Monday, September 29, 2008

Neuhaus on the First Amendment

First Things' On the Square has a nice reflection by Fr Neuhaus on religious freedom and the First Amendment.

Pluralism is our continuing condition and our moral imperative until the End Time, when, as Christians believe, our disagreements will be resolved in the coming of the kingdom. The protection against raw majoritarianism depends upon this constitutional order. But this constitutional order depends, in turn, upon the continuing ratification of the majority who are “we the people.” Among the truths these people hold is the truth that it is necessary to protect those who do not hold those truths.
Read it all here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Michael Novak - the Compassionate Theist features an article on Michael Novak's new book No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers by Ken Blackwell entitled Novak Makes the Case for God to the Godless. Below are two snippets to whet your whistle:

In the book, Mr. Novak discusses faith and compassionately engages, with great charity and respect, the new atheist movement. This is a movement led by authors such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. From my readings of their work, the answers they give to metaphysical questions are frequently lacking and often consist only of mean-spirited insults hurled at the reportedly 92% of us who believe in God. Mr. Novak, however, sees the positive in the popularity of these anti-religion books, as they challenge believers to question and carefully exam their own faith....

Mr. Novak correctly understands, as did many of America's founders, that it is divine providence from which freedom and civilized society flow. And for any faults one may find with Christian regimes throughout history, they pale in comparison to the abhorrent atrocities of the dogmatically atheists regimes of China and the former Soviet Union. Without the guiding moral compass that faith provides, those regimes slaughtered millions. And modern society, without a Judeo-Christian ethics, would have little reason to oppose, for example, to the despicable eugenics movement as espoused by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.
Read it all here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Silliness

Okay, I have a weakness for silly music and videos. Here are several of my favorites. (I promise, I'll get back to more serious business after this.)

Please don't take out a contract on me for that last one!

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Natural Law Anthology Reviewed

MercatorNet today features a review of Contemporary Perspectives on Natural Law: Natural Law as a Limiting Concept, an anthology edited by Ana Marta Gonzalez. An extended quote from the review follows.

Natural law starts by assuming there is such a thing as human nature. This
insistence on a human nature is a limiting concept. It claims that true freedom
is only to be found in acceptance and respect of this human nature that we have
inherited, not created.

A recent book on the topic of natural law, which is a compilation of
papers from an international conference held in Spain in 2006, makes this point
clear. If you accept natural law, you accept that human nature exists and that
it is the same for all humans. This in turn implies that some actions that human
beings can perform are not good for them. It further implies that freedom is not
the goal of human existence but rather a faculty of choice which allows us to do
good actions and thus to flourish as human beings.

Contemporary Perspectives on Natural Law: Natural Law as a Limiting
is a useful addition to contemporary debate, given that, despite its
pariah status in some universities, natural law ethics is still one of the great
traditions of ethical thinking and is given some time in most ethics courses,
even if this amounts to a dismissive nod.

Read the whole review here. Click the title of the book, above, for its listing on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In the Interests of Public Health

IRS tax exemption be damned; this is important stuff and needs to be heard!

Okay, so sometimes I get a bit loony! :-D

Monday, September 15, 2008

On Innovative Theologies

St Basil the Great on the turning away from orthodox belief:

Our distresses are notorious … The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at naught; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the Cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves harrying the flock of Christ… The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be extended compassion, for they do not know of what they have been deprived.
Letter xc, quoted in The Life of St Basil the Great, The Lives of the Three Hierarchs, Holy Apostles Convent, 1998, p. 59f

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

MercatorNet on Inevitable choices - University and Metaphysics

MercatorNet features a quite erudite essay entitled "Inevitable Choices" by Richard Bastien, director of the Catholic Civil Rights League for the National Capital Area. It explores the basic metaphysical choices presented to American college and university students. Not surprisingly, Bastien finds the metaphysical choice of catholicism to be the most rational. It is the explication of his analysis towards this conclusion that is interesting.

An excerpt:

The Church is thus saying that not only is there a necessary relationship between faith and reason, but that reason stands to gain from working in tandem with the Christian faith. The question we must therefore address is: What kind of evidence do we have in support of such a claim? Perhaps the strongest evidence is that Christianity ushered into the world one big, gigantic claim that had never been made prior to it, which is that everyone has a natural right to search for the truth. Indeed, this claim was so revolutionary that certain Greek philosophers of the 2nd Century, like Celsus, ridiculed Christianity for its attempt to attract "only slaves, women and little children".(14) Because free access to the truth is indispensable to knowing God, and also because the Christian God is the God of all people, Christian theologians have insisted from the very beginning on the universal nature of the right to search for the truth. In doing so, they undermined the old pre-Christian order and set the stage for the dismantling of racial, social and gender barriers. Never before had anyone dared to proclaim the equality of all men and women of all nations before God. This should be a source of pride for all Christians, and particularly those of Catholic persuasion.
Read the entire essay here.

Also feel free to share your reactions with us here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos

Troparion of the Feast in Tone Four

Your Nativity, O Mother of God, heralded joy to the whole universe, for from you rose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God; taking away the curse, He imparted the blessings, and and by abolishing Death, He gave us everlasting life.

Exapostilarian from Orthros of 8 September

Be clothed with a new glory, O Adam and Eve! In company with the Holy Apostles, O Prophets, sing and rejoice together with all the just. Let there be a common joy among angels and men, for on this festive day the just Joachim and Anna have brought into the world the Mother of our God.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Does making babies make sense?

MercatorNet features an essay by Professor Richard Stith, who teaches at Valparaiso University School of Law, entitled "Does Making Babies Make Sense?". Let the following excerpt encourage you to read the entire essay.

In December of 2005 an op-ed piece by sociologist Dalton Conley appeared in the New York Times, stating that “most Americans... see a fetus as an individual under construction.” This widespread vision of the embryo and fetus as “under construction” is the key to understanding why good people may find pro-life arguments to be absurd or otherwise non-rational, eg, religious, particularly with regard to embryonic stem cell research.

The construction idea also may explain how Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been able to support both the right to life from the moment of conception and embryonic stem cell research.
It is a very thought-provoking essay. Read it here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Possibly an Historic Event

Today marked an historic event, at least we think it did. Today marked the first Byzantine Catholic weekday Orthros (Morning Prayer) celebrated in South Carolina. Unlike the Roman Tradition, the Eastern Church typically offers the Divine Liturgy only on Sundays and Holy Days. On other days, services from the “Divine Praises” (“Liturgy of the Hours” in the West) are celebrated. Orthros, a combination of Matins and Lauds, the morning celebration, and Esperinon, Vespers, celebrated in the evening, are the two most commonly celebrated of these services.

The services of the Byzantine Divine Office differ substantially from their western counterparts. Orthros, by far the most complex service in the Byzantine liturgical tradition, is a symphony of psalms, litanies, prayers and hymns. While provisionally chanted in the tone of the week following the appropriate volume of the Octoechos, hymns of various tones from the Menaion are interspersed, giving every celebration a unique feeling and timbre. In its complete form the service can last up to three hours or more; but in parish usage, the service usually runs anywhere from forty minutes to around an hour.

The focus of all Byzantine worship is adoration of the Holy Trinity. When the commemoration of Saints forms part of that worship, adoration is directed properly back to God. Thus, we find no contradiction in singing praises to the Theotokos and the Saints as we are constantly reminded that their holiness is the result of faith in Jesus Christ and the abundance of His great mercy. In truth, it is most appropriate to venerate these holy ones who have gone before us. In our Divine Worship we are spiritually united to God and all of those who have gone before us and those around the world who worship with us.

For the participant, prayerful attention is rewarded with hymns that praise God, recall the saints and teach the central Truths of Orthodox Christianity. The Litanies frame prayer in appropriate channels for our own salvation and the good of the world. We come to experience worship as not merely an individual phenomenon (God and “me”) but a communal experience that reveals our place in salvation history and the ongoing establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And our celebration today? We got started a few minutes late. (Hey, we are Byzantine, eh?) The service proceeded not without a few minor glitches here and there. As the two chanters who assisted are still learning, a purist might charge that at times we were inventing new tones. Nonetheless, much of the chanting was solidly in tone, and all of it offered in prayerful humility to God. Ultimately, it was a beautiful experience of praise that left this priest overjoyed and thankful to the Holy Trinity and our Lady for the great grace to be a part of this possibly historic celebration.

So, if today really was the first weekday Byzantine Catholic Orthros in South Carolina, God is good! Thanks be to God!

And if we weren’t the first, God is still good! Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Prayer

Most merciful Lord Jesus Christ my God: I thank Thee for deeming me, the sinner, worthy to receive forgiveness from Thee through the Mystery of Confession to my spiritual father. So then, imitating David who said, "I have sworn and resolved that I will keep the judgments of Thy righteousness" (Ps 118.106), I promise Thee, with the resolute will of my soul, that I would rather die a thousand deaths than ever commit a single mortal sin again and grieve Thine infinite Goodness. But because mine own will is weak on its own without Thy help, I fervently ask Thee to strengthen me with Thy Grace, and establish me with Thy mighty help, so that I may remain steadfast in my holy resolution until the end. Yea, my most-loving Jesus, enable me to pass the rest of my life in repentance, in order to receive Thy Grace here blow and Thy blessed Glory in Heaven above. Through the intercessions of Thy supremely blessed Mother and all Thy Saints. Amen.

Counsel for the Penitent, Exomologetarion, St Nikodemos the Hagiorite

What is Christianity? Can sin be private?

Christianity is imitating the Divine Nature.
Letter to Arrmonios, St Gregory of Nyssa

Sin is committed first of all in the secret depths of the human spirit but its consequences involve the individual as a whole. A sin will reflect on a man's psychological and physical condition, his outward appearance, on his personal destiny. Sin will, inevitably, pass beyond the boundaries of the sinner's individual life, to burden all humanity and thus affect the fate of the whole world. The sin of our forefather Adam was not the only sin of cosmic significance. Every sin, manifest or secret, committed by each one of us affects the rest of the universe.
Elder Sophrony in Saint Silouan the Athonite

Monday, September 01, 2008

Joyous New Year!

Today is the first day of the (Byzantine) Church Year. May our Lord bless the crown of the new year with peace, concord, safety and joy!

From the Sessional Hymns in Tone Eight

From heaven, You grant to those on earth weather favorable for crops and rain. Receive today the prayers of Your servants; deliver Your faithful from all misfortune, for all Your works call upon Your Compassion. Bless our undertakings at their beginning and at their end; direct the works of our hands, O Lord. Grant us the remission of all sin, for You are the One who have brought all things from non-existence into being, O all-powerful God!

From the Synaxarion

On 1 September, we celebrate the new year and the beginning of the Indiction.

You are the Ancient of Days and the new Adam: O Christ, bless the Indiction of our new year.

From the Praises in Tone Three

O Word of the Father, existing before all ages, divine by Nature, you brought all created things from nothingness into being. All times and seasons are subject to Your Power. Bless the crown of this year, which in your goodness You have allowed us to begin. Grant peace to Your Churches, victory to all Orthodox Christians, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and Great Mercy to us all.