The Nanny State

Last week San Francisco turned out for a good deed: the cheering-up of a fatally ill child in response to a request from the Make-a-Wish foundation. The wish? To be Batman for a day. Everyone from cheering crowds on the street to Police and the US Department of Justice, the Mayor and the President, all got involved. The payback for every politician outweighs the backlash: it was the Make-a-Wish version of kissing babies. The cost to the city: police overtime, cleanup, the mayor and most city officials as well as quite a few federal and state using their tax-payer-paid time to do public charity.  The effectiveness: one kid made happy.

While thousands of kids go hungry, homeless and without proper medical treatment, one middle class white kid was made very happy.  On TV no less.

And we all feel good.

I was thinking about that as news rolled in about the failure of the Obama Care Process: the State-mandated abortion issues, the robing of healthcare from those that already have it in the name of making sure that everyone have equal coverage while, all-in-all, only forcing all of us to pay insurance companies (rather than for health care), ie crony-capitalism.  We all hear stories, over and over again, of a few poor people here and there that can suddenly afford to get Junior on a Kidney Machine or to let Mamma finally get her tubes tied.

And we’re supposed to all feel good.

Meanwhile food is poisoned and served to us by the Chinese in the name of international trade, all forms pornography (except the sexual) are served to us in the name of art by television.  Sexual pornography is relegated to the movies.  We pay for that too.

This helps us feel good.

And it is revealed to us – as we knew all along – that the gov’t is spying and documenting our every move – except for those being spied on by Google.  And we pay for that too.

Oddly enough, we willingly pay for all of this – all of it – with either our taxes or our shopping or our freely-turned-over personal data; most often with all three.

And today it was announced that JP Morgan Chase would be “punished” by the Federal Gov’t by being forced to spend money on practices in which it was already engaged: ie, making wise economic decisions viz home mortgages, that would thus, in the long run, make more money. Sounds like punishment to me.

The Roman Gov’t used to use “bread and circuses” to keep the mob quite.  It cost quite a lot of money, but the rich were willing to use their taxes in such a way.  In our day, the gov’t has cut back on the bread part, giving us far more circuses in exchange, but making the poor pay for it directly.


We’re all totally stupid.

Daily Office – 23 – 30 Nov AD 2013

The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon. The readings are as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate supplemented with other devotional material.

  1. St Clement PM (St Felicitas, VM) – MPEPMartyrology
  2. Sunday Next before Advent / Last Pentecost (St Chrysogonus M) – MPEPMartyrology
  3. St Catherine of Alexandria VMMPEPMartyrology
  4. Feria (St Peter of Alexandria BM) – MPEPMartyrology
  5. Feria – MPEPMartyrology
  6. Feria – MPEPMartyrology
  7. The Vigil of St Andrew (St Saturninus BM) – MPEPMartyrology
  8. St Andrew, ApostleMPEPMartyrology

O Adonai – Second Advent Meditation

 Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

 Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

There was this chorus we used to sing in Youth Group.

Praise the Lord.
I don’t care what the devil’s gonna do
The Word in Faith
is my sword and shield
Jesus is Lord of the way I feel.

The key phrase, apart from the obvious late-70s psychobable, is the line “the Word in faith”. There was this gnostic-magical movement in Evangelicalism back in those days that basically said if you can say a verse out of the Bible (ie the “Word of God”) with enough faith, it’s gonna happen that way. “Say it and claim it”, “Believe it and see it”… it was a predictable development from the idolatry that creates the Bible, itself, as the “WORD OF GOD”. It used this written word as a spell book, a chance to speak, in my own mouth, the very words that God spoke and so claiming, to myself, the power of God in the speaking of those words.  It sounds kinda legit, certainly, in that the last line uses the very words of the Church’s first creed: “Jesus is Lord.” Yet it fails to use those words to say or mean the same thing. Like all gnosticism, it’s the very words the Church uses, turned upside down by some other reading.

We consider today, however, an antiphon that uses those words correctly in the mouth of the Church’s singers. Jesus is Lord is a two part claim: In Greek, κυριος kyrios, lord, is a title of Caesar. In Hebrew, Adonai is a title of God.  Saying Jesus is Lord is saying – all visible evidence aside – that Jesus is in charge of everything.  This backwoods Jewish carpenter is at once the spiritual creator of the Kosmos and the political ruler of the world.

Far from claiming that Jesus could fix everything (which is what the words of that song say), it was saying this is the way things are. That’s the faith of the Church: not that Jesus is going to fix everything and make us rich, but rather that us, here and now, is who God wants to save and that everything, here and now, is the tools God Jesus gave us to be saved.

And it is to that point on Faith that I’m struggling tonight.

One of the hangovers in my head/heart from my Gnostic Protestant childhood and my Gnostic Newage adulthood is the idea that my heart, my “inner voice” could be the voice of God. Thus, follow me, in some way, if I’m feeling it, it must be sourced in God’s work. If I sit quietly long enough and listen to what my heart is tilling me, I’ll hear God. Protestantism enshrines this in the idea that “me and the Bible” are enough.  In our increasingly secular world, the Bible gets left out, of course. Follow your bliss” says Joseph Campbell. “Do what you love and the money will follow” says the New Age movement. The early 20th Century (Old Age?) writer, Aleister Crowley spoke of this divine inner voice as a “Thou” (with the initial capital) in “Do what Thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Modern secularists say the same thing without the implication that you’re a “Thou” because, of course, there is no Thou.

The Church says that inner voice is the very thing that’s broken.  It’s the one thing we can’t trust: the way I feel is the one thing Jesus is not Lord of.  The voices inside are there to pull me away from what God wants, the things I feel are not trusted.  Ironically, I still feel a tug of this anti-theology when I read the prayers of the Church.  When we ask God to save us from “vain thoughts and evil imaginations” my inner voice says, “Well the priest prayed it and God said he would give it to us, and so, these thoughts must be protected, holy thoughts.”  Of course, we say these prayers exactly because the demons put such thoughts in our head.

We prepare to celebrate tonight the Presentation of the Holy Theotokos in the Temple of Jerusalem. The symbolism is strong: as the presence of God in Christ among us means the end of the temple ritual system, Mary – the Birth-giver of God – replaces the Temple, itself. She becomes the New Temple in which we worship and the sign of Fruitful Virginity is over our altars. In the Church, her womb, are we all born again to life in Christ.

But only by faith, by resting in God and letting God in Christ be Adonai.  Give up your inner voices, your inner light, your addiction to tour own reasoning.   Turn to the giver of the law and with his mighty arm he will save you. If I were living my life not “in the Word in Faith” but rather in the Faith of the Church, if I lived as if the burning bush – and not my heart – was Jesus speaking, what would I change?

There are things you can not change, of course, but there are things you can: things for which you are responsible, things for which you make choices. If God speaks from the burning bush and gives the law and leaves the Temple and comes forth from the Virgin and enters my life through Communion: what is my response? How do I live the Lordship of Christ?

Daily Readings week of 20 Trinity

The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon. The readings are as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate supplemented with other devotional material.

  • Sat – BVMMPEPMartyrology
  • XX Sunday after Trinity / 21 Pentecost (St Gregory the Wonderworker BC, St Gregory of Tours BC) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Mon – Dedication of Basilica of Ss Peter and PaulMPEPMartyrology
  • Tue – Feria (St Pontianus of Rome PM) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Wed – St Edmund KMMPEPMartyrology
  • Thu – Presentation of the BVM (St Gelasius, PM, St Golumbanus, A) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Fri –St Cecelia of Rome VMMPEPMartyrology
  • Sat – St Clement PM (St Felicitas, VM) – MP – EP – Martyrology
  • Sunday Next before Advent / Last Pentecost (St Chrysogonus M) – MP – EP – Martyrology

O Sapientia – First Advent Meditation

A blessed Advent! For my friends in the Western Ecclesial traditions, a little explanation: our Eastern Pre-Nativity Fast starts today. Advent is, of course, a Western Name, but we call it the Advent Fast here in America’s mostly-convert communities. Yes it is a bit longer than Western Advent, but for what it’s worth your fast used to be this long as well – and it was a fast, like (or close to) the fast of Lent. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain is treated to a sumptuous feast by his host who, in response to the compliments, reminds his guest, “It is a fast.”

This is the first of my seven Advent Meditations for this year.  It’s an annual practice, and it helps the Pre-Christmas focus. The meditations, as always, take a starting place the Great O Antiphons that are recited on the nights leading up to Christmas in the monasteries of the West.

Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

Wisdom, who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High, reaching out mightily from end to end, and sweetly arranging all things: come to teach us the way of prudence.

I’m a bit flumoxed, I confess, as to what the topic is.  So I’ll stick with what’s on my heart: faith.

Faith does not mean simply to verbally or mentally assert that some words are true, but rather, placing all contrary social pressure and fear aside, to act as if those words are true. James 2:26, etc. Many parents tell the kids they believe in Santa, but they go out and buy presents anyway. Woe betide the mother who believes in Santa so much that she sleeps without shopping in December.  It dawns on me that most of the time my faith is rather more like that: I’m happy say the Creed, but I make sure to back up my choices with some extra shopping.

If “prudence” means, in part, thrift and conservation, I’m doubling my efforts, as it were, doing one thing and saying another.  My Faith is misapplied.

How would I live if what I said I believed was what I really believed?

Who would I treat differently?
Who would I watch over?
Who would I avoid?
What would I do in the world?
What would I buy?
What would I eat?
How would I act?

If, as our Antiphon says, God’s wisdom ordereth all things, then this thing, here, in front of me, now… is a gift form God.  I think it might be interesting to ask the question as each situation arises, not WWDJ, but rather WWJHMD? What would Jesus have me do?  How do I best work out my salvation in this situation with these people at this time?

How can we make it through Advent as if, at the end, God will meet us?

Thoughts on Advent in the Orthodox Western Rite

Monday (11 Nov) was Martinmas for westerners on the Gregorian Calendar, for Old Calendar folks it falls on Saturday 24 November. In times past, in Northern Europe, the next day (12 November) was the beginning of the Advent Fast. I did a little research on Advent because, as a pious Orthodox Convert, I assumed our 40-day long fast was the “normal” one that the “heretical” west has trimmed and, finally, destroyed. So, believe it or not, I was looking for Sunday propers for the “six or seven Sundays of Advent” as would have existed in the “orthodox” west before the Carolingian Religion took over the Roman church… I was asking the wrong questions, of course.
One thing we (I’m making assumptions here, but it seems to be “We Americans”) keep looking for is a religion that is unchanged and unchanging. Seems to be a real issue for us: there are cultures that have had indoor plumbing longer than our nation has been around.  Most countries have church buildings older than our denominations.  We get lost in vastness of history and look for some thing “changeless”.  In a talk at St Vlad’s, Frederica Mathewes-Green once referred to having found “the Church that never changes”. Anyone with an eye to history realizes the development of liturgy and culture inside Orthodoxy runs a parallel to our liturgy’s evolution. Almost every assumption that “What we do now” is “What we have always and everywhere done” is false. So I was asking “when did what we used to do devolve into what we do now?” I should have started with “What did we used to do?”

 First – and not by way of dismissal – we have to realize that the East didn’t celebrate Christmas. The East had Theophany. The West had Nativity. It was was a gradual process whereby the two cultures let their feasts influence each other and appear on each other’s calendar. In other words, Christmas, or “The Feast of the Nativity after the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ”, to give the full name, is – at least as far as the East is concerned – a Western Innovation, albeit one that worked well for the Church and one that was accepted with the consensus fidelium.

When this innovation took hold in the east, it made sense to apply to it the same sort of thinking that had already be applied to Pascha. The East opted for a forty day fast prior to Christmas in order to mirror the forty days that lead up to Pascha. By this time the Pascha fast had ceased to be about preparing catechumens (there were not many adults anyway) and all about preparing for Pascha, itself. The same became true of the Advent Fast. There was no tradition of Baptism on Christmas, of course: but there was already a model for a pre-feast fast. So we just used it again. In the West, which had celebrated Christmas for a while, there was no consensus about the pre-feast fasting at all. In some places it was a longer in some places shorter. Remember, Lent was originally just one day long – fasting on Good Friday. So word that Advent Fast varied in length from 4 or 5 Sundays, to several weeks of limited fasting should not at all surprise us. By the time the west settled on a pattern it was the four weeks we currently have. The Early Middle Ages, however, still saw the 40 day tradition in some places.

A Synod held in 590 established that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from November 11th until the Nativity would be offered according to the Lenten rite. This and other traditions, such as fasting, show that the period of time now established as the Advent season was more penitential (similar to Lent) than the liturgical season as we know it today. A collection of homilies from Pope St. Gregory the Great (whose papacy was from 590-604) included a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent, and by 650 Spain was celebrating the Sundays (five at the time) of Advent. So it seems the liturgical season was established around the latter part of the 6th century and first half of the 7th century. For the next couple of centuries, Advent was celebrated for five Sundays; Pope Gregory VII, who was pope from 1073-85, reduced the number to four Sundays. 


For a much fuller – a more geek-happy – history, please see this article from the Catholic News Agency. It is filled with names and dates and minutiae. It notes that the “Ambrosian liturgy, even to this day, has six weeks of Advent; so has the Gothic or Mozarabic missal.” I find it interesting that the west decided to use Lenten services in Advent – underscoring the fasting with Liturgy. There is no such Liturgical modification in the East, although I think it must be understood that there is also not much of a tradition of daily Eucharists in the East and so no need for liturgical changes as such, especially during the week. What I think can be agreed on is that, considering both the East as a whole and the full history of the West, the tradition is for Advent to be a bit longer than simply the fore-part of December and maybe a couple of November bits and that it was a decidedly post-schism Pope who established – firmly – the four-Sunday Advent we know in the West today. So it is worth asking why it is that the canonical Orthodox Western Rite, Antiochian and Russian, adhere to this practice? It might be more in keeping with our Orthodox Western Ancestors to follow the Byzantine rite, starting on 15 November, or, even, to return to the post-11-11 Monday Wednesday Friday pattern that was traditional in much of the west prior to the schism. I know that, at least in ROCOR, the Bishops have asked recent WR converts to refrain from post-schism practices in general until they are evaluated by the Synod – and they have to use the non-ecumentist Julian Calendar. It would be interesting if *all* the calendar innovations were undone. I confess, again in these pages, that part of my fascination with the Orthodox Western Rite is more than a little geeky-time travel. It’s a bit like those Sci-Fi books that ask “What if the South had won the War?” So I really would like to see the canonical OWR explore a bit more.

My Rite of St Tikhon website allows for some flexibility in the daily office: I would being using the Ferial Canticles on 15 Nov and start singing Alma Redemptoris Mater the Advent Antiphon of Our Lady.

As always I will begin my Advent Meditation series on WR liturgical Texts and continue through the season.

Byzantine Time

This is not a post about culturally and ethnically Orthodox folks who never seem to get to Church before the sermon.

As an Orthodox Convert exposed to other Orthodox Converts and our peculiar brand of stress-inducing hyper-piety I’ve often heard a discussion of “Midnight to Midnight vrs Sunset to Sunset”.    The argument being that from Genesis on the Bible “clearly” starts the day at Sunset, and that the liturgy “clearly” starts a feast day with Vespers and that Saturday night “Clearly” is the beginning of Sunday and that the “Fathers clearly” marked time from Sunset to Sunset.  Therefore we should not mark our days from some artificially created “midnight” but rather from Vespers to Vespers (at least) if not from actual Sunset to Sunset.

This means fasting from Thursday night at Sunset until Friday night at Sunset.  It also means we can go out at Midnight.  Curiously, it never seems to mean the pre-communion fast starts at 6PM the night before, and so Saturday’s party goes from Friday Sunset until midnight between Saturday and Sunday.

But all that aside, the argument has me, today, looking at Liturgical Time.

East and West both have the same liturgical tradition in this respect: any feast day starts with a Vespers and continues through with a Eucharistic commemoration the following day.  The West the tradition evolved to “extending” the feast by adding a Second Vespers that – rather like the day-and-a-half long Saturday above, makes a feast go just a little bit longer than a “normal” day.

In the Book of Common Prayer this tradition reverses: a “basic” day is Morning and then Evening Prayer. In many ways this makes sense in an essentially parochial  environment (and what was initially a very anti-monastic environment).  The common folks get the “today is today” matter-of-factness of it all and I suspect that simplicity was a crucial issue in this decision.  But also the experience of the day, at least in the west, is that “today” does not include part of last evening before bed.

The BCP tradition therefore became one where a  feast day means Morning Prayer, (Possible) Eucharist, Evening Prayer.  After a while the BCP tradition gave certain feast days “Eve of” readings.   Thus instead of Second Vespers of the Latin Rite it becomes the First Vespers that were the “extra added part” of the feast day in English Usage.  In the Orthodox Western Rite it is this way in the Rite of St Tikhon.  In the Rite of St Gregory it is the older, Latin way.

As I am editing the office for daily use, this awareness of time strikes me as very important: it is the sanctification of time that is the point of the daily hours, be that just family prayers in the AM and PM or the seven/eight-fold office of traditional monasticism (East or West) or the Western Rite’s offices of Morning and Evening prayer.  Certainly the idea of a day starting and ending at midnight, consisting of Morning and then Evening, is an innovation no more recent than the 15th century.  But even so it is no where near as recent as some major changes in the Eastern liturgy. (The Pascha service we serve prior to the Divine Liturgy today evolved in the 19th century!)  But all the services are about the eucharistic sanctification of time, the inclusion of our daily motions of living, moving and being into the Divine eternal present that is gathered around the Altar of Communion.

To do this we must be aware of the time.  No mater how we count the days, we must count them.

The daily hours make us aware of the passage of time, of the daily flow that comes either in the stasis and prayer of a monastery or else the daily ebb and flow of a working or farming life with stops in Morning and Evening, even the four-fold division of modern hours (Morning, Noon, Evening, Bedtime).  Each phase is taken, blessed, and broken in offering before God so that it may become a vehicle of grace for us.

Daily Readings, Week of 19 Trinity

The Daily offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon, as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate together with other devotional material. For other material, see the Book of Common Prayer as published by Lancelot Andrewes Press.

  • Saturday – Dedication of the Basilica of St Saviour (St Theodore Tyro, M) – MPEPMartyrology
  • XIX Sunday after Trinity / 20 Pentecost (St Typhon, Respicius & Nympha, Mm) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Monday  St Martin of Tours, BC (St Mennas M, Theodore the Studite, M) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Tuesday – Feria (St Martin I of Rome, PM) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Wednesday – Feria (St Britius of Tours, BC) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Thursday – Feria (Gregory Palamas, BC) – MPEPMartyrology
  • Friday – Feria – MPEPMartyrology
  • Saturday – BVMMP – EP – Martyrology

Sine Nomine

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Daily Readings, Christ the King

The Daily Readings for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon, as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate together with other devotional material. For other material, see the Book of Common Prayer as published by Lancelot Andrewes Press.