Free At Last

The continuing saga of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya is finally at an end. Through a deal brokered by the EU with the help of Qatar, the nurses and their Palestinian doctor colleague have flown to Bulgaria. They were released under a 1984 prisoner exchange agreement

The Bulgarian president and prime minister both met the plane as it landed. The former hostages (let’s call it like it is) were travelling with the wife of the French President and the European Union foreign affairs commissioner. They were immediately officially pardoned by the president, who has even gone one step further and is putting them up at the presidential residence. This includes the doctor, who was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month.

ubul.jpg

Libya agreed to release them after the EU agreed to take care of all of Libya’s HIV children in European hospitals for the rest of their lives. The Libyans were also offered normalised relations with the EU. I’d say they managed to pull of a good deal. Find some Christians who have come to your country to help people, arrest them on ludicrous charges, see that they get sentenced to death, and it is amazing how much leverage you can have.

While we rejoice in their freedom, let us not forget that there are other Christians imprisoned, killed, and otherwise persecuted for their faith by Islamic (and other anti-Christian) regimes around the world.

Apologies

Checking my stats tonight, I saw that I had referrals to this site from stantonythegreat.org.uk. I thought this a bit strange, since I don’t have a link on that site. Then I realised that through all my messing around with my domain name, I had messed up that site, which is set up to reside in my old hosting account.

The site has been moved to new hosting and the links have been fixed. My apologies to anyone who might have though the views on this blog represent in any way the views of the Herefordshire Orthodox Fellowship of St Antony the Great.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

Russian Civilisation?

If you were thinking that human rights are a reality in post-Communist Russia, you would be very mistaken. The former KGB officer serving president may claim to be a devout believer, but with another KGB agent leading the Holy Synod in which at least another two members were also KGB agents, perhaps its not surprising that things haven’t changed much in Holy Mother Russia.

When a Chechen meat wholesaler named Zaur Talkhigov helped the security services to negotiate the release of hostages in the Moscow theatre siege, he was arrested for terrorism and sent to Siberia. Investigating his case is one of the reasons investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. As reported in The Sunday Times:

Talkhigov is now in a cramped cell with 18 inmates sharing one lavatory in Komi, a remote and forbidding region that became infamous under Stalin for its many forced-labour camps. In winter, temperatures drop to -30C. In summer, the cell is a stifling 30C plus.

He is allowed out of his cell for just an hour a day and permitted to wash once a month. The food consists of buckwheat porridge, rancid fishbone soup and the occasional plate of boiled meat.

His mother Tamara can visit him only once a year, for three days. The return train journey to the prison from her home in Chechnya takes 84 hours.

“Conditions in the prison where I am now are relatively good,” said Talkhigov. “In Moscow I was held in a cell so cramped that we took it in turns to sleep. Tuberculosis was rampant. In another prison, where I was held in solitary confinement, two guards came into my cell shortly after I arrived and beat me all over my body with their truncheons as their way of welcoming me. I’ve been under constant psychological pressure.”

Yet this is a country that wants to be treated as an equal with the G7 nations. Putin has cooled relations with the US over NATO missile defence systems in free nations that have aligned themselves with the West, rather than their previous compulsory alliance with Russian under the Warsaw Pact.

In terms of law and justice, Russia still has a long way to go to be considered a civilised nation. The other question is whether the Church in Russia is going to be an agent of reform or of collusion.

Hindsight

Many of you who are Orthodox probably already regularly visit Fr Stephen Freeman’s blog. Fr Stephen is an OCA priest in East Tennessee.

He has a post today about The Spirit, the Modern World, Pentecostalism and Orthodoxy that I found particularly enlightening. He knows of what he speaks on more than just an academic level:

My wife and I met in a charismatic house Church so that I do not write as a stranger on the subject. I spent two years, as well, living in a charismatic commune. Many years ago I would have been about as hard core as they come. Today I judge the matter quite differently and see, with fear and trembling, Pentecostal thought and practice in a different light.

Though his spiritual journey does not mirror mine exactly, he has expressed the same concerns I have over a number of issues more eloquently and pastorally than I could.

Our Father Among the Saints Columba

Today is the 1410th anniversary of the repose of Columba of Iona, one of the patron saints of Scotland. He is by no means one of the earliest bishops in Scotland. St Ninian first worked in Scotland in the 4th century. Nonetheless, Columba’s missionary work amongst the Picts was one of the great evangelistic efforts in this island.

Though like Jesus he began his Scottish mission with twelve disciples, Columba turned Iona into a school for missionaries to the Picts, much as my own patron St Dyfrig did for the Welsh at Hentland and Moccas.

I went to Iona 17 years ago. Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long ago. Anyhow, it would be a great place to be a monk, because there’s not much to do there other than pray. And you have to want to get there. Even today as a tourist attraction and place of pilgrimage, you have to want to get there. It’s not on the way to anywhere else.

Likewise, if you were going to be a missionary to the mainland or any of the other islands in the Hebrides in the 6th century, you would have to want to get there. You would have to be pretty committed to evangelism.

Columba would have probably never imagined that his rebuilt abbey and the community associated with it would be run by a woman and espouse liberal politics and theology, and pan-sexual ecumenism.

Adomnán’s Vita Columbae is one of the great hagiographies of the British church, written within first hundred years after Columba’s death. As the ninth abbot of Iona, Adomnán had access to those who knew Columba, so it is much more difficult to discount the stories told, as is often the habit of modern scholars when dealing with hagiographical literature. They have to find other ways of explaining away his prophetic gift and the miracles performed by him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because this aspect of his ministry is so well know, Columba is a popular figure with charismatics who have dabbled in Celtic Christian history. The only difference between them and the Orthodox is that as Orthodox, we don’t see the ministry of Columba as finished, but merely translated from this life to the next, where he prays for us as part of the great cloud of witnesses.

In response we sing:

By thy God-inspired life/ thou didst embody both the mission and the dispersion of the Church,/ most glorious Father Colum Cille./ Using thy repentance and voluntary exile,/ Christ our God raised thee up as a beacon of the True Faith,/ an Apostle to the heathen and an indicator of the Way of salvation./ Wherefore O holy one, cease not to intercede for us/ that our souls may be saved.

Okay Then

As every Orthodox reader already knows (all most non-Orthodox readers wouldn’t care to know) ROCOR has reconciled with the Moscow Patriarchate. While I’m always glad to see a schism end (though I’d really like to see the end of the one between Rome and the rest of the Patriarchates), I just haven’t gotten all that excited about this.

Maybe it has something to do with having been a member of the Moscow Patriarchate stuck under the Office for External Affairs because we were ethnically Russian. Since ROCOR is very Russian, I’m sure they won’t mind that Alexy and the Holy Synod believe in the use of strong-arm tactics to get their way. Alexy has promised to let the ROCOR hierarchy do their own thing for the “foreseeable future”. That’s probably true. It’s just that Moscow lacks prognosticatory powers.

That being said, we’ve traded Comrade Ridiger for Black Bart who appoints pro-abortion legislators as archons and whose theological contribution to the Church is to be the ecclsesiastical equivalent of Al Gore on the environement.

I know that there are some great and good hierarchs out there. Fortunately, the Church keeps going despite the others.

Blood Money for Nothing

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were tortured into confessing that they infected 426 Libyan children with the HIV virus. They have been sentenced to death.

Why would the Libyans try to put the blame on foreign nurses? HIV principally transmitted through homosexual or non-marital heterosexual acts. This is not the sort of thing a fundamentalist Islamic country like Libyan would want to admit. That being said, the scientific evidence indicated that much of the infection was transmitted throughout the hospital by unsanitary practice.

The death penalty isn’t absolute. There is a way out. The Bulgarian government can pay $13.48 million in blood money for each for each family. That’s only a bit over $7.42 billion. But since the entire Bulgarian government’s annual budget expenditure is $12.16 billion (with revenues of only $13.28 billion) it might be just a little hard to scrape the cash together. The Libyans originally offer to trade them for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie) bomber, but they withdrew this offer.

It’s not surprising that folks in Bulgaria have turned to prayer. Thousands attended a prayer service led by Patriarch Maxim at the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia. They’ve even brought in the big guns with three miracle working icons of the Theotokos brought in from monasteries in Troyan, Rila and Bachkovo with the cathedral open throughout the night.

I don’t know if there is a traditional patron for nurses, but if you do, please add a comment.

Pray for Ashraf Ahmad Djum’a al-Hadjud, Kristiyana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova and Valentina Siropulo.

Singing, Sermons, and Saints

We had liturgy this morning. It was the bi-monthly visit from the priest (and a number of parishioners) from the Greek church in the adjoining shire.

Our family was a bit late, because Aidan had a mid-morning swimming lesson that had already be paid for before we remember that it was the appointed day for the service. I missed the chance to read the Epistle. We got there about just before the Great Entrance.

We had quite a crowd by our standards. Twenty-five that can definitely remember, fit into a very tiny space. We were packed in like sardines in the little oratory chapel kindly loaned to us by the local Catholic abbey.

Unprompted Abigail sang “Christ is Risen from the Dead” all the way from the house to the abbey. Non-stop. Over and over. Christ is risen from the dead / trampling down death by death / and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. We sing it three times before our meals and in place of “Oh Heavenly King” at bedtime prayers from Easter to Pentecost, so she hears it a lot. She sings it around the house all the time. When we sang it at the end of the Liturgy, she was disappointed that we only did it once. She tried to start singing it again until she noticed that no one else had joined in.

I just wish she had been a little more settled during the sermon as Fr Stephen spoke about “trampling down death by death” so I could have paid attention to the whole thing. He made an excellent observation about Christ as the new Adam, explaining that when Mary Magdalene saw Him immediately after the Resurrection she correctly identified Him as the gardener.

After the service I was also commissioned to assist in coming up with the name of our new community that is emerging. I have made a good case for the most important saint in the history of the Shire, St Dyfrig. As one of the founders of Christianity in the area and as a teacher and father to 2,000 missionaries sent to evangelise that part of this island that would eventually be called Wales, I am confident in his desire to intercede on our behalf. We’ll see how it all works out.

As this group will be affiliated with the Archdiocese of Thyateira, it is apparently customary to also attach a Greek patron. I’m not familiar with a lot of Greek saints, but I’m happy enough if one wants to tag along. We can use all the help we can get.

St Edelienta

When we stayed in Cornwall a couple of years ago, we stayed near the village of St Edellion. As with so many places named after local saints, the place becomes part of the local fabric whilst the story of the saint is lost to the modern or post-modern age. Thus even though we passed by repeatedly we never stopped to see the remains of the shrine of St Endelienta.

She was quite a lady. She was a daughter of St Brychan, King of Brycheiniog, namesake of the town of Brecon and the county of Brecknockshire (now absorbed into the county of Powys). St Brychan sired many saintly sons and daughter – the most common number given is 24.

St Edelienta chose to join a number of her siblings as missionaries from Wales to north Cornwall. She was very ascetical and lived on the milk of one cow and well water. The cow was killed by, or on the orders of a local chieftain, when it strayed onto his land. The chieftain was killed by others in retaliation, outraged at the injustice. Various stories connect this revenge King Arthur (either he sent someone to do it or did it himself), but this is extremely unlikely for reasons that would take too long here.

Was appears to be undisputed is that the local chieftain and the cow were both brought back to life by St Edelienta.

The site of the church bearing her name is also a result of her last wishes. She asked that her body be put on a cart, yoked to two unguided bulls and that they be left to take her wherever they liked. The church was built at the place where they stopped. Her shrine remained there until the Reformation, when the whole miracle thing was not popular with the Protestants and it was demolished.

A troparion in her honour:

O holy Endelienta,/ when thy cow, thine only source of sustenance, was cruelly killed,/ thy heart was filled with forgiveness for the slaughterer./ Pray to Christ our God/ that we may ever forgive our enemies/ and ourselves find mercy.

St Endelienta, pray to God for us.

For England, Palestine, and St George

Today is the Feast of St George, patron of England and pictured at the top of the right column on this blog.

It is very true that St George fought against a Dragon. St John calls him “the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan”. He received the martyr’s crown on this date in 303, having suffered various tortures before being decapitated.

St George is also the patron of Palestinian Christians, who must stuggle every day, pressed upon all sides – hated by the Jews for being Palestinian and hated by most Palestinians for not being Muslim.

May his example encourage us to fight the good fight.

St George, pray to God for us and for all who seek your intercession!

Rushdoony Confused

As I have continued to peruse R. J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church, I find that I have less and less in common with some of his theological ideas.

As I suggested I would do, I read the chapter on Iconodulism. He starts off my rejecting monasticism. What the Fathers saw as asceticism, Rushdoony sees as neoplatonism. Then he says is veers from monism to semi-Manachaeanism. Even though monasticism far pre-dates the Council of Chalcedon, he sees it as opposed to Chalcedonian theology. He is stuck on the false premise that monastics see in themselves the potential to partake of the essence of God rather than in His energies.

He admits that the iconoclastic emperors were Monophysite heretics and those who restored the icons were orthodox. But since the emperors and the state could be venerated by the use of pictures and symbols (just as it is today), he says the iconodules implicitly confused the two natures of Christ. Then he flip-flops and acknowledges the validity of the concilliar decree,

If the Incarnation is real, it can be portrayed; an unreal incarnation, one that is “merely phantastic,” cannot be depicted. Put in modern terms a true and real Christ can be photographed; a mythical one cannot. The second point is equally valid. Honor paid to the portrait is honor paid to the one portrayed.

Surely that wouldn’t sit well will some of his Truly Reformed brethren who see the Jesus film (and I would assume The Passion of the Christ) as a violation of the Second Commandment.

I can’t help but get the impression, especially as I have now read this chapter several times, that he knows where he wants to go with his point, so he stretches and bends things to get him there. He has a presupposition against iconodulism and he is looking to find the justification for his views. Thus he finishes the chapter by going back and attacking asceticism and particularly the hesychasm of St Gregory Palamas, who he never mentions by name, but rather refers approvingly to the opposition of Barlaam of Calabria.

This is despite the fact the iconoclast controversy pre-dates the hesychasm controversy by 550 years.

Rushdoony can never say anything more against the veneration of icons than that somehow it is tainted by association.

Rethinking Reconstructionism

As I noted in the comments to a recent post, I no longer consider myself a Reconstuctionist. As those comboxes and the ones following other posts here and elsewhere make clear, I clearly have more in common with Reconstructionism than with militant secularism. This did seem a good time, however, to dust off an old book.

I’ve started flipping through R. J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church. After all, the main title is something that seems to be hotly contested here and elsewhere in the blogosphere. The focus indicated in the sub-title is useful because I know a lot more about both the Creeds and the Councils as an Orthodox than I did when I first read the book as a theonomist.

Read more of this post

Christ is Risen!

Khristus anahgrecum!

Khris-tusaq ung-uixtuq!

!באמת קם

Christus resurrexit!

Христос Воскресе!

Kristos tenestwal!

!حقا قام

ハリストス復活!実に復活!

Cristo causarimpunña!

Χριστός Ανέστη!

Si Cristo ay nabuhay!

Kristo amefufukka!

Քրիստոս յարեաւ ի մեռելոց՜

Atgyfododd Crist!

Why so many languages?

Read more of this post

Blog For Theocracy

Holy Week is always a time for anti-Christian antagonists to come to the forefront. As the Church celebrates the Resurrected Lord – especially in a year like this when East and West, through the quirks of their differing calendar calculations, unite on the same date – those who oppose Him are stirred into action.

Thanks to my principal combox Nancy Pelosi supporter, I came across “Blog Against Theocracy” – one of those we’ll-all-blog-about-the-same-thing efforts. This one is specifically scheduled for yesterday, today, and tomorrow – the holiest time in the Christian year. I love it.

Their stated aim:

No religious discrimination.
PRO End-of-Life Care (no more Terri Schiavo travesties)
Reproductive health decisions made by individuals, not religious “majorities”
Democracy not Theocracy
Academic Integrity (like, a rock is as old as it is, not as old as the Bible says)
Sound Science (good bye so-called “intelligent” design)
Respect for ALL families (based on love, not sexual orientation. Hellooooo.)
And finally,
The right to worship, OR NOT.

Or in plain language: pro-euthanasia, pro-abortion, pro-Darwinian presuppositional philosophy of science, pro-pansexualism, pro-atheism.

The silly thing is that “Democracy not Theocracy”. After all, we already have the former and you can’t escape the latter. Theocracy – the rule by God – it here to stay. It was here in the beginning (regardless of how long ago that was) and it will be here until the end (regardless of how long from now that will be). And that, my friend, is what really pisses them off. It always has. As the Psalmist noted:

Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed,
saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

On Holy Saturday anti-Christian bloggers may gloat like those who thought they had done away the Man who went around talking about the Kingdom of God. Every time I read a blog post that claims to triumph over Christianity, I just think about the stone rolled in front of the Tomb. They may follow the advice of Pilate, “Make it as secure as you know how.” They may try to seal it as best they can.

You know what? Christians don’t have to all get together and blog in favour of the power and sovereign authority of a mighty God. On Sunday, two billion of us will be proclaiming it, just as we have done throughout the ages.

Blog Against Theocracy may rail against Christians having a say in the marketplace of democracy equal to their numbers, but they are fighting the mere shadow of Theocracy. After all, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

The Blog Against Theocracy crowd are not in favour of democracy. They lie. They are undemocratic about their promotion of Darwinism. A poll conducted by CBS (hardly a bastion of conservative Christianity) in 2004 showed that 65% of all Americans and 56% of those voting for John Kerry wanted creationism taught in schools.

Those who support Blog Against Theocracy can’t afford democracy. They are killing themselves off. They promote murdering the old and infirm. They promote murdering the unborn. They promote non-reproductive sexual couplings. In the population game, they lose.

There is only one Winner. “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

It’s Just a Building

The Turkish government has renovated an Armenian church building. This is not any church building. It is the Palatine Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island in Lake Van. For a country that denies the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians and has systematically eradicated all evidence of Armenian culture from eastern Turkey, this may seem like a surprise. But the Turks still manage to be two-faced.

The restored 1,100-year-old building is simply a building. It is not opened for worship. Patriarch Mesrob II has asked that worship be allowed there just once a year. The culture minister said the government would consider the request, but since they have refused requests to even put a cross on the roof, I would not anticipate a response from Ankara for a long time. It will take them a long time to come up with a refusal that they imagine will be palatable to the European Union they so desperately want to join.

You would think that if the Turks were going to spend $1.5 million and 18 months to restore the building, they would want it to be used. But this is the Turks we are talking about.

In 1915, the monks of Akdamar Island were slaughtered. The cathedral was looted. By Turks. Now they have restored it as a museum with no mention whatsoever of what happened there. The Turks never mention the genocide. For anyone in Turkey to even suggest there was a genocide is a crime. In other words, it is a crime to not be a holocaust denier. So as far as the Turks are concerned there were no monks. There was nothing in the building to loot. It’s all in the Armenian imagination.

To suggest otherwise is insulting Turkishness. How do the Turks not understand that they make Turkishness look so bad. When they prosecute someone or ignore Armenian history, they are ones who look like fools.

Until they restore Armenian worship and restore the rightful place of Armenian culture, they have done nothing. All this talk in Britain of apologising for the slave trade looks like foolishness compared to the real, continuing, unapologetic, agressive mistreatment of Armenian culture in the aftermath of the genocide.

Dividing the Word

By tag surfing and otherwise being a part of the WordPress blogging community, I have been places where I would not normally tread in the Orthoblogosphere and my other blogrolled regular reads. It has been an interesting time dabbling in liberal Christian and agnostic and even atheist blogs.

I have seen everything from “the Bible means whatever it means to me” to the more Dawkins-esque, “If I can find an error in the Bible, then the whole house of cards falls apart and God is a figment of the imagination”.

As I was reading James Arlandson’s “Review of Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus” in American Thinker, I thought about one of the advantages of being an Orthodox Christian. As a Protestant, I was well-versed in the ins and outs of Biblical inerrancy. When someone told me C.S. Lewis was an errantist, I picked myself up off the floor, tucked that tidbit away – way away – and moved on.

Lower textual criticism used to be very important to me. (I have never had any time for higher criticism.) Though for the Orthodox the Bible is just as much the Word of God as for other conservative Christians, it doesn’t matter so much whether you are looking at a New Testament translation from the Majority Text or the Alexandrian texts or an Old Testament translation from the Septuagint or the Masoretic text. It certainly isn’t necessary to have the “autographs.”

For the Orthodox, it is what the Bible says and not the exact conjugation or declension employed that is important. This is because the Bible is an expression of the Holy Tradition handed down by the Apostles, not something apart from it. While knowing the grammar is essential to an exegetical understanding of the text, valid exegesis does not exist outside the Tradition of the Church. (Or to put it in theological terms, there is no valid exegesis without eisegesis. I will now pause for a moment for all my Protestant friends to pick themselves up off the floor.)

Read more of this post

Patrick and the Power of Positive Confession

Today is the feast of the best known Welsh saint, Patrick. St Patrick was captured and taken into slavery by some Irish raiders. As a result, there is now a campaign by Welsh-Irishpersons to get reparations from the Oireachtas. They are awaiting an apology from the Taoiseach. No, wait, I got the story mixed up with something else. . .

Actually, after St Patrick escaped and returned to Wales, he received Holy Orders and returned as a missionary to Ireland. He did the usual missionary bishop stuff, like preaching the Gospel, converting kings, baptising lots o’ people, performing a few miracles – you know the routine. He also did some writing.

Only two authentic written works by St Patrick survive. His Confessio is what evangelicals might call his testimony. He recounts who he is and what God has done in his life.

His Epistola is also called the Address to the Soldiers of Coroticus. These were Roman soldiers who had at one time declared their faith in Christ, but who had turned to raiding and enslaving other Christians. In some ways it has the flavour of a Pauline or early Patristic epistle, in that it has both a specific and general audience. At various points, St Patrick addresses the soldiers, Christians in general, the captives, and God.

The most popular work attributed to St Patrick and consistent with his theology, but most likely 7th or 8th century in origin, is the Lorica. It reminds me of the spiritual warfare prayer we used in the early 1980s. I spent my formative years in a tradition that generally eschews written prayers, but for a while there was a spiritual warfare prayer printed in tract form that was all the rage. Looking back, I’m not sure why it was okay to read that prayer and really mean it from the heart and not others.

Anyhow, as best I recall, the spiritual warfare prayer gave some attention to the armour of God, as described in Ephesians 6. I mention this because “lorica” is Latin for “breastplate”. The Lorica is not actually a prayer, per se, but more of an affirmation, or a declaration, or to use the terminology of my youth, a positive confession. As I read it again, I realised that it is a verbalisation of the sign of the Cross that as Orthodox Christians we make at various times of the day for various reasons including any invocation of the Trinity.

Read more of this post

Abkhazia

There’s just so much going on in the world and you never really hear about some of the little guys. Abkhazia is not recognised by any other country in the world. This is especially true of Georgia, from which is trying to establish its independence. Abkhazia held parliamentary elections yesterday, but this act has been denounced in Tbilisi.

Its absorption into Georgia is a relatively recent. It was unilaterally made a part of Georgia by Stalin in 1931. This led to attempts at ethnic obliteration, including changing the Abkhaz alphabet to a Georgian base, closure of Abkhazian schools and replacing them with Georgian schools, banning the Abkhaz language, you know, the usual stuff.

Because the head of Stalin’s secret police, Lavrentiy Beria, was a Georgian from Abkhazia, he had a special hatred from the Abkhaz. After World War II, he planned to deport the entire Abkhazian nation. Only his fall from power after the death of Stalin in 1953 prevented this.

Like Georgia, Abkhazia is an Orthodox Christian nation. It was evangelised by St Nino in the early 4th century. Having adopted the five-cross flag, maybe it’s time for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to show a little more Christian charity.

In the meantime, I’ve added Abkhazia to my flags of unrecognised oppressed nations on the right.

Pick a Name, Any Name

I complete slept through the evening of my name day.

After teaching without a break yesterday, I had to chase some criminals so I didn’t get home from work until after 6:30. I made the mistake of having a pint of cider with my dinner and that’s all it took. I was snoozing until 3:00 am.

It was serendipitous that I was teaching my Year 11s about naming in Islam yesterday and discuss how the religious centrality to naming is not a uniquely Muslim thing. Not surprisingly, when I asked them what they would name their children and why, not a single one chose a saint’s name. I got a lot of TV characters, entertainers, and even a couple of comic/cartoon characters. Those were the serious attempts. I only got two instances of naming after family members.

When I asked them the derivation of their own names, there were a few more family connections, but not many, and of course no saints.

What do out naming conventions say about our society?

St David of Wales, pray to God for us!

All is Quiet on the Inner City Front

Ok, so it’s the small Midlands city front, but why waste a chance to drop in a Bruce Cockburn line?

WordPress may not be the best platform for someone who is borderline OCD. With Blogger, I was blissful unaware that no one was reading my drivel. Now I have stats. I’m constantly checking the stats. Does my public love me?

For some reason, after riding uncharacteristically high, I’ve hit a dip today. This is despite the fact that in between marking Year 9 exams, I’ve put a lot of stuff out there trying to get you tag surfers (and you know who you are, even if I don’t) to click on over.

I could try hiding some stuff under the “More” tag to entice you. Hmm…. Sex? Right-wing politics? Left-wing politics? Devotional content? (I’m still reading Job and Fr Pat’s commentary.) History? (It is the 424th anniversary of the Papal bull Inter gravissimas – the object of derision by Orthodox Christian ever since and the 203rd anniversary of Marbury v. Madison, the bane of Presidents and Congresses ever since.) Humour? (Or maybe I can get more American readers if I write it “Humor”.) Britney Spears? I could be the 4 millionth blog to put up a picture of Bald Britney, or even one with her head shaved. What is it you people want?

Read more of this post

Pastoral Care

Mrs H has informed me that Fr Patrick Reardon’s book I received yesterday only made three trips across the Atlantic. While it was Mrs H’s idea, contrary to her intentions it was Fr Pat’s gift.

Even though I haven’t seen Fr Pat since he and Khouria Denise put me up for a couple of nights while I was getting my residency visa from the Consulate, from the time I first met him in Indianapolis, he played an important role in bringing me into Orthodoxy. I almost didn’t attend his talk that night at the bookstore where I volunteered, as I had made other plans. When I met him as I was setting up the chairs, I changed my mind and my plans.

Fortunately email and the internet make it possible to stay in touch, but that’s why I’m a bit jealous of people like Clifton who get to partake of his pastoral ministry on a weekly basis. A significant number of Fr Pat’s sermons are available on MP3 in the archives of Ancient Faith Radio.

On the 58th Day of Christmas

My last Christmas present of the season arrived today.

It had to make four trips across the Atlantic and got lost in the post at least once, so it’s no wonder it’s a bit late. Mrs H bought Fr Patrick Reardon’s Chronicles of History and Worship: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Books of Chronicles and sent it to Chicago to get it autographed. Fr Pat sent it back but Mrs H didn’t realise he had our old street address. We kept checking with the residents of our old house, and they had our phone number, but they claimed it never arrived.

Several weeks later it appeared back at Fr Pat’s house, returned to sender. He promptly sent it packing again and it arrived this morning as I was getting ready for work.

I want to read it right now, but since I’m working my way through Fr Pat’s The Trial of Job, as well as two other books, I better not try to multi-task in too many directions.  In serial fashion I might try to do Job and Chronicles in Lent.

Free Indeed

Gary North waits until I’m no longer a Christian Reconstructionist and then he goes and starts giving away the ICE back catalog for free. As long as you don’t mind reading these books in HTML or PDF they are free to read online or download.

I’m not mentioning this because I’m trying to promote Reconstructionism, though I have a more favourable view than Huw. I think there is a lot of good biblical scholarship there. In fact, I’m Orthodox because I was Reconstructionist. It was a Reconstructionist pastor who gave me a copy of For the Life of the World with a typewritten insert by another Reconstructionist theologian (though he’s since split off to something call Federal Vision theology). The purpose of the insert was to explain some of the differences between Eastern and Western theology – in other words, how to read Schmemann and keep Western juridical theology. I did that for a while.

Read more of this post

Forgiveness Sunday

If I have offended or sinned against any of you, I ask for your forgiveness and ask that you pray for me.

Learning from Experience

On Job chapter 5, Fr Pat in The Trial of Job notes that Eliphaz makes a good case explaining Job’s affliction in his opening address. You might say Eliphaz has an entirely Biblical argument. In contrast to Job’s other comforters, he even speaks from his own religious experience.

That doesn’t mean that Eliphaz got it entirely right.

However much, then, Eliphaz managed to misinterpret the implications of his own religious experience, that experience its was valid and sound. To say that Eliphaz was wrong in his assessment of Job does not mean that Eliphaz was wrong in respect to everything he proclaimed.

I often find that friends and others who I have known during previous developments in my theology and spiritual life assume that I have somehow repudiated everything I’ve lived through. Or that if I reject a particular theological or interpretation of experience, I have declared their experience invalid. This is probably particularly true because I spent much of the first part of my life in very experience-oriented Christianity. Read more of this post

The Unseen Reality

I’m reading Job during Lent. (I’m giving myself a head start during Cheesefare Week.) I’ve since discovered that other people are doing this, but I was motivated principally by finding my original copy of Fr Pat Reardon’s The Trial of Job when I was cleaning out the closet under the stairs. Because it had been in there since the middle of last year, Mrs H didn’t think I owned it and bought me another copy for Christmas. I figured with two copies of it, I ought to read at least one of them.

Being half way through this school year seems like another good reason to read Job. It has been one of those years.

In chapter 3, Fr Pat makes a very valuable observation:

The Book of Job illustrates what we may call the Bible’s “apocalyptic principle,” the rule that asserts that “more is happening than seems to be happening.”. . . God knows that Job’s faith is being tried, Satan knows it, and we readers know it. None of the other dramatis personae in this story, however, has a clue about what is really happening, not even Job. Indeed, especially not Job.

It’s always good to remember that whatever is happening, God has a plan. Even when it appears that the Adversary has an upper hand, God is on the Throne. God often works on a need-to-know basis, and sometimes we don’t need to know. In fact, we never really know until all is said and done.

As a teacher this is something of a comfort. It is getting harder and harder to see how anything I teach is making any sort of permanent impact. But as St Paul says, “Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”

It’s also helpful in dealing with particularly difficult children. They often bring a lot of baggage with them. When they act out, more is happening than seems to be happening. Occasionally we hear of particularly egregious situations through the staff grapevine or through a classroom outburst. Most of the time is it carried silently just below the skin. But like a cancer, we just see the symptoms.

The hard thing to remember is that even in these situations, God is on the Throne. This is true even when they hate God and hate me. Everything is temporary. We can’t see the future. We don’t know the next ten years, not to mention the eternal plan.