Arimathea
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Religion
The human animal is the worshipping animal. Toward the divine, we have a need to pray, to sacrifice, to offer up, and to praise. From the spirit dances of primitive animism to the rational contemplation of philosophical paganism, from the ethical code of the rabbis to the theological vision of the scholastics, from the sprinkled blood (the origin of blessing) of temple cults to helping the poor in simple Christian charity, men need to relate the immanent and the transcendent -- they see their particular lives in time and space transfigured and transfused with meaning unbounded by human things. Religion is this aspect of human life where the everyday and worldly intersects with the ultimate and divine. Is this an accident of human evolution, or is it a racial neurosis brought upon us as conscious beings who live in the shadow of our own death? Is it a reflection of the divine order, where creatures naturally orient themselves toward their source? Has God revealed himself to us, as the Christians claim? In this realm, I shall try to delve into such questions as an Orthodox Christian who ever pesters God with "Why?"
Monday, May 30, A.D. 2011
My Kind of Ecumenism

George Michalopulos commented on decision of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to loosen sexual ethical restrictions on their clergy by posting a video of the P.C.U.S.A.‘s General Assembly last year. The video features Archpriest Siarhei Hardun of Belarus, who addressed the assembly as an “Ecumenical Advisory Delegate.” It is an example of how ecumenical engagement can be done without betraying the faith.

Even though Fr. Siarhei does not speak English eloquently, he testified nobly and in charity.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, May 30, Anno Domini 2011
OrthodoxyEcumenismProtestantismCommentsPermalink
Wednesday, May 25, A.D. 2011
Branch of the Harlot

In case you missed it while practicing your heathen ways during Bright Week (which itself obviously originates in pagan celebrations of devilish poetry in honor of the Norse god Bragi), Bible believing and soul saving site Galatians 4 posted an important entry warning everyone about Mystery Babylonianism: “The Orthodox Church: Branch of the Harlot.”

What I have always found interesting about the Orthodox church, is while Catholicism in America had to water itself down a bit to entice the Protestants into it’s doors and for the ecumenical movement especially post Vatican II, and while both have an endless array of pagan and occult traditions in the Orthodox churches they are quite more blatant, there you can see the Eastern paganism in all it’s shining non-stripped away false “glory”, the Alexandrian cult fully married to a veneer of Christianity.

Those damned Easterners just shamelessly like to throw their idol worshiping weirdness right in your face!

Sigh.

Among other things, the writer is upset at iconostases that separate the faithful from the altar, noting,

This is recreating the “temple”, ignoring the fact the Jesus Christ rent the veil from top to bottom, there was to be no more temples, inner courts or laity vs clergy set-ups anymore.

We do call our worship places temples, and we see them as a continuation of the Hebrews’ temple worship, though universalized through the Cross, spread by the Great Commission, and perfected in spirit and in truth.

Moreover, I suppose that the fellow does not know about the symbolism of the templon’s Beautiful Gate during the liturgy. For the holy doors open during the parts of the liturgy when God “reaches” out to man, as with scriptural revelation and, most importantly, the Eucharist. Once “Christ is in our midst,” the doors and the curtain remain ever open. The removal of the curtain right before Communion signifies the rending of the temple veil.

The rest of the entry is typical Protestant criticism. At least, the confused chap rightly rejects the World Council of Churches [sic].

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, May 25, Anno Domini 2011
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Monday, May 23, A.D. 2011
Rome under the Arians

I often think about my gaps in historical knowledge, which are undoubtedly small when compared to my ignorance of which I am not even aware. One such topic involves the Roman Christians’ experience under Arian dominion. Many people mistakenly think that the Germanic invaders in late antiquity were pagans, but most of them were Arians who seem to have treated the conquered Catholic population with a good deal of mercy. I would like to know more about the occupation and how it affected the religious climate in Rome. I know that Roman popes and other Catholic bishops had extensive diplomatic relations with the Arian rulers, but I do not know if there was significant political pressure or persecution due to religious differences.

Much of the Arian controversy in the East was due to politics. Constantine’s heirs were Arians or Arian sympathizers, and the eastern empire was the more interesting half in the fourth century controversy. Non-specialists know a bit about the theological ragings in the East, while we do not hear much about the West. Why? The following are some uninformed but reasonable guesses.

—By the time of the Arian ascendency in the West, the Orthodox position had been solidly established and defended due to the theological work and conciliar decisions of the fourth century. Therefore, the Catholic populace in the West was dedicated to the Nicene formulation, and the Arians had no chance of convincing them otherwise.

—Likewise, we could say that the firm Orthodoxy of the Roman Church had never succumbed to Arianism from within—from influences internal to the empire. It is thus not surprising that the Romans never succumbed to Arianism from without.

—The Germanic Arians persisted in their (recent) ancestral commitment to Arianism for tribal reasons. Once they settled down and began to engage the issue theologically, they slowly converted to the Catholic Church.

—Similarly, the Germanic Arians were Arian for tribal reasons; Arian missionaries had converted their pagan tribes to a heretical form of Christianity. Their interest in Arianism was not theologically grounded. Therefore, when they took over Western lands, they did not do so to impose Arianism. They wanted riches and power. Like the Mongols, they could have been religiously tolerant because they were largely theologically apathetic. In the East, by contrast, the Arians were devoted to the cause for religious reasons.

—In the fourth century East, the Arians benefitted from the support of the established government and, quite often, ecclesial leadership. In the fifth century West, the Arians were foreign conquerors. The populace would have been more resistant to the “other.”

—The Germanic Arian invaders did not displace the population but only the imperial leadership. They did not have the numbers to transform Western lands into Arian bastions. The West remained Catholic just as England, after William’s invasion, retained its Anglo-Saxon language. Eventually, the Plantagenets adopted the conquered’s speech, and the Arians adopted the Catholic faith.

—The Germanic invaders were not prepared to run the civilization that they conquered. They had no spare time to invest in religious reformation.

—The Germanic Arians may not have seen the Catholic Church as inimical as the Arians in the East. For they were more recent converts to Christianity from a more primitive paganism than Greco-Roman paganism. Therefore, they may have been tolerant of the Catholics because they were more likely to identify Catholics as religious kinsmen when compared to the paganism of their recent past and of their contemporary cousins north of the Danube.

I would like to know more about the topic if anyone would like to suggest resources.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, May 23, Anno Domini 2011
OrthodoxyPatristicsRoman CatholicismCommentsPermalink
Tuesday, May 17, A.D. 2011
Ioannes Paulus II in Ephemeris

I have noticed over the last year that The Washington Post is gradually becoming a real newspaper with divergent viewpoints and extensive coverage, where journalists report on matters, such as religion and the prolife movement, in an informed and even sympathetic way. The former WaPo spirit ignored such topics or approached them in the most hostile manner. Now, the newspaper features guest columns by Rod Dreher and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf! Maybe, former Wall Street Journal man Marcus Brauchli’s taking over the executive editor position at the Post has brought some balance to the paper. If things continue this way, we could see Diana West end up on the staff. One may hope.

Fr. John Zulhsdorf’s article is a pious eulogy for John Paul II on the occasion of his recent beatification: “Pope John Paul II: Fearless in hope and love.” While I have many objections to his pontificate, John Paul II was a formidable force who accomplished much good. May he rest in peace, may his foolish decisions come to naught, and may the seeds that he planted in wisdom grow and blossom.

I would also like to thank Ephemeris for providing a good Latin name for a daily paper. It is a news site in lingua latina.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 17, Anno Domini 2011
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Thursday, May 12, A.D. 2011
Pope Attacks Pathologies of Faith and Reason

Happy birthday to my brother, Aaron!

As Aarons labors in the papio-educational complex, it is fitting for today that I offer Fr. Z.‘s insightful comments on Samuel Gregg’s recent article about il papa, “Benedict XVI: In No One’s Shadow.” Gregg writes:

Christianity, Benedict argued at Regensburg, integrated Biblical faith, Greek philosophy, and Roman law, thereby creating the “foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.” This suggests that any weakening of this integration of faith and reason would mean the West would start losing its distinctive identity. In short, a West without a Christianity that integrates faith and reason is no longer the West.

Today, Benedict added, we see what happens when faith and reason are torn asunder. Reason is reduced to scientism and ideologies of progress, thereby rending reasoned discussion of anything beyond the empirical impossible. Faith dissolves into sentimental humanitarianism, an equally inadequate basis for rational reflection. Neither of these emaciated facsimiles of their originals can provide any coherent response to the great questions pondered by every human being: “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?”

So what’s the way back? To Benedict’s mind, it involves affirming that what he recently called creative reason lies at the origin of everything.

Fr. Z. notes [in bold]:

Of course none of this fits into sound-bites. “Pope Attacks Pathologies of Faith and Reason!” is unlikely to be a newspaper headline anytime soon. [But it has in the blogosphere.  Thanks, Mr. Gregg.] That, however, doesn’t nullify the accuracy of Benedict’s analysis. It just makes communicating it difficult in a world of diminished attention-spans and inclined to believe it has nothing to learn from history. [Again, as part of my own liturgical reflection, I note that we are dominated by distraction,and at the root of that distraction is timor mortis, which Augustine calls our hiems cotidiana. The focus on the Cross is what cracks that distraction and brings us into touch with the mystery which both terrifies and attracts. If liturgical worship doesn’t accomplish this over time, it has failed.]

Gregg’s article appears in The American Spectator—surprising material for a political rag.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, May 12, Anno Domini 2011
OrthodoxyEcumenismAtheism and its alliesMohammedanismRoman CatholicismCommentsPermalink
Tuesday, May 3, A.D. 2011
Radonitsa

Today, the Russkies celebrate Радоница, the day of joy, which falls on the Tuesday after Saint Thomas Sunday. It is the day to remember the departed in light of Christ’s resurrection and triumph over death. Христос воскресе!

Last week, the Observer linked to a video quite appropriate for the day:

Now, that’s Ghanaian exuberance during Eastertide!

First and foremost, the video displays, in the somewhat idiosyncratic way of West Africans, the joy of Pascha and of that most wonderful Paschal troparion. There is nothing in world like the celebration of Pascha. For a more classically European interpretation of this happiness, consider Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Светлый праздник.

Second, reality is obstinately dismissive of our polite attempts not to notice patterns among human groups. Westerners have long thought of blacks in general and of West Africans and their descendants in particular as exemplars of Dionysian Man. A species of Rousseau’s noble savage, this sometimes Numinous Negro deserving of Delphic reference or occasionally happy go lucky living rebuke to the neurotic control freak (and sometimes the two combined, as with the holy fool shaman) reappears in literature, film, and song. Of course, there is no shortage of Dionysians among the people who gave us the origin of the term, and the holy fool shaman appears in as diverse places as Russia and Japan, but perhaps Dionysian elements are truly more preponderant among the children of Cush.

The Matrix trilogy provides a good example from popular culture. “Zion,” or the flesh and blood human society in the movies, consists mostly of blacks. The name is numinous enough in that it invokes spirituality, and old Negro spirituals, but the cultural life of the people, when they are able to be people, is depicted as strikingly Dionysian. Their worship and their celebration recall Bacchic orgies. My friend Andrew remarked that people so restrained in an Apollonian world—the world of machines and of the Matrix, counteract the imbalance through Dionysian excess in their distinctly human life. I think that this is why the Wachowski brothers populated Zion with blacks. Moreover, the Oracle manifests herself as the wise old black woman, wherein there is little subtlety regarding numinal status. Some critics said that blacks were predominately cast because they are currently perceived as cool or because their hue matches l’esthétique noire of the films. While such may have some merit, I think that the Dionysian explanation is the most significant. The Negro remains the modern West’s Dionysian model, and the estimation appears to be based on experience.

This topic embarrasses our current crop of right thinking people because they have a some inexplicable dogmatic belief in human homogeneity—except, of course, when they are touting the glories of diversity. Well, consistency is not a human strength. It is positively outré to notice that American blacks indulge in exhibitionism and hamminess more than any other ethnic grouping, just as one is not to notice, I suppose, the characteristics of the Tiger Mom’s cubs. Whether such tendencies result from nature or nurture is besides the point, though I happen to believe that both play a part. Human differences, and differences in human population groups, are very real, very obvious, and very relevant to how we manage our lives.

A few years ago, I commented on American black religious worship in “Steve Harvey and Dionysian Protestantism”:

There is something very Dionysian in several strains of American Protestantism—and we cannot simply attribute this to the “excitability of the colored folk” as some people claim who are not familiar with religious traditions born from or heavily influenced by the spiritual feverishness of the Great Awakenings. If you have ever been to lily white charismatic congregations, you feel the same energy—the same rush to lose oneself in the mob—in the “One” of the moment.

I do not think that my present observation undercuts the post’s point about charismatic Protestantism, though it is possible that more Dionysian religious sects may be more attractive to more people in black populations. In “The Contrast of Orthodox Worship,” I juxtapose this Dionysian excess with traditional Orthodox worship. Are these Ghanaians importing their Dionysian proclivities to Orthodoxy, just as sub Saharan African Christians often import fetishes, beliefs about witchcraft, and bodily mutilation in their religious syncretism? It seems so, but the Church has always transformed and “baptized” indigenous cultures. The Gospel hallows the pagan vision just as it fulfills the Hebraic law, though time is needed for digestion and absorption to occur. Besides, there is plenty of room in the diverse expression of the Church for Paschal dancing, and it is superbly fitting. With David, Romanos, and the Wesley brothers, they celebrate in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their heart to the Lord.

At least, we don’t have the Latin hippies’ liturgical dance; that is beyond the pale!

We must also be careful about too quickly attributing the Paschal dance train to orgiastic African roots. Pentecostalism is rampant in Africa, and it is quite possible that the Orthodox Ghanaians in the video converted from a charismatic Protestant background. We all bring baggage.

Human beings are endlessly fascinating. Happy day of rejoicing, and memory eternal to the departed!

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 3, Anno Domini 2011
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