Friday, 16 October 2020

Name Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Lancashire Peeler

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

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

Here is how it is chez Rita:

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

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




Saturday, 12 September 2020

Life in the Exonarthex

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The Ultimate Compliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 




Wednesday, 19 August 2020

When the levee breaks

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


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



Orthodox Storks waiting fot the Feast of the Dormition

 

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


Saturday, 15 August 2020

Kicking Against the Pricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Masks and Veils

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

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

Sunday, 2 August 2020

A different unmasking

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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








Saturday, 1 August 2020

Ушће

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

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

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


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

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




Saturday, 25 July 2020

Window Dressing

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

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

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

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

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

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

There, I feel a bit better for that.


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

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

Sunday, 19 July 2020

My thoughts on Hagia Sofia

Praise ye the Lord in His holy places - Ps 150

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

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

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

How things looked in Bucharest - Winter of 2018


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

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

Jacobin- Toulouse


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

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

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

Thursday, 16 July 2020

"I didn't ask for sunshine..."


Sorry for my absence, dear reader. I've been in Belgrade again (holiday in the sun). I am now back home and due to the uptick in cases of the virus in Serbia, I am in self-isolation for a few weeks.  This has been worth it. I am probably not going to post anything until this period ends. Lots to think about. Lots to store in my heart and not say on a public platform.



Friday, 26 June 2020

I blame René

Identity is a topic I visit from time to time on this blog.  It fascinates me as it seems to be full of contradictions and tensions.  From my haven of sleepy bewilderment in the Orthodox end of Europe, I am looking at a West gone insane. The rioting, the taking down of statues, the virtue signalling, the new 'moral consensus'  and the endless accusations all speak to me of a real crisis in our understanding of identity. Sadly I fear we are playing out an illusion that will only end in more violence, more repression and more chaos. I see no way out.

I am going to point a finger at what I consider the root of all of this and this is Cartesian mind-body dualism. As I do so I am saddened that though the Catholic Church banned Descartes's writings, they absolutely failed to censure the man.  Perhaps he was simply too much loved by the great and the good; those influential monarchs and statesmen on which the Vatican has always relied. Without Descartes the unnatural split bewteen science and religion would never have happnend, the worst excesses of the Enlightenment would never have happened, Materialism would never have happened, Capitalism would never have happened, Socialism would never have happened.  OK, I know I speak with hindsight, but could not the Church see that what he was expressing was utterly anti the Tradition of the Faith. Why were no serious alarm bells ringing? They could censure Galileo, why not Descartes, whose 'crimes' are far more serious? Proto Modernism existed before Descartes, but gained so much unstoppable momentum through him.

Why does it matter?

It matters because his philosophy causes a rift between the consciousness and the material world.  This is simply too big a topic for this post, but what I wish to concentrate on here on how this relates to our understanding of identity. Identity becomes a thing of the mind which we then manifest in our material being.  It becomes a narrative over which we exert some control.  We can invent our own identity and then act it out with the material props at our disposal; our bodies, tribal affiliations, lifestyles, careers. There is no room for the sacred, there is no room for letting go of identity, there is no room for real humility, there is no room for true love.  We become fearful of a future when our bodies are simply not pliable enough to play out our fantasy identites because of illness or old age. We seek refuge in a world  of science and medicine to make everythig better for us and our identities.  Most importantly we seek meaning in tribal identites that are actually meaningless. I am not anti the concept of a tribe, but today's tribes are based round notions of common identity which are decidedly Cartesian and this is where the trouble lies.

If you accept mind-body dualism. then you are likely to view everything around you and everyone as objects.  They lose the sacred, they lose communion, they lose a common shared identity in the transendent.  It becomes impossible to be holistic.  You invent the object you perceive based on the parameters you wish to consider, eliminating others that you do not consider worthy of considering.

Consider the policeman in the eyes of the rioter, he has become an agent of the state, he is no longer a father, husband, guy who'd you quite happily sit next to at a football match and chat to if he weren't in uniform. He has been dehumanised.

Consider the Muslim in the eyes of the rabid end of Trad  Catholicism.  He has become the enemy, the end of civilisation, the 'other' who is here to be stopped from destroying the faith. Oh how I loathe Steve Bannon's political Catholicism and the values his tribe stands for; their glory hunting Catholicism, their pro-Capitalism and their anti-Islam. It has more similarities to Fascism than Catholicism, and it has its roots in Cartesian dualism. There will always be tribes we find repulsive.

Consider 'black people' in the eyes of 'white people', or vice versa.  Firstly you have to identify as black or white rather than accept the serious amount of interbreeding that has gone into the vast majority of us.  Then you have to adopt an accepted mantra as to what black and white mean. You have to then live a prescribed narrative based around a selective rewriting of  history and every action you make is based within this paradigm.  Surely this is the very defintion of being racist?  Identifying race in this way creates racism, it doesn't reduce inequality.

Consider the secular dogma of inclusivity. In order to be inclusive you have to give people identities in order to be inclusive towards those identites, it has little to do with the human being beneath the identity. Nobody is being inclusive because the person is a human being, they are being inculsive based on the series of labels they have stuck onto the individual.  And of course you can then create a 'bigot', that repulsive invidivual who does not share your views on inclusivity.

One of the big problems we face is that tribal identities (good or bad) are necessarily exclusive, not inclusive. The notion of tribe and the notion of inclusivity are not easily reconciled. You soon create the anti-tribe, the enemy, that which can not be tolerated in your inclusivity. And those idiots who wish to turn the world into a single tribe are delusional and dangerous and they exist on the left and the right and straight through the centre of the political spectrum.

The only way forward is through hospitality, generosity, humility, and fraternal affection; taking a giant leap sideways and looking into the heart of everyone with the love we've been given to share. It exists most in those culutres that are constantly being hammered and suppressed by the imperialist idealogues of the faltering West.

Descartes: The beginning of the end for the West








Wednesday, 17 June 2020

That letter to POTUS

The recent letter of Archbishop Vigano to President Donald Trump has created ripples in many places.  I have heard the usual high praise in traditional Catholic circles, I have also heard dumfounded and supportive Evangelicals who can't quite believe what they are hearing and Greek Orthodox quietly admitting the Archbishop has a point.  I fear however I must chuck a spanner into this rare vision of Christian unity. I am no a fan of the letter. I am glad it got people talking but there is something in the stylistic tone which I thoroughly dislike.

Archbishop Vigano is painting himself into a corner as some sort of persecuted prophet and is attracting many followers as a result.  But he is now stuck in this place, there is no way out.  There is no way he can do anything else. The heirarchy ignore him, the public love him. It is a horrible stalemate and it is not doing the Church any good.  Authority itself is being questioned and from there the only path is open rebellion.   Our limp and ineffecive heirarchy are not helping, but that is not the point.

In the letter the Archbishop lines up the forces of good and evil and clearly gives each side an identity and a leader.  President Donald Trump is on the side for good, naturally. However, whilst I have your intention, I want you to step back from this age old trope and think about what the battle between good and evil actually is, and also whether the letter is a fair representation of this battle.

In Scripture this trope of two opposing forces does not exist.  Evil is the thoughts, intentions, and actions of the Children of Israel.  Evil is what is in men's hearts when they forget to love the Lord. Evil is what the Children of Israel are again and again and again.  Therefore it is not so much the enemies of God that are evil, it is the Children of God who disobey their loving Father that are evil.  Evil isn't primarily some external existential threat, it is what runs through the heart of each and every one of us. Lord have mercy on us.

I challenge you to refute what I have just written.  If you site any of the battles in the Old Testament as examples where Israel won against some evil enemy and use this as an example of a battle of good versus evil, I beg to differ.  The battles can be seen in the spiritual sense as our battle with sin (not a battle with evil, there is a difference), it is sin that must be destroyed in us and we can only do that with God's help.  Sin kills us spiritually, evil is to be overcome (we are to be delivered  from it again and again and again).  We simply can't line up as an army of 'good' against an army of 'evil', we are not good enough for that and we need the humility to realise that this is the case.  Evil runs through each and every one of us in our thoughts, intentions and actions, we cannot line up as a group of individuals 'holier than them', expecting to be battling entirely for the forces of good.  Do that and you'll just make the devil laugh. It is pure delusion.

But what about Tolkein, what about that treasure of Catholic sentiment that is Lord of the Rings?  Isn't that a battle between good and evil?  No, I don't think so.  It is about purity and the loss of innocence and loss of enchantment. It is about the slow decay and descent from heroic virtue into something althogether more shambolic. It is about the dawning of the age of weakness and failure in the face of that which is opposed to virtue and nobility and enchantment. There are no winners. The 'good guys' don't win, they just stave off the next defeat for a little while, with a bit less power  than they used to have, with a bit less ancient wisdom and enchantment.  But, and this is the very Catholic bit, I think, it is only in weakening themselves that the corrupting power which could swamp the hearts and minds of every character is dealt a mighty blow with the destruction of the Ring.

Of course, there is a battle between good and evil and one that is as old as time itself. But it is the angels that play that one out, we have a different fight on our hands and it is a battle within ourselves.  We are in danger of forgetting the battle we must fight with ourselves as we go pitching up against existential external enemies...... and that I find terrifying.

The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.
Romans 13:10


Sunday, 14 June 2020

Demonstrations and Riots

At the moment is hard not to think about rioting, policing, and causes just and unjust. America is facing an identity crisis, she is so broken and I think even her heaviest critics take no delight in what they see happening there.  The emotions are real, the energy is real, the fear is real. However I am viewing it all from a distant land and finding it hard to comprehend.  I am definitely outside the narrative in a way that the Anglosphere and much of Western Europe are not. This is my personal take on thing.

Growing up in Manchester, knowing all about the Peterloo Massacre was very much part of the birthright of being a Mancunian.  Irrespective of any political leaning, you have to have no feelings and be barely human if you are not sympathetic to the people and their causes that were so brutally and tragically put down on the 16th August 1819. Peterloo stirs the soul. Look it up if you know nothing about it, the Wikipedia article is OK.  To me, it is the blueprint for a peaceful protest, for a just cause and for a heavy handed, incompetent, unjust and tragic response (at least 18 dead in the attack and reprisal).

It is quite easy to find civil protests and movements that pass the Peterloo test (with or without its tragic consequences).  I am less easy about the current disturbances in the US. I don't think they pass, and this bothers me.  What the protestors in Manchester over 200 years ago were asking for was representation, the wanted to 'matter'.  Most of the areas where they lived did not return an MP to Parliament and men without land were denied the vote. Therefore the working class poor of the North of England had no voice and they were suffering. Export of the goods they made had dried up, food was ridiculously expensive, they were struggling and felt real insecurity and fear for the future.  The King and government seemed hopelessly out of touch and uncaring.

Today, the situation is not much different in the US, the labour market is insecure, and chronic debt and despicably highs rents make living very difficult for many ordinary Americans. These souls do not have a voice. They are crying out to be heard, they are angry and fearful of the future. The situation should pass the Peterloo test, but it doesn't. Today the situation is all about emotion, there seem to be no real leaders and no sensible way to air grievances. The emotions run very high and there are obviously influential actors willing to manipulate the situation for their own ends. These actors seem more keen on keeping the violence going and stoking the emotions than actually helping represent the people in any sensible manner. Indeed what the actors want will be detrimental to the real needs of the people they are manipulating. It all seems to be one giant piece of theatre and both sides seem complicit in making it so. Nobody seems to be coming out of this with their dignity intact.

But saying you want insulin for your diabetes that you can afford without it crippling your finances, saying you want some job security, saying you want a level playing field of opportunities, saying you have a right to clean drinking water and fair rents lables you a dangerous socialist in the US.  The US has a toxic 'I'm alright Jack' culture. People are led to beleive that hard work will get you anything and those without are losers who haven't worked hard enough.  As far as I am concerned this is simply the Protestant Work Ethic at its most ugly.  Human dignity has been demonised.

Those who place themselves on the conservative right in American politics and label the trouble makers socialists, communists and marxists and believe it is all some Chinese backed plan to overthrow American decency, really ought to be shown the stupidity of their own arguments.  I will endeavour to do so below. I may in a future post deal with the extremely racist demonisation of the Chinese.  It is painful, ingorant and hurtful especially coming from the mouths of supposedly good Catholics.

The thing is, I live near the Ukraine.  It puts a very different light on everything. Here is a country ruined by American profiteering. A country denied its democratic destiny because democracy got in the way of America's anti-Russian rhetoric.  The American people doing this are the very same actors who are egging on the disturbances in the States, the very same people (mainly from the Democratic Party) that the conservative right are keen to label socialists.  The people suffering most in the Ukraine are those who wish to have an autonomous region, away from American interference, more closely aligned to Russia. These souls are Christian Orthodox, sympathetic to Russia (ethnically rather than politically), decidedly anti-fascist and majority genuine socialist (not the Western cartoon version).  So how can the odious actors fuelling the ugliness in America be socialists? Surely, if they were they would stand with Donbass and not against it. Instead they are backing very real and very violent fascists in the Ukraine.

The violence in America is not actually socialist, communist or indeed part of any political 'wing', it is part of a bigger and more sinsiter movement greared to making most lives not matter in the slightest.  



Monday, 8 June 2020

One way to make a Beast

This will be a purely political post, though you and I know that that is impossible.

I will be describing the making of a beast, and it is a beast peculiar to the Western liberal democracies that emerged out of Protestantism and the Scottish Enlightenment.

Firstly you start with a political theory that in principal (when applied to atrisans like butchers, bakers and candlestick makers) seems OK.  Next you add an industrial revolution and emerging technology that is far from artisanal, it requires massive, monopolistic companies and labour that has absolutely no ownereship of anything. The political theory quickly loses its innocence. Labour is now simply part of a  machine to make money. Even feudal society gave man his bit of land on which to grow food for himself and have his dwelling.  The monopolies see everything in terms of their own survival. Politics is geared towards their interests, the law is geared towards their interests, what is deemed criminal and not criminal is geared towards their interests, natural resources are squandered for its interests.  I am describing Capitalism, but Capitalism is not the beast, the beast is yet to come.

The faceless bankers and buinessmen who run the Capitalist world from their cosy clubs are behind the brutal wars and land grabs across the world, they crush or manipulate monarchies into submission, the finance rebellion and unpleasant idealogies where it suits, they manipulate religions and anything that may have a sway over the people they so desperately need to feed into their machines. They ethnically cleanse any (primitive) feudal society off the map and any alternative form of industrialisation to their own is demonised and decent criticism suppressed. And the technological progress continues and less and less labour is actually needed due to increasing automation.  Large sections of the population are now deemed useless to the enterprise.  They have been kept quiet for years through cheap treats and cheap goods that they have been manipulated to desire.  It is now time to stop them breeding. Forced sterilisation gets bad pubilicty. There are other ways to kill a country.  But not too much, people are still needed for the machine, to fight wars, to make things, to teach that the machine is good, to teach that profit is everything, to create entertainment and need for the goods that make the profit. But saddle them with crippling debt, make their homes unaffordable, and make stay at home motherhood a non-option, turn sex into a marketable lesiure industry and the population will dwindle.

The beast is forming and nobody is actually in control.  The beast is forming because the idealogy has become an idol and there are enough worshippers of the idol beyond the ruling elite for it to emerge.

Its spirit, its life force is silent. It surrounds itself with noise, so that you are unaware of its energies creeping into every aspect of your life and draining the life blood from your people. These are some of its silent characteristics:
  • it is embedded into the structures of society and breathes into all administrative functions
  • it is an everyday thing, so normal and so visible, you can't see it
  • it permeates everything and does not take sides, it is blind to race, class, gender and politics
  • it is dynamic and shapeshifting
Yet to give it form and enable it to thrive, it needs husbandry, it needs to be cared for, and there are enough who simply can't see beyond it, so willingly feed it and sacrifice themselves and their families to it. And this is how it silently grows.
  •  ideas that may be counter to its development yet popular with people are silently absorbed into its being and become that which they were not: think environmentalism, women's rights, the labour movements, socialism
  • create systems which facilitate the growth of the beast; the education system, the welfare system (or lack of one), the crimimal justice system and everybody's toil is so wound up in these systems and trapped by them (or the lack of them), few are able to transcend them
  • create a professional class that is articulate and blinded to anything beyond servicing the beast. They make it seem as if servicing the beast is 'common sense'.  These professionals were created by an education system that discourages  thought, encourages conformity, slavishly believes in the salvific nature of hard work and which is hell bent on rewirting history in the image of the beast, as if it were destined for greatenss since the beginning. Have Science which ought to be objective, at the total mercy of these professionals.
  • enable laws that have done away with foundational jurisprudence and are simply politically expedient and knee jerk.
  • call it something which is it not: freedom, democracy.. that sort of thing.... give it a skin and let it take shape.
  • when things get really bad, when the poverty and dehumanism on which it feeds cause unrest, feed the unrest, make it look like power is turning to the people, make it look like the oppressors are on the run , make it a place for heroes and villains, make demigods and take hammers to anything that looks like the 'inhuman' past
  • build in all the trappings of a cult: communal sins, repentance, bending the knee, racial superiority, good guys and bad guys, them and us, public demonstrations of 'faith', branding
  • encourage self-surveilance and the surrender of personal information (the last thing we 'own')
  • increase the poverty, remove the jobs, remove the opportunities and keep feeding the beast

******
Some of this is inspired by 'Sliently Silenced -essays on the creation of acquiescence in modern society' - Thomas Mathiesen (2004), but it is through my distortng lens and he is not to blame for my jaundiced take on things.


Sunday, 7 June 2020

Adoration

It is amazing how much hearing we do with our eyes and how much seeing we do with our ears. The senses work together as a unity. Experiencing the world and understanding ourselves both require an understanding of this, even if it is far from explicit.

What about our mouths? Communicaton with others involves the interplay of eyes, mouth and finally touch, it is nearly but not totally impossible to be 'intimate' with somebody without this. Adoration is intimacy and comes primarily form the mouth.  This is why reception of the Eucharist  onto the tongue, direcctly into the mouth is so radically important to the Christian faith.  That intimacy is more than normative, it is necessary. The life we receive from the Eucharist is intrinsically tied into adoration: the Incarnate Word, 'spoken' by God and received directly in our mouths, not our ears or eyes.

OK so biologically we are just large, walking ring doughnuts, the whole digestive tract is actually on the outside of the body, not its interior. This however doesn't lessen the importance of the mouth as a symbol of intimacy and the main way something exterior can become interior. It has a lot to  do with choice.  Our eyes also  provide a way to our interior, but most of the time we have to be fairly indiscriminate about what we look at simply to  survive; crossing the road, avoiding danger, doing our jobs are not usually interior, spiritual experiences.  We can be much more choosey over how we use our mouths; how we speak, how we smile and the quality we put into those smiles. We can freely give a lot more with our mouths and when they work in tandem with our eyes, we truly give of ourselves to others.

So this is why the wearing of face masks in church is a near blasphemy.  I loathe it on so many levels, so even though the churches are open here, I am reluctant to go in if mask wearing is enforced.  The mask privatises my faith and breaks the communion with others. Whilst no fabric covering will shield me from God, the imposition of masks is a statement of the uncleanliness of the human body. We are being asked to cover our mouths as we cover our anuses. Our mouths have become shameful.  And whilst we are all persons of 'unclean lips' as scripture tells us, we need the ability to communicate with our mouths in public and say as much in the temples of God. To show our vulnerability with our mouths uncovered is a religious duty we are unable  to perform thanks to some very dubious science and neurotic actions of our governments.

Added to this is the fact I am a very introverted soul who has always communicated most effectively with others via my eyes and the smile on my lips. I am not a great talker.  Coming to live in a country where speaking the language is problematic , even if I don't have too much diffiuclty understanding it, was not a problem.  I don't speak much in the UK either. But now that my ability to communicate with a smile has been removed by the state, now that eyes have to do all the work and all that is returned is puzzlement and often slight fear, going about in public wearing a mask has become a living hell.

What are we becoming?

Hold on to what is good.

Happy Pentecost to us Easterners, Happy Trinity to Westerners!

Monday, 1 June 2020

Rioting and Fake Religion

There is no utility in Faith. It doesn't make us comfortable, happy or worry free in the normal meanings of those words.  The religion to which we aspire is a radical confrontation of ourselves in the face of of our Creator and True Love. The more we reveal of ourselves, the more we confront ourselves, the more our Love reveals. The more we hide, the more He withdraws. None of this is comfortable. None of this is sensible or likely to win you friends or promotions at work.

One of the consequences of a true confrontation with yourself and a radical submission to Love is that 'otherness' disappears. It is not that you don't see difference, it is just that it isn't important. The differences in others are characteristics but not some creepy otherness to be fought, compartmentalised and even demonised. To be united with God is to see all men as brothers; wayward possibly, but undeniably brothers and demanding an unstinting loyalty in affection and kindness.

One of the characteriscs of fake religious sentiment is the creation of otherness. The creation of that other person; the sinner over there. The wrong-headed one. I am right and I have the church behind me to prove I am right. He is wrong. And it has been like that at least since the Pharisee and the Publican prayed together to God in such disunity. Christianity is full of fake religious sentiment like this. Indeed the seemingly good idea of praying for that sinner over there is ultimately dangerous if you elevate yourself to a position higher than the sinner from which to say your prayer.

It is within the fake religions of modernity however where the cult of 'other' is truly on show in all its goryness. The fake religions of anti-Communism, Environmentalism, Gender Idealogy and Capitalism are some of the worst offenders. Each requires its adherents to sign up to a belief system which then jutsifies their own lifestyle choices and fills them with affirmation that they are right and everyone who is not like them is wrong. It is the very antithesis of real religion because there is no radical confrontation with self, no radical denial of self for the good of others and everything to do with self-affirmation and self-righteousness.

Away from these colourful and obvious examples, there are ones in the heart of each and everyone of us. The creation of 'other', the creation of an evil bad guy must be resisted at all costs.

America is burning as it reels from yet another brutal killing of a black man by the police. See how easy it is to create 'other' simply by writing out the basics of the story. Black as opposed to white, oppressed people versus oppressive state. The anger at this killing is justified, but sadly the ensuing narratives and violence are as wrong as they are predictable.

America is a young country, formed by modernism and completely at the mercy of creating 'otherness', bad guys with a desire to kill off the American dream: socialists, communists, anarchists....  Most Americans seem incapable of seeing beyone this and desperately cling to the notion they are living in a democracy with choice and freedom; choices and freedoms which are threatened by 'other'. 'Other' which obviously must have the backing of some foreign power as it couldn't possibly be American. America is fighting for its very identity and its very soul and the fight is ugly and sadly involves everyone else in the world because of its belief in its oun righteousness.

To me there is no way out. Sensible debate is stifled by the chorus of chants of 'leftists', 'socialists', 'commies', from those who see America threatened by such, none of which is at all helpful. It is the hymn of a false-religion. And then there is tle false religion on the other side which shouts 'state oppression', 'fascists'... etc etc.

It is all tiresome and totally childish, but there are no adults left in the room and anarchy will ensue.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Another wretched tree

Sorry for my long absence, dear reader. My work has been rather time consuming and I haven't felt much like blogging. This is primarily a Catholic blog, I try to stay true to the Magisterium, and I haven't had any inspiring thoughts of late. There is no point in writing if it isn't edifying in some way.

A good non-Catholic friend of mine has accused me of not caring what damage I do and of riding roughshod over cherished beliefs and customs when I write. He compared me to a great wave of Islamic invaders wreaking havoc out West. From their perspective, they are only doing what is right and natural, from the perspective of the invaded, all around is desolation and destruction. Whilst I have so far spared you from the worst my digital pen can do, perhaps now is the time for something that will unsettle. Remember please that I am doing my best to act within the Magisterium. What I write is not an act of rebellion, though I have a rebellious heart.

You recall all the fuss made over the tree planted in the Vatican gardens during the Amazon Synod. The whole thing seemed like an exercise in syncretism and a great obfuscation of all that is holy. Last week anothr tree was planted, which I consider to be an equally wretched symbol of the state of the Roman Church.

This tree was planted at the Lvov Roman Catholic Archdioscesan Seminary in the Ukraine. Present at the tree planting were clerics from the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Catholics (Uniates) and members of the recently formed 'Orthodox Church of Ukraine', widely and rightly considered to be schismatic within Orthodoxy. The tree was planted to represent Christian unity (mainly round fighting the pandemic, but there was a wider agenda at stake). The newly formed 'Orthodox Church of Ukraine' is keen on such ecumenicism and has allowed Uniates and even Romans onto the altar, behind the iconostasis during Divine Liturgy. You can see the tree plantng here for yourself courtesy of the RC Archidocese of Lvov's website.



Why should I be comparing this seemingly harmless get-together of like-minded clerics to the whole Amazon Synod fiasco?  As far as I am concerned they are equally horrific as they demonstrate how the Roman Catholic Church is  willing to prostitute herself with the world.  Let us be clear, the 'Orthodox Church of Ukraine' is a worldly body, fashioned from geopolitics not by God. Her formation rode roughshod over the much cherished and ancient synodality of the Orthodox communion, breaking all canonical norms in the process. The schismatic church is heavily involved with the politics of the country and has some very dubious dealings with the far-right in Ukraine (as sadly do the Uniates).  Being driven by a hated of Communism may invoke sympathies in some of you, but that is poor grounds to support them.   They have been involved in violent church seizures of the genuine Ukrainian Orthodox Church, they are rife with infighting and the Ukrainan people themselves did not ask for this church, it is a 'gift' from America.  The same Americans that brought us Maidan; Biden, Obama, Pyatt..... The Americans so driven by a hatred of Russia and hatred of democracy that they cooked up the whole 'Russiagate/Obamagate' scandal to try to demolish President Trump.

Ought Catholics be getting involves with this group? Make up your own mind.
I leave you with an icon of St George from the schismatic 'Orthodox Church of Ukraine'.  Icons don't lie.  This is a true image of all that is NOT holy. It is filled with anti-Russian hatred, nationalism and unpleasantness.  Notice the bombed out remains of Donestk Airport on the right (picture below for you to compare), notice how the figure supposed to be of St George is combatting the Russian Eagle. This is sheer ugliness and a blasphemy due to the presence of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity superposed on the Ukranian trident..



Saturday, 2 May 2020

From Romania with love

The first of the new season tomatoes have arrived! I can not begin to describe the aroma coming off these little beauties. There isn't a finer tomato in the world.  Needles to say, purchasing of said was not done in a supermarket, it involved a clandestine cash transaction with a guy in a backstreet.  Worth being swindled for.  It takes a while for the Țigane to realise that I know that they are overcharging me, but when they do it is always worth the initial irritation as subsequently they are very generous.

In a world of disinfectant, face masks and solemn, state controled limitations on our freedom, it is good to remember just how simple pleasure can be.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

April 25 - Rogation Day

How are things where you are?  Here in the Balkans a late, heavy frost has destroyed orchard crops and parts of Romania are suffering drought (in places it looks like a sinister autumn; all dead brown leaves and parched brown ground and none of the mellow fruits). Small farmers who have things to sell can't sell what they have. Big business and international commerce have the monopoly.  It is increasingly difficuly to find local produce, yet the plastic wrapped, plastic looking, plastic tasting veg of the Eurozone and Turkey fill the supermakets.

I am sorry I  mention the food situation so much, but it is really getting to me that I can't buy eggs with crap on them or fresh spring garlic and greens from a baba in a headscarf.

Also, I never thought I'd say it, but I am missing the sweaty overcrowded Metro and the earthy odours of humanity. The sterile theatre of this pandemic is getting to me; the masks and the slow pavane of 'keeping one's distance' at the supermarket checkout, the silence, the lack of smiles, the police tannoy, the Greek chorus of news reports and scientific proclamations.

Today is the 25th April. In Rome this used to be the pagan feast of the Roman god of grain, Robigo. The day was adapted wholesale by the Church as a Rogation Day to implore God's help for the harvest and to ask for safety from the worst that nature can throw at us.

And whilst we can not make the processions, let us gather in our prison cells and say the Litany of the Saints and join our voices to those of our bothers and sisters in faith who have gone before us and never dreamt that such a treasure of the Church as the Rogation Days would be swept under the nylon carpet of reform and forgotten about. Even the BCP has Rogation Days, for crying out loud! And never would they have dreamt that one day there would be a world wide famine in the supersubstantial Bread of our Salvation. Come to think of it, this isn't a famine, it is a supply chain problem of purely secular dimensions; that which is preventing the babas from scratching a living is also preventing the Church from feeding us. And this makes the Rogation Days even more precient.

Get praying, reclaim the Church!

Glory to God for all things!



Thursday, 23 April 2020

Darkest of Bright Weeks?

Those who know me will know I have always had a bit of a problem with Easter Monday.  I can, without meaning to, and certianly not due to any excesses the day before, crash and burn.  It can be one of the emptiest days of the year and I had grown to dread it. It is as if I am startled by the brighteness of Easter and stand there a bit dazzled and say 'err, what now?'.

This year Easter Monday was fine, but the rest of Bright Week is proving a struggle. I very much feel left to my own devices, the discipline of Lent has gone, the drama of Holy Week is behind me and I am here like a pit-pony blinking at the fields and sunshine after a season in the mines, unsure of what to do with my legs and senses.

This feeling is heightened by the lock-down.  Going outside now comes with a set of restrictions and disciplines. I need the correct forms and ID, I can not just wander to a park, they have all been shut.  I can not wander into a church and pray before a favourite icon or relic.  In normal years today I would have queued and venerated the relic of St George at a nearby church dedicated to him. In otherwords discipline is still very much with us, and it is joyless and  seemingly endless and impersonal. The little pleasures of life have been denied us and we are meant to be living in fear, devoid of sacramentals and mystery, reliant on the wisdom of science and state.  It simply isn't healthy. Christ is Risen! and there is nobody about to proclaim this to.  Christ is Risen! and we have been denied the Sacraments. Christ is Risen! and life is just about as grey, tragic, sombre and sinister is you could ever imagine.  And there is no Lent. We must feast!  What on?  How?

How can we have feasting hearts in this season of  wierdness and state control?

The answer, I think is staring us in the face.  Silence.  Closed doors. Silence.  Empty streets. Slience. Bewilderment.  These are things not unknown to the first Apsotles straight after the Resurrection. The message of all those post Resurrection encounters is that Jesus comes to meet us where we are.  A feasting heart is one that is certain of His coming. And that is where we should differ from the first Apsotles on Bright Week, we KNOW what they were yet to experience.

It is easy to say all this but difficult to live it.  The struggle feels almost too much at times. If I don't finish writing soon, the police tannoy will have started up again and put me into a trough of despond with its intrusiveness. I will not complete the post.

Christ is Risen! Glorify Him!

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Aliluia, aliluia, aliluia!

Hristos a înviat din morți,
cu moartea pe moarte călcând,
și celor din morminte
viața dăruindu-le!

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs
bestowing life!

Ah, yes, 'those in the tombs', that is us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  How significant those words are always, but even more so this year when we have all been entombed by the state.

I am a guest in an Orthodox land.  I am writing to thank the Orthodox Church of Romania for doing its thing and proclaiming the Gospel under very difficult circumstances. This Pascha I have been very much in their care and feel blessed to be here.  I have been following almost exculsively the Byzantine liturgical texts and found them to be very rich.  The scripture readings in particular were so refreshing throughout Holy Week.

Here in central Bucharest, last night (the Easter vigil) was unnecessarily tense.  From before sunset the police were exceedingly annoying and intrusive.  The PA system was telling us all that we must stay inside.  The evening was hot and I wanted the window open but the voice with its faux concern started to sound increasingly unpleasant and sinister, it doesn't take much to stir up the ghosts of the past. The state was out to stop Christians from leaving their homes on the holiest night of the year.  They largely succeeded.  The most law abiding of citizens are also the most Christian. There is no irony in this.

To drown out the police, I played Rachmaninov's Vepsers and I broke my fast with some home made rice pudding and a cup of tea laced with Scotch.  I then went to bed with the window open hoping to hear some bells.

Midnight came, there was complete silence, except for some stray dogs.  Then the bells rang out. Loud, so very loud. From all directions, from the smallest churches to the largest. The sound would allow no other. The Gospel would be proclaimed to all and proclaimed with confidence. 

An exhausted hobbit sees an eagle in the sky! I can not begin to describe the joy. May God bless this land always!  

There was nothing for it but to get out of bed and say the Te Deum.

And as I climbed back into bed, I could hear singing, the bravest of the local churches had their PA system on full blast and the choir was singing the troparion at the top of this post.  It was a female choir and I am sure the deacon and the priest do not have enough daughters between them to make that much noise. One can only assume that some souls did make it out to the Liturgy last night.

This, my friends is a tale of active participation in the Liturgy.

Christ is risen!
Alleluia!


Saturday, 18 April 2020

Masks are off

I was politely reprimanded today for not covering my mouth. I apologise to anyone who might  have been offended. However masks are not compulsory here and me and most of the Roma seem to be holding out.

I am beginning to get irritated.  The police are becoming intrusive. The PA on the police car is endlessly telling us to stay indoors to save lives and to protect our health.  It is starting to sound hollow.

There is an absurdity about everything that is not at all comical. I go to the supermarket and it is full of cabbage from Macedonia, apples from Poland, courgettes from Turkey.  There are clips on the news showing over 1000 Romanians waiting in crowds at Cluj airport to fly to Germany for work. Romanian workers are apparently needed to pick the crops in the UK too. Meanwhile, Romania which could easily be self sufficiennt in food can not sell most of its produce in the supermarkets.  Europe is an economic madhouse of near Stalinist ineptitude.

Holy Saturday now.  I have the livestream on in the background for the Holy Fire from the Church of  the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem which is due anytime soon. God willing. Indeed if it comes this year, it may put the naysayers to shame, there is no way it could be faked this year. The church is empty apart from a few Israeli guards.

I could get grumpy.  The virus is very nasty indeed and we are all doing our best to follow basic health protocol. But the need of the secular authorities to stifle basic human interaction and silence the procalmation of the Resurrection is sinister in the extreme.

Let God Arise!
And a Blessed Pascha to you all.