Fr Andrew Phillips has written a very welcome post here dashing the unfounded rumour that pope Francis is planning a trip to Russia. Praise God it is unfounded! I have no doubt that Francis wants to visit Russia, as did his predecessor John Paul II who rather arrogantly believed he had the right to go anywhere he pleased and be welcomed as a good man. Remember his trip to Greece in 2001? That didn’t go down too well with the locals, did it? For me, there were too many reminiscences of the treason and perfidy of John Bekkos and the Emperors who lost their faith that God would deliver them. But Francis in Russia? Why? There are, of course, Roman Catholics in Russia* (like Jews, they seem to get everywhere!), so one would hope that the rumour of a visit was for their benefit and not, as schismatics would, to deceive the Orthodox into leaving the communion of Christ’s Church, exchanging the truth for a lie. Not that Francis, who recently congratulated a pair of sodomites on the adoption of their ill-fated child, is too bothered about people joining his communion. He seems more concerned about pushing the textbook neo-liberal agenda of his contemporaries in secular power like Angela Merkel and Peter Sutherland, and generally being the answer to a question nobody asked. I can only say again, God be praised the rumour is unfounded but rest assured I shall oppose any planned visit of the Arch-heretic to Russia to the utmost of my power.
As for the other bit of news, about the disruption of a gay orgy within sight of St Peter’s basilica, that news is stale now but I just rolled my eyes and turned to the next story. It’s years now since I was in the least bit scandalised by the corruption and hypocrisy of the Roman clergy.
*Incidentally, I hope that Mr Putin deals with them as he has with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Is it right to use new things in divine service? Is it fitting to use printed books, electric light, and mass-produced vestments? I have the electric bulb in mind especially here. Printed books have their value, especially as a safeguard against scribal error and the kind of uniformity that comes with them, even if by becoming accustomed to uniformity we have actually lost something; a sense of parochial individuality and charming illumination. But electricity in church came to my mind to-day as I was stood in a checkout queue in my local supermarket. I looked up and was sorely oppressed by the artificial light glaring at me from the ceiling. I thought then of the candle-bearer at Latin episcopal liturgies, a remnant of the time past when he served a practical purpose, just as the boy in the choir of Notre Dame de Paris who processed down the stalls with the Antiphoner at Mattins pointing to the antiphon once served a practical purpose (even if he no longer exists, and Mattins is extinct). Some churches in Russia eschew electricity, particularly the churches of the Old Ritualists and the Edinoverie, not just because electricity is new and oppressive but because real light and shadow serve as the most natural ways to direct our minds Godwards in prayer, as opposed to electric light, throwing out its dull beams, mortifying flesh and which is everywhere artificial and distracting. (I remember Roman Catholic traditionalists appealing to the significance of the Tenebrae service, even if few of them were too concerned about the psalms at Lauds or the time of day).
I would that we all did away with the light bulb in churches and followed the example of the Old Ritualists.
Wikipedia references are notoriously unreliable. I have encountered authors’ names misspelled, and once a book that didn’t even exist (although that has since been removed). Anyway, I have been trying to authenticate a book referenced in the Wikipedia article on the Second Council of Lyons (1274). I made an exhaustive search for it on Abebooks but came up with nothing, and there is no copy in Google Books either. The book is entitled: “The Byzantine Reaction to the Second Council of Lyons, 1274,” by eminent Byzantinist Donald MacGillivray Nicol, published in 1971. It might not even be a book; perhaps just a chapter in another book on the subject of the Crusades, or the union of the churches. I just can’t know. If anybody more skilled at this sort of thing can offer their assistance, I would be very much obliged.
Call me an old whinger but I’ve become increasingly annoyed every weekend with finding some kind of sports competition on my television. Wimbledon, the London marathon (which once disrupted a Palm Sunday procession I went to in London), the World Cup, the so-called “paralympics” (by far the worst, in my view), and now yet another world championship. I don’t care for sport or for contests of strength and speed; I think there should be less of it. Man will never be as strong as an ox, nor as swift as a gazelle and our most Christian Emperor Theodosius was moved by divine will to ban the Olympic games as pagan, and unworthy of Christian culture, in A.D 394. What irritates me, vis-a-vis what I’ve said about human limitation, is this exaltation of the body at the expense of the mind and the soul, and I think this tendency runs parallel with the decline in Christianity. Once a civilisation has abandoned belief in the life eternal, what is left but this life and this body? Is it any coincidence that the modern Olympic games were revived in 1896, between the publication of Darwin’s work and that War which forever compromised the churches in Europe and brought about an end to Christian Monarchy in Russia? Is it a coincidence that the Olympic games appealed to the Nazi elite, with their pagan and pseudo-scientific race doctrine? I do not think so.
Many of us marvel that athletes can run miles at record speed, and throw objects further than their predecessors, and we feign outrage when many of them turn out to have used drugs to enhance their ability. Not me. I’m not in the least bit impressed, and the scarcely-regulated use of drugs just lessens the prestige and attraction that these contests might otherwise have for people like me.
Look at this woman. I have no idea who she is; I just typed in “olympic athlete” into Google Images. Angry, thrilled, half-naked; not exactly the qualities we’d expect in a Christian woman! As Mrs Doubtfire said, “not a single body that exists in nature.” My own body is pallid and flabby, but I have the decency to cover it up, and I suppose that nothing for which the life beautiful has a name can be read into a pot belly!
I would that more of us sought to furnish our minds with beauty rather than put so much effort into our perishable bodies.