Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bishop Hilarion Offers Hope and a Challenge

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev is the most erudite and outspoken hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The article linked below presents his thoughts on Orthodox missiology in the Twenty-first Century.

The challenges he discusses are the same as those of Eastern Catholic Churches, particularly as regards 'heritage' issues. (I believe Arcbishop Elias Zoghby, of blessed memory, would rejoice to stand with Bishop Hilarion on the points he raises) The hope for the future is firmly in God's hands, and the imperative for Christian Tradition to be firmly established requires of each of us the commitment to the Christian Faith and its unchanging values. Only in Christ is there hope for the future. Sayidna Hilarion is correct that those Churches descending from the Undivided Catholic Church of the first millennium must stand together in what we hold common, examine what differs between us, and press forward to bring the healing message of Salvation to a corrupt, blind, and an otherwise dying world.

Read Bishop Hilarion's lecture on Orthodox Mission in the Twenty-first Century here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Life Update

Dear Readers:

A follow-up on my 25 January entry about personal life issues my family currently face: As you know, Presbytera was diagnosed with a grade-four glioma in November of last year. This discovery came after a CAT scan revealed the tumor and emergency surgery was performed to remove as much of it as possible. By mid-December, she was on a regime of chemotherapy (Temodar) (seven days a week) and radiation therapy (five days a week).

By 11 February, all chemo and radiation therapy were completed. The plan was for a one-month ‘cool down’ period which would include a weaning off of the steroid used to reduce swelling. On 11 March, she would have an MRI and the next step of treatment would then be arranged. At minimum, this was to be chemotherapy five out of every twenty-eight days for the next six months. There was also a possibility to participate in a study which would entail twenty-five days of treatment out of every twenty-eight for the six month period.

Unfortunately, things have progressed with some difficulty. By the weekend of 15 February, Presbytera’s condition had begun to deteriorate. Headaches and forgetfulness returned, and Saturday of that weekend was particularly troublesome and emotional for her. By Sunday morning, she seemed somewhat disconnected and confused. Shortly after arriving at Church she said she wanted to go sleep in the car; it was suggested that she relax on the pew. A few minutes later she wanted to go home and sleep.

Our daughter drove her home and later reported that it took about twenty minutes for her to get out of the car (she didn't seem to know what was being asked of her and how to do it). Of course, by the time I got home we were all quite concerned. The concern was increased by the discovery that after returning home Presbytera had taken her morning medicines again, having already taking them before leaving for Church. A call to the neurologist advised taking her to the emergency room.

At the emergency room a CAT scan was taken. She was told to return to full strength steroid use and an appointment was arranged with our oncologist. (The steroid increase has greatly helped her return to normal.)

When we met with the oncologist Wednesday, he revealed that the CAT scan seemed to indicate renewed growth in the original tumor and possibly three additional new tumors. Given the lack of precise detail of a CAT scan, he urged that she have an MRI done immediately. He would review the MRI and contact us either later that evening or the next day.

The oncologist contacted us Thursday. The MRI clearly showed two areas of growth and two areas that could be growth, or dead tissue swollen due to the radiation. Either way, the revelation was troubling. At a meeting Friday, a new plan of action was decided. Either tomorrow or Wednesday, Presbytera will begin the five out of twenty-eight day chemotherapy regime. As planned, in March a new MRI will be compared with last week’s image. Several options can be then considered.

These are trying times for our family. The general uncertainty in the world economy, the continuing moral and spiritual collapse of the society in which we live, and now Presbytera’s health problems all combine to cause worry and fear.

Nonetheless, I have found in our Lord’s Grace a strength I never experienced before. It strikes me sometimes these days that I only now have a glimmer of understanding of what the priesthood truly is. At the same time, faith has become a more potent reality. Somehow the fact that this new development in Presbytera’s health has come more or less with the beginning of the Great Fast is comforting. I know we are in His hands and He is walking this path with us even as He encourages us to walk His path with Him.

And our parishioners have been wonderful! They have offered help, cooked meals and checked in on us regularly. Thanks be to the Holy Trinity for the great gift of Salvation and the friends he grants us along the way.

I will update again on Presbytera's health when anything significant occurs, probably not before mid-March. In the meantime, I thank you each and all for your prayers. We treasure those prayers more than you could know, and I offer thanks for them at every Divine Liturgy I celebrate. God bless you all!

Oh, my hip replacement surgery has been pushed forward to 2 March.

C’est la vie!

Thanks be to God.

Prayers To The Healer of Cancer, Mother of God

The below Troparion and prayers are from the website of Fr Nektarios Serfes.

Prayers To The Healer of Cancer, Mother of God

Dismissal Hymn -Troparion- Sung in Tone 4
Do Thou, O Sovereign Lady, by Thy joy-bestowing honorable Icon "Queen of All," saves those who with fervent desire implore Thy grace; deliver from afflictions those who run to Thee; from all dangers do Thou guard Thy flock, who ever calls upon Thine intercession.

First Prayer to the Mother of God

O All-Gracious, most wondrous Mother of God, Pantanassa, Queen of All! I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof! But as Thou art the lovingly compassionate Mother of the merciful God, say the word that my soul may be healed and my weakened body strengthened. For Thou hast unconquerable might, and all Thy speech hath power, O Queen of All! Do Thou gain the victory for me, do Thou supplicate for me - that I may glorify Thy most glorious name, always, now and ever, and unto endless ages. Amen.

Second Prayer to the Mother of God

O Most-Pure Mother of God, O Queen of All! Hearken unto our much-afflicted sighing before Thy miraculous Icon, brought to Russia from the land of Athos. Look upon Thy children, suffering from unhealed ailments, who fall down before Thy holy image with faith! As a bird covers its nestlings with its wings, so do Thou now, who art ever present, cover us with Thy greatly healing omophorion. In that place where Hope be.

There where bitter sorrows overcome us, there will Patience and Rest be revealed. Where the torment of despair dwells in the soul, there will shine the ineffable Light of Divinity! Console the fainthearted, strengthen the weak, bestow softening and enlightenment upon embittered hearts. Heal Thine ailing people, O All-merciful Queen! Bless the minds and hands of our physicians, that they might serve as instruments of the All-powerful Physician, Christ our Saviour. We pray before Thine Icon, that Thou mightest truly live with us, O Sovereign Lady! Stretch out Thy hands, filled with healing and cures, O Joy of the sorrowful, Consolation in afflictions, that having speedily received miraculous help, wee may glorify the Life-creating and Undivided Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Source: Akathist to the Mother of God "Healer of Cancer", St. Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery, Safford, Arizona. 2002. Pp. 30-32.

Clean Monday & St Elias Video on the Church Building as Catechesis

A joyous Clean Monday to all! For Eastern Catholics, today marks the beginning of the Great Fast. For those who wish to follow the readings, hymns and basic commemorations of the Byzantine Tradition, a search through this blog will provide several daily resources from years past. This year, I may not be a very active "blogger" during the Fast as several personal issues impede. I will, God willing, give a personal update on Presbytera shortly for those who have been praying for her.

Hat Tip to the New Liturgical Movement for a nice article on mystagogical catechesis and the below short video from St Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Book Burning Twenty-first Century Style - and more

The UK Religious Intelligence Website reports a disturbing instance of book burning. What printed work could be so offensive that it must be completely silenced? Political ideology? Scientific works that contradict ideological prejudices? And what organization would oversee the snuffing out of free speech? Rabid conservatives? Click here for the answer.


Last evening, the FOX News channel's Shephard Smith included a brief mention about Galileo and the Catholic Church. He repeated the same tired lies that the issue between Galileo and the Church was the scientific contradiction of the Church's "view" that the earth was the center of the universe. Mr Shephard would benefit from reading Thomas E Woods, Jr's How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. He might also read from the Network's own Fox Forum an article by attorney Tommy De Seno entitled "Darwin Day" is for Dummies.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dr Kreeft Refutes Reductionism

Hat Tip to Vivicat for reference to an article by Dr Peter Kreeft, entitled "A Philosophical Refutation of Reductionism", at the Catholic Education Resource Center website refuting reductionism.

Reductionism is the philosophical attempt to explain something complex by "reducing" it to a simple, basic element. For an (admittedly simplistic) example, The Holy Bible's message might be reduced to "God wants us to be good".

Of course, this omits the complexity of nuance that constitutes the true meaning of such a reductionist statement. Ultimately, reductionism is a logical positivist variety of relativism in that to achieve the reductionist result of the deduction one must make choices of criteria that betray the presuppositions of the process.

Somewhat like statistics, or the speeches of politicians.

Anyroad, read the article here.

The Doctrine of Darwin

RealClearPolitics has an interesting article by David Warren on Darwin. Amongst highlights the article notes the following:

As Darwin himself realized, the fossil stratum corresponding to the beginning of the Cambrian geological period was potentially inimical to his hypothesis. In a blink of geological time, now dated by various means to 542 million years ago, all of the advanced body types of "modern" multicellular organisms suddenly and simultaneously appear. The event is now known as the "Cambrian Explosion," and Darwin hoped it would be explained away by the later discovery of gradual evolutionary developments through the eons before. Instead, the shock of the transition has been enhanced by all subsequent study.

Likewise, Darwin trusted that the gradual development of such "irreducibly complex" organs as the eye, ear, and heart would be explained in due course (i.e. these organs can't work at all unless and until all their many parts are present and functioning in perfect harmony). Instead, advances in genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry over the last half-century have revealed a vast world of irreducible complexities within the single living cell, by comparison to which the engineering of an eye would be child's play.

The man himself was very much a product of his age: a bourgeois Victorian adapted to an intellectual environment in which such fatuities as Utilitarianism and Malthusianism were in the air. In retrospect, he is a redundant character, for Wallace already had the theory, and many others could have drudged out Darwin’s specific points.
Read the whole article here.