Saturday, 16 February 2019

Calendars

The only prayer I have made a commitment to is Lauds from the monastic diurnal.  The praise of God must be done in season and out of season, though in truth, there is no out-of-season. Since I made this commitment, there have only been a couple of occasions when this has been problematic. If I am travelling early in the morning, I will anticipate Lauds and say it the night before.  If I am in transit somewhere, Diurnal in suitcase and inaccessible, I have compromised and just said Psalms 148-150 from my trusty pocket Challoner NT and Psalms. There was something quite otherworldly about doing this once in the transit lounge on a dew sodden early morning in Abu Dhabi.

This commitment to the last 3 Psalms means that I have set myself apart from the mainstream of the Catholic Church.  The Office of the Church from the time of Pius X does not include the saying of these 3 psalms at Lauds daily.  Therefore I am not even in line with the trads who are on the whole happy to use his calendar and Office.  I have no connection to the Benedictine community whose Diurnal I use, but the Diurnal grounds me, I am in a liturgical community of one, but somehow it is universal.

What has been great about coming to Romania is the number of times the calendar I am following ties is so well with the Revised Julian (Milankovic) calendar that the Orthodox use here.  There has been a joy in knowing many of the ancient prayers are the same and the saints days are the same. This is Catholic, but I am probably one of only a very small minority who are even aware of this. The more recent modifications of the Roman calendar do not tie in, they are a rupture. The majority of the Orthodox world wide are still on the old Julian calendar, the Revised Julian is seen as something for the liberals, ecumenicists, and Rome sympathisers.  I am none of these and though it is none of my business, I wish the Orthodox could begrudgingly accept the physics and the reality of the Gregorian calendar, even if they can't accept the name.  Clavius didn't even use Copernican geometry to realign the calendar, he stuck with the Ptolemaic geometry which is theologically sounds in its geocentricism.  The ONLY thing the Orthodox can possibly object to is that it came from Rome, and that is simply prejudice and rather sad.

So here I am, spring seems to be in the air and Lent is on the way.  I'm on the Eastern calendar and still mainly attending the Greek-Catholic Liturgy. We are a week later for Easter than the West.  This year, it will mean I will now enter the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany as the West traditionally enters Septuagesima.  I will stick to the Roman tradition for the Hours.

There are times when I get frustrated.  I am horrified by my own situation.  Surely it is wrong to be living is a worship community of one and making up my own calendar as I go along so that I can  keep up with some sense of continuity and order.  However, my actions are necessary. I am a sick patient and need strong medicine. The newer Offices of the Roman Church are not strong enough medication for me.  I do not see myself as having a permanent home in the Greek-Catholic Church, the bottom line is that it exists for ethnic communities of which I am not a part.  Theologically they are inseparable from the modern Catholics, and I do not feel at home there either!! Going completely Byzantine is not therefore an option.  Going Orthodox is not an option either, unless possibly through marriage and that is purely hypothetical, though more likely than marrying a Catholic out here.

Och, I dunno.  I could have a massive rant.  I loathe what the Catholic Church has done to itself.  And ironically I can now see that a lot of the developments came through a debasing of its theology and liturgy with ideas from Orthodoxy, certainly this is the case from the mid 20th Century. Catholic theologians have blurred their time honoured definitions of Grace, Nature and the Supernatural and forgotten the ancient Metaphysics underlying both traditions.  This allows them to accommodate Orthodox mystical theology, but in the process create a smorgasbord of fairy dust that satisfies nothing and nobody. Whilst I can live with the great Orthodox calendar scandal (and scandal it is), because I am not Orthodox, I can not accommodate without a sense of frustration, anger and sorrow the path taken by the Catholic Church away from its time honoured calendar in the name of a renewal which sprung from this new theology. It smacks more of novelty and stupidity than of reform.


Friday, 8 February 2019

The Praise of God.

"Father I give Thee thanks" was the song of Christ's soul and He wishes to hear it echoed in mine- St Elizabeth of the Trinity

Giving glory to God for all things, is the essence of the Christian life.  So with that in mind, I decided to trawl the internet looking for the Praise of God in the singing of the Psalms.  I decided to look for Psalm 135 (136) Confitemini Domino, because it is my current "go to" Psalm.

This is what I found, notwthstanding my poor linguistic skills, I hope they are all the correct psalm:

Starting with the Scottish Psalter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lr6d96sbBU
And a wonderfully hearty and rowdy Presbyterian version of the same with some excellent singing from the under 3s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC1Y4qpjtb8

Staying in the British Isles, choral evensong:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK3ZdhrndHI

Now some Dutch Protestants singing Vaughan Williams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND_m0y4uA-Y

French Catholics singing the Gelineau version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWKe8k0WFAo

A Slavic Taize version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kFMPTPgX-4

If you want some good ol' Psalmody, I suggest you tune into the monastery at  Le Barroux on a Wednesday evening for Vespers.

Here is a Romanian version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ6XULRCuLQ

Here is a different one from Romania: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM5aH8rS1CU

And a Serbian version of the same chant:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDEq9SiqCOA

And a Syrian Orthodox version of the same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l7ZT0JJm98

And an Ethopian? / Arabic version of the same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUKF3mJHKcE

Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever.

Who made the heavens in understanding, for his mercy endureth foever.


Sunday, 3 February 2019

Lung function

Time for a trawl around the interwebs to show you some of the great work of our Orthodox brothers in Christ.

Firstly from Romania, here is the You Tube Chanel Doxologia. Nothing is translated into English, but it is great to skim through to see living Traditon. Here is some chant for yesterday's feast of the Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN7_YAzyM8k

For teaching purposes, I know I am not the only Catholic lurker on Fr Freeman's site, his exposition of the dangers of Modernism and how to combat it is (in my opinion) unsurpassed on the internet. Scroll through any of his posts in Secularism and you will see what I mean.
https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/

Staying in the States, if you prefer a more "Post Punk Death Metal" chic, the following site from some Orthodox monastics has some excellent articles and hoodies. Death to the World

If you have never dropped in to share Coffee with Sr Vassa, I can recommend her You Tube channel, she is wise, good fun and an expert in the liturgy. A lot of her stuff is for subscribers only, but there is enough free stuff to keep you amused.

With a more "youth" vibe, there is clear catechises from Be the Bee a lot of which would be useful for Catholics.

And last but not least, my favourite schismatic, the Serbian cartoonist and Reader, Bojan Teodosijevic. His You Tube channels are witty, quirky and devotional. Here is his take on the current "issues" between Constantinople and Moscow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um5Gsta6X0M, but there are also excellent lives of the saints and his thoughts and rants on a wide range of topics, mostly sent in by readers.

Beauty, humour, clarity and Tradition..... things the West are losing ground on rapidly....
Just saying ......

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Freezing Rain

I'm used to rain.  I like rain.  I spent too long in Manchester to be anything other than a connoisseur of rain.  These last few days a whole new type of rain has made itself known to me: the freezing variety.  I am sure readers in colder climates have more spectacular examples of the phenomenon, but it is spectacular enough even when not completely debilitating.

Everything gets covered in sheet ice and icicles.  Each twig on every tree is encased in ice of a diameter several times thicker than itself.  The sheer weight of this brings whole branches crashing down. The same is true of overhead cables.  The roadside verges seem to be over ankle deep in shards of glassy ice.  The pantographs on the trams make a spectacular light show with the ice on the overhead power lines; blue green light bouncing off the pale cream of the apartment blocs as if some sorcerer's apprentice is cooking up something illicit just out of view. The cherry picker fire truck is permanently on the move looking for deadly, Sword of Damocles icicles out sight but not out of mind as you walk beneath dripping balconies and concrete overhangs. People die from those things. The fatalist in me wondering if there is an icicle with my name written on it.


Freezing rain grips and clings to things like nothing else.  It turns gravity into something deadly and deserving of respect.  The young go toppling to the ground with no dignity, the old wearily walk with more care knowing they don't have the luxury of being able to get up again so quickly and with less injury to themselves.

The weather seems quite apt.  I feel encased in something that is weighing down on me.  I feel somewhat trapped and powerless. I am not broken, nothing has come crashing to the floor but I am waiting for a thaw. There is a pain in my heart, a longing for something (I genuinely know not what, no creature is its object) that I am powerless to do anything about. Normally when accosted by feelings of the heart, I can pray to ask for them to be removed if they are not the will of God. I can detach myself from them.  I don't have the strength to pray for that this time, this pain is too intense. It is like a fire inside, without it I feel I would be dead.  The ice around me would become everything and would weight me down completely.  It is humbling as I am wretched enough to know that without the prayers of the saints and the intercession of Our Lady, this fire could be more deadly than the ice.

One of the local "characters", a Bucharest version of Glasgow's finest, Rab C Nesbitt insisted on accosting me with the Easter Acclamation this morning.  I replied purposefully and cheerfully in kind.  Usually I will try to avoid him, he can be quite challenging, harmless but challenging.  But this morning he was sober enough and there was a light behind his eyes. And yes, I was meant to make that acclamation.

Truly He is risen!
And great shards of constricting, suffocating ice, shattered and fell from my being.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Christian Unity?

On another forum and under a different name, I found myself defending one Orthodox Christian against charges of "freemasonry" , his fellow Orthodox were very suspicious of his stand on ecumenicism, which he sees as a good thing (up to a point). His argument, and it is one I agree with, is that tradition and smugness will not save us. To wall ourselves into a tradition is dangerous especially as it is no guarantor that we actually KNOW our faith.

Did I end up defending ecumenicism or just defending the need to get out beyond tradition and smugness?  I was certainly accused of defending ecumenicism.  That was certainly not my aim though ironically my move out East has made me considerably more "ecumenical". There simply isn't a "critical mass" of Catholics out here with whom there is anything like a bond of fellowship.  I have good Catholic friends, but it isn't a community of souls.  My witness as a Catholic is mainly with the Orthodox and the Evangelicals. The Catholic priests out here are mainly Italian trained, their formation is heavily post-Vatican II, they are good souls but not steeped in Tradition (capital T) and there is an uncritical attitude to the modern church that is a world away from the TLM communities and priests I left behind in the UK.  Because very few of the priests here have any English language at all, they simply have a different awareness of the state of the Catholic Church. They have an awareness steeped in simple loyalty to Rome and filtered through what Rome wishes to tell them in Italian. In some ways it is refreshing, I am sick of the English language Catholic media's obsession with Anglo-American crisies in the Church.  It is good to be able to be away from that.  In other ways it is heartily depressing, there is a real feeling we are looking at a church in decline, when all the old people who kept the faith alive during Communism are gone, there won't be many left to replace them. There is a worrying lack of knowledge of the faith amongst the younger members of the community. They are not grounded in Tradition and Scripture, they have no sense of orthodoxy, in the strict meaning of the word. Yet more evidence that Modernism is the greatest ever threat to the Church; Communism gave us martyrs, Modernism gives us indifferentism.

This coming week is the World Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  This was quite an easy thing to ignore in the UK, though it originated there and in France.  In Blighty, it was organised through  "Churches Together in Britain and Ireland" and was not a major feature of Catholic life in the UK, unless you wanted it to be. Here, it seems to be quite big and is embraced across the confessions.  Romania's love of only looking West means that it is looked at uncritically as a good thing.

Why do I not find it so?

The ecumenicism we all have to do is the taking our faith into the world and giving witness to it; being known for our love. The ecumenicism that kills is the clerical ecumenicism of which John-Paul  II's Assisi stunts were the most shocking manifestations. All worship is degraded in such events. The concepts of routine and discipline within a confession are eroded.  Genuine communion is sacrificed for an outward show of visible unity.

Simply put, we are not at one with ourselves let alone with each other.  We are at constant war with ourselves. Flesh and spirit fight each other and this is a good thing, it makes us realise we are creatures and the Creator is in charge.  The natural state of man is war.  Christ brings us peace in the midst of war not to the elimination of war.  If we can't be at peace in ourselves, there is simply no way that Christian Ecumenicism is a meaningful concept.  We cannot pray for Christian unity, we can only pray to be united to Christ and find peace in our divisions and in our conflicts (external and internal).

Unity comes through Eucharistic Communion, but it is invisible, it is a thing of the heart, we take the Eucharist to our hearts. We are united to each other through Christ in our hearts, not through our outward displays of religiosity. We are only alive to the extent with which we believe and have faith in our Faith, and then we will be known by our love.

So please excuse my absence from the Ecumenical events planned for this week.  I can not do it.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Strangers in a Foreign Land

For several reasons, I seem be in contact with more ex-pats this year than last.  Nothing makes me feel lonelier than ex-pats. A common ability to gabble in a tongue not native to this country is not enough for a strong bond of friendship. The following is a fairly typical example:

One ex-pat I know seemed to need to "confess" to me a pledge he was going to make.  He was going to stop sleeping around and was going to concentrate on making good friendships.  He knows I am a "God botherer", he probably thought I'd like to hear this. Then the following week, after having only met 2 women on Tinder, he was sleeping with one of them.  I asked him why, and he did not know.  She's nice, he'd tell me.  She's OK, but not very interesting, he'd tell me.  Then he'd tell me that he was going to try and stop doing what he was doing, it wasn't enjoyable, he really just wanted the friendship.  He has not succeeded.

Something happened and I felt the need to tell him that she was using him, that it was obvious she liked the idea of him more than him, she liked his status, liked is "foreignness" and was using him to kick against somewhat traditional attitudes from her own family.  He agreed and depressingly said to me, yeah, I know she's using me, but I'm using her, I'm lonely and I want sex.

Is that it?  Is that really all there is to life?  Are we all just in one claustrophobic x-rated version of the Peanuts cartoon?

Most people seem to be either Linus: basically sound but with overpowering an attachment to a thing.

Or they are Pig-Pen: basically sound but with an overpowering attachment to a habit.
And I am trying very hard not to be Lucy; with an overpowering attachment to my own righteousness.

If there is only a horizontal dimension to the world, that is all you get: a Peanuts cartoon. Somehow the vertical has to break though.  But if those of us who have some connect with the transcendent behave like Lucy, the less chance it has of doing so. The sanctification of everyday life is very hard.  The priesthood of all believers is a massive challenge.  BUT it is a challenge the laity are meant to face.  We are not to hide away permanently, Amish-like in some bubble of godly order.  Priests ought only to hear about masturbation in the confessional, we have to face our "friends" boasting about it in ordinary conversation. It is the role of the laity to go beyond the Linus or Pig-Pen in the people we know and find the image and likeness of God that lies beneath.

We can't even begin to start until we have dealt with the Linus, Lucy and Pig-Pen in ourselves, but then we will be a 3-D character in a 2-D cartoon strip of a world. I am not convinced many in the Church are willing even to try and be what we are meant to be.  It is so much easier to remain 2-D. The medicine is unpleasant.





Monday, 7 January 2019

How to undermine the Church

The Church of God will not be destroyed, we have God's promise over that, but over time it is undermined and being part of the Church simply becomes harder and harder. Things that were simple say 300 years ago are now acts of considerable heroism. Because there is only One True Church, the Bride of Christ, She is not undermined by setting up a rival.  No rival would stand a chance. Instead temporal ideas and fashions get into the human psyche and make it more and more difficult for us to see that which Christ loves so much. We don't always recognise these fashions for what they are, and this is the danger we face. That which undermines the Church stops Her appearing credible to us so that when scandal breaks, when real harm is done to the Church, nobody really cares or knows how to care.

Below is a list of things which I think have seriously undermined the Church. Destroying the Liturgy is one thing, sexual and financial scandals another, these have been discussed ad nauseam.  Here are, to my way of thinking some other culprits, equally effective in both the East and the West ....

  • Romantic fiction. Romance is dangerous.  Loving a creature in themselves is always dangerous. It is idolatry.  True human love is sacrificial and always looks to the Greater Good, and leads to knowledge of God. Romance and the belief in the goodness of a creature as simply that, a creature, is dangerous. Romance tells us feelings can change the world.  Yeuch...
  • Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Gosh that book is dangerous.  It turns Christmas into something fluffy about being nice to each other. It does virtually nothing to endorse the Incarnation as the source of our salvation, it denies the might and power of God.  That Marleys' ghosts could change how Scrooge acts is direct contradiction of Scripture: think the rich man and Lazarus.  Only the cross can change us. Oh, but it all FEELS soo good and soo cosy. Yes that is precisely the problem.  Now Christmas has become one sentimental, fluff-fest  with a sprinkling of something supernatural and sparkly, where we can feel good about feeling good.  Don't be taken in brothers and sisters, this is dangerous stuff.
  • Belief in Intelligent Aliens. It is getting increasingly difficult to convince people that intelligent aliens don't exist.  They don't.  They have no role in the economy of salvation therefore they don't exist. Say this and you are considered backward.  What about all the EVIDENCE that they exist? There isn't any.  There have been undoubtedly some strange experiences that people have undergone.  Those experiences are real, but in trying to pin them on encounters with alien intelligences is where the fallacy lies.  There are things which are more intelligent than us, that can manipulate us and seek to destroy us, but they are not creatures from another planet. As soon as you start believing in aliens, man ceases to be special, ceases to be made in the image and likeness of God, ceases to be loved especially by God. The universal significance of the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Our Saviour is eroded.  We are geocentric and more significantly Christ-centric, that is what makes the Earth special, not to be worshipped, but special nevertheless. Heliocentricism is an absurdity, the Sun is not special. Space is very big, very very big, it has no geometrical centre, the ONLY centre is theological: Man and God.
  • Progress and Evolution.  The history of the Church is one of increasing persecution, increasing fragmentation, increasing darkness in the world, increasing difficulty in living the faith, increasing clouding of the truth.  There is no triumph of progress. There is only the Triumph of the Cross. Progress and the theory of evolution must be decoupled, that is where the bad science lies.  Evolution is an incomplete science, there is change that occurs over generations, it can be observed and scientific method can be used to chart it. There is nothing wrong with evolutionary theory per se. It is only scientism which links this to some "good", some rational "progress", some time dependent objective..... this is where the rot lies.
  • Revolution. Closely aligned to ideas of progress is the concept of things being revolutionary, fresh, new, and radical; breathed into this time and this space for the benefit of mankind.  It is a myth and  a very dangerous one, modern Catholicism has been completely swamped by it and the Church is seriously undermined as a result. Our faith tells us that which is fresh is that which is eternal and unchanging.
  • Being reactionary.  The alternative to being a revolutionary is often seen as being reactionary. Don't fall for this. Revolutionaries feed off reactionaries, don't give them their life blood. To be a reactionary is often seen as equating to being a traditionalist, it isn't.  True Tradition isn't reactionary, it pays no heed to the revolutionary, it is superior in every way, it does not even engage in battle with the revolutionary, it is safe and secure in itself, even to facing death.
  • Being anti-science. There is nothing in science which contradicts the Truth of our Faith.  It is scientism which makes false claims about science and sets it out to be something it isn't, something salvific. Knowledge of science is vital, especially its limitations.
  • Taking sides politically. I really don't think you can ever say that one political party is better than another in terms of how it fits in with the our life as members of the Church of God. You can be in politics and be a Christian but you cannot wear the badge, you cannot call yourself a Conservative Christian or a Christian Socialist any more than you can call yourself a feminist Christian or an environmental Christian or a gay Christian or indeed a straight Christian. But we can fight, we can fight where we see our Faith being undermined by the state, just never trust a political process to assist in any way.  All politics has progress at its root, therefore it is all wrong.
  • Eastern Mysticism. Autoeroticism with smells, chants and strange symbols..... don't go there, but if you have come from there because it brought you to the Truth: thanks be to God!
Enough... I feel better for that. I write this during a black fast but have postponed publishing it for a while.

Llanthony Priory in S Wales, not I gather wrecked by the Reformation but by lax discipline and too much rich food.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Why Catholic?

This is a question I keep asking myself and the ONLY answer I can give is that I made a promise to uphold the teaching of the Catholic Faith.  I am not one for breaking promises.  God doesn't break promises, the rebellion involved in breaking promises sits very uneasily with the Faith I claim to uphold.  I am also a Confirmation sponsor to 9 young people, I pray for them every day, I see this as one of my most serious duties.

But....

Oh there are so many buts!

On the positive side, the Catholic Church is a broad church, there are theologians I can ignore, their works aren't central to the Faith I am to uphold.  It is easy enough to ignore Rahner, De Lubac and co. and live a perfectly healthy happy Catholic life.  But I also have to ignore the works of St Augustine, St Anselm and others who are recognised as Saints in the Church. I find their teaching unpalatable and I cannot digest it.  I think I can do this and still be a Catholic. My quest is union with the Blessed Trinity, not heavy study of the nuances of great writers in the Church.  No doubt these writers have inspired many, they do not inspire me, it is a broad Church.  The same goes for devotions, we don't have to sign up to particular devotions, some of the greatest saints did not like saying the Rosary. I am crazy about the Green Scapular, I think it is amazing, but I don't expect everyone to find it so. There ought to be a simplicity in our Faith.  We ought not tackle things beyond our capability. Perhaps the greatest positive, though not the simplest is Thomism. It is is a treasure, probably THE treasure that originated solely in the West.

On a negative front, I feel alienation more often than communion with my fellow Catholics (not that feelings count for much).  I am constantly humbled when they ask for advice, get inspiration from things I have said or done and think I am a good Catholic.  Oh no, they are far better than I am. And I am so happy for those who get on with their Faith, are comfortable in the modern world as Catholics, have never known about the Traditions of the Church, whose Faith seems to start with the work of JPII, have never sung plainsong and can happily attend the Novus Ordo with joy and reverence. Rediscovering the Tradition of the Church is probably what ended up triggering the demise of my husband, and it is tearing me apart too.  It opened his eyes to see what a treasure he had squandered in not fulfilling his vocation to the priesthood. His heart was broken. To discover real Love by having your heart broken, is a mystery and a gift in itself, but one few can handle. It is an extremely lonely path to walk.

And the thing is, many Trads don't help. They doggedly cluster behind one pious devotion or another or one hysterical prophetess or another, which leave me cold. They are too willing to scream "heretic" at any body who is not like them. Many of them are factional and have a righteousness and isolationism about them that stems from Protestant sensibilities, especially those in the New World. Also, many of them are disturbingly millennialist and have a gloomy and yet sensationalistic End Times theology that fits squarely in the tradition of the Protestants of the 17th Century, notwithstanding a heavy devotion to the Mother of God to justify their Catholic credentials.  From where I stand, they all seem so terribly modern; early modern, granted, but modern nevertheless. Tradition tells us this is the end times, Christianity is the end times. Get on with saving your own souls and stop lookinng over the entrails of the world.

And then there is the papacy.  Oh dear.  I have blogged about this before. Tu es Petrus is a MYSTERY, Our Lord said it, it stands out of time, it is an Eternal Truth, but what it actually means, I do not know, that is beyond my pay grade.  We have had MANY lousy successors of Peter and yet the Church keeps going. It is a MYSTERY and a MIRACLE.

It is Tradition that is painful for me and makes me ask so much, why Catholic? If you indulge in a bit of archaeology into the traditions of the Catholic Church you find things like the 17th December  being the feast of the Three Boys in the Furnace from the Book of Daniel. Well, that day is still that feast in the Orthodox Church (give and take some local issues with the calendar). The Orthodox TV station even runs programs on the saints of the day, this is the living tradition of the Church and we Catholics have lost it.  The same goes for Elijah at another time of the year and all the other Old Testament forerunners.  Go into any Orthodox Church around the Feast of Elijah and it is his icon that is on sale... and the way people instinctively know the stories of the Old Testament... The Tradition of the Faith is organic here AND  that is with the horrors of Communism cutting through it. And don't get me started on ad orientem and versus populum, tradition isn't tradition for its own sake, there is an underlying reality behind it, it isn't a cosy club, a tribal loyalty, it has REAL SIGNIFICANCE. Indeed I would say it is my primary reason for attending the Greek-Catholic rite out here, so the Liturgy is rightly oriented.  I am disturbed by novelty and versus populum is novelty.The wrecking ball that went through the heart of the Chruch in the 20th Century in the Litrugy and architecture of worship. and in the translations of Holy Scripture can only be judged by its fruits.

There are also ideological grounds for being uncomfortable with Catholicism. I am dead against Ecumenicism and like the hard core Orthodox and Catholics up to the eve of Vatican II, I see it as guided by Freemasonry and I see it as a facet of the heresy of Modernism.  The Catholic Church may not be part of the World Council of  Churches but it sure behaves like it endorses it.  Ecumenicism is certainly encouraged at the cost of Tradition (and Holy Scripture). I feel I have more in common with the Serbian and Russian Orthodox (who may possibly be members but don't behave like members) than I do with the modern Catholic Church.

It may all just be a product of geography.  I am a product of the 2 extreme ends of Eurasia; Ireland and Malaya. Am I simply a Roman Catholic because of my inheritance and the sterling work of St Francis Xavier? Holding on to the Roman Catholic faith is hard especially when it seems so much like an accident of geography and Orthodoxy (incompetent, factonal, grumpy and faulted as it is) simply seems more in tune with Faith and Tradition. The East and West so clearly have different defintions of grace, nature and the supernatural, there isn't a common theology to discuss these things because there isn't a common vocabulary. They are distinct, they cannot be mingled.

Someone who converted from Catholicism to Orthodoxy said "the only way I can remain a Catholic is to become Orthodox".  I understand his sentiment, but I simply cannot follow his path. I will stick to that promise I made to uphold the Catholic Faith (in the Roman tradition) even though I don't understand it and even though often I feel like I simply don't belong.  It is Psalm 118 again: you love the Law and you live the Law because you love God, you sing about it endlessly and you end up being utterly isolated.

But like the Prophet Elijah, we may seem alone, but we are not.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Greek and Roman

A few weeks back I was at a very low ebb.  Recently, there have been two women who have been buttering me up as prospective spousal fodder for their somewhat dissipated, unmarried, mummy's boys.  I was feeling anti-social to say the least and not really trusting anyone. Being suddenly viewed as a rich western European and a prospective gold-mine is repellent to me and makes me want to hide away somewhere, to become completely invisible.  It is times like this when one needs total immersion in the love of God.  Times when only self-abandonment in the Liturgy will do. And these are precisely the times when it doesn't happen.

I arrived at a Greek-Catholic church for the Sunday Liturgy to find it a special service for youth.  There were guitars. I was feeling fragile. I walked out before it started. Instead I went to a Roman Catholic church where the Mass was taking place for the German community.  Unlike the Hungarian community who are ageing, there were plenty of young families and men present. I remembered to genuflect and make the Roman sign of the cross and  hoped I would not stand out too much and took my place in a pew. People did look at me like I smelt bad, but "trendy" religious sisters in the UK would often do that, I've seen that look before. I was hoping for a little more invisibility.  Of course, genuflecting in the middle of the Creed and kneeling for the Sanctus did mark me out as a foreigner. I was near the back of the church and was able to see people going for Communion before I joined the queue.  They were receiving in the hand.  Romanians NEVER do that.  I only had one thought, it was BLOODY GERMANS.  I was in no state to receive the Eucharist myself, so I didn't.

Dumnezuele, fii milostiv mie, păcătosului.

That Sunday was a stark reminder of the realities of the post Vatican II Catholic Church and my own negativity towards it. I was miserable and angry.

Normally the Greek-Catholic Liturgy is OK.  If asked about the difference between the Orthodox Liturgy and the Greek-Catholic Liturgy, the easiest response is to say "about 45 minutes". The endless petitions are shortened, some of the prayers do appear to be missing. The only additions, of the "filioque" and an "ave" or two at the end do not take so long. But there is a Catholic vibe to the Greek-Catholic church. Seats are provided for everyone and the singing is rarely deeply traditional and sounds Western most of the time. The preaching would not be out of place in an ordinary Roman Catholic church, albeit with a few more references to the Church Fathers and early Ecumenical Councils. I have only seen Communion done by intinction rather than from the spoon and usually uses leavened bread.  Though not always. I have actually been deeply uncomfortable about the use of  unleavened wafers in the Greek-Catholic rite. I know the priests will consecrate some to take on house calls, but as a rule on Sundays, it doesn't sit well with the actual words and actions of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Before the Consecration, the Species are very much seen as the dead body of Our Lord, taken from the Cross, the priests' reverence is immense, of course the Body is leavened, it is Christ as loved by Joseph of Arimathea.  To use unleavened bread seems like an unnecessary intrusion of the West into the East. There are more prayers for the Bishop of Rome in the Greek-Catholic Liturgy than in any other in use throughout the Catholic world.  You can not hide its Catholicity.

The Greek-Catholics are determined to keep the Eastern fasting practices including the fast before the Liturgy from the night before. How this can be reconciled with evening Liturgies, I do not know.   There is a lot of ways that it is very Catholic.  Stations of the Cross will be done at Lent, there is a massive devotion to Our Lady of Fatima amongst all Catholics here and you will see people praying the Rosary. There are very few icons to venerate and the bustling, relaxed chaos of the Orthodox, with many things going on at once, is missing. Also, people tend to stay for the whole Liturgy, which is not quite so common amongst the Orthodox.

I am however left wondering what the Greek-Catholic Liturgy  and religious life in general would have been like before Vatican II. Here this also means before the decimation of nearly the entire community under the Communists. Most of its churches were confiscated at that time and have not been returned.  Many Greek-Catholics now share churches with Romans. I my darker moments I wonder if the Servants of God who were physically tortured, psychologically abused, starved and died for their loyalty to Rome, I wonder what they would make of the post Vatican II church. The Greek-Catholics in Romania have always been a small minority, but one that has punched above its weight in terms of its role in the formation of the Romanian nation: politically, culturally and sacrificially.  But to me there is a sadness surrounding it that what the Greek-Catholic church is today is not what it was or what it is meant to be, and I am not just talking about the occasional guitar.


Tuesday, 1 January 2019

The Vulnerability of the Church

Well dear reader, La Mulți Ani!
2019 promises  to be interesting, may God be with us and may we never stray from the Faith.

I have just come back from Iași in NE Romania and this post is a reflection of some thoughts I had whilst I was there. I found it a lovely city and I could certainly live there.  It is very Romanian.  It feels genuine.  Architecturally it is a good blend of well built neo-classical and well weathered brutalist, it is honest about itself and doesn't seem to be trying to be a bland EU clone city.

 And the University district reminded me of Belgrade (sigh), good sturdy buildings, nice parks and cute trams

But I am wanting to write about the Church, so that is what I will do.  My main reason to visit Iași was to venerate the remains of St Parasceva of the Balkans.  She may be an Orthodox saint, but she is  with me, I did not choose her, she came to me and last time I was in Belgrade I promised her I would visit her body and I was determined to fulfil that promise. I live opposite a tram stop  in Bucharest that used to be a church dedicated to her, everybody laments its passing, the site has significance.

St Parasceva's  body has moved about a bit, she never visited Romania during her earthly life, her body has been on a long journey evading the Ottomans and finally came to rest here in Moldavia thanks to Vasile Lupu who spent the region's entire annual wealth to secure her for the nation. Pilgrims flock here all year round.  This is not the season for her veneration, but the queues were still impressive.  The cathedral where she lies is like a field hospital for souls. Visit when the Liturgy isn't taking place and you will probably hear a beautifully sung akathist or see a healthy queue of pilgrilms at the saint's shrine, people getting anointed, sinners coming into church to scoff the antidoron and pray in their visible wretchedness, grandmothers wanting infants to receive Communion and the priests obliging, people desperate for blessings from priests, Confession, praying before icons, reading holy tracts in the side stalls and copious quantities of holy water being sloshed over everyone by gleeful priests from somewhat undignified plastic buckets.

It looks healthly enough but the Orthodox church is vulnerable.  A fish rots from the head.  Orthodoxy in Romania is in danger, it is too wealthy and complacent and has not wised up to the dangers of modernism and ecumenicism. I fear it will die out in a generation, as those I know who have left Orthodoxy for  Catholicism or Protestantism lament, it is shamefully ignorant of its own teaching and heritage and shamefully reliant on custom and practice. But looking at the men present (and there are many men in an Orthodox church) I ask myself if they are willing to die for the faith, and I think they would.  Men will die for beauty.  They will kill for an idea but they will die to defend beauty. And Orthodoxy is beautiful.

Next door to the Orthodox Cathedral is the Catholic Cathedral, a somewhat lamentable piece of architecture on the outside but pleasant enough inside.

Having got used to the Greek-Catholic rite, and having indulged my senses in vast number of Orthodox churches and monasteries during my stay, attending a Novus Ordo here was something of a shock. However, if I had to be condemned to only ever being allowed to hear Mass in the Novus Ordo, I would hope that I could live out my punishment in Romania. They celebrate the Mass with dignity and when catering for themselves and not the German or Hungarian minorities, there is only Communion on the tongue under one kind. But Versus Populum is a shock to the system.  There is a nakedness about the Novus Ordo that is shocking and this to me is the vulnerability of the Catholic Church.  Nothing is concealed, there is no iconostasis or rood screen, the sacred actions are on view and this simply doesn't seem right, it makes me wince.  The priests themselves look nearly indecently underdressed.  The sacred vessels are horribly exposed without cloth coverings.  It is a brash nakedness and has no place in the sacred Liturgy. We conceal Christ's nakedness in a crucifix, why should we expose it during the Mass? We are sinners, we cannot cope with nakedness. My sensitivity cannot cope with the Novus Ordo.  I feel I am being forced to look at something that I feel unworthy so to do. It leaves me wanting to hide again in some corner of a dark Orthodox church under the impassive but triumphant gaze of the Saints. My fear is that constant exposure to such nakedness, cheapens our understanding of the sacred. The Catholic Church has nearly undone herself in exposing her Beauty in this manner.

****
Back in the Orthodox Cathedral, I spent some good moments with St Parasceva, I could kiss her clothing and caress her head. I love her, in Christo, I love her.  I scuttled into a stall next to the icon of St George to soak in the moment and to be with God under the protection of the Saints.  St George pointed me in the direction of the saint on the opposite supporting column, he wanted me to know something.  It was St Eustace. I smiled and he smiled too. I was to leave a very special intention with St Eustace.  It is for a person who reads this blog, and he knows who he is.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Undeniable Reality

With a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm: for His mercy endureth forever.

In manu potenti et bracchio excelso: quoniam in aeternum misericordia eius.

Руком крепком и мишицом подигнутом : јер је довијека милост његова

Cu mână tare și cu braț înalt, că în veac este mila Lui.

Ps 135  v.12

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Saturday, 22 December 2018

the Nativity Fast

Sorry for my absence from the aether, there have been many reasons for this.  First and foremost, I think there are times when silence is more valuable.  Several rants have been brewing within me and I've thought it best to work through them and not inflict you with my venom. The Breviary in Advent (well certainly the pre-PiusX one I use) is beautiful, lose yourself in that.  You don't need anything else.

My second reason for not blogging is that simply everything is too dark.  I have not yet found a way of helping illuminate the darkness, only in pointing out just how dark things are. Maybe I should be doing that, I don't know. Indeed in purely human terms, that is all I can do. But I am supposed to be a Christian, somehow I should be bringing in the Light.

We are in a hell, of that there is no doubt, but Christ entered that hell to be with us and Christ smashed open the gates of hell from within.  He entered hell as a thief and left in triumph.  The gates of hell cannot prevail.

I have however found inspiration from an unlikely source and this is why I am back at the keyboard. I don't know how carefully you are following the goings on in the Ukraine.  I suggest you follow.  It is a key which opens the door to understanding the whole geopolitical nightmare in which we are all subsumed. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, this singular region is the battleground of the powers and principalities.  And the Glory of God is never far away!

To be brief, the Ukraine now has an Established Church, very much like the Church of England.  It is a religion born of the state and which will do the state's bidding.  Those who do not show right worship in this new church are now being labelled as traitors.  Indeed  the state has named (something it can't do) the former church the Russian Orthodox Church.  It never had that name.  The parallel with the Roman Catholic Church in England during the 16th Century is there for all to see. If you are a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, you are serving a foreign power, you cannot be trusted, you are not a true son of the soil. The laws used against Catholics in England were the laws of treason. The statecraft of Tudor England is already in play in the Ukraine: priests hauled off for interrogation, locks on church doors changed and faithful worshippers prevented from entering, vitriolic polemics against those perceived as foreigners, a thuggery spreading fear amongst ordinary people......  Unlike Tudor England however, the amazing thing is the scarcity of Bishops who have capitulated, I have only seen 2 named.  Indeed in one diocese  where the Bishop did indeed go over, the Abbots, Abbesses (plural note) and priests got together to say that they would not follow.  There is a lesson in here for faithful Catholics. (I even think he may have returned, but I can't be sure). There are times when disobedience towards an Ordinary is necessary.  Indeed the reason why the situation is different from Tudor England is that the monastic life in Ukraine has not been decimated.  Henry VIII had more successful statecraft than Poroshenko and the CIA.

My inspiration from the Ukraine is the number of Bishops who have written open letters in which they thank God for the current situation.  The Praise of God is the key.  They are praising God because the Kingdom of God is at hand. Martyrdom is necessary; white and red.  Martyrdom  is wholehearted love of God and love of the Church: all that has been handed down through Holy Tradition and the Apostles, love of all that is good, beautiful and true.

So in a Catholic manner, let us too give thanks for all that is happening.  Let us give thanks for:
  • the appalling rapprochement with the Chinese and the betrayal of the Chinese Underground Church
  • the lack of solid, consistent spiritual nourishment and witness from Pontifex Maximus and most of the Bishops
  • the chaos in Rome
  • the abuse scandals
  • the financial scandals
  • dodgy canonisations
  • and that Pontifex Maximus feels he can rubber stamp a change in the Pater Noster
Most importantly let us give thanks that the visible Church is so weak, chaotic, ugly and corrupt.  It will blindside the enemy. Each and everyone of us is visibly weak, chaotic, ugly and corrupt but Christ is with His flock, the gates of hell are rent asunder. Love Him, listen to Him.

Glory to God for All Things

Friday, 30 November 2018

Playing the Victim

There is a narrative which to my mind is totally corrupt and likely to lead to the very destruction of civilisation and culture. It is the narrative of victimhood. We are meant to have sympathy with victims, we lable those who have turned others into victims "opressors".  We have a black and white narrative of goodies and baddies.  We are suposed to go on marches and fight for the rights of the victims.   We are meant to legislate to preven further  victimisation.  Everything gets labelled as either opressed or opressor and it all escallates out of control. The narrative needs characters for it to survive, endless new causes and new enemies are constantly being devised. It is wrong. But lets all meet in the main square and hold hands and light a few candles for the victims and them go home, feeling better that we have done someting.

If someone is helpless, help them.  If they are hungry, feed them.  If they are naked, clothe them. If they need shelter, house them.  If they are sick, nurse them. Such souls are poor.  Being truly poor means you are not able to provide for  yourself and you are reliant on the  help of others.  Such souls are not victims.  They are simply poor.  Love them.

But we live in absurd times where you can be a "victim of old age" or a  "victim of traditional notions of gender and identity". The true nature of what a victim is has been lost.  The victim was the animal for sacrifice.  There is some higher good in such victimhood for over which the victim has no control.  It is the very goodness and purity of the victim than makes eveything so solemn.

Environmentalists play out the Earth as victim too.  The Earth is seen as a victim of man's aggression and dominance. It is an insidious narrative and it lies at the heart of much of what is done in the name of humanitarian work.

As an example, here is what the UN is feeding Serbia in its attempts to "civilise" the nation. http://www.rs.undp.org/content/serbia/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html
It all looks fairly harmless and it is possible to have a lot of sympathy for the aims of the UN programme. However "sympathy" is exactly the response we should not have.  We cannot afford to have a response that puts emotions at the forefront.  As with all things UN, this is about building up charters of rights and calling them universal. Many of these rights are senseless. The whole program is in direct conflict with Natural Law, and we must wake up to the fact that it is.

The whole of western civilisation is founded on Natural Law and it is being triumphantly dismantled by the purveyors of victimhood.  In Bulgaria this week there was a march for womens' rights.  The march was to remember the dreadful number of women who have been killed or injured by their spouses.  The march was condemned, rightly so, by the Orthodox Church.  But this makes the Church look like baddies. The arguments against the victim culture cannot be heard. The very real help that needs to be offered to those who are affected by domestic violence (and I include the aggressors here too) can not even begin to start.

There are many NGOs working here in Eastern Europe to promote these causes and build up sympathy for these "victims".  Here are some of the information boards in Belgrade of a German NGO working in Serbia.  Sorry for the quality,  I forgot my camera on my last trip and had to use the camera on my low tech Nokia dumbphone. Women's rights soon becomes cheap and safe access to abortions.  Sexual rights completely deny the fact our natural state is celibate; it is marriage that is the choice. The environmental goals are based on appallingly low levels of scientific knowledge and literacy.

Many years back in the UK in a memorable sermon, a now retired Archbishop said: the story of the Good Samaritan is not told us to campaign for better street lighting on the road to Jericho or for stiffer penalties for muggers or even to say that society and its priests are corrupt because they do not help victims, the story is not one of social justice, it is one of disinterested love in action. 

We have a fight on and I'm not sure we know how to proceed, our own beloved Church is completely awash with the culture of victimhood.

Here is some music whilst you ponder.  Headbang and practice your throat singing with  Mongolia's The HU, no sign of victimhood here.  Love it.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Church and State

Tomorrow (25.11.2018) in Bucharest, the world's tallest Orthodox Cathedral will be officially inaugurated in the presence of the Patriarch of Constantinople. I went down to the site today to have a look.  There were plenty of priests scurrying about, there is a sense that something big is happening though it is still very much a building site.

The current cathedral is small and dwarfed by the administrative building of the Parochiate.  There is no doubt a new cathedral is a good thing.

There is lots about the project that can leave one uncomfortable.  Partly it is the fact that non-practising believers and even some devout believers are repulsed by the cost. It is not a good advert for the faith.  It does seem a bit of a vanity project.  For me, I dislike the name: the Peoples' Salvation Cathedral.  No reference to Christ or the Church Triumphant?  A good Communist could have come up with a name like that.  Also I dislike the location.  It is on the same site as the world's second largest government building after the Pentagon.  The two sit there stylistically clashing with each other yet strangely fraternal.  There is something they both seem to symbolise, something quite unpalatable.

The Church can enhance, even transfigure the State. The opposite is never true. Yet, here we have Church and State, very much on the terms and conditions of the State.  This is all too topsy-turvy. I feel I am looking at Established religion, like the Church of England.  This is not a good thing.

Still, it is mighty impressive.  And it does only seem to be the Orthodox who have the self-confidence to build grand things for God these days. I will admit to being slightly jealous of Orthodox self-confidence.

Belgrade's still unfinished St Sava's is bigger though not as tall.  Its glittery crypt chapel and the stunning mosaic work in the main cathedral dome are complete.  One is left in no doubt of the influence of Serbia's "sugar daddy" in all of this and even some committed Russiaphiles will say, it's not really to our taste, we like things a bit darker and more Byzantine.


The dynamic relationship between Church and State will never be a perfect thing.  However faulted it is, it is nice to be in these Balkan countries where the Church is still a major player and cannot be ignored.

Romania is not immune to the turmoil in Orthodoxy. The Patriarch of Constantinople may be in town tomorrow, but it will the the Patriarch of Jerusalem who will preside over the Liturgy for St Andrew's day, arguably a bigger event as St Andrew is the patron of Romania and the day precedes National Day when this year Romania will be celebrating 100 years of existence in its present form. I am left wondering if the Romanian Orthodox Church is involved is some sort of via media, trying to accommodate all.  "We Brits" know where that leads.

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 the Orthodox friendly Milanković calendar (basically a modified Gregorian calendar) and major feasts (except for Easter) fall on the same days as those in the Latin Church. The Romanian chruch 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.