Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

«— Intentionally Catholic
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Mutterings for October 31

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I’m sorry I forgot this last week. I’m sure you were all deeply saddened.
Read the rest of “Mutterings for October 31”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:42 pm

«— An Introduction to Science for Christians
—» Mutterings for October 31

Intentionally Catholic

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This is in response to a post by Erich on Notes from Underground. He notes the isolationism of many intentional communities — born of the natural need for defining the community against the surrounding society — and quotes Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory as an opinion that possibly contrasts with the impulse to form intentional community.

I have to agree with Karl’s comment. The one Orthodox intentional community that I’ve been affiliated with, the one which forms my vision for what Orthodox intentional community should look like, was actually formed more by Schmemann than any other thinker. We wanted to eschew any form of ethnicism, and in so doing we ended up creating something that was sectarian in the opposite way. Yet, that was not because we were pursuing intentional community in an Orthodox context, but because we were evangelicals imitating Orthodoxy instead of newly-illumined Orthodox Christians being formed by the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. (This community was the original mother church for Christ the Life-giver/St. Athanasius. Christ the Life-giver never quite acheived intentional community, but there were very strong signs that it was gestating and about to be born.)

In the transition from being “evangelical Orthodox” to being “canonical Orthodox,” our vision for intentional community has naturally taken a backseat. I am praying that it will not be lost entirely (perhaps my desire for it will be utilized?).

In any case the isolationist tendency Erich notes is certainly there, but it does not find its origins in a sectarian impulse. Rather, it is precisely catholic in its intention. The “radical monasticization” of Russia that was the seedbed of Russian Christianity is not, in our present Orthodox context, taking root. The impulse to form Orthodox intentional community is born from the need to recontextualize monasticism in an American context — a lay monasticism, if you will.

Perhaps, once a uniquely American form of intentional community has taken hold, subsequent generations will be able to dot the landscapes with monasteries.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 2:21 pm

«— You Just Can’t
—» Intentionally Catholic

An Introduction to Science for Christians

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This is in response to a post by Huw Raphael about evolution.

In order to throw out the scientific research that explains the collective data referred to by the name “evolution” — the extreme age of the universe and the earth and the development over time from simple to complex life forms — you would have to throw out most of science. Christians now stand in much the same predicament as they did about a century or so after Galileo was forced to recant his Copernican views: They are being forced to either abandon science or admit that their fundamentalism is not the right way of approaching the Truth of the faith, because Truth does not contradict himself.

I recognize Priestmonk Seraphim has very negative things to say about “Evolution.” (I love the way it gets capitalized like Gnosticism or Iconoclasm, like there is one scientific theory by that name — there isn’t — that is somehow a great heresy of the faith.) There are also many priests, monks, seminary professors, and even bishops who have a much more humane approach to the subject.

You might read The Galileo Connection by Charles Hummel, a professor at Wheaton. It is a good introduction to integrating a sound philosophy of science with an orthodox Christian worldview. On the science side, there is Abusing Science by Philip Kitcher. Mr. Kitcher’s aim is to provide solid evidence against the flimsy case for giving “scientific creationism” equal time in the classroom, so he pulls no punches. It is excellent and incisive, while remaining respectful of religious persons.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:10 pm

«— War Report
—» An Introduction to Science for Christians

You Just Can’t

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Well, folks, I give up. I’m trying to think of something funny here, but the reality is just funny enough as it is. I grew up listening to Petra. (Yes, I know. Cool your jets, pop culture nazis; I listen to some cooler stuff now.) So, tonight I was trying to find their latest offering, Jekyll and Hyde (my copy being at a friend’s house in Nicholasville, Ky.). No dice, but I did download one or two nostalgia tunes for old times’ sake. And one of them, I swear to you, had the NON-TOLL-FREE number for a 24-hour prayerline as the name of the album, and “Jesus loves you!” as the genre. No, really. You can’t make this s—— up, folks. You just can’t.

Oh, if you are the perp reading this, here’s a free clue (OK, I paid for it, but it was on sale cheap at the local Family Bookstore, and I don’t need it anymore, so I’m giving it to you free of charge): If I’m downloading Petra, I probably ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THE PART WHEREIN JESUS LOVES ME. Yeah, I might need a prayerline, but you want me to pay to pray? Oy.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:04 pm

«— And the Winner Is…
—» You Just Can’t

War Report

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Today, 3,287 innocent lives were lost in an attack on American soil. If the count is right, that is more lives than were lost on September 11, 2001. We are only just now getting the reports in but most accounts indicate that the assault happened in reproductive clinics all over the country. Each attack was very coordinated and surgical, and most people are concluding that it could only be the work of terrorists.

Were you at least intrigued until I got to “reproductive clinics”? Today, I read an interesting article comparing a hypothetical unjust war with infanticide:

“So to be worse than abortion,” I asked, “wouldn’t an unjust war have to kill even more than 1.2 million innocent people each year?”

“Hey, that’s right,” said Don.

“What’s the death rate in the present war?”

“Not even close,” he said.

Can evil be quantified? Well, if one is choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” then the presupposition is, “Yes, it can.” Evils must be must be measured in some way — either quantified or qualified — in order to compare them. Otherwise, we are fooling ourselves into thinking that it’s not really such a big deal that 3.2 thousand babies are being murdered every day, just so we can preserve the status quo. Keep voting on social issues, or war, or whatever it is that you fancy is more important than 3,287 innocent children being murdered today.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:17 pm

«— The Name Game, Part II
—» War Report

And the Winner Is…

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I finally received my absentee ballot in the mail today. Given the small window I now have for submitting it, I had little choice but to fill it out almost immediately and get it back in the postal system. Regular readers of this blog are already familiar — painfully so — with my angst over whom to choose for Executive. After class, I rushed back to the barracks, changed clothes (my daily uniform is not one that can be worn off-base), and quickly ended my indecision. I sat at my desk, looked my God in the eye, and silently asked for guidance.

My choice in an upcoming article to be published after the Election.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:23 pm

«— The Candidate for You
—» And the Winner Is…

The Name Game, Part II

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<— See Part I

On rare occasions, I reveal my affinity for those unorthodox Orthodox monastics, the Monks of New Skete, because I believe that they have gotten some things right. Their philosophy on name translation is one. If we look at the patristic and Orthodox names that have currency in English, there is a clear trend — with one or two notable exceptions.

Almost all of these names are originally Greek names (or perhaps Aramaic names in a Greek form — we’ll save the more difficult issue of the translation of Biblical names for another essay). Some, however, are originally Latin names. English Christianity is formed from two sources — Latin Roman Catholicism and French Norman nobility. (Unfortunately, much of the Celtic influence was effectively eradicated by the Latin Church, especially in terms of names, though its presence is still felt in the Anglican aesthetic sensibility.)

From the Franco-Norman influence we get the most recognizable English Christian names that come from Greek and Latin by way of French. In this group are Mary, Basil, John, Peter, Simon, Paul, Gregory, Anne, Augustine, Jerome, Anthony, Joseph. It is from French that we get the tendency to strip names of their Greco-Latin -us/-a endings.

Many other patristic and Orthodox names that already have currency in English are Latinized Greek names where the pronunciation has been Anglicized. Names that fall into this list are copius and too many to list, but a few are Ignatius, Photius (pronounced like Ignatius, mind you — FOE-shus), Macarius, Athanasius, Maximus, Anastasia, and the most recognizable from this category of names, Jesus.

So, in review, there seem to be two categories of Christian names in English: Those which have been filtered through Greek, Latin, and French and then Anglicized, and those which have been filtered through Latin and Anglicized only in pronunciation.

Based on this natural evolution of names, our path is clear: When there is a clear and common English equivalent, use it. When there is not, there is an equally clear path: Find a Latin equivalent and Anglicize the pronunciation. When there is not a Latin equivalent — a rare case indeed — Latinize the Greek spelling and Anglicize the pronunciation.

In the next installment, we will look at some very typical names as well as some odd cases that arise from applying the above guidelines.

See Part III —>

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:35 pm

«— The Name Game, Part I
—» The Name Game, Part II

The Candidate for You

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This one is just too good to pass up. John Kerry is the candidate for you, no matter what you believe.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:03 pm

«— Stats: Spooky and Sweet
—» The Candidate for You

The Name Game, Part I

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I have been considering the inconsistent and often ethnic way in which the Orthodox translate names. Consider these names: Yakov, Lazar, Vasily, Afanassy, Pavle, Pyotr, Dmitri, Theofan, Maria, Alexei, Aleksandr, Nikolai, Ioann, Ignaty, Elena, Iakovos. Or these: Athanasios, Ignatios, Photios, Vasilios, Symeon, Petros, Chrysostomos, Maximos.

Many of these Russian and Greek names have clear and recognizable English equivalents. Sometimes the English equivalent is used, and sometimes it is not. There seems to be no consistency whatsoever — only personal whim and ecclesial caprice. Why would the English equivalent not be preferrable on a consistent basis?

American converts sometimes take a name like “Nikolai,” in spite of the clear preference given to “Nicholas” by their language and culture. Such choices confuse me: What is the impetus behind such a clearly ethnic choice? The argument could be made that, perhaps, they are taking the name and patronage of a recent saint, one whose name is “Nikolai” and not “Nicholas.” But I have yet to see anyone in America take the name “Ioannos,” “Petros,” “Pavle” or “Pyotr.” It seems that “John,” “Paul” and “Peter” nearly always win out here.

A related problem is the translation of names in texts. This is where any consistency or preference for English equivalents is entirely absent. On the OCA website, the problem is most apparent. Take, for example, tomorrow’s listing of saints and hymns and its Synaxarion. Note these inconsistencies: Arethas/Aretha/Arethus, Athanasius/Athanasios, Syncletica/Synkletike/Syncletia, Sysoes/Sisois, Elesbaan/Elezboi, Theophilus/Theophil/Theophilos. Some of these inconsistencies are within the very same page!

It should be self-evident that a robust American church needs saints with English names; a look at mature Orthodox Churches in the old world also reveals that we should be working toward consistently Anglicized names. In the next installment we will look at what a consistent translation of names might look like.

See Part II —>

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:41 pm

«— In Consideration of the Oppressed
—» The Name Game, Part I

Stats: Spooky and Sweet

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Looking at my stats, my number one search term for the October month has been “spooky car ad,” for which I am the third link on Google.

A little further down the list, but much more endearing in the long term, is the phrase, “dappled light.” Two years ago, I wrote a short ode to the advent of autumn. Now my momentary conjunction of words is a top search term in Google. That article is second.

This weblog is on the eighth page of Google listings for “basil.” This keeps fluctuating. A few days ago, it was page six. A month or so ago is was page ten. Then nine. Now it’s just fluctuating around the seven to eight range. Page one will be mine. Again. Then, total domination.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:38 pm

«— Yahoo! News Apologizes for Omission
—» Stats: Spooky and Sweet

In Consideration of the Oppressed

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In a New York Times op-ed commentary published today, the Catholic Archbishop of Denver questions the common aphorism among Catholics — and, perhaps, some Orthodox as well — that we “should not impose our personal beliefs on others.” His excellency makes some excellent points, particularly this:

Lawmaking inevitably involves some group imposing its beliefs on the rest of us. That’s the nature of the democratic process. If we say that we “ought” to do something, we are making a moral judgment. When our legislators turn that judgment into law, somebody’s ought becomes a “must” for the whole of society. This is not inherently dangerous; it’s how pluralism works.

Michael Novak, I believe, elaborates this point further by recognizing that in a healthy democracy, the majority makes laws with a sense of justice for the minority. Without a just and moral sense of obligation toward those less fortunate who lack a strong voice, democracy becomes a tyranny of the majority. For those whose voices and beliefs are ignored and trampled, such legislative indifference is indistinguishable from totalitarian government.

This moral conviction of the majority finds expression in legislation which considers the minority viewpoint and actively advocates the rights of the weak and oppressed. Without this moral conviction of the majority, many significant and moral changes in our society would not exist: abolition, abuse laws, civil rights laws, labor laws.

In the case of infanticide (induced abortions), the millions of unborn children killed each year are the silent minority for whom we must speak. Unable to legislate on their own behalf, we must write the legislation that protects their rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Among oppressed minorities, this is the one whose oppression is the blackest mark upon our national conscience. Nothing could be more oppressive than to be killed for no other reason than that your existence is inconvenient.

Catholics have an obligation to work for the common good and the dignity of every person. We see abortion as a matter of civil rights and human dignity, not simply as a matter of religious teaching. We are doubly unfaithful – both to our religious convictions and to our democratic responsibilities – if we fail to support the right to life of the unborn child. Our duties to social justice by no means end there. But they do always begin there, because the right to life is foundational.

A good instruction for all catholics, Roman and otherwise.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:23 pm

«— Mutterings for October 17
—» In Consideration of the Oppressed

Yahoo! News Apologizes for Omission

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Yahoo! News was quickly forced by the world’s 2 million Orthodox Christians to apologize for ignoring them. An article released earlier today, “Anglicans Urge Ban on Gay Marriage, Gay Bishops,” referred to divisions between Anglicans and other Christians in this way:

The dispute served to highlight the differences between the Anglicans, who govern themselves by consensus, and their fellow Christians in the much larger Roman Catholic Church, which is run under the strict authority of the Pope.

Orthodox Christians quickly complained that they were left out of the comparison, even though they outnumber Anglicans worldwide by quite a bit. They also contended that the ecclesial government of Anglicanism could not properly be called consensual.

Yahoo! News responded with this apology, though they did not amend the original copy: “We apologize to the world’s two million Orthodox Christians. We read in the AP Stylebook that you, too, are consensual, and yet, surprisingly, you are very conservative. You are way more conservative than the pope, in fact. Frankly, we don’t know how to categorize you people. Sorry.”

In a response to Yahoo! News’ reply, spokesman Hieroschemamonk Vasily Vasileivich complained, “The Pope, does he hold to the strict tradition of the unbroken Church? No, he does not. Was it Roman Catholicism in seventeenth century Russia? No, it was not!”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 5:42 pm

«— Fool for You
—» Yahoo! News Apologizes for Omission

Mutterings for October 17

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Every Sunday, it’s time for “Unconscious Mutterings.”
Read the rest of “Mutterings for October 17”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:13 pm

«— Just Passing Through
—» Mutterings for October 17

Fool for You

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There are times when faith and common sense do not align,
when hard core evidence of you is hard to find,
and I am silenced in the face of argumenative debate, and
it’s a long hill it’s a lonely climb. Cause they want proof,
They want proof of all these mysteries I claim. Cause only
fools would want to chant a dead man’s name.
Maybe it’s true, yeah but….

I would be a fool for You, all because You asked me to.
A simpleton who’s seemingly naive,
I do believe, You came and made Yourself a fool for me.

I admit that in my darkest hours I’ve asked what if,
What if we created some kind of man made faith like this,
Out of good intention or emotional invention,
and after life is through there will be no You.
Cause they want proof of all these miracles I claim,
Cause only fools believe that men can walk on waves.
Maybe it’s true, yeah but…

I would be a fool for You, all because…

Unaware of popularity,
and unconcerned with dignity,
You made me free.
That’s proof enough for me.

I would be a fool for You
Only if You asked me to,
A simpleton who’s only thinkin’ of
your cause of love.

I will speak Jesus’ name.
If that makes me crazy,
they can call me crazed,
I’m happy to be seemingly naive,
I do believe, You came and made Yourself a fool for me.

—Nichole Nordeman, “Fool for You”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:09 pm

«— What Heresy?
—» Fool for You

Just Passing Through

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In the Navy, church can often provide a home when you’re not at home. St. Nicholas the Wonderworker parish is my current home-away-from-home. I thought I would share with you some photos of the nave and the narthex. The icons are by Archpriest Andrew Tregubov (mostly).

Oh, just for the record, someone probably holds the copyright on the original images — either the parish or Fr. Andrew. Just so you know. All rights and that stuff.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:17 pm