Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Famous Protestants on the doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos

Martin Luther: “It is an artcle of faith that Mary is the Mother of the Lord and still a virgin…Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” (Works of Luther, V. 11, pp319-320; V. 6, p 510) See also this article.

John Calvin's Commentary on Matthew 1:25: "And knew her not This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin. It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers. Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation."

John Wesley: "I believe that [Christ] was... born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin."

Letter to a Roman Catholic, July 18, 1749.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dear Congressman Kennedy

It is not often that you will see more favorably citing a Roman Catholic Bishop, but this letter is certainly one that deserves to be read.

Dear Congressman Kennedy

Dear Congressman Kennedy:
“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)
Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our 2009 Icon Exhibit

You can listen to the talk given by Fr. James Early about his conversion to Orthodoxy, by clicking here. He has just published the book he mentions in his talk From Baptist to Byzantium.

You can listen to John Lickwars Lecture on Icons, and see the Slide show, by clicking here.

You can listen to the musical presentation made by our choir, by clicking here.

And you can listen to my lecture on why we venerate the saints by clicking here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What does this inscription mean?

Of course most Orthodox people know, IC XC NIKA means "Jesus Christ Conquers".

Sin Bozhie = Son of God.

Tsar Slavie = King of Glory.

K T = Kopie and Trost, which means "Spear and Reed"

M L R B = Mesto Lobnoye Raj Byst', which means "The place of the skull became paradise."

G A = Golova Adam, which means "The Head (or Skull) of Adam".

Friday, June 26, 2009

Capitalism, Socialism, and Orthodox Christianity

Dr. Amir Azarvan and I were guests on the Illumined Heart Podcast, and had a discussion about the role the government should have in social welfare programs, and what we as Orthodox Christians should think about it. You can listen to it by clicking here.

You can read more of my thoughts on welfare, here.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The incredible Hutzpah of the Left on Gay Marriage

Click here to see the "controversial" answer of Miss California.

Click here to listen to some of the obnoxious abuse that has been heaped on Miss California (warning, it is offensive).

By now, most people are aware of the fact that Miss California was asked by an obnoxious gay activist judge whether she thought every state should legalize gay marriage, and she gave a very non-confrontational answer in which she apologetically stated her own opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and quickly stated that it was not her intention to offend anyone by saying so.

Her answer has been called controversial, despite the fact that her opinion happens to be the opinion shared by all of human history since the dawn of time up until very recently. Her opinion happens to also coincide with the stated opinion of President Obama, but I think the Gay activists give him a pass because they know he doesn't really mean it.

Even the ancient Greeks, many of whom held the opinion that a homosexual relationship was superior to a relationship between a man and a woman, never imagined calling a homosexual relationship "marriage". Marriage can only be between a man and woman because only a man and woman can produce offspring. We have laws that govern marriage because human societies have always seen the importance of identifying who a child's parents are (DNA testing is a very recent phenomenon), and what responsibilities the parents have to each other, to the children and what responsibilities children have to their parents. We have spousal benefits, because of the fact that having children and raising them requires that certain accommodations be made to facilitate that.

Two gay men do not need spousal benefits, because they can both work. If one becomes disabled, there are disability benefits available for him. There is no need to define their relationship legally, because they cannot produce children. If they want to provide for property rights for their gay lovers, there are legal means available for them to do so.

Most people are not in favor of being mean to other people... including gay people. Most people do not think gays should be beaten up, or otherwise mistreated. However, Gay Activists are not happy with being tolerated -- they want everyone to approve of their lifestyle. But you know what? This is America, and we don't have to approve of their lifestyle... and we certainly do not have to change the meaning of marriage that has existed for all of time to make them feel better about themselves. Aside from everything else, redefining marriage will not make them feel better about themselves, and they will have to move on to some other means of being obnoxious in their never ending pursuit of the elimination of any opinion about their lifestyle that does not coincide with their own.

They say they want tolerance... but who is being intolerant here? Miss California's answer was exceedingly tolerant, perhaps too tolerant. Their abuse of her ever since has been incredibly intolerant.

And to answer the specious arguments that the definition of marriage has changed over history, because polygamy use to be allowed -- polygamy literally means "many marriages", and it refers to the practice of a man who has had multiple marriages to multiple women -- each marriage, however, happens to be between a man and a woman. The man's wives are not married to each other. A polygamous man can divorce one wife, while remaining married to the other women. Christians have always been opposed to polygamy, because we believe that the ideal is for one man to marry only one woman for life. Polygamy, however is not a thing of the past (it exists in many parts of the world), and if gay marriage is allowed, it is hard to imagine how polygamy can remain illegal in the United States for long.

Some are saying Gay Marriage is inevitable. If it is, the Islamic take over that will follow such a deterioration of our culture, is also inevitable... and they will then ban gay marriage, and cut off the heads of the gay activists who are pushing this agenda. If it comes to that, they will long for the day when the most intolerant thing they had to deal with were Southern Baptists, like Carrie Prejean.

Even Canadians find Perez Hilton's attacks obnoxious:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Metropolitan Laurus & Fr. Damian (Hart) Remembered

Fr. Seraphim Gan has written his reflections on the one year anniversary of the repose of Metropolitan Laurus, which you can read here.

Here is a video with pictures of the funeral:

Fr. Joseph Huneycutt has posted some remembrances of Fr. Damian (Hart), who was a true Southern gentleman as well as a good monk. Click here.

And Fr. Mark Mancuso has more, here and here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Patriarch Kyrill

Here is uncut footage of the announcement of the election results, the thanksgiving moleben, the acceptance speech, and the many years:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Simple Approach to Reading the Entire Bible

There are some elaborate charts that tell you how you could read the Bible all the way through in one year -- which if you followed, would work fine. However, I wonder how many people have ever followed such charts all the way through, because it would require that you make regular reference to the charts, and remember where you were on the chart.

On the other hand, many people simply open up the Bible at Genesis, and then get bogged down somewhere towards the end of Exodus and Leviticus, and then quit.

One method I would suggest is much simpler to follow, and if you do, you not only will read the Bible all the way through in about a year or so... but you could continue to read the Bible and get a balanced intake of the various parts of the Bible rather than hit one section that is difficult and then lose interest.

I would suggest you make 6 paper book marks with the following labels.

1) The Law (Genesis thru Deuteronomy)

2) History (Joshua thru Esther in the KJV, and one should also include the Deutero-canonical books of Tobit, Judith, the books of the Maccabees, and 1st Esdras)

3) Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Sirach, Wisdom)

4) The Prophets (Isaiah thru Malachi)

5) The Gospels

6) Acts, The Epistles, and Revelation

Ideally you would read 6 chapters a day. However, if that was too much, you could read three from the first sections one day, and three from the rest the next. You don't need to refer to a chart... just move your book marks as you go. You could also combine groups 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, and read three chapters a day that way. In any case, when you hit the end of a section, move it back to the beginning, and start that section over again.

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), gave similar advice on spiritual reading for clergy:
"But what should you read? First of all, read the Bible, concurrently from 1) Pentateuch and Kings, 2) from the Prophets and Wisdom Books and 3) from the New Testament. Read every day, for at least half an hour. If you make yourself read through the Bible twice in this way, then subsequently you will reread it at your own desire and inclination" (Confession: A Series of Lectures on the Mystery of Repentance, trans. Fr. Christopher Birchall (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1975) p. 28).
He of course went on to advise that we should read from the lives of the saints and the Fathers as well, but this was first on his list.

The Orthodox Study Bible would be particularly helpful to use in this regard, because it has an introduction to each book that will help you better understand what you are reading, along with footnotes throughout the text.

Probably the two biggest reasons that people do not read the Bible, aside from general laziness, is that they don't understand what they are reading, or that they find it boring (which is usually a direct result of not understanding the text, or as noted above, getting bogged done in a difficult section of Scripture before getting a full sense of the entire scope of Scripture).

To understand the text properly, the first thing you need to do is pick a good translations. See this article for details, but the abbreviated recommendation for the average reader would be to start with the Orthodox Study Bible or the New King James Text. I love the King James Version myself, but unless you grew up hearing it read, you should probably read the New King James first.

It is also important to have some good study tools. You can see this article for a full breakdown of the various kinds of biblical reference material available, but for the average laymen, I would recommend a good Study Bible (again the Orthodox Study Bible being the best option currently available), a good Bible Dictionary such as this one, or this one, a good catechetical text, such as the Law of God, and perhaps some basic commentaries such as "The Bible and The Holy Fathers For Orthodox" by Johanna Manley.

It can also be helpful to listen to the Bible being read, especially if you find it difficult to find time to sit down and read the text, or if you have a lot of time in which you could listen to audio, but can't read a text (such as when you spend a lot of time on the road driving). You can listen to the Bible being read for free on the Bible Gateway, the Blue Letter Bible site, and on your phone via the YouVersion App, or the Blue Letter Bible App.

It's also important to understand that the more you read the Bible, the better you will understand it, and so you should not allow a sense that you do not fully understand the text to keep you from reading it. You will also find that there is always more for you to learn... you will never exhaust its meaning.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Troika by Sergei Prokofiev

I often wondered about this piece of music, because it is often heard around Christmas or in movies with a Christmas theme. You can read about the movie this was composed for here.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Since Guy Lombardo isn't around anymore... we have to go to Youtube for such things.