December 23, 2005

The Vestiges of Establishment

Schools in England and Wales are required by law to provide "a daily act of collective worship". This was part of the deal brokered with the Church in the Education Act 1944. Is this just some forgettable provision from 60 years ago? No, the Education Reform Act of 1988 clarified that the collective worship should be "wholly, or mainly, of a broadly Christian character".

Despite this, over three-quarters of schools in England and over half of schools in Wales do not comply with the law.

These are the same schools that wonder why students don't obey the rules imposed upon them. But what message are these scofflaws sending? "You do what we tell you, but we'll do what we like."

It's not like the actual process of quiet orderly assemblies each day would create a calming effect generally. And clearly sidelining God as much as possible is fostering a postive ethos and environment. Otherwise schools wouldn't be doing so well, would they?

Posted by david at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2005

Kitzmiller from Over Here

As promised, the new Mental Meandering is now available.

After going over Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, perhaps I can offer a different perspective on teaching Intelligent Design in the US and UK.

Your comments welcome.

Posted by david at 11:55 PM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2005

Shadow-based Community

I have recently come across a bit of a rehash from this time last year, when it was all the rage in the liberal side of the blogosphere to declare oneself part of the "reality-based community", as opposed to a faith-based community.

The term seems to go back to a Ron Suskind article in the New York Times Magazine just before the last US presidential election and focusing around this quote from an encounter with a Bush aide: The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.''

What "reality-based" folks don't understand is that a faith basis is a discernible reality. After all, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is perception. It is the demonstration (another way to translate έλεγχος) of the part of the creation not visible to the limited human organ of the eye.

"Reality-based" thinking is subject to an extraordinary fallacy - the assumption that empiricism can perceive everything that is. It is the idea that the human senses - and the intellectually parsing of those sensory inputs - are able to say what is and isn't. Not only is it egotistical in the extreme, but that egotism has created a blindness to the lack of foundation for its intellectual viability.

As Christians, we know that the ultimate reality is not perceived by the senses, because it doesn't have to be. It is not somehow obliged to be ackowledged by those who have set themselves up as arbiters of existence. On a daily basis, I am confronted with demanding questions that begin with some variation of, "If God is real, why doesn't He..." or "I don't believe in God, because He didn't..."

There is a complete misunderstanding of the balance of power here. God isn't required to do anything. We are obliged to worship Him. We have to set aside our assumption that somehow we are the be-all and end-all of the universe. He doesn't cease to (or simply not) exist because there is world hunger or because Nana didn't get better after a potshot prayer to the if-you-happen-to-be-there God.

To use the analogy of CS Lewis (or Plato, for that matter), we live in the shadows. The ultimate reality is elsewhere. If all we can perceive is the shadow, then our decisions are based on incomplete information. In its collective ego, the "reality-based" community has missed reality altogether.

Posted by david at 11:58 PM | Comments (3)

December 11, 2005

Sudoku, Cosmology, and Theosis

They say it is addictive. I didn't try it until a few weeks ago. It hasn't become a compulsion yet, but now Mrs H has picked it up.

Sudoku is a very simple puzzle format. A 9x9 grid of 81 square divided into nine 3x3 grids. Digits 1-9. The goal is to put the numbers in the boxes so that every row and column has each digit and every mini-grid has each digit. Couldn't be simpler. Couldn't be more difficult. Mathematicians have calculated that there are 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 (that's over 6.6 sextillion for those who do better translating numbers into words) possible solutions to the 9x9 grid. The puzzle is set up when most of the numbers are removed from a solution grid.

On the Web Sudoku site, the average time for solving an easy puzzle is 7 minutes 42 seconds. I have gotten my time to usually under 10 minutes. I haven't even attempted anything rated more difficult.

The universe is like a giant sudoku puzzle. The grid is just a bit bigger than 9x9. That is why science will never have it figured out. (In fact, give mathematicians a 16x16 grid, and they cannot calculate the number of possible solutions.) They've been given just enough numbers to keep them working at it, because cosmologically there is only one answer.

Scientists have done everything from denying the grid exists to changing the given numbers in an attempt to rule out meaning and purpose. The do not want to be foiled by the simplest argument in the apologist's arsenal, that the existence of a watch necessarily leads to the existence of the watchmaker.

And is it too Calvinistic to say that our lives are like sudoku grids as well? Think of them as mini-grids in the fabric of time and space - a small part of the big plan. God gives a lot of the numbers we need, and knows all of the numbers and where they go, but we have to fill it in. And there's no penalty for looking in the hint book.

We spend our lives facing problems and developing solutions. That we don't solve them all doesn't undermine the underlying perfection of the grid. We'll see the grand solution at the Final Day. I'm sure we will be in for some surprises as we discover that, like cosmologists, we have tried to change the some of the givens to suit ourselves. This is probably one of the reasons we can't get the puzzle solved before our time runs out.

Posted by david at 01:34 PM | Comments (2)

November 23, 2005

Recorded Delivery

We are doing a unit on suffering with Year 9 and I had been wanting to use the Barry McGuire song "I Walked a Mile" only ever recorded on the 1975 live album To the Bride. I had considered learning it and playing it live in the classroom. I even emailed Barry and he offered to send me the lyrics and chords. As it turned out, by the time he got to it, he had packed all of his guitars into a crate bound for California, so he couldn't work out the chords, but sent me the lyrics.

I thought I might work it out from memory, even though my memory is hazy as my cassette copy of Larry Henry's LP disappeared some time ago, and that was long after my original store-bought cassette, purchased in 1979, wore out. But as it further turned out, I mentioned my idea to my head of department and he was none too keen for me to pick and grin in the classroom.

I had seen the vinyl of this double album on eBay once before, though I remember that the final bid was way out of my league. I had looked a couple of other times and it was nowhere to be found. I can't hurt to look again, I figured. I thought I might find a copy somewhere in the States and either have it shipped over or sent to Texas and shipped, if the seller was looking to make too much money out of the postage. Lo and behold, there was a copy up the road in Staffordshire and the minimum bid was a mere £4.99.

So I placed a bid at the opening price and waited nearly a week to see if someone would put it out of my reach. £4.99 is where it stayed and my doorstep is where it arrived today. Sadly I do not own a record player. However, rumour has it that my mother-in-law has one and it is even hooked up to her stereo. This might mean that a cassette copy is possible.

Uncharacteristic of Barry McGuire, the song was actually written by the legendary Barry Mann (who wrote "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" and "Soul and Inspiration" for the Righteous Brothers, "On Broadway" for George Benson, "Running with the Night" and "Love Will Conquer All" for Lionel Richie, and lots of other hits) though I can find no reference to it on the internet, other than the McGuire cover.

In case you're wondering why I want to use this particular song, I've left the lyrics for the extended entry.

I Walked a Mile
Barry Mann

I walked a mile with pleasure, she chattered all the way
But left me none the wiser, with all she had to say
Walked a mile with sorrow, never a word said she
But oh the things I learned from her, when sorrow walked with me

The frost is in the valley and the mountain tops turn grey
The promised buds all withered and the blossoms fade away
Our loving father whispers, all this comes from my hand
Blessed are you when you can trust what you just don’t understand

After a lifetime of working, all your wealth should fade away
Leaving your hands all empty, your hair starts turning grey
Remember then, our father owns both the sea and the land
And blessed are you when you can trust what you just don’t understand

Posted by david at 11:31 PM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2005

There's Something in the Air

Everyone has noted that the Nativity Fast is here. It sort of snuck up on me. This may have something to do with the fact that I'm not a particularly good faster.

What it also means is that I was completely oblivious to the feast of our family patron, St Dyfrig. Normally we try to have a nice big dinner on the 14th. I hate missing a feast.

The beans and rice we had last night had the rather immediate effect of reminding me of one of the more ascetical aspects of fasting - living with the lingering olfactory exerience we might politiely call "eau de vegan".

Posted by david at 01:00 PM | Comments (3)

November 13, 2005

Memory Eternal and Further Prayers

In the last week, my parents have buried a close associate in their pastoral ministry who was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer just weeks before he left this world. I had been acquainted with him for more than 20 years. Steve was only 61.

May his memory be eternal.

Another close friend of theirs just learned that a surgically removed growth was part of a heretofore undiscovered Stage 3 cancer. My father is flying to the East Coast to pray with him. Walter is in his early 40s.

Lord have mercy.

Your prayers would be appreciated.

Posted by david at 11:20 PM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2005

In the Witness (for Christ) Protection Program

This doesn't happen very often. I can't find any trace of saint.

According to my menalogion, today is the commemoration of St Mellion. There's a troparion and everything. I Googled and came up with nothing. I checked DMOZ (where I am the named editor of the Saints category) and sure enough there was nothing.

I am speculating that St Mellion was Devonian or Cornish or at least was a missionary to Devon or Cornwall. I only speculate that because St Mellion is a spot on the A388 between Launceton and Plymouth, just about a mile on the Cornwall side of the River Tamar. It seems to be most notable for the nearby golf course, which I speculate was not there at the same time as the saint.

Well, St Mellion, whoever you are, pray to God for us.

Posted by david at 03:12 PM | Comments (3)

October 31, 2005

Imperfect Images

I'm currently reading Encounter, the posthumous compilation of talks and interviews by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh of blessed memory. Answering a question about original and reproduction icons, he draws a wonderful analogy with the work of God's grace in our relationship to others.

There exist two completely different approaches among believers. Some, and maybe all iconographers, consider that an icon must not only be painted according to the canons but must be permeated with reverence and prayer and blessed in church, and that an icon which is reproduced in an artificial way is lacking something. I am made infinitely happy by the fact that contrary to the judgement of experienced iconographers, there are in Russia so many miracle-working icons which any experienced iconographer would call bad icons, but God bestows His grace not necessarily on perfect examples of the iconographer's art.

Just as through us, imperfect creatures that we are, grace is transmitted to others, so also God brings grace to people through imperfect human creations. I do not doubt that a paper icon, that has been torn, stuck together, attached to a board or to sticky paper, which represents the Saviour, the Mother of God or one of the saints, is holy in the fullest sense of this word (just as each one of us is made in the image of God , however much we are made ugly by sin and imperfection).

And an icon, I am deeply convinced, becomes holy not because it has been painted in one way or another, but because it has been taken, placed on the holy altar, and spinkled with holy water (in ancient times icons were anoined with oil just as Christians are anointed after Baptism) - and that it then enters into the mystery of the Church and of grace.

Posted by david at 08:45 PM | Comments (4)

October 19, 2005


Tonight I was doing countries with Aidan before he went to bed. We now have a sort of children's world atlas and flag book, which divides the world into regions and shows the flags of the countries in each area.

We are looking at Western Europe and this map includes the various city-states. He pointed to the Vatican and said, "What's that?" I said, "That's where the Pope lives." He said, "Does he work in a shop?"

I told him that the Pope has his own little country. "He's a bad man, isn't he?"
"No, he's good man. Why do you think he's a bad man?"
"Is he the one that killed all the people?"

I didn't think he was referring to the Counter-Reformation, or even the sacking of Constantinople. "The one who killed all the people? The Pope didn't kill anyone."
"Where's the country with the man who killed all the people?"
Then I remembered the last time we talked about someone who had killed lots of people. "No, that's Uzbekistan."

He had managed to confused the Pope with Islam Karimov.

Only in the mind of a three-year-old.

Posted by david at 11:26 PM | Comments (2)

October 17, 2005

Has the Trick Been on Us?

Greg Wallace has some very good observations on Halloween and the consequences of Christian withdrawal from culture.

Posted by david at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2005


I have been teaching my Year 9s about worldviews. We have been dealing with the nature of reality and therefore trying to understanding how our worldview might affect our concepts of reality.

As part of the lesson, each student answers a bank of seven questions, including "What is really real?", "What is the nature of the world around us?", "What is a human being?", "What happens when you die?", "Why is it possible to know anything?", "How do we know what is right and wrong?", and "What is the purpose of human life?"

With each questions they choose from six options the description closest to their belief. The answers are set up to help them define their worldview within six broad categories: rational agnostic, nihilist, theistic believer, humanist optimist, spiritual postmodern, and Eastern (i.e., Hindu/Buddhist). Note that there isn't an option for explicitly Christian - just theistic believer - you know, Christian, Muslim, Jew, culturally residual monotheist, or whatever.

This isn't a scientific survey and I only teach half of the Year 9s in the school, so I can't vouch for the other half. There was a broad range of views and a lot of 13-year-olds had equal aspects of more than one category. However, one aspect of the results was overwhelming. The number of students with a predominately theistic worldview was infintesimal. Out of all five groups I teach, there may have been two students in total.

Not only that, but there were very few whose answer to any of the questions was theistic. Not Christian, but just with reference to some sort of singular personal Supreme Being.

When the Son of Man returns, will he find any faith on the earth? Maybe, but England would not be the first place to come looking.

Posted by david at 11:27 PM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2005

A Peek Through the Wardrobe

Barbara Nicolosi over at Church of the Masses has attended a pre-release screening of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is a review very much worth reading.

It's going to be very much worth seeing.

H/T: Kathryn Judson at Suitable for Mixed Company

Posted by david at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

Contempt in the Press

Mark Steyn is his usualy brilliant self in the Daily Telegraph today, focusing on how the a supposedly secular press find intolerable anyone whose views are framed in any way by Christianity, but has all the time in the world for any issues raised by any Muslims.

Toward the end of the article, Steyn says:
Why is George W. Bush's utterly unremarkable evangelical Christianity so self-evidently risible but complaints from British Muslims hung up over the 11th century are perfectly reasonable and something we should seek to accommodate? Where is the secular Left's "insensitivity" when you need it? No doubt the bien pensants will still be hooting at born-again Texans on the day the House of Lords gives a second reading to the Sharia Bill.

Posted by david at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Reductionism Exposed

I have been thinking about the inherent problems with the idea of sola scriptura ever since I stumbled across a Baptist blog linked in comments on another blog. Fortunately, someone else more intelligent that me has decided to write about it at the same time. I thoroughly recommend Clifton's post.

Posted by david at 05:24 PM | Comments (1)

October 03, 2005


You can never know everything that's going on around you. Particularly, you never know who might be watching.

A woman showed up at my parents' church yesterday and after the service asked if they had been around my hometown very long. My dad replied that he had been there since 1961. She then asked if he was related to me.

In my life it has usually been the other way around. My parents are well-known in town, so people would ask if I was related to them.

Anyhow, this woman was at school with me, though she wasn't aware of any classes that we had together. (Her name sounded vaguely familiar when my dad mentioned it.) She just remembered seeing me with my Bible and standing up for my faith under the sort of persecution especially reserved by teenagers for their peers.

She wasn't a Christian at the time and this apparently had a significant impact upon her. She said the memory of it had particularly significance for her when she had children, because even though we are about the same age, our kids aren't. Hers range from about 20 to about 13.

I know she hasn't seen me for at least 25 years. So you just never know the impact of living before a watching world.

Posted by david at 02:37 AM | Comments (2)

August 21, 2005

We're Everywhere

Eastern Orthodox folks are liable to sneak up where you least expect them. The new CEO of Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher in the world (and the ninth largest publishing company of any kind), is Deacon Michael Hyatt of St Ignatius Orthodox Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He has been the President and COO at Thomas Nelson for the past 18 months.

H/T to the young fogey, who got the Orthodixie quicker than I did.

Posted by david at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2005

California Girls

A little piece of Mrs H's patron saint has immigrated to the US.

It has been accompanied by a miracle: a mainstream media newspaper wrote a lengthy positive story about it.

St Anna, pray for us.

H/T to the young fogey, who included a photo of Aaron's daughter's baptism in the same post.

Posted by david at 12:57 AM | Comments (2)

August 04, 2005

Dying Breeds

Orthodoxy in Russia is facing the same problem as Protestantism in Northern Ireland. Both are being out-bred.

In the case of the latter, the Six Counties will eventually be re-assimilated into the rest of the Emerald Isle because the Catholic majority in the next generation or so will democratically choose that path. Who needs guns and bombs? Well, the Unionist paramilitaries will likely swap positions with the IRA when it becomes obvious that ballot box won't work for them.

In the case of the former, the threat is from Islam. Again, there is no need for guns or bombs. This isn't going to stop the usual suspects from disrupting Moscow in the short term, but time is on their side if they will be patient. The Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia recently said that the ethnic Muslim populations of Russia is now 23 million. This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but the number is in the region of 20 million.

This may seem insignificant for a country with a population of about 144 million, but let's crunch the numbers a bit more. Out of that population, the Moscow Patriarchate claims 80 million are Orthodox. However, there are some experts who put the number at closer to 40 million. I think the experts are probably overly conservative, but the Patriarchate is undoubtedly liberal in measuring its own strength and influence.

However, even if we split it down the middle and say there are 60 million Orthodox, there are still one-third as many Muslims. It does not take very long for this to change. The Muslims are having more babies and living longer.

The overall population of Russia is dropping. It fell by over 400,000 in just the first six months of 2005. The population in Muslim regions rose. The life expectacy for a male in Russia in 58. In predominately Muslim Dagestan it is 68. Why? Because Russians are drinking themselves to death - except of course where alcohol is religiously prohibited.

The onus is on the Russian Church. Now is the time for evangelism rather than living in the fantasies of the 19th century when Russian=Orthodox. The Patriarchate may be able to pressure the Duma into repressing the Baptists, the Pentecostals, and other evangelical Protestants. It may battle the Vatican over Roman churches and diocese. It can't stop Muslims from having babies and leading healthier lives.

Posted by david at 11:59 PM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2005

Father and Son

In May, I blogged about the passing of one of my favourite teachers, Thomas J. DeBruin. I mentioned that I thought I remembered Coach DeBruin (I never had him for PE, but everyone called him "Coach") being a theistic evolutionist. I was wrong. (It was long time ago.)

Since I have to close comments when articles drop off the front page of the blog, a few days ago I got a wonderful email from Coach DeBruin's son Jamey. It told me so much more about Coach DeBruin and the impact his life has had.

I was sitting here on the web and my Dad came to mind. I think of him every day. I decided to do a search using his name on Yahoo just for fun, and I stumbled upon your website and the wonderful article that you wrote in his honor. I cannot begin to tell you how much emotion I began to feel. My Dad was a hero of mine in many ways and for many reasons. (Both of my parents were.) One of the big reasons I looked up to him so much was his ability to touch lives as a teacher and a coach. He had a special gift. He was surely my favorite coach and one of my all time favorite teachers.

The only part of your article that I could dispute is that he did in fact believe in reation, not evolution. He had been a Christian for many years. Although he taught science and presented the curriculum according to state mandated policy, he truly believed in creation. (I am sure that he at some point struggled with this conflict himself as a young man.) I also know that he liked for his students to think freely and challenge any and all theories.

As a junior high student, upon learning of the theory of evolution, I questioned him and the theory of creation. I asked him how he could believe in creation if there were so many scientific facts that stated otherwise in the theory of evolution. He said, "Son, I can tell you the answer to that in one word: Faith." From that day on, I believed whole heartedly in creation.

David, thanks for saying such nice things about Dad. I miss him terribly. I am fortunate to have had two wonderful parents who were also wonderful teachers with a gift of touching lives. I will never be able to repay either of them for the way they have molded my life. I only hope I can return the gift to my children someday.

Jamey is also following his father's example in sharing that gift with other people's children. There is a new generation of students going through another high school in Texas who now know Jamey as "Coach" DeBruin.

Posted by david at 09:32 AM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2005

Permanent Marker

Michael Schiavo has inscribed a permanent testimony to his crime. David Ward has a very insightful post about Terri Schiavo's burial, "What the Grave Marker Really Says".

Posted by david at 12:17 AM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2005

Standing Alone

He's still wearing three crosses, even if he is the only who recognises his position.

Irineos still calls himself Patriarch of Jerusalem, even if all of the other autocephalous churches of Orthodoxy have said he is just a simple monk. He did not appear before the court of the Church in Istanbul and refuses to recognise its verdict.

Unfortunately, the Locum Tenens, Archbishop Cornelios, can't get the keys to anything because the governments of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority have to officially recognise his dismissal. Only Jordan has done so at this point, even stripping Irineos of his Jordanian citizenship. But he still holds possession of the patriarchal property in Israel.

I would think the Israeli authorities would be loath to remove him, seeing as he was the one who illegally sold them church property.

Irineos really is a piece of work. How did this man get to be patriarch in the first place?

Posted by david at 12:39 AM | Comments (3)

June 10, 2005

Living Up to a Name

I realised today that name by which the Eastern and Western Churches choose to be known is significant. I'm sure the rest of you thought about this long ago, but it just hit me.

In the East (speaking theologically) we are Orthodox. Right-believing. Or more literally, right-worshipping. (But worship is an expression of belief, lex orandi, lex credendi, and all that.) And our point of fellowship - at least at the table, and that is the true measure of fellowship - is right belief. That's why we are very concerned about that Filoque and all that.

In the West, they are Catholic. Universal. You will be assimilated.

In a way it is a bit ironic. As Orthodox, we don't like systematic theology and we are apophatic (i.e., emphasising that God is ultimately unknowable). We didn't have Scholasticism - rather we have Hesychasm (holy navel gazing). But we are doctrinally unbending.

Catholics (and their intellectual offspring the Reformed) have doctrines for everything. It all springs from medieval nominalism. Everything fits in its box.

Yet it is the Catholics that are praying that we may be one, even as the Father and the Son are one.

The 100 million Orthodox are praying that one billion Catholics will see the truth about the single procession of the Spirit, anathemise Augustine and Anselm, retract any doctrinal statements since 787, grovel some more about the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, repent of the error of their ways, and beg that they might be received back into the One and Only True Church. (That is, except for the 10,000 real True Orthodox, who are praying that the bulk of the 100 million so-called Orthodox will repent of their papal-influenced calendar and beg to be received back into the real One and Only True Church. [That is, except for the 6 or so really really really True Orthodox...])

The Pope is saying the Church needs to breathe with both her lungs. The Orthodox say she already breathing with both of her Orthodox lungs and will offer a respirator to the lifeless Catholics, if they follow the instructions above.

A number of Orthodox of my blogging acquaintance have opined that they don't see reunification within their lifetime. I wonder if they, or many others, see it within any lifetime. In fact, I wonder if it is possible when the Catholics refer to the Orthodox as a sister church and the Orthodox say "I wouldn't consider them 'brothers'..."

This may comes as a surprise to some (especially those who find me particularly subversive) that on His way to the Cross, in his last "quiet time" with the Father, Jesus didn't pray that the is disciples might understand that when He told them earlier in the evening He was sending them another Comforter, He really only meant that in a economic sense. He probably wasn't even thinking, "you know, I could have put that a little better." Being God and all, He probably knew that it wouldn't even be an issue until the successors to the Apostles took a second shot at the Creed in 381, tidying it up after everyone had a chance to read recently the reposed bishop of Caesarea's work On the Holy Spirit.

No, he prayed a different prayer for the successors to St Peter and St Andrew and St Mark and St James and St Thomas. The successors to St Peter are now praying that prayer. It is time that we and our patriarchs did the same.

Posted by david at 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2005

Heretical Thoughts

I thought I would try on a little heresy tonight, in the vain hope of getting useful comments. I'm sure what will really happen is that I will appear on even fewer Ortho-blogrolls.

Because our local eucharistic community (which now meets once a month over an hour away) is on the verge of shinking to the ecclesiastical equivalent of an astronomical singularity, we have twice attended our former RC parish. It is nice to not have the only fussy child in the congregation (or children at all, fussy or otherwise). It's nice to be five minutes away. The priest is by far the best extemporaneous RC preacher I have ever heard. And unless you are an Athonite monk, you probably don't think there is anything heretical about visiting an RC service.

But as I was sitting there (and standing and kneeling, at all the appropriate times), listening to the best sermon I have ever heard on anamnesis (except for the bit about the transformation occuring during the Words of Institution rather than the epiclesis, but really we Orthodox are a bit apophatic about that anyway), and then observing said transformation minutes later, I was thinking. A dangerous practice at best, I know.

I'm not a heretic to believe that the gifts on the RC altar are effectively changed into the Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood. There are probably only a few on the fringes of Orthodoxy who would deny this. So there, in the Mass, I am in the Presence of Christ. His Body is truly on the altar and I am truly a member of His Body in the pew.

Yet what seems to matter most is that it was a RC priest under the authority of an RC bishop under the authority of the successor to St Peter as Partriarch of Rome who prayed the prayer asking the Holy Spirit to do His sacramental work. The apostolic succession is valid or we would not recognise the Eucharistic prayer as valid. It was the Holy Spirit Who did the transformation. The same Holy Spirit sealed me in Baptism and Chrismation.

The Most Precious Body and Blood is not a Catholic Body and Blood or an Orthodox Body and Blood. It is Christ's Body and Blood.

What is wrong with this picture?

Posted by david at 09:21 PM | Comments (16)

May 20, 2005

It's Been a Few Years Now

Today is the 1680th anniversary of the opening of the First Council of Nicea.

Posted by david at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

May 01, 2005


One of the casualties of living in the middle of nowhere with small children is Holy Week. We didn't make it to any services this year.

Formerly our community had a Service of Anointing on Holy Wednesday, but now that we are borrowing a Greek church it would have been their Greek-language service. The service would not have been shortened and it starts after the kids' bedtime. And it is an hour away.

In the past I've gone to Shrewsbury for Great Friday, but I haven't had to drive nearly an hour home from work and then an hour and a half to church. And then turn around and do the same 90 minutes each way the next night. And of course it is out of the question for the kids, so it out of the question for Mrs H.

Last night I had planned to go to Shrewsbury on my own for the Pachal Liturgy. I went last year and it was a marvelous experience. We even went to Tesco and got a couple of gateaux for me to take for the feast. I was already quite tired, an then I fell asleep in the chair and woke up too late too make the journey to get there for 11:30.

Well, at least I can eat meat without guilt now.

Christ is Risen!

Posted by david at 11:26 AM | Comments (8)

April 25, 2005

United Church of Europe

I'm still glad that Bishop Hilarion did not become the diocesan bishop of Sourozh, as the Moscow Patriarchate had originally intended (dissing Archbishop Anatoly in the process). It would have led to the Russification of the diocese, which as an predominately ethnically English group wouldn't have been a good thing.

However, I have been impressed with his Eminence in his current role as bishop of Vienna and Austria, and Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions. With a hat tip to the young fogey, I have read an interview with Hilarion from yesterday in which he discusses the pontificate of Benedict XVI and Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical relations.

Hilarion represents the Moscow Patriarchate at the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission - the body that hashes out all the differences between us. However, he also proposes a European Catholic-Orthodox Alliance to present a common front on social and ethical issues. Despite all of the theological minutae dividing us, Hilarion notes, "The social and ethical teachings of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are extremely close, in many cases practically identical." From this he wisely reasons:

The rationale behind my proposal is the following: our churches are on their way to unity, but one has to be realistic and understand that it will probably take decades, if not centuries, before this unity is realized. In the meantime we desperately need to address the world with a united voice. Without being one Church, can we act as one Church, can we present ourselves to the outside world as a unified structure, as an alliance? I am convinced that we can, and that by doing so we may become much stronger.

With the positive attitude of Benedict, if Hilarion can keep Alexy in tow, there is real hope of rapprochement between Rome and Moscow. And if Rome and Moscow can get along, this will go a long way to the normalisation of pan-Orthodox relations with Rome (insofar as there is normalisation of inter-Orthodox relations, of course).

Most of all it will unite the 280 million European Catholics and the 200 million European Orthodox against the common enemy.

Posted by david at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2005

The Armchair Conclave of the Culture

The Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill wasted no time slamming on the election of Pope Benedict:

It is hard to see how the hand of God could have guided the 115 cardinals to elect a former member — albeit involuntary — of the Hitler Youth who believes homosexuality to be an intrinsic moral evil, other religions to be defective and other churches — including the Church of England — not proper.

...It is also conceivable, seeing the way that the white smoke was blowing, that Cardinal Ratzinger simply adopted the persona of a ruthless conservative in order to rise to the top, and will now use his new power and freedom to usher in an era of enlightenment.

Then again, maybe not. After all, is the Pope a Catholic?

Of course an Anglican of Gledhill's stripe would have a hard time imagining the Holy Spirit wanting someone who calls sin sin. But just in case you don't realise how bad this is, better link it in the same sentence with Hitler Youth. That's right, if you think homosexual acts are sinful, you are just a little bit like Hitler.

And at the end of the day, he's a Catholic. Stupid unenlightened Catholic.

Try hiding your feelings a little, you silly woman.

The same newspaper then trotted out a quick set of quotes from those who are not happy about the election of Benedict.

“We consider the election of Ratzinger is a catastrophe . . . I think that even more people will turn their back on the Church”
Bernd Goehring, of Kirche von Unten, German Christian group

I translated this group's webpages into English. They aren't just against Benedict - they are against the idea of hierarchy and the papacy.

“We can only hope that Cardinal Ratzinger does not follow the same course as John Paul II”
Christian Weisner, chairman of We Are Church, international Christian organisation

Who is "We Are Church"? From their website:

In the Easter season of 1995 a small group of lay and ordained Catholics in Innsbruck, Austria, used the method of a petition drive to call for a more loving, democratic, and generous church. In the spirit of Vatican II, they asked that Rome (1) equally respect all the people of God, whether lay or ordained, (2) grant full equal rights to women, (3) lift mandatory celibacy for priests, (4) encourage a positive understanding of sexuality, and (5) teach the gospel as a message of joy.

In other words, a bunch of pseudo-Catholics who want gay and women priests and for the Church to repudiate the word of God.

“It seems that he is too conservative. Hopefully the Holy Spirit can help him to change”
Jurandir Arauj, National Conference of Brazilian Bishops

Hmm... National Conference of Brazilian Bishops. Must be good guys, right? Not exactly.

As the American TFP website noted: "For nearly five decades the left has been trying to impose a socialist and confiscatory land reform on Brazil.

From the beginning, the so-called Catholic left, and particularly the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), has been the leading proponents and the most important driving force of that policy."

“A missed opportunity”
Tony Kerrigan, of Marie Stopes International, the abortion charity

Who exactly do the folk at Marie Stopes think would be a good Pope? There may be shades within the College of Cardinals that are more liberal than others, but I can't imagine that there was a single cardinal that would have supported the biggest infant slaughter operation in the UK.

“Time will tell whether he will be as committed as his predecessor to the improvement of relations with the Jewish people”
Isaac Herzog, Israeli Housing Minister

And he is relevant how?

It is interesting that after the weeks of eulogising John Paul II of blessed memory, the press are now attacking his successor for being too much like him. It's like, yeah, yeah, JP was great and all, but even though we aren't Catholics, we know what kind of person is best to lead the Church. Of course he would have to abandon all Catholic faith and doctrine and give in to the hedonism of our humanist, relativist culture, but is that too much to ask? Having some sort of absolutist as the head of the Catholic church is cramping our sinful, godless style.

Yes, it is lunacy. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

Posted by david at 03:12 AM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam

I wrote a lengthy comment on the election of His Holiness Benedict XVI, but I accidentally hit some sort of keyboard shortcut to the back button and lost it all.

After I wrote it, I noticed that everyone else I read has a blog entry of the same title. So much for originality.

I have to say that I am not as pessimistic as Jan Bear about Benedict's views on the reunification of East and West. I don't think that the Orthodox in the US would simply be absorbed in the Roman administration.

The Orthodox would never compromise on the married priesthood. It wouldn't have to do so. Because Rome already has set the precedent of using married priest with the reception and regularisation of former Anglican priests as Western rite Roman clergy, there is really no problem. It would provide an opportunity to introduce married priests en masse into a Western Church that can't find anyone willing to give up sex - at least of the adult consentual heterosexual kind. Orthodoxy could be the salvation of Roman Catholicism in the developed world.

May God bless His Holiness Benedict and guide him in the ways of truth.

Posted by david at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2005

The Remnant

I was persusing the Onion Dome tonight and was looking at the Disgrunts™ page. This led me on to the Euphrosynos Café, which I had seen before (from a link posted on some way-too-serious newsgroup).

Yes, it appears that most of the Orthodox are not Orthodox at all. If it isn't bad enough that all the papist and Protestants have departed from the faith, now that most of the "Orthodox" are on the "new" calendar, the only real Orthodox are ever tinier, more splintered groups, as everyone else has fallen into heresy.

Yes, apparently there are a handful of navel gazers who have mastered hesychasm and HTML and constitute the true Church.

This is not the first time I've seen this. In my Presbyterian days, it was the TRs and BRs (that's Truly Reformed and Barely Reformed) - or strict subscriptionists to the Westminster Confession of Faith and loose adherents to the same. And even within the TRs, there are those who more-Reformed-than-thou - usually a cappela Psalm singers.

When I worked in the Christian bookstore in Arkansas, I used to have a lot of customers who were Independent Baptists. They were also known as Baptist Briders, because they believed that only members of Independent Baptist churches were the spotless Bride of Christ.

Then there are the Society of St. Pius X Catholics. Or the Church of God of Prophecy. Or any number of other groups convinced they are the True Church.

But back to the Orthodox. The last thing the schismatic Orthodox groups (I'll just call 'em like I see 'em) want is for anyone to get along. The idea that there would be any unity is the dreadful heresy of ecumenism. They always seem to think that any reunion within the Church is clearly a sign of the Last Days. No, what Jesus is really after is to whittle the His Body down to one little parish with half a dozen people and a bishop who have gotten rid of everyone who doesn't follow every canon of every council. Then they can be the Holy Athonite and Optina True (Really, Really True) Russo-Hellenic Exiled Orthodox Church and the rest of us can live in fear of damnation.

Posted by david at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2005

The Importance of John Paul to Orthodoxy

Some of my Protestant readers may be wondering why, being Orthodox, I have been following so closely the events surrounding the death of the Roman Pontiff. Is it just because he is a great Christian leader? And important world figure? No.

It is true that in many ways Protestants have more in common with him than the Orthodox. In the oft-trotted out words of Russian theologian Alexis Khomiakov:

All Protestants are Crypto-Papists. To use the concise language of algebra, all the West knows but one datum a; whether it be preceded by the positive sign +, as with the Romanists, or with the negative -, as with the Protestants, the a remains the same.

In other words, both share the same Western theology, with or without the Papacy. Or as is often said to explain Khomiakov, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are but two sides of the same coin.

But an even deeper underlying fact should not go unnoticed. Even though the theology of the West may have drifted (or perhaps more accurately has not been kept in check by the East), and the communion has been broken for centuries, the Patriarch of Rome is still the successor to Peter's chair. Were he in communion with the other patriarchates, he would be primus inter pares, first among equals, displacing the Patriarch of Constantinople who would then play second fiddle.

As Orthodox, we don't have any problem with the plain language and, until sometime after 1517, the universal understanding and of Matthew 16:17-19. The keys were given to Peter as the leader of the Holy Apostles.

John Paul understood the importance of the unity of the Church. He sought out Orthodox and tried to build bridges wherever he could. It was the Orthodox who were always suspicious. Probably something to do with the Council of Florence in the 15th century. The Orthodox have very long memories. Some are still smarting from the sack of Constantinople in 1204. (I wasn't born then, so I've gotten over it.) Some are just stubborn.

For many Orthodox, the only hope of reunion is for the Patriarch of Rome to accept Eastern Orthodoxy with all of its theological developments since 1054 (while at the same time denying there have been any developments), and simultaneously discarding all of the theological developments in the West over the same period. This ignores the differences that developed before 1054.

I think even the idea that Rome has been willing to make concessions to become communicable with the East is itself viewed with suspicion. Concession is not a big concept in Orthodoxy. On the local level there is a lot of it in the name of economia. But it is not a ecumenical concept.

I know there are more webpages than you can click with a mouse expressing all the differences between Rome and the East.

As well as advocating the solution, John Paul may have contributed to the problem. By helping to bring down Communism, he created the problem of Catholics having freedom to worship as Catholics in Eastern Europe. The Orthodox, who, though repressed and persecuted were sanctioned by the Communist regimes, were used to having a monopoly.

The Catholics wanted churches returned that had belonged to them before the Commies took over. Even worse, the wanted to have Catholic bishops to lead them. The Orthodox, used to being the Church in those part, were, frankly, pissed. (They tend to treat Protestants in those countries the same way.)

So when it comes down to it, even when every layman with a website can't, the bishops can work their way around the theology. It's the turf war that matters. I believe that if it hadn't been for the Eastern European question, we would be much closer to communion than in 1990.

So why is His Holiness John Paul of blessed memory so important to me as an Orthodox Christian? Because he really, really, really wanted what Jesus really wanted:

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

John Paul saw this as an imperative. Most of the Orthodox do not. It is imperative that we do.

Posted by david at 12:58 AM | Comments (7)

April 05, 2005

Some Bets Are Off

It's not the holiest aspect of the selection of a successor to St Peter's throne. The cardinals may be sworn to secrecy, but the bookies in Ireland are already taking wagers on who will be the next pontiff.

The Washington Post has looked into this and with their thorough research discovered that Paddy Power, Ireland's largest betting company has Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, at 11 to 4. The Post also notes that Father Dougal Maguire of Craggy Island, Ireland, is a long shot at 1,000 to 1.

The name is spelled "McGuire", but Post staff writer Stephanie McCrummen missed one other detail. As Stateside viewers of PBS or BBC America might recognise, Father Dougal is a fictional character from the sitcom Father Ted.

McCrummen's a little inaccurate with the odds as well. Father Dougal was originally 100,000 to 1. A flurry of betting now has him at 500-1.

Posted by david at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2005

Memory Eternal

May God grant a peaceful repose and joy in the light of His Presence to his servant John Paul.

One in six people on the planet mourn the loss their spiritual leader. Everyone on every other blog has much more profound things to say about the passing of His Holiness. As I watched the extended BBC news coverage from Rome this evening, I could not help but tear up at times.

I realised that within the space of a year, the two leaders who are responsible more than any others for the reshaping of the world through the dissolution of the Soviet bloc and the defeat of Eastern European communism, Ronald Reagan and Karol Wojtyla, have passed from it. If you look at their backgrounds, it becomes obvious how God can take those from the humblest of origins and use them to change the world.

Posted by david at 10:11 PM | Comments (1)


I was listening to the commentators on the telly this morning pontificate on the pontificate that is drawing to a close. (How often do you get to use that word with both meanings in the same sentence?) Where do they get these people? Some woman, the importance of whom I am unaware (because I was listening and not watching, so I didn't see the identifying graphic), was going on and on about how this Pope had not been good for women because of his stance on abortion and the ordination of priestesses. Which Pope do they think was good then? When has any Pope ever supported their views?

What planet are these people occupying? They simply cannot comprehend that it isn't the role of the Pope to turn the Faith into whatever he fancies. They see so called dissident Catholics who favour these things and assume that once the "right" man comes along the Church will come along and get with the spirit of the age.

Now as an Orthodox person, I could argue that with the acceptance of the filioque in the 11th century and the doctrine of papal infallibility in 1870, the billion or so separated brethren under the patriarch of Rome are already sliding down the slippery slope. However, I would say that this slope is not a rate of descent that is even perceptible by those who want the Church of Rome to endorse or promote their perversions.

Posted by david at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2005

The Beginning of Our Salvation

One thing I have learned by blogging is how much better other people are at expressing things - much better than me. For example, one of the Orthoblogosphere's Minor Clergy has an excellent meditation on today's feast.

Nonetheless, I am compelled to jot down a few of my thoughts on the Annunciation.

The Annunciation is the single most significant event in the history of the universe. Without it there is no Christmas, no Good Friday, no Pascha. The Annunciation is the Incarnation. Holy Nativity is simply the result of the natural nine-month process. As St Paul tells us, Good Friday is meaningless without Pascha. But you can't resurrect someone who wasn't dead, and you can't kill someone who wasn't alive, and no human is alive unless they were formed in the womb.

The Annunciation makes it all possible. As in the troparion for today, we sing:

Today is the beginning of our salvation
and the manifestation of the mystery which is from eternity.
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,
and Gabriel announces grace.
So with him let us also cry to the Mother of God:
Rejoice, thou who art full of grace!
The Lord is with thee.

Protestants wonder why we venerate Mary above all the other saints. (Well, they often wonder why we venerate the saints at all, but that's for another time.) The Annunciation is the reason why. At the Annunciation she went from being just another teenage girl to being Theotokos, the Mother of God. By her act of faith, saying, "Let it be to me according to your word," she found within herself the infinite and eternal God the Son, giving him her genes, her chromosomes, her DNA.

These things cause us to venerate - to honour - Mary. She will always be His mother and He will follow His Fifth Commandment and always honour her. We follow His example. These marvelous things also cause us to well up with worship and adoration for the God-man Christ Jesus, the Father Who sent Him, and the Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin.

I have written further about this at some length a couple of years ago in a Mental Meandering.

Every time we confess our faith, we profess the importance of the Annunciation by declare that we believe in

... the only begotten Son of God,
begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man...

What a juxtaposition: begotten, not made with and was made man. The unmade was made in the Virgin's womb. Why? For our salvation. "And you shall call his name..." what? Yeshua. "...the Lord saves".

Posted by david at 01:10 AM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2005

A Family Affair

Because our Eucharistic community only meets once a month, we don't have services today. We won't be visiting anywhere today, if for no other reason than it is Forgiveness Sunday.

It's not that the extended service would be difficult for the sprogs. They do have enough difficultly getting through the entire Liturgy, even with liberal use of the kitchen as a holding area. But it's the sort of occasion that belongs to a parish.

The year we were received in the Church, we happened to visit the Shrewsbury parish on Forgiveness Sunday. I don't think I realised at the time that's what it was. I remember how uncomfortable I felt as everyone asked everyone else's forgiveness for offences committed in the previous year. You can't really participate with people who you see maybe once a quarter, and with whom you have no common community committment, nor they with you. Sure you can go through the motions, but what's the point of that? As I recall, we slipped out not long after the forgiving bit all began.

That is not say I remove myself from the process altogether, or that I (or we all) shouldn't seek forgiveness beyond the bounds of our local ties and those with whom we regularly share the same chalice.

And though reading a blog is certainly nothing like the fellowship of entering into the heavenlies together in the Divine Liturgy, and most of you I have never even seen in the flesh, if I have offended any of you in the past year, I ask your forgiveness.

Posted by david at 12:27 AM | Comments (2)

March 03, 2005

New UK Orthoblogger

With a hat tip to Huw, I have found a new Orthodox blogger, Fr Gregory Hallam, whose Antioch Abouna began on St David's Day and has been duly installed on the blogroll in the column to your right.

Fr Gregory is parish priest of St Aidan's, Manchester.

Posted by david at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

For Your Reading List

While we are on the subject of saints, have you bought Fr Pat Reardon's book, Christ in His Saints yet? It is entirely about Biblical saints, both Old and New Testament. It is entirely readable, with a couple of pages about each, grouped in larger sections.

If you have not bought this book yet, or in cases of destitution and poverty at least borrowed it off somebody how has, well, as Ricky Ricardo would have said to Lucy, "You got some 'splainin' to do."

Posted by david at 01:16 AM | Comments (1)

A Mother's Day

Today is the feast of St Non (sometimes called St Nonna), the mother of St David. When Aidan David was in utero, we visited St Non's Chapel - both the ruin and the newer building nearby. I don't post photos very often, but I thought I would make an exception, for those who might be interested in seeing this place of pilgrimage.

We took water from the healing well there and used it in Aidie's baptism.

Posted by david at 01:07 AM | Comments (1)

February 26, 2005

Bugs, Bugs Everywhere

Abigail has had a rough winter. She is on her third cold. She had a chest infection at Christmas. Now she has a stomach ailment that has resulted in vomitting four times in four hours and and explosive episode out the other end.

After waiting two hours for an appointment to take her to the out-of-hours clinic this evening, it appears that she could be ill for 7-10 days. And of course it is a contagious viral condition.

She could use your prayers. If you do hear from me for a few days, it may be that can.

Posted by david at 06:07 PM | Comments (3)

February 17, 2005

The Broad Path of Anglicanism

The big news from the meeting of the Church of England General Synod is the push to re-introduce heresy trials. Clifton has a good blog about this. The main news today has been about the change in they way clergy are paid and issues of employment rights.

What's not been as publicised is the Church's announcement that in compliance with the Civil Partnership Act, it will be granting partners of homosexual clergy the same pension rights as spouses.

As the Daily Telegraph noted:

The disclosure, made at the General Synod last night, could prove an embarrassment to the bishops because sexually active homosexuals are theoretically barred from the priesthood.

Only a few homosexual clergy have so far risked facing censure by publicly declaring that they are living in same-sex unions, but the prospect of gaining pension rights for their partners may prove an incentive for many more to "come out".

The C of E isn't quite as apostate as its American counterpart, where active, open homosexual partnerships are not even a bar to the episcopate. Jeffrey John couldn't get a purple shirt even though he professed celibacy in his long-term partnership.

The Synod also put off a decision on female bishops, another break from the Holy Tradition that the American were willing to take in 1989. There are now 11 bishopettes in the ECUSA (8 active and 3 retired).

Posted by david at 12:48 AM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2005

Drawing A Line Under It

I have been disturbed by a number of things associated with the whole matter of my blog about teaching Islam.

First of all, this is a blog about my personal life, working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. It is not a newspaper and I am not a journalist. I have had demands by email that I clarify this or that in no uncertain terms. I don't have to clarify anything. Because I am an American writing about life in Britain, most of my readers are American. However, if I refer to aspects of British life, such as the education system, and you don't understand what I am talking about, I am usually happy to clear that up. If I don't, then a) don't make assumptions, and b) look it up.

Second, other websites have taken it upon themselves to hijack parts of what I have said, add commentary as if it is also what I said, and pass it on as the truth. For example, I never suggested that all British students are required to do anything. I only ever said what I understood one of the exam boards to require to get full marks (an understanding which the exam board has clarified as wrong). (If you don't know what an exam board is, then follow the instructions in the paragraph above.)

Third, commentators on my blog and on other blogs have then taken what I have said to support their own hatred for Islam. I commented on a theological issue of blessing a leader of a non-Christian religion. I have no time for ad hominem attacks on either the person of Muhammad or anonymous Muslims. Some of the comments that I saw had no theological motivation whatsoever and the language used would never come from the keyboard of anyone who is seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ.

As an Orthodox Christian, I clearly do not believe that Islam teaches or represents the Truth. That does not mean that everything Islam teaches is bad. From the excerpts of my blog posted elsewhere, I have seen comments springing bashing Muslims for some of the very things the Bible and Holy Tradition teach us, for example, the modesty of women.

When historically Christian countries and cultures look at the Islamic world, they should feel one thing: shame. There are certainly a lot of nominal Muslims like there are nominal Christians, but throughout the Islamic world - and not just amongst Wahabis and those influenced by the Hanbali school - there are many more Muslims who pray at the prescribed hours. Most Christians today do not even know that they also have prescribed hours of prayer, even though Acts 3:1 is a big tip off.

Respect and responsibility for family is also not a uniquely Muslim concept. The examples of the Old Testament and the Pauline epistles of the New should make that clear. Why is it so much more lacking in the Christian and post-Christian west? (And while respecting families, how about respecting mine? To falsely attribute things to me and to associate it with reprehensible comments endangers my own family's livelihood.)

And before anyone talks about Muslim men being allowed up to four wives, is this not the same number as the Patriarch Jacob? (Yes, I know technically two were concubines.) And what of the Psalmist who wrote the hymnbook of the Church? Not to mention Solomon, because even though the ones who worshipped other gods led to his downfall, there is no hint of immorality attached to the actual polygamy. As Christians, we do not practice the polygamy allowed by the Law of Moses because Jesus tells us it was not the original intention.

Most of the comments I see are from people who have a shallow, virtually one-dimensional understanding of Islam. They operate on a stereotyping one-size-fits-all approach to other religions and cultures. With anthropological myopia they see their own culture and religion as complex and varied.

Let me make this clear. I am a Christian. I believe that there is one name by which men may be saved and it is the name of Jesus. I do not believe that other religions have truths that in any way add to that which was handed down by Holy Apostles by their their teachings and writings. I do not believe that all religions are paths to the same God.

That does not cause me to hate those who do not name the name of Christ. Quite the contrary. Otherwise, where is the love of Christ? I even like a lot of non-Christians, regardless of whether their version of non-Christianity is Islam or the unoffical religion of this country, secular humanism. I wish everyone to come to the knowledge of the Truth.

Just so you know, comments are closed on this particular post. Like Pontius Pilate, what I have written, I have written. Emails are welcome.

Posted by david at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2005

From the Horse's Mouth

After all the fuss over a conversation with a colleague while planning lessons, taken completely out of context and misunderstood by most of the people who commented on it, I have received the following from OCR:

"OCR will always put 'peace be upon him' after Muhammad in the form of an Arabic colophon as a mark of respect. However we do not expect candidates to do this.

A reference to this can be found on page 13 of the OCR GCSE Religious Studies Notes for Guidance."

I hope that whoever has picked up the other post, whether it was quoted in full or in part, will post this as well and tell people to stop emailing OCR.

As I said in comments to the original post, I never based my information on anything from OCR - I only said that was the exam board we used.

Posted by david at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005


I have at least temporarily removed my posting regarding teaching about Muhammad in Religious Education.

I have done this for two reasons. First, too many of the comments do not reflect my views. Second, because the underlying information was related to me by a work colleague as being how she was told to inform students in response to my query about this, I have not had an opportunity to check this further with my department or with OCR. As this is half-term, I may not be able to confirm this for a few days.

UPDATED: I have confirmed the situation with OCR as posted above.

Posted by david at 11:20 PM | Comments (7)

January 22, 2005


This virus just won't let go.

I actually made it to work Thursday (but left early) and Friday. Tonight we were supposed to go out an celebrate the award of a PhD to a friend, but I just wasn't up to it. I rang with our apologies before I had been outside. When I did go out, it was very cold and snowing heavily. Probably would not have been a good night to brave the weather in my weakened condition anyway.

Aidan is the only one who is close to being back to normal. Kelly and Abby are still suffering as well.

Your continued prayers are solicited.

Posted by david at 11:18 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2005

Lenten Justice

I know it's a long way off until Lent - since Clean Monday is the day before my birthday - but I was thinking about a conversation I had after Liturgy on Sunday during our patronal feast.

I'm basically a carnivore. I eat meat. Roast it, broil it, bake it, fry it, barbeque it - I don't care. I eat bread because it is useful for holding and eating meat. I tend to think of vegetables as a nice little garnish on the plate, just there to make the meat look even more attractive.

As you can imagine, I don't do Lent very well. I try really hard during the first week. Sometimes if Mrs H comes up with an attractive combination of fish and faux-meat dishes, I can go for week or so.

The bloke with whom I was in conversation at church is a vegetarian. When it comes to eating, Lent is hardly a bump in the road to vegetarians. I think vegetarians ought to be required to eat meat during Lent. That's right - every meal - a big ol' lump of juicy dead flesh on the plate. Bacon and sausage for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, and a sirloin steak for supper. It only seems fair to me.

I am tempted to raise the issue of fasting foods generally. I know it is difficult to get readers to bite and leave comments if I get too controversial. Do you think that the designation of fasting foods was developed to best suit the needs of that place and time and have then been over-spiritualised to justify the lack of amendment since? Or, on the other hand, are they part of the Holy Tradition handed down by the Apostles, immutable and unchangeable?

And is it posts like this that keep me off a lot of Ortho-blogrolls? I wonder if I'm seen as a bit of an Ortho-liberal, what with admitting that I don't keep the Fast very well and questioning whether some traditions are entitled to a capital "T".

Posted by david at 09:43 PM | Comments (4)

January 17, 2005

Targeting Christians

With all the fighting between Shi'a and Sunni groups in Iraq, we can forget that it has become a more dangerous place for indigenous Christians. Yesterday, Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, of the Syrian Catholic Church, was seized while walking in front of his church.

Sadly, as the murder of Margaret Hassan made clear, the terrorists hold Christians in at least as much disregard as those subject to their internecine warfare. Pray for his deliverance from evil.

I'm sure that short of a miracle, Archbishop Casmoussa will face martyrdom. Fortunately, his would not be a martyrdom based upon false hopes of sex with 72 white virgins. No, he will be hoping to see the Virgin Mother of God and with her worship her son, the true and living God.

Posted by david at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2005

Colour My World

And this is what it really looks like.

Posted by david at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2005

All of Creation

The first pictures of the surface of Titan are in.

As regular readers will know, I have been an enthusiast about space exploration and travel since the days of the Apollo program. By my calculation, this is only the third heavenly body to have been viewed from the surface.

Space exploration is encouraged by the Psalmist, who said,

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?

For the Christian, Huygens presents new opportunities to glorify the Creator of all of the universe. In Titan, He created a world that wouldn't even be discovered by humans until 1655 or explored until 2004. And yet He crafted it as carefully as His terrestrial work. It may not contain the variety of Earth and probably contains no life, but it was spun into space by His hand for His glory.

On a sad note, many scientist with their non-theistic presuppositions will use Titan to try to bolster their cosmology, and once again they will heap upon themselve their own condemnation. Though he will not have been aware of Titan, St Paul tells us:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify His as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

I am thankful for all the photographs, even if I can see what they cannot. If they had the eyes to look closely at every rock on the surface of Titan, they would see the fingerprint of God.

Posted by david at 11:53 PM | Comments (3)

January 12, 2005

Polemic Vacuum

I'm surprised no one took the bait with the last entry. Either my suggestions are so far outside the pale for my Ortho-readers that they don't merit discussion or my readership has dropped off considerably. Probably the latter.

Posted by david at 11:06 PM | Comments (5)

January 02, 2005

Turks Behaving Badly

As longtime readers of this blog or my Meanderings will know, I don't think much of the Turks.

If you have been lulled into thinking that Turkey joining the EU is a good thing and that all the Turks need to do is clean up their prisons and stop gassing Kurds, you need to think again. With a hat tip to Minor Clergy, Major Problems, I recommend an article in the Hellenic News of America on just how badly the Turks continue to treat the Orthodox.

Posted by david at 04:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2005

The Circumcision of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ

It seems to me appropriate that the Feast of the Circumcision falls on New Years Day. Both represent new beginnings.

Circumcision on the eight day, the type and shadow of baptism, demonstrates our our new life in Christ. We even make resolutions, such as saying "I do" to the question, "Dost thou renouce Satan and all his Angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride?"

How often do you see that on a list of New Years resolutions? You would only need that one resolution and the rest would take care of itself.

Posted by david at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2004

Avoiding Christ at Christmas

The Church of England has conducted a survey to anticipate church attendance on Christmas. Christmas is a time when a bumper crop is normally expected - when turnout includes those Anglicans who only attend then and maybe at Easter. In could be said that for many, "C of E" is synonymous with "C and E".

Where will have the lowest attendance? Manchester. Jesus is not the reason for the season in all of the major cities, but 98% of Mancunians will not darken the door of a church.

The highest attendance? Here in Hooterville. An amazing one in ten will be in church to celebrate the birth of Christ. According to the academic who conducted the survey, “That is three times as many as in London, four times as many as Birmingham and five times as many as Manchester.” That's right, 10% of the population is as good as it gets. The relative godliness of the Shire should made clear the godlessness of the country.

The Archbishop of York recently stated the obvious when he acknowledged that Britain is no longer a Christian nation.

Posted by david at 10:08 PM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2004

Restoring Icons

I was flipping through Athanasius' On the Incarnation this evening and paused upon this passage in section 13 and pondered:

Even an earthly king, though he is only a man, does not allow lands that he has colonised to pass into other hands or to desert to other rulers, but sends letter and friends and even visits them himself to recall them to their allegiance, rather than allow his work to be undone. How much more, then, will God be patient and painstaking with his creatures, that they be not led astray from Him to the service of those who are not, and that all the more because such error for them means sheer ruin, and because it is not right that those who had once shared His image should be destroyed.

What then was God to do? What else could he possibly do, being God, but renew His image in mankind, so that through it men might once more come to know Him? And how could this be done save by the coming of the very Image Himself, our Saviour Jesus Christ? Men could not have done it, for they are only made after the Image; nor could angels have done it, because they are not the images of God. The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man after the Image.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2004

Saint Alive

Today is the commemoration of a number of saints, including St Herman of Alaska, St Finnian of Clonard ("Tutor of the Saints of Ireland"), and St Columba of Leinster (the other St Columba). But at the top of the list is Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Tremithus.

He was mentioned at the end of the Liturgy today, but I didn't know much about him. After I got home from church, I saw Jim Nee's blog piece about him. In addition to usual miracles performed during his life, in his repose he is one of the walking saints.

Sometimes saints just don't get a break.

Posted by david at 05:25 PM | Comments (2)

November 28, 2004

The Return of the Saints

I can't believe I'm the first Orthoblogger to mention this - at least amongst those on my links list.

After exactly 800 years, the relics of St John Chrysostom and St Gregory Nazianzen have been return have been returned to Constantinople. They were taken in a raid by Catholic crusaders in 1204.

This is a gesture that will no doubt be looked upon with suspicion by all the monks on Athos and others who see the Pope as the great enemy of Orthodoxy. For those who long to see the unification of the Church, this is certainly a gesture of symbolic value. I am probably far too ecumenical for my average Orthodox reader, and I generally have a lot of bad things to say about Patriarch Bartholomew, but I think this is marvellous, at least on a spiritual level.

On a practical level, I'm not so sure. The bones of these holy Fathers are being returned to Istanbul. Constantinople only exists in the legal fiction of the Church. The bones will by in tiny insecure enclave surrounded by Infidels. The Turks don't have the best track record when it comes to preserving or protecting things Christian. They might have been better off under the protection of the Vatican.

If Bart does the wise thing and abandons the Phanar for freedom, I hope he takes the bones of his holy predecessors with him.

Posted by david at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

Memory Eternal

Not much time to blog tonight. Too many papers to mark. Only time to remember the 41st anniversary of the repose of Clive Staples Lewis. He may not have been big "O" Orthodox, but I know many have been surprised by joy when they embraced mere Christianity.

It's a shame that on this day, folks only remember where they were when they heard that a much lesser mortal, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been shot.

Posted by david at 10:29 PM | Comments (3)

November 14, 2004

More on Dyfrig

I suppose some of you may not be familiar St Dyfrig. He's not that well known in some parts.

I have created a separate page about him on this site. Eventually I hope to have a whole site about him, but this will do for now.

Posted by david at 10:14 AM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2004

Oldies and Eternity

During its daytime programming, BBC Radio 2 plays a mixture of oldies and chart hits. One oldy that gets played more often than you might imagine is Glen Campbell's 1968 hit, "Wichita Lineman". It happens to be the favourite song ever of one of the substitute presenters (either Stuart Maconie or Richard Allinson), but it gets played by Steve Wright and Johnnie Walker as well.

It is only as I have heard it several times over the last few weeks that I have realised what a powerful song it is. The lines of the chorus have not left my mind for a couple of days:

And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman
Is still on the line

On a human level this describes a deep love, not dissimilar to a song I wrote for Mrs H even before we met in person:

You're forever in my soul
You forever make me whole
And forever isn't long enough to really let you know

What makes these lyrics hyperbole is that express an eternal element. We know on a theological level that, contrary to Mormonism, our human relationships are confined to this side of the veil. However, they demonstrate that our human relationships should reflect a Divine one. Christ and the Church: the real marriage, as it were.

Either of these songs (as I elevate myself along side the legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb) reveal the inadequacy of our love for God and the value of spending eternity with Him. Since eternity exists outside of time, I don't know if has any progressive aspects, but as creatures it is hard to imagine that we could arrive on the other side with a perfected love. We may be full of His energies, but even in our glorified state we will not share in His essence, so surely it will take all of eternity to appreciate the depth of His love.

On a human level, it just makes good music.

Posted by david at 02:42 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2004

Why I Like John Kerry

I think it is good to have a candidate for President of the US like John Kerry.

Like Bush or hate him, and he has done some things with which I strongly disagree, like the Dept of Homeland Security and the Patriot Acts I and II, this election is about so much more. There are certainly two flawed candidates. The difference is that one is attempting to be godly and is sometimes misguided, whilst the other is effortlessly ungodly and also misguided.

So I'm glad Kerry is the candidate. That way those who vote for him know they are chosing darkness rather than light. They have marked the box (or punched the chad, if they are in Florida) for unrighteousness. Election day is not a matter of chosing that day who will become President. You aren't really chosing who will serve. You are chosing who you will serve.

Posted by david at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

The Blaine Truth about the End of the World

It just sort crept up on me. Like a foolish virgin, I've been caught totally unaware. The end is here. Thankfully I have been informed by email just in time. I hope you will all thank me that I've passed this on to you:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Dear fathers and brothers in the Christ, bless me!
Lord ours Jesus Christ has opened the person of the antichrist.
It is american wizard David Blaine, which was born in 1973.
Per 30 years, after the ending of the false post in October 19, 2003
he began service as a false messias of Judah. In 2006 he will be anointed
in the king of all world. Before it will be, in November - December,
2004 should begin the Third World War and the global disasters.
In detail about it is spoken in the book: "Antichrist has come to preach! ",
which is published in the Internet on the Russian language, to the address:
http: //, and
http: //
Lord waits for repentance from the people.
Excuse me, a sinful the slave of God is Oleg.

Yes, that's right. Who would have thought that a man who lived in a perspex box over the River Thames for 44 days would become the Beast? I can't read Russian, so I don't know if David Copperfield is his buddy the False Prophet.

Posted by david at 10:43 PM | Comments (2)

September 13, 2004

Orthodoxy from the BBC

I'm not sure what has motivated it, but BBC News has a postive article on Orthodoxy in Alaska.

Posted by david at 11:22 PM | Comments (7)

September 03, 2004


Though it took a long time to get a date when sufficient numbers and talents of our parish could be assembled, finally Abigail is baptised.

May God grant her many years!

Posted by david at 11:07 PM | Comments (3)

September 01, 2004


Orthodoxy is a lot like Islam.

Okay, now that the oxygen has returned to the room after the collective gasp, let me explain.

I should say the Church is a lot like Islam. The meaning and goal of Islam is islam - submission to the will of Allah. The goal of Christians should be submission to the will of Allah. "Allah", after all, is simply the Arabic word for God, and there have been Arab Christians long, long before there were Arab Muslims.

The Orthodox Church simply says, "Here is the truth - here is the will of God as revealed by God through the Holy Apostles - take it or leave it." Setting aside all the cultural baggage, that is why a lot of Christians have difficultly becoming Orthodox. I lurk on the Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue Yahoo Group and I see the same approach in the Evangelicals that I had before I made the jump from Ortho-wannabe to Ortho-gonnabe (the point at which chrismation foregone conclusion and just a logistical hurdle to overcome). I had lots of theology and lots of sophisticated arguments.

I didn't realise that I was cutting my knife through soft butter. Think about - it is easy to perceive effectiveness because the butter offers no resistance. But after the knife has passed through, the butter is still whole and you'd never know the knife had ever passed though it.

Doug and Karl both blogged about an article by Dr Jack Kinneer, an Orthodox Presbyterian minister who did some sort of diploma course at St Vlad's. Kinneer explained why as a Calvinist he could not become Orthodox. He detailed some of the "shortcomings" of Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, the thing he missed was the Church. He assumed the validity of his Reformed theology and tried to weigh the Church up against it, or at least those bits of the Church that he tried to shave off and put onto the scale.

Like Islam, the Orthodoxy used to be a missionary religion. Now, unlike Islam, for the most part it just waits for stray Protestants who've put away their plastic theological swords or Catholics who prefer its position on divorce to join. Protestants are, for the most part, ineffective versus Islam because Muslims aren't impressed with all their theological banter. American evangelicalism just doesn't compute.

Muslim under stand submission to the will of Allah, they just don't understand that Allah does in fact have a Son and that submission to the Son is submission to Allah:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Posted by david at 01:05 AM | Comments (4)

August 31, 2004

Embarrassment of Riches

As I was washing the dishes tonight, I had to throw away some peas, sweet corn, and baby carrots. There wasn't a lot left and they were already leftovers and I couldn't see re-refrigerating them and re-heating them.

But as I tossed them in the bin already full of other uneaten food, like some mackerel that had gotten lost in the fridge past the "use by" date, I thought of how there were people in Sudan starving at that very moment. I know it seems trite, and I know as a Republican my Democrat friends (and as a Tory, my Labour friends) would say I'm not supposed to think of such things, but it's true.

The thing is, there is no way I could have fed them my leftover veg or unused mackerel. And there's no way that I could eat less or even cook less that would somehow provide them with what I haven't used. Whether I like it or not, there are 280 grams of peas, 160 grams of corn, and 195 grams of baby carrots (drained weight) in their respective Tesco brand cans. Given the relative appetites of our family of three table-fed persons, eating in reasonable moderation, we more often than not end up with leftovers of leftovers that would be less than palatable the next time around.

Yes, we could say that it would be more than palatable to our Sudanese brethren, but eating something we don't like just because someone else would like it doesn't make us like it any more. Nonetheless it is both embarrassing and sad to think that we toss out those bits of excess here and there, and can even forget about something until it goes off, without appreciable economic consequences.

It should spur us on to contribute to ways that can make a difference for those who are suffering and have a real sense of gratitude for the grace that has resulted in the material blessings we have. When we pray, Give us this day our daily bread, we should realise just what a gift it is and how much more than bread we have been given.

We Thank Thee, O Christ our God,
That Thou hast filled us with Thine earthly goods;
Deprive us not also of Thy Heavenly Kingdom,
But as Thou camest in the midst of Thy disciples,
O Saviour, and gavest them peace,
Come also amongst us and save us.

Posted by david at 11:30 PM | Comments (2)

August 14, 2004

I'm Just a Re-tread

Karl commented in the previous post that he had blogged about YWAM and the Olympics last year. Actually, it was at the very beginning of this year, but nonetheless it is a good discussion.

Because I can't allow html in the comments, thanks to the evil spammers, I have moved the link up here so you can click to it, rather than copy and paste out the URL.

But don't let this keep you from commenting on the post below.

Posted by david at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2004

Losing the Saved

I debated about what to title this. It could also be "Invasion of the Faith Snatchers" or "Preaching to the Choir" or "What a Friend We Have YWAM".

Yes, folks it's that time again. Thanks to Serge for reminding me that the next fortnight will see a new invasion of Evangelicals into an Orthodox land.

Now I don't want anyone to think that just because I am complaining about the actions of a few Evangelicals that I am against Evangelicals altogether. I value my Evangelical background. (Most Ex-Ev Orthodox do.) I like Evangelicals. Some of my best friends are Evangelicals.

However, because one of the key symptoms of evangelicalism is historical short-sightedness, they often fail to realise that the first Christians weren't an off-shoot of an off-shoot of an off-shoot of the Protestant Reformation. The early Church would find their theology incomprehensible. So do cradle Orthodox.

One of the groups going to Athens to evangelise is Youth With A Mission (YWAM). On their website they say:

Recently, Greek believers asked Youth With A Mission to come and help them bring a witness to the world and to Greece at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. They requested that YWAM play a leading role in mobilizing international believers and locals and to help strategize a national evangelism campaign.

The spiritual state of Greece is poor. Probably worse that the YWAMers know. The problem is that they don't have the solution. The solution isn't to turn them into evangelical Protestants.

In their downloadable PowerPoint strategy presentation, they use phrases like, "Not a conversion but a relationship", and "Come as fellow Christians promoting commitment". Is this a ploy? Are they promoting committment to Jesus within an Orthodox context? Unlikely.

As Joshua notes on his blog (and I'm paraphrasing), will they be encouraging the Jesus Prayer or "quiet time", Divine Liturgy or American praise pop, the Sacraments and the Real Presence of Christ or a "personal relationship with Jesus"?

It is also our dream for the land of Greece to be re-awakened and revived from the spirit of religiosity that it is bound in. The problem is that Greece lacks "religiosity". If Greece is "re-awakened" and revives to the true religion it once had, it won't look anything like American charismatiosity, if I can coin a term.

Coin... It reminds me of how a small child will trade a small coin for a large one. Both are of value. Both are real money. But one is a tuppence and the other a pound. The Greeks don't need to bother with the tuppences they are offered - they just need to find the pound already in their pocket.

Posted by david at 12:39 AM | Comments (5)

July 29, 2004

Out of Almost Nothing

I have been reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's more of a history of science. As with all of Bryson's books, it is difficult to put down.

Bill starts with things cosmological and works his way down in scale. He devotes his first chapter to the history of universe. Following the accepted Psalm 14:1 wisdom, Bryson expounds upon the Big Bang. I found this to be really interesting stuff, because I wasn't aware of how refined this theory is.

The universe wasn't created out of nothing. No, according to current cosmology it began one of two ways. Either it started with an ounce of matter compacted into a space one billionth the size of a proton or all the matter now existing in the universe was squeezed into "a spot so infinitesimally compact that it had no dimension at all. It is known as a singularity." Seems to me that's about as close to nothing as you can get without actually admitting creation ex nihilo.

And the universe didn't just instantly appear. No, it took time. From a non-dimensional singularity (or billionth of a proton) it took a million million million million millionths (or 10-30 for those of you keeping score at home) of a second to grow to at least a million million million million (1024)miles across - that's the estimated size of the visible universe. It seems to me that basically science needs a universe instantly created out of nothing without a Creator actually doing it.

Bryson goes on to explain how exact the universe, our solar system, and our planet must be to sustain life. He even calls it "miraculous" - a godless miracle. If anything were out of place by such a tiny fraction, we would have never existed. Even the universe wouldn't exist if hydrogen didn't convert to helium in a way that converts exact 0.07% of its mass to energy. As he says, "with the slightest tweaking of the numbers the universe as we know it and need it would not be here."

Whenever I read science literature or watch science programmes on the telly, I am always amazed at how scientists miss God. He is there right under there nose. This demonstrates how much of scientific theory is bound up with philosophical presuppositions.

It really has to be, because there is so little evidence with which scientist can work. As Bryson notes, "Astronomers have sometimes been compelled (or willing) to base conclusions on notably scanty evidence. He quotes journalist Geoffrey Carr opining on cosmology in the Economist that we have "a mountain of theory built on a molehill of evidence."

In contrast there is a mountain - well, a universe, really - of evidence for the Creator.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools...

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2004

New Orthoblogger

Welcome to Douglas Dalrymple and his new Xanthikos blog. Douglas is a catechumen in California.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2004

Make Bones About It

As you will note from the information in the grey column to your right, I have been reading The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millenium by Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger. Just to clarify things, it has the sub-sub-title An Englishman's World. So it's what life was like in England at the turn of the first millenium.

It takes the year month by month, not in the specifics of what happened that month (as that would result in a pamphlet rather than a book), but around the themes of drawn on a perpetual monthly calendar (called the "Julius Work Calendar" for complex historiographical reasons) created around the year 1020. The January chapter, entitled "For All the Saints" discusses the importance of the Christian year at the beginning of the 11th century.

The authors close the chapter with some very perceptive comments.

This was an age of faith. People believed as fervently in the powers of saints' bones as many today believe that wheat bran or jogging or psychoanalysis can increase the sum of human happiness.

Then down a bit further:

You were not on your own. That was the comforting message of the little Julius Work Calendar with its twelve monthly recitations of saints' festivals. God was there to help, and so was a whole network of fellow human beings from the distant past up to your own era. In the year 1000, the saints were a presence as vital and dynamic as any band of elves or demons. They were a living community to whom one prayed , and among whom one lived.

The authors never show where the Christians of the 11th century particularly believed in elves. I'm sure they believed in demons. Clearly the authors themselves have little understanding of spiritual things, but they do capture the essence of Orthodox Christianity.

If I had to choose between the Holy Spirit-energised bones of saints on the one hand and wheat bran or jogging or psychoanalysis on the other, I think I would have to go with the bones. After all, bran may keep you regular and jogging may keep your circulation flowing (psychoanalysis having no valid function), so they may keep you alive, but they have never brought anyone back from the dead.

Posted by david at 01:40 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2004

When I Consider the Heavens

Cassini has reached Saturn. This is the first space probe to go into orbit around the second largest planet in the solar system.

The response of some is, "why?" I say because God created it and to know more about His creation is to know more about Him and to worship Him all the more. When I saw some of the first images of the rings close up, I just said, "Wow. Good job, God." The precision of these massive rings surrounding a massive planet flung out in space 888 million miles from the Sun is absolutely amazing. You need to see it.

Creation declares the glory of God.

Posted by david at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

Remanded for Righteousness

Thanks to Elizabeth who emailed the following story to me, due to the problems I'm having with spam comments.

Swedish pastor sentenced to one month's jail for offending

Stockholm (ENI). A Swedish court has sentenced a pastor belonging to the Pentecostal movement in Sweden, Ake Green, to a month in prison, under a law against incitement, after he was found guilty of having offended homosexuals in a sermon. Soren Andersson, the president of the Swedish federation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (RFSL), said on hearing the sentence that religious freedom could never be used as a reason to offend people. "Therefore," he told journalists, "I cannot regard the sentence as an act of interference with freedom of religion." During a sermon in 2003, Green described homosexuality as "abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society".

Posted by david at 08:33 PM | Comments (2)

June 28, 2004


Communication is important in any marriage.

As his final Christmas present to me, my brother gave me a Norelco triple-head razor. I had owned one some years ago, and I suppose my brother thought I needed another. It is convenient for shaving on the run. That is, until the charge runs out and you need to plug the American prongs into a British socket. The shaver runs on 240v, so conversion wasn't necessary - just adaptation.

I bought an adaptor from a local DIY shop and for some unknown reason, it refused to accept the American plug. So I left things for months before I saw another one as I was waiting in the queue in Boots and thought I ought to give it a go. So I invested another £4. Mrs H was with me at the time.

Before I opened that one, I remembered one that Mrs H had owned for some time and I dug it out. Sure enough, it wouldn't work either. I never did open the one I bought from Boots, though it was in the bathroom for ages.

Finally a couple of days ago, I decided that it wasn't doing any good in the box, so I might as well open the one from Boots. Because I was bathing Aidie at the time, Mrs H went down stairs and opened the hermetically sealed package with scissors and brought it back up to me. Once again, the plug would not fit!

Then after over a year of observing me trying to adapt my razor plug and even opening my third adaptor, Mrs H commented that there was a shaver socket on the side of the light over the bathroom mirror. She had apparently known about this all along and it is a common feature in British bathrooms. Sure enough, it plugged right in - no adaptor required - worked perfectly on the mains and charged up overnight.

I waited a year to find this out!

Posted by david at 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2004

A Father's Arms

Aidan has survived his second (at least) near-death experience. The first was when an angry rhinoceros charged at his door of our car during a visit to West Midlands Safari Park. It swerved at the last nanosecond. Methinks it saw an menacing angel to which we were not privy.

Yesterday, Aidie was being silly on the stairs. I think I have mentioned before that he learned to work our triple-action stair gates rated to 3 years well before he was 2. Then they took a siginificant amount of time for him to manipulate. Now they don't take him any longer than they take us open. He was most of the way down the stairs when I stopped him and sent him back up. I can't remember why he wasn't allowed downstairs at that particular juncture, but that was the situation.

He decided he would go up the stairs backwards. He was advised against this strongly. Or to put it more accurately he was ordered in no uncertain terms to go up the stairs properly. He chose, however, to do it his way. Fortunately, I was coming up the stairs to address his non-compliance. As he reached the top, he didn't take into account the stair gate across the bottom of the landing, slipped, and like the walls of Jericho, he came a tumblin' down. I don't mean sliding down on his bum. I mean completely out of control like a rag doll.

Had I not been inside the bottom steel-framed stair gate, it would have stopped his fall. Instead, he slid into my arms head-first and I scooped him up to safety.

It was just one of those parenting moments when the shadow and the type - the temporal world and our human family relationships - makes more obvious the reality of God's relationship to his children. How often are we silly and do things our own way and think we'd made it to the top, just to come tumblin' down? And how often is God standing there to scoop us up just before we break our neck?

I know this isn't a deep theological insight. It wasn't something I (or you) didn't know already. Yet God reminds us over and over of the simple things - the basics. He must do this because we need it.

Posted by david at 08:48 PM | Comments (3)

June 04, 2004

Protesting the Power of Suggestion

Monday, Mrs H and I watched a séance. I know, I know, you are all shocked. How could we do such a thing? Dabbling in the demonic!

Dabbling in psychology, actually. The séance was conducted by Derren Brown on Channel 4. Mrs H is a huge fan of Derren and I'm fairly impressed as well. He is hard to describe, but the term most often used is "psychological illusionist". Knowing Derren Brown, we knew it was a setup.

The show became the third most complained about television programme in British history. It managed to do this before it was even aired. And it was all thanks to Christians. As it was hyped on Channel 4 adverts for weeks in advance, the Church had time to mobilise.

It reminded me of all the petitions sent by churches into the FCC against a non-existent proposed ban on religious broadcasting alleged to be mastminded by Madalyn Murry O'Hair. Because Christians didn't check out the facts, but instead decided to shoot from the hip, they come out looking the fools - and I don't mean some sort of fools for Christ - just fools.

That's why there were 695 complaints lodged with either Channel 4 or the meida regulator Ofcom before the broadcast and only 30 after. Apparently some of the protesters didn't realise it had already been shown. Either that, or because they wouldn't have actually watched it, they just assumed what was going on.

In fact, what happened was that Derren took 12 college student who he psychologically tested for suggestability, made up a story that they were in a building where a suicide pact had been carried out, subtly drew their attention to a picture of one of the "victims" and through the use of a Ouija board had them chose her to later call up and channel her spirit. At the end of it all, he brought in the actual person they were "channeling", who had been waiting in a trailer off-site.

By the use of nightvision cameras (since séances take place in the dark) he exposed the psychological hoax. The 12 people were absolutely convinced that they had had a spiritual experience. In both the promo adverts and at the beginning of the programme, Derren had encouraged people to participate at home, particularly with make-shift Ouija boards. Unsuspecting viewer phoned in on a special voicemail line (which was live), thinking it was all live and that they were participating in a live event, reported paranormal activity, though it became evident at the end it had been taped and had been a setup.

I wonder if the resistance by some Christians to proving that much of spiritualism is fake and a product of suggestion and psychological illusion is because it hits too close to home. I spent my days as a charismatic sifting the wheat and the chaff. There were many incidents where people thought they were having a valid spiritual experience and it appeared to everyone else that they were just caught up in the moment.

I look back now and I see even more spiritual ecstacy that was purely a product of the mind. That isn't to say that everything that ever happened was self-generated. Rather, the environment suggested what was to take place. I would dare to ruffle a lot of feathers and suggest that traditional charismatic liturgy of music progressing through certain speeds/volumes/styles/themes conditions the congregation for certain instances of divine utterance and supernatural intervention.

This also has implications for practices used predominately by charismatics in exorcism. I don't run in charismatic circles anymore, but I get the impression that the fad for casting out devils, so prominent in the 1970s and '80s, has become a much more back-burner topic and practice. Time was when everyone needed "deliverance" and every Christian was infested with a variety of demons. Not exactly a biblical model, but there you go. Many people had so many demons they required weeks of regular sessions to get rid of them.

Eventually some people realised that "deliverance" was being used as a panacea for dealing with personal and psychological problems. We talked about people who could find a demon under every rock. Yet those people still managed to conjour up strange voices and black vomit. Makes you think...

It all comes down to people wanting validating experiences, whether those are valid or not. And when people are looking for something, they can usually find it, whether it is a dead person, a demon, or divine intervention.

Posted by david at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2004

Hymns Ancient and Modern

When Mrs H was shopping at Asda a couple of days ago, she purchased a 3 CD collection of The Best Worship Songs...Ever! Wow, I thought, this is amazing. They've searched over 4000 years (starting at the time of the father of the Faith, Abraham, I would think) and they have compiled the best worship songs.

Okay, I didn't really think that, because at the bottom of the CD cover it says, "50 of the most popular modern worship songs". Wow, I thought, now there is a coincidence, the best worship songs ever are all modern. As an historian, I know that there is no agreement on when the modern era began, but at least we are looking at the best of the last 400-500 years.

Okay, I didn't really think that, because looking at the copyright information, none of the songs was published before 1974. Only one was from that year and next oldest was 1983. The amazing thing is that many, if not most, of them have been released in the last five years.

This, you must realise, is truly amazing. Most of the the best worship songs ever have been composed in the last five years! They rank ahead of the Song of Moses after the deliverance through the Red Sea (Exodus 15), all of the Psalms, all of the hymns of the early Church, everything!

It may shock my evangelical and charismatic readers to know that I'm not opposed listening to modern praise and worship music. We even have it on here from time to time. I know there are those who complain that is often shallow. But not all of the ancient hymns of the Church are particular deep. As I look at the lyrics of these 50 greatest songs, admittedly a lot of it is very self-centred, as opposed to God-centred. But there are times when the focus of our conversion with God is about either how we would like to worship Him better or the things he has done for us personally.

Except in places where they are simply theologically wrong, there is nothing wrong with these songs. They have many private and group applications. I just wouldn't use them on Sunday morning. Or more specifically, they have no place in the Divine Liturgy.

That being said, I don't think that the DL has to have everything in the Eight Tones. (I think the Western Rite of the Antiochian Church is evidence of this.) I think the Eastern rites of the Eastern Church have stuck doggedly to the Octoechos because they are safe, not because they are particularly holy. They are, after all, an innovation. They only go back to St John of Damascus.

It is the content of the Liturgy which is important, not the musical package surrounding it. Nonetheless, I can't imagine that any Liturgy will ever contain any of the "best worship songs ever".

Posted by david at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004

Tea for Two

Aidie is definitely British. Today he had his first proper cup of tea. He has sipped out of Mummy's mug before, but today he insisted on having his own.

When I got home today, Mrs H informed me that when she had a cuppa this afternoon, he refused squash or milk or any other drink. He wanted tea in his Bob the Builder mug. He sat down with his tea and even dunked his biscuits.

Posted by david at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2004

Russian Reaction to the Mel's Movie

A good friend and Orthodox archpriest sent me this article from the Moscow Times on the reaction to The Passion of the Christ among the Orthodox hierarchs, clergy, and faithful in Russia.

To give you an idea of the tone of the article, I will include the following excerpt:

"The film has overcome [my] prejudices and doubts," said Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, rector of Moscow University's St. Tatiana Chapel and associate professor at Moscow Theological Academy, in an interview published in Izvestia. "It is almost astonishing for the present state of cinematography and public consciousness -- I had not expected that such a profound and sincere return to the foundations of our faith would be possible in Western society. I think that 'The Passion of the Christ' has already become a fact not of cinema history, but of the religious history of Christianity."

Posted by david at 09:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2004

Christ is Risen!

Even though I've been chrismated since December 2001 last night was my first Orthodox Pascha. We went to Shrewsbury two years ago for Great Friday with every intention of going back on the Saturday night, but I ended up in the hospital instead. I can't remember why it didn't work out last year.

Mrs H stayed home with Aidie and I went to Shrewsbury by myself. I got there about 11:00 and thought I must be early because there were no cars in the lane leading up to the church. I didn't realise that for Pascha they open the gate onto the field to make room for more parking.

Since I normally can't make it through an entire Liturgy standing up, I staked out a spot at the end of the only pew in the church. I always feel a bit strange sitting down next to the old and infirm. Since my disability isn't obvious to most people, I'm sure they wonder what the healthy-looking middle-aged man is doing sitting while others are standing.

I know this is old hat to most of the Ortho-readers of this blog, but I was wonderful standing (and occasonally sitting) in the dark, listening to the choir sing about Jonah. The Church surrounded by darkness is the essence of Great and Holy Saturday. Unlike that first Great and Holy Saturday, when the Holy Apostles and the Myrrh-bearing Women must have sat in true despair, having forgotten the words of the Saviour, we sat there last night in true expectation. We knew the darkness was but for a moment.

Come recieve ye light from the Unwavering Light and glorify Christ, Who is arisen from the dead!

And just like the dawn of Resurrection morning, the light spread throughout the church getting brighter and brighter and reflected off of the gold surrounding the saints who were worshipping the Risen Christ with us.

After the procession outside, the Gospel reading, and the procession back inside, Fr Stephen shouted out Christ is Risen! in various languages. I'm not sure what all of them were. "Christos anesti!" was fairly obvious. (Those of you who have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding will remember that.) Since our eucharistic community in the Shire is of Russian jusidiction, I was also familar with "Khristos voskrese!". I could tell how familiar they were with the congregation in Shrewsbury by how strong the response was. There were lots of "Alethos anesti!" since it is a Greek church and even those who know no other Greek knew this. There was quite a strong group of "Voistinu voskrese!", but fewer of the others.

Given the long drive home, I had considered following the example of those who left after Matins. However, I figured I had come this far, I might as well see it through. I really had no desire to leave (and I'm baffled why anyone would want to leave), though by this point I had to sit quite a bit. Actually by this point, the few chairs had come out of the cupboard and there were other people sitting - even ones who looked otherwise able-bodied.

The Liturgy seemed to go very quickly. It was like any other Liturgy, except that the Royal Doors and the Deacon Doors were open the whole time.

I love the Gospel reading for Pascha. At 2:00 am in a candle-lit church, the words came alive:

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Is there any place darker than England? I thought of the neighbourhood behind the church and of the town beyond. Houses filled with people for whom Easter is a holiday, not a holy day. Children who have no idea why this night is different from any other.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and His own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

That is Pascha. Through His glorious Resurrection, the Light of the World has given us power to become the sons of God.

Christ is Risen!

Posted by david at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2004

Paisley on the Passion

Reverend Ian Paisley, MP MEP MLA, has come out against the Passion. Not against the actual historical event, at least as far as I am aware. He believes the film is being "aggressively marketed by the Church of Rome" to win converts.

This is a strange position to take, considering that Mel Gibson isn't in communion with Rome (albeit because Rome isn't Roman enough for him). He probably hasn't noticed that Catholic leaders in France and Germany have publically distanced themselves from the film. I'm sure he's much more disturbed by the fact that the film is doing very well in the Republic of Ireland (which he probably considers that rebellious part of the Emerald Isle that has rejected its rightful Protestant overlords).

And despite its Catholic imagery, the film has been most aggressively marketed by evangelical Protestants. Perhaps what disturbs Rev. Paisley the most is that the Pope is right when, in his non-endorsement, he said, "It is as it was." If the Pope simply notes that it is an accurate representation of historical events, then it must not be.

Paisley will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief that the Passion is no longer at the top of the box office in the UK. After only a week at number one, it has been supplanted by the undoubtly stirring, life-changing, and more biblically accurate Scooby Doo 2.

Posted by david at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2004

For the Healing of Soul and Body

Having been unable to blog for the last few days, I don't know where to start again. It has been a usual Holy Week for us, with only one service and that was tonight with the Service of Anointing. Our community considered having a Paschal service, but it didn't seem that there would be enough of us there and there is always the problem of using another church's facility, as we do.

I'm glad we have the Anointing, and I'm glad to have it after I've seen Mel Gibson's film which opens with words of Isaiah 53. This all brings together the healing work of the Christ's Passion. However, as I have moved away from Western soteriology, I think I have a better understanding of Isaiah 53.

It also helps that in the last few weeks, I have been present at two Chrismation services. One of at our 21st March Liturgy and the other was in Shrewbury on Lazarus Saturday at the Vespers of Palm Sunday. I noticed that the words spoken during the anointing in the service as the same as those during Chrismation, "For the healing of soul and body."

By his stripes we were healed. As a good charismatic, I grew up with that verse. And it is true that God does many healing miracles on the body. It is entirely out of context to say that Isaiah is referring primarily to the healing of physical infirmities. It is because of our transgressions and iniquities that we need healing. Salvation is a healing process of taking a soul injured by sin and making it whole again.

Posted by david at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2004

Many Years!

It is days like today when the distance across the Atlantic is at its greatest. My father turns 72 today. May God grant him many years! (This is altogether likely, as he shows no signs of slowing down.)

I know a couple of presents have arrived, because we mail-ordered from I hope the other one gets there in time. It would just be nicer if we could give them in person.

Posted by david at 12:16 AM | Comments (1)

March 28, 2004


The time must be near. The baby will be here soon. If this wasn't obvious from the roundness of Mrs H's belly, it would be apparent from her behaviour.

The nesting instinct has set in. Today we bought shopping bags full of cleaning supplies. Tonight I had to force her to go to bed before we were all overwhelmed with the bleach fumes.

Everywhere she looks she sees uncleanliness. The lounge is tidier than it has been in weeks and yet she still needs to wipe down this and dust that.

When the baby arrives there will not be one germ or one thing out of place in this house.

Posted by david at 11:55 PM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2004

The Power of the Passion

We just got back from seeing the Passion in Cardiff, since Aidie is spending the night with Nana.

One the things Mrs H noted before the film began was that there were several Muslims in the cinema (the women had headscarves and we assume the men with them were also Muslim).

Unfortunately, besides us and the Muslims and a couple of boys, everyone else in the 1/3-full cinema were middle-aged and older couples who looked like they would not otherwise be seen in a film rated 18 (or 15 for that matter). We did go to the afternoon showing and there was a Rugby International at the Millennium Stadium. Because it is an 18 here, no one under 18 is admitted, full stop. An 18 is the equivalent of an NC-17. Though the film might not be appropriate for younger children, it would be good if parents had the discretion to take their middle and older teens.

As we were going out, there were lots of old people coming out of the parking lot and into the multiplex in church clothes, one of who asked Mrs H, "Excuse me, is this the cinema?" The multiplex was using 2 screens for the 8:00 show, but I hope they haven't overestimated. In some cities, churches bought up entire showings, but I fear that the film will not have the impact in the UK that it has had in the US. Having seen it, I hope it does.

For those who haven't seen it or are waiting for the DVD, I will mention that it is extremely violent and not one scene is gratuitously so. There are a few flashback scenes that aren't specifically biblical, but none that contradict Scripture or Holy Tradition in any way. After all, Jesus was a small boy at one time and he was a working carpenter until he was 30 as well. (There are also flashback scenes of the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Supper.) If anything, those scenes bought to greater reality the impact of the Incarnation and its implications for the Passion. I think it was particularly appropriate that we saw not just in Lent, but immediately after the Feast of the Annunciation.

When the little boy Jesus fell down and His mother picked him up, when I saw His face, it was like I was seeing the face of Aidan. I saw a mother and her child. I saw my child. Then the scene returned to the bloodied, battered Christ and I realised more than ever before that He was somebody's little boy.

It is a terrible thing to lose a child. I realised a tiny hint of this when my brother died a few weeks ago. How horrible it must have been to have seen Him suffer unimaginably and to stand before Him and watch Him die must have been a mother's worst nightmare. The Theotokos must have suffered her own martyrdom at the foot of the Most Holy Cross.

When I see that suffering, from Gethsemene to Calvary, and I realise the flip side - that He was fully God - I realise even more the power of the words in the Liturgy, " the night in which He was given up, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world..." In terms of earthly power and force, He didn't have to do any of this.

While Jim Caviezel did an absolutely brillant job (I never thought for a moment that he wasn't suffering to that unbelievable level), the film was also very good in bringing to life the other people in the Gospels. Other reviews have already mentioned the Theotokos and Mary Magdalene, but I was especially struck by Pilate as well as someone to whom I've never given a lot of thought, Simon of Cyrene.

I really, really like the fact it was in Aramaic and Latin. I think sometimes I get in my mind that everybody spoke English. Living in an English-language culture and reading and English-language Bible, I sometimes forget that Jesus didn't speak a word of English (and I mean didn't, not couldn't, of course, even though the language wouldn't exist in time and space in any way we would recognise it for another 1400 years). In a sense it universalised the film. It reminded me that the Gospel is for every tribe, tongue, and nation and that the first Christians were neither Anglo nor Saxon. Instead, it was just like being there.

As Orthodox, in the Liturgy were believe that we are there. There is no repeat of the sacrifice - rather we participate in the sacrifice. I agree with Metropolitan Philip and all of the other Orthodox hierarchs who have encouraged the faithful to see this film. This film brings alive the reality of the Body and Blood in a powerful way.

Posted by david at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2004

As Far as the East is from the West

The comments on the Serbian Whirlwind post have gotten so long that I think the discussion needs to be routed into a new post.

Picking up on my last comment:

But the reality of the present world is that the days of national Church hegemony are over. Whether it is foreign missionaries or indigenous Evangelicals, the Orthodox Church is doing itself no favours by throwing up legal barriers or physical barriers against them.

Jan has raised a series of questions to be answered:

Is there an answer? Can friendly Westerners show up with media savvy and money and throw their weight in on the other side? Take large groups of Old Country seminarians to public relations school? Use Western influence to force their governments to make laws to enforce Western-style pluralism? Protest individual acts of persecution against religious minorities (Baptists? Mormons? Falun Gong?)? Slow down the world so that they can catch up?

I don't have a definitive answer. I think the first thing the Evangelicals can do is stop sending missionaries. If they want to train indigenous leaders in foreign schools, fine. If they want to go in and train leaders in-country, so to speak, and preach in Evangelical churches, fine. What I perceive gets the backs up of the Orthodox leaders is foreigners coming into predominately Orthodox countries and proselytising (or in the Evangelical view, converting) the Orthodox faithful.

I certainly think it wouldn't hurt for seminarians to have some public relations training. It wouldn't hurt for the clergy to do so as well. Or at least someone could ship in copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I don't think that the key is forcing the government to make laws. The key is changing the attitude within the Church. I don't know that we can slow down the world for them to catch up. However, it will take time for them to get up to speed.

I wonder how much the Serbian Church is dependent upon money from its American faithful. If American Serbs cared enough, they could send their money with strings attached. To the extent that the Serbian government is dependent upon foreign aid from the US, pressure could be brought to bear on the Serbian government to pressure the Orthodox Church to get along with its Evangelical neighbours.

There has to be cooperation on both sides. The OC may have the upper hand because of numbers and power and is in a position to persecute, but both sides can be intractable. The OC considers the Evs heretics. Many of the Evs don't even consider the Orthodox to be Christians, because they haven't jumped through the necessary experiential hoops required by modern Ev theology. In Ev theology, in order to be born again, one must have had a consicous experience of being born again (and just to be safe, one should use this particular John 3 terminology).

But even if the Evs don't consider the Os to be Christians, the Os, recognising that the Evs are in fact Christians, have an obligation to treat the Evs as brethren, even if they are separated brethren.

Posted by david at 09:51 PM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2004

The Serbian Whirlwind

I don't want to be perceived as belittling the persecution of the Orthodox by the Muslims in Kosovo. I think what is happening there is absolutely dreadful. If you are not a regular reader (or author) of the various Ortho-blogs, I will refer you to any number of the links to the right from whence the details of the situation are available.

I merely offer an observation relevant to the bigger picture in Serbia.

The Serbia Orthodox Church doesn't seem to mind persecuting the indigenous Protestant population. I'm not talking about American evangelical missionaries going in to convert those poor Orthodox souls to Christianity. Everyone who knows me very well knows I don't have time for any of that nonsense. I don't think it should be outlawed, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for it. I'm talking about Protestant Christian Serbs.

It is very true that destruction of holy places and the loss of Christian lives in Kosovo is of a much, much greater scale than the attempt to shut down a few churches, the beating up of a pastor here and there, vandalising and burglarising, and the refusal of any dialogue on laws regarding religious freedom. But that's the thing about sowing and reaping. It doesn't just work with blessings.

When it comes to persecution, the Serbian Orthodox have sown the wind and should not be surprised to be reaping the whirlwind.

Posted by david at 01:41 AM | Comments (15)

March 17, 2004

Happy Feast!

For those of you who commemorate our father among the saints Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland, Happy Feast!

As I'm not an imbiber of fermented hops juice, I wouldn't know whether green beer is allowed on this day, so you will have to consult the canons regarding the extend of your celebrations.

Posted by david at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2004


Today we had our annual St David's Day pilgrimage to Llanthony. The more perceptive among you may realise that it is not St David's Day, so I should point out that we have our pilgrimage on the Saturday closest to St David's Day, so more people can attend.

As it was, there weren't enough people there to start a fight. Most of our community couldn't make it for various reasons. The Swansea people didn't come up this year. Fortunately we had folks from Bristol come up and lead the choir.

I've mentioned a bit about Llanthony itself in the past. What I didn't mention is that the service is invariably cold. Very cold. Normally, on or about the 1st of March the outside mid-morning temperature is about 45°F, which means the unheated church is a bit colder. Today it was more like 33°F outside with a moderate (or in British terms, heavy) snow on the ground. You can imagine how cold it was inside.

I have to say I felt a bit like St Seraphim of Sarov praying in the snow in Russia, without that part about the Holy Spirit keeping me warm. Perhaps I'm not a spiritual as St Seraphim. It has been suggested in the past.

In his brief homily, our own Fr. Seraphim talked about how St David used to jump into the cold sea (once he was ensconced at what became St David's in west Wales) to cool the passions. While he was at Llanthony, he clearly could have just stood in his monastic cell (which was located on the site of the church in which we were standing). He may very well have used the equally effective the Honddu brook running nearby.

I suppose it is appropriate that St David's Day almost always falls in Lent.

The Bristol people are part of a church under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Thus, their music was a bit different from our usual fare. And it was different from the EP church is infrequently attend in Shrewsbury, where the choir master has blended many different styles together.

What I have discovered in being exposed to these variations in music is how easy it is to follow and even pick up the ethnic variations in the Tones. I tend to sing along where I can even while serving in the altar. It is not so difficult when you already know the words. That's the great thing about the Liturgy. The tune may change, but the words stay the same.

This is like work of Christ in the lives of believers throughout the world. We may find ethnic variations in the presentation, but the Word stays the same.

Posted by david at 11:49 PM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2004

14,583 and Counting

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Sometimes the days of our lives are not even half of seventy years. All the more reason to number our days.

This passage is from what was already my favourite Psalm (numbered 89 to the Orthodox readers, 90 to the Catholics and Protestants). I had looked at it as though my life was half over, if not when I turned 35, then next month when I reach 40. In terms of half a life, I have looked back with discouragement at how little I have accomplished. Or in the words of this Psalmist, Moses, the Lord has not established the work of my hands - no doubt due to my own failure to submit to that establishment.

When I look at it as another half-life of opportunity, the future is bright. When I realise that a half-life can instantly become a whole life, things dim just a bit. If I had to cash in my chips now, I'm afraid the house would be the big winner. Or to use a more Biblical reference, I have managed to parlay my ten talents into two.

The short whole-life prospect that came into focus with my brother's death was amplified by the requirement to journey to Texas and back in a large metal tube hurtling through the air, at times in excess of 600 miles per hour. I didn't really like flying before 9/11. I really don't after. It's scary enough worrying about the quality of aircraft construction and maintenance, without factoring in the machinations of Muslims with theological uses for plastique and visions of 70 (or 72) virgins (or white raisins, depending on your translation of the Qu'ran). I spend take off and landing praying the Trisagion prayers (with a heavy dose of extra Jesus Prayers). Zipping along at 39,000 feet I may be 7.4 miles closer to heaven, but I'd rather not use it as a shortcut.

My brother may have gone much sooner than most people in the developed world, but he went the way I would like to go. He went to sleep in this life and woke up in the next. I just hope I have seen my children's children's children first. Or at least my children's children.

Children's children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.

However you measure it, life is short. My days have numbered 14,583 so far. I hope the number a few more - days I have left in which I make a difference.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2004

Illumined Catechumen

Erica has some wonderful insights in the relationship between the Church and the World, all gleaned from her experience at the blessing of the waters. I'm probably mentioning this needlessly because any of my readers of sound mind have surely bookmarked her blog already.

She has also pointed the way to another Ortho-blogger, Chrysostomos, who I have linked on the right.

Posted by david at 01:10 AM | Comments (6)

January 13, 2004

The Innocent are Never Guilty

Most of my State-side readers will not be following EastEnders and a current storyline that has Little Mo pregnant as the result of rape. Little Mo is keeping the baby, despite pressure from her husband, who has left her because she won't abort it. Billy can't stand the idea of looking at their child and seeing the face of the rapist. I applaud the writers of the Albert Square soap for developing characters that express the understanding that an unborn child is a child.

But at the end of the day soaps are fiction. There is no Little Mo, no Billy, and no rapist. I'm glad that Serge has pointed out an article in Touchstone that shares a true story and the reality of this situation.

Posted by david at 12:28 AM | Comments (3)

January 10, 2004

Problem of Evil

The was a story in the newspaper today about a leading paediactric haematologist who left work one day, drove to the Lake District, hid in the back of a disused mineshaft, and committed suicide. He had been missing for six months and his body was recent discovered by hikers.

As best as can be pieced together, the doctor was in a deep depression. His wife noted that although they were regular church-goers, the doctor had begun to doubt his faith. This was apparently because of all the suffering he saw in his young patients.

As I was pondering this story, I thought of various people with whom I have talked whose faith was either severely damaged or non-existent due to the problem of evil and suffering in the world. I realised that people questioning their faith are often asking the wrong question.

The question is not "If there a God, why is there evil in the world?" but rather "If there is man, why is there any good in the world?" Both Christians and non-Christian who have formed their idea of God in a Christian (or post-Christian) society seem to think that they are free to decide what God should and shouldn't do. They set up a straw-god.

You can't create a God in your image and then not believe in Him. What is the point in giving God the attributes you want Him to have, or define them in such a way that suits you, and then become angry and depressed when He doesn't live up to them? No one seems to remember that His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.

The idea that God relates to his creation solely on an individual level is a product of Protestantism. No one wants to take into account that there are consequences because sin entered the world through the rebellion of man. Sin entered the world and death through sin. There is suffering in the world, because man has chosen suffering by choosing evil. Faced with the consequences of those actions, it is now apparently God's job to provide a quick fix.

Posted by david at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Christ is Baptised!

I wish you all a blessed Theophany!

This morning we travelled to Shrewsbury for Liturgy and the blessing of the waters. As usual, we were a bit late - I overslept and it is normally a 90-minute drive. The journey is strewn with 30 mph villages and at least one speed camera (with the constant threat of others, of course). We got there just before the Great Entrance.

The service was well attended, especially in the choir. The music at Shrewsbury is always wonderful and very singable. Toward the end of the liturgy of the catachumens, a couple of strangers walked into the church and started greeting people in a loud and evangelical manner. I thought we were in for trouble. The made their way up to the choir to sit. One of the choir members came downstairs shortly thereafter to retrieve a booklet about the church. They did come down to be blessed with the water, but left shortly thereafter.

Fr Stephen is particularly generous in his use of newly blessed holy water. After slinging it around the church and up in the balcony (where the choir stand), he doused each individual with a liberal splash on the head. We initially thought we would go to the blessing of the Severn, but learned that the journey required a bit too much walking for a cripple, a pregnant woman, and a toddler. We filled a bottle with holy water and headed home.

In our own little Eucharistic community, we rarely have opportunities to liturgically participate in the great feasts of the Church. Today was a reminder of how wonderful and important they are.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (3)

December 29, 2003

Herod is Alive

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Though this issue has arisen a couple of times recently in this blog, it is appropriate that I mention it again today. Today in the Orthodox Church we commemorate the infants who were ordered by Herod to be killed in his attempt to kill the Saviour of the World.

In an attempt to hold on to power, Herod murdered children. The spirit of Herod is still with us today. Everyone who is willing to sacrifice infants upon the altar of power has the spirit of Herod dwelling within them.

Herod is alive in the Orthodox Church. He comes in various forms. He is Herod Sarbanes and Herodias Snowe, who would sacrifice the unborn on the altar of political power. He is Herod Demetrios and Herod Bartholomeos, who would sacrifice the unborn in the name of the Christ's and His Church to pander favour with the State.

The Herods of this world can build great temples for God, but it is not that for which they will be remembered. Eventually, and inevitably, Herodian temples fall under the judgment of God. The Herods of this world will eventually perish, like the Innocents they put to the sword. However, the Innocents, like the rest of the martyrs, sit beneath the Throne of the Lamb for Whose sake they gave their lives. We know they are not silent, but they cry out "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?''

The bishops of the Orthodox Church, the civil rulers who claim to be members of the Orthodox Church, and every Orthodox believer should bear this in mind when they read the words of our Lord and Saviour as recorded by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew: "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?''

They should bear this in mind during the litanies in the services of the Church. This is what is at stake when we pray, "Lord, have mercy."

Posted by david at 12:16 AM | Comments (1)

December 25, 2003

Happy Feast!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Posted by david at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2003

The Further Depths of Scandal

I began this as a reply to a comment by Aaron (he of Violent Munkee fame) on my blog of this past Sunday. However, the significance of it grew as I typed, deserving a separate entry so it didn't get lost to the general reader.

The previous entry concerned the consistent pro-abortion voting record of the two Orthodox US Senators and the positive relationship that Sen Sarbanes has with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Further to this:

Senator Sarbanes is a Archon of the Church. Apparently, an Archon is sworn "to defend and promote the Greek Orthodox faith and tradition. His special concern and interest is to serve as a bulwark to protect the Patriarchate and its mission." As a cradle Orthodox, you could say that Sen. Sarbanes had no say in his baptismal vows. However, he has no excuse whatsoever for violating his vows as a Archon.

If you think it is just Archbishop Demetrios and his predecessors who have condoned Sarbanes, do not be deceived. During his visit to the US in 1997, after praising the lay-leaders of the Maryland generally, His All-Holiness said:

But among them all, as Ecumenical Patriarch, we desire to single out one man who sums up your love for the Mother Church, for Orthodox culture, for the highest Christian ideals: Senator Paul Sarbanes. [Archon Megas Logothetis of the Great Church of Christ.] We express our fatherly pride in this accomplished son of the Mother Church; for his unwavering pursuit of righteousness and truth in both his public service to the Church and to the people of the United States of America. Well done, good and faithful servant!

This is a scandal of scandals. This is the epitome of calling evil "good" and good "evil".

Aaron asked what can be done to spotlight the problem. Simply put, the issue has to be important enough to enough priests that they put enough pressure the hierarchs to do something. Is the Patriarch going to care what one insignificant layman in backwater England says? Or one insignificant layman in California?

However, we have to remember that the laity have run hierarchs out of town before when they acted in repugnance to the teaching of the Church. I have no problem saying that any hierarch with jurisdiction who has had this brought to their attention and has done nothing in their power to address it has seriously weakened, if not fatally damaged their moral authority to speak as one to whom the Faith of the Fathers, the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, has been entrusted.

Posted by david at 01:48 AM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2003

So Much for Excommunication

In the wake of the vote on partial-birth infanticide in the US Senate, I commented on the importance of excommunicating the two Orthodox senators, as they have consistently promoted the death of the unborn in contravention to the moral teaching of the Church. As I was rummaging through various jurisdictional websites in preparing to blog on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers and the Forefeast of the Nativity, I surfed to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America site, normally a quite useful resource. There on the homepage amongst the news and events was "Senator Paul Sarbanes Visits Archbishop Demetrios". Wishfully and fleetingly I thought that perhaps the Senator had been summoned to answer for his actions.

Instead, how did the Archbishop describe the visit? “Being with the Senator is always a great joy and a great source for exchange of ideas. He is one of the people that has wisdom in political, international and cultural issues. He is someone who is a combination of a scholar and a politician. Therefore, it is more than enjoyable to be with him and have the opportunity to discuss issues of general interest, of current affairs -- political and otherwise -- and issues that are in the center of attention of contemporary people, here and in other parts of the Globe.”

This does not sound like someone who has been taken to task or called to repent. Nowhere on in the pages of the GOA website could I find a condemnation of the actions of Senator Sarbanes, even though I did find this:

The Orthodox Church has a definite, formal and intended attitude toward abortion. It condemns all procedures purporting to abort the embryo or fetus, whether by surgical or chemical means. The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder; that is, as a premeditated termination of the life of a human being. The only time the Orthodox Church will reluctantly acquiesce to abortion is when the preponderance of medical opinion determines that unless the embryo or fetus is aborted, the mother will die. Decisions of the Supreme Court and State legislatures by which abortion, with or without restrictions, is allowed should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life.

Even though it refers to the Supreme Court and State legislatures, the statement comes from a Clergy-Laity Congress which long pre-dates federal action on this issue. Surely the US Senate is contemplated as well.

If Archbishop Demetrios will not take a stand, other heirarchs must. The bishops of the Church must take a stand for the unborn. They must call to account those who would claim to be Orthodox and yet lead this nation in the slaughter of innocent children.

Posted by david at 03:56 PM | Comments (6)

December 07, 2003

If You Don't Have the Three, You Don't Have the One

I have been so busy that Ihaven't wandered around the blogosphere much in the last few days. I glad I did a little catching up, because I came across a great post and ensuing comments on Clifton Healy's blog about why Christians do not worship the same God as Jews and Muslims. He even suggests that it is insulting to them to insist that they do.

Posted by david at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2003


Yes, it's the moment you have all be waiting for. A new issue of David's Mental Meanderings is out -- it comes with a special announcement.

Posted by david at 08:13 PM | Comments (3)

November 12, 2003

The Missing Commandment

I finally understand how the Episcopal Church was able to purport to consecrate Gene Robinson as a bishop. They only have Nine Commandments.

I hate to repeat myself, but my big problem with the purported consecration is not that Gene Robinson finds himself, for whatever reason, sexually attracted to men. The undisputed facts are that Mr Robinson is openly involved in a sexual relationship outside the bonds of holy matrimony. That there would be your violation of the Seventh Commandment (unless you are Roman Catholic, in which case it would be the Sixth Commandment, as RCs number them differently to nonetheless reach a total of Ten).

That is not to suggest that most of us have not violated said Seventh Commandment from time to time, especially in light of the full meaning of it as expounded by Christ. It is to suggest that anyone who is openly violating it as a permanent public arrangement, even expressing that such behaviour is not only righteous, but holy and good and ordained by God, should not be wearing a mitre, not to mention a collar.

I have said all that before, but the thought that I want to add is that I doubt even the Episcopal Church would purport to consecrate someone who was openly a thief. Again, not someone who succumbed to temptation once and who as a child or teenager nicked something from a shop, but someone who stole regularly from Church funds. They probably wouldn't give a crozier to a serial killer. They probably wouldn't even elevate someone who went around cursing his parents or who had a habit of committing perjury. Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth Commandments -- apparently no problem. But the Seventh doesn't matter, or at best we can give it a completely different meaning. Such a meaning would have to be so completely different as to be no meaning at all.

I have used the word "purported" not because of anything to do with Robinson, but rather to say there has been a consecration implies that the Holy Spirit has actually done something. Having left the Faith behind, not to mention valid Apostolic Succession, I have no grounds for supporting the idea that the Holy Spirit is involved in the sacramental rites of the Episcopal Church.

Posted by david at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

November 03, 2003

Dorothy Rushdoony, RIP

I was both saddened and gladdened to learn this evening of the passing of Dorothy Rushdoony, the widow of R J Rushdoony. She was 87. A good innings, as they say here. I was saddened because for some reason death has that effect on us as people. I was gladdened because I also learned that she had Alzheimer's and is now again of sound mind, and with the Lord.

I only met Dorothy once, in the autumn of 1994, at the same time that I met Rush. I remember her as a dear, sweet lady. She was legally blind and I remember how Rush led her by the arm, counting steps for her. He may have the pen of a firebrand, but in person R J was the epitome of a gentle man. The most vivid memory I have of Dorothy was at the dinner table at a friend's home. I was a bachelor at the time and she was suggesting suitable candidates as wives - all young women possessing suitably theonomic credentials. I'm sure (or at least I hope) Mrs H is glad I didn't pursue any of the possibilities put forward.

Though I am theologically in a different place than I was at the time, I still appreciate the contribution that Dorothy Rushdoony has made to the life of the Church. And I'm glad that by getting to spend a couple of days with her, she made a small contribution to my life.

For my theonomic friends or anyone else who might be interested, you can read her obituary on the Chalcedon Foundation website.

Memory eternal!

Posted by david at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2003


I'll try to not short out the keyboard while I type this. With the amount of water dripping off my body, this may not be possible.

Our garage is conveniently located next to our house. There is no internal door, so we have to go out the front door and around to the garage door. This isn't a problem, except in England, where it rains all the time.

Because our house is tiny, we keep the freezer in the garage, next to the tumble dryer. Come to think of it, we keep just about everything in the garage. Well, except a light. So any time after about 5:00 p.m., we either have to remember where something is or turn on the headlights of car in the drive.

Tonight, Mrs H decided she wanted an apple pie out of the freezer. So out I tromped. As it was too dark and the pie was too deep in the freezer, I tromped back in to get my car keys. At this point Mrs H, frustrated that her simple instruction was being executed way too slowly, suggested that the need for further illumination was indicative of a failure on my part, so I was sent back out into the drizzle to rummage around in the dark. Having retrieved said pie, I was then informed that it there wasn't enough time to bake it and was once again sent to the garage to return the pie to the depths of the freezer.

I have to cut this short, because now that we've had dinner and Aidie is in bed, Mrs H has decided that she wants - you guessed it - pie. I have to go out to the supermarket anyway, as we are out of milk. So back out I go into the lovely late October weather. By the time you read this, Mrs H and I will probably be eating pie.

Posted by david at 08:10 PM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2003

The Proper Response to Apostate Orthodox Senators

There are two members of the US Senate who also claim membership in the Orthodox Church, one a Republican and the other a Democrat. Both vote in complete contravention of the Church and in violation its moral teachings.

Olympia Snowe of Maine and Paul Sarbanes of Maryland voted against the banning of partial birth abortion, a procedure which the esteemed surgeon and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist deemed "totally, from a medical standpoint, unnecessary". Partial birth abortion is where the hard core of pro-death support takes its stand. Of all of the ways to kill an unborn baby, it is the most gruesome. To quote Senator Frist again, it is, "egregious, outlandish, ghoulish".

Opponents of the bill stood on the sand that it did not make an exception for the health of the woman. This is a specious argument, since there is absolutely no conceivable situation where the health of the mother is a factor in choosing this butchery. This is a procedure that involves breeching the delivery of a child until the very last moment, then seconds before it legally becomes infanticide, going into the birth canal and piercing through the skull, sucking out the brain, collapsing the cranium, and then finishing the delivery of the murdered infant.

This is what Senators Snowe and Sarbanes, as leaders of their States and as leaders of these united States, and allegedly as Orthodox Christians, actively refused to oppose, voting against those who would prohibit it. I would hope that Snowe and Sarbanes are Orthodox in name only. There are certainly many who are, just as there are Catholics and Protestants of every stripe who are. However, Sen. Snowe does claim on her website to be a member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lewiston. On his website, Sen. Sarbanes says that he is a member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore. How sadly ironic that he is a member of a parish named after the conception of a Child.

I am a sinner. On one level sin is sin. On that level what Snowe and Sarbanes have done is no different than the manner things I have done today to offend the holiness of God. However, Holy Scripture also demonstrates to us that there are also degrees of sin -- not in some sort of fixed matrix corresponding to levels of Dante's Inferno -- but nonetheless some sins are more grievous than others.

I have certainly approached the dread Mysteries of Christ, especially the Holy Table, unworthily and in fear of judgment. Yet most of my sins are known to God, perhaps my family and friends, and my spiritual father. Whilst I hesitate to make comparisons and do not do so to make myself seem righteous in any way, I have not stood before the American nation and the world and declared that I will use my power and authority to legislate the horrific murder of children at the moment of their birth.

I know there are readers of this blog who would like to divorce the relationship between the Church and the State in which it finds itself and its members residing. With due respect to their views, I believe that when the highest ranking representatives of the government of the United States who call themselves members of the Holy Orthodox Church, publically align themselves with he who has come to steal, kill, and destroy, it is incumbent upon the hierarchs of the Holy Orthodox Church, and in this particular case of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, to publically excommunicate the Senators until such a time as they publically repent of their allegiance to Satan. They should also immediately excommunicate any priest in Lewiston, Baltimore, or wherever, who would administer the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ or any of the Holy Mysteries to such an individual.

I would even go so far as to suggest that it is incumbent upon the pastor of Holy Trinity, Lewiston, and the Dean of the Cathedral of the Annunciation to urge the repentance of their respective senatorial parishoners, first privately, and if unsuccessful, publically.

May God have mercy on the souls of Senators Snowe and Sarbanes, even as I pray that He has mercy upon me, a sinner.

Posted by david at 01:26 AM | Comments (1)


I have finally re-worked the right links.

In addition to the blogs mentioned yesterday, I have also added Erica's A Catechumen's Walk. Erica added me to her links some time ago, and I have been quite recalcitrant in reciprocating. Erica is a student at an evangelical Protestant university who an Orthodox almost-catechumen and shares wonderful insights.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2003

Another New Ortho-blogger

Thanks to comments she made a couple of days ago, I found Doves and Pomegranates by Havdala. She also has a separate blog of thoughts on the lives of Celtic and Old English Saints.

I hope you will enjoy both and I will be adding both to the right-hand column.

Posted by david at 01:02 AM | Comments (1)

You Can Help with Biographical Research

As she noted in a comment to my August 4 entry, Gillian Crow is working on a biography of Metropolitian ANTHONY (Bloom) of Blessed Memory. She has invited "anyone who would like to contribute any anecdotes/reminiscences about him" to email her at [email protected].

Posted by david at 12:53 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Finding the Origin of Sin in a Godless Cosmology

I was blissfully unaware when I was chrismated into Holy Orthodoxy that there quite a number of Orthodox who apparently believe in evolution. I was surprised that there would be support for such a scientifically unsupportable view inherently based upon an atheistic cosmology.

I would be interested if any Orthodox readers (or other readers for that matter) would explain Romans 5:12-15 within an evolutionary context. Earlier today, before I found out that even my Orthodox brethren had deserted Genesis, I asked a liberal colleague in the western church how sin came into the world if there was no real Adam. He doesn't know. Frankly, I can't theorize a possiblity either.

Though I am no longer a Calvinist and no longer believe that "in Adam's fall sinned we all", it still seemed pretty plain that "through on man sin entered the world".

Any takers?

Posted by david at 03:01 AM | Comments (5)

October 11, 2003


Aidie is now able to ask questions. Well, at least one question.

That is, when he isn't constantly reciting his entire list of known nouns. These must be said twice each time, e.g., "Nana Nana", "phone phone", "Mummy Mummy" "lie lie" (which is the glowing object hanging from the ceiling of each room, as he has trouble some ending consonants).

His question is related to nouns, because he is asking for identification of further objects. Today he was picking a scab from where Bubby had scratched him (something about being pickedup by the fur that she just doesn't like), the whole time saying "whazzaaaat whazzaaaat" over and over.

"What's that?" is clearly the precursor to the three-year-old mantra of "why? why?" This is going to be more difficult. It is must easier to identify objects than it is causality. The other thing about the three-year-old search for reasons is that it never goes away. (Neither does "whazzat" for that matter, though we just don't notice that we are assimilating that information.)

I think three-year-olds and 73-year-olds both have to know why. Neither is entirely happy with what we Orthodox call the apophatic nature of God. We don't want an unknowable God and particularly in the Western mindset there is the assumption that it is God's obligation to reveal Himself to us.

Why do people want a "reasonable" faith? Isn't this a bit of an oxymoron? I have colleagues who assume that unless the acts of God can be rationally understood and explained, they must be at best metaphorical or mythical.

God has given us more revelation about Himself than we can ever hope to understand. Understanding what we can is great. But it is wonderful to know that God is so much bigger than we can understand. That is why I have no trouble believing that bread really is Body and wine really is Blood, or that the universe really was spoken into being. Not metaphorically, but as really really as real can be. If anything those things are the real and what we see is the metaphor.

And at the end of the day, after God has answered "whatzzat?" I dont have to ask "but why?".

Posted by david at 01:03 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2003

Substituting Substitutionary Theory

Mel Gibson's film The Passion will be out soon. This is a good thing. Hopefully a large number of people who have otherwise sidelined Jesus from their lives and who may know nothing of the details of His death will be moved by it and God will work in their hearts.

It has also provided an opportunity for Frederica Mathewes-Green to highlight the differences between the Eastern Church and Western Church on the whole matter of what Jesus' death means to our salvation. Many thanks to Huw Raphael at Doxos for the links to both the original article published at Beliefnet (though I have given you a link to it on her own mailing list so you don't have to deal with the frames and advertising) and the follow up which more fully explains the Orthodox view in both historical and theological contexts.

Posted by david at 01:19 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2003

Getting Ugly with the Truth

Mel Gibson has been forced to edit his film The Passion. It was shot as a word-for-word, scene-for-scene re-creation of the actual Passion as recorded in the Gospels and in the original languages. Nothing added, nothing taken away. It's just the Holy Scripture put on screen. Shouldn't be a problem, right?

Not so. Under intense pressure, Gibson has cut what World Net Daily reports is a scene in which Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, says, "his blood be on us and on our children." If this is an accurate description of the scene cut, then Gibson had already toned it down, because in the Scripture Caiaphas never says this. If it is Caiaphas saying it, then Caiaphas could be blamed for it and it doesn't necessarily reflect upon the Jewish people.

This demand, which is recorded in Matthew 27:25, was spoken by the people with one voice. If that was portrayed, it would result in four things:

1. History of the event, as recorded by eyewitnesses, would be accurately portrayed.

2. The Holy Apostle Peter would also be telling the truth in Acts 2:22-24: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know. Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it, and in verse 36, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.''

3. The Proto-martyr Stephen would be telling the truth in Acts 7:52: Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.

4. Mel Gibson would have been lynched. After all, he said of the scene he cut, "I wanted it in. My brother said I was wimping out if I didn't include it. But, man, if I included that in there, they'd be coming after me at my house. They'd come to kill me."

How is it anti-Semitic (or anti anything for that matter) to accurately portray an historical event? Where has this idea developed that if anything portrayed in the news or arts media is critical of any Jewish people at any point in history or places them in a bad light (and admittedly Deicide is a shady business - thirty pieces of silver and all), this is an affront to the Jews?

All I can say is that Mel Gibson should take heart that he isn't the first person to be attacked for telling the truth. After all, Stephen was stoned to death for it. It happened to the Apostle Paul at Lystra, though with less permanent consequences (Acts 14).

Sometimes the truth isn't pleasant, but protesting against it - even forcing it onto the cutting room floor - doesn't change it. You can try to re-write the history books, but you can't re-write history. Or in this case, His story.

Posted by david at 01:02 AM | Comments (2)

August 29, 2003

Facing Inevitability

If it often said that two things in life are inevitable, death and taxes. However, the difference between the two is that only Enoch and Elijah ever evaded death. And unlike the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles, there's no place on earth to be a "death exile".

I spend a lot of time thinking about death - mostly my own. Perhaps it is telling that my favourite Psalm is the one I am learning to refer to as 89, but as a Protestant always knew as 90, where Moses writes such things as:

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I despair, however, because I am ever numbering my days, but never gaining wisdom. I still fritter them away. Yet, I almost always moan to myself that I've lost yet another day and produced nothing of value for it. I think of all the time I've had off work and the substantive things I could have done with it. There is nothing to show.

I fear death. This is in part because of what is waiting on the other side. Knowing my life of complete unholiness, I dread the Judgment Seat. But I also dread missing anything going on here on this side of the veil. Even in a general since, I am sad to think that the world will go on without me. I don't want to miss anything. More specifically, I don't want to miss any part of Aidan's life. And especially if anything happened to both Mrs H and myself, he wouldn't be brought up in the Orthodox Church.

I lack faith that God will keep him and preserve him. Lord, help my unbelief. Let me stay around to raise him, but help my unbelief.

Posted by david at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2003

In the Footsteps of the Saints

While on holiday in the Vale of Glamorgan, we set aside a day for pilgrimaging. This area of South Wales was a hot spot for saints in the sixth century.

We first drove to St Athans, which is named for St Tathan, who founded the church in that place. This St Tathan was the nephew of St Illtyd, not to be confused with the other St Tathan from South Wales who was based around Caerwent. Unfortunately, the St Tathan's Church was locked up with no information as to the whereabouts of the key.

We went from there to the town of Llantwit Major, or as it is in Welsh Llanilltud Fawr, "the great church of Illtyd". It was one of the great monastic centres of Britain founded by one of the great saints of Britain. He was converted to Christ by St Cadoc and ordained by St Dyfrig and taught St Samson of Dol.

The Church at Llantwit Major is really two different foundations. The west church has a few remnants of the Norman period, but it is on the very site of St Illtyd's foundation. Immediately adjacent, and separated only by internal plexiglass doors, is the east church. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

As I stood in the west church and looked at the intricately carved stone crosses between five and six feet tall that have been recovered and are preserved in the back of the nave, I realised that I was standing in the very place where some of the greatest heroes of the faith in Britain stood and worshipped in the Liturgy and the prayer cycle of the Church. It was here that St David, the patron of Wales, learned to be a monk. It is likely that on that very spot our family patron, St Dyfrig entrusted the holy priesthood to St Samson. North Wales was also evangelised thanks to St Illtyd and Llantwit Major, as St Deniol of Bangor trained and was sent out from here.

On the way back to Barry from Llantwit Major, we travelled up country lanes to the village of Llancarfan. We found the church there locked as well, but there was a notice that the key could be obtained from either of two houses across the street.

It was here that St Illtyd placed himself under the authority of St Cadoc after having received the monastic tonsure from St Dyfrig. The spiritual foundation of Llantwit Major was laid in Llancarfan. It may have only had 1000 monks (whereas Llantwit Major had a population of 3000 monks in its heyday), but it was very important place.

Key in hand, we entered the church only to find no photocopied pamphlet on the history of the parish. There is nothing to let the casual visitor know the significance of that place. The church is currently without a vicar and as the lady who provided the explained, things are not as well organised as they could be.

As we returned from our day out, I reflected on how life has changed since the Age of Saints. In each community everyone was going about their business, oblivious to how it played an important role in the conversion of an Island and the salvation of countless souls.

Posted by david at 02:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Honesty, Asceticism, and Logic

In all the bruhaha over the election of Gene Robinson and the election and withdrawal of Jeffrey John as bishops in the Anglican communion, some distinction was made between Canon Robinson, who is open active in his sexual relationship outside of marriage, and Canon John, who claims to not be.

At least Canon John has come clean about one thing. He is clear in his belief that gay clergy need not be celibate, even if he is. Since he is in a long-term committed relationship, I'm not sure why he is so emphatic about the lack of active sexual expression in it, if it doesn't matter anyway.

In a set of essays to be published next week, as reported in The Times, he says “A covenanted homosexual partnership involves no less demand for self-denial than a heterosexual marriage (arguably rather more in the face of social and ecclesiastical hostility), and is no less a school for sacrificial love.”

It seems to me that he would have to logically argue that not only is it not necessary to refrain from sexual relations, but if these relationships are the equivalent of marriage, then homosexual acts should not be avoided. Doesn't the imperative "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time" apply here?

Canon John is not big on the ascetical life generally, as he says, “There is nothing good about self-denial for its own sake (on the contrary, it generally has a warping effect), nor does God demand pointless and arbitrary sacrifices.” He was referring to this in the context of sex, in essence saying that to deny the craving of homosexual sex is warping and pointless.

In his views, Canon John has the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. We should not take the Canon's withdrawal under the Archbishop's pressure as indicative of the Archbishop's lack of support in principle. Rowan Williams simply sacrificed his principles in an attempt to salvage the impending Anglican schism. Williams' 1997 essay on the issue is being republished and he has specifically asked that nothing be changed from the original.

Again, as reported in The Times, the Archbishop sets out "a possible case for active same-sex relationships by arguing that revisionists who support 'sexual expression' for homosexuals may, like evangelicals, be trying to be faithful to the Bible." This is what happens when the Bible is separated from the Apostolic Tradition and is understood in terms of whoever makes the best case.

Posted by david at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2003

Explicable Silence

I've been getting e-mail from readers wondering why I haven't commented on the election of Gene Robinson as an Episcopal bishop.

There's not a lot to say that hasn't already been said. The subject has filled every other corner of the blogosphere.

I'll sum up my views:

The problem with the Episcopal Church is not that it has elected an bishop who is actively engaged in buggery. Any open, visible sexual relationship outside of marriage is wrong and should be a disqualification for any holy orders, because it should be a disqualification for any communicant relationship with any Christian organization claiming to be part of the Church. Gene Robinson shouldn't be coming near the Holy Table, not to mention purporting to celebrate at it. Again, not because he is gay - because he is in open, flagrant scandalous sin.

Since the Episcopal Church doesn't recognise sexual sin, this is all a moot point. If this organization doesn't believe that there is anything wrong with relationships outside of marriage amongst the laity, it would be hypocritical to suggest that there should be a different standard for the clergy. I think the Episcopal Church is just being honest with itself and with everyone else.

Posted by david at 11:00 PM | Comments (3)

August 06, 2003

The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the great feasts of the Orthodox Church. It has been celebrated since the 4th century in the East.

The Transfiguration didn’t make a lot of sense to before I was Orthodox. This may be why it wasn't really celebrated in the West until the ninth century by monastics and wasn't observed generally until 1456. Conversely, in the Armenian Church it is a three-day feast.

The importance of the the Transfiguration is at least three-fold.

First, it is a theophany. It reveals God to us and that Jesus is Himself God. The voice of the Father from heaven proclaims this. It confirms the Triune nature of God.

The Transfiguration is the demonstration in the Gospels of the Orthodox understanding of salvation. It is theosis observed. Jesus, fully human and unresurrected, allows the three Holy Apostles of the "inner circle" to see what the divine energies look like.

It also demonstrates to us the validity of saints appearing on the earth. Before I was Orthodox, I always though appearance of the Theotokos and various other saints was just a bit o' weirdness. But here we have two people who have been gone from the earth for a long time and they show up on the mountain. They are also immediately recognised by the disciples.

Happy Feast!

Posted by david at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

Finishing the Race

Our bishop, His Eminence, Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bloom) of the Moscow Patriarchate Diocese of Sourozh this afternoon passed from this life to the next.

May his memory be eternal!

Posted by david at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

August 03, 2003

Big Witness

We haven’t been big Big Brother watchers. We watch a bit during the first series, because it was a novel concept. It has gotten more and more boring by the year. However, it is impossible not to know some of what is going on, when it fills the tabloids and even drifts over into the broadsheets.

This year it appears that the producers, Endemol, chose 12 people least likely to get on each other's nerves, in an attempt to actually get someone to have sex in the house. This seems a bit strange. First, the British contestants seem disinclined to do anything intimate in front of the camera. More importantly, Channel 4, which has no qualms about showing sex and the nudest of nudity otherwise, cuts away from the live Big Brother feed at the hint of anything remotely risqué about to happen.

Nonetheless, in this godless society, who would have thought that the winner would be a 32-year-old Christian virgin? Maybe it would have been more likely if he had acted in some sort of scandalous way or otherwise made Christianity look bad, even with careful editing by the producers. All they could show was him getting along very well with everyone. Even at times when after weeks locked in with the others he would get a little frustrated, he would express terrible regret if he even said an unkind word in the Diary Room.

Cameron probably doesn’t believe in patron saints, but if he did, his would be St Bartholomew, in words of Jesus, “ whom there is no deceit.” As I watched the "Big Brother: The Winner's Story" tonight, it was clear that what you see is what you get with Cameron. He didn't talk about Jesus, or church, or anything else -- or if he did, it wasn't included in the final cut -- he was just himself. That was witness enough.

I also watched the final programme of the contest, where the winner is announced. Being live, it is more difficult for anything to be cut out. When he was asked what he was going to do with the £70,000 prize money, he said the first thing was to buy a new piano for his church.

At first I had to wonder why a Christian would go on Big Brother, and expose themselves to such media scrutiny and ridicule. It shouldn't come as a surprise that even those who have never been in the tabloids are on Big Brother. The world is watching. Isn’t that what we are all called to do? We aren't even supposed to go looking for a place where the cameras can't reach. Even as fish trader Cameron Stout acquitted himself well, “Let your light so shine before men...”

Posted by david at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2003

The Return of a Warrior

I am at best ambivalent about the war and ongoing operation in Iraq. I have friends who, while otherwise agreeing on most things political, are deeply divided over it. I see both sides. Many of you know this is a rare thing for me.

Nonetheless, I wanted to share a link to an article written by the Dean of the Liberty University School of Law, Bruce Green, about the homecoming of his son Caleb, an 18-year-old Marine with the 2nd Light Armored Recon Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Because I was once acquainted with another member of the Green family, and they are friends of several different friends of mine, we prayed for Caleb during the intense days of the conflict. I'm glad to learn that a merciful God brought him safely home.

When I think of my little boy, I'm sure I would be very proud of him if he were called to serve one of his countries, but I pray -- I pray often -- that he will never have to go to war.

Posted by david at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

Giving to the Lord

You may recall that a few days ago, Aidie had Peter Rabbit kiss St Aidan. He has advanced now to getting Jesus to drink milk.

He was carrying around our small Pantocrator icon as he went about the house getting into his usual mischief, chattering away in his usual gibberish. Gives a whole new meaning to "He walks with me and He talks with me..."

After ordering Aidan and Jesus out of the video drawer and away from the television, which must be thirsty work, they went over to the coffee table, where Aidie picked up his sippy cup and attempted to share it with the Lord. Rather than miraculous weeping, we had what looked more like a drooling icon.

Posted by david at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

The Crowded Orthodox Blogosphere

I've just added Alana's Morning Coffee to my list of blogs .

Posted by david at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2003

The Death of Hatred

My first P.E. teacher died Sunday. I just found out about it reading my hometown newspaper online. He was the first teacher I really hated. He was the first in an unbroken succession of P.E. teachers for whom I had nothing but antipathy.

I was a bit surprised at my reaction when reading his very brief obituary. I was quite sad. I was sad that he died so young -- he was only 59. Now that I'm 39, 59 doesn't seem very old at all. And I was very sad that the only other comment in the obit would seem to indicate that he died without Christ. His funeral was conducted by a Justice of the Peace. Usually if someone has even the slightest religious affiliation, their family finds a preacher to do the funeral.

It doesn't matter any more than he was a bully. I don't even know what he became over the next thirty years. When he was my P.E. teacher, he was ten years younger than I am now. As Mark Antony says in Julius Caesar, "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft iterred with their bones." But even if he became a much nicer teacher, at the end of the day, and on that Great and Final Day, it really doesn't matter.

I can't say that I absolutely know his relationship to Christ and His Church. Perchance he was found in Christ, I will pray for his soul. It may do more good for me than for him. After all, Ronnie would not have remember me. I would have blended into the faceless past. The latent anger I have felt for thirty years was unknown to him. It never affected him in any way.

I think about all the people I have already known who are faceless to me now. I think of everyone with whom I will come into contact over the next years. How will I affect them and never know it? What damage will I do by my callous words? Will I repeatedly be a candidate for a millstone necklace?

In praying for Ronnie, I will pray for myself, that I will not be what he was, at least what he was to me when I knew him. You can pray for me, too.

Posted by david at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Another New Blogger

Another Orthodox blogger has moved beyond the comment boxes and into his own place. Welcome to Aaron and The Violent Munkee!

Posted by david at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2003

Growing in Soul and Body

Tonight at the end of our family devotional time, Aidie was excited as always to kiss the icons. He takes more time than he used to. As we get each one down for him, he looks intently, studying the person depicted before he kisses them.

After he venerated Christ and the Theotokos, we gave him St Aidan. He paused and looked at his namesake before kissing him. Then he did something totally unexpected. He went over to the shelf where his stuffed Peter Rabbit is, picked up Peter in one hand while holding St Aidan in the other, and kissed the icon with the rabbit. While this may seems strange or even funny at first, it demonstrated an new level of awareness of what he is doing as well as a new development in his imaginative ability. Not bad for a little boy who is 18 months old today.

Posted by david at 09:40 PM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2003

We Do Not Know Where They Have Laid Him

Thanks to James at Paradosis for bringing up this topic.

Living in the UK, I am proximate to where the relics of many saints should be undisturbed. Thanks first to Henry VIII and second to the mop-up operations of Oliver Cromwell, there is hardly a bone to be found anywhere.

On November 14th, when we go to Cardiff to venerate our family patron St Dyfrig (the father of Welsh monasticism, predecessor and chief consecrator of St David), I find myself angry, irritated, and frustrated that we have been left with nothing but an empty tomb.

It feels like the grave of a family member has been desecrated. That's because it is the grave of a family member that has been desecrated. Did those who scattered these bones not consider that these were the remains of a brother or sister in Christ, even if they did not recognise them as a holy father in the faith or appreciate the latent power of the earthly tabernacle left behind? (Perhaps they weren't familiar with II Kings 13:21.)

It is the same everywhere I go. Churches are now proud to display the tombs of various saints, and in most cases they don't even bother to tell you that these are empty, unless you ask someone.

The only exception is when we pilgrimage to St David's. There are bones in a reliquary, but the Anglicans who own his cathedral go to great lengths to explain why it is doubtful the bones are those of the patron of Wales, though they were certainly important enough to have been hidden from Bishop Barlow's attempt to confiscate them, only to be re-discovered centuries later.

The verger who interrupted our veneration did admit that other bones in the reliquary were very possibly those of St Justinian. He also told us that Orthodox hierarchs contributed an interior case in which the bones are held and participated in the service when the relics were re-enshrined in the cathedral.

We last went to St David's when Mrs Holford was great with child. One thing the shrine smashers couldn't do was plug up the miraculous spring which appeared at the birth of St David. We gathered water from St Non's Well for Aidan David's baptism. Even when those with a purely mental Christianity would attempt to quench the sacramental work of the Holy Spirit touching earth with heaven in the cause of preventing "superstitions", the Spirit finds ways to reach us.

I'm still angry that they have desecrated the graves of my family.

Posted by david at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2003

The Fullness of Intercessory Prayer

If I ring just about any television ministry, prayer partners are standing by. They will write down my need, pray with me on the phone, and put my need in with all the others from that day and someone will pray over it again. Yes, prayer is available for the price of a long-distance phone call.

Do I know anything about the person praying for me? No. Do I know where they stand with God? No. Do I know that they will actually pray for me? No.

In addition to 1/3 of the OT, one of the things I was deprived of as a Protestant was the fullness of intercessory prayer. Growing up, we talked a lot about intercessory prayer. We had prayer chains and all night prayer meetings. We had no trouble asking for the Church Militant to pray for us. Unfortunately, the gap between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant was insurmountable.

I never knew what saints in heaven were doing. If you ask most Protestants, they don't either. They know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but most discussion of heaven ends up as, "When I see Jesus, I have things I want to ask Him," or "I can't wait to see my mansion!" Heaven is like a giant playground where everyone has an eternal day off. Where did this idea come from?

They are so busy trying to interpret what St John saw in his revelation that they can't just pay attention to what he actually saw. They don't see the Church at prayer in a combination of adoration and intercession. Or if they see any of that, they see the adoration part like some sort of heavenly praise band (visions of Phil Keaggy's "What a Day") -- as if the saints are totally oblivious to what is going on with the Church on earth and really couldn't care less. We don't think of the great cloud of witnesses actually witnessing anything.

As a Protestant I was told that the invocation of saints in heaven is incompatable with the sole mediation of Christ, or if anything, second best. Why ask for the saints to pray for us when we can just pray directly to Jesus? Why would we ask anyone to pray for us? If that were the case, then why would St Paul instruct us that "all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men" in I Tim 2:1 if in verse 5 he is going to remind us that "there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus"? Somehow there is an assumption that if someone is on earth, they are interceding, but if they are in heaven they are mediating.

This is an assumption not made by St Paul, nor is it held by the Fathers. St Basil, St Gregory the Theologian, St Gregory of Nyssa, and St John Chrysostom are a few that I found quite comfortable with the intercession of the saints in heaven. I'm sure they are quite comfortable interceding now.

I think it is quite important for those of us on earth to pray for each other. But if there is power in prayer by the Church Militant, how much more power is there when it joins with the Church Triumphant? Prayer reports and newletters are all good, but if you want intercessors for America, how about St Innocent of Alaska, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, or St Raphael of Brooklyn?

As our needs and crises arise, I have been known to send out an e-mail or make a phone call, though never to an anonymous voice at a teleministry. However, e-mail and the telephone are not my sole resource. I look over at our icon shelf and I'm reminded that prayer partners are standing by.

Posted by david at 10:28 PM | Comments (3)

July 16, 2003

New Ortho-blogger

Thanks to Huw at Doxos for leading me to a new Orthodox blogger, T.E. Grey and the North Door.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Grey!

Posted by david at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2003

Residual Prayer

I think we have finally ejected one of the last residual bits of Protestantism. Even though we've been chrismated for over a year and a half, I have still tending to pray over our meals seated and using the same formula I have for years. Some of you might cringe at the word "formula" - I could have said "liturgy" or some other word. It is still the same. Protestant prayers, especially mealtime prayers, are rarely spontaneous.

It has taken a surprising amount of effort and some stop-start jerkiness, like a learner driver trying to ease out the clutch and move forward in first gear. Now it starting to become comfortable. It is comfortable for Aidie, too. He knows that when we stand in front of the icon he should stop eating (as he invariably starts as soon as the food is in front of him). He watches attentively and still knows to say "amen." He recognises that the cadence of "Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy on us" and that the sung "ä-men" is the same as the spoken "ā-men". After either one he says, "mā-men!"

Posted by david at 12:20 PM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2003

Infallabilty, Inerrancy, and Original Intent

Following on my entry about the translations wars, I have had some further thought thoughts on how my view of Holy Scripture has changed since becoming Orthodox.

As a Protestant, I was a great champion of Biblical inerrancy and infallability. It is certainly one of the great pillars of fundamental Protestantism of any colour and for Calvinists enshrined in the very first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

As an Orthodox I believe the Holy Scripture -- even the huge chunk left out by the Protestants after Herr Luther ditched the OT that had been used by the Church for 1500 years, and the book of James he didn't care for either -- is the Word of God. But I do not believe this because I believe that somewhere or even at some point in time there is or was a perfect text or even combination of texts, in any language, be it Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Elizabethan English, or Urdu. What is infallable and inerrant is not the exact words that were written.

What is infallable and inerrant is what was said. By this, I don't mean what was spoken, as in the Dictation Theory. I mean what was meant. Words are not empty things that we fill with whatever meaning we believe them to have. This is why I have no used for textual criticism or even the whole Protestant approach to hermaneutics. God didn't say, "Here are My words; now you make sense out of them," or even, "Here are my words, and if you unlock the exact reason why I chose this particular Greek preposition, you will know the truth."

I used to teach that the theology of the New Testament hinges upon the use of preposition and verb tenses and once you understand these points of Greek grammar, the meaning becomes clear. [For which I believe Herr Luther's nemesis, the Brother of the Lord, says I can look forward to a stricter judgment.] Let me say now: no it doesn't. The theology of the New Testament hinges upon the Church. The Church taught what the NT teaches before the NT taught it.

The purpose of the Bible is not to convey the exact words of God -- it is to convey the exact message of God. This does not denigrate in any way the work of translation. It is easiest to study and expound upon the message when the best words are there to use.

The problem with most modern English translations of the Bible is not that they choose the wrong texts from which to work (though I think that most of them use inferior texts). It is that they aren't so much interested in translating what was said as they are conforming what was said into what they want to hear.

The latest craze of gender-neutral translations is wrong for two reasons. First there is the fact that the text simply can't be translated that way. The words aren't there. The second is that the meaning isn't there, because the Church has always said so. To emasculate the translation is an abuse of both the Bible and the Church.

As long as the Church holds to the faith of the Fathers, entrusted to them by the Holy Apostles and Prophets, upon whose foundation the Church rests, the Church will not be led astray by bad translations, bad translators, or even by variant readings in Greek or Hebrew texts.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

July 07, 2003

Holding Together the Threadbare Fabric of Anglicanism

I suppose the took the threat seriously. Canon Jeffrey John, who had been appointed the suffragan Bishop of Reading, has announced today that he will not take up the position. The Anglican Primate of Nigeria and other leading bishops of Africa and various other points south of Europe had insisted they would break communion with the Church of England if John were to be consecrated. The mother province of Anglicanism would only have had their theological bedfellows in the US and Canada with whom to commune, whilst the vast majority of Anglicans would have declared them anathema.

In further revelations today, the evangelical former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey admitted that he participated in the consecration of two gay bishops, though he did it only with the assurances that they were celibate. Dr John has claims he is now celibate, though he insisted he would continue living with his partner.

I have no doubt this is a temporary patch on the frayed cloth of the C of E's big tent. With membership haemorrhaging as more and more evangelicals are tired of the church believing in nothing but feminism and homosexuality, eventually there won't be anyone left to fight. The restraining pressures from the outside can only be effective for so long. This is probably a good thing. I think it might as well be seen for what it is.

Posted by david at 12:06 AM | Comments (2)

July 06, 2003


Because our Eucharistic Community doesn't meet every week and we travelled to Shrewsbury last week, we prayed the Typika at home today. This is the substitute service for the Liturgy when no priest is present. Unfortunately, since I'm hopeless with the tones, we did everything in Tone One, even if it didn't fit exactly.

In place of the sermon, I first read the lives of three of the saints commemorated today, St Sisoes the Great, St Lucy, and St Sexburga.

St Sisoes was a disciple of St Antony the Great, the patron of our community. His icon shows how he visited the grave of Alexander the Great, who had been reduced to dust and bones. When St Sisoes was dying his face shined brightly and when he spirit left his body, a beautiful fragrance filled the room. It made me think of Psalm 116:15: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." (I'm using the reference from the Hebrew text, as I don't know how the LXX is numbered here.)

St Lucy is the most famous of the trio. She is commemorated in the traditional Roman mass (pre-Vatican II and the current Eucharistic Prayer I). She suffered in the Diocletian persecution. When she refused to marry a pagan, the governor attempted to force her into a brothel, but the power of God kept them from taking her. She was then tortured for her faith.

St Sexburga is one of our home-grown British saints. She is also a representative of a holy family. Her four sisters were all glorified as saints, as were her two daughters. She was the daughter of the King of East Anglia and married to the King of Kent. Her two sons were successively Kings of Kent. Her sisters were all nuns (three were abbesses) and her daughters both became nuns, one having never married and the other like her mother, taking the veil after the death of her husband, the King of Mercia, and also like her mother becoming Abbess of Ely. Sexburga founded the Abbey of Minster in Sheppey, but after a few years she left there and place herself under the obedience of her sister Etheldreda at Ely. When her sister died, Sexburga was elected abbess. She died about the year 699 and was buried at Ely.

In thinking of names for a girl, should we ever have one, I have in the past suggested Etheldreda, but Mrs Holford is not too keen on it.

After the lives of the saints, we listened to a sermon from Fr John Braun.

Posted by david at 05:49 PM | Comments (4)

July 05, 2003

Liturgical Presbyterians

I know that in one sense, every church is liturgical, even the Charismatic churches from whence I sprang. I spent eight years amongst the Presbyterians -- not the liberal pseudo-Presbyterians of course, but rather the ones that range from broadly evangelical to Truly Reformed metrical Psalm singers.

The traditional Presbyterian service is the hymn sandwich. I'm sure you are familiar with the format: Call to Worship, Hymn, Prayer, Hymn, Sermon, Hymn, Benediction. The hymns can be substituted. In the ones with "contemporary" services, substitute not-too-perky worship songs nicked from the Charismatics. The ones that see human-written hymns as the tool of the Devil, substitute metrical Psalms. But at the end of the day, it's like saying you want salami instead of bologna.

Several years ago, some friends visited St Paul's Presbyterian in Orlando, FL and came back with the weekly bulletin. They were all amazed at how great the liturgical (in the traditional sense of the word) service was. Since then I hadn't heard much more about this sort of thing. Recently, however, I stumbled upon the website of St Peter Presbyterian in Bristol, TN because one of the pastors is the very Presbyterian R C Sproul, Jr. (or "Little RC", as he is known by some in the business).

Except for the recitation from the Heidelberg Catechism, their sample order of worship looks like something out of the Book of Common Prayer. This includes a rather Anglican canon of the mass. Are these guys Reformed Episcopal wannabes?

The problem with liturgical Presbyterians is that they seem to miss the point. They want a connection with the past, with the historic Church. That is good as far as it goes. However, it is all form and no substance. They don't see that the shape of the Liturgy (as Gregory Dix called it) only holds and conveys that which is inside it. It is all fine and good to have a Eucharistic Prayer but if you change some of what it says and change the meaning of the bits you keep, what do you have left?

Part of the problem is that Presbyterians don't know what to do with the Sacraments. Of course the first thing they did was toss aside five of them, declaring that there is nothing special about Marriage, Ordination, Anointing the Sick, Chrismation, and by all means Confession. With the two they have left, they are stuck with a sort of half-way covenant. They don't want to go as far as the Baptists (and their progeny), saying they are "ordinances" and have no actual spiritual substance whatsoever. If they give them too much significance they are afraid of magical Popery. (For most of these are folks, Orthodoxy isn't even on the theological radar - after all, Roman theology is what they Reformed and what they are Protesting against.) What to do? What to do?

In eight years and three churches I have to say that I never knew a Presbyterian pastor or elder or layperson who was comfortable discussing the Sacraments beyond the most cursory details - usually a reference to the relevant part of the Westminster Confession (Chapters 27-29, for those keeping score at home) and that was it.

The only ones I've otherwise come across who are happy to discuss them are the small group of paedo-communionists. Since Presbyterians believe that baptised infants are Christians, but not really Christians (since baptism is effective but not that effective), I suppose it is a legitimate point of contention as to whether they have been adopted into the family and are entitled to eat the family meal.

I dearly love my Presbyterian friends, but I'm glad I don't have to go through all these theological gyrations anymore. Rather I trust the Holy Spirit that the shape and substance of the Liturgy and of the Sacraments has been faithfully handed by the Holy Apostles to their protégés the Apostolic Fathers, then to next generation of the Fathers and so on. Avoiding much earlier accretions and erosions by Rome than the Reformers ever bothered about, it has been preserved in Holy Orthodoxy.

Posted by david at 06:17 PM | Comments (4)

July 04, 2003

Give and it shall be given... John Hagee, televangelist and pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.

Thanks to Harry Seabrook for the link to an article about the kind of money Hagee's raking in. His personal compensation package is $1.25 million on an annual basis. This doesn't include his irrevocable trust which includes "a $2.1 million 7,696-acre ranch outside Brackettville [Texas], with five lodges, including a 'main lodge' and a gun locker. It also includes a manager's house, a smokehouse, a skeet range and three barns."

It almost makes you feel sorry for poor old Paul and Jan Crouch of TBN, who have to live on a combined income of only $751,200.

It sure beats living like those preachers who only have enough faith and "anointing" to get by making tents. That Saul bloke from Tarsus was always upsetting people, too. It's hard to have a successful ministry if they keep running you out of town.

Posted by david at 12:34 AM | Comments (3)

July 03, 2003

How Not to Convert the Orthodox

Karl has a great piece about a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved doctoral project on how to convert the Orthodox to Protestantism, particularly in Russia.

I have been looking through the document in question and I am truly amazed at how a doctoral student could refer to so many Orthodox sources and yet be complete clueless about what we Orthodox believe. Where he does grasp what we believe, he juxtaposes it to modern evangelical theological innovations, but often ends up comparing apples to oranges.

For example, he contrasts the Evangelical view that grace is unmerited and free with the Orthodox view that grace is received through the Sacraments. He admits that Orthodox theologians deny grace is merited, but says this doesn't matter because Orthodox "person on the street" often comprehends it as something else. It appears to me that this "person on the street" has two qualities: first, he is a man, and second, he is made of straw. If you get my meaning...

Enough for now. These whole idea of converting Orthodox Christians is something I've been wanted to rant about for a while, but for now, click over to Karl's blog if you want more on this.

Posted by david at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2003

Great Sermon Audio Files

I have found a wonderful resource in another parish under the patronage of St Anthony the Great. The San Diego parish of that name is pastored by Fr Jon Braun. A significant number of his sermons are available on the website in Flash format. This is the first time I have seen audio files in Flash. The advantage is that there is no loading time, even connected at 56K. Because this is one of the Sundays when our community doesn't meet and we didn't get up in time to get to Shrewsbury (thanks to Aidie's wakefulness throughout most of the wee hours), Mrs Holford and I enjoyed one of Fr John sermons during Aidie's much -needed nap this afternoon.

Posted by david at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2003

Truth and Consequences

According to the Anglican bishop of Worcester, any bishops who oppose the consecration of Dr Jeffrey John as suffrigan bishop of Reading are inciting people violenltly attack gays and vitually doing the same thing by expressing their views. Peter Selby said, “I think what they are are bishops who are intelligent, conscientious, respectful people and because of that I find it very difficult to imagine they are doing something that actually supports outrageous and violent behaviour by other people. And although they would not go out on a Saturday night with a broken bottle and attack a gay person, and would be appalled if anybody did, the problem is that the instrument they are using, which is a pen, is very powerful to achieve a similar end.” He added: “There is no question that people use what they hear from religious people, especially conservative religious pronouncements, in support of behaviour that people who made those announcements would deplore."

I wasn't aware that thugs attacking gays with broken bottles look to conservative Anglican bishops for their inspiration. At least he doesn't believe that these bishops would actually go out an do the same thing. He just can't believe such nice intelligent people would support such violence by going so far as actually do what bishops are supposed to do, proclaim the Truth that has been given to us and has been held by the Church throughout the ages.

The BBC reported tonight that two secretly gay bishops had already been consecrated in the Anglican church. It also reported that 25% of Anglican clergy are gay. Neither of these things surprises me. Dr John is just the first bishop-elect to admit that he is gay, living with his partner, and determined to continue to do so.

It was also reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury is very determined to consecrate Dr John. I hope he does. Those things being done in secret should be shown openly. I also hope that the Anglican Primate of Nigeria holds good to his threat to break communion with Canterbury. The whole thing needs to break apart. The wheat needs to be separated from the chaff, so that the chaff can be burned in the fire. You know the one -- where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

I have no doubt that when the break occurs, England will see the same situation as has occurred in the US. The orthodox Anglican Primates of the developing countries will have to send in missionary bishops, just as they have in creating the Anglican Mission in America. I also anticipate that this will have the same effect that introduction of purported ordination of women did, driving conservative Anglicans into the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Posted by david at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

Homemade Vestments

I frequently serve in the altar at our church. I don't do a very good job, but I suppose two extra fumbling hands are better than none. I have been using a server's vestment that was originally intended to fit our priest's young son. The first time I put it on, it was clear that it wasn't exactly my size. Due to those fairly predicatable growth spurts over the past couple of years, it isn't exactly Samuel's size either. He is as tall as I am now, though not nearly as big around the middle.

Our community priced the purchase of a new one at about £200. This seemed like a awful lot of money for a rather simple garment. Mrs Holford realised that with her burgeoning skills at the sewing machine, she might be able to do the same thing just a bit cheaper. She looked for days trying to find a pattern on the Internet. All she found were people selling vestments. At the prices they were charging, it was clear they wouldn't want the patterns to go public. She finally found what appears to be the only pattern book on the market.

She has just taken my measurements for a mock-up garment. Having never done this before, it is better to have a trial run with 99p/metre fabric before shelling out many times that for the shiny stuff. If this goes well, she is considering developing a subsidiary Holford Country Crafts. Any suggestions for a name?

Posted by david at 08:17 PM | Comments (6)

June 07, 2003


We have been experiencing a significant increase in vocabulary in the Holford house. Our favourite words are still “Papa” and “Honey” (or “Nunyee” as it comes out), but since we always tell him they are in Texas (so he will get down off the window sill), he can now say “Texas” (or more like a variation thereof that defies transliteration).

We seem to be doing well with the “T” words. Quite out of the blue, he’s picked up the word “tasty”. This is no doubt due to my overuse of my David Letterman dumb guy voice when I’m encouraging him to continue eating a food that he had tested and found acceptable for an additional bite. I invariably say, “Them’s a tasty treat!” and “Them’s good eatin’!” I suppose I should avoid overuse of the third person objective possessive pronoun, as it doesn’t actually exist in proper English.

Stuck in the Future Past

Do you ever get old songs stuck in your head for absolutely no good reason? I think we all do. Lately mine has been the "Cossack Song" by Tommy Coomes and released originally on Love Song’s Final Touch album in 1974. It is Hal Lindsey – or more specifically Chuck Smith -- eschatology from the same era. In part:

I wouldn't want to be a Cossack headed for that Palestine Road
Thinking about what's written in the Word of God
About the things that he's foretold
No, I wouldn't want to be there, down Jerusalem way
No, I wouldn't want to be there, headed for my grave
I wouldn't want to march with the comrades when they enter Israel
Headed straight into the fiery wrath of God
And finding no escape from, well,
I wouldn't want to be there, down Jerusalem way
No, I wouldn't want to be there, headed for my grave

Yep, the Russians are the baddies and they are going to attack Israel and BAM! God’s gonna get them. The thought pattern goes something like this: The Russians must be the baddies because them’s godless Communists. If there’s anything we knowd, it’s that Amairca is God’s country – next to Isrul, u’course – God loves us more spaisle than them. Heck, they don’t even speak Anglish, so how would they read the King James Version and get saved anyhow?

I suppose the fall of Communism has taken the gum erasers to some Bible prophecy charts and graphs, but Russia (or Gog as they like to call it) is still an indicator used in the Rapture Index. The Rapture Index is sort of Dow Jones of “Prophetic Activity”. The higher the number, the more likely the Rapture is to occur. There apparently hasn’t been a lot of activity in Gog lately, so it’s rating has been downgraded by one point.

However, there is a lot of activity related to the EU – or the “Beast Government” as it is called (a name I might prefer in a different context), so it is still rated at the maximum five points. In case you haven’t kept up with all this, the EU is the 10-horned restoration of the Roman Empire, because there are 10 countries in the EU. Well, there are a lot more than that, but that doesn’t matter, apparently.

Posted by david at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)