Posted by: Fr. C. | July 15, 2013

A Door Slams In Brooklyn


It seems that a major door has slammed in the face of Anglicans looking for a new ship, and upon the fingers and toes of those who already had embarked on the Western Rite of the Russian Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). On Wednesday, July 10, an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR fired a series of hull shots into the Western Rite that struck below the waterline. The broadside apparently came without warning, many members of the Vicariate hearing about it from the internet or at Sunday liturgy. At the hem was ROCOR’s First Hierarch and manning the guns were: Mark, Archbishop of Berlin, Germany & Great Britain; Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco & Western America; Gabriel, Archbishop of Montreal & Canada, and Peter, Bishop of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America.

The primary target, it seems, was Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, skipper of the Western Rite Vicariate, as well as his vessel. After “exhaustive deliberation”, the Synod determined to “censure Bishop Jerome for his willfulness in administering the parishes adhering to the Western Rite, and in performing various ecclesial services not approved by the Synod of Bishops, and for criticizing his brethren in letters to clergy and laity.”
Those who know Bp. Jerome might have a certain amount of difficulty accepting that he would criticize brother bishops (or anyone, for that matter) or sail outside of the normal sea lanes, but things do happen out there on the turbulent waters of the church. So be it. Perhaps a few lashes were in order, but it became a full flogging before the mizzenmast when the Synod released “Bishop Jerome from all duties, including those of Vicar of the President in administering Western Rite parishes, designating him as retired without the right to serve in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York, or to perform ordinations or award clergymen, and designating his place of residence at St. Vladimir Memorial Church of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ.”

So, the effect is one of stranding the bishop on a desert island without provisions. A pretty draconian go there, me hearties. But, sadly, there is more.

The Synod then decided to kill the Vicariate’s able first officer Monk Anthony (Bondi) by summarily stripping him of “all of his administrative duties and from the spiritual ministry to the Vicariate of Western Rite Parishes.” Fr. Bondi, it should be recalled, had the fortitude and dedication to lay aside his episcopate in a continuing church, build a lifeboat for his brother clergy and for the lay people, and row to what he thought was the safety of ROCOR’s Western Rite. He has done yeoman service in organizing and fostering a body unique certainly to the continuing church: capable, sober, serious and happy Christians. Not good enough, apparently, me bucko!
Having shot away the rigging of the Western Rite, the Synod then went for the hull. It variously: *Halted “the ordination of new clergymen for parishes adhering to the Western Rite.”

*Denied recognition of the ordination of a group of individuals by Bishop Jerome during a single divine service, and to regularize them following a thorough examination of the candidates.
*Began “an epistle to the clergymen and communities of the Western Rite regarding the need for them to adopt the order of divine services of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, while preserving, when necessary, certain particularities of the Western Rite.”
*Established “a commission to examine the means of integrating clergymen and communities of the Western Rite into the liturgical life of the Russian Orthodox Church.”
*Emphasized our adherence to the rules and traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in general and of the Russian Orthodox Church in particular.”

In short, “Domine, Domine, Domine (or whatever that is in Russian), you are all Byzantine now.” Except, of course when preserving certain “particularities of the Western Rite” when necessary. Does anyone care to wager how often that will occur?

It will be interesting to learn how all of this plays out. Certainly, it must have been a shock to the 66 Western Rite clergy already in ROCOR and their parishes, not to mention those with petitions pending. One cannot help thinking that facing such a sudden, surprise onslaught can only be devastating to the faithful. Even assuming the veracity of the charges against Bp. Jerome as true, the treatment of those who entered the Western Rite in good faith is un-pastoral and downright uncharitable under any interpretation.

As to the why of all of this, there is no obvious explanation. This was an approved Rite, successful and growing. Indeed, the Western Rites were almost a thousand years old when Christianity was introduced to the people of Kievan Rus, modern day Russia. It is a form of liturgy used with success elsewhere in orthodoxy, notably the Church of Antioch. Could it be resistance to “westernism” amongst the “true orthodox”? Is it a case of Russians and Russophiles wanting to “purify” “their” church”? Or, perhaps there is something darker, such as a move such as an old fashioned Russian-style purge in the Synod?  One can only say that it is all…well…Byzantine.

Whatever the reason for the broadside two results are certain: a loyal and faithful crew has been wounded, and one more good ship had been sent to the bottom. It is a shame and a scandal.

Fare Thee Well Old ROCOR
(With apologies to Huddie Ledbetter)

It was midnight on the sea,
Band playin’ “Nearer My God to Thee”
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Western Rite when it got its load,
Bishop hollered, “All aboard,”
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

More Western folk want to get on board,
Synod said, “We ain’t hauling yo’ souls,”
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Western Rite comin ’round the curve,
When she ran in to a big iceberg,
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Western Rite was sinkin’ down,
No more lifeboats all around
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Rome it heard the mighty shock
Mighta seen it doin’ the Eagle Rock
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”


Posted by: Fr. C. | June 29, 2013

Verse Libre

EuripidesΤουλευθερον ό εκεινο, ει τις θελει πολει Χρηςον τι βουλευμ’ εις μεσον φερειν, εχων. Και ταυθ’, ο χρηζων, λαμπρος εσθ’, ο μη θελων, Σιγα, τι τουτων εςιν ισαιτερον πολει.

Euripid. Hicetia.

This is true Liberty,

when freeborn men,

Having to advise the public, may speak free;

Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise:

Who neither can, nor will, may hold his peace:

What can be juster in a state than this?

Euripid, Hicetia.

Pondering a quote from John Milton from whose Areopagitica the quotes from Euripides was taken.  He said this of England (which, of course, has just banned anti-jihad commentators Robert Spencer and Pam Geller).  It is appropos here at so very many levels particularly after this week’s Supreme Court decisions on the defense of Marriage Act.

“…consider what Nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governours: a Nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, and piercing spirit, acute to invent, suttle and sinewy to discours, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties”

Posted by: Fr. C. | June 27, 2013

On the One Hand





Why do church leaders make decisions so difficult for the traditional, conservative Christian seeking a home? As Pope Francis noted,

The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that it entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.

That’s “spot on” as the British folk are wont to say.  But then, on the very same day, we hear from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, commended President Barack Obama for his leadership on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and Israeli-Palestinian peace.   That would be a “drop trousers” approach to disarmament and decidedly one-sided approach to the Middle East question.

Of course, this would be the very same Cardinal Timothy Dolan who, whilst visiting a  mosque in New York City last weekend, gushed, “I thank God that this day has arrived.” This Catholic Christian leader went on to say of the Muslim and Roman Catholic faiths, “You love God, we love God and he is the same God.” The good cardinal must have missed that comparative religions class on the Qur’an.  After all,  “Who says ‘Allah has begotten a Son’? Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth; how can He have a son when He has no consort.” Qur’an 2:116, Or how about,

Never has God begotten a son, nor is there any other god besides Him. Were this otherwise, each god would govern his own creation, each holding himself above the other. Exalted be God above their falsehoods! —Qur’an 23:91

Either Jesus is the only begotten Son, and is Lord, or he is not.  There simply is no middle ground on this.

Cardinal Dolan, not merely content to ignore simple reality, went on to invent his own, extolling Islam’s “love of freedom — religious freedom particularly– your defense of life, your desire for harmony and unity and your care for others…” These would be the same folks who believe that apostates should be executed.

They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper. Qur’an 4:89

Not to pile on, but other verses that seem to support the many Hadith demanding death for apostates are Qur’an verses 2:217, 9:73-74, 88:21, 5:54, and 9:66.

This would be the same “care for others” that gives us stonings, acid attacks, mutilation and, of course, the ever popular beheadings. insult

Of course, this would be the same prelate who approved $20k payments to suspected pedophile priests to leave the ministry when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.  Of course, this might be the “similar family values” he had in mind during love-fest with Muslim clergy last week.

Indeed, ‘[t]he Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that it entails.”  But, when we witness this sort of thing, she sure appears essentially political rather than spiritual.

Posted by: Fr. C. | August 11, 2012

Are Ye Catholic or No?


But where is Hobbes?

Is anyone  genuinely tired of being derided as an Anglo-Papalist or even modestly sneered at for being an Anglo-Catholic-you know, those evil folks lately characterized as trying to “unreform the church”? (See e.g. “The Old High Churchman Blog)  Is there a place in Anglicanism for the non-Calvinist?

My old friend Fr. Victor Novak wrote an article over at the Virtue website entitled  “CATHOLICISM, CALVINISM AND THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES”. (As always, a thoughtful article even though I am not a 39 Articles man myself.) He was bitterly attacked by the Calvinists, including those who are purported members of the Anglican Catholic…that would be CATHOLIC…Church.  (You know one of those that claims to flow from the Affirmation of St. Louis.)
It is, in my view, time for Anglo-Catholics to boldly self-define and band together, or pack it in for other (not necessarily greener) pastures.  I am not willing to make the jump yet, but I have been (and may be) darned close.  So, I will never condemn those swimming East or West. Yet, here we are are in communion with, or actually members of, bodies of folks who are vociferously antithetical to “7&7” or any other kind of Catholicism.

We have a presenting issue-one that is beyond missals, Ritual Notes, Fortescue, Dearmer and the lot.  There is a marked challenge to the logic of our existence even from those who claim to be in communion with us or worse, members of our various sadly-splintered and increasingly diminished bodies.

Shall we engage the question of raison d’etre, or continue to whistle (something Palestrina-like, of course) past the graveyard?  Dare I say it is time for a chorus of “Stand Up for Jesus” and some gathering of the Catholic flock for serious discussion and reflection? As we near 40 years since the Affirmation, is it now time to throw down, forgive and realign: Anglo-Catholics joining as one?  Or, are we simply playing until we at last wink out?

Just a small fire starter on an hot August night!

Posted by: Fr. C. | June 11, 2012

Of Crabs and Men

Is this your parish?

Being from the Chesapeake Watershed and having spent summer days at my sister’s place on the bay crabbing (despite a seafood allergy that prevents me from actually eating the tasty critters), I am familiar with fact that one need not put a lid on the pot in which the crabs are kept.  Naturally one would think that any crab that wanted to, could simply crawl up over the edge and escape.

Ah, but as the article points out, the curious nature of the crab is that instinctively those in the group reach up and pull down the ones climbing out, back into the bucket.  They will not allow one another to break free which destines all for the steamer. This is the gist of sadly crabology.

Mr. Stuart aptly observes that this phenomenon extends to human behavior.  “It says in effect that ‘if I can’t be free, neither can you.’”  He goes on to observe that this “is the tendency to want to downplay, discourage and even disallow someone else from a breakthrough or succeeding at something that we have not experienced.”  It can b have any number of motivations: envy or jealousy, a competitive attitude or simply ignorance as to what is really happening. He goes on to note that there is a pointed spiritual lesson in this.

Beginning with St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Stuart focuses on the admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:10, 15) The injunction is set in the context of seven verses in which the Apostle gives specific instructions to Christian believers as to how to get along with one another. (Romans 12:9-16)

Church history to the very present, particularly the brokenness ans sectishness of the Anglican continuing church movement (a microscopic bit of that history), has been marked by a “crabologism” infiltrated that it has been the source of much suspicion and division in the body of Christ.  Throughout the centuries God has sent saints, teachers, and even devout “ordinary” lay folk to lead the the members of the Body of Christ out of the bucket of spiritual malaise.  As Mr. Stuart aptly points out, “the crabs within the church have often provided the major opposition.”

These folks have sought not only to resist the move of God, but have even fallen to the depths of martyring the very people sent to proclaim that new found freedom. To leave the familiar confines of the pot is anaethema.  Certainly, a devotion to brotherly love has not prevailed.

Stuart observes the group most resistant to a fresh move of God are those who experienced the last one.  he uses the analogy of adding successive stories to a skyscraper. The one’s who added the last floor are the ones who most vehemently protests adding another. 

This was true in Jesus’ day as well.  The disciples of both John the Baptist and the Pharisees had real difficulty with the disciples of Jesus not fasting and praying like them.  To them it seemed like Jesus’ disciples were crawling out of the bucket of the law and they wanted to pull them back in. (Luke 5:33-35, Matthew 9:14-15 & Mark 2:18-20)  The disciples of Jesus however were not just victims of crabology, they themselves also fell prey to a crabology mentality.

Anyone who is honest about continuing Anglicanism can see this plainly, on a daily basis. It is like the disciples on their return from their initial sending.  hey have preached, healed and cast out demons.  Aha!  But there is this other guy out there!  They saw him daring to cast out demons in Jesus’ name.  But he’s not a part of our franchise!  They wanted him stopped and the “pure” franchise maintained. “Our group has the monopoly on Jesus.”  You can almost hear our Lord sigh as he rebuked them, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Like Tom Stuart, I have personally witnessed and experienced spiritual crabology over the past twenty years since I gave up the traditionalist fight inside the Episcopal church and fully joinined in the continuing Church, particularly after my ordination. side the forty years not only in the church, but also in my own heart.  When I and my family finally found safe harbor in a traditional setting-in my case the Anglican Province of Christ the King-I had an experience experience that clearly defined for me what I thought Christianity should be like: intense traditional english catholicism with a high sense of ritualism.  Nothing else was right.

As the years passed, particularly in my service as a military chaplain, I began to share in worship and prayer with other traditional Christians.  Like my fellow crab Tom Stuart, I found myself suspicious and resistant to other believers who were seeking to move up and out of my theological bucket.This attitude was and remains fueled by an arrogant, pious donatismm amongst many of continuing church clergy and laity-folks I have come to call “Angricans.” From parishes of 25 or 30 aging souls, Crabus Anglicanus can simultaneously sneer at Roman Catholics (“given over to modernism”), the Orthodox (“too foreign”) and even Baptists (“well…well…they’re just Baptists“).

I was not rejoicing with those who were rejoicing-even with people whose theology I share. Instead, just like so many others, I found myself harboring a complaining and judgmental spirit toward fellow Christians– WARNING: crabology alert. I reached a place where I was “more Catholic than Roman Catholics”, “more Orthodox than Orthodox” and just plain “more full in the faith” than anyone else. All the while I did this I declaimed that I am only in one “branch”.

I agree with Tom Stuart that when a crab-like attitude begins to creep in, it is often accompanied by an inability to genuinely rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  It bars us from sharing in the many gifts they might bring us to enrich our own faith. Rather than rejoicing with them, or even standing with them on common issues, we are offended by their rejoicing and we draw inward and become more sectarian or evein “sectish”.

At a recent meeting of the Anglican Church in Norrth America, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America (a man who can’t be accused of compromising his theology) had some pointed things to say to Christian crabologists of all stripes. As reported at the Anglican Ink blog, his Beatitude cited the common moral vision of the Orthodox and the ACNA and the Protestant confessing churches.  While the churches were divided amongst themselves over issues of doctrine and discipline, including big issues such as women clergy, the more pressing split was “between those who hold traditional biblical faith” and show who hold a “secularized faith according to contemporary” mores and “who dismiss the moral teachings of the Scriptures and the Fathers as culturally irrelevant.”

“This realignment is not the protestant/catholic, evangelical-charismatic/mainline divide, it effects all churches,” Metropolitan Jonah said, and “it is creating a massive realignment” between the true faith and “those who reject it, criticize it and persecute it.”

Finally, the Metropolitan paraphrased Pope Benedict who has “called for us to stand against this enemy.  Without alteration, without change, without revision” we must stand together “against those who would subject their faith to the wisdom of the current age.  We must stand together because we cannot stand alone.”

This is not a call to abandon one’s identity as a Christian.  It is a powerful plea acknowledge that there is a broader Christian world beyond the edge of the bushel basket.  It is a challenge to abandon crabology amongst catholic Christians, and the incredible waste of resources and damage to witness that it involves. Most of all, it is a clarion call to climb out of our own pot before we die.

Posted by: Fr. C. | June 1, 2012

Sharper Than…

A I Corinthians 10:9 Moment

An old friend, Julia Duin, reports this week on a snake-handling mishap. It seems that ons Mack Wolford, described as a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia whose serpent-handling talents were profiled last November in Washington Post Magazine, planned an outdoor service for Sunday at an isolated state park. The service was to be a “homecoming like the old days,” full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time.” But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw. Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday.

Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.

Guess he missed seminary the day they taught Matthew 4:7, “Jesus said unto him, It is written again, You shall not test the Lord your God.:  Or Luke 4:12, “Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Even worse, Wolford was a son of a serpent handler who himself died in 1983 after being bitten.  He was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not. The article doesn’t mention states where it is just plain dumb?

Last Sunday started as a festive outdoor service on a sunny afternoon at Panther Wildlife Management Area, a state park roughly 80 miles west of Bluefield, W.Va. In the preceding days, Wolford had posted several teasers on his Facebook page asking people to attend.  You have to love social media when you get, “Praise the Lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother.” (May 23).. He also invited his extended family, who–here’s a big surprise-largely had given up the practice of serpent handling, to come to the park.

And so they were gathered at the river, or at least a hootenanny of Christian praise and worship. About 30 minutes into the service, his sister said, Wolford passed a yellow timber rattler to a church member and his mother. “He laid it on the ground,” she said, “and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh.”

Unsurprisingly, the festivities came to a halt shortly thereafter.  Surprisingly (or perhaps not),Wolford was taken back to a relative’s house in Bluefield to recover, as he apparently always had when suffering from previous snake bites. By late afternoon, it was clear that this time was different, and desperate messages began flying about on Facebook, asking for prayer.  Apparently, none asked for the name of a hospital or abulance, both of which they actually have iin Bluefield, WV.

Wolford got progressively worse and at some point someone actually got off Facebook and calle EMS.. Paramedics transported him to Bluefield Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Wolford was 15 when he saw his father die at age 39 of a rattlesnake bite in almost exactly the same circumstances. According to people who witnessed Mack Wolford’s death, history repeated itself. He was bitten roughly at 1:30 p.m.; he died about 11 that night. Not much of a learning curve. Indeed, Wolford slung poisonous snakes around his neck, danced with them, even laid down on or near them. He displayed spots on his right hand where copperheads had sunk their fangs. His home in Bluefield had a spare bedroom filled with at least eight venomous snakes: usually rattlers, water moccasins and copperheads that he fed rats and mice.

He was passionate about wanting to help churches in nearby states — including North Carolina and Tennessee, where the practice is illegal — start up their own serpent-handling services. His funeral will be held Saturday at his church, House of the Lord Jesus, in Matoaka, just north of Bluefield.

Now that’s outreach ministry.

“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”



Posted by: Fr. C. | May 11, 2012

Directional Thoughts

Here are some thoughts for consideration from Fr. Chad Hatfield’s short but thought-provoking paper Anglican Options  Rome or Orthodoxy.

“I had watched the pitiful hissing and fighting within the Continuing Anglican churches for years.  I had come to the conclusion that the main vocation of these various groups was to serve a kind of chaplaincy to small elderly congregations.” Is this a valid observation?  We’ll set up a poll later to see.

Or, how about this? “[T]he ‘Anglican way’ and the ‘Orthodox way’ are one and the same with the appeal to Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition.  Orthodoxy is the best of classical Anglicanism preserved in our day, with an unquestioned link to the Apostolic Church.” Fr. Carl Bell, A New and Unknown World, The Evangelical    Catholic, Vol. XIV, No. 8, March/April 1992, p. 11.

Finally, in a reflection paper, written by Fr. Peter Geldard, a Roman Catholic priest whom I know and deeply respect and former General-Secretary of the English Church Union, three questions are put to Anglicans who are looking at their options.  They are as follows:

  • Does the Church in which I wish to be sustained guarantee me the continual grace and comfort of the sacraments as they were instituted by Christ?
  • Does my choice work for the building-up and the unity of the Church or its further disintegration?
  • Is it a Church into which I wish to inculcate my children and grand-children because I am convinced of its future and its ability to convert our nation?
Posted by: Fr. C. | May 2, 2012

Alternative Energy

There is a source of alternative energy: Korans.  Not only do the korans, printed with volatile ink on relatively cheap paper, provide an intense heat source, but, if we can find a way to harness the emanations from various imams whenever one of these little “books of peace” attains to a combustible level.

For example, it seems that the Iranian Foreign Ministry, a bastion of sober thought and tolerance, has issued a statement  condemning a U.S. pastor for “insulting the Koran”  and has emphasized that the “U.S.  government should apologize to the Islamic world as soon as possible.”  Undoubtedly, in our current administration’s Department of Apologies they are getting right down to it, let’s read on.

According to Fars news agency, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign  Ministry issued a statement with regards to a Koran burning incident in  America as follows:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned this  absurd, insulting and provocative act by a so-called US pastor in openly  insulting the holiness of the Koran, Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him)  miracle, and considered it an act in line with the failed project of the fight  against Islam and Islamophobia by those who plan wars among civilizations and  religions in the United States and the West.”

Wow!  Imagine the reaction if he had openly taunted the book: “Hey, yo’ Koran, yo’ mama!”  Or perhaps something Latinate, classical and vaguely Churchillian, “Hey Koran, O Koran, Koran…your mother.”

The statement adds: “Undoubtedly, such absurd actions by the American pastor  will lead to religious hatred and anger and detestation of Muslims around the  world. This doubles the US government’s responsibility for not taking any  action to prevent such extreme measures.”

Uh, guys.  We know that Sharia is unencumbered by the First Amendment.  Over here, we have to endure images of Jesus immersed in urine, the blessed Virgin immersed in urine, and virtually anything immersed in urine. One has to wonder about the number of beer parties being held amongst the artistic left. No matter.  Funny though, they don’t seem to accord the same urological enthusiasm with respect to the venerable Koran.

Back to the story: “while strongly condemning such offensive actions in America, which take  place under different excuses and with propaganda and media support each time,  the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign Ministry is of the opinion that the  international community is expecting an urgent, strong and explicit reaction by  the American government in confronting the elements behind this incident and to  take clear and practical measures for preventing such cultural crimes from  happening again.”

Yeah.  We’ll get right to that condemnation bit.  Right after we have a few beers and…well…express ourselves artistically.

Ah, but here is the rub: “Based on previous experiences and not having  hope in any actions by Western politicians, particularly American politicians,  in preventing such cultural disasters from happening again, the Islamic  Republic of Iran urges the authorities and scholars of the Christian world,  those who believe in religious tolerance and religious dialogue, and the elite  and officials of Islamic countries, particularly the Organization of Islamic  Cooperation to announce their position with regards to this action against  Islam and the US government’s silence toward it, and prevent such actions which  lead to initiation and increase of cultural hatred and therefore, weaken or  even threaten global peace and nations’ prosperity.”

So, there it is: the elite, the tolerant, and the officials of Islamic countries, all together again for a big round of condemnation.  Wow.  Another source of alternative energy.  All we need is a bit of wood to get it going.

Posted by: Fr. C. | April 30, 2012

The “Other Guy”

Here’s a bit of a thought from the Gospel according to St. Mark, Chapter 9:

33And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?

34But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest…….

38And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

39But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

40For he that is not against us is on our part.

St. Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 5: We must take care that this saying of the Lord       appear not to be contrary to that where He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” [Luke 11:23] Or will any one say that the difference lies in that here He says to His disciples, “For he that is not against you is on your part,” but in the other He speaks of Himself, “He who is not with Me is against Me?” As if indeed it were possible [ed. note: St. Augustine has here quasi vero, instead of quasi non, which hardly makes sense; the latter reading has also been found in an old edition of the Catena Aurea, A.D. 1417.] that he who is joined to Christ’s disciples, who are     as His members, should not be with Him.

How if it were so, could it be true that “he that receiveth you receiveth Me?”  [Matt. 10:40] Or how is he not against Him who is against His disciples? Where then       will be that saying, “He who despiseth you, despiseth Me? [Luke 10:16] But surely   what is implied is that a man is not with Him in as far as he is against Him, and is not against Him in as far as he is with Him.

For instance, he who worked miracles in the name of Christ, and yet did not join       himself to the body of His disciples, in as far as he worked the miracles in His       name, was with them, and was not against them; again, in that he did not join their     society, he was not with them, and was against them.

And, so, why are there are two or more “one, true Churches” who take delight in skewering the others?  Are we able ask for or, worse, to set limits on the operation of God’s grace?  Can we confine the work of the Holy Spirit within a particular ecclesiological structure?

Posted by: Fr. C. | April 3, 2012

Why Orthodoxy?

On March 17, 2011, Rod Dreher, a former Roman Catholic, published an account of his and his family’s journey to Orhodoxy at the Washington Post blog.   Mr. Dreher speaks without rancor toward the Roman Catholic Church, but focuses on the positive reasons for his journey “east”.  This article, which is reproduced here in its entirety is remarkable for its honesty and for its charity.  It is a must read for those considering making the same journey.

What’s So Appealing About Orthodoxy?

By Rod Dreher

Icame to Orthodoxy in 2006, a broken man. I had been a devoutly observant and convinced Roman Catholic for years, but had my faith shattered in large part by what I had learned as a reporter covering the sex abuse scandal. It had been my assumption that my theological convictions would protect the core of my faith through any trial, but the knowledge I struggled with wore down my ability to believe in the ecclesial truth claims of the Roman church (I wrote in detail about that drama here). For my wife and me, Protestantism was not an option, given what we knew about church history, and given our convictions about sacramental theology. That left Orthodoxy as the only safe harbor from the tempest that threatened to capsize our Christianity.

In truth, I had longed for Orthodoxy for some time, for the same reasons I, as a young man, found my way into the Catholic Church. It seemed to me a rock of stability in a turbulent sea of relativism and modernism overtaking Western Christianity. And while the Roman church threw out so much of its artistic and liturgical heritage in the violence of the Second Vatican Council, the Orthodox still held on to theirs. Several years before we entered Orthodoxy, my wife and I visited Orthodox friends at their Maryland parish. As morally and liturgically conservative Catholics, we were moved and even envious over what we saw there. We had to leave early to scoot up the road to the nearest Seventies moderne Catholic parish to meet our Sunday obligation. The contrast between the desultory liturgical proceedings at Our Lady of Pizza Hut and what we had walked out of in the Orthodox parish down the road literally reduced us to tears. But ugliness, even a sense of spiritual desolation, does not obviate truth, and we knew we had to stand with truth – and therefore with Rome – despite it all.

If Catholicism in America had been healthy, maybe we could have held on through the sex abuse trials. But my wife and I had been worrying for some time how we were going to raise faithful Christian children given the loosey-goosey moral teaching in Roman parishes. We considered ourselves orthodox Catholics, meaning we really believed what was in the Catechism, and struggled to live by it. We failed – everybody fails – but the point is, we looked to the church to provide clear moral leadership, and to help us live out the faith with integrity and joy. Here’s the problem: there is very little orthodoxy in the U.S. Catholic Church, and at the parish level, almost no recognition that there is a such thing as “right belief.” It wasn’t that I wanted to throw out all those who don’t live up to Catholic teaching – I would have been the first one shown the door if that had been true – but that I discerned no direction, and no real conviction that parish communities exist for any reason other than to affirm ourselves in our okayness. Though I didn’t have a term to describe it at the time, I was weary to the bone from an ersatz form of Christianity that sociologist Christian Smith calls “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” I had been so hollowed out by despair over all this as a Catholic that when the strong winds of the abuse scandal began to blow, the structure of my Catholic belief did not stand.

I say all this not to disparage the Roman Catholic Church – which I still love, and to which I cannot be grateful enough for introducing me to ancient, sacramental Christianity – but to show why Orthodoxy was so attractive to me. When I interviewed him for my book “Crunchy Cons,” my friend Hugh O’Beirne, a convert from Catholicism to Orthodoxy, told me that for a Catholic wearied by the culture wars raging inside American Catholicism, it is blessed relief to find that in Orthodoxy, there is no “war footing.” The kinds of issues that are tearing apart many other American churches aren’t nearly as contentious in Orthodox practice. Though it would be foolish to pretend these conflicts don’t exist in Orthodox parishes, they simply aren’t nearly as much of an issue.

And then there is the liturgy and music. There is nothing comparable to it in other churches. It is overwhelmingly beautiful and deep, and is largely the same Divine Liturgy (though in the vernacular tongue) that St. John Chrysostom, the 5th century patriarch of Constantinople, formalized. The beauty of that liturgy is utterly transporting, and the reverence it inspires is tonic. And while I miss familiar old hymns (in Orthodox services, we chant prayers and Psalms), there’s a lot to be said for never having to endure “On Eagle’s Wings” and other shag-carpeted hymnody endemic to modern American Catholic worship.

The main reason why Orthodoxy is so attractive to converts, at least to this convert, is its seriousness about sin. I don’t mean that it’s a dour religion – it is very far from that! – but rather that Orthodoxy takes the brokenness of humankind with appropriate seriousness. Orthodoxy is not going to tell you that you’re okay. In fact, it will require you to call yourself, as St. Paul described himself, the “chief of sinners.” And Orthodoxy is going to tell you the Good News: Jesus died and returned to life so that you too might live. But in order to live, you are going to have to die to yourself, over and over again. And that will not be painless, and cannot be, or it’s not real.

Because of that, for all its dramatic beauty and rich feasting, Orthodoxy is far more austere and demanding than most American Christianity. The long liturgies, the frequent prayers, the intense fasts – all make serious demands on the believer, especially comfortable middle-class Americans like me. They call us out of ourselves, and to repentance. Orthodoxy is not interested in making you feel comfortable in your sins. It wants nothing less than for you to be a saint.

It’s common among American converts to hear that men were first attracted to Orthodoxy, and their wives followed. It’s not hard to see why. Many men are tired of a soft, bourgeois Christianity that doesn’t call them to much because it doesn’t ask much of them. Men love a challenge, and that’s exactly what Orthodoxy gives them.

Don’t be misled. Orthodoxy is not, at its core, about rules and practices. The more I progress in my Orthodoxy, the clearer it is to me that Orthodoxy is, above all, a way. It is not an institution, a set of doctrines, or a collection of rituals, though it contains all three. It is rather a way of seeing the world, and one’s place in it, and a map to holiness that is paradoxically both ancient and astonishingly fresh, at least to Western sensibilities. It is the way of liberation.

True, it is possible to find dreary parish life in American Orthodoxy, often among the ethnically-oriented older parishes that see themselves as little more than the tribe at prayer. And because Orthodox churches are full of ordinary American people, they are also filled with ordinary American problems. Anyone who comes to an Orthodox church expecting perfection will be disappointed. What you will find, though, is truth and beauty presented in a way that can be breathtaking to modern Americans, and an ancient Way grounded on doctrinal stability, sacramental reality, and practical Christian mysticism – a mysticism that has been marginalized in most other American churches.

I found in Orthodoxy what I thought I would find when I became Catholic. As my patron saint in Orthodoxy, I chose St. Benedict of Nursia, dear to both churches, and a sign of the unity we used to have, and that we might yet have again. The Catholic church needs to be more orthodox, and the Orthodox church needs to be more catholic. I pray, I really pray, that I will live to see that unity return. Until that time, though, I am grateful to God that He gave me a second chance in Orthodoxy, and showed me the Way I had been searching for all my life. When I first came in the door, a spiritually broken mess, I thought it would be impossible for me to learn to endure these long liturgies, this intense prayer, these prostrations, the strict fasting, and – how to put this? – the weirdness of Orthodox Christianity in an American context. Five years on, I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. You can’t read your way into Orthodoxy. You have to come and see for yourself.

Rod Dreher is a writer in Philadelphia.

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