for an abortion and why abortion is so abhorrent.  No soldier chooses to kill someone, it is not a matter of choice. A soldier lives within the Truth.

The thing is, God is not a choice.  You can't choose whether He exists of doesn't.  One's ability to choose to believe in Him or not is hardly a  choice.  You have to invent a "god" not to believe in if you wish to be an Atheist.  You still have a"god" you believe in.

And there are those things that are by rights belonging to the One True God.  Marriage is one of them.  It is a sacred institution.  Why do we throw it to the dogs and accept civil marriage?  Why do we throw it to the dogs and get people to vote on its nature in referendums?

CitizenGo and other right-leaning, "traditional" networks are asking for your support as Romania goes to the polls next month to ensure the constitution here states that marriage is solely between a man and a woman. The referendum may be a success but to me the battle is already lost, democracy like this is a sham.  To be Traditional but not to mention the sacred is a crime and we will pay for it.  In the public mind set, there is now a choice we can make over the nature of marriage.  THERE IS NO SUCH CHOICE. We are all being sucked into the world of choice in the name of "freedom and democracy", but it is a sham.  The "traditional" Right that has been pushing for this referendum has a lot to answer for, "tradition" without God is no tradition at all. Others will insist their choice is correct and other referrenda will take place in the future (like in Ireland) until the diabolical view wins.  This referendum is the beginning of the end for Romania. She needs your prayers.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Livin' the dream

Back in 1970 a band called Blue Mink produced one of the most gut-wrenchingly awful singles ever written.  It was called, Melting Pot.

The final stanza gives you an idea of the theme of the song:

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it's got
And keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee coloured people by the score

Another verse has the following sentiment:
Rabbis and the Friars
Bishops and the Gurus
You got The Beatles or the Sun God
Well it really doesn't matter what religion you choose

If you want to be scarred for life you can listen to the whole thing here, it is truly unpleasant.

Yet being mixed race and from a family with no religious or cultural affiliation and no real connection to any "homeland", I feel part of this Melting Pot. I can laugh ironically that I am livin' Blue Mink's dream, I am part of their lovin' "get along scene". However, deep down there is pain.  Racial identity, national identity, cultural identity have all been denied me. I have none of them.  I don't know what they feel like because they are not something you can feel in isolation.  They are communal feelings and there is nothing wrong with that.  The closest I can get is a tribal thing: same football team, same tastes in music, same politics, perhaps even same liturgical tastes!  However, these tribal things are shallow and consumerist, you ultimately choose your tribe, you don't choose your race, your culture or your nationality.

So here I am in one of Europe's more racially and culturally homogeneous countries and I envy them. I envy their sense of homeland, sense of self, sense of culture, their pride in their identity. 

It is not that I am somehow cross with my parents for marrying each other, that would be so very senseless and wrong.  It is simply that mudbloods like me with both parents deliberately rejecting their cultural backgrounds, have no identity but consumerist choice. If you remove traditional identities, all that is left is of your own choosing.  What bothers me is that the zeitgeist endorses this.  It is considered the only way to be. We are all to make choices and be consumers. A wider cohesive society where people have the same religion, a broadly similar gene pool, same affiliations to land and history are all looked on with horror as burgeoning Nationalism. And we can't have that, can we? Nationalism is always ugly.  Nationalism is for fascists, is it not?

And the latest and probably final part of the dream, the right to choose how you "identify" in terms of gender and sexuality rather that be what you were born, has been thoroughly endorsed through the process of cultural hegemony and it will become who we are.

Nationalism can get very ugly, but so can mass immigration, the lack of borders and the breakdown of social norms.  The consumerism we are left with if we have no cohesive, unchosen cultural identity cannot lead to anything good. It is a path to great suffering as it puts too much power into the hands of those who are in charge of the products by which we will identify ourselves.  We become open to manipulation and we all end up chasing the nebulous and the unfulfilling; hungering after a deep urge for REAL identity that cannot be satisfied and prey to the drugs we will be fed to stop us thinking too much.

We are livin' the dream or we are branded as nationalists and fascists, intolerant, backward, traditional, unreasonable and a threat to society.

Is there another way?

Where does being a Christian fit into all this?

Foxes have their holes and swallows their nests, but the Son of Man has no home to call His own. Perhaps homelessness and a lack of identity are our (super)natural state.  We must have a sense that worldly things are not truly who we are. We must make our home in Christ so He can make His home in us.  Yet our journey in this reality can not be a consumerist journey based around individual choice.  The world without meaningful borders, without races and without a religious identity grounded in community, is the world that is being imposed on us and it is truly a nightmare.






Saturday, 15 September 2018

Stop the bus ...

Bucharest offically has the worst traffic in Europe.  One of the traffic black-spots is the area round Arcul de Triumf  (larger than the French one and genuinely impressive) and I hazard to say whether this is helped or hindered by the policemen and their whistles. It can take an hour to travel the 6km to reach this spot.

An old of picture of the arch from when there was less new money and fewer big cars.


Travelling by road in Bucharest is an absurdity

Life is full of absurdities and most of the time I am reasonably content to let them do their thing and be what they are.  I can't change them so irritation is a waste of effort.  Indeed their worldliness is the key to our understanding them. They are part of our spiritual battles indeed they are part of the endless training (and penitential pack drill) for the genuine battles we invariably face. Detachment and love of God are everything. Our reaction to the absurdities of the world determines our fitness in the Church Militant.

Romania is full of absurdity and I love her for it.

What I find much more difficult to cope with are fixed mind sets and false mantras.  Indeed, it is the lazy thinking that leads these falsehoods to become part of our lives that I am currently struggling most with. It is assumed that I buy into these.  I don't. 

Here are a few of them:

  • everyone can fulfil their dreams
  • hard work achieves everything
  • we are on a journey towards greater self-knowledge and self-knowledge is what we should be seeking and what will allow us to fulfil our dreams
  • disappointment is self-inflicted
  • we are here to be useful in society
  • those who are not useful in society are lesser citizens (to be pitied, patronised or condemned)
  • progress is real and linked to self-actualisation
  • charity and tolerance mean we should respond with political expediency at the expense of tradition and received wisdom.
It is Modernism, isn't it?  I loathe it and know it to be wrong with every fibre of my being.

And here is the biggest problem, few are making a stand against it, few can see its dangers.  The most consistent voice in opposition to this is the Russian Orthodox Church.  Rome and Constantinople have embraced much of this.  However, does that make the Russian Orthodox Church a lone beacon of righteousness surrounded by schism?  Is she a lone voice crying in the wilderness or is she simply a mouthpiece of conservative, anti-western propaganda, a puppet of the Kremlin?  Am I just some pro-Russian, anti-Western, conservative  troll? What about God's promise to St Peter? What about Rome? Does everything need to split along pro-Western, pro-Russian lines.  Is everything bloc politics, even religion? What remains of religion when you take the politics out of it?

Detachment and love of God are everything.

But never mind, the Russians are coming! I've booked myself a ticket to see the Red Guard Chorus next month in Bucharest. I'll take my seat amongst ageing ex-Party members and the PSD elite for an evening high kitsch from some of the greatest lungs on the planet. My dad had a Soviet era LP of this stuff, it was my favourite record as a kid. Some things never leave you, some things we are attached to and we simply can't explain why. Sometimes absurdity is worth embracing.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

What IS going on? (UPDATE)

I am speechless and a little punch drunk with all the news from Rome, so I will report this to you without much comment. I don't think I've got this wrong but I've not seen anybody else pick up on it. According to Sputnik in Moldova (and I have to say I find them quite a reliable newsagency), the Ecumenical Patriarch is about to announce in a formal manner that Orthodox priests will be allowed to take a second wife, under certain circumstances.

You can read it here for yourselves (stick Romanian through google translate if you must): https://sputnik.md/religion/20180904/21652131/decizie-istorica-preoti-a-doua-casatorie-patriarhia-ecumenica.html

How can Orthodoxy undo itself like this?  Our common heritage is that priests do not marry.  In the Orthodox tradition a man may marry before he becomes a priest, BUT priests do not marry.  There is a sound scriptural basis for this.  How can Orthodoxy cease to be?

The Universal Church is under attack in all quarters.....

UPDATED:
And the Russian Orthodox Church declares the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to be uncanonical
 https://sputnik.md/religion/20180906/21687203/biserica-ortodoxa-rusa-preotilor-a-doua-casatorie.html
And they are right.

Meanwhile, the Eucmenical Patriarch is sending legates to Ukraine to prepare for the Ukranian Church to become Autocephalous.  The spiritual break-up of the Rus' should not be dismissed lightly, this is a terrible thing and holier souls than me are saying it is purely politically motivated and should not happen. There is a terrible sadness in my heart over all this.

Orthodox schism does not seem far off .

Meanwhile here in Romania the Orthodox use the Gregorian calendar and so Catholic and Orthodox have been deep in commemoration of the Birth of the Mother of God, even the electronic billboards on the high street have been showing icons of the Birth of the Virgin.... and the Church is only One in Her. It is only with Her that the Enemy of the Church is defeated. Today is such a special feast.

The Antiphon of the Magnificat for today's Vespers is also the Orthodox Troparion, and may we never forget our common joy:

Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, was the herald of joy to the whole world; since from thee arose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, who destroying the curse, bestowed the blessing, and confounding death, brought us the gift of life everlasting.

And here it is being sung in Romanian:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYExemVu6dQ#action=share




Thursday, 30 August 2018

Resisting Evil

Jesus tells us quite clearly that we should not resist evil (Matthew 5:39)  In the Vulgate this is: non resistere malo. In the Douay it is rendered much the same.  In the more recent RSV (Catholic Edition) it is rendered: do not resist one who is evil.  Other modern translations say, do not resist evil people.  In my Romanian Bible (Orthodox) it is: Nu vă împotriviți celui rău. This translates best as: do not resist the evil one. So what are we not to resist?  Is it evil people or is it simply evil or is it the Devil?

The lines that follow these in Matthew Chapter 5 are about turning the other cheek so on first reading it would suggest that the more modern (non-Orthodox translations) are correct; it is evil people that we should not resist.  But this does not make sense.  We have beatified and canonised young girls and young men who died resisting evil men who were intent on raping them.  There are times when it is right to resist evil people even to death, provided it is done with the right heart.

So that means the alternative; we are not to resist abstract evil and or the Devil.  But you can argue there is no abstract evil, all evil has a created source, its source is supernatural and diabolical. Perhaps it looks like the Romanian Orthodox are right, it is the evil one we are not to resist.  Logically this makes sense because we can't resist the Devil, it is the height of pride to think we can, we must not try to resist him, for our own good we must not try.  To resist him is indeed to make him stronger, he will feed off our resistance, play with it, turn it on its head, confuse us, wear us out and laugh at us.

Not resisting the Devil is a state of the heart. It is a way of responding in evil situations involving people who are behaving in an evil manner without anger, hysteria, sarcasm, a desire for revenge, hatred, self-pity or spite.  It is about being a mirror to all that is good, beautiful and true.  It is about letting light into the darkness.  It is not about resisting the darkness, it is about filling it with something else. It is about allowing God in. This reading is now much more consistent with the "turn the other cheek" motif.

But the reality is we are confronted with abstract evil every day, much more so than we are confronted with genuinely evil people or directly with Old Scratch himself.  Abstract evil is overbearing smugness and Teflon coated resilience against the Truth.  Abstract evil bases its existence on a narrative that is a lie and it makes the lie real.  Abstract evil has no shame.  Abstract evil is invincible.  Abstract evil does not listen to reason.  The fruits of abstract evil are the very real sufferings of innocent people. Abstract evil can make itself manifest in real organisatons: from ISIS to NATO to the Church. The thing is, abstract evil (not forgetting its source) will wear us down most effectively; make us lose hope faster, make us lose faith, send us on false errands and battling for false causes. It is a massive distraction in the spiritual life. It turns us into political animals and away from behaving like the sons of God.

So what are we to do with abstract evil? Are we not fighting injustice by fighting abstract evil?  Are we not standing up for what is right?  Are we not making the world a safer and better place? What foolish little creatures we are! We can do no good! We cannot fight abstract evil because abstract evil is of the Devil's making and he is infinitely cleverer than us. In the same way that Frodo did not, indeed could not destroy the Ring, we can not destroy abstract evil, we have to let it destroy itself.  We may, like Frodo find ourselves having to lead evil to its destruction, but in such situations we must pray earnestly to be delivered from the Evil One. The state of our hearts is everything and our trust in God is everything.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Francis is Pope, get over it

Within the ranks of those unfortunate souls who have been elected Bishop of Rome, only a fool would say that any of them have been perfect.  Some have had scandalous and dubious morals and even openly homoerotic relationships (Julius III and Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte).  Some of them were not very bright but highly pretentious (e.g. Urban VIII). There have been countless who have indulged in ghastly nepotism, but with a dearth of nephews to be had these days this has been replaced by cronysim.  Some were openly political, favouring one European House over another.  Some were inept but holy men. Some were not very holy. Some were paranoid. Some made truly dreadful decisions. Some of them were utterly disliked by the clergy and often for very good reasons.  Some of them betrayed faithful Catholics, leaving them to the wolves for political expediency. There is nothing new under the sun.

THIS IS THE ROMAN CHURCH - Get over it and live with it or apostatise and form your own church , be your own Pope and leave us alone.

The Rock that is Peter is a MYSTERY.  It is not a fountainhead of scholarly erudition. It is not a thing of beauty.  It is rarely a diadem on the Bride of Christ.  It is the most bizarre, contradictory and scandalous office that has ever existed.  If it hadn't been initiated by God it would be the highest of blasphemies and the root of all evil. But what it is, I really don't know. I do not understand how it is that Peter feeds me, yet he does, because Christ commanded him to.

The true fruits of the Church are simply too astounding, too beautiful, and  utterly beyond purely human endeavour for the Church to be anything but the Bride of Christ.  Whether this happens despite or because of the Papacy, I wouldn't like to say.  Though if one looks at the witness of the Saints in the 10th Century and the utter, inept scandal of the Papacy in those times, one could certainly argue that saints happen despite the Papacy.

Those who think the Chair of Peter is currently vacant ought to wake up to history.  What is being destroyed is the myth of the Papacy and this is a good thing.  This is the myth that the successors of Peter are naturally or divinely "made" holy by the office.  Their path to holiness is the same as yours and mine.  The Bishop in White is first and foremost a faulted, frail, unworthy man.

Glory to God for all things!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Balkan Mezze

I've been back in Belgrade for a few days. I didn't do much.  It is not a time or a place for doing much.  I am back at work next week and I just wanted a complete break from anything which reminds me of my job.  This is the last year on my contract, I may renew it, but my heart is yearning to do something else and possibly something a bit more dangerous. Surely I don't have to be a teacher all my working life?  I am tired of teaching, even if I were in the best school in the world, it wouldn't be enough to stop the weariness with which I approach my work.

Being in Belgrade is easy for me; it is safe, easy to get to, very friendly, full of outrageously handsome men and has very good food.  It is an indulgence, a place of escape and indeed a place of sanity.  Though it involves a flight West from Bucharest, it is a city that looks both East and West.  Romania frustratingly only wants to look West.  I don't like what I see when I look West, indeed I think it is unhealthy to be Balkan and not acknowledge the influence of the East.  Earlier in the Summer holiday I thought about a ferry hop around the Black Sea, but Romania is the only country with a Black Sea coast and no ferries, the people of this beautiful land are simply not encouraged to look East.  I wonder if it is deliberate.

Being in Belgrade involved very long lunches and some cathartic reading.  My book of choice on my trusty e-reader was Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners, a history of the Popes.  It is an important read in these difficult times.  I certainly think you MUST read the first 3 chapters, they set the scene for the debates about the nature (secular and divine) of  the papacy.  They put the schism between the East and West in context and show how the political map of Europe evolved.  Reading it in Serbia where the Emperor Constatnine was born felt like being on an axle with everything spinning faster and crazier the further away you get. I didn't know he was only baptized on his death bed... it may explain a lot. There is much to study on Emperors, Bishops, clerics, faith, morals and political intrigue, the divisions were not clear cut then and they aren't now. We must know our history and also the peculiar Anglo-Saxon notion of the papacy that really didn't exist until Gregory the Great sent his mission to England (and invented England in the process). Indeed, from my reading of the book I'd say that it is the Anglo-Saxon notion of the papacy that is most significantly under threat in these times, it is the highest of ideals but very far from the reality of Rome.

Looking East, I also wish to draw your attention to an annual international conference on the traditional family taking place in Moldova this September.  I think Cardinal Parolin is representing the Catholic Faith at this gathering. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the World Meeting of Families in Dublin with the meeting in Cișinău. You can read about it here. My Romanian Catholic friends are poo-pooing this meeting because it is being very heavily endorsed by the pro-Russian President of Moldova, Igor Dodon. To me this shows a lack of understanding of the very Byzantine nature of politics in Eastern Europe outside the bulk of the EU: little Emperors who are the moral and spiritual voice of their people with the support of a fairly tacit clergy. These little emperors are naturally conservative, naturally pro-family and naturally against Western standards of decadence, they may be corrupt and unpleasant but they say things that we can not say in the West. Dodon has just taken a group of leading Moldovan politicians to Mt Athos on retreat, nothing like this could happen in the West. You can be as cynical as you want about his motives and indeed you may agree with Western commentators that say Putin has turned Mt Athos into a den of spies, but I say the word Carillion to myself and ask if the West really is as free of corruption as we wish to kid ourselves.

On the subject of things anti-family, I know I am not alone in thinking the rainbow flag is the new swastika.  There is a pop-up "Pride" shop on one of the main streets in Belgrade, it has some very nice, modestly dressed young people in it giving away all manner of rainbow key rings and pencil erasers.  As I said, Belgrade looks East and West.

One of the dishes I ordered on one of my very long lunches was a mezze of all things Serbian, and like in Romania, there was plenty of pork on the platter.  But there was a singular delight with one of the dishes, Duvan Čvarci, it is a dried shredded pork that looks like tobacco and is IDENTICAL to a Chinese dish that I would eat with my Grandma in Penang. Utter soul food, and how the Serbs managed to invent something identical to the Chinese, I will never know.... but it was another reason to feel very much at home and a surprising look to the very Far East.

Looking across the rivers to Belgrade's awesome brutalist Western City Gate.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

hanging out with the Orthodox

I had the good fortune to be able to tag along on an Orthodox pilgrimage yesterday and it gives me an excuse to blog about what a church community who are fully immersed in the sacramental life (note the small s) can look like in 2018.  I have been pondering the need for the Catholic Church to reconnect not just with the EF but with everything that goes with it, what I refer to as the sacramental life; the blessings, the Office, traditional calendar, relics, Saints days.  A healthy church has everything ordered towards God, not just the Liturgy, a healthy church has God breaking into every aspect of our lives, and I will define the sacramental life is basically anything where we bid Him welcome in a formal/semi-formal manner recognised amongst members of the same community. It involves the active participation of the laity. I am writing about my experiences because sometimes I feel living here is like living in a faint flicker of the world described in Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars; the everyday lives of believers sans Protestantism. I am just writing a "postcard" it isn't a manifesto.


Romania must be about the most church going, God believing country in Europe.  I will not write here about the Romanian Orthodox church as a political entity; its wealth, power and influence.  I simply want to write about my observations of how the ordinary laity experience the faith. There is a misplaced view that a church bothering country will necessarily be a holy country. I doubt Romania is holier than anywhere else in Europe. Some things are unquantifiable and the holiness of a nation is one such thing.  However what is tangible is that here is the confession of faith cheek by jowl with everything that is anti-faith.  I will suggest that the full sacramental life offers genuine supernatural protection for the ordinariness of life of ordinary people, it doesn't make bad men good, that needs something else entirely.

Yesterday I tagged along with a parish pilgrimage from a very ordinary parish in a very ordinary apartment bloc dominated suburb of the city. There were 2 full coaches of pilgrims of all ages including several families. Once we were installed in our seats with a high degree of latin inefficiency and the coaches set off, Father got on the tannoy and we started prayers.  Orthodox prayer is highly repetitive and gloriously unsentimental and always beautifully balanced between adoration, praise, thanksgiving and petition.  But after that everyone got on with being ordinary everyday people out on a parish pilgrimage, furtively munching on packed lunches, chatting, snoozing and crossing themselves each time we passed a church.

Though I am definitely the wrong shape to be Romanian, I blend in with other middle aged Romanian ladies through wearing long skirts and not being suitably shod by health and safety standards for our first destination which was a monastery perched on a rocky outcrop and involving fairly nifty footwork and an arduous climb.  Pleasant surprise number one: the way up was a Via Crucis with Catholic stations with  inscriptions in Latin, German and English.  As we started to tire I was amused to hear my Orthodox companions arguing over the number of stations there were and hence the distance to the monastery. We reached the astonishingly beautiful wooden church at the summit where we ladies covered our heads and those women who were wearing trousers wrapped themselves in sarongs. The monks were young, good natured, welcoming and ordinary.

There was lots of icon kissing and touching of the iconostasis.  I love the way things are holy, even the material of the buildings is holy because of what takes place there.  Holy cards or even scarves are rubbed against icon and wood and there was some furtive taking of small stones from the path outside.  And the prayers of petition start in earnest.  Lists are made (for the living and the dead) and left near the sanctuary, candles are bought and lit and prayed over and left. It was a little piece of heaven.  It was impossible to get lost on the way down, the Țigane had positioned themselves along the route selling fruit from the forest or simply begging loudly but not obnoxiously.  Some pilgrims shared some of their food with the Țigane children and when one pilgrim accidentally knocked over a pot of fruit they were selling she paid generously for the damage. That was another pleasant surprise.

We descended and set off for several other monasteries (without a large climb) and the pattern was repeated. One monastery had a permanent Nativity grotto (yes, with Catholic statues). At one monastery a monk was on hand for anointing the pilgrims.  Some of the monasteries had goody sized relics and there were patient queues for veneration.

The whole experience was totally ordinary and organic; nobody thought they were doing anything special.  It is simply normal to put yourself out a bit for God, become a bit hot and uncomfortable (we are in the middle of another fast for the Dormition/Assumption), there was no overt piety but plenty of genuine prayer and a common undertsanding of what was going on.




Friday, 10 August 2018

The Immortal Dr Grantly


“Good heavens!” exclaimed the immortal Dr Grantly, “Good heavens!”

The ever present Mrs Grantly was at his side, she’d long since given over saying “What is it, Archdeacon?”.  It all seemed so unnecessary, of course she would be told soon enough and it seemed best to let him marshal his thoughts in his own time rather than press him with any immediacy.
Immortality has been kind to Dr Grantly.  He is still the master of Plumstead Episcopi and lord to Mrs Grantly and Archdeacon Emeritus of Barchester.  The Bishop of Barchester toleraltes him, the Bishop is a tolerant man, he tolerates everything. Dr Grantly has little time for the Bishop, but most of the time he is left to himself in the little world of Plumstead Episcopi and little can trouble him from there.

We are with him as he journeys through Barsetshire in his ageing but stately Rover 75, immortality has made his driving only slightly erratic.  He is taking the old road to Barchester  There is a nice new dual carriage way but he finds he cannot take it without anger rising in his veins.  It pays no respect to the old boundaries and from there it is possible to see those infernal wind farms polluting the once majestic rolling hills in this most English of counties.  “Mechanised virtue signalling from delusional, deranged liberals who have no idea about proper care of the land or the environment”, he would say.  Mrs Grantly has heard this litany often and prefers not to trigger it.  Sharp readers will note however that Dr Grantly has kept up with the times, he is familiar with terms like “virtue signalling” and he finds himself very taken with some Canadian fellow on You Tube who says some good things, but whose name escapes him for now.

Let us return to Dr Grantly words. He has now mastered his thoughts sufficiently to speak to Mrs Grantly about the mater that had been so bothersome to  him. “I have had my Twitter account shut down for hate speech”, exclaimed the Archdeacon Emeritus.  “Hate speech”, the term was hurtful  to him and he couldn’t for the life of him remember hating anyone.  Loathing, yes.  He was good at loathing, but always with good reason and always for the good of God, Queen and Country.  Hate was altogether too strong for the Archdeacon Emeritus and he was saddened that he could be labelled a hater.
But readers will know that Dr Grantly isn’t the only immortal.  “The Jupiter” still thunders and Tom Towers is ever young and ever more potent.  They have changed with the times and are not now know by those names, but they are there and very much in control of this country.  As Dr Grantly will tell you, “those Whig lunatics who have the temerity to call themselves Tories cling to power through sheer weight of their own incompetence” need more than a little help from “The Jupiter” and the gods of Mt Olympus.

What has transpired to raise the ire of Dr Grantly?  What indeed!  Only that his old College has fallen, indeed Oxford itself has fallen.  The hallowed hall of Lazarus had been used for a “blessing” of a “gay marriage” between two souls who thought Jesus was a good guy but were far more into their Eastern philosophy.  A yogi had performed the ceremony. Dr Grantly didn’t like speaking in inverted commas, but he was determined that “gay marriage” would never be a phrase that would  become a reality through sheer stint of usage, he would never submit to that.  He had tweeted something along those lines to his large number of followers, but “The Jupiter” had got wind of this and now he could tweet no more.

But our clerical songbird was not defeated.  He’d received a e-mail from a kindly admirer congratulating him for being male, white, heterosexual, privileged and a Christian and hence the public enemey of Cultural Marxists everywhere.  Dr Grantly liked the sound of that, it stoked the fire in his belly, he would not be returning his laurels of immortality any time soon.  Canterbury had fallen, Barchester had fallen, Oxford had fallen but Plumstead Episcopi would never fall. 

He put his foot purposefully on the accelerator, the Rover 75 purred in submission and the good doctor made his way to Barchester.

With apologies of Anthony Trollope and Fr Hunwicke (whose blog gave me the idea for this post).