Friday, December 28, 2012

The Russian Church establishes a new commemoration of Ss. Peter and Febronia of Murom


What follows is a Google translation that I have cleaned up as best as I could, but there may be some minor errors. Fr. Michael van Opstall kindly provided a translation of the petitions.

JOURNAL № 129

CONSIDERED the establishment of an additional day to commemorate the wonder workers Holy Prince Peter (in monasticism, David) and Princess Fevronia (in monasticism, Euphrosyne), of Murom.

Information:

The celebration of the Holy Prince Peter and Princess Fevronia of Murom on July 8 (June 25 by the Julian calendar), falls during the Fast of Ss. Peter and Paul . In this regard, the Council of Bishops on February 4th, 2011, instructed the liturgical commission "to consider an additional date for the commemoration of the Holy Prince Peter and Princess Fevronia of Murom, referring to the desire of many Christians to be married on the day honoring these patrons of marriage" (paragraph 17, of the "On matters of internal life and external activities of the Russian Orthodox Church").In examining the issue, it was noted that an additional day of commemoration of Saints Peter and Fevronia could be installed on the 20th of January (the transfer of the relics of the saints from the Murom Museum of the Annunciation Monastery in Murom) or September 19th (transfer of the relics from the Annunciation Monastery to the Holy Trinity convent Murom.). The Commission of the Inter-Council on worship and religious art, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, discussed the issue, and recommended that in conjunction with the celebration of the memory of St. Peter and Fevronia, there also be additional petitions to be done at the augmented litany of Divine Liturgy, and that preaching on this day be devoted to the Christian doctrine of family and marriage.

RESOLVED:

1. To establish an additional day for the commemoration of the Holy wonder workers Prince Peter (in monasticism, David) and Princess Fevronia (in monasticism Euphrosyne) of Murom on the Sunday preceding the September 19 (September 6 by the Julian calendar), in remembrance of transferring their fair bodies in the year 1992.

2. In conjunction with the commemoration of Saints Peter and Fevronia, clergy preach on the subject of pious Christian family values.

3. Also on this occasion, to add to the augmented litany of the Divine Liturgy the following petitions:

Again we pray that Thy people would keep this commandment: what God has joined, let not man put asunder, and that He would give their home churches indestructible strength and increase in love unfeigned;

Again we pray for the preservation of the marriages of Thy servants, in peace and concord, piety and purity;

Again we pray that Thy people may rejoice to see sons and daughters, and that our people would multiply and inherit Thy blessing from generation to generation.

4. That the Synodal liturgical commission submit to the Holy Synod by April 1, 2013 a prayer to be read at the end of the Divine Liturgy in memory of the days of Ss. Peter and Fevronia, for the multiplication of love, strengthening of families, and the faithful preservation of the gift of chastity in those not married and to help them prepare for their entry into family life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hammer Control?


Many are arguing that Wayne LaPierre argued that violent movies and violent video games share some of the blame for the recent school shooting in Connecticut, that he was undercutting the traditional argument that "Gun's don't kill people, people kill people". The problem with that observation is that guns are tools, just like hammers are tools. Movies and Video Games are mediums, and mediums communicate information. If we have lots of video games in which people went around cracking people's skulls with hammers, and we had movies that glorified killing people with hammers, we would probably see a rise in murders committed with hammers. If we did, hammers would not share equal blame with those movies and video games.... hammers are tools, which can be put to either good or bad uses. The answer is not hammer control, or limiting the size and weight of hammers.

Human beings have a natural aversion to killing other human beings. You have to train a person to kill another person. Guns cannot train anyone, and neither can hammers. Movies and video games can train people.

As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman observed in his article "Trained to Kill", without training, human beings are very ineffective killers:

"In more modern times, the average firing rate was incredibly low in Civil War battles. Paddy Griffith demonstrates that the killing potential of the average Civil War regiment was anywhere from five hundred to a thousand men per minute. The actual killing rate was only one or two men per minute per regiment (The Battle Tactics of the American Civil War). At the Battle of Gettysburg, of the 27,000 muskets picked up from the dead and dying after the battle, 90 percent were loaded. This is an anomaly, because it took 95 percent of their time to load muskets and only 5 percent to fire. But even more amazingly, of the thousands of loaded muskets, over half had multiple loads in the barrel--one with 23 loads in the barrel. In reality, the average man would load his musket and bring it to his shoulder, but he could not bring himself to kill. He would be brave, he would stand shoulder to shoulder, he would do what he was trained to do; but at the moment of truth, he could not bring himself to pull the trigger. So, he lowered the weapon and loaded it again. Of those who did fire, only a tiny percentage fired to hit. The vast majority fired over the enemy's head."

However, with training, people can become killing machines:

The Japanese were masters at using classical conditioning with their soldiers. Early in World War II, Chinese prisoners were placed in a ditch on their knees with their hands bound behind them. And one by one, a select few Japanese soldiers would go into the ditch and bayonet "their" prisoner to death. This is a horrific way to kill another human being. Up on the bank, countless other young soldiers would cheer them on in their violence. Comparatively few soldiers actually killed in these situations, but by making the others watch and cheer, the Japanese were able to use these kinds of atrocities to classically condition a very large audience to associate pleasure with human death and suffering. Immediately afterwards, the soldiers who had been spectators were treated to sake, the best meal they had had in months, and to so-called comfort girls. The result? They learned to associate committing violent acts with pleasure. The Japanese found these kinds of techniques to be extraordinarily effective at quickly enabling very large numbers of soldiers to commit atrocities in the years to come. Operant conditioning (which we will look at shortly) teaches you to kill, but classical conditioning is a subtle but powerful mechanism that teaches you to like it.

Violent movies and video games train people to kill. That doesn't mean that everyone who watches violent movies or plays Halo is going to kille 20 little kids, but those things do make you capable of shooting another human being in a way that people in the Civil War were not, even though they all had access to guns.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Computer Based Bible Study... for Free

For those who may not have a good library of Biblical Reference texts, there is actually quite a bit of useful resources that are available for free, online.

1. The Bible Gateway is a very useful website. It has numerous English translations available. To get the best use of that site, you will want to go to the preferences link on the left hand menu, select the default translation that you would like to use, and you can choose to include translations that have the deuterocanonical books (which Orthodox Christians would want to do). I would recommend using the New King James Version as your default translation, but if you are wanting to search the deuterocanonical books, you can switch to the Douay-Rheims translation.

Some of the additional features of this website include the ability to listen to recordings of the Bible being read. The option will only appear if you are using a translation that has such a recording on the website, which in English would be the ESV, KJV, or NIV, but they also have Spanish, Chinese, and a few other languages available. Once you have pulled up a text, there are two other options worth using. One is to pull up a parallel translation. For example, you could compare two English translations. You could have the English on one side, and the Greek or Hebrew text on the other. You could also have the English and just about any other language up for comparison, such as Russian, or Arabic. There is also a "Show Resources" hyperlink on the right, and that will pull up some commentaries and Bible Dictionary entries that apply to the passage you are looking at.

2. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library is also a great resource. It has the Ante-Nicene, and Nicene, Post-Nicene Fathers collection, which include a number of Patristic commentaries, especially those of St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine. But if you go to their main page, one of the options at the bottom of the page is "Study a Bible Passage." If you click on that link, and on the left side, select the book of the Bible you want to study, and then select the chapter, it will pull up Matthew Henry's commentary on the right side, but if you click on the "MHC Commentary" link, you will see that it is a drop down menu. If you then select "References", if will then pull up a list of references to every text that they have on their site, which will include links to the Church Fathers, including those that are not commentaries per se, but which in many cases will have comments on the passage you are looking at (you will at least see that the Father in question made some reference to that text). In many cases those references may not be helpful, because the reference to your passage was only a brief allusion... but in other cases you will find very useful commentary. You will also occasionally see St. John of Kronstadt's "My Life in Christ" among the references.

3. The E-Sword is a free downloadable program that I have been finding very useful. Once you download the program itself, you can then select the reference material that you also want to download. There is a huge amount of this material that is free, because the texts are public domain. Here is what I would recommend you download:

Translations:

The American Standard Version
The Brenton Septuagint
The Douay-Rheims Bible
The English Majority Text Version
The English Standard Version
The King James Version
The King James Version (w/ Strongs Numbers)
The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
The Revised Version
The World English Bible with Apocrypha
Young's Literal Translation

If you know Greek and/or Hebrew, you can download the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint Greek text, and the Greek New Testament (which has several options, but I would recommend the Robinson/Pierpont Byzantine Greek New Testament).

Commentaries:

Adam Clarke's Commentary
Keil & Delitzch Commentary on the Old Testament
Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible
Vincent Word Studies
The Pulpit Commentary
Treasury of David
Alexander MacLaren's Commentary
Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Dictionaries:

Brown-Driver-Brigg's Hebrew Definitions
Nave's Topical Bible
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Strong's Bible Dictionary
Thayer's Greek Definitions

Among many other things you can do with this program, is if you switch the text you are looking at to the King James Version with the Strong's reference numbers, you can then look at the Hebrew or Greek word that is behind the translation, and get a detailed definition of the word and comments on its various uses in Scripture.

You can also download some E-Sword compatible reference material at a cost, but a cost far less than buying the hard copy versions -- most notably the Ancient Christian Commentary Series.

4. The Blue Letter Bible is a web site that has some of the same content as the Bible Gateway and E-Sword, but is not one that I have personally used a lot. There is also a Blue Letter Bible App that has much the same content.

5. There are also some useful Smart Phone Apps:

The best single Bible App I have found so far is the You Version, from LifeChurch.tv. You can read the Bible in just about any English translation, or in most other languages. You can also listen to audio files of many of the translations. The Bible Gateway App is also worth considering. The Blue Letter Bible App provides a lot more in the way of study helps, but if your primary interest in having a Bible App is in reading or listening to the text, I think the YouVersion is better.

There are many other reference books worth getting, but free is hard to beat.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Torah! Torah! Torah!


The Torah Scroll

The Fathers say that the two tables of the the Law of Moses were divided according to the two great commandments: 1) To love God; and 2) To love your neighbor.

Here are sermons on the first table of the Law:

1st Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. (12/11/2011)

2nd Commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any idols. For this commandment, there are two sermons: one on what it does not mean (3/4/2012), and one on what it does mean (10/21/2012).

3rd commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (8/26/2012).

4th Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (9/16/2012).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mass Shootings and Cultural Decay



This is a sermon reflecting on the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, but the comments are applicable to the shootings of today as well:

Click here to listen

Delivered on 7/22/2012.

Update: The shooter was allegedly a "Goth" who suffered from some personality disorder. This disorder is becoming an epidemic: Spiritual-Deficiency-Disorder.

You should also read "Trained to Kill", by military psychologist Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God



A homily on Matthew 6:33, on the subject of putting God first in your life:

Click here to listen.

Delivered on 7/3/2011.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

What remains from a persons life?


A sermon reflecting on the legacy we leave when we die, given on 8/5/2012, and reflecting on the repose of my mother.

Click here to listen.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Gospel of the Virgin Mary


The Wedding at Cana

St. Nikolai Velimirovic has uncovered the Gospel of the Virgin Mary. Listen for details by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Search the Scriptures: Excellence in Podcasting


One of the best podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio is without a doubt "Search the Scriptures", and in her last 4 posts, Dr. Eugenia Constantinou illustrates why.

Recently there was some buzz in the media about some ancient manuscript that allegedly gave evidence that Christ was married. Presbytera Eugenia  nukes this in two podcasts:

Was Jesus Married, Part 1

Was Jesus Married, Part 2

And her most recent 2 podcasts, she thoroughly deals with the question of the Virgin Birth, and Isaiah 7:14:

Isaiah 7, part 1

Isaiah 7, part 2

And she's not done with Isaiah 7 yet.

There is so much misinformation that is circulated by people who generally don't know what they are talking about -- especially people in the media -- and when people hear things like this that challenge the integrity of the Scriptures and the Christian Faith, but don't know how to answer them, many people are seriously shaken. We are very fortunate to have a scholar like Dr. Eugenia Constantinou that not only knows what she's talking about, but is generous enough to do these podcasts and share  that knowledge with the rest of the Church.