We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.
Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation – very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.
The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognise it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.
From the Prolog for July 8: Procopius was born in Jerusalem of a father who was a Christian and a mother who was a pagan. At first, his name was Neanias. Following the death of his father, the mother raised her son completely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When Neanias matured, Emperor Diocletian saw him and, at once, took a liking to him and brought him to his palace for military service. When this nefarious emperor began to persecute Christians, he ordered Neanias to go to Alexandria with a garrison of soldiers and there to exterminate the Christians. But, on the road, something happened to Neanias similar to that which happened to Saul [Paul]. In the third hour of the night there was a strong earthquake and, at that moment, the Lord appeared to him and a voice was heard: “Neanias, where are you going and against whom are you rising up?” In great fear, Neanias asked: “Who are You Lord? I am unable to recognize You.” At that moment, a glowing cross as if of crystal appeared in the air and from the cross there came a voice saying: “I am Jesus, the crucified Son of God.” And further, the Lord said to him: “By this sign that you saw, conquer your enemies and My peace will be with you.” That experience completely turned him around and changed the life of Commander Neanias. He issued an order to make the same kind of cross which he saw and instead of going against the Christians he, with his soldiers, turned against the Agarians who were attacking Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem as a victor and declared to his mother that he is a Christian. Being brought before the court, Neanias removed his commander’s belt and sword and tossed them before the judge thereby showing that he is only a soldier of Christ the King. After great tortures he was cast into prison where the Lord Christ, again, appeared to him, baptized him and gave him the name Procopius. One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: “We too are the servants of Christ.” Accused of this they were thrown into the same prison where St. Procopius taught them the Faith of Christ and particularly about how they will receive the martyr’s wreath. For that reason in the marriage ritual of the betrothed, St. Procopius is mentioned along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena. After this, those twelve women were brutally tortured. Witnessing their suffering and bravery, the mother of Procopius also believed in Christ and all thirteen were slain. When St. Procopius was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands toward the east and prayed to God for all the poor and misfortunate, orphans and widows and especially for the Holy Church that it may grow and spread and that Orthodoxy shine to the end of time. And to Procopius there was a reply from heaven that his prayers were heard after which he joyfully laid his head under the sword and went to his Lord in eternal joy. St. Procopius honorably suffered in Caesarea in Palestine and was crowned with the glorious wreath of immortality on July 8, 303 A.D.
From an essay by Philip Tartaglia, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Paisley, Scotland, comes this summary of human autonomy rightly understood. His essay is adapted from a keynote address he delivered on April 11, 2012, at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, to a conference sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University. You can read the rest of his talk here.
Religious freedom is more than freedom to worship, but is also the freedom to express and teach religious truth. It must include the freedom to evangelize, catechize, and serve the needy according to a religious community’s own precepts. Religious freedom is thus intertwined with freedom of expression, thought, and conscience. Believers should not be treated by the government and the courts as a tolerated and divisive minority whose rights must always yield to the secular agenda. As we have seen in the genesis of the threat to religious freedom in the UK, the great question that exercises modern culture is the meaning of human autonomy and especially sexual freedom. Cardinal Pell wisely remarks that this struggle is fundamentally over a religious question that revolves around the reality of a transcendent order. One way of putting it is: “Did God create us or did we create God?” The limited scope that secularism is prepared to concede to religious beliefs is based on the assumption that we created God. As long as the supremacy remains with man, then faith is understood as a private therapeutic pursuit and is permitted. But when people insist that faith is more than this, and that the supremacy is not ours, religion must be resisted, increasingly through the law. The question of autonomy, of freedom and supremacy, plays itself out, among other places, in the contest between religious and sexual freedom. Absolute sexual freedom lies at the heart of the modern autonomy project. Beyond preferences about sexual practices or forms of relationship, it extends now to preferences about the method and manner of procreation, family formation, and the uses of human reproduction in medical research. Cardinal Pell hit the nail on the head when he observed that the message from the earliest days of the sexual revolution, always barely concealed behind the talk of “free love,” “live and let live,” and creating space for “different forms of loving,” was that limits on sexual autonomy will not be tolerated. This is generating the pressures against religion in public life. It is difficult for Christians to know how to respond in this situation. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution that can be uncompromising and brutal. Christians have the more promising vision and more convincing arguments than secularists about the nature of human beings in their need of God, about the nature of the family, about the place of faith in public life, and about the relationship of faith to science and progress. However, the cultural mood is to dismiss these arguments and insights in summary fashion. Christians today are riding the tiger, and, if the present cultural trajectory goes unchecked, I fully expect to be prosecuted in the courts in the coming years. But Christians need to be patient and steadfast and always ready to engage. Evil may well have its time but eventually it consumes itself, and it will not have the last word. We may need to pick up the pieces of a shattered civilization, broken and exhausted by its extreme adventure with radical godlessness.
The bishop’s finally paragraph is applicable as well to the Orthodox Church: “Whatever happens in the next few years, the Catholic Church has only one choice: to be herself by being true to Jesus Christ, whatever the cost. What kind of nation and what kind of democracy will we be? That is another question.” In Christ, +Fr Gregory
(OCP News Service) “Valaam, island of the monks”, is a documentary by François Lespes (French Documentary Director), about the Russian Orthodox monastery of Valaam, an island in Lake Ladoga, frozen in ice eight months a year.
The film is currently under production and will be aired for the first time on the french catholic TV (KTO) during the fall of 2012, and will be available with English subtitles.
François Lespes aims to familiarize the western audience with the treasure of Orthodox spirituality, in particular the Russian Orthodox Monasticism.
O thou who condemnest, learn to forgive; thou who art sick, to pray! If the gravity of thy sins makes thee afraid lest they should not be forgiven thee, betake thyself to the Church. She will pray on thy behalf, and God will pardon, as He looks on her, what He might deny thee. St Ambrose, Book Five, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke h/t: http://vultus.stblogs.org/2012/06/men-who-are-able-to-help-the-s.html
In April 2012 Copenhagen Phil (Sjællands Symfoniorkester) surprised the passengers in the Copenhagen Metro by playing Griegs Peer Gynt. The flash mob was created in collaboration with Radio Klassisk http://radioklassisk.dk/. All music was performed and recorded in the metro.
This year I spent Holy Week, Pascha and Bright Week at St Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral (OCA) in Dallas. On Bright Thursday, his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah was also at the Cathedral for a priestly ordination on Thomas Sunday. Though a joyful two weeks I would be less than honest if I failed to note that it has been as well a physically exhausting.
For many people, including many Christians, physically demanding prayer is a strange–and even offensive–notion. Prayer, so the thinking goes, should be restful and restorative and maybe even enjoyable and fun. Save for the last of these this understanding is correct as far as it goes. But prayer is also work–it is the opus Dei, the work of God in us and our work for God in Him.
The laborious quality of prayer reveals to me my own sinfulness. While I am made for communion with God, while the path to self-discovery and self-expression are found only in God, the love of God for me is always an affront to my sinfulness. There is in real prayer something of what economists call “creative destruction.” Even those aspects of my life that are good in themselves need to be brought into an ever closer conformity with the will of God.
In the final analysis, not only is prayer an opus Dei, so am I as well a work of God. Coming to know this, accept it and embody it on an everyday basis is what accounts for the laborious–or maybe better, the asectical–character of even the joyful celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.
At the end of the interview, Douthat is asked “How do you adapt to cultural forces while maintaining tradition?”
You have to address the issues and places where orthodoxy has lost people over the past few decades without just saying, “We’re losing people here, so we just need to change this teaching or jettison this,” which was the accommodationist answer. There’s evidence to suggest that churches that self-consciously surrender big chunks of Christian teaching don’t seem to thrive in the long run. Also, it has to be possible to be Christian on contentious cultural issues without making it seem like Christianity is just an appendage of the Republican Party.
Finally, it’s very important for contemporary Christians to be ecumenical and to see the best in one another’s congregations, but not at the expense of having a robust, resilient internal culture within their own churches. Lewis compares his “Mere Christianity” to a hallway with doors opening into various rooms, which are the actual Christian churches. You can’t spend all your time in the hallway. You can go out into the hallway to talk, but you have to go back in the rooms to worship.
More from Jennifer Robeck Morse on the “privatization” of marriage:
Think about it. The concepts of “mother” and “father” are natural, pre-political concepts, immediately intelligible to the human race. Up until now, the state has seen its role as simply recording this natural reality. But now parenthood is becoming the creation of the state. This is what “contract parenting” will come to mean: the state taking over parenthood and recreating it for its own purposes. Do you seriously think this can possibly be a “libertarian” or minimum-government move? I do not think that it can.
The call to “privatize marriage” is an attempt to transfer an important structure of the market—contract law—into the family, where it does not properly belong.
The belief that we can solve the conflict over the definition of marriage by “letting the market decide” is a confusion between the private and the public, a confusion between how marriage functions for an individual family and how marriage functions as a public institution. Perhaps an analogy to property law will help clarify the issue.
Most libertarians have no trouble seeing that the system of property and contract law is something different from an individual’s personal property or a particular contract he might have made. Under an economic system of private property, people get to do pretty much what they want with their own property. But backing up all those personal decisions is a public system, administered by the government and sustained by the consciences and habits of the populace. The minimal but robust legal structure of private property makes possible a dizzying array of individual activity and a wide swath of personal liberty.
The institution of marriage is comparable to the market system in this sense. We get to do most of what we want, most of the time, inside our marriages. No one comes to check up on us, unless we do something really egregious.
The freedom of particular couples is supported by and made possible by the institutional structure of marriage and family law. Marriage provides boundaries on people’s behavior: you have sex with your spouse and no one else; you take care of the children born to you and your spouse; you respect the parenting decisions of other families. And until the advent of no-fault divorce, you stayed married, unless someone did something really awful.
With this analogy in mind, imagine an Economic Leftist makes this proposal: “you advocate private property, I advocate communism. Why should the government discriminate against me and other economic minorities? Why should the taxpayers support the system of private property and contract law, which offends me, and benefits you? You capitalists can pay for your own property rights system. Privatize property law.”
This is not an offer of compromise, but a demand for complete capitulation. If the state ceases to support the property rights system, one of the key institutions of capitalism will be out of commission, and the whole system closer to collapse.
“Privatizing marriage” is comparable to “privatizing property.” The uncertainty about your own expected behavior, the weak incentives for proper behavior by your spouse, the cost of getting justice done if someone violates the terms of the agreements: all of these things add up to an extremely weak “marriage” institution. In fact, this amounts to the complete de-institutionalization of marriage, smuggled in, under the guise of “privatization.”
“I never have believed that Jesus Christ would approve of abortions and that was one of the problems I had when I was president having to uphold Roe v. Wade and I did everything I could to minimize the need for abortions,” he said, explaining his attempts to streamline adoption and provide aid to poor women through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Carter, who does not believe abortions should be outlawed, told Ingraham that he is calling on Democrats to de-emphasize abortion in the party platform.
“I’ve signed a public letter calling for the Democratic Party at the next convention to espouse my position on abortion which is to minimize the need, requirement for abortion and limit it only to women whose life are in danger or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest,” he said.
According to Carter, reducing the focus on abortion, and advocating for its increasing rarity, would attract more voters to the Democratic Party.
“I think if the Democratic Party would adopt that policy that would be acceptable to a lot of people who are now estranged from our party because of the abortion issue,” he said