Wednesday, 26 June 2019

baby talk

In mid November (DV) I will become an auntie for the first time.  My youngest sister is going to carry on the family line, both of her older sisters are childless and she is no spring chicken herself.  Mum was somewhat frantic that Minima got pregnant and there has been an bit of an unseemly push towards getting science to enhance the chances.  Providentially, she conceived before science had its wicked way. Poor Mum, tumbling out of her mid seventies and still with no grandchild to talk about with her friends.  I sort of understand where she is coming from.

I have never had a maternal bone in my body.  Somehow I've always known my fate lies elsewhere. However middle sis has been very keen to have children, but could never seem to settle with a man and being only four years younger than me, she must be getting a bit wistful now and thinking it will never happen.  She has had a difficult year on many levels and this major event in the family won't have helped.

Having a baby in the family will be a novelty, indeed the last one was Minima herself. There is a shortage of aunties and uncles and no first cousins.

I  am not proud of my reaction to the family news, yet I will share it with you because that is what I do.  I am empty and I want to be left alone with my emptiness.  I love my little sister, she has a sweet and kind nature and her fiancee is a great person.  I love her even more as she has agreed to my demands in all of this.  These demands came out of the blue.  But I had to make them and I am frightened by what I have asked her to do for me.  I have asked her not to show me any ultrasound scans or reveal the sex of the child to me.  It was as if something deep inside of me wanted some control of the situation.  What are my motives?  Why did I need to do this?  I really am a nasty little sh*t sometimes.

But I have to be honest with you.  I can't stand baby talk (people talking about babies).  To me pregnancy should be a time of silence, a time for the mother to listen to the child and to get to know it on its terms.  This includes not knowing its gender till it is born, this includes no invasive snapshots, as few trips to the doctors as possible and zero sentimentality. All these modern things I dislike, they turn the child into an object, a commodity rather than a work of God. Nothing makes me more depressed than baby talk. I stop feeling like a woman, or rather, women start to seem so alien to me because they seem to run on baby talk.. I end up feeling like I am in some genderless hinterland in a hypercharged sexual environment.  Extreme alienation; not a bloke and not a "real" woman.

Bitter? No.
Tired? Yes.
Ashamed? Yes
Glad I am 2000 km away? Yes.


Saturday, 22 June 2019

soon be holidays

Early last evening the most spectacular rain I have ever seen fell out of the sky.  I have witnessed some awesome tropical storms in the past, but for 5 minutes yesterday, Bucharest topped the lot. Had it continued any longer it would have been terrifying and fatal. If I have one criticism of the mighty power of nature, it was her timing.  Could she not have waited till the Pride march taking place this weekend?  Or could it just have been a little bit later in the evening so that the children with the annoyingly shrill voices that play till the small hours round the back of my apartment would stay indoors and I could have a quiet night? Nature, however is arbitrary in her choices of when and where, and we all have to live with that.

There is very little in life that we have any real control of or power over.  A quiet night is a case in point.  Here what prevents sleep are either the aforementioned children (who are actually out with their less than sober parents) or it is extremely drunk men making their way back to cheap hostels after a night in the Old Town. (I take it they are off duty NATO soldiers as they all have nice hair cuts and are trim and speak mainly Western European languages). It is not stag dos. So far the French have been the worst, the English are bad and more so because I can understand every word they say.  Back in Wessex, nature had more of a say.  My rural retreat was home to some noisy owls and the village tom cat made sure that full moons would be accompanied by the horrid sound of bunny in extremis.  He would also leave me a well gutted carcass in the morning.  Full moons also meant more human activity; military exercises disturbing owl, cat and human with low flying helicopters rattling the roof tiles.  And there was the farce of the West Coast railway electrification..... pile driving all through the night...

Life was never better in the past, life will continue much as it ever was in the future.  Some things are eternal.

Our ability to worry our parents is a case in point.  Mine are currently fretting like mad over my trip to Iran in a week or so.  Part of me wishes I could lie. Part of me wishes I could keep the details of my life from them.  My middle sister skilfully managed to lie to them a few years back and say she was on holiday in S Africa when in fact she was in Zimbabwe just as hell was breaking loose there.  The only peace I get in my heart, is to continue with my plan of going to Iran.  I can't explain that to anyone.  I could justify my plans with logic and say that Iran is probably one of the safest places to visit, Iran itself is not the problem.  The problem is geopolitical and if Iran is destabilised, then the nearly the whole world will become unsafe and we will all be in a bad way wherever we are. Logic doesn't count for much.  I understand their concern, yet I can not stop their worry.  I have nothing to lose and I have no dependents so I am not being reckless or selfish.  My parents will worry whatever.  They are not particularly fond of me going to Serbia either. If only I could have married someone "normal", had a family, done "normal" things.... known "normal" people......

Children, eh?




Saturday, 15 June 2019

St Vitus

Today, on the calendar I am using, it is the feast of St Vitus. He is one of the Saints of that great pre-Reformation devotion to the Fourteen Holy Helpers.  I mention this day because his feast has a great Collect.  There are any number of generic collects for martyrs, but St Vitus unusually seems to have a collect to himself.  This is it:

We beseech Thee, O Lord, through the intercession of Thy holy Martyr Vitus, grant to Thy Church not to be worldly minded but advance in that humility which is pleasing to Thee; that despising what is evil, she may exercise  with unfeigned charity the things which are right.  Per Dominnum nostrum. 

St Vitus, Ora pro nobis.

It seems particularly fitting these days when the Church is utterly consumed with worldly matters.

I also mention this feast in connection with the Fourteen Holy Helpers.  It was one of the joys of coming to Romania, that these fourteen saints, grouped together as they are in the West, are very much in evidence in the East in their own right.  Indeed they are very much part of  the everyday faith out here. Their names and icons are everywhere and their relics are easy to find and venerate.  In the West, with the exception of St George (and possibly St Blaise on one day a year) they are largely ignored. Wandering round fairly ordinary Orthodox churches out here was like greeting the faith in pre-Reformation England. The sense of timeless Communion with the ordinary foot soldiers of Christendom was and is very special to me.  This is the faith you tap into when you sit in one of the medieval churches of England, now in the hands of the Anglicans, with their bare ruined choirs  where the uncovered paintings of their former glory shine out in faded defiance to the forces of iconoclasm and false theology. The great cloud of witnesses cannot be defeated.

Having said all that, I can't find a mention of St Vitus in the Romanian almanac for today, or indeed any day.  This particular day in 2019 is the massive summer remembrance of the dead, Moșii de vară, it being the Saturday before Pentecost, but his name is not amongst the names of the saints for the day.

He is massive elsewhere in the Orthodox world, more specifically in the Slavic countries, especially in Serbia, particularly as his feast is also the martyrdom of St Lazar and the beginnings of that country's heartache surrounding who she is and what Kosovo actually means to her (everything basically). However as stubborn Julians, the 15th June is 13 days hence on the 28th (vigil of Ss Peter and Paul for us and also for me, the anniversary of my Baptism).

St Vitus's popularity in central (Catholic) Europe is also without question, especially Germany, Czech Republic and Croatia.

We live, like St Vitus in the days of a fading, paranoid, irrational and dangerous empire. This empire is not a geographical location though is is associated with some nations more than others.  It is an empire ready to attack (psychologically at any rate) anything it sees as a threat.  The genuine expression of the Christian faith may be an even bigger threat to that empire than any of the worldly ones it repeatedly vocalises (Russia, China, Iran .....) .   Are we genuinely living that faith?

This leads me back nicely to today's collect.
St Vitus, pray for us.


Saturday, 8 June 2019

First World Problems

I think I have mentioned elsewhere how the mundane things in life get me down.  These are usually the uniquely first world problems that seemed designed to take up more of our time than they ought to.

Here are a few gems from the last couple of weeks:

Banks: I am reluctant to get a smartphone as I have no desire to have my life taken over by any  piece of technology.  I have to say, my students are in agreement with me. They are encouraging me to stick with my dumbphone.  They tell me how trapped they feel by smartphones and how ashamed they are of the number of hours they spend on them.  Therefore, when my bank told me to get a smart phone to continue accessing the services I have with them, I was most annoyed. I can not now access my account without one, and it has been driving me potty, especailly as they never warned me they were "upgrading". So I have changed banks. The technofascists will not win!

Antiperspirant:  It is getting increasingly difficult to find antiperspirant that lasts for only 24 hours.  Most is sold as roll-ons lasting 48+ hours.  Why?  We wash everyday.  These things are full of aluminium.  It is not a great metal to get absorbed into the bloodstream. Surely the 48+ hours pack a higher dose of aluminium than the 24hour stuff? This 48 hours stuff seems to be "one night stand" deodorant.  I do not approve.

Assumptions:  One of the depressing aspects of my recent brief trip to the UK was the assumptions other Brits made about me. They assumed I was of the opinion that Obama and Mandela were all-round good eggs. They assumed I would be uncritically against Trump, Putin and Brexit.  There was no room for nuance or criticism. There seemed to be only one true belief and I was left feeling like a complete outsider and keen to get back to the Balkans.   Even in desperately pro-EU, pro-NATO Romania, there is room for opinions and nobody starts a conversation assuming you have the same views as they do.

Modest clothing: As my trip to Iran gets closer, I have been experimenting with what to stick on my head. I always feel underdressed without something on my head.  Favourite headgear of the moment is a snazzy cream coloured sailor's cap I picked up in Belgrade.  It keeps the sun off my cataracts and means I don't have to bother with tiresome sunglasses.  It will not do as headgear in Iran.  Hijabs seem to be what is needed, but they are not Iranian and indeed I am not keen in them. Feminine and elegant as they are, they have far too much cloth restricting ones neck.  Trendy Iranians wear them beautifully and with a fair amount of hair showing, I can't get this look to stay on my head so I find it irritating. The older  Iranians favour the chadour and I have a few scarves that are of this size.  It makes one look awful however (think pre-war Irish immigrant shawlee in the North of England) but seems to be cooler.  I am currently favouring Orthodox nun chic, especially Romanian style, there is a natty pillbox hat under the large flowing scarf which is pinned neatly below the chin.  Everything seems to stay in place. I also am grateful to that little voice in my head that told me to buy several pairs of summer trousers when I was last in Belgrade.  The Romanian leg is much shorter than the Serbian and I have yet to find a pair of trousers in Bucharest that fit me and are suitable for Iranian standards of modesty.

Cultural differences: I regret not listening to the little voice in my head when I was in Glasgow that told me to buy a load of greetings cards for all occasions: births, deaths, weddings etc.. Romanians do not send cards.  There has been a death in my late husband's family and I need to send a card to the deceased's relatives. I will write a letter too. I was very fond of the gentleman and he was the last of his generation. It is the end of an era, I hope the family can remain united now he has departed. Can't find a card anywhere.  I am making my own.  This is easier said than done.

***

Central Bucharest: home to yours truly







Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Glasgow drizzle

Just back from my travels to Glasgow.  I had forgotten who much I love that city and its people. It remains my only regret that I never took up my place at Glasgow University and went to Edinburgh instead.  I think I would have flourished in Glasgow, I never got the hang of Edinburgh and it only seems to be the Glaswegians who understand what it is about Edinburgh that I find so uncomfortable.

This won't be a deep post.  I am just having a bit of a ramble and pixelating some of my thoughts.

My flight out was delayed because the crew couldn't get to the plane because of the Papal motorcade in Bucharest.  I have to admit I did not take my own advice to ignore the Papal visit to Romania.  I wanted to observe a few things.  As my hotel room was a rather bleak windowless affair, I was glad of You Tube and the chance to go to some of the Romanian news sites and follow the Papal progress in the evenings. The Liturgy at the beatification of the 7 Greek-Catholic Bishops who were victims of Communism was interesting.  I was curious to see what a Papal open-air Byzantine Liturgy looked like.  The "stage" was rather bare and the singing rather female but it was dignified and shows it is possible to give Communion to thousands without any profanation. The Bread was in the form of "soldiers" and was dipped into the Precious Blood in the multiple chalices by priests and received on the tongue by the faithful.  During the Liturgy the Pope looked in turn frail/bemused/bored/exhausted. It was certainly a marathon for him, but fittingly so considering the terrible sacrifice the Greek-Catholics made during Communist times for their loyalty to Rome and the Pope.  On leaving Romania, his audience with the press on the plane was utterly incoherent even by his standards.

Glaswegians are some of the most lively, well educated, handsome, friendly souls in Europe (next only to Belgraders). I will never ever understand Scottish nationalism. Scotland is undeniably British.  It is the most British part of the United Kingdom.The street names are British (George, Hanover, Frederick, Bath, Pitt.....), the wealth that made Scotland is British, Scotland made the British Empire.  Most of the towns only came into existence because they are British garrison towns. The landscape was changed forever by the British landowners. You remove the British from Scotland and you are left with nothing.  What existed before the Union cannot be brought back, it is dead as dead can be.  Part of me is rabid Jacobite and there was never a more dead cause than that and it really was a cause for an alternative, more pluralistic Britain rather than simply a Scottish thing.  What is modern Scotland? What is this thing called Scotland that allegedly can be independent of the rest of Britain? It is a law making entity with historically strong links to Europe, it has multiple identities, but it is British.

When not doing what I went over to do, I spent my time looking for regional culinary delights. I regret the Lorne sausage. I never liked it, but eyes were bigger than belly and I devoured a greasy roll complete with Lorne sausage, brown sauce and bacon.  I was unable to find a scotch pie, white pudding or cranachan. However I was rewarded with the best fish supper I have ever eaten,  The previous best was in Fraserburgh 30 years ago.  This one came with home made white bread and butter and lashings of tea. I also blew my brains out with a sugar rush from some tablet.  Heaven!

Got my longest ever penance from a priest in the confessional ....... wow!!  Indeed I liked the feel of Catholicism in Scotland.......... 

Also, I made my first ever contactless payment with my debit card ....... whatever next....










Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Diffcult Conversations

Dear St Philip Neri had a maxim that you should agree with everyone.  It is a difficult maxim to swallow, but one that must be agreed with (in the context of his other maxims) otherwise it is pointless.  Nothing St Philip did or said was pointless.  Obviously this does not include justification of another's sin, we must never be complicit in that.  This maxim refers to the expressing of a point of view, a view that does not have an action associated with it. It refers simply those points of view that are held by the person with whom you are conversing.  It is these that you must agree with.

Why?

It is a sign of humility.  It is a sign that you assume your speaker has more knowledge of the subject than you do. It is a sign that you admit your own ignorance of the matter.  It is a sign that you are willing to concede that the other guy may have a point.  We all need to be listened to. It is only if these conditions are met that the maxim can be obeyed in all sincerity.  And sincerity is important.

Obviously this does not descend into having to agree with the ludicrous and the absurd, but nor does it mean that we push on with a direct counterargument to anything ludicrous or absurd that we have heard. If our friend says he thinks rabbits should be exterminated because they are a threat to the amount of grass on the planet.  I think you answer this by saying that grass thrives on being trimmed and consumed, so the rabbits may be doing the grass a favour. But you say this in ignorance, like you are more unsure of your argument that he is with his. You have recognised that your friend is anxious about the survival of grass.  You have agreed with your friend that grass may be threatened, but you offer a sympathetic alternative to his strategy. You may also throw into the conversation that you are anxious about the survival of foxes and if the rabbits go, the foxes may get hungry.  So in a roundabout way you too have agreed that rabbits do need to die (though not total extermination). It is good to increase the range of sympathies that your friend may have.

I have had some difficult conversations in recent days.

Firstly with a Catholic adolescent here in Romania who is very excited about the Pope's visit this weekend.  You know me well enough by now; how can I agree with that?  But to counter it would be a scandal.  So I said it is exciting, it is a once in a lifetime thing, something to remember. I was also able to add truthfully that I will be in Glasgow this weekend so that awkward follow-up question about whether I was participating in any of the events could be avoided.

There have been some slightly more difficult conversations with Serbs.

These have been difficult because agreeing with them comes too easily.  This too can be a danger.  Our conversations have centred around the Ustache and the Jasenovac concentration camp (the commandant was a Franciscan Friar).  If you don't know anything about these, then I suggest you look them up.  The level of involvement of the Catholic Church is thoroughly documented and undeniable and yet it is completely ignored or unknown by most Catholics. The least of the crimes was the forced conversion of  Serbs to Catholicism and death camps if they didn't. Agreement with my Serb friends comes with a heavy knowledge that we Catholics are not owning up to or making necessary reparation for some truly horrific and evil things that were done in full knowledge of the Church and in some cases by her consecrated members. These things are recent.  They add to the evidence against the theory that the Catholic Church was infiltrated by Communists, if it had been then these atrocities against Communists and other anti-Fascists would have had a lot more limelight as the Church adopted a more leftist position post war and tried to distance itself from its past. Being sorry for these crimes would have assured their victory, if they existed. Penitence always carries credibility with it.  This would have been a win-win for the commie infiltrated church.

But at least in that conversation I could sound like a Catholic.

Several Serb friends have been grumbling that their government gifted 1M USD to France for the rebuilding of Notre Dame.  This hurts as virtually no foreign money has come to Serbs for the rebuilding of the historic and culturally significant Orthodox religious sites so recently butchered in Kosovo and Metohija. Serbia is not a rich country. Again, agreement comes easily.  But I found myself utterly against the rebuilding of Notre Dame.  I personally think it should be the Catholic Church alone and nobody but the Catholics who rebuild it.  If that can't happen then it should be allowed to rot.  It should not be a symbol for the French State to glory in.  I am not sure I am left sounding like a Catholic.

An ongoing conversation with Orthodox about the role of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine is also leaving me very uncomfortable because my sympathies are with the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine and not with Phanar's autocephaly enterprise or the politicking of the Ukranian  Greek-Catholics.

Agreeing with people can be dangerous, walking a line that doesn't stray into treachery is hard.

Thank you St Philip. Your lessons are always most difficult and challenging.








Sunday, 26 May 2019

Hanging Out with Evangelicals (1)

I have been meaning to write a series of posts about my experiences with the Evangelicals in Romania.  They are a friendly bunch and I have been invited to many events and to hear many speakers.  The difficulty I have about writing about my experiences is that there is nothing to describe.  When describing my time with the Orthodox, it is easy. We have a common heritage. Despite the very real differences and irreconcilable departure in the understandings of grace and nature, there are common traditions and a seemingly timeless brotherhood of unwritten, unspoken communion, broken as it is. I can leave all that unwritten and concentrate on describing what I see and feel. When writing about time with the Evangelicals there are only two things to write about: firstly narratives describing individuals (something I like to steer clear of in the public domain) and secondly, WORDS.  There are endless words, endless witness statements, endless scripture, endless expoundings of truth and surety in that truth. Writing words about spoken words is not easy or interesting. There is no common attitude to prayer, no common understanding of saints, the Mother of God, sacraments, mystery, what is real and what is unreal.  Nevertheless they are genuinely sincere, friendly and often courageous witnesses to Christ who will undertake works of charity that put everyday Catholics and Orthodox to shame. And they know scripture better than most Catholics and Orthodox and this too is to our shame.

The Evangelicals out in Romania tend to be quite young. There are well established Protestant communities in Transylvania, but here in Walachia the communities are fairly new. Most Protestants are from nominally Orthodox families and most haven't got a good word to say about Orthodoxy.  Most seem to have converted here in Romania.  From what I can gather, there was a rush of Protestant sects coming over after the fall of Communism.  Some were successful, others less so.  But all seemed to have considerable amounts of American money behind them.  They were not lacking in resources. Giving charity to souls desperately in need brings about conversions. In the same way that my grandfather and his mother converted to Catholicism in Malaya due to being picked off the streets and given some dignity by Jesuit missionaries.If Methodists had done the same, they'd have become Methodists. The Protestants I know were not amongst that first wave, but belong to those Protestant communities that have managed to stick around, usually the result of charismatic pastors.  They were converted through scripture, through finding Jesus in holy scripture.  I have experienced nothing but warmth and generosity from them.

Catholicism for them is the elder faith, they reformed it (and obviously made it better) but we are of the same family.  To Protestants, the Orthodox are like distant cousins, they will tell you stories of "good Orthodox people" but they only seem to reinforce the notion that on the whole Orthodoxy has lost the plot and the people are not so good. For them Orthodoxy is simply primitive superstition and ritual that scandalously obscures the Body of Christ. For their part and quite rightly, the Orthodox never defend themselves. However, it is not difficult to see why so many covert to Protestantism, if all you see of the Orthodox faith is endless church construction, fat clerics in fancy cars and old ladies clinging to icons.


They are curious about me because I know scripture, I have some compelling witness stories of my own, I seem "normal", I disabuse them of some of their misconceptions about the Catholic faith and I am genuinely fond of them. I also spend a bit of time explaining Orthodoxy to them, I am always wary of souls who convert in bitterness, as a reaction to something.  Truth will lead you gently to Truth, there should be no room for bitterness no matter from where you have come.

But I am ever the chameleon........ there is a gulf between us, that they can't see and I can't bridge.


Saturday, 25 May 2019

European integration

This last week, I finally made an order with a company that supplies British fodder to all corners of the globe.  Fellow ex-pats had recommended it but I was sure I was happy enough with the local produce and had no need for British food.

It was the thoughts of being able to purchase a multi-pack of pork scratchings that proved too much of a temptation, and I did my shopping.  Along with the pork scratchings I bought marmalade, brown sauce in a glass bottle, decent curry powder, decent loose leaf tea and Bird's custard powder. When I opened the box, the custard powder winked beguilingly at me, flashing its Romanian tricolour seductively and cheekily.  I think Romania needs British custard, well I certainly don't think anyone here would dislike it.



Custard was the first thing I made from my box of goodies, even before I opened the pork scratchings.  It was somewhat lumpy. I have never made lumpy custard before. I was cross with myself for being impatient.

The strange thing was, on tasting it, I had forgotten just how unlike egg custard this stuff actually is.  There is a fairly decent egg custard to be had in Serbia, so it is a taste I have fresh memories of.  Bird's custard is a thing all of its own: a somewhat artificial but comforting taste and texture (even with lumps), it just screams to be poured over stewed fruit in its own right, it really isn't custard as such.  It is just a uniquely British goo.

So I tucked in and simultaneously watched Nigel Farage's Euro Election rally speech for the Brexit Party. Populist politics at its finest, this was most entertaining, I have considerable sympathy for what he is doing and I wish him well.  It was a rally full of people who undoubtedly love Bird's custard, brown sauce and pork scratchings, but I felt no yearning to be amongst them.

A historian friend of mine described the political situation in the UK as being like a comedy version of the Weimar Republic.  I sense some truth in that and I fear a very dark deep shadow lurking on the horizon if something approaching multi-party democracy cannot happen.  The UK has a party of government and a party of opposition, and they really are the same thing, there is no politics as such, just a law making machinery of no benefit to the electorate in general.  The UK is a mess, its politics is a very British goo: a lumpy custard that isn't really custard, poured over stewed fruit that looks like it has never seen a field or an orchard.  It is artifice masquerading as tradition and stability.

Romania is a mess too and blithely walking into an abyss of  total subjugation to the Atlanticists. In some ways I fear a darker future for her than I do for the UK, but she is home for now and as a friend said, she is  "shambolic, irritating, immature and strangely lovable".  It is the love I can't feel for the UK despite the desires of my stomach.



Saturday, 18 May 2019

Nothing new under the sun ......

Many years ago, I was living somewhere in the UK that will remain nameless, the aged priest we had was made to retire (though I think he would have preferred to die in harness) and sent back to Ireland and we got a new English one.  Changes were instant. Our new priest did not like crucifixes, he had some real issues with seeing the corpus on the cross.  On Good Friday, Veneration of the Cross was done to a bare wooden cross.  It broke my heart, it was the old parish crucifix and you could see the marks where the corpus had been.  That someone could remove (and discard!!?) a corpus from the cross was beyond my comprehension.  I cried.

The Triduum was never the same again.  The comfort in things always being the same had gone.  The comfort of praying through Holy Week without being worried about what innovation was coming next, without having to think about the Liturgy BUT actually live the Liturgy was gone. Liturgy suddenly became important... indeed it started our quest to find the older rite and stability and eternal beauty..... it started a whole new heartache.

You may think I was overreacting.  But it was just the trigger that was needed to uncover a deeper darkness in my soul.  Something I had lived with since I had reverted to the Faith.  Something I have blogged about before, so forgive me if you know the tale. I could not feel the Resurrection. I had no difficulty accepting it.  I could not feel it.  This new English priest was presenting the icon of my soul to me: stuck like Mary weeping at the tomb "they have taken the body of my Lord". No Resurrection in my being.

This has been in my thoughts this week as last Sunday was  "Myrrh-bearers Sunday": Mark XV :43-47.  The women arriving that the tomb is the next chapter and the Gospel is actually the story of Joseph of  Arimethea, but the name of the Sunday is significant.  Oh the glories of Byzantium; thrusting us back to The Death on the Cross in the middle of the Easter season!!! How I love this non-linearity.  Indeed, as I have said before it is only since coming out East that I have found the Resurrection, and the Resurrection was found in Great Lent!!!!  Glory to God for all things!!!!

And why are the women coming to the tomb so important? Why is Joseph of Arimethea so important?  It is the importance of the First Commandment.  There is nothing more important that that.  In so many ways I feel the Catholic Church is like that cross I had to venerate that the English priest had vandalised.  Something is ugly, nothing looks right, the fruits are bad, people are running away from the faith,  there is terrible sadness and weariness, the actions of men seem much larger than the actions of God, God is permitting such darkness, emptiness and worldliness around His loved ones.  Yet we must never forsake the First Commandment.

So here we are: chaos, confusion, darkness, dissent........... but like the Myrrh-bearers we don't stop loving AND the Risen Lord is with us now, and forever.

*****

I have just signed a new contract with my employer.  I refused to sign one for longer than a year.  I want to keep my options open.  I thought I would feel a great sense of failure in dong this, because I have failed to find some more wholesome alternative.  However it actually came with a great sense of peace.  Funny old world.  God of surprises indeed.

Бели Анђео - Србија

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Party Pooper

Today, dear readers is my 50th birthday: born before men walked in the Moon, born before decimalisation, born before the Bogside, born before the disastrous changes to the Catholic Liturgy were fully implemented,

The standard Romanian greeting at these times is la mulți ani, which is basically a  "live long and prosper" sort of greeting.  A long life is not something I particularly aspire to.  It is a life well spent that I try to live.  I will leave my time of departure entirely in the hands of my Creator.

There is however one figure who seems to be hindering my birthday celebrations and future plans and that is the figure of the 27th National Security Advsisor of the United States, Mr John Bolton.
As you may be aware, my big birthday treat from me to me is a planned trip to Iran this July.  This individual seems determined to make my plans less likely. Though I do have my visa sorted TBTG!!!!  Oh how I long to see America great again! An America that trades fairly and doesn't bully through sanctions, a strong America ruled through wisdom and learning and freedom of expression, an America where all Americans can thrive irrespective of creed, colour or geographical location.  This particular individual seems to have other ideas and seems intent on turning America into the most sinister, threatening, unpleasant, ideologically insane force for chaos and instability the world has ever seen. I don't see why my right to visit a country for a holiday should be threatened by such a being, but it is.  I am not best pleased.

Incidentally look at that ring on his right hand.  He always wears it.  It is not a normal ring.  My guess it is some sort of "frat" ring from his student days.  That he still feels attachment to such things is abnormal. If it isn't a "frat" ring it is waaaay more sinister.  It is impossible to see him as purely working in the interests of America wearing a ring like that.  I wish him no ill, but I also wish the world no ill, I hope American armed forces are not dragged into yet another dumb conflict, I wish to see no more pointless deaths of American servicemen. I also wish Iran and Syria could be left alone to determine their own futures, especially to the extent that their current leaders ensure the survival of our Christian brothers and sisters in those lands and the alternatives would definitely be less accommodating.

Happy Birthday to me.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Hanging out with the Orthodox (2)

Welcome to another instalment of observations regarding what it is like when a Papist is invited to be with the Orthodox in prayer.  Last time I wrote about being invited on a pilgrimage.  This time it is about being invited to the Liturgy. Once again this is simply a "postcard", I am not trying to put the world to rights and end The Schism.

This time last week I was attending the Liturgy at the invite of a friend who is also a "sacristan" and reader.  As a result we had to arrive in good time as he had to prepare  sanctuary lamps, tables and things.  The chapel where the Liturgy was taking place was on a student campus, it looked like a converted office.  It was nothing fancy, there was no iconostasis, the building was typical 1970s with a low ceiling but the walls were painted traditionally and there were plenty of icons.

Apparently the hierodeacon who was present had made some grumble about me being invited, but only because the Liturgy was likely to be lousy on a Saturday and would have been far more splendid on a Sunday.  My friend knew well enough (and told him so) that the smells and chants of Orthodoxy hold no superficial magic for me, I was not wanting to be impressed, and I have heard plenty of  rough singing in Orthodox churches. I would not have attended on a Sunday in any case unless it was impossible to find a Catholic church.

This was my first ever invite to a Liturgy where permission of the priest was sought.  I felt quite honoured and also a little apprehensive, I usually leave any Orthodox Liturgy I stray into after the Cherubic Hymn, it doesn't seem right to stay any longer.  Here I was being given permission to stay till the end.

It was not term time so I was not expecting many souls present. However, it slowly started to fill up.  And by the time the Gospel was being read, the chapel felt quite full.  In this part of the Balkans, the men stand on the right and the women on the left, which feels so very ancient, but I was the only woman with my head covered and most of the women were in trousers. Russians would not be impressed.  I think men outnumbered women. Most of the latecomers were women.  The Liturgy started with 2 singers and a few more joined as people trickled in.  I do like the chanting, it is unfussed, it is simple, wobblyness doesn't matter and it isn't esoteric.  It is also robust and manly. I think Roman Plainchant is meant to be like this, but so often it is intellectualised and polished to within an inch of its life and loses something in the process. The attitude amongst the Roman Trads seems to be that you are not supposed to sing it unless you are trained to extreme levels of nerdyness. This is not somehing that I agree with.  Learn as you sing is better.

The flow of the Liturgy was familiar and I found myself making the responses quite naturally in Romanian although it was not in that tongue. It was prayerful, I was not just a curious observer.  I felt frighteningly at home. The homeliness comes from sensing everyone is orientated to the same Truth, praying as they can, not as they think they should.  Nobody there had an agenda, I am always conscious of agenda in the Church in the UK . The people there were themselves, they wern't hiding behind any piety or outward identity.  Homely, organic, unfussed but reverent, timeless yet not arcane... in so many ways it was how I imagined a village parish in England before the Reformation.... it seems to be something we Romans have lost. We have definitely lost something in no longer having blessed bread at the end of the Mass, there is something so very Marian about it, and I feel there would be a lot less stupidity about communion for those not in a state of grace if there was something everyone could take and eat irrespecive of their state.  Antidoron is a teaching aid, because it is NOT the Eucharist and also a very good vehicle for inclusivity and welcome, if you are into those sorts of things.

After the Liturgy I was invited back for blessed colivă and home brew. Colivă is the sweet boiled wheat dish the Orthodox make for the memorial of the dead (a Saturday devotion).  Its quality varies from parish to parish, the recipe varies from country to country.  Romanians, whose thoughts never seem too far from their stomachs, do make the tastiest, but this came a close second. Balkan peoples also make a lot of homemade wine.  Some of it is very good, drinking it before noon seemed decadent, we knocked it back with strong coffee. The people I was with neither made a fuss of me or ignored me, I was simply accepted and those present who could speak English were friendly and generous in their conversation. The priest and the hierodeacon were lovely, gentle and welcoming and considering where I was has a recent history of bad stuff happening between  Catholics and Orthodox, I was humbled by their warmth. We also talked more theology than I have done for a long time, I enjoyed that.

Everyone there would be horrified at thoughts of Ecumenicism, they KNOW their faith is the True faith, yet they were welcoming and ordinary and fun. Why have I come to live in the Orthodox Balkans?







Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Best ignored...

I really think the current Bishop of Rome is best ignored. Actually I think all Popes are best ignored UNLESS they speak definitively on faith and morals.  This is something this Pope never will. He can't.  Therefore for your own sanity, ignore him.  We are wasting our time on a "head of state" who travels the world promoting globalism, the expansion of the EU, false ecumenicism, unfettered immigration and solidarity with the poor (more on that in a bit). We are wasting too much time on Rome and not giving enough time to God.

The praise of God is everything.  The Orthodox put us to shame.  The Easter greeting is ringing out loud and clear here in the Balkans. For example, I got on a plane last week and the stewardess greeted everyone with "Christ is Risen!".  How long will this continue with the easily offended snowflakes so clearly in charge of Europe?  And it is not that the Orthodox are in any way super holy.  Extreme selfishness and cruelty can be found right next to heartmelting kindness and passionate honesty.  Yet somehow the Orthodox instinctively turn to God and know He is the source of all that is good, beautiful and true.  They see their own limitations and weakness and do not look to another human to make amends.  They come to God as they are: broken, faulted and ignorant, but yet they come...  the young, the old, women and men in about equal numbers.

Back to "solidarity with the poor" which does seem to be a theme of this pontificate.

Firstly, I think a distinction needs to be made between being poor and living in poverty.  Living in poverty means trying to sustain life without the necessary means to be able to do so.  Health suffers greatly: both physical and spiritual.  Extreme wealth can have the same effect.  Living in poverty is usually the result of forces outside one's control; it is the result of politics.  Our faith does not ask us to seek such poverty and embrace it. Our faith just asks us to love our neighbour.

What is being poor?  The poor are those without the ability to change anything.  The poor are without the ability to "make the world a better place". The poor are those without a voice in society. The poor are the humble and the meek.  To be genuinely one of God's poor, you are patient, longsuffering, generous in your giving (because you are aware of how little you have) and cheerful in your simplicity.  It is a tall order to have solidarity with the poor.  To have solidarity with the poor means you don't give pressers on planes, nor do you make petitions asking for the Pope to be tried for heresy also, to have solidarity with the poor means you don't vent your frustration writing a blog..... even a little one with a fairly small readership :-)

***

After PF's visits this week to Bulgaria and (N) Macedonia, he is coming to Romania at the end of May ..... as I said ..... best ignored......

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Easter holidays: reinventing the past

Gosh, it is nice to be on holiday.  Not that I am doing anything I planned to do, like learn Farsi or improve my Serbian.  My brain is on holiday too.  I try to read something improving and I find I have been asleep on the sofa for 2 hours. Nor have I done quite the amount of spring cleaning I would have liked to do.

There is an Orthodox monastery that is an easy walk from my front door. I have been pottering down there a lot.  It is a haven of mature trees, bird song and monastic chant.  They sing very well (the birds and the monks).  It is good to be there.

I have also been trying my hand at egg marbling.  As a child, during the holidays I would often be farmed out to anybody who would have me.  One particular lady was quite inventive and would often get me making things.  I remember the egg marbling with onion skins and I remember the results were pretty good. What happened below was purely from memory.  I  think white or pale blue eggs would have been better, but my favourite baba on the market didn't have any.

First take some eggs. I had no idea if this would be successful so I only tried 2.  Then peel some onions and use the outer skins. Small are best, they have the right amount of curveyness.
Wrap an egg in bits of onion skin and tie in a handkerchief with cotton thread, and boil.  Egg number 2 was much easier to do in this way as everything was wet, so the onion stuck better to the egg shell.

Stare out the window for a bit... watch the highlights of the Manchester Derby... wait..... remove egg from handkerchief and remove onion skin from egg [boiling the hankie in a bleach solution soon gets rid of the stains]


Allow to dry, repeat with further eggs, rub some vegetable oil into the shell for some shine and there you have it....


The blown hand painted eggs on the right are traditional Romanian and rather lovely.

Other  Easter preparations included getting the lamb. I bought half an animal and had to do most of the butchery myself with a Swiss Army knife! Meat tends to be hacked here rather than butchered.  And this is the only time of year you can buy it.  Sadly, Romanian's do not like the taste of lamb. Now I must wait for drob to appear in the shops, it is made with lamb bits and tastes like a cross between haggis and West Country faggots.  They also make a pork version which must be avoided at all costs, it is nasty. I have have not craved meat during the Great Lent, I could live without it, but I certainly appreciate it more.

I also have one packet of dark, bitter chocolate from Belarus.  I look forward to that. I am very nostalgic for the taste of Commie chocolate of yore.  It was amazing stuff, hard as rock and utterly tasteless until you had broken your teeth on it trying to chew it.  It refused to melt.  I dislike the texture of melted chocolate.  Then, once the flavour came out, it was what chocolate should be..... I'm hoping this bar from Belarus is vetus rather than novus ordo.  Belarus is my last hope.  Most other Eastern European chocolate is now just like mediocre stuff from the UK: too sweet and too soft.






Tuesday, 23 April 2019

End Times

Greetings from Holy Week, Time Travellers, for today is the Tuesday of Holy Week for us in the East. It is also the Feast of St George for those on the more astronomically correct calendars, and a very happy feast day to you too!  We need his prayers. Hope you are all well.  Sorry for my absence from the digital swamp, but I really have had nothing to say.

I am enjoying the Byzantine, Bridegroom services; the Liturgies of the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. Though "enjoy" may be an inappropriate word.  It is simply that I find them full of great beauty and fruitful meditation.  They are essentially Eschatalogical services, concentrating on Matthew Chapters 21-26 and the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Today  the parables were those of the wise and foolish virgins and the talents.  We are thrust into the End Times; into meditating on our own end, on Christ's death on the Cross, on the end of the earthly Jerusalem and the abomination of desolation, and overriding all of this, we are to meditate on the End of the World and the Second Coming. Christ is the Bridegroom, devotedly calling His beloved to Himself and to eternity.

Oh, if only mortal man could see his true vocation and call to manliness!  His call to be like Christ in his love for his spouse. I am spending quite a bit of time with other unmarried women who feel the same, who will not chase men, who are waiting to embrace the cross offered by a man who understands what it is to be a man.  But this is besides the point, we are probably just extremely unattractive, ageing old bints, we know our place. It is time to concentrate on The Bridegroom of us all.

The main reason for writing is that once again I am struck with my total satisfaction with the non-linearity of the Byzantine way of doing things.  Time is not linear, it is always the end time. Obviously the same is also true of the Roman Liturgy, pick up an old Latin Missal if you don't believe me. It is that there is simply a tendency in the West to let the linear narrative of Holy Week take over: Oberammergau in the comfort of your own parish church. I am not sure it is Traditional to do this.  Things were better before Pius XII's reforms.  Back then, the liturgies of Holy Week were part of the world turned upside down, nothing seemed to be at the "right" time, and THAT has a profound significance in itself. I feel that something tremendously significant is lost in the reforming process. The consequences of all the modernisation of the Western Liturgies has been to take the mystery out and to take the true metaphysics out.  Ultimately the Eternal, Unchanging Love of God is writ small and souls are left with an aching hunger they don't understand.

Is it any wonder that so many Catholics feel so drawn to the 20th Century Marian prophecies and know them better than they do their own Catholic inheritance. Shamefully knowing them better than Holy Scripture. They are craving sound eschatology and are left at the mercy of those who wish to interpret visions.  Give me Scripture and the Church Fathers without the weeping, the "signs" and the endless prescriptive prayer any day.

There is more.  These days the Bishop of Rome seems to have taken it upon himself to speak to the world more that to speak to those already in the sheepfold.  He is happy to speak about human things, about environmental things, about political things. I have not heard any sound teaching for a very long time on Eschatology.  Now you may not think that this is a fruitful topic with which to speak to the world.  But to me it is simply the best of topics.  Surely if the primacy of Peter is what we think it is, then the Successor of Peter really ought to teach about the Last Things as they affect us all.  We cannot avoid death. He should be teaching the world about death and about judgement.

We live in a world dominated by an empire that tries to rule based on a false eschatology.  The Rapture and Protestant End Times theology is dangerous beyond measure and it is those Christian fundamentalists who believe in it (and who also have a false understanding of what it is to be a Jew) who hold up the whole sorry charade of the American Empire.

Is it not time Catholics, especially our Bishops, took the topic of Eschatology into the public arena and exposed the deceit for what it is. Nobody ever said the message had to be popular.

Rejoice in the Lord always!!


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Charitable UnAmerican Activity (2)

There are times when the ugliness of the New World Order is simply breathtaking. Please read the following from the Iranian Red Crescent Society about how sanctions imposed on Iran are affecting their ability to respond to their recent devastating floods.
http://en.rcs.ir/no-cash-donations-from-international-donors-ircs/

And if on reading that, you would like to make a donation via the German Red Cross who somehow are going to get financial aid to Iran, the link is here:
 https://www.drk.de/en/donate/donate-online/?no_cache=&tx_frsdrkdonations_donation%5Baction%5D=form&tx_frsdrkdonations_donation%5Bcontroller%5D=Donation&cHash=c923ec8a2600781fe45cf4385185b235





Saturday, 30 March 2019

Ichabod

Hello dear reader, I've not forgotten you, but I have not had anything I have wanted to commit to this blog, therefore it has been silent for a few weeks.

Apart from the usual Lenten battles, this is what I have been up to. I started Lent by selecting a book of the Bible to read and digest over the season.  I decided to accept the book chosen by a random number generator . It is easy enough to get one to pic a number from 1-72 inclusive.  It picked number 9.  This is 1Kings/1Samuel depending on your tradition.  This is a book I am already quite familiar with, having attended a scripture study course on it only a few years ago. I was certainly pleased with this choice.  It is nice to be amongst old friends again: Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David, Michal, Abigail......  Saul remains one of the most fascinating characters in the Old Testament for me, he is like the great Jephtha from the Book of Judges but only more spooked and more tragic.  He is so faulted, so human, so capable of greatness, so stubbornly turning from it at every opportunity. And there is something there within that all so human mess that I love deeply.

In order to discipline myself to read 1Kings properly and slowly ( I am a natural, impatient speed reader), I have made myself read it in Romanian as well as in English. It is amazing what a second reading an a foreign language can do.  It is like becoming a ruminant with an extra stomach for ease of digestion.

The themes of the Books of  Kings have been the backdrop to my personal meditations since I arrived in the Balkans:  the role of Church and State, priesthood, sacraments, kingship, duty, nationhood, land, and the absolute necessity of obeying the First Commandment. There is Truth within these pages that is extremely relevant for today as our true sense of identity is being slowly eroded by globalism and the relentless death march of post-Christian self-righteousness.

I may write some more on 1 Kings as Lent progresses, but I don't feel tied to do so.  The name that has come to the forefront with this current reading of I Kings has been that of Ichabod.  He is not mentioned much, but somehow he seems key to my journey.  "Kabod" is Hebrew for the fullness/glory (of God).  It was a word that originally meant the heaviness of full battle dress.  In one sense it also means expectation and there is some irony here as his mother names him Ichabod as she dies in childbirth: the glory/fullness (of God) has gone. She utters this lament as the Ark of the Covenant has fallen into the hands of the Philistines and her own deceased husband had been one of the sinful, faithless priests that had been in charge of it.

In a real sense, we live in such ghastly times that it really does seem that the fullness of God has indeed departed. However even as Ichabod's mother names her son, the Living God is at work amongst the Philistines and their false gods are paying Him homage.

To be continued... perhaps.......

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

UnAmerican Activity

It is natural for us to gravitate towards a theory that makes us feel comfortable with ourselves, that allows us to bask in the righteousness of our own world view. We all do this.  We should all try not to.  The reason being is that our world view is often a highly political one.  Politics is dangerous thing, it will always be perfect and flawed at the same time.  A political view is perfect in that it is based on a self-consistent set of premises and sticks to them.  It is flawed in that this self-consistent view can never be wholly right or indeed wholly wrong, it is independent of truth. In both these senses, its flaws and its perfection, it is diametrically opposed to Faith. Faith primarily gets us to look at ourselves and our relationship with our Creator. It is Love and Hope amidst darkness and shadows, it is about having the humility to know we don't have the answers. Politics only has answers.

I write because I am somewhat weary of the narratives that are coming from the USA as to the root causes of the abject state of the Catholic Church that we see today. The narratives go like this:

  • The Church was infiltrated by Communists who set about destroying it.
  • Anyone even slightly to the left of your good ol' American conservative is probably a socialist and therefore nearly a communist and therefore a danger to the Church.
  • The Pope is quite left-leaning therefore he is part of "the problem".
  • Communists ensured the homosexualising of the Church to destroy her.
  • Individual liberty is threatened by anything that doesn't smack of American conservatism.
  • The Free-Market works and is part of the godly order of right thinking society, socialists don't like the free-market, therefore they are evil. True Catholics believe in the Free-Market.
  • State interference is always wrong.
I have several problems with aspects of this narrative. Firstly, if Communists really were responsible for the demise of the Catholic Church, in that "they" set out to destroy Her, then you have to hand it to them that they have actually been extremely successful,  But there is a problems with this: it is just about the ONLY communist success story!!  Everything else done in the name of communism has been an unmitigated disaster.  I simply can't buy into this narrative, especially when the communists were so totally unsuccessful at obliterating the Orthodox Church.

There has to be some weakness in the Catholic Church that has been exploited by her haters and by spirits of wickedness in high places. It is unhelpful to look to outside infiltration and blame this.  We need to ask why the citadel has been breached quite so spectacularly.

I am not about to make myself very popular with what I consider to be the answer,  However I throw it out there for your perusal,  My view is that the very nature of individual liberty so enshrined and promoted by the USA in particular has caused a lot of damage.  It is Liberalism and from it springs Americanism and America's peculiar brand of Nationalism. It is also from this liberalism that the seeds of modernism started breaching the walls of the faith so effectively. Liberalism is also the mother of Bolshevism; Liberalism's children are many and varied.

Most of the problems of the modern world spring from the Scottish Enlightenment and the near suffocating triumph of Whiggery after the final defeat of the Jacobites. The Scottish Enlightenment is the biggest single influence on the psyche of the American people. The Jacobites were not some sort of defeated ideal, they were deeply flawed, but their defeat enshrined the cause of liberty and commerce so favoured by the Whigs. The explosion of wealth in Scotland as a result of the ethnic cleansing of the Highlands is the reason for the "appeal" of Capitalism, it is darned successful but it is built on repression, obliteration and a false god (the invisible hand). Adam Smith's market economics is sacred to the spirit of America, yet it is far from being even a remotely Christian thing.  So many American Catholics tout Capitalism as being a truth and a right, however it simply doesn't work.  It is based on the equilibrium chemistry of its day, which has been largely discredited, the model is bogus.

The defeat of the Jacobites was the nail in the coffin of feudalism in the West and of  the connection of people to the land and to a deeply hierarchical society.  True Christianity is highly hierarchical and indeed subservient (even amongst the angels), individual liberty does not count for much. This is an anathema to the American spirit.

I am arguing here that the spirit of liberty quells obedience and humility. Such a spirit ensures a weakening of the true nature of man and his relationship to God.  Such a spirit can certainly bring near destruction to the Church. Communism is an evil but here I have argued that there is this older evil close to the heart of  many who sincerely tout their total adherence to the Faith.

The narratives coming out of the traditional and right-leaning American Catholics do not sit well with many of us in the Old World. At best they are naive, at worst they are dangerous.

But it doesn't mean left-leaning Catholics are correct either.....


Saturday, 23 February 2019

Finding Wolves

Holidays are always a good time for a bit of introspection. I have just come to the end of a very pleasant vacation.  I am very much trying to work out who I am and how much I have to live with the terrible disconnect that I feel.  The disconnect concerns my outward life: mainly my job.  I simply don't believe in what I am doing.  I don't believe in the "product" I am making and selling. Changing to a different "company" would make no difference.  I simply know that  my days of being a teacher can not go on for much longer.  I loathe it, from the bottom of my heart, I loathe it.  I try to be positive, I work hard and am ever mindful of doing my "duties of state" and earning an honest living.  But something else tugs at me and as yet I seem powerless to do anything about it.  My heart is restless like never before.

I have been to my usual escape zone: Belgrade. In some ways I am just some rich middle class, middle aged woman who has Belgrade as my holiday spot like some in the UK go off to Tuscany or Bordeaux.  In other ways I am like some old spinster, off to the same hotel as often as possible in my version of Eastbourne; stuck in my ways and glad of a friendly place to stay without having to try anything new! On the surface I was simply doing the touristy thing:  taking in some quality Shakespeare (in Serbian) at the National Theatre, dining very well, enjoying the odd glass of Balkan wine (seriously underrated), walking, visiting tourist attractions, people watching, chatting with locals, riding the buses and watching the world go by. At another level, I was simply letting go.  Apart from one email from a student needing help with some work I had set, I had nothing that needed to be done. The focus was on God, the focus was on letting go of everything else and connecting with the One Thing Necessary.  I believe that this is most effective when you feel you are doing it most poorly, when work and the inconsequentials of life crowd in and make prayer so very difficult.  However I do also appreciate these God given moments, when the crap can be shovelled into the corner and forgotten about and we are able to retreat completely into His safety. This is the whole point of rest and holidays.

I still can't resolve the disconnect. But I will trust God that it won't go on for much longer.  I know ever more clearly what I don't want from my life.  I don't want a nice apartment, comfortable living and an easy job. All that niceness kills me. It is claustrophobic. Nor (as much as I prefer the country to the city) do I want to retreat from the battles of the world into some bucolic idyll, keeping bees and goats miles away from civilisation, something easy enough to do in Romania. Since my somewhat miraculous recovery from illness 2 years ago, I feel like I have been granted good health for a reason.  A reason that has little to do with the teaching of Physics to the sons and daughters of the nouveau riches. Indeed it is a reason that has little to do with me.  I left my old life behind in the UK.  I have been revitalised by my life in Romania.  I know I was meant to come out to the Balkans, the Mother of God kicked me out here for a very good reason. She's the boss. Like Ruth's pledge of loyalty to Naomi in the Old Testament, (your people will be my people, your God my God), I will follow where she leads.  And as a foreigner and stranger in the land, I will continue my backbreaking gleaning until such time as I am spotted.... I really don't think I can do much else. I am somewhat alone with God and "Naomi", it is the "people" bit of Ruth's pledge that is not yet revealed.  Yet I don't have the slightest twinge of loneliness (unless I am in the company of British ex-pats), I just know I am not meant to be alone. It is not right to be alone.

I feel like an old she-wolf that has lost her mate and wandered far from the wolf pack. I am more than capable of looking after myself.  Yet somewhere in the Balkans there is a new pack that can welcome me.

The oldest London Plane tree in Europe and tree of staggering character and beauty in Топчидерски Парк, Belgrade. Or perhaps it is the White Tree of Minas Tirith, I couldn't be too sure. In the realm of myth, for better and worse, good and evil, Serbia is so much like Tolkein's Gondor.

Back home, Our Lady has been joined by St Sava and a Serbian Psalter.

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.