Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


The Other Parties

My recent lack of posts has been partially due to the fact that I have been finishing up my English Composition research paper (actually, believe it or not, I find myself doing other things just as much when I sit down to write. . .). My topic is third parties in America, specifically the issue of their viability: whether or not third parties of any sort can ever achieve political success. I think that they can, but it is a longshot. I do not intend to vote for Peroutka- who would be my third party candidate of choice- mainly because of my misgivings on his foreign policy as opposed to that of George Bush. However, I am determined that, if the GOP does as I am afraid it will in 2008 and fields a truly liberal Republican, such as Schwarzanager (or however his name is spelled!), then I will certainly leave the Grand Old Party right hastily. Some may argue I should already.

Any thoughts out there? Is voting third party a "waste"? Is it nothing more than a quixotic gesture? Or can third parties successfully challenge the current two-party dominance?


St. Luke's Day

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Laus devota mente

(Lifted from Occidentalis)

PRAISE, the true heart's offer,
Let our voices proffer,
And our thanks to Christ resound,
For the faith's four preachers
And unshaken teachers,
Whom his grace hath made renown'd.

He by these would render
Brilliance out of splendour,
As his wont, to earth around:
While by their election
Uttermost rejection
Heresy and schism found.

These four holy fountains
Bathe the vales and mountains
With the stream whose waters save:
These, from Eden flowing,
Through the wide world going,
Pour their undivided wave.

These make good the features
Of the Living Creatures,
Whom prophetic visions trace:
Varied forms possessing,
But alike progressing,
One and all, in equal pace.

These with pinions gifted,
These from earth uplifted,
With the living chariot go:
Full of eyes each pinion,
In serene dominion,
Herald they God's Word below.

Here those four rings golden
Well may be beholden,
Which the Ark of God upbore:
Christ the good seed sowing,
And the fruit bestowing,
In the doctrine of the Four.

That old type declaring
Of the chariot, bearing
Saba's Queen to Salem's hall,
Is this car elected,
By the Lamb directed –
By the Lamb that died for all.

Christ is Head and Ending
Of their aim and tending,
He whose presence all things fills:
By the blest inditing
Of their holy writing
Stands the Church secure from ills.

At their supplication
Grant us, Lord, salvation
From eternal death and woe:
By their holy teaching,
Safe and happy reaching,
Of celestial joys below.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the LORD brings back Zion.

Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

(Isaiah 52:7-10)

Share the Well

Caedmon's Call, a Christian folk-rock band one of my favorite groups, has recently (last week in fact) released a new album, Share the Well. I'd been looking forward to it for quite a while, and wasn't disappointed. Caedmon's Call has been playing folk-rock for over ten years now, and with this project has expanded their musical and lyrical boundaries even further, incorporating "world" music, with musicians from India, Ecuador, and Brazil joining them in many of the songs. The songs are all oriented in the same direction, focusing on the plight of the Indian Dalits particularly. It was inspired and largely recorded while the band traveled through the areas featured.

It's an excellent, innovative project, and very bold: the closing song, "Dalit Hymn," is a protest song of the sort one rarely, if ever, hears, from Christian sectors- and well done musically as well, with a group of Dalit musicians joining in and providing the refrain. Throughout Caedmon's weaves the feel and concerns of the places into the songs, and the writing is, as usual, superb, with everything being viewed through a Trinitarian, Incarnational framework- one of the things I have always appreciated from Caedmon's Call. The whole thing works to really "wake you up" to the world "out there"- something I find I need done frequently- and the responsibility- and hope- we have in Christ.

Highly recommended.



I had intended to write about the classic secularism demonstrated by Senator Kerry in last night's debate. Instead, I would like to address a secularist that ranks right with, and quite likely above, Senator Kerry, namely, the author of this blog. First, what is secularism? It is, as I practise it, the separation of my Christian faith from the rest of life. I will have my religion, Jesus, forgiveness, a cool spirituality, and all that, but only in their proper compartments. Not only will my faith not influence my legislation, it won't really influence anything else. I am purposed, not only to not impose it on other people: I try earnestly not to impose it on myself, most of the time. This is secularism: the idea that there is a secular realm, a realm in which faith and religion need not bear influence, or at least not much. Certainly, there is a religious realm, and it can exist with the secular one, so long as it knows its place.

So I practise. It is a wonderful system, in fact. I can call myself pro-life, and even have the licence plate. But as far as actually doing anything, I just as much a secularist as John Kerry. I have the license plate; he doesn't. That's really about it. Oh, sure, I'll vote more-or-less pro-life, and I even went to a pro-life demonstration the other day (I held a sign and prayed for a whole hour!). Never mind it was the first pro-life thing I'd done since I was five years old (and I didn't have much to do with it back then). Never mind I've never volunteered at a crisis pregancy center. Never mind that I almost never pray about abortion, much less make it a habit to speak out publicly against it. But hey, I'm "personally against" abortion.

Likewise, I believe that Christians have an obligation to the poor and oppressed of the earth. I believe all that stuff about "the least of these." Sure, I have piles of clothing I rarely ever wear (see Huw's excellent post on this topic), and yes, I spend money on frivilous entertainment for myself. I find the persecution against Christians in other nations to be terrible, along with all the oppression perpetrated every day, whether it be to Dalits in India or Black Africans in Darfur. Of course, I haven't really done anything about it, but personally, I feel awful about it and think it wrong.

On a closer, day-to-day basis, I am careful not to let my religion colour my speech too much. Sometimes I talk about God, to be sure, but lets face it, that sort of thing is quite innapropiate in some places. And so on with any number of Christian actions. They're good and all, but I simply shouldn't go about doing them in most places. Loving the poor and out-cast is great, and I'm glad Jesus did it, especially for me, but quite frankly, sometimes it's socially expedient for me to avoid certain sorts of people.

From these examples, it should be obvious that another name for my brand of secularism might also be called "hypocrisy." St. James called it "worthless religion." Secularism has an idealogical base, of course. I reject it entirely, but in practise. . . The opposition to secularism, or worthless religion as I am wont to practise, is the life of Christ. His life is not one divided into "God-time" and the rest of time; of "religious practise" and other kinds; or "faith-based" morality and action and everything else. In Christ we see a life of love, faith, action, reliance on His Father: all manifested, done in the flesh for our sake. As Ft. Schemann writes so wonderfully in the excerpt below, Christ gives us His faith, love, and desire: all of which extend to all of life, that fill every corner, shape every word, decide every action. The vision of Christ is entirely one of faith and love; there is no secular realm for Him, only that of God, and His actions are entirely those of faith and love.

The Tongues of Orcs and Trolls

"But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong."

J. R. R. Tolkien, Appendix to The Return of the King


Gender Neutrality

"He or she": No PC grammatical construction drives me more up the wall than this one. Can't stand it. Having abandoned the traditional usage of "he" as the generic pronoun, we must now employ "he or she" (or "she or he"), lose the singular, or somehow manipulate the sentence to avoid the offending pronoun altogether- and while the latter two aren't nearly as bad, I still prefer the old singular "he" for my generic pronoun use. All of the options- but especially "he/she," reeks of leftist agenda. Here I stand...

I could also rant about gender neutrality in Bible translations and liturgy, but I will digress- from ranting, anyway, which really isn't very nice or proper (though I could well "go off" about the Person keeping us down with her/his/its artifical grammatical oppression).

I will say, instead, that my opposition to "gender neutral" translations (and everything theological that falls in alongside them) comes from two streams. The first is this, and not terribly profound: the language simply sounds better when pronouns (and other words, such as "mankind" or the generic use of "man") are used traditionaly. This is obviously the case with "he or she," but I would contend that replacing the singular "he" with the plural also disrupts the language in a similar way. Likewise, erasing "mankind" from literature and liturgy, in favor of "persons" or a similar term, subtracts deeply from the language. Certainly, it is quite advisable to use "persons" or "humanity" in many situations, but likewise "mankind" and "man" are better sounding, carry more force if you will, in certain places. Call me a sexist, but "Lover of Mankind" just sounds better than "Lover of Persons."

But more importantly, particularly in translating the Bible, there is much at stake besides the flow and feel of the langauge. "Brothers and sisters" is acceptable enough perhaps, but downgrading "sons of God" to "children of God" or "sons and daughters" instead can erase some very important theological implications. Someone noted- I think maybe the Pontificator (who has a recent post along these same lines of gender and theology) or a Touchstone article- that when the Scriptures speak of sons of God, it cannot be translated sons and daughters without doing violence to the meaning. We are all- male and female- made sons of God through the one Son of God. We participate in the Sonship of Christ. Now, we may, in some places and senses, rightly speak of daughters and sons of God, as the Scriptures do in some places (almost entirely the Old Testament). But when we are speaking of the specifics of soteriology, we should speak of sons of God, and thus preserve the vital correlation with the one Son of God, Who is masculine in His Godhead, and has been made Incarnate as a male.

Compare, for example two translations of John 1:12, the first from the NIV-UK, the second from the KJV: "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." "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." The first gives us "children of God": a term that certainly appears in the Scriptures. But in this passage we are supposed to understand that through the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Word of the Father, human beings are given power to become "sons of God." These are not generic children, but sons, coming into the relationship of the Father and the Son, being brought into Christ and His Sonship, so far as it is possible for man. Neutering this passage, and others like it, obscures the very nature of our salvation in Christ.

None of this is not because of some agenda of evil male dominance. What we must recognize- and this is something we have dreadfully diminished in our modern world- is that gender matters, beyond the level of sex, and that gender matters even within God Himself, and our salvation. God has created the world with these distinctions. Masculinity is not limited to maleness. Neither is femininity limited to femaleness- both transcend (but also operate inside of) biology. If we are called- all of us, men and women- to become sons of God, we are also called to have "Christ formed within us," and to be "pregnant with the Holy Spirit" as St. Symeon the New Theologian says. The Church is the Bride of Christ, the Wife of her Husband Christ our God, and thus carries a distinctively feminine character. Her character is especially shown forth in Mary, the Birthgiver of God, the Virgin Bride. Hers is receptivity, receptivity towards God, receptivity in love, from which Life springs forth. She embodies the life of the Church, and the life of each Christian- for we are also personally "temples of the Holy Spirit"; each one of us is a "church" as St. Maximus says in his Mystagogy. Thus we reflect both masculinity in our becoming like Christ, the Son of God, and femininity in our bearing Him within us (in our own "yes-saying" to God like Mary), and our composing the Bride of Christ- a Bride towards a God Who is masculine in His revelation of Himself. To reverse the roles, or to contort them into twenty-first century ideas, would be to distort and destroy them.

Which is all to say that gender does, in fact, matter. The Scriptures are woven with en-gendered langauge. Granted, one might remove some of those offending pronouns and, other than assaulting the English language (sorry!), not really interfere with the meaning. However, there are other very imporant points at which gender neutrality will destroy the meaning and subvert Scripture to the whims of modern bias.


The Faith of Christ and Baptism

If the Orthodox Church remained alien to the long Western debate on infant versus adult Baptism, it is because she, in the first place, never accepted the reduction of faith to "personal faith" along which made that debate inevitable. From the Orthodox point of the view, the essential question about faith in its relationship to the sacrament is: what faith, and even more precisely, whose faith? And the equally essential answer to this question is: it is Christ’s faith, given to us, becoming our faith and our desire, the faith by which, in the words of St. Paul, "Christ may dwell in you hearts... that being rooted and grounded in love (we) may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height" (Eph. 3:17-18). There is a difference- not only in degree but also in essence- between the faith which converts an unbeliever or a non-Christian to Christ, and the faith which constitutes the very life of the Church and of her members and which St. Paul defines as having in us Christ’s mind, i. e. His faith, His love, His desire. Both are gifts of God. But the former is a response to God’s call while the later is the very reality of that to which the call summons. The Galilean fisherman who, upon being called, leaves his nets and follows Jesus does it on faith; he already believes in the One Who called, but he does not know and possess the faith of the One Who called him. It is his personal faith in Christ which the catechumen to the Church; it is the Church that will instruct him in and bestow upon him Christ’s faith by which she lives. Our faith in Christ, Christ’s faith in us: the one is the fulfillment of the other, is given to us so that we may have the other. But when we speak of the Church’s faith- the one by which she lives, which truly is her very life- we speak of the presence in her of Christ’s faith, of Him Himself as perfect faith, perfect love, perfect desire. And the Church is life because she is Christ’s life in us, because she believes that which He believes, loves that which He loves, desires that which He desires. And He is not only the "object" of her faith, but the "subject" of her entire life.

... Baptism depends- totally and exclusively- on Christ’s faith; it is the very gift of His faith, its true grace. "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," says St. Paul (Gal. 3:27); but what does it mean to "put on Christ" if not that in Baptism we receive His life as our life and thus His faith, His love and His desire as the very "content" of our life? And the presence in this world of Christ’s faith is the Church. She has no other life but Christ’s, no other faith, no other love, no other desire but His; she has no other task in the world but to communicate Christ to us. Therefore it is the Church’s faith- or, better to say, it is the Church as Christ’s faith and life- that makes Baptism both possible and real as our participation in Christ’s death, as our partaking of His resurrection. This it is on the faith of the Church that Baptism "depends"; it is the faith of the Church which knows and desires it to be- and therefore makes Baptism that which it is- both "tomb" and "mother."

Ft. Alexander Schemann, Of Water and the Spirit


Blogging Again

Well, my home internet connection has at last been restored, a most happy occasion. Having grown up with the internet (I remeber the ponderous Netscape we used in fourth grade- it was the most coveted privilege of the class) I've found that my accumulated "dependence" is embaressingly great; and I am afraid that I spend far more time browsing than I should. I recall reading someone who said that we should only read so much as we pray. The same should go for internet browsing...

And speaking of reading, I recently aquired a couple new books, both highly esteemable. One is Alexander Schmemann's Of Water and the Spirit. I've only managed to read a short ways into it (time has been a bit pressed as of late, between work and school and all that falls inbetween), but have found it a wonderful work, conveying many of the same themes as For the Life of the World.

I also bought John McGuckin's St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts. Again, I have only worked part of the way into it, but have greatly enjoyed it thus far. I must admit that my knowledge of the Nestorian controversy had been vague at best, so this work has been quite a boon for me. I particularly appreciate the many texts McGuckin includes in the book, as I did not possess anything by St. Cyril outside of a few brief works included in the Ecumenical Council volume of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Oxford library.

Oh, and for my birthday last week my mom got me an introduction book to Latin. I'm hoping to at least work through some basics and perhaps begin memorizing declensions and some vocabulary and all that good stuff. At least expand my Latin beyond "Et tu, Brute?" and "Veni, vedi, vici."