Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dear Homeschooling Parents, Please Be Aware Of the Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement!

The Homeschooling Pool

There is another group of Christians that I’ve observed that are susceptible to the errors in the Hebrew Roots Movement – that is the Homeschooling community.  We (and I include my family in that community) tend to be an independent lot, overall.  We tend question the status quo, question things more than the average bear, and have a tendency to be a bit counter-cultural and open to new concepts and ideas, while at the same time holding to basic traditional ideals.  

We are not afraid to embrace “unique” ways of doing things – if something isn’t working the way it’s being done, we are willing to try doing it differently.  Those qualities in and of themselves are good things, providing the flexibility that those of us who homeschool tend to build in to our daily lives of educating our children at home.

However those qualities can be a double edged sword if a family is in a place of discontent, woundedness, or rebellion in their place of worship or feels like they can’t find any place with “like-minded” believers with whom to worship.  Some prefer to “home-church”, while others find a “home fellowship” in which to worship.   

I want to be careful in how I couch this, because I don’t want to lump all home fellowships together, but understand that some home fellowships are perfect venues in which those in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements can (and do) introduce and promote their ideas.  Depending on how the leadership is set up (assuming there is any leadership structure or shared accountability at all), there is the potential for the teaching or “sharing” of false doctrine to slip through from families or leadership who are on “the ancient path”.

A recent discourse with one who has come out of the HRM states the case better than I can, in relation to both traditional churches and home fellowships:

I’ve seen a growing trend of well-known pastors embracing and promoting teachings of the HRM. These are pastors that are widely respected in the body of Christ for their opinions, biblical interpretations, scholarship, and spiritual discernment. So I think the church as a whole is at risk for being influenced by the HRM, because we tend to trust and embrace the teachings of those we look up to for guidance. I want to say that house churches are less susceptible to encountering false doctrine, but the truth is that even the house churches of the New Testament had to deal with it, including the false teachings of the Torah observant/HRM. The major lesson I learned in my experience with the HRM is that the yeast of the Pharisees is still alive and well, and that the teachings should be avoided, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Jesus’ warning to avoid their teachings is relevant for all believers, whether they fellowship within larger church settings or house churches. Since it only takes a little leaven to affect the whole lump, we all have to stand firm against it and be on guard.

In addition to the above, homeschooling families are, in their quest for good curriculum, exposed to Torah observant families on internet forums, in support groups, and even through suppliers of curriculum.  One such supplier is Heart of Wisdom, which stresses a “Hebraic approach” to educating children vs. the “Greek approach”.  While Heart of Wisdom does have some good resources to offer, as with any entity offering false spiritual teaching, where there is good, there is always that “little leaven”, as the writer quoted above notes, that you need to look for and to stand firm against.

Heart of Wisdom is very subtle in its initial presentation of the “Hebraic mindset”, but like anything, if you investigate the Heart of Wisdom website and ALL of its sister websites and forum, it is clear that it promotes the “Hebrew Roots of our faith” through and through.  One book in particular that HOW Publishing offers to homeschoolers as curriculum (and which has become very popular in the homeschooling community) is “The Family Guide to Biblical Holidays.”

From one of the critical reviews of “The Family Guide to Biblical Holidays” at Amazon:

I was extremely disappointed with this particular item. The cost of the book is not worth it. The authors claim to make efforts to educate people on the biblical feasts, but have included an immense amount of information that is rooted in cabala [Kabbalah] without addressing it as such. As a parent who purchased this book in order to supplement the teaching of Truth, I was dumbfounded by the authors lack of research concerning the roots of certain celebration practices. My own elementary school children were able to pick apart the errors in teaching and doctrinal half truths. This book should come with a warning label. If you are pursuing information on practicing biblical feasts the Jewish way: Buy. If you are interested in information on Biblical feasts: Walk! Just as there are many pagan traditions in “Christian” holidays, there are just as many pagan traditions in the “Jewish” holidays. Buyer be aware.

There is a subtle yet consistent undertone of the use of Kabbalah and its related practice of Gematria in the Hebrew Roots Movement/Messianic Judaism as the reviewer refers to above.  [More can be learned about this connection at “Doublemindedness in the Hebrew Roots Movement – The Use of Kabbalah and Gematria”.  Highly Recommended.]

One mom relayed to me that in the homeschooling support group her family belongs to her family is the only family who is not Torah observant.  The families that have taken on Torah observance all have the “Family Guide to Biblical Holidays” in common.  The really interesting thing is that these families bought the book as curriculum to learn about Biblical Feasts and came away feeling commanded to keep not only the Feasts, but to become completely Torah observant.  There is no such command to the Body of Christ to keep the Law or the Feasts.

The realities of the shortcomings in the Church today prime many for the “getting back to the way early believers worshipped” and the “getting back to the Hebrew/Jewish roots of our faith” that the HRM claims to offer.  Teachers in the HRM systematically dismantle elements of both the modern and traditional Church (not without justification in some cases), replacing what they have torn down with a house of contradictions and doctrine woven in such a way that it can be difficult to discern its error.  

Those in the Church who are unsatisfied, immature in their faith, disgruntled, wounded, or rebellious are bit by bit led from the error they may be experiencing in their current circumstance into compounded error in the HRM which has been dressed up in the seeming “authenticity” of Messianic Christianity.

I think the point needs to be made here that there are healthy churches out there!  It may take patient searching and lots of visiting, but they do exist!  I can say this with confidence, as our family is blessed to be in a healthy church.  Whether one finds a healthy church or home fellowship is partly determined by the attitude of one’s heart.  

If you’re looking for the “perfect” church with “like-minded” believers, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and discontent.  There is no such place, as the Church is made up of imperfect believers – us.  Look for a healthy church, not a perfect one.  Focus on the Gospel being of primary importance, along with the core, indisputable matters of the faith.  Measure any church or home fellowship by those standards and by the commands of Jesus to love God and love others, and within those parameters you will find a healthy place in which to gather, worship, and serve with fellow Christians.

2) Establish the Need

In part, because of some real and deserved discontent in much of the modern Church today, the Hebrew Roots Movement makes use of that discontent in such a way as to establish something that has the appearance of authenticity.  In effect, they validate one’s discontent (and/or immaturity, woundedness, or rebellion – whether or not it is justified) and provides a possible explanation for one’s unhappiness in Christianity – that one is in fact being “drawn back to the Hebraic Roots of one’s faith”.

The HRM systematically tears down the orthodox (small ‘o’) tenets of biblical Christianity as being “Hellenized” , then systematically rebuilds an entirely new perspective on Scripture, based on “Hebraic” systems of thought, language, and customs.  [You can read more information about about the true influences of Hellenism on both Judaism (both BCE and CE) and the early Church at “Hebrew Roots Movement – The Issue of “Hellenization” here at JGIG.  Highly Recommended.]  

The result of HRM teachings regarding Hellenistic vs. Hebraic thought and perspective is the significant minimizing of the Gospel and an inappropriate elevation of the Torah and “being a part of” Israel.  The simplicity of the Gospel for all tongues, tribes, and nations fades and eventually disappears under the weight of the Laws and traditions required by the “Hebraic mindset.”

The HRM establishes a further need for their belief system by framing the Church of the last 2000 years as being rooted in paganism.    No facet of the Church is exempt – from Catholicism (which is indeed steeped in extra-biblical doctrine and practices) to Protestantism to Evangelicism to Fundamentalism, etc. – all are indicted by the HRM as at least being influenced by and at worst practicing paganism in one form or another throughout the ages.  In Sheep Wrecked’s Testimony, one portion in her story brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it:

That first yesod class broke my heart.  I truly believed that I “had missed it”. I completely fell apart in the car on the way home, weeping non-stop for two days in repentance for the “error” that I had been taught my whole life in “church/babylon”.  I totally believed I had found the “truth” I had been searching for.  I was elated, but very misled, as I immersed myself in a new life style and new theology which systematically worked against me.  It eventually became a burden and a yoke that I could not bear.  I was absorbing another Gospel and it weighed so heavily on me that I could physically feel it.  I did not comprehend then why there was an underlying feeling of weariness and oppression that I could not shake. 

A  number of books feed into the Hebrew Roots Movement’s cycle of paranoia, including “Fossilized Customs” by Lew White, “Come Out of Her My People” by CJ Koster, “Too Long in the Sun” by Richard Rives, and the grand-daddy of them all, “The Two Babylons”, by Alexander Hislop – the book which is the basis for many modern books on paganism in the Church.  While there is some truth to some of their charges, the points on paganism found in these books and books like them are taken way too far by the HRM.  

They inflate the influence of pagan practices  and Hellenistic culture as well as exercise poor scholarship in research [on purpose?], linking historical events (where their historical accuracy is tenuous at best in many cases) to practices in the Church that really have no basis in reality at all.  A good resource examining the claims of the above titles is the book, The Babylon Connection? by Ralph Woodrow, who came out of a Law-keeping lifestyle many years ago.

Some in the HRM leadership even see themselves as being the completion of the Reformation!  One Hebrew Roots leader wrote me an email (which I may post someday, just for fun) part of which stated:

“What about those of us who see our Messianic faith as continuing the work of a John Calvin or a John Wesley?”

My response:
“I would say that some serious re-evaluation of your belief system on your part is in order.  Calvin and Wesley sought to bring the Gospel back to the simplicity that God intended for it to have.  In my opinion, the HRM, wherever you place yourself on that spectrum, seeks to complicate the Gospel, removing or minimizing the completed work of the Cross and adding the works of man.  Calvin and Wesley, I dare say, would not approve.” 

3)  Fill that need

Once you establish a need, you need to fill that need, or provide a solution.  Once someone had been convinced that Christianity has been in error – indeed that it is a false religion according to some in the HRM, false teachers can swoop in with their “secret knowledge” and “hidden insight”.  This goes for ALL false belief systems, by the way, not just the Hebrew Roots Movement.

The Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement determines to fill that  need with the efforts of man to keep a Covenant we, in Christ, are no longer under.  And Christians who become convinced that they’ve been “doing it all wrong” for so long are perfect targets.  They feel a need to “make up” for their error.  It’s a perfect set-up for the introduction to a works-based belief system.

Yep, everything will fall into place when you start to keep Torah.  Special insight, hidden knowledge, fascinating culture and a systematic re-working of the doctrines that that those in the HRM have convinced you are false, needing replacement from the context of the “Hebraic mindset”.

There are some consistent, key ways that I’ve observed how the HRM pulls this off:

* They systematically tear down the cultural Church, not without some cause, but deftly mix valid criticisms with invalid ones, bringing about the idea that the entire Church has been in error for all but the first century.  Not only that, but they will try to convince you that the “true” religion of the early believers in Christ is a perpetuation of the practice of Torah observance, and not “Christianity” at all!  To pull this off, they do one or all of three things:

1.) They will try to convince you that the belief system that you have been subjected to since the first century has been “Hellenized”, stripping “true first century beliefs” from their origins.  They will tell you that you engage in pagan sun worship and idolatry, not to mention blatant disobedience to God’s Law.  For an in-depth study dealing with these accusations by the HRM, refer to the post, “Hebrew Roots Movement – The Issue of ‘Hellenization’ “.

2.) They will re-define the New Covenant, changing it into a “renewed” Covenant, which is clearly communicated in the New Testament to be a NEW Covenant.  Refer to the post, “Hebrew Roots Movement – New Covenant or ‘Renewed’ Covenant” for an overview of the HRM position and an in-depth word study proving the “renewed” position to be false.

3.) They will try to convince you that though a “New Covenant” exists, we are not yet under that New Covenant, and as as such, we must still “keep” Old Covenant Law.  They will mis-use prophecy and the words of Jesus to support their position – always taken out of context and/or will mis-use the original language of a text in effort to support their error.

* They distort the biblical concept of repentance.  For the redeemed believer in Christ, when we repent, we recognize our sin and Who Jesus is, and turn to the Grace of God and the completed work of Christ Jesus at the Cross for our salvation.  To one in the HRM, repentance means to turn away from their sin and toward the Law of God, turning back to the keeping of Law with Jesus as the “Safety Net” for when they fail.  The Biblical definition of repentance is to have a change of mind and heart, recognizing our sin, recognizing God’s Provision in Christ, and letting the Holy Spirit renew us, resulting in the changing of our behavior.  For articles exploring this issue more, see “Hebrew Roots Movement – The Perversion of Repentance“, “Repentance For Those In Christ: A One Time Thing or an Every-Time-We-Sin Thing?“, and “Hebrew Roots Movement – Hebrews 10, Willful Sin, No More Sacrifice, and Judgement, Oh My!

* Sanctification and the maintaining of their “salvation” is not in the hands of God, but in their own hands, dependant on their keeping of the Laws of the Old Covenant.  Most in the HRM will try to deny this reality in their belief system, but if you systematically take each of their beliefs and see where they take you, there is no denying that their system of belief is upheld not by the Grace of God, but by the works of man.  I posed the following questions to some HRMers on a forum recently:

Under the Old Covenant, certain laws applied to certain people (encompassing all Israelites, then sub-groups such as male, female, priests, for example). These laws were not optional. If there were laws that applied to you, you had to do ALL of them. To not do them was punishable by expulsion from the community of Israel or death, as was called for in the Law. 

Makes one wonder . . . most in the HRM say that keeping the Law is not required for salvation and that we should keep the Law because we love God and want to please Him . . . yet if Israel did not keep the Law, there was punishment – either expulsion from Israel or death. In that context, does that mean that we can “lose” our salvation for not obeying Mosaic Law? If we “become Israel”, and we fail to “keep” the Law are we then expelled from the community of Israel or worse yet, is the second death re-imposed on us as “law-breakers”? HRMers will say that “oh no, your salvation is not dependent on keeping the Law”, yet the Law itself does not support that claim. You can’t have Law without enforcement. The two go hand in hand. 

One needs to first determine what law one is under before one determines to “do” it. 

In the era after the completed work of Christ, are we under the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses given at Sinai, or the New Covenant, the Law of Christ, the Law of Love, forged in the blood of Christ?

4)  Overcoming objections

The people I’ve come across that were once involved with but are now out of the Hebrew Roots Movement/Messianic Judaism or its sects are not unintelligent people.  As a rule, I have found that their number one goal is to worship God in a manner pleasing to Him, unencumbered by human traditions. (For an ironic twist regarding this desire, see “Doublemindedness in the Hebrew Roots Movement – The Use of Kabbalah and Gemetria”. )

Questions proselytes have had have been addressed with “special knowledge” and “hidden insights” as those in the leadership and laity of the HRM rattle on about linguistics, church history, and the re-working of pivotal doctrines.  Following is a glossary definition I put together to describe one method used by those in the HRM to establish superiority as they endeavor to answer questions/objections:  

Hebrew-isms – Okay, I made that one up.  “Hebrew-isms” is a word I’m putting here to describe how those in the Hebrew Roots Movement choose to speak and communicate matters of theological thought.  Using the Sacred Name(s) exclusively (YHWH/Yeshua), would be one example,  using the Hebrew “Ruach HaKodesh” instead of using English to refer to the Holy Spirit, another. 

Leadership will also use Hebrew instead of English when referencing Bible passages from their own “translations” (see “Hebrew Roots Movement – Messin’ With the Word”) as will laity when exposed long enough to their new paradigm.  The book of “Matthew” becomes “Matityahu”, “John” becomes “Jochanan”, etc.  “Brit Hadashah” is a big one, which means “Renewed Covenant”, not “New Covenant”. [Great article detailing the language errors the HRM engages in to “prove” that the Covenant is “renewed” not “new” can be found HERE.]   

“Renewed Covenant” has the sense of going back to the Law, a renewing of the Old Covenant – not entering into the newness of life that the New Covenant brings.  The vernacular of the details of the Feasts is also an element, not a bad thing in itself, as the Feasts paint a powerful picture of the reality that is in Christ. 

However, all that astute language usage becomes a platform of superiority on which HRM leadership can stand upon above their “students” and on which HRM laity can stand upon above their potential “converts” as they lead them into a Hebrew Roots mindset.  The platform delivers in a couple of ways: 

1) It’s very impressive and gives one the air of superior knowledge and wisdom, enticing the hearer to place unearned and untested respect and weight in the speaker’s words.

2) It can be a diversionary tactic, distracting the hearer from the false doctrine being delivered amidst the flurry of unfamiliar language.

There comes with Hebrew-isms’ platform of superiority the prospect that the speaker does have special insight, secret knowledge, or hidden revelation, that before now, you, Joe Christian, were not privy to in the Church (Body of Christ).  Not only that, but the “truth” was purposefully hidden from you by the Church, corrupted through the ages, and you must rely on your new teachers to enlighten you.

And on all those “Hebrew-isms” they build their false doctrine.  Straight answers are hard to come by. Questions are met with questions.  While they are not prepared with a ready defense of what they believe, they are more often prepared to tear down what you believe, and then replace it with their false doctrine, leaving you nothing but a pile ofrubble to look back on if you question them again. 

You end up becoming so busy looking at the doctrinal rubble that’s been spread on the ground around you, and are so overwhelmed with the possibility that you’ve had it all wrong for so long, that you are exhausted from it all and don’t have the energy to really investigate where this “special knowledge” and “hidden insight” is truly coming from.  To the believer subjected to these techniques, they are unknowingly being beaten down, only to be “rescued” by the lies of the Enemy.

5)  Closing the “sale”

One person I know who came out of the Messianic Christian movement put it this way: “Once you’re in ‘Messy’ “, as she affectionately calls it, “you become convinced that if you don’t keep the Law, you’ll lose your salvation.”

That’s it.  That is the close of the “sale”.  Taking it beyond “If you love God, you’ll keep His commandments”, the Hebrew Roots Movement is reduced to a fear-based belief system:  If you don’t hold up your end, you will die an eternal death.  If you don’t believe me, press those in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements on this issue.  

If your salvation is not dependant on your keeping of the Law, then “keeping” the Law would be optional.  As conversation progresses, you’ll find that in their belief system, the “keeping” of Old Covenant Law is not optional.  And if it’s not optional, where there is law, there must be enforcement and punishment.

It’s a pretty effective close.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Unforgettable Night: My Grandmother’s War Experience During the World War II


This small booklet is a war-time memoir of my beloved grandmother Reiko. She was born in 1929 in Osaka and is now 89 years old. When she was 13 years old, the war broke out between Japan and the USA.

Then, on the night of June 17, 1945 (about two months prior to the Atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the 314th bombardment wing of the Army Air Corps (120 B-29s) dropped 809.6 tons of incendiary and cluster bombs destroying 2.11 square miles (5.46 km) of Kagoshima city  (44.1 percent of the built-up area), where she was living. Within a few hours, well over 2,300 civilians were killed and over 3,500 were seriously injured. Miraculously, my grandmother (16 years old at that time) escaped death that night.

This booklet is neither anti-American nor pro-Japanese. As her granddaughter and as a Christian, I am simply and wholeheartedly pro-Kingdom (Matt.6:33, Phil.3:20). Christ is our “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah.9:6) who has brought eternal reconciliation, forgiveness and true unity to those who believe in Him. Moreover, in Christ, we are now God’s family regardless of our national or cultural differences. This is my prayer that God may use this small booklet for His glory.

Her story

Right after my first English lesson, the war broke out between Japan and the USA. I was a 6th grade elementary student then, and had just learned my first English sentence, “This is a pen.”

The war changed everything. All of a sudden, the English language had become the forbidden language, the language of our “enemy.” Thus, we were strictly forbidden to use foreign words such as “spoon,” “volleyball” or “basketball” etc..

At school, training for boys included hitting wooden horses on which portraits of Roosevelt and Churchill were hung, and in junior high school, included climbing obstacles; meanwhile girls were trained to use bamboo spears and practiced throwing hand grenades.

 Housewives who were practicing bamboo spear training (source)

During World War 2, a war slogan of
"We won't ask for anything until we shall win." circulated in Japan (source).

Luxury is the enemy" is another famous war slogan
in Japan during the WW2 (
Though we were suffering from hunger and malnutrition,
we were not allowed to say anything against the military government.
The newspapers and radios were full of wartime propaganda and lies. 

Great Kagoshima Air Raids (17th June, 1945)

As the war situation deteriorated, many families in Kagoshima city had already evacuated to remote districts, including my own family. However, exactly one day before that fateful night, I was one of the junior high school girls summoned by the Japanese military government to go back and to engage in some mandatory services, such as farming and working in the munition factories.

So, I walked all the way from the small provincial town of Takeno-yama to Kagoshima city by myself and returned to my home, which was situated in the center of Kagoshima city, an area called Tenmon-kan. It was raining hard that day.

Then, on the night of June 17th, 1945, as I was paging through a family album, an air raid siren started to ring loudly and I rushed out of the door to see what was going on outside.

It was a serene, dark night. I looked up at the sky and saw some bright lightning. “Oh, what is that? Fireworks?,” I exclaimed. Ironically, those beautiful flashes were the tools of death called incendiary bombs.  It was the very first time that I had ever seen those bombs.

Seeing the Army Air Corps (120 B-29s) approaching toward us so rapidly, I went inside the house and tried to hide myself in the underground bomb shelter. However, due to the heavy rain of the previous day, our home bomb shelter was flooded and thus I was unable to enter it. For a while, I was hiding in another bomb shelter which was situated at the community center but returned home after some time. “Should I stay at home and try to hide myself in the underground bomb shelter one more time?” I was in great terror and did not know what to do.

At that moment, I heard a strong voice across the street. It was the bicycle shop owner in front of our house and he was shouting, “Reiko chan, don’t stay here. We must get out of here immediately or we will all die.”

Encouraged by his words, I decided to run for my life. The streets were already in flames and full of dead bodies. Many combat pilots were doing strafing runs so low that I could even see their faces.

Then, I reached the basement of the Yamakataya department store. However, it was already so packed with people that it was impossible for me to enter it. So, I ran towards the sea, but, again, the sea was also full of people and many had drowned. “What shall I do?” I kept running for my life. Death was all around me. Then finally, I climbed the hill and reached the Terukuni shrine and sat down at the left side of the torii (a gateway at the entrance to a Shinto shrine). Then, to my terror, I saw from the hill that the whole town was burning. I also saw that the Yamakataya department store had been bombed and burned down.

Later, I heard that those who were hiding in the basement of the department store were all killed. If I had been there with them, I would have been dead for sure.

Kagoshima city right after the Great Kagoshima Air Raids, 1945.
There was nothing but burnt out ruins.(source)

The following morning, the survivors started to walk inside the military tunnels for hours and hours. It was completely dark, each of us had to hold on to the back of the person ahead and thus, we continued on our way. 

Then, after many many hours, I found myself at the gate of the distant country lodging where my family was staying, and entered the house.

There was a rumor in the district that all of the people who were in Kagoshima city last night had been annihilated, and so, my family thought that I had been killed already. Oh, my poor mother! Stricken by unbearable sorrow, she was doing my funeral rites and offering an incense stick at the Buddhist altar!

Then came the 15th  of August, 1945; the day that Japan lost the war. The men in the province were listening to the Emperor’s Gyoku-on Hoso (Imperial Rescript on Surrender) on the radio and I was listening to their conversations from behind a sliding paper-door. The men were talking as follows: “The American army will land here soon and will exterminate us. So, it is more virtuous to kill ourselves than to be slaughtered by the enemy.” “Then, what shall we do with our women and children?” “They shall be raped or killed by the Americans. So it is better to throw all of them into the well and kill them first, and then we men will kill ourselves.”

Just like Okinawa, where countless women and children had already lost their lives by collective suicide, we nearly faced the same tragic fate as well.  

What grieves me most is that so many young souls perished miserably like this during the war time.We had been brainwashed and educated through political propaganda that our sole life's purpose was to live and die for the Emperor, allegedly a living god (arahito-gami). Oh, what a tragedy!

Kamikaze pilots playing with a puppy before their flights, may 1945 [1309x1600]
(above) Kamikaze suicide pilots playing with a puppy
2 hours before their flights, May 1945.
 The boys in the picture were 17-18 years old. (

A Will written by a young boy to his mother."I might not be able to see your face any more on this earth, Mom.Oh Mom, show me your face!
But I don't wanna leave you any "memento."
Because I know that if I do, then, that "memento" shall keep you crying even after 10 or 20 years.
Dear Mom, when I leave Koriyama base, I will fly above our house. 
And this shall be my final farewell to you."

Dear readers, I’d like to testify with all of my heart that war is an absolute evil.

Thank you for reading my story.

13th, June, 2017
Reiko (88 years old)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Christian Worship in the Sanctuary : The Holy Sphere Where Heaven and Earth Meet

We did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth..
We only know that God dwells there among men.
Russian Ambassadors (987), in a report to Prince Vladimir of Kiev, 
upon attending a service at the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople

Now the heavenly host is with us,
And the sun now exults in the sky,
In the azure-blue domes of the temple
Clouds of incense slowly drift by.

Now the King in His splendor and glory
Through the Royal Doors enters unseen.
Our mortal lips offer Him worship,
And with us sing the great Cherubim.

O come, all ye loving and faithful,
Let us prostrate ourselves before Him
So that we may find Christ’s sacred image
In our grey, mournful daily routine.

Now the heavenly host is with us,
And eternally spring does appear.
O, do gaze at life with eyes enlightened:
The perspective of life is so clear!

Now the heavenly host becomes visible
And amidst us the Lord passes through.
The great Cherubim now sing among us,
And the soul becomes peaceful anew.

- V. Utrenev, Now the heavenly host is with us,
translated by Natalia Sheniloff (source)

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Mercy of Peace A Sacrifice of Praise

Image result for dawn sky pink

A Mercy of Peace A Sacrifice of Praise
And to thy spirit
Meet and right it is
We Lift them to the Lord
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoath, 
heaven and earth are full of thy Glory, 
Hosanna in the Highest, 
blessed is the name of the Lord Hosanna in the Highest
Amen x2
We Hymn thee, We bless thee, 
We give thanks to thee O Lord, and 
we entreat thee O our God

in English

in Church Slavonic

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Lord, Have Mercy." [Prayer and Lamentation]

Christ's prayer on Oelber, 1468 - Carlo Crivelli
Christ's Prayer (source)


Lord, I mourn about my sinning
That caused You, Lord, such pain.
It brought You grievous suff'ring;
I sinned and sinned again.
I'm only just beginning
My depths of sin to see,
And thank You for forgiving
A sinner such as me. 

Of all the prayers that I know,
All prayers sung or read aloud –
One prayer breathes with brilliant strength,
The wondrous prayer “Lord have mercy”!

A single plea it does contain –
I ask the All-compassionate God
To save me with His awesome might,
And so I call out: “Lord have mercy”!

I sail the turbulent sea of life,
I meet with joy and poignant sorrow.
What power saves me from the storms?
The wondrous prayer “Lord have mercy”!

When tears of deep despair I weep,
And dreams of passion overwhelm me –
Then with especial strength of heart
I keep on crying: “Lord have mercy”!

And as you end your life on earth,
My soul, continue with this prayer
Beyond the grave, keep up your plea
Of hope eternal: “Lord have mercy”!

Translated from Russian by Natalia Sheniloff (source)

Zarzma monastery Friars -  God Forgive Us (in Georgian)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Down in Adoration Falling (Tantum Ergo) by Thomas Aquinas

Related image

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from Each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might, and endless majesty.

-Thomas Aquinas (1225-74)

"Tantum Ergo" is the incipit of the last two verses of Pange Lingua, a Medieval Latin hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas c. 1264.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui: Et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui: Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui. Genitori, Genitoque Laus et jubilatio, Salus, honor, virtus quoque sit et benedictio: Procedenti abutroque compar sit laudatio. Amen

Friday, May 11, 2018

Chant in Christian Liturgy: Not Private But Public Order of Things

Dmitry Levin - Winter's river

Then, in another lovely antiphonal exchange, minister and people said, “Praise ye the Lord,” “The Lord’s name be praised.” At St. Andrew’s this exchange was sung, or rather chanted, as were all of the canticles and psalms.

If someone had asked me ahead of time about chant, I would, I think, have had an objection ready. Chant is analogous to Tibetan prayer wheels. The heathen chant. A chant is a monotonous, artificial, repetitious sequence of notes imposed on a text. It has the net effect of throttling whatever life there might have been in the text to begin with.

But here were evangelicals chanting! And not only that, I discovered that the chant tunes were beautiful beyond anything I had ever dreamed. They were extremely simple tunes, and indeed they were repetitious. A great number of words might be sung on one note before you moved on to the next. But the effect, far from throttling the texts, lifted them into what seemed the joyful solemnity of heaven itself. To the objection that to impose a rigorous meter and melody on biblical texts was to slay them, these people would have pointed us to hymns.

There one finds highly stylized words set to rigorous melodies in exact meters. But all of us find that somehow the life of the words is thereby enhanced, not quelled. The structure is the midwife, so to speak.

Chant carries this phenomenon a step further than ordinary hymns do. It eschews the great sweep of melody available to hymns. Its thrift is its genius. Like a very simple frame around a picture, or an almost invisible setting for a diamond, it sets the text up and permits it to speak, or rather, to sing. The psalms, after all, were made for singing. Scottish meter is one way of perpetuating this, but it carries Hebrew poetry into the modern idiom of iambic tetrameter and trimeter. Chant, on the other hand, stays somewhat closer to the genius of the Hebrew, which depended on balance and repetition for its effect.

Gregorian chant, which is infinitely more austere even than the Anglican chant that I learned to sing at St. Andrew’s carries things even further. To an untrained ear it sounds artificial in the extreme, and so it is. But artifice is a very noble thing. God Himself appointed artificers and craftsmen to make cunning things for His own Tabernacle. Real craftsmanship, far from doing violence to them, works the materials so that their own properties are released. 

Gregorian chant, in its subtle austerity, performs this service for biblical texts. Whereas we commonly hear them read aloud by an individual who invests the words and phrases with his own rhetorical interpretation high-blown or understated, allegretto or largo, Gregorian chant lifts the texts away from this private milieu and arrays them, simply, out there, where we may encounter them the way we see the stars glittering on a clear night or hear the music of Bach so utterly satisfying to our deepest imaginings. Chant belongs to the public, not the private, order of things. Very few Christians will want to chant their private prayers, and this is as it should be.

excerpts from Thomas Howard, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament, Ignatius, 1984

Antiphony in Christian Liturgy: Echoes of the Very Rhythms of Heaven

The Concert of Angels, 1534-36 Ferrari, Gaudenzio Singing Book
In the liturgical space, everything becomes meaningful.

The phrase worship experience missed the point. Worship, in the ancient tradition, was not thought of as an experience at all; it was an act. Or, if there was an experience, that part of it was a mere corollary to the main point. At St. Andrew’s the people had come together to make the act of worship. They had come to do something, not to get something. They had not come to a meeting. 

Several things testified to this. For a start, no one spoke of the church “auditorium,” as though it were a place one went to hear something. It was not an auditorium. Meetings did not occur here; an act occurred here. Furthermore, the vicar hardly ever addressed the congregation directly during the act of worship. 

Most of the time he could be seen kneeling at a small prie-dieu to one side of the chancel (the section of the church at the front, narrower than the nave and up some steps, that lies between the nave and the altar), facing across the front of the church, sideways to the congregation. He did not greet us, and he did not smile at us. No attempt was made to create a feeling of familiarity or welcome. And yet it was a vastly warm and friendly church. There was nothing cold or stiff there at all. These people were evangelicals.

Clearly, whatever it was that was happening did not depend in the smallest degree on atmosphere nor on the minister’s establishing any sort of contact with the congregation. The notion of group dynamics would have seemed grotesque, irrelevant, and embarrassing. We in the congregation were not auditors, nor spectators, nor recipients. 

We had come to this place to offer something to God, namely, the sacrifice of praise. I came to realize that there was more than a mere difference in phraseology between this and what I had always thought of as worship. There was a difference in vision. 

The vicar would begin with a scriptural bidding, directing our attention to the Most High. So far all was smooth sailing for me. I was familiar with this approach. But then he would say, “The Lord be with you,” and we would respond, “And with thy spirit.” 

What was this rote formula? I wondered. It was an exchange that occurred again and again during the service. It seemed quaint at best and possibly gratuitous; the Lord is already with both of our spirits. Why this vocal wish for the obvious? 

What I did not know was that this was a formula that reaches back certainly to the beginnings of Christian worship and possibly further. It builds into the very structure of the act of worship itself the glorious antiphons of charity that ring back and forth in heaven and all across the cosmos, among all the creatures of God. 

It is charity, greeting the other and wishing that other one well. In its antiphonal (“responsive”) character it echoes the very rhythms of heaven. Deep calls to deep. Day answers to night. Mountain calls to valley. One angel calls to another. Love greets love. The place of God’s dwelling rings with these joyful antiphons of charity. Hell hates this. It can only hiss, Out of my way, fool. But heaven says, The Lord be with you. This is what was said to us in the Incarnation. This is what the Divine Love always says. 

In the act of worship we on earth begin to learn the script of heaven. The phraseology has very little to do with how we may be feeling at the moment. It does not spring from us spontaneously. We must learn to say it. It is unnatural for us, the way learning a polite greeting is unnatural for a child. But to the objection that we should leave the child to express himself in his own way we would all point out the obvious, that that sort of naturalness and spontaneity is a poor, poor thing and that the discipline of learning something else is both an enrichment and a liberation. 

Antiphony deepens the shallow pool of our personal resources and sets us free from the prison of our own meager capacity to respond adequately in a given situation. Rather than mumbling fitfully, we learn to say the formula, “How do you do?” or “The Lord be with you,” and having learned it, we have stepped from solipsism into community. We have begun to take our appointed places among other selves.

excerpts from Thomas Howard, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament, Ignatius, 1984 by Thomas Howard. (*Mr. Thomas is a brother of Elizabeth Elliot.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Let My Prayer Arise : Praying and Singing Psalm 141:1-4 [Psalms in Christian Liturgy]

Psalm 141:1-4 (LXX 140:1-4)

1 Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.
2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.

in English

in Church Slavonic

in English (Psalm 141-142, Psalm 130, Psalm 117)