Sunday, August 12, 2018

About the "line" or "boundaries" (by G.K. Chesterton)

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"Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere."

--G.K. Chesterton

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"Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up."

--G.K. Chesterton

Merely having an open mind is nothing. 
The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, 
is to shut it again on something solid.”

--G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

He who fully gave his heart and soul unto God's will

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He who fully gave his heart
 And soul unto God’s will,
 Has found forever in himself
 The peace of inner still.

He realized that the greatest Mind
 Rules over our world,
 And nothing in the entire universe
 Has been forgotten by Him.

That even the smallest blade of grass
 Which in the prairie grows,
 Not of itself, but with God’s might
 Does sprout and gently flower.

And everywhere he hears a voice –
 The voice of the Creator,
 That without God not even a hair
 Will fall from His creation.

Translated from Russian by Natalia Sheniloff (source)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Deep, Deep At Rest


He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.(Isaiah 40:11, KJV)

O God, a world of empty show,
 Dark wilds of restless, fruitless quest
 Lie round me wheresoe'er I go:

Within, with Thee, is rest.
 And sated with the weary sum
 Of all men think, and hear, and see,
 O more than mother's heart, I come,
 A tired child to Thee.

Sweet childhood of eternal life!
 Whilst troubled days and years go by,
 In stillness hushed from stir and strife,
 Within Thine Arms I lie.

Thine Arms, to whom I turn and cling
 With thirsting soul that longs for Thee;
 As rain that makes the pastures sing,
 Art Thou, my God, to me.

--Gerhard Tersteegen, At Rest

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Prayer For Solace

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Knowing deep inside that 
thou art leaving from thy familiar place
and yet oh, poor soul, 
thee knoweth not wh're thou art heading
n'r wh're to findeth earthly solace.

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lead, kindly, Light, amid th' encircling gloom by John Henry Newman

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Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;

I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.

So long Thy pow’r has blest me, sure it still
Wilt lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,

And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

John H. Newman, 1833

The Trisagion: An Ancient Prayer in Christianity

Old Testament Trinity icon by Andrey Rublev, c. 1400 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

The Trisagion prayer is an ancient prayer in Christianity. It may be that the prayer was originally an expansion of the angelic cry recorded in Isaiah ch 6, v 3 (sometimes called the Sanctus) or the one at Revelation 4:8.

Святы́й Бо́же, Святы́й кре́пкий, Святы́й безсме́ртный, помилуй насъ. (трижды)

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

γιος Θεός, γιος Ισχυρός, γιος Αθάνατος, λέησον μς (τρίς)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

O Gladsome Light (Φῶς ἱλαρὸν) : Indescribable Beauty of the Ancient Christian Hymn

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O Gladsome Light of the holy glory of 
the immortal, heavenly, holy, blessed Father, 
O Jesus Christ: 
Having come to the setting of the sun, 
having beheld the evening light, 
we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God. 
Meet it is for Thee at all times to be hymned with reverent voices, 
O Son of God, Giver of life. 
Wherefore, the world doth glorify Thee.

Phos Hilaronς λαρν) is one of the most ancient Christian hymns. It was originally written in Koine Greek. The hymn was first recorded in the Apostolic Constitutions (source), which was written in the late 3rd or early 4th century AD, and is still being sung by Christians today. See how it is sung by Valaam monastery monks. So simple, profound and absolutely beautiful! 

another English translation
O Gladsome Light of the holy glory / of the Immortal Father, / heavenly, holy, blessed, O Jesus Christ.Having Come to sunset / and beholding the evening light, we hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: God. Meet it is at all times that thou be hymned / with fitting voices, O Son of God, thou Giver of Life; wherefore the world doth glorify thee.

original Greek (Koine)
Φς λαρν γίας δόξης θανάτου Πατρός, ορανίου, γίου, μάκαρος, ησο Χριστέ, λθόντες π τν λίου δύσιν, δόντες φς σπερινόν, μνομεν Πατέρα, Υόν, κα γιον Πνεμα, Θεόν. ξιόν σε ν πσι καιρος μνεσθαι φωνας ασίαις, Υἱὲ Θεο, ζων διδούς· δι κόσμος σ δοξάζει.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Feminist Gekokujō : A Human-Centered Attempt to Rename God and To Make God Obey Her

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"To exist humanly is to name the self, the world, and God."

--Mary Daly (1928-2010), a Feminist theologian

"Gekokujo" (下剋上) is a Japanese word meaning "low overcoming high". It refers to when the people lower down in a hierarchy rise up and overthrow those above them. Rebellions, mutinies, and populist uprisings are all gekokujo.(source)


LONDON — A group of female priests with the Church of England have moved for the denomination to start referring to God as a “she” during the weekly liturgy, stating that to make mention of God solely in the male pronoun is sexist.

According to reports, the group Women and the Church (WATCH), which was behind the push to allow women to serve as bishops in the denomination, is now in talks with the Liturgical Commission for a change in the pronoun used during services when speaking of God. The group says that to refer to God in the masculine devalues women.

from the Women and the Church (WATCH) homepage

When we used only male language we reinforce the idea that God is like a man and, in doing so, suggest that men are therefore more like God than women,” member Emma Percy, who leads services at Trinity College in Oxford, said in a statement. “If we take seriously the idea that men and women are made in the image of God, both male and female language should be used.”

Jody Stowell of St. Michael’s Harrow told that referring to the divine in only masculine terms also places limits on the revelation of God’s character.

Orthodox theology says all human beings are made in the image of God, that God does not have a gender. He encompasses gender. He is both male and female and beyond male and female,” she said. “So when we only speak of God in the male form, that’s actually giving us a deficient understanding of who God is.”

Percy said that the move was presented at this point in time because of changes in the denomination surrounding women.

[The proposal] caught the imagination now because we’ve got women bishops, so in a sense the church has accepted that women are equally valued in God’s sight and can represent God at all levels,” she explained. “In the last two or three years we’ve seen a real resurgence and interest in feminism, and younger people are much more interested in how gender categories shouldn’t be about stereotypes.”

We want to encourage people to be freer, and we want to get the Liturgical Commission to understand that people are actually quite open to this and there is room for richer language to be used,” Percy said.

Reports state that some congregations are already referring to God as “mother” or “she” during services.



WASHINGTON — The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. voted on Saturday to stop using “gendered pronouns” for God in future revisions of its Book of Common Prayer and to “remove all obstacles” for “transgender” participation in church life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities accessible to those who identify as the opposite sex.

Resolved … that the 79th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, if revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God,” the resolution read.

It was passed by a show of hands during the 123rd Convention of the Washington Diocese with only a few opposed, according to Strategic Communications Director Richard Wosson Weinberg.

While other Christian denominations have embraced more comprehensive language for God, The Episcopal Church has chosen to use masculine pronouns when referring to the first and third person of the Trinity. This choice has had a profound impact on our understanding of God. Our current gender roles shape and limit our understanding of God,” the diocese said in an explanation of the resolution.

By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God,” it continued. “Our new Book of Common Prayer needs to reflect the language of the people and our society. This resolution assumes that the authors of our new Book of Common Prayer will continue in the long tradition of beautiful poetic language. However, this beautiful language should not be limited by gendered pronouns when avoidable.”

According to reports, delegate Linda Calkins of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Laytonsville, Maryland wanted the diocese to go a step further as she held a copy of “The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation” and asked when the version would be utilized.

She read from Genesis 17, in which the “Inclusive Bible” referred to God as “El Shaddai.”

[I]f we are going to be true to what El Shaddai means, it means God with breasts,” Calkins claimed.

The diocese also stated that its resolution surrounding those with gender dysphoria was to ensure that those who live as the opposite sex feel welcomed as fellow Christians.

Transgender Christians are searching for a connection with God within a loving community where they can worship and work for equality and justice. Unfortunately, many transgender people are too often left without a place to worship because congregations are not ready to welcome them as their Christian companions,” it asserted. “Fixed boundaries of gender identity are being challenged and churches need to respond.”

The resolution, in addition to decrying violence against “transgender” persons, also urged “all parishes to remove all obstacles to full participation in congregational life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible, regardless of gender identity and expression.”

The measure was stated to have passed without dissent.

As previously reported, in 2015, when a group of women known as WATCH moved for the Church of England to start referring to God as a “she” during the weekly liturgy, stating that to make mention of God solely in the male pronoun is sexist, some expressed strong opposition.

Referring to God as ‘mother’ drives a horse and cart through Scripture. Such an innovation is guaranteed to split the C of E as never before,” wrote Damian Thompson in the Daily Mail.

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned us that the church could be extinct in 25 years’ time unless services become more spiritually fulfilling. Calling God ‘she’ will not achieve that fulfillment,” he stated. “The proposed twist of language will do nothing to stop the decline of Christian faith in this country. On the contrary, it will make worshippers squirm. And nothing empties pews faster than that.”

1 John 4:14 reads, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Jesus also said in John 15:26, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Why did C.S. Lewis think that "Contemporary Free Worship" was impossible for him?


C.S. Lewis is a beloved author among Christians around the world. His popular works of children’s fantasy, Christian apologetics, theology, allegory, science fiction, devotional works, as well as his less familiar but equally profound works on literature are sold by the millions. 

But many Christians don’t consider that C.S. Lewis not only worshipped with a liturgy (the Book of Common Prayer) but was a strong proponent of liturgical worship. The same service we use here at Saint Francis nourished Lewis on a daily basis as he employed its daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in both public and private worship, and as he frequently participated in the service of Holy Communion. 

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Lewis not only fed his own spiritual life using the framework of a Biblical and beautiful liturgy, he thought that a fixed liturgy was vital to healthy worship. Some assert that a prescribed service stifles devotion. Lewis celebrated the fixed nature of the service precisely because it sets our hearts free to pray and to worship

In a letter to a friend dated April 1, 1952, Lewis wrote: 

“The advantage of a fixed form of service is that we know what is coming. Extempore public prayer has this difficulty: we don’t know whether we can mentally join in it until we’ve heard it—it might be phony or heretical. We are therefore called upon to carry on a critical and a devotional activity at the same moment: two things hardly compatible. In a fixed form we ought to have ‘gone through the motions’ before in our private prayers: the rigid form really sets our devotions free.” 

The rigid form sets our devotions free! Try it, you may find that it’s true. Prayers and Psalms from the Bible, and written prayers that draw deeply from the rich soil of the history of the people of God can become a springboard for our hearts to rise up to God without distraction. But other distractions are also removed by a fixed liturgy which takes us to the essence of the Faith: 

“I also find the more rigid it is, the easier it is to keep one’s thoughts from straying. Also it prevents any service getting too completely eaten up by whatever happens to be the preoccupation of the moment (a war, an election, or what not). The permanent shape of Christianity shows through. I don’t see how the extempore method can help becoming provincial and I think it has a great tendency to direct attention to the minister rather than to God.” 

The modern American church celebrates novelty as an indication of spontaneity and vibrancy. Lewis valued liturgy for the very reason that it eradicates novelty. Novelty is narcissistic. Novelty turns our focus upon what we are doing, and away from God. In his book Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, he writes: 

“Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don't go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it ‘works’ best— when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. 
  As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about the worship is a different thing from worshipping . . .
  ‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.’ A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was ‘Feed my sheep’; not ‘Try experiments on my rats’, or even, ‘Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’” 

These are words which our contemporary church culture would do well to consider.

Common Prayer, Or Predictable Politics? by Dr. Carl R. Trueman [Gender-inclusive Issue]

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Carl R. Trueman (born 1967) is a Christian theologian and church historian. He is a Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.[1] Trueman will join the faculty at Grove City College as a full professor in the Department of Biblical and Religious studies beginning in the Fall 2018. 


As Western society continues its relentless purge of the pre-political, the body count keeps mounting. Yesterday's harmless activity—say, boys-only scouting—is tomorrow’s act of cisgendered heteronormative patriarchal oppression of the Other. Like some dreaded mutating bacillus, the political slowly but surely absorbs—and spoils—everything.

I was reminded of this recently when I was given as a gift the Folio Society’s edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Like all Folio Society volumes, the Prayer Book is a thing of beauty. 

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The Folio Society: The Book of Common Prayer

And though the Prayer Book was, at least historically for my Presbyterian tradition, an instrument of social control through its imposition by the Act of Uniformity in 1662 (and thus scarcely pre-political in practical application), its content reflects a form of Christianity that ultimately reflected not so much the politics of Reformation England as the basic elements of historic Christianity and of earthly existence. 

Those elements include the God of the catholic creeds, and human life bookended by birth and death and lived in world full of the joys and sorrows, drudgery and delights, of ordinary, universal human experiences—love, marriage, illness, bereavement. There are services and prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that address all of these hardy perennials, connecting them to the Trinitarian God revealed in Jesus Christ.

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That, I suspect, is one reason why the basics of the Prayer Book stayed in place for so long, with revisions being for many generations of the minor sort. Consensus on the fundamentals remained steady, and the changes were accordingly cosmetic. 

By contrast, the last century has witnessed liturgical change after liturgical change wrought by the various Anglican and Episcopal groupings around the world. None of these changes, as far as I can tell, embodies anything like significant improvement in either prose style or theological content. Tracing the revisions would no doubt prove a fruitful, if depressing, topic for a Ph.D. thesis, as the revisions witness to an age of restlessness and shortsighted obsession with the latest fads.

One of the reasons for this is surely that Christian liturgy—and God himself—have become victims of the abolition of the pre-political: Even those universals of human existence mentioned above—birth, sex, death—have become the political issues of the day via abortion, LGBTQ rights, and euthanasia. For the postcolonial mindset, to hold to a traditional liturgy that refuses to play the games of a pan-politicized world is to take a political position. 

And so traditional liturgy comes under relentless pressure to conform to the latest piety of the dominant political lobbying groups. When politics is everything, God loses his awesome transcendence and human beings take center stage. And the momentary afflictions of the professional victims displace the eternal weight of God’s glory. Historic, biblical Christianity thus becomes irrelevant—no, worse: It becomes the instrument of oppression.

That is why it is no surprise to see that the Episcopal Church in the USA is doing what it does best: planning to screw up the faith of its people yet further by eliminating gendered language about God from the liturgy. 

Episcopal Diocese Votes to Avoid Using 'Gendered Pronouns'
for God in Book of Common Prayer
(Christian News Network), Feb. 2018

It is pulling off the remarkable hat trick of demonstrating profound ignorance about how God-language works, reinforcing the denomination’s divorce from anything resembling historic Christianity, and making itself yet again into a rather insipid and irrelevant tool of the liberal political establishment whose approval it apparently craves. Added to this, we might also anticipate the multiple crimes against graceful prose and theological sanity that such linguistic abominations as “Godself,” represent and which will no doubt pervade the final product.

The Folio Society edition of the Book of Common Prayer is made to last, with high-quality paper beautifully typeset, illustrated, and bound. Its beauty reflects the content of the Prayer Book itself. Its underlying concern is not with the vicissitudes of life considered in themselves, but with those vicissitudes set within the context of a sovereign and glorious God. 

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Its religion is not the effete therapy of our age of victimhood, nor the lazy clichés of contemporary politics. It is the religion of historic Christianity, and both the Prayer Book’s form and its content reflect that. That is why it has no need to strive for relevance. 

And that is why it is good to have an edition that might still be read by my great-grandchildren in a hundred years time. Whatever else they may face in life, my descendants will still be experiencing birth, love, joy, sickness, death. And the God they worship will still be the same.

By contrast, the Episcopal Church can quite safely print its revised Prayer Book as a cheap paperback with a glued spine. Or better still, have it ring-bound. After all, who knows what demands the political class will be making for additions to or subtractions from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints by this time next week?


related article:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Psalm 146:1-10 (LXX 145:1-10) ; A beautiful chant in Romanian (Bekhit Fahim)

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Romanian landscape

Psalm 146:1-10 (LXX 145:1-10)

1. Laudă, suflete al meu, pe Domnul.
Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

2. Lăuda-voi pe Domnul în viaţa mea, cânta-voi Dumnezeului meu cât voi trăi.
While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

3. Nu vă încredeţi în cei puternici, în fiii oamenilor, în care nu este izbăvire. 
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

4. Ieşi-va duhul lor şi se vor întoarce în pământ. În ziua aceea vor pieri toate gândurile lor.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

6. Cel ce a făcut cerul şi pământul, marea şi toate cele din ele; Cel ce păzeşte adevărul în veac;
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

7. Cel ce face judecată celor năpăstuiţi, Cel ce dă hrană celor flămânzi. Domnul dezleagă pe cei ferecaţi în obezi;
Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners:

8. Domnul îndreaptă pe cei gârboviţi, Domnul înţelepţeşte orbii, Domnul iubeşte pe cei drepţi;
The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:

9. Domnul păzeşte pe cei străini; pe orfani şi pe văduvă va sprijini şi calea păcătoşilor o va pierde.
The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10. Împărăţi-va Domnul în veac, Dumnezeul tău, Sioane, în neam şi în neam.
The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.

A young Orthodox nun <3

The Lord upholdeth all that fall.

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Psalm 145:14-17 (KJV)
14 The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.
15 The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.
16 Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.