Friday, May 18, 2012

5th Anniversary of Reconciliation

Five years ago today (May 17, 2007) , a miracle happened in the Russian Church. 70 years of division brought about by the machinations of the devil and his communist minions came to an end.

Since that time, the restoration of full communion between the faithful inside and outside of Russia has born tremendous fruit. I know of no one who supported reconciliation who has expressed the slightest regret, and I know of many who were skeptical who have come to see that their fears have not materialized.

It was a joyous occasion to witness, and it is a joy to reflect on it.

Here are my blog posts from 5 years ago:

Here is a reflection from the perspective of those inside of Russia:

And here is a documentary (in Russian) about the events leading up to the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moses' Black Wife

Aaron and Miriam confront Moses about his Ethiopian wife

In the various debates about gay "marriage" that are currently raging, from time to time you have people comparing it to interracial marriage, and some even going so far as to claim that the Bible condemns interracial marriage. This is of course nonsense. Nowhere does the Bible condemn interracial marriage, in fact we find an example of interracial marriage in the life of one of the most important persons in the Bible -- the Prophet Moses.

If you remember the movie the Ten Commandments, you will recall that it begins with Moses coming back in triumph from a campaign against the Ethiopians. You might also recall the Ethiopian princess who seems to rather admire Moses. This was based on Jewish Tradition, which is found in the Antiquities of the Jews, by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus. According to Josephus, Moses actually married this princess, whose name was Tharbis:

"Tharbis was the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians: she happened to see Moses as he led the army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring the subtility of his undertakings, and believing him to be the author of the Egyptians' success, when they had before despaired of recovering their liberty, and to be the occasion of the great danger the Ethiopians were in, when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in love with him; and upon the prevalency of that passion, sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about their marriage. He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife; and that when he had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the Egyptians back to their own land" (Antiquities of the Jews 2:10:2).

None of this is recorded in Scripture, however, we do find mention of Moses' Ethiopian wife in Numbers 12:

"Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran."

The only objection found in Scripture is to "foreign wives" who had not converted to the Israelite faith, and so were a snare to their husbands.

So does the Bible condemn interracial marriage? Hardly, it condemns marrying outside of the Faith, but it condemns those who condemn interracial marriages because they are interracial. There are only two races in the Bible: the fallen race of Adam, and the race of Christ.


St. Ireneaus has  this comment:
"Thus, too, did Moses also take to wife an Ethiopian woman, whom he thus made an Israelitish one, showing by anticipation that the wild olive tree is grafted into the cultivated olive, and made to partake of its fatness. For as He who was born Christ according to the flesh, had indeed to be sought after by the people in order to be slain, but was to be set free in Egypt, that is, among the Gentiles, to sanctify those who were there in a state of infancy, from whom also He perfected His Church in that place (for Egypt was Gentile from the beginning, as was Ethiopia also); for this reason, by means of the marriage of Moses, was shown forth the marriage of the Word; and by means of the Ethiopian bride, the Church taken from among the Gentiles was made manifest; and those who do detract from, accuse, and deride it, shall not be pure. For they shall be full of leprosy, and expelled from the camp of the righteous" (Against Heresies, 4:22:12).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why doing Vesperal Liturgies in the place of the appointed services is a bad idea

Vesperal Liturgies are appointed by the Typikon to be done only on days of strict fasting, and they are preceded by either the Lenten Hours or by Royal Hours. It is done in the evening because on days of strict fasting you do not break the fast until vespers -- though the latest that these services are actually appointed to be done is about 3 p.m. So to use this liturgical form for a day of feasting is to set the form on its head. Also, if you were doing a vesperal liturgy for the feast of the Dormition for example, you should do it on the day of the feast, not on the eve. Another problem is that on a feast day, you normally have a Vigil, and then the hours and the Liturgy. The Vigil usually consists of Vespers, with a Litia, Matins, and the first hour. When you reduce a feast to a Vesperal Liturgy you are taking about the first 30 minutes or so of the Vigil, and slapping it on to the second half of the Liturgy, and skipping everything in between, which is the bulk of the liturgical material appointed for the feast.

Now the issue of people attending the Liturgy on a weekday is a problem, but there are better solutions. The Antiochians (at least under Bishop Basil) have started doing Vespers, Matins, and the Liturgy all straight through in evening prior to the feast.... which is consistent with the Greek Style Agrypnia. More traditionally, an Agrypnia begins in the evening, and the Liturgy concludes after midnight, but at least this solution actually celebrates the festal services in a fairly full manner.

What we do in my parish is we do the vigil the night prior (which anyone working regular hours can attend, if they don't live too far away (Houston weekday traffic being a bit of a problem for some), and then we do the Liturgy at 6:00 am, which means most people could make it to work without having to take time off.

Of course everyone's job is a bit different, but even when I was a laymen, I always made an effort to take off time to attend feast day liturgies (which were celebrated later in the morning at the parishes I attended). But if it is not possible for someone to make it to the Liturgy, it would be better for them to attend a full feast day vigil, and just read the Typika for the feast before going to work the next day, then to attend a truncated feastday vesperal liturgy that was celebrated the day prior.

Also, one of the problems with making up abbreviations that truncate the services, is that eventually what is done for the sake special circumstances eventually becomes the norm, and the future abbreviations are done on the already truncated service. Eventually the onion is peeled until there is no onion left. If you take a look at what happened in the Roman Catholic Church, on a parish level, the average catholic today doesn't even know what Vespers, Matins, or the Hours are, because the only thing that is left is the Mass, such as it is these days.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Parish Open House, Saturday, May 12th

Description: Description:

Parish Open House
Saturday, May 12th
10 am to 4 pm

St. Jonah Orthodox Church in Spring invites you, your family, and your friends to an Open House on Saturday, May 12, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Come celebrate our new church building with free food, fun, games, and other activities – including a unique "Noah's Ark" moonwalk for the kids! Tour a traditional Orthodox church and view a selection of antique Russian icons from our Biennial Icon Exhibit. Admission is free. Books, icons, and other items will also be available for purchase. For a map and further information, see our online directions with an interactive map, or call 281-467-0264.