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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?"
Roman Catholicism
The Latins and their popery
Friday, February 21, A.D. 2014
Russian America

The Winter Olympics will close on Sunday. I hope that they will have been an edifying experience for the athletes, their staff and families, the visitors, and observers throughout the whole world. For the last Russian themed entry during the Olympics, I want to post something that represents the two teams for whom I cheered—the Russkies and the Americans (though I was quite satisfied with the French sweep of men’s skicross—c’était super!). Thus, I offer a lovely video from the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad—“Russian America.” In the video, Fr. Artemy Vladimirov of the Alexeevsky Monastery in Moscow visits a few parishes and monasteries of the Church Abroad in the Eastern American Diocese and reflects upon what he finds. The following has been translated into English, but you may also watch the Russian version here.

I think that the target audience for the production is Russians in Russia. It allows them to see their spiritual brethren across the oceans. It also, one might add, calms fears that they may have about what Americans are doing with the faith, given the modernist troubles that bubble in certain other jurisdictions. In the Church Abroad, though, they would recognize their religion. I felt the same (in reverse) both in Russia and at the holy places tended by the Russian Church in Israel.

Of course, my favorite part of the video was the goats at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in West Virginia. I did not see any cats, but chickens were there for a decent substitute. Besides that given, my favorite part of the narration was Fr. Artemy’s comments during the segment on the parish of Saint John the Baptist in D.C. (starting at 13:30 in the video):

. . . And when you immerse yourself in the elements of parish life, you are convinced with your own eyes that Christ is the true father and savior of all peoples. This is an amazing confluence of hearts and minds between those who were born in America and speak only English [and] those who have only just arrived from Russia and still speak no English at all. It is a true kinship of spirit when the national and regional differences take a backseat to the image of God radiating within us all—in the elderly and children alike, and they feel themselves lighthearted, free, and at ease like flowers in a summer meadow. Such is Orthodoxy; it does not, as you know, exterminate that which is unique in the individual. Quite the opposite—it gives everything true value and significance. At the same time, it unites diverse tribes and peoples in one harmonious family, which offers mutual aid, joy, and interaction—and, of course, a desire to praise the Lord with one mouth and one heart. . . .

Yes!

Once, a Jesuit professor and advisor of mine lectured me on how offensive he found Orthodox Churches as they carried their national designations—Russian Orthodox, Arab Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and such. He found such anti-Catholic and divisive. I have never understood his attitude. True Catholicism is enriching, not effacing. We are not Buddhists, after all, who denounce the manifold splendor of being rather than embracing it as a reflection of God. Christianity preaches true diversity—we are children of the father of the nations. There is a reality—a divinely desired reality—in human diversity—among individuals, families, and communities. To find a particular concrete group expression of the gospel offensive makes as much sense as finding a particular concrete individual expression of the gospel offensive. “Sorry, Barbara, resistance is futile; you will be assimilated.” It is the new Buddhism, only without the insights of the old! The new Buddhism manages to combine nihilism in principle with egoism in practice. That is what Hell calls a two-fer!

There is something pernicious in the modern soul that wants to reduce all phenomena to some base identities and laws, to render the beautiful complexity of mankind a sterile, bland “autonomous individual,” and to disfigure the rich topography of the cosmos with the clumsy, flattening trowel of modern man’s emaciated spirit. Such is not Catholicism. Such is not Christianity. Grace fulfills and perfects; it does not destroy.

I would like to end the post with a call for peace—an important aspect of the Olympic Games. Metropolitan Hilarion has requested that the following petition for peace in the Ukraine be added to litanies:

Again we pray Thee, O Almighty Lord, that Thou mightest grant peace to Kiev, the Mother of Russian cities which is shaken by civil strife, and the entire country of Kievan Rus’, and by the power of the grace of Thy Holy Spirit extinguish all enmity and violence therein; O Source of goodness and Abyss of love for mankind, quickly hearken and have mercy.”

Amen.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, February 21, Anno Domini 2014
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Tuesday, February 4, A.D. 2014
Paul and Constantine

Last week, I received the following thoughts by James M. Kushiner from the Fellowship of St. James:

Paul, Jesus & Kings

Following up on last week’s comments about Constantine, at the risk of seeming overly preoccupied with this controversial figure, I offer some comments (with questions) on Holy Scripture as it pertains to the matter of a “Christian king.” I begin with a few references to kings in the New Testament:

1. “You will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony.” (Jesus to his disciples, Luke 21:12b-13) The witnesses of the gospel will go all the way to the top, so to speak.

2. “Go, for [Saul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” (Jesus to Ananias, Acts 9:15) Jesus explicitly says Saul will be witnessing to kings as “a chosen instrument of mine.”

3. “At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun shining round me… And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Saul, now Paul, in his defense before King Agrippa, Acts 26:13,15) Here, Paul is, in fact, witnessing before a king, as Jesus said he would.

4. “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time you think to make me a Christian!” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that ... you ... might become such as I am-except for these chains.” (Acts 26:27-29) Paul witnesses to Agrippa with the intent of converting him to Jesus Christ. (What would have happened had Agrippa converted?)

5. And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man [Paul] could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:32) Was Paul’s earlier appeal, then, rash and ill-advised? Did he see the opportunity to bring his case before the Emperor and jump at it? Did Paul hope to convert Caesar himself?

6. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life…..” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Paul urges Timothy about intentional prayer for kings (why does he use four words to describe our efforts?).

It is no stretch to say that Paul would have rejoiced at the conversion of the Emperor. So why not Constantine? My point is that Christians, following the New Testament teachings, would have welcomed royal sympathy and certainly even conversion to Christianity. (“Trust, but verify”?) They were taught to pray for a “peaceable life,” which I assume would entail the end of state persecution. Constantine ended it.

But the temptation to either blame Constantine for a supposed “demise” of Christianity or to over-exalt him for what others regard as successes may be rooted in a false notion. That is, placing all our hope or blame on one person. That goes for modern as well as ancient times. While we would be foolish not realize the harm that one man can do to the church or to a nation (Stalin? Hitler?), the bedrock upon which Christians must stand is the confession that Jesus is Lord no matter what, and to accept whatever consequences attend to that witness according to the times in which we live, even persecution.

Further, bearing witness before kings requires being willing to speak to all kings, pagan and Christian alike, as Ambrose rebuked the Emperor Theodosius for the massacre at Thessalonica and as Patrick rebuked Coroticus for his crime. The strength of the church always depends on the strength of its members (see the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation), and its strength is not in worldly measures of “success” or even societal “influence,” but in the power of holiness and faithful endurance. So we pray for our rulers, in season and out of season. The Lord will separate the Wheat and the Tares in the End.

Unlike secularized modern Protestants, we Orthodox do not fret over Constantine. After all, we venerate him as a saint, and we see a just cooperation between the throne and the altar toward the common good as the ideal human political arrangement. Unfortunately, Constantine’s story teaches us a sad truth, too, which was lamented long before the advent of Christian empire: that even good kings sometimes have crappy children.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 4, Anno Domini 2014
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Monday, February 3, A.D. 2014
Flash Masses

The Associated Press covered an interesting practice in Buffalo of late: “Mass mobs fill pews, lift prayers at NY churches.” Evidently, Buffalo area Roman Catholics are targeting a different inner city parish each Sunday in order to fill up the old temples as they were before white flight and deindustrialization depopulated the Roman Catholic population in the urban core. The visitors also contribute money during their flash mob attendance to help support the parishes.

This is a neat idea, but these abandoned parishes need more than just occasional visits from the working and donating white folk in the burbs. Fr. Z. suggests that religious communities, especially ones with a focus on traditional liturgical worship, move into abandoned parishes. Then, families who want to worship at a reverent, sober mass rather than singing Girl Scout campfire hymns with a subquality teeny band and a Mr. Happy priest in a sanctuary that looks more like a high school gym would make the trek every week (and every day for downtown workers). If you want a committed congregation, this is how to get one.

On the other end of the spectrum, papist-socialist communities with a focus on charity toward the poor could also use dilapidated parishes as a center to serve (and hopefully to preach unto) the poor. Just because the Irish and Italians abandon a neighborhood to blacks doesn’t mean that there is no longer a need to preach the gospel. Why haven’t inner city parishes been more successful in converting the newer waves of Protestant blacks? I suspect that it is because the kind of American Roman Catholic who is interested in feeding poor blacks doesn’t care as much in converting them to the faith. Their liberalism has made their religion into a form of community service rather than an all embracing commission to transform the world. Unawares, they have adopted a form of Marxist materialism that makes them attentive only to material needs. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Jesus’ words apply as equally to the poor man as to the rich—to the black as well as to the white. Well fed beggars can go to hell just as Dives the rich man. Similarly, Roman Catholic schools enroll many poor blacks on scholarship as a form of charity, but they do little to introduce them to the faith. Of course, they do an abysmal job in instructing their indigenous papist students in the faith, as well—so the problem there is likely more fundamental. On second thought, maybe they should just leave those little black Baptist kids alone so that they at least remain Christians rather than turning into blasé agnostics with contempt for scripture and tradition. For it is better to be a heathen who knows nothing of the gospel—and is thus receptive to it—than an ignorant punk who falsely believes himself to be a religious scholar. How much idiocy and heresy follow the phrase, “Well, I went to Catholic school for twelve years and I think . . .”?

Kudos to the folks in Buffalo—and to all who work to reinvigorate decaying neighborhoods. Civilization needs every tower to be manned all the time.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, February 3, Anno Domini 2014
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Monday, January 27, A.D. 2014
Walsh and the Good Book

Happy feast day of Saints Nina and Sava, especially to the Georgians and Serbians out there!

I recently followed a recommendation by John C. Wright to read Matt Walsh’s page. Wright is, as usual, right; Walsh’s writings are quite sensible and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed his post “Why do you Christians always throw the Bible in my face?” A sample:

In any case, Christians are always shoving their religion in people’s faces. Everything they say, every position they hold, every thought they express — it’s all RELIGION. Even if they don’t explicitly say, “I think this because of my religion,” we all know the score. If it comes from RELIGION, as a secularist, I must hate it. If it’s been heavily influenced or transformed by RELIGION or RELIGIOUS people, I must hate it. That’s why I’m not a big fan of art, architecture, democracy, science, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, the university system, the abolition of slavery, America, Natural Law, Natural Rights, mathematics, the justice system, literature, music, and civilization.

Devious. Devious Christians. It’s like they have this secret plot and they use all of these methods to subversively give glory to their fake sky wizard. That’s a good line, isn’t it? I take this idea of God; the uncaused cause, the first mover, the Creator, the Absolute, the Answer to the riddle that no quantum physicist has ever been able to solve, and I equate it to a “wizard.” As if belief in dimensions of existence that transcend our physical plane can somehow be fairly compared to belief in magical Disney creatures. It’s an effective tactic, isn’t it? Aquinas, DaVinci, Shakespeare, Washington — most of the intellectual giants and great leaders in the past two thousand years have been guided by this conviction, but I can utterly dismiss it with one sarcastic and belittling phrase. There are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of Christian apologetics written by some of the smartest men and women to ever walk the face of the Earth, yet I can chalk it all up to something as absurd as the Tooth Fairy. And you know what? I can do that without even reading ANY of those pages! You know why? Because I’m a critical thinker, my friend.

A critical thinker — I think about criticizing things. And then I do, without understanding the depth, enormity and beauty of that which I mock.

Walsh goes on to do a contemporary version of C.S. Lewis’ great point about Jesus’ being a madman, a con man, or the Son of God.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 27, Anno Domini 2014
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Friday, December 27, A.D. 2013
Why December?

Dr. William Tighe has a fascinating article on Touchstone“Calculating Christmas.” Tighe argues that the dating of Christmas on December 25 has nothing to do with the pagan celebrations of the solstice, Saturnalia, or Sol Invictus. Rather, he states that there was a Jewish belief that a prophet died on the day of his conception that Christians inherited. Tighe shows that Christians in the early centuries tried to figure out the solar calendar date for the crucifixion. In the West, March 25 became the favored date, which then determined the feasts of the Annunciation (Jesus’ conception) and of Christmas nine months later. If Tighe is right, then the tendency to attribute December 25 to the Christians’ appropriating a pagan festive season is poor historical scholarship—like a nineteenth century version of the Discovery Channel.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, December 27, Anno Domini 2013
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Wednesday, December 18, A.D. 2013
That Jesuitical Franciscan Interview

In September, my brother sent me The New York Times article on Antonio Spadaro’s interview with the pope: “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ with Gays, Abortion and Birth Control” (complete interview here).

My immediate response was, “Whew. Hopefully, now those Franciscan Sisters will stop carrying their ‘God Hates Fags’ signs to mass. That always sets the wrong tone.”

In the weeks that followed, I read many similar reactions. Where are these parishes teeming with heartless rightwingers, condemnatory wagging fingers, and constant moralizing on sexual ethics? In actuality, American papist catechesis—in class and in sermon—tends to hover pretty closely around Christ’s two great commandments.

The leftist hordes do not care about truth or about what the pope says. By habit and principle, they employ all available weapons to achieve their goals, high among which is the destruction of Christianity. I hope that the officials in the Vatican understand this. The last fifty years indicate that they have not yet learnt such lessons, though the signs have been quite clear to keen observers since la Terreur.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, December 18, Anno Domini 2013
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Wednesday, December 4, A.D. 2013
Francis’ Dilemma

I wish those on the old calendar a blessed feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple—and Advent greetings to everyone.

Proph posted interesting thoughts today on the Orthosphere about conciliarity in the “post-conciliar” (Roman) Church: “Pope Francis and synodality.” His words are worth repeating:

Nearly everyone agrees the period surrounding Vatican II saw great damage done to the Catholic faith, but nearly no one understands why. Much has been said about “ambiguities” in the conciliar texts, their questionable Magisterial status, etc., all of which misses the point: people do not live in a purely abstract, rationalistic sphere of minimalist orthodoxy. Faith rather is lived in a real world of concrete institutions and networks of relations, and if the faith is not fused with that lived reality, then it will not be lived at all. The Council endeavored, in the service of aggiornamento and ecumenism, to destroy the carefully-cultivated synthesis of faith and life that had prevailed for centuries, and this was its primary error: the hubris of thinking that it could dismantle what generations of saints had built over two millennia and replace it with something engineered on the fly in under a decade without expecting disastrous consequences.

I suppose that Proph meant by “everyone” those of us of Orthospheran tendencies. I know many folks who think that the contemporary Roman situation is perfectidoo. Regardless, I think that Proph has aptly analyzed the fault of the council and of its implementation. As Proph and the rest of the Orthosphere crowd surely know, this fault is modern man’s common vice—and the root of that fetid tree frequently (and unfortunately) called rationalism. The ancient Greeks were the real rationalists; the shortsighted masters of nature who follow in Bacon’s footsteps deserve another name—perhaps Caecicelsians. The arrogant attitude of “we know better” along with naive reductionism make modern man the proverbial bull in the china shop of civilization. That Christian bishops would be so foolish as to eat its rotten fruit is what puzzles—and troubles.

Proph’s main complaint in the post concerns Pope Francis’ words about conciliarity. I responded to Proph’s dismay:

From the Orthodox perspective, this looks excellent — we’ve been complaining about ultramontanism for a very long time. However, Rome’s practice of superpapism for so long, coupled with the relatively recent lowering of orthodox and orthopractical standards for hierarchs, has resulted in an episcopacy unfit to rule. So, I agree that devolving decisions to national or regional episcopal conferences in the Roman Church is unwise now (though not absolutely), yet I smirk when I think about the Latin intellectual legacy behind subsidiarity in the political realm. Intelligent governing arrangements — except for “Peter,” whom alone among all rulers the Holy Spirit vouchsafes to guide properly.

Seriously, though, if Rome is to return to the ancient collegial way (not quite alien to the Western patrimony if you go back far enough), it must get its house in order. You would not hand over your car keys to an irresponsible teenager — surely the pope shouldn’t hand over (share) Peter’s keys with unready bishops. How, though, are the Latins to raise up bishops fit to be, uh, bishops? Or better yet — to raise up its flock so that the people themselves keep the bishops in line just as the bishops oversee the people (another form of our grating Eastern symphony)?

You see — there are real unintended consequences to clericalism, such as a spiritually emaciated laity, and it shows when the chain of command breaks (e.g. modernity). Ditto for ultramontanism with regard to the episcopacy. It’s a mess.

I wish Pope Francis the best in his attempts to re-evangelize his lost sheep.

Proph responded amicably and with insight:

I was hoping you’d chime in, Joseph. In principle I have no objection to synodality. The Orthodox model seems to work well, for the Orthodox, who have over 1000 years experience with it, a whole network of customs and safeguards built into it, and (I’m given to understand) procedures in place by which a diocesan synod can oust an unruly bishop; but we can’t engineer an equally functional system in the West on the fly in five minutes. It’s hubris to think we can and idiocy to suggest we ought to try. More importantly, though, the Orthodox have a commonly-held and valued tradition to glue them together even in the absence of a central administrative apparatus or figurehead, and it is precisely that tradition which serves as a visible symbol of unity. The equivalent tradition in the West has been deliberately dismantled and it’s not even clear the bishops all share the same faith anymore.

I am also especially alarmed by what can only be described as neo-ultramontanism among some ordinary Catholics (e.g., the Catholic Answers Forum variety), who already regard every episcopal utterance (even the horrid Scalfari interview) as divinely inspired and every prudential governing decision as being a response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I hate to imagine how that dynamic would play out if, in 20 or 30 years, the bishops conferences of two different nations issue competing doctrinal guidelines.

(Emphasis mine)

I do not know if Proph is correct (I hope not but fear so), but the question, again, is why??? I have asked dozens and dozens of faithful, learned, intelligent Latins that question, and I am never satisfied by their responses. How many bishops were at the Second Vatical Council? Two thousand? (Wiki check: “up to 2625,” though I am not sure how many were bishops.) In addition to the bishops at the council, consider the thousands of Roman priests, members of religious orders, and laymen in positions of influence in Roman Catholic institutions and circles at the time who got on board that crazy train. How is it that so many of them would so readily transform, in so little time, their ancestral religion? We’re not talking about the hedonists of the West, or Communists, or atheists, or devotees of Comte, or fans of Freud, or Nietzsche junkies. Rather, it was the faithful flock in the pews and their pastors in the pulpit who swallowed the radical redirection of the council and of its implementation. It doesn’t matter if the episcopacy, clergy, and laity failed to apply the council faithfully. They did what they did. Why? How did it happen? Was everyone already a Roger Mahoney or a Simone Campbell in waiting, though hiding until they realized that, hey, everyone wants to throw off that old fuddy duddy relic of Christendom past and get groovy. Was the council like band camp for heretics, where they realized that they were not alone after all—and then the party started? Or did the demons pull off a marvelous stunt after laying the foundation for two centuries? It’s simply bizarre.

Anyway, I don’t know what the pope should do to make the Roman ark more seaworthy in a time of great flooding—or how to navigate it safely toward Orthofriendly waters. I would hate to have that job. Consider that when you next think ill thoughts of the pontiff. What a task the man has!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, December 4, Anno Domini 2013
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Tuesday, October 15, A.D. 2013
The Good Emperors Persecuted Christians

Bruce Charlton recently posted Charles Williams’ reflections about the Roman persecution of Christians: “The most tolerant, noble, moral, stoical non-Christians, regard Christianity as an evil.” Williams notes that it was the good emperors who persecuted the Church. I marveled at this fact when I studied Roman history. How odd it was to a young classics student that an admirable philosopher king like Marcus Aurelius would have waged war upon God’s people, or that Diocletian, among Rome’s greatest administrative architects and reformers, ordered possibly the worst persecution of the Church in antiquity. How strange it seemed until I started to have a similar suspicion that the Gospel was spiritual poison. I wandered for years in exile from the faith because I took the pagans’ criticism seriously. From the accusations that triggered De Civitate Dei to Nietzsche’s rejection of Christianity as a degenerate Western Buddhism, these pagan attacks troubled me greatly, and I came to doubt the veracity of the Christian message. For if I found Christian doctrine to be false in some part, then the whole Gospel could not be trusted. Christians appeared to counsel madness in the face of evil, threats, and injustice, and I thereby dismissed Christ’s revelation. I resigned myself to the idea that I only valued the faith insofar as it had maintained Hellenic wisdom through the centuries—often despite itself (e.g. Tertullian and his ilk in every age). After venturing for years in the wasteland, I came home—like the venerable bishop of Hippo—though I was still ill at ease with the tendencies toward error that seem to beset Christians. I have mentioned this frequently (for examples, see “Religion of Last Resort,” “Christianity’s Odd Place in the World,” “Forgiveness Sunday,” “Ethnic Parishes,” “Judge Lest Ye Be Mugged,” and “Forgetting the City of Man”). Yet, I realize that any truth will have its corresponding and concomitant errors. I believe that it is Aristotle who uses the image of archery to illustrate the search for truth. One aims at the mark, which is small, but one may miss the mark in many ways—namely, at every other point. It is easy to err, and it is not surprising that we Christians repeatedly fail in our understanding of God’s way. The path to truth is hard, and we are quite weak for the task.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, October 15, Anno Domini 2013
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Friday, June 21, A.D. 2013
Giving the Holy Spirit

This coming Sunday, I wish my Orthodox readers a blessed feast of Pentecost.

As I have mentioned before in “What Could We Salvage in the West?,” I find the Roman liturgical color for Pentecost—red—superior to the Russian Church’s color of green. I know that the Spirit renews the world, and green is an appropriate color, but fire red is hot! It differs from the maroon red that we use in the feasts of the Lord, and we need not abandon the significance of that tradition. As my personal attempt at low level parochial syncretism, I always wear bright red to the Pentecostal liturgy.

Several weeks ago, I was not able to attend the divine liturgy at my parish due to work, and the Orthodox generally do not have evening liturgies except for certain special occasions. So, when I have to miss my Sunday obligation, my penance is the Roman mass. I attend mass on Sunday evenings as the next best option. Apparently, that practice upsets both the Orthodox and the Latins, but it is what I do. Anyway, by chance, I happened to be wearing a green shirt when the Roman priest entered in his fiery vestments. I then realized that it was Pentecost in the Roman Church, and I was wearing green. Life is funny, and the Lord has a sense of humor.

The readings for that Sunday were the second chapter of Acts that recounts Pentecost, Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians wherein he writes that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gospel of John when Jesus breathes upon his disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit:

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

I quoted that same passage in “The Birth of the Church” a few years ago when I challenged the common practice of calling Pentecost the beginning of the Church. Listening to the readings, I had similar thoughts about what the various “givings” of the Holy Spirit mean. The post from a few years ago involved that idea, but I had never before really questioned the differences explicitly. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets long before Jesus met his disciples on Pascha, and then Jesus breathed the Spirit upon those disciples weeks before Pentecost. What are the specific differences in these givings and receivings?

After I had a few conversations about the topic with friends, our uninformed consensus was that the prophetic and apostolic inspirations before Pentecost were temporary and connected to a particular moment and task to be done. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is active in the creation and sustenance of reality; man has an experience of him just by being. To the extent that the mind perceives truth at all appears to have something to do with the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth as we say in one of our most common prayers,

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

I remember reading Dulles’ distinction between revelation from above (in prophesy and scripture) and revelation from below (through nature and reason), and yet all such revelation proceeds from God. The Holy Spirit appears to have a special operational function in that revealing and in our seeing and understanding. It therefore is fitting for the Spirit to prepare the prophets to receive their special revelation, just as it makes sense that Jesus sends the Spirit to the apostles to prepare them to experience and to understand the most significant revelation of all on that first day of the week. In contrast, the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is not limited to a particular moment or mission but is rather a permanent feature of the Christian community to support the body of Christ in the life that God calls us to lead.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, June 21, Anno Domini 2013
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Wednesday, June 12, A.D. 2013
A Late Pascha

Христос васкрсе!

The paschal season is coming to an end, and summer is well upon us. It was a late date for Orthodox Pascha this year. M.J. Montes has a page dedicated to the dating of Pascha: The Date of Orthodox Easter 1875 to 2124. He lists the years on which Pascha falls on a certain date, given in both the Julian and Gregorian reckoning. This year, Pascha fell on April 22 (Julian) / May 5 (Gregorian). That is late on average. In the range covered (A.D. 1875 - 2124), Pascha falls on that Julian date annis domini 1907, 1918, 1929, 2002, 2013, 2024, and 2097 and on that Gregorian date annis domini 1907, 1918, 1929, 2002, 2013, 2024, 2097, and 2108. The difference is due to the two systems’ becoming a further day apart from A.D. 2100. Using the Gregorian system, the only later dates for Orthodox Pascha are annis domini:
May 6—1888, 1945, 1956, 2040, and 2108
May 7—2051
May 8—1983 and 2078

On the Julian calendar, I believe that April 25 is the last day on which Pascha may fall. However, the Gregorian date will get later as the two calendars’ discrepancy grows.

Mr. Montes has a neat table that shows how often in each century the Orthodox and Roman dates for Pascha coincide and differ (and by how many weeks): “Tables of Differences between the Dates of Orthodox and Western Easter, AD 1583 to AD 3000.” GM Arts also features nifty graphs of the discrepancies: “Easter Sunday Date FAQ.” Evidently, the last year of our Lord in which the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Church will celebrate Pascha on the same date is A.D. 2698. Pascha will fall on April 6 (Julian) / April 24 (Gregorian) that year.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, June 12, Anno Domini 2013
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Today on the Church calendar is , (new calendar: ), in the year of our Lord, .
Scriptural readings:


Celebrations -- :

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