Monthly Archives: February 2016

Saturday Saints- #106

Why are we here? For today’s saint post that begins with Y, of course. Not easy, as there aren’t terribly many. So for today’s post I will do something slightly different- I will feature someone who is not a Saint. At least, not yet. However, he is on the path towards canonization:

Blessed Yakym Senkivskyi (Ukrainian: Яким Сеньківський; 2 May 1896 – 29 June 1941) was a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest and martyr.

Senkivskyi was born in the village of Hayi Velykyi in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria (present-day Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine). He studied theology in Lviv, and was ordained a priest on 4 December 1921. He received a doctorate in theology from Innsbruck. In 1923 he went to Krekhiv and became a novice in the Order of Saint Basil the Great. After he professed his first vows, he was transferred to the village of Krasnopushcha, and later to the village of Lavriv. From 1931 to 1938 he held different positions in the Monastery of Saint Onufrius in Lviv.

In 1939, he was appointed abbot of the monastery in Drohobych. On June 26, 1941, he was arrested by the Soviet NKVD, and on June 29, he was boiled in a cauldron in the Drohobych prison.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 27, 2001.

(Source)

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Distressing Alternatives

A recent conversation with a couple of friends lead me to tell them that I don’t think of anyone in my past as “The One Who Got Away.” I am not haunted by any notion that there was some woman who came across my path in the past that I rejected when instead I should have accepted her. When I realized this some months ago it was kind of a relief for me. Perhaps this is because I am someone who doesn’t handle regrets well.

At the same time, I also recognize that there is something particularly depressing about the fact that in all my years I never came across anyone who could have been a match for me. It certainly creates a sense of loneliness, and perhaps a sense that the future will be no doubt from the past. But all in all I prefer my present state over the alternative- regretting “letting one get away.”

Perhaps my readers share this view. Perhaps they find the alternative more palatable. So I ask you, whatever your present station, to voice your thoughts. Which is better easier to live with: To have someone in the past “Who Got Away”, knowing that such a person exists, or to have never met such a person at all, and to wonder if they do.

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Who Are We?

Scott has a new post up that touches on a subject many are loathe to examine- what is America? What does it mean to be American nowadays?

His ultimate conclusion is one that I share:

No one knows.

There is no clear consensus about what America is or what it means to be American. At least, not any longer.

There was, once. America was a rather unique nation in its founding. It wasn’t united around race, although that certainly was a factor. It wasn’t necessarily united around culture,  although there was a lot shared there. What united America was its belief system- both political and religious. While there were still differences held by Americans about both, a general consensus could be formed in terms of politics and religion. Protestantism, in its various forms, was the general religious consensus. And politically there was unity around concepts derived from the English notion of Liberty (itself a particular product of the Liberal Enlightenment).

Again, plenty of disagreements. But more was held in common than wasn’t.

This is no longer the case. The differences between the different “wings” of the political spectrum are essentially irreconcilable. There is unity no longer. Back to this in a moment.

Taking a slight detour, this leads me to state something which has been explored many a time before: in order for a nation to exist as a nation, it needs something (or many somethings) to unite it. Whether it is ethnicity, culture or belief system (religious or political), there needs to be something that binds a people together for them to remain, you know, a people.

Accordingly, only a certain amount of diversity is tolerable in any polity. When there is too much diversity, the ties that bind the people of that polity together are too fragile to withstand stress. The weaker the ties, the less stress required for the structure to fall apart.

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

(Mark 3:24-25)

When the stress becomes too much, something has gotta give. There are two outcomes: Either the nation falls apart (or shatters), or it stabilizes itself by enforcing greater unity. That is a fancy way of stating that diverse elements are suppressed or eliminated. Force or the fear of force can only keep this away for so long. Eventually one of these outcomes will occur.

Which brings me back to America. We already had one of these moments: the Civil War. [Unlike some of the folks around these parts, I don’t support one side in that war. Looking back on it I can see that both sides deserved to loose, albeit for slightly different reasons.]

Before the Civil War the unity of the country was perilously low. Irreconcilable differences had accumulated. The ties that bind had weakened to the breaking point. The stress moment came, and enforced unity was the result, rather than breakup.

We find ourselves again heading towards that kind of moment of truth. America is too diverse to stand any longer. Racially we are more diverse than ever. Same with Ethnicity. Culturally there have never been so many American sub-cultures. Religiously we have never been as fractured. And politically? Ask a Sanders voter and a Cruz voter what they have in common.

I don’t think it will necessarily end in another Civil War. But the divide we now face cannot last much longer. There is no clear answer to the question of “Who Are We?” One way or another, an answer is forthcoming. What it is I won’t hazard to guess. But that answer is coming.

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already,
    in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen
    among those who come after.

(Ecclesiastes 1:9-11)

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #106

Sin is part of our life. As Christians we are called to avoid it at all times, but none of us can live a sinless life. At least, not on our own accord- with God all things are possible. This is a problem, of course, as sin keeps us from God. It was the first Sin which saw us cast from the Garden. Future sins can likewise divert us away from Him, especially that sin which leads to true death:

13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

(1 John 5:13-17)

So what do we do about this? We know that God can forgive sins- the Pharisees pointed out as much:

And when he returned to Caper′na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

(Mark 2:1-12)

While Jesus was with us bodily, then forgiveness was easy- we need only ask him for it:

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was sitting at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

(Luke 7:36-50)

However, what happens after he ascended? Fortunately, Jesus left the Apostles the authority to forgive sins, just as He did:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

(John 20:19-23)

Look at what Jesus said there. His father sent him to forgive sins. And Jesus sent his Apostles (messengers) just as His Father sent him. So they too were given the charge of the forgiveness of sins. Now, some who claim the faith say that they merely need pray to God for forgiveness. No human “meddlers.” But this isn’t what the Church practiced at all. Here is but one example:

13 Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

(James 5:13-16)

Confession is good for the soul. The Church, even in its early history, practiced the sacrament of confession as the means for the forgiving of sins. God works through human beings, and the confession (and forgiveness) of sins is no exception. This Lenten period is an excellent time to wipe your spiritual tablet clean, and start anew by going to confession.

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Saturday Saints- #105

Today is a tough day. The letter is “X”, and frankly a lot of parents don’t like to name their children with names that begin with x. I can’t imagine why… Anyways, today’s post features a saint whose name was originally spelled with an x, before later being changed, Saint Xystus I:

Pope Sixtus I (42 – 125) was the Bishop of Rome from c. 115 to his death c. 124. He succeeded Pope Alexander I and was in turn succeeded by Pope Telesphorus. In the oldest documents, Xystus (from the Greek word for “polished”) is the spelling used for the first three popes of that name. Pope Sixtus I is also the sixth Pope after Peter, leading to questions whether the name “Sixtus” (meaning “sixth”) might be fictitious.

More can be learned about him at his wiki, located here.

7-st-sixtus_i

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Tradition Thursday- #52

I am considering a new series to run with this line of posts, but I don’t have one in mind yet. Hopefully I will have one lined up next week. Until then, I offer this lengthy quotation from St. John Chrysostom’s 8th Homily on 1st Timothy:

(1 Tim 2:8-10)

I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.

Moral. What? Do you approach God to pray, with broidered hair and ornaments of gold? Are you come to a dance? To a marriage? To a gay procession? There such a broidery, such costly garments, had been seasonable, here not one of them is wanted. You have come to pray, to supplicate for pardon of your sins, to plead for your offenses, beseeching the Lord, and hoping to render Him propitious to you. Why do you adorn yourself? This is not the dress of a suppliant. How can you groan? How can you weep? How pray with fervency, when thus attired? Should thou weep, your tears will be the ridicule of the beholders. She that weeps ought not to be wearing gold. It were but acting, and hypocrisy. For is it not acting to pour forth tears from a soul so overgrown with extravagance and ambition? Away with such hypocrisy! God is not mocked! This is the attire of actors and dancers, that live upon the stage. Nothing of this sort becomes a modest woman, who should be adorned with shamefacedness and sobriety.

Imitate not therefore the courtesans. For by such a dress they allure their many lovers; and hence many have incurred a disgraceful suspicion, and, instead of gaining any advantage from their ornaments, have injured many by bearing this character. For as the adulteress, though she may have a character for modesty, derives no benefit from that character, in the Day, when He who judges the secrets of men shall make all things manifest; so the modest woman, if she contrive by this dress to pass for an adulteress, will lose the advantage of her chastity. For many have suffered harm by this opinion. What can I do, you say, if another suspects me? But you give the occasion by your dress, your looks, your gestures. It is for this reason that Paul discourses much of dress and much of modesty. And if he would remove those things which are only the indications of wealth, as gold, and pearls, and costly array; how much more those things which imply studied ornament, as painting, coloring the eyes, a mincing gait, the affected voice, a languishing and wanton look; the exquisite care in putting on the cloak and bodice, the nicely wrought girdle, and the closely-fitted shoes? For he glances at all these things, in speaking of modest apparel and shamefacedness. For such things are shameless and indecent.

Bear with me, I beseech you, for it is not my aim by this plain reproof to wound or pain you, but to remove from my flock all that is unbecoming to them. But if these prohibitions are addressed to those who have husbands, who are rich, and live luxuriously; much more to those who have professed virginity. But what virgin, you say, wears gold, or broidered hair? Yet there may be such a studied nicety in a simple dress, as that these are nothing to it. You may study appearance in a common garment more than those who wear gold. For when a very dark colored robe is drawn closely round the breast with the girdle (as dancers on the stage are attired), with such nicety that it may neither spread into breadth nor shrink into scantiness, but be between both; and when the bosom is set off with many folds, is not this more alluring than any silken robes? And when the shoe, shining through its blackness, ends in a sharp point, and imitates the elegance of painting, so that even the breadth of the sole is scarce visible— or when, though you do not indeed paint the face, you spend much time and pains on washing it, and spread a veil across the forehead, whiter than the face itself— and above that put on a hood, of which the blackness may set off the white by contrast— is there not in all this the vanity of dress? What can one say to the perpetual rolling of the eyes? To the putting on of the stomacher; so artfully as sometimes to conceal, sometimes to disclose, the fastening? For this too they sometimes expose, so as to show the exquisiteness of the cincture, winding the hood entirely round the head. Then like the players, they wear gloves so closely fitted, that they seem to grow upon the hands: and we might speak of their walk, and other artifices more alluring than any ornament of gold. Let us fear, beloved, lest we also hear what the Prophet said to the Hebrew women who were so studious of outward ornament; Instead of a girdle, you shall be girded with a halter, instead of well-set hair, baldness.Isaiah 3:24, Septuagint These things and many others, invented only to be seen and to attract beholders, are more alluring than golden ornaments. These are no trifling faults, but displeasing to God, and enough to mar all the self-denial of virginity.

You have Christ for your Bridegroom, O virgin, why do you seek to attract human lovers? He will judge you as an adulteress. Why do you not wear the ornament that is pleasing to Him; modesty, chastity, orderliness, and sober apparel? This is meretricious, and disgraceful. We can no longer distinguish harlots and virgins, to such indecency have they advanced. A virgin’s dress should not be studied, but plain, and without labor; but now they have many artifices to make their dress conspicuous. O woman, cease from this folly. Transfer this care to your soul, to the inward adorning. For the outward ornament that invests you, suffers not that within to become beautiful. He that is concerned for that which is without, despises that which is within, even as he that is unconcerned about the exterior, bestows all his care upon the interior. Say not, Alas! I wear a threadbare garment, mean shoes, a worthless veil; what is there of ornament in these? Do not deceive yourself. It is impossible, as I said, to study appearance more by these than by costlier dresses; especially when they are close-fitted to the body, fashioned to an immodest show, and of shining neatness. You excuse yourself to me, but what can you say to God, who knows the heart and the spirit with which you do these things? It is not done for fornication! Perhaps not, but for admiration; and do you not blush for shame to be admired for such things? But you say, It is but chance I am so dressed, and for no motive of this kind. God knows what you say to me: is it to me you must give account? Nay, it is to Him who is present at your actions, and will one day inquire into them, to whom all things are naked and open. It is on this account that we now urge these things, that we may not let you be amenable to those severe judgments. Let us fear, therefore, lest He reprove you in the words of the Prophet to the Jewish women. They come to be seen of me wantoning and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet.Isaiah 3:16

You have taken upon you a great contest, where wrestling, not ornament is required; where the battle awaits you, not sloth and ease. Observe the combatants and wrestlers in the games. Do they concern themselves about their walk or their dress? No, but scorning all these, and throwing about them a garment dripping with oil, they look only to one thing, to wound, and not be wounded. The devil stands grinding his teeth, watching to destroy you every way, and you remain unconcerned, or concerned only about this satanic ornament. I say nothing about the voice, though much affectation is shown in this also, nor about perfumes, and other such luxuries. It is for these things we are ridiculed by the women of the world. The respect for virginity is lost. No one honors a virgin as she ought to be honored. They have given occasion to their own dishonor. Ought not they to be looked up to in the Church of God, as women coming from heaven? But now they are despised, and deservedly, though not those among them who are discreet. But when one who has a husband and children, and presides over a household, sees you, who ought to be crucified to the world, more devoted to the world than herself, will she not ridicule and despise you? See what care! What pains! In your humble dress, you exceed her who wears the costliest ornament, and art more studious of appearance than she who is arrayed in gold. What is becoming to you you seek not; that which misbecomes you you pursue, when you ought to be occupied in good works. On this account virgins are less honored than women of the world. For they do not perform works worthy of their virgin profession. This is not said to all; or rather it is said to all; to those who are in fault, that they may learn modesty; to those who are free from blame, that they may teach modesty to others. But beware lest this rebuke be verified in deed. For we have not said these things that we may grieve, but that we may correct you, that we may glory in you. And may we all do those things which are acceptable to God, and live to His glory, that we may obtain the blessings promised by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, etc.

Quite a lot there, I know. But at the same time, very salient. The parts in bold are those I thought particularly relevant for the present age. Also, when the Doctor of the Church uses the word virgin, he means a woman consecrate to celibacy. So basically a nun as we would understand them today.

As you will have hopefully read, it is apparent that the present age is not the first one where Christian women have dressed shamefully. Nor is it the first age where Christian women were held in less regard than others. I found this line to be particularly striking:

We can no longer distinguish harlots and virgins, to such indecency have they advanced.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but that seemed to resonate a lot with me. One cannot any longer look at a woman’s dress, and determine her character (at least with regards to chastity and modesty). Is it any wonder that now, just as back then, there is such a cultural disregard for Christian women?

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Masculine Monday- #3

*Men Only*

10 My beloved is all radiant and ruddy,
    distinguished among ten thousand.
11 His head is the finest gold;
    his locks are wavy,
    black as a raven.
12 His eyes are like doves
    beside springs of water,
bathed in milk,
    fitly set.[a]
13 His cheeks are like beds of spices,
    yielding fragrance.
His lips are lilies,
    distilling liquid myrrh.
14 His arms are rounded gold,
    set with jewels.
His body is ivory work,
    encrusted with sapphires.
15 His legs are alabaster columns,
    set upon bases of gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
    choice as the cedars.

(Song 5:10-15)

One of the countless errors of Churchianity (and boy is it a long list) is that it teaches men that physical appearance and fitness are inconsequential. This has many negative consequences for men. For one, it hurts them in their question to find a wife, as physical appearance is a criteria women consider in mates. I quoted from the Song of Songs to emphasize that point. Second, it deprives men of a good healthy way to build confidence. Third, it leaves men weak, and thus less suited for task involving strength or endurance.  Fourth, God created us to establish dominion:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

(Gen 1:26-27)

Physical strength has as much a role to play in that as mental strength, even in this day and age.

[Now, I suppose not all of the various Churchian strains are like that. There might be some that are even friendly to the idea of men being fit. But from what I can tell it sure seems like most are not.]

All of this leads to my point: one of the hallmarks of a truly masculine man is being in good shape. That doesn’t mean that every man must be an Olympic level bodybuilder or athlete. But it does mean that he needs to be fit. No doubt there are plenty of different criteria out there for what constitutes fit. This is where you, my readers, come in. I know a number of you have some experience, and possibly even expertise, in this area. So feel free to use the comments below to provide your thoughts on what would constitute “fit.”

[Edit: To clarify matters, as a general rule these posts are meant for men, and only male commenters are allowed. If a woman wants to contribute, she can send me an e-mail and I might post it myself. The sole female comment has been deleted, with a follow up posted by myself.]

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