Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday Wave

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless others now.
- Teresa of Avila

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday Wave

New advent of the love of Christ,
Shall we again refuse You,
Till in the night of hate and war
We perish as we lose You?

From old unfaith our souls release
To seek the kingdom of Your peace
By which alone we choose You.

O wounded hands of Jesus, build
In us Your new creation;
Our pride is dust, our vaunt is stilled,
We wait Your revelation.

O Love that triumphs over loss,
We bring our hearts before Your cross;
Come, finish Your salvation.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Wave

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Week Schedule

Palm Sunday:  Holy Eucharist at 8am; Eucharist with the Great Procession at 10am. [Remember to meet in the parish house at 10am.]

Holy Wednesday: 7:00pm Evening Prayer

Maundy Thursday: 7:30pm Proper Liturgy including the Stripping of the Altar.

Good Friday: Stations of the Cross at Noon; the Proper Liturgy at 7:00pm. 

Holy Saturday: 7:00 pm The Great Vigil of Easter.

Easter Sunday: Music and Celebration at both 8am and 10:00am.

Maundy Thursday Wave

"You can't change the shape of a wave; you can only ride it.  Now, choose your wave and surf it.  Surf it until you fall or until the sand crunches under the board's nose."

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Tuesday Wave

“Faith is to trust yourself in the water.  When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown.  Instead you relax and float.” – Alan Watts

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Monday Wave

“It is not what you are nor what you have been that God sees with all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be.” – The Cloud of Unknowing

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Wave

“You can’t know your direction if you don’t know your origin.” – Alan Watts

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lenten Wave #40 [Holy Week Prep Wave]

“The very harmony of creation, its preservation and governing, teach us that there is a God Who has put all this together and keeps it together.” —St. John of Damascus

Lenten Wave #39 [A Bonus Wave]

“The orderly arrangement of the whole universe is a kind of musical harmony whose maker and artist is God.” —St. Gregory of Nyssa

Friday, March 22, 2013

Something Tells Me The "Open Discourse" Of Which They're So Proud Would Not Have Happened If It Were Mohammed That Was To Be Stomped On

FAU Student Claims He Was Suspended For Refusing To Step On Jesus

Captain Sir Richard Burton


I once had an alarm clock that I found particularly abrasive.  Whenever it would sound in the morning, a clanging, jangling double-bell that would vibrate the entire mechanism off of the nightstand and send me close to cardiac arrest, I felt as if I had been assaulted somehow.

Now, imagine waking one morning to discover a Somali spear rammed completely through your face from cheek to cheek.  That alarm clock doesn't seem so bad anymore.

Such was a day in the life of Sir Richard Burton, a captain not in the British Army, but of the East India Company [yes, it had its own army], a linguist who had knowledge of an estimated 29 languages, a cartographer who was the first to chart portions of East Africa, a swordsman who wrote the manual on the strategic and tactical use of the blade in combat [a manual still read by officers in the Royal Army], an explorer who was the first European to set eyes upon Lake Tanganyika, and a diplomat with the Foreign Office.

I should mention that he dualed rather a lot while at university; they didn't have "beer pong" in those days.

He was also a spy, a poet, a translator of works such as The Arabian Nights, and, in particular, an accomplished master of disguise.  In other words, he was a typical 19th century adventurer: bold, educated, audacious, curious and, when necessary, mildly homicidal.

Burton was born in 1822 to a military officer father and a mother who was from a family of property.  That meant that, since birth, he would be guaranteed both an education and a position in the army. Since his parents had a love of travel and the wherewithal to indulge it, Burton grew up living throughout Europe, picking up a variety of conversational languages from his various tutors.  Eventually, he was formally schooled in London and at Oxford's Trinity College.  In keeping with the tradition of accomplished Victorians, he was expelled.  The one lasting experience for Burton at college was learning Arabic to fluency.

[Some day I'm going to compile a list of men and women of letters and science who either never participated in higher education or were invited to leave the hallowed halls.]

He then "accepted" a commission in the East India Company's army, hoping to fight in the First Afghan War, but the conflict ended before he arrived in India.  For someone like Burton there could have been nothing more dull than a peacetime military, so he threw himself into the further study of fencing, into investigating Hindu culture, and into a working knowledge of Hindi and Persian.  When offered the chance to lead a survey into an area highly dangerous to European officers, he jumped at the chance.  In order to survive the command, he disguised himself so successfully that neither the locals nor his fellow officers recognized him.

Burton disguised as a camel.  No, no, that's not right.  Burton disguised as an Arab shepherd.
[Readers familiar with Kipling's thrilling yarn Kim will recognize Burton as the inspiration for the character of "Colonel Creighton"; as well as for the protagonist in George MacDonald Fraser's extremely entertaining "Harry Flashman" novels.]

As his interest in Islam and its culture and languages began to increase, along with his facility at successful disguise, Burton decided to undertake one of the most dangerous experiences of his already dangerous existence.  Using his ability in Arabic, his close study of Islamic custom, and his knowledge of the Koran [he had already published his translation of the sacred book], he would disguise himself as a Muslim trader and join in the pilgrimage to Mecca in order to...well, in order to do what no Britisher had done before.  Does there need to be a better reason?

Burton practicing trying to kill people with his mind.

So he did, risking discovery and inevitable death during every hour of the Hajj.  He was successful, though, and marked the occasion by writing a two-volume book, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah.  [Note: the book is now in public domain and may be "purchased" at no cost for those with electronic reading devices.]  The pilgrimage was so transformative that he practiced Islam for the remainder of his life.

And what a life it was.  His adventures in Mecca were merely the beginning, as Burton became one of the eminent explorers of the African continent, determined to discover the source of the Nile River.  To do so, Burton and his colleagues had to travel through remarkably dangerous territory [What else is new?] in the eastern portion for the continent, meeting tribes both friendly and hostile; some of them friendly one day and hostile the next.  Hence the moment described earlier, which necessitated Burton beating a hasty retreat from his attackers with a spear still protruding from both sides of his face.  In later life he would complain that he lost a tooth because of it.

Two years later Burton, with his co-explorer Richard Speake, began a second journey that was beset with so many maladies that it's a wonder both men were not kept in jars for study at a medical school.  Plagued by dysentery, fevers, ear infections leading to partial deafness, blindness, and lame-ness, the two explorers finally arrived at what they named Lake Tanganyika in February of 1858.  Speake, in a subsequent adventure, would come upon Lake Victoria and declare it the Nile's source.

There were other adventures for Burton, not the least of which was having to prove himself not a fraud before the Royal Geographical Society and dealing with a lawsuit filed by Speake, the impetus for which is still a little cloudy.  It would remain so as Speake died from an accidental [?] discharge from a shotgun before things between the two men were resolved.

Burton would live to the age 69, serving during the final third of his life as a British counsel in a variety of posts, from the Congo to Brazil to Damascus, with the final posting in Trieste, Italy.  For those of us raised on British boys' magazines, filled with the lusty adventures of explorers and soldiers, Burton's always set the highest standard.  For all of the derring-do, it should be noted that, before the era of formalized anthropological study, Burton kept very detailed and scientific notes on all of his explorations and discoveries.  Since his range of interests was so broad and deep, these mid-19th century notes were invaluable to the next several generations of cartographers, anthropologists, ethnologists, archaeologists, and diplomats.

Burton is interred in a stone crypt in London that is carved to resemble the tents still used by the hajji during the spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca.  The fact that a practicing Muslim is buried in a Roman Catholic churchyard is the result of some subterfuge by Mrs. Burton; subterfuge being the theme of Burton's life, that seems rather perfect.

Burton's narratives and translations are still in print, with many, as noted above, now in public domain and thus available at no cost.  A rather good biography by Edward Rice entitled simply Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, which was originally published in the mid-1990's, is still in print and worth reading.  A film entitled Mountains of the Moon, primarily about Burton and Speake's African explorations, was released about 25 years ago and is available on DVD and in digital format.  I seem to recall it earned "two thumbs up" from a corpulent film reviewer and his partner.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Another governor discovers that he doesn't know much about guns and gun parts, but pushes through legislation anyway.

New York Times: New York Governor Favors Easing His Own Newly Passed Gun Law

Wait now, I thought the original law was, in the gov's words, designed to "overpower extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense."  Uh, huh.  How rare, a boasting politician.

Unfortunately, Mr. Intelligence-Reason-Common Sense forgot about a few things.  First, all of the weapons used by law enforcement in his state carry more than seven rounds in their magazines [please don't call them "clips"; they aren't clips] and, since there was no law enforcement exemption, every single law enforcement officer in New York was in violation of the new law.

Second, who the heck makes magazines that carry fewer than ten rounds?  [Well, I guess those who own handguns that use the 1911 design; so a whopping 5% of manufactured magazines fit the new law.  Why does an Episcopal priest know more about guns than a fellow who signs bills into law?]

Third, there are a number of gun and part manufacturers in New York.  Imagine if they, like some of those companies in Colorado, simply leave a high-tax, high-regulation state for a friendlier environment, taking hundreds, perhaps thousands of jobs with them?  America has a fluid economy, or so I'm told.

Fourth, legislative overreach disquiets the general population, which may be seen in the governor's dropping approval ratings.  This may be his strongest motivation, especially since he hasn't kept it a secret that he wishes to run for president.  [I hope he modifies his bellowing public speaking style if he does, because he reminds me of some semi-literate footballers in schools in which I've taught when they had to say something at a pep rally.]

Laws will only constrain the law-abiding; by definition, criminals and lunatics exist outside of laws.  If intelligence, reason, and common-sense were actually employed by boastful, bellowing pharisees, they would address the real cause of mass violence: psychotropic medication, which is a common factor in every single mass shooting over the last fifteen years.

You may wonder why this is of any concern to me, and I suppose it's because of a number of things.  Since I was born and raised in an area of the country where gun ownership, the safe handling of guns, and their use in hunting were considered normal, I'm always a little touchy about the easy stereotypes that are painted on Midwesterners [and Westerners and Southerners] by the media and the New York-D.C. political establishment, along with their West Coast equivalents.  The recent article in the Washington Post explaining to its readers that, in some parts of the country, hunting and fishing are normal boyhood experiences reminded me of just how distant the contemporary educated, urban male is from such normal activities. 

We are Cuomo's "extremists", apparently; those whom he dismisses as creatures who need to be controlled by those such as himself who are graced with the reason and the intelligence and the common sense.  All because I own a rifle and know how to operate it, I am somehow to be the government's chattel.

The other is that it now seems clear that the events in Newtown are merely seen as a convenience to those like Cuomo and Bloomberg [who is underwriting much of the current "guns are icky" frenzy as part of his bizarre control need] that could be exploited to further their intentions.  I don't believe they care much about the victims or survivors of that atrocity outside of their usefulness in furthering the power of government officials. 

Historically, power is gained through coercion and the manipulation of fear, and that's the intention behind these actions.  There is nothing that has been suggested in the manner of gun control that would have prevented the events in our state.  The mass killing of children was not caused by a particular type of handle on a rifle [if indeed, a rifle was used; since the report has not yet been released, we don't officially know what really happened] or the number of rounds contained in a magazine [not to brag, but this timid clergyman can change magazines in a rifle so fast that there would be no significant interruption in the rate of fire; it was the government that trained me how to do that, by the way], or how "scary" a rifle looks to a senator from California.

It was caused by people pretending that madness was not in their midst, and who were unfortunate enough to live in a state that, over the last twenty years, has reduced the number of treatment facilities for the mentally ill by 75%.  The fact that politicians continue to draw attention away from what could really make a difference is a social concern that, in a healthy world, or in a greater church with true, thoughtful leadership, would be in desperate need of address.

Related:  The Daily Beast - Did the Assault-Weapons Ban Kill Gun Control?

The United Nations Should Be Involved In This

School Asks Students to Ditch Axe Body Spray

Scotland The Brave; And A Little Weird

The Free Church of Scotland is pushing a bill that will allow people that have made the Star Wars movies their religion the power to perform marriage ceremonies, according to Yahoo! News.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill would apply to both religious and nonreligious groups that include the Flat Earth Society and, yes, the Jedi Knights Society, aka the Temple of the Jedi Order.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Materialism is a premise of science, not a finding."

The "new" new atheists [as opposed to the classical atheists, post-modern atheists, and formerly new atheists] are great believers in Materialism: only things that can be scientifically measured actually exist.  According to them, since God cannot be scientifically perceived or measured, God doesn't exist.  This view elevates science as the ultimate arbiter of what is real and what is not.  Science now replaces metaphysics, in that the study of anything that cannot currently be measured need not be intellectually engaged.

[Only once did I see the late Christopher Hitchens, one of the "new" new atheists, live.  He was onstage during one of those interminable debates about the existence of God; interminable because I can never understand why his opponents always fall for the impossible role of debating a negative statement.  Anyway, he was, in the parlance, blasted out of his mind; drunk as a lord; gooned on liquor.  He was also smoking cigarette after cigarette.  It occurred to me then that, if science, with its ability to accurately measure and note things such as the negative health effects of smoking and excessive drinking, is now the highest appeal in human existence, Hitchens was without question preaching a world view that he did not respect or share.  He was a fake.  Interestingly, he died of esophageal cancer, which is scientifically related to the practice of heavy simultaneous smoking and alcohol consumption.]

There's a new book that explores Materialistic view of human existence and finds it wanting.  From Ferguson's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, comes this gem:
From a fruitful method, materialism becomes an axiom: If science can’t quantify something, it doesn’t exist, and so the subjective, unquantifiable, immaterial “manifest image” of our mental life is proved to be an illusion....
But this is a fatal weakness for a theory that aspires to be a comprehensive picture of the world. With magnetic resonance imaging, science can tell us which parts of my brain light
up when, for example, I glimpse my daughter’s face in a crowd; the bouncing neurons can be observed and measured. Science cannot quantify or describe the feelings I experience when I see my daughter. Yet the feelings are no less real than the neurons.

The point sounds more sentimental than it is. My bouncing neurons and my feelings of love and obligation are unquestionably bound together. But the difference between the neurons and the feelings, the material and the mental, is a qualitative difference, a difference in kind. And of the two, reductive materialism can capture only one.

Ideology Censors Truth

Fiamengo’s arguments weren’t going down easy, this one—her best—in particular: women’s studies “can’t be about the pursuit of truth” because it has an “ideological base.” Its goal is to push the ideology that women are victims and men are perpetrators. Therefore, any evidence to the contrary, regardless of its veracity, is unwelcome. In other words, ideology censors truth. “If you believe you are righteous,” she said, “you don’t challenge other views.”

Although this was a lecture about the failures of Women's Studies programs in higher education, it could be applied to contemporary mainstream Protestantism, as well.  Which do we choose, political ideology that is driven by transient secular standards, or a truth that has served for over 2000 years?  Thus is the tension of our times, although it does appear that transient ideology is not the firmest base for any institution.

So Can The Lack Of It

Experts Say Food May Contribute To Anger, Violent Behavior

Monday, March 18, 2013

Happy Days Are Here Again

Washington Post:  Food stamps put Rhode Island town on monthly boom-and-bust cycle

It reminds me of what I saw in Eastern Europe in the 1970's.  Why is it our bishops have to travel overseas to work with the poor?

Please Don't Tell Me That There Is Any Difference At All Between The Political Parties

That's just the snake oil that the respective parties sell to the rubes.

From the UK Telegraph:

Why it's become clear that Obama's White House is open to the rich and closed to the poor

As a church, we're either going to stand for social justice in a logical and uniform manner or not at all.  Favoring one political party over another just makes us tools of those who use the faith in a cynical and self-serving manner.

What A Radical

Hillary Clinton announces support for gay marriage

I'd Be Impressed If Dick Cheney Hadn't Done This FIVE YEARS AGO.  It's almost like she wants to run for president or something.

A Nice Article About C.S. Lewis

A Faith Observed

This Week's Lesser Feasts

March 18th: Cyril of Jerusalem [313-386]

When growing affluence, Christian evangelism, and the formidable Roman highway system encouraged greater travel to Jerusalem during the days leading up to Easter Sunday, the bishop, in order to give the pilgrims who were filling his city something constructive and reverent to do, developed a series of liturgies specific to the days of Holy Week, each based on an event leading to the resurrection.  So popular did these proper liturgies become that pilgrims brought them back to their home congregations upon their return, thus ensuring that, over time, these liturgical practices would become universally engaged.  Thus, Cyril is recognized as the creator of the Holy Week liturgies: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.
More of him may be found here.
Strengthen, O Lord, the bishops of your Church in their special calling to be teachers and ministers of the Sacraments, so that they, like your servant Cyril of Jerusalem, may effectively instruct your people in Christian faith and practice; and that we, taught by them, may enter more fully into the celebration of the Paschal mystery; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
March 19: St. Joseph
 220px-Saint_Joseph_with_the_Infant_Jesus_by_Guido_Reni,_c_1635.jpg (220×270)

I might add that as of the 21st century, he has also become the unofficial patron of step-fathers.
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
March 20: Cuthbert of Lindisfarne [634-687]
Almighty God, you called Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of your people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from your ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

March 21: Thomas Ken [1637-1711]

Ken trained at Win­ches­ter and New Coll­ege, Ox­ford, and was or­dained an Ang­li­can priest in 1662. In 1663, he be­came Rec­tor of Lit­tle East­on, and Rec­tor of Wood­hay and Pre­ben­da­ry of Win­ches­ter in 1669. He pub­lished a Man­u­al of Pray­ers, for the use of the schol­ars of Win­ches­ter Coll­ege, in 1674. He was brief­ly chap­lain to Prin­cess Ma­ry, and lat­er to the Brit­ish fleet. He be­came Bi­shop of Bath and Wells in 1685. He was one of sev­er­al bi­shops im­pris­oned in the Tow­er of Lon­don for re­fus­ing to sign James II’s “De­clar­a­tion of In­dul­gence” (hop­ing to re­store Ca­thol­i­cism in Eng­land); he was tried and ac­quit­ted. Ken wrote much po­e­try, pu­blished post­hu­mous­ly in 1721.

He is also the composer of the hymn that marks the Offertory in our parish and in almost every other parish in the Episcopal Church: "Praise God, from whom all Blessings Flow".

Almighty God, you gave your servant Thomas Ken grace and courage to bear witness to the truth before rulers and kings: Give us strength also that, following his example, we may constantly defend what is right, boldly reprove what is evil, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

March 22: James DeKoven [1831-1879]

If you have ever travelled eastbound through Middletown on Route 66 [not the fabled one that begins, or ends, at the Santa Monica Pier, but the more prosaic namesake that laces across the Nutmeg State] and have come to a stop at the intersection of Route 9, there is a house that sits on the right side of the road named DeKoven House. You may note that there is an historic plaque on it that cannot, alas, be easily read from the road. That's a pity, because it is significant in the life of one of the most important Episcopalians in our ecclesial history.

Connecticut's James DeKoven was born in 1831 to a prominent maritime family and ordained at the age of 24. His early service to the Church was as a professor at
Nashotah House, an Episcopal Church seminary in the wilds of 19th century Wisconsin. Later, he would also serve as Warden of Racine College, an Episcopal college on the frontier.

What makes DeKoven special, at least in the eyes of clergy such as your rector and the shrinking number of his compatriots in liturgy and theology, is that he was a champion and theological apologist for those who believe that the more intentional the Celebration of the Holy Communion, the more purposeful its experience and result.

For example, DeKoven emphasized the "real presence" of the Christ in the bread and wine, not in some superstitious sense, but as an obvious reaction to the teachings of the New Testament. To highlight this understanding, DeKoven resurrected for the American Episcopal Church practices such as bowing, kneeling, the use of candles, the making of the sign of the cross, and the "manual acts" engaged by the celebrating clergy [as seen every Sunday behind the altar at Christ Church].

Naturally, true innovation is so prized in institutions that DeKoven was labeled a "ritualist", slandered a dozen different ways for his "Romish" practices, and twice denied the office of bishop, despite having been elected such by the Dioceses of Wisconsin and Illinois, respectively. That notion of respecting the dignity of every human being can be a fickle thing.

However, his liturgical theology carried with it a logic and, not to be discounted, great ability to use non-verbal imagery to carry those understandings that are beyond words. Hence, he is recognized on this day for his contribution to our common life and, like many of the true innovators of the Church, his providential avoidance of the limitations of the office of bishop.

He died at the age of 48, after teaching that day's classes at Racine College.

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who didst inspire thy servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may afford to thy faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

March 23: Gregory the Illuminator [257-332]

When I attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, beginning thirty years ago [!], the institution also served as the eastern seminary for the Armenian Orthodox Church in the US. Due to the many similarities between our branches of Christianity [Celtic Christianity is older than the Church of Rome; Armenia was the first nation to convert, before the Roman Empire did], it was a handsome fit. Also, the Armenians, many of whom were enjoying their first stay in the United States, were great friends and classmates as they were gregarious, generous, and full of life.

Two things I learned about them: They have a remarkably low regard for the Turks [see
"Armenian Genocide"] and a terrific veneration for St. Gregory the Illuminator. The former is a matter of history, the latter of history and faith:

In the 3rd Century, Armenia served as a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, and was often caught between the empires' competing needs and wants. Gregory was born circa 257. While an infant, his father pro-actively participated in politics by assassinating the King of Persia; family friends carried Gregory away for his protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was baptized and raised as a Christian.

About 280 he returned to Armenia as a missionary and anchorite, where he was originally treated severely. Eventually, by patience and through sound preaching and example, he brought King Tiridates III and his people to the Christian faith.

A generation later, Gregory was consecrated as the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332.

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Relax, Let The Police Be The Ones To Control Guns

SWAT officer attracts ridicule after he’s pictured with his rifle sight on backwards

The scary thing about this, as I know from experience as I own a less expensive version of this rifle sight, is that it requires some practice to get it calibrated just right.  I've never been able to re-calibrate mine in fewer than ten minutes firing about 20-25 rounds.  Once it's "sighted in", it's great and highly accurate.  If it isn't, shots will go wide; sometimes wildly so.

So, as I believe someone in the article mentions, this means that a SWAT officer is using a deadly weapon, what politicians call an "assault weapon", in a live-fire zone without ever, ever having used it on a range.  He has never practiced with it.  Great.  These are the people we're to trust with our safety because, you know, they're the ones trained to use guns.

This was a lazy, bone-headed move that endangered people.  Had I ever done this, Gunnery Sergeant Webb would have made sure that I would not have been able to sit down until the next century.

I'm Beginning To Think Malthus Was A Crackpot

Cheap, clean water may soon be available for the whole planet. According to Reuters, defense contractor Lockheed Martin has developed a filter that will hugely reduce the amount of energy necessary to turn sea water into fresh water. The filter, which is five hundred times thinner then others currently available, lets water pass through but blocks all salt molecules. It will use almost 100 times less energy than other methods for making salt water drinkable, giving third world countries another way of expanding access to drinking water without having to create costly pumping stations.

So, ten years of United Nations Millennium Development Goals, as supported by the Episcopal Church = 0

A few years of research and development by an "evil" corporation = Salvation.  Hmm.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Feast Day Of The Great Scotsman, Padraic

We celebrate our church's Celtic heritage on this feast day, which honors the great Scotsman himself [yes, he was Scottish], the bishop and missionary Padraic.

Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

[Note: I know that it should be tomorrow that we remember Padraic, but he has been transferrred to Saturday the 16th this year because the 17th falls on a Sunday and all Sundays are feast days dedicated to Our Lord and Savior.  In other words, Paddy gets bumped by Jesus.]

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's A Mystery

How can the mini-series "The Bible" be such a ratings hit when there is no audience for overtly religious entertainment programming?

Kathleen Kenyon

There was a time when archaeology was more an avocational pursuit by wealthy adventurers and treasure-seekers than a branch of anthropological and scientific inquiry.  In fact, the earliest techniques adopted by archaeologists were the same used by the tomb-robbers who had vexed every important site, whether a burial place or ancient structure, from Egypt to the Hebrides since before anyone bothered to record such occurrences.  One of the great frustrations to Egyptologists is that every single pharaoh's tomb, save for the rather small and poor one of Tutankhamen, was robbed within a year of a pharaoh's committal.

Obviously, such a state could not be allowed to exist as, between the larceny of tomb-robbers and the avariciousness of well-connected hobbyists, many of the world's great treasures were being stolen, lost, destroyed or otherwise mishandled.  Heroically, and using the power that came with being British subjects at the height of imperial power, the faculty and staff of some of the colleges and institutions at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, chiefly those from the Ashmolean Museum, dedicated themselves, their influence, political power, and academic training, to reversing this trend.  There are many great personalities that were involved in nudging archaeology into its proper place in the pursuit of human history, but one seems to stand out not only for her academic rigor and her willingness to lead in the field, but also for her resistance to pressures that would have disrupted the objective purity of her discipline.

Kathleen Kenyon was born in the early part of the 20th century; her father was the director of the British Museum and a renowned scholar of the Bible.  She was a powerful scholar herself, graduating from Somerville College, one of the women's colleges of Oxford University, with a degree in history.  I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like to be a child and to have complete access to the wonders of a world-class museum, to have free reign to wander through its halls and exhibits whenever you wished.  Clearly, one of the things it does is make a great archaeologist.

Shortly after her graduation, Kenyon became the official photographer for an expedition to the lost city of Great Zimbabwe, under the tutelage of Gertrude Caton–Thompson, a pioneer for the many active women in the field of archaeology.  [Note: There were quite a few women who worked in this field, even as early as the 19th century; not to mention of number of married couples.]  Kenyon continued her work in other locales, from early Roman sites in Great Britain to those in Samaria, in what was then British-controlled Palestine.  It was in this latter site that she learned the benefit of what is now called stratigraphic sequencing, which is simply digging a trench in a likely place to reveal the events that have occurred over the course of time, mainly through analysis of soil, mineral composition, and the really cool pots, tools, and other human-made items that turn up.  This practice would eventually lead to her greatest discovery.

Did anyone find my car keys?

In the 1930's, along with a number of other British archaeologists, Kenyon founded the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London, an organization that sought to organize, and normalize, archaeological work throughout the world and ensure that the next generation of diggers and squints would follow proper scientific practices.  During this decade she also continued work on early Roman-British sites, work that was interrupted by the Second World War.

After the war, and her service as a Divisional Commander of the British Red Cross, Kenyon went to work, now as the director of the Institute of Archaeology, to re-establish all of the arcane expeditions that had been on hold during the six years of war.  She was not yet forty-years-old.

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Kenyon using her x-ray specs on some pot shards; I think ready to use that formidable cane on a disappointing student's skull.

In 1951, she began work on what would be the defining expedition of her career, and the one that brought attention to her style of "digging".  The earliest incarnation of the Israeli government gave Kenyon and her crew permission to dig in the West Bank in the area of the Biblical city of Jericho.  At the time, much was unknown about the early city and its fabled wall that "came tumblin' down", and it was a site that was particularly favored by stratigraphic analysis.  In so doing, Kenyon altered notions of what neo-lithic life was like, not to mention discovering things that were inconsistent with the Biblical narrative.

It's interesting that in our contemporary age, mostly due to the non-theism that has been institutionalized in higher education, it is difficult to gain funding for archaeological work on Biblical sites unless there is a sure chance that it will disprove Biblical accounts or otherwise undermine the belief of the literalist Christian or Jew, as they are often seen in secular political opposition to faculty members.  In Kenyon's day, it was the opposite.  In general, the taste in universities was much more Christo-centric and, hence, when Kenyon discovered evidence that contradicted the Biblical account of the siege and storming of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites, she did receive some pressure to "re-evaluate" her data.  In the name of intellectual purity, and to her credit, she didn't.

The following is from a site for school-children [which makes it perfect for me] so, while written simplistically, it summarizes Kenyon's finds admirably:

As Kenyon and her team dug down into the mound they made some discoveries that awed archaeologists the world over. It seemed that there had existed a productive well-built city, with massive walls dating from 7000 - 5000 BC, as well as a village community that housed a religious shrine and facilities used for grain storage. What this in fact meant was there had been people living a settled life in the Neolithic Period, 3000 years before pottery was invented. Needless to say, this new discovery completely contradicted the old theories and previously held ideas about the development of pottery.

Kenyon and her team also uncovered massive walls, although they were not the walls Joshua encountered. They were in fact far older. Some parts of the walls had even been built as early as 7000 - 5000 BC. The actual construction of these massive fortifications was truly amazing because they had been built by people that lived 3000 years before the use of pottery, and without the aid of metal tools. 
Kenyon and her team also uncovered skulls dated around 6000 BC. The skulls had the flesh removed and cowry shells inserted into the eye's sockets. The features of the skulls had been moulded in plaster. From these skulls as well as bones found on the site, archaeologists have been able to deduce that the first main inhabitants of Jericho had been small-boned, 150cm tall, with long skulls and delicate features. This would not have been possible if not for Kenyon and her excavations at Jericho. 
Remains of houses found by Kenyon and her team showed that they had comprised of a dome-like structure made from wattle and daub, and then later, rectangular mud-brick houses. There were no roads or streets among these houses, people communicated through open courtyards. 
Remains of equipment included finely carved limestone bowls and polished stone querns. Although no pottery was found it seemed that flint was widely used and flint javelins, arrowheads, hoes and sickle blades were among the remains. The stone querns used for storage of cereals pointed to the harvesting of crops, possibly wheat and barley. It seemed that these early inhabitants also hunted gazelle, identified by animal bones found on the site.

It doesn't look like much now, but you should have seen it in its heyday.

Kenyon became the most famous archaeologist in her field, as she accomplished that which has been the goal of every worker in the arcane since before her and, certainly, after her, as she dramatically and incontrovertibly re-defined our understanding of the past.  Every single textbook that covered the Neo-Lithic age had to be re-written because of this stout Englishwoman and her deliberate, painstaking style of field archaeology.  She also served as an inspiration to the next generations of archaeologists and anthropologists and as the voice of caution to those who think that we are ever complete in our knowledge of the past.  There is, and always will be, more left to discover.

Kathleen Kenyon died in 1978 at the age of 72, spending her final few years in solitude in a remote Welsh cottage, editing her manuscripts.

For those interested in further reading, I would recommend:

Archaeology in the Holy Land, by Kathleen Kenyon
Royal Cities of the Old Testament, also by KK [and my personal favorite]
Dame Kathleen Kenyon: Digging Up the Holy Land by Miriam C. Davis

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Episcopal Church Has Listened To The Advice Of The Un-Churched And Non-Church Going For A Generation...

...and look how much we've grown.  Oops, never mind. 

At a dinner party once upon a time, I mentioned to a table of non-believers and non-churchers how Christianity would be changing in the coming 21st century, with greater participation in developing electronic media, etc.  That observation made some of them froth at the idea that the church would mature with a changing society.  I heard a lot of sentences begin with, "Well, I don't go to church, but....", etc.  It was actually, in a cruel Kingsley Amis manner, rather funny.  It reminded me of a nurse in Catch-22, in response to Yosarrian's criticism of God, stating that it was a "loving, caring God in which I don't believe."

Anyway, after two weeks when "The Bible" is the highest rated show on TV and the papal election the most watched news story, it appears that we still have some relevance after all, as long as we don't listen to the "experts".

From the Wall Street Journal:

"...there’s a lot of ignorant, tendentious and even aggressive media chatter about the church right now, and it’s starting to grate. Church observers are blabbering away on cable and network news telling the church to get with the program, throwing around words like 'gender' and 'celibacy' and 'pedophile' and phrases like 'irrelevant to the modern world.'

I wouldn’t presume to tell Baptists or Lutherans or Orthodox Jews how they should interpret their own theology, what traditions to discard and what new ones to adopt, what root understandings are no longer pertinent. It would be presumptuous, and also deeply impolite in a civic sense. The world I came up in had some virtues, and one was that we gave each other a little more space, a little more courtesy both as individuals and organizations, never mind faiths. That kind of public courtesy is what has allowed America, with all its sharp-elbowed angers and disagreements, to operate.

Right now every idiot in town feels free to tell the church to get hopping...."

Monday, March 11, 2013

This Week's Lesser Feasts

St. Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome [540-604]:

It seems fittingly coincidental that we recognize one of the only two Popes to bear the suffix "the Great" as part of their historical identification, given that the Church of Rome once more meets in deliberation to call the next inheritor of the Great Fisherman's staff. 

St. Gregory the Great, officially known as Pope Gregory I, earns a place on our calendar as he was the Bishop of Rome before our schism with the Roman Catholic Church and as he was a truly innovative leader and creative personality.  For example, he is the composer of the eponymous Gregorian setting of the chant.  He also was responsible for ensuring that the British Isles were well-supplied with good, faithful, organized missionaries, thus enabling the orthodoxy and consistency of Anglican theology.

More of him may be found here.

St. Gregory, born at Rome about the year 540, was the son of Gordianus, a wealthy senator, who later renounced the world and became one of the seven deacons of Rome. After he had acquired the usual thorough education, Emperor Justin the Younger appointed him, in 574, Chief Magistrate of Rome, though he was only thirty-four years of age.
After the death of his father, he built six monasteries in Sicily and founded a seventh in his own house in Rome, which became the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew. Here, he himself assumed the monastic habit in 575, at the age of thirty-five.
After the death of Pelagius, St. Gregory was chosen Pope by the unanimous consent of priests and people. Now began those labors which merited for him the title of Great. His zeal extended over the entire known world, he was in contact with all the Churches of Christendom and, in spite of his bodily sufferings, and innumerable labors, he found time to compose a great number of works. He is known above all for his magnificent contributions to the Liturgy of the Mass and Office.
Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Of Course

Gabby Giffords's Husband Buys AR-15

I'm guessing the excuse will be, "I was only doing research!"  That always seems the first attempt at explanation by literalist preachers when someone discovers questionable material on their computers.

Haha Update: "Mark E. Kelly, gun-control proponent and husband to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, recently purchased an AR-15 (an "assault weapon," he called it)—which he now says he intended as an illustration of the need for more stringent gun laws."

He also bought some "high capacity" magazines, too.  Gun control for thee, but not for me.

Some related satire:  Peace Activist Has To Admit Barrett .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle Is Pretty Cool

That's Because He Doesn't Exercise

Bloomberg Says Government ‘Probably’ Shouldn’t Force People to Exercise


The mayor of New York City quit smoking once upon a time.  When given the power, he determined that no one in his city should be able to smoke either convivially or conveniently.  The mayor does not eat Popeye's Chicken, drink Big Gulps, order out for pizza and a two-liter bottle of soda, or listen to music on an MP3 player.  Hence, he limits the citizens' freedom to choose to partake of such things.  It's for their own good, you see.  Or it's for the children.  Or something.

The mayor has 24-hour-a-day armed security with him wherever he goes; even if it's to the island of Bermuda, where gun possession is severely limited.  Hence, we should not be permitted the option of legally possessing a firearm for our own security.  As the mayor does not hunt or target shoot, these are also things we need not have in our lives, either.

Fortunately, for those who enjoy some strenuous exercise, a brisk morning jog, a long-distance swim, a triathlon or marathon, the mayor does not exercise.  Hence, he will not limit our enjoyment of these activities nor force them upon the unwilling.  Now you know why the people of the 1st century were so tired of the Pharisees; they, too, would label certain human behaviors as sinful and castigate those outside of the chosen circle.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Turn the clocks forward tonight, please, so that we may all be in church at the same time.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gee, No Kidding

New Study Finds Firearms Laws Do Nothing to Prevent Homicides

That's because laws only control the law-abiding.  Criminals and lunatics, by definition, exist outside of the laws.

How Can This Be?

This past Sunday the television industry felt the ground shake when the first installment of the History Channel’s five-part miniseries, The Bible, drew a whopping 14.3 million viewers. To put that in perspective, those are higher ratings than American Idol drew on Fox in the same week. Higher ratings than the premiere of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC. And it officially made The Bible the number one scripted cable broadcast of the year. The news was apparently so astonishing it prompted Business Week to investigate exactly how the basic cable network pulled it off and inspired Time magazine’s resident T.V. critic, James Poniewozik, to ponder whether The Bible’s success will lead to further mainstream forays into religious-themed entertainment. What’s more astonishing, given how often pro-faith productions put up massive numbers, is that major media outlets still feel the need to run shocked headlines about it.

Of Course

CIA director takes oath on draft Constitution—without Bill of Rights

And The Hits Just Keep Coming

School confiscates third-grader's cupcakes decorated with green plastic soldiers

John Watanabe

"When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills."
                                                                                         - from the training manual for Kamikaze pilots.

When I was first ordained in the Episcopal Church, I worked in a diocese that was small and somewhat understaffed, even by the standards of the contemporary church.  Hence, there was ample opportunity to become involved in diocesan-level work.  My first full year of priesthood I served on the diocesan budget committee, the editorial board of the diocesan newspaper, the Board of Examining Chaplains [the group that supervises the education of clergy wannabees], and was elected to the Diocesan Council.  As I was also the "Bishop's Chaplain", which was a kind of junior assistant to the diocesan bishop [in other words, I was his driver and general dogsbody], I spent more time at the diocesan house than I did in my two parishes [yes, I ran two parishes at the same time].

This meant that I would be handed remarkable responsibilities from time to time, including being expected to pick up the bishop's dry cleaning, getting the tires on his wife's car rotated, and serving as his adult daughter's date to a wedding reception.  Yeah, seminary didn't cover any of these things.

But one of the more interesting duties was serving as the aide to Masanao John Watanabe, the Primate, or Presiding Bishop, of the Episcopal Church of Japan, who was visiting our diocese for a month as part of our companion relationship with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai [the official name of Japanese Anglicanism].  One evening, before an Evensong at which Bishop Watanabe was to be the preacher [his English was almost perfect], we had occasion to speak of vocation.

As I was a young man, he was curious about my pilgrimage into the ordained life.  I told him of it, admitting that it really wasn't much of a story, and that I was more interested in his journey, especially as Christianity was hardly a common religion in the Japanese society into which he was born.  If I thought my pilgrimage story was dull before, it was about the realize its nadir when the bishop told me of his.

Watanabe had been born into a Shinto family, that series of rituals and practices that even many of its members hesitate to call a religion.  He was accepted into the Japanese naval academy during World War II and was in the process of being trained to be a navy pilot.  As the war began going rather poorly for the Imperial forces, the Japanese Navy changed its tactical profile to include suicide, or "kamikaze", pilots.  Watanabe was selected to be among this group and trained accordingly.

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"Nice knowin' ya."

All was going according to plan, the final result to be Watanabe's glorious death in combat, when August of 1945 interrupted all of the martial preparation.  I think I failed to mention that the kamikaze pilots were being trained in Nagasaki.

A few days after the second atomic bomb attack on Japan, Watanabe and the other midshipmen were pressed into duty to recover bodies, locate survivors, clear some rubble, and generally help in any way they could.  As they had already promised to die in combat, they seemed the most likely candidates to send into a radioactive wasteland.  It was during this time, realizing that the world had irrevocably changed into something more terrible than even six years of world war had known, that Watanabe observed the work of some Christian monks, working side by side with the midshipman and other volunteers; working where even the Buddhist monks refused to go.  The impression was such that, after the treaties were signed, the naval cadets sent back home,and with the MacArthur administration re-structuring Japanese life, Watanabe converted to Christianity, took the baptismal name of John, and studied for ordination.

He served in a variety of parishes, eventually becoming bishop of the Diocese of Hokkaido and later Presiding Bishop.  After being re-elected to multiple terms as primate, he "settled down" to spend a few years working as a missionary in the Episcopal/Anglican churches in Tanzania.  When Edmund Browning was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, he asked Watanabe, with whom he had worked as a missionary in Japan [Browning was fluent in Japanese], to serve as one of his presenters.

Bishop Watanabe died shortly before his 80th birthday of an unusual and aggressive form of cancer thought be to be related to his work in the ruins of Nagasaki.  At his funeral, bishops and other clergy from around the Anglican world came to pray and celebrate with one another, marking his extraordinary life.  Perhaps most telling was the presence of a dark, heavily bearded prelate from an area inside of Russia; an area once belonging to Japan that had been Watnabe's birthplace.  In a quiet moment at the end of the burial mass, the Russian Orthodox bishop offered this prayer:

O Christ our God, who on this all-perfect and saving Feast, art graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers for those who are imprisoned in hades, promising unto us who are held in bondage great hope of release from the vileness that doth hinder us and did hinder them: send down Thy consolation and establish their souls in the mansions of the Just; and graciously vouchsafe unto them peace and pardon; for not the dead shall praise thee, O Lord, neither shall they who are in Hell make bold to offer unto thee confession. But we who are living will bless thee, and will pray, and offer unto thee propitiatory prayers and sacrifices for their souls

It makes a rather nice counterpoint to the Kamikaze training manual, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

News Of The Arcane

For centuries, it has been a crystal of legend locked in the verses of Norse myth with little or no evidence that it was ever real. Now it seems scientists at last have grounds for believing that the Viking “sunstone” used to navigate the seas did indeed exist.

Neither Pope Nor Swift Could Have Made Up Our Present Reality

This week, many of the bishops of the Episcopal Church, along with those who see them as God's particular voices on Earth, gathered to talk about gun violence.  When I use the terms "Episcopal Church" and "talk" in the same sentence, that means a group of people have gathered to agree with one another and with whatever secular political voice it is that they consider closest to God's own.  Everyone says variations of the same thing; the rest who are gathered simply nod with enthusiasm.  At such occasions, the bishops reminisce about their experience at arriving at the natural or human-made disaster scene, dressed as they always seem to be in the apparel of authority, and seeking to present themselves as relevant to a society in which they are increasingly tangential.

Having attended such gatherings many times, I know that any slight disagreement with the established narrative is unwelcome, uninvited, and will result in a tatty notation being placed in one's "permanent record".  It is not a place for nuance.

"Gun violence" is the current topic trend for all Episcopalians in the know.  Personally, I wish it were more about the relationship of psychotropic medication and mass shootings, but for some reason no one, and I mean no one, from the government to the church wishes to discuss this in any serious manner.  So, we talk about how to provide for more laws for the law-abiding, repeat in slightly different ways what the previous speaker has said, add some sentimental story of witness, and nod to one another, conveniently forgetting that criminals and lunatics, by definition, exist outside of laws.

Oh, and we applaud one another's honesty and witness.  Unmentioned at the recent gathering is that there were Episcopalians present at the shootings in Newtown, present not to find stories of personal relevance, but because they were first, second, and third responders.  They did not wear clerical collars. They are Republicans and Democrats, members and non-members of the NRA, gun owners and non-owners.  They do not fit into easily labeled boxes.  Their witness was silent as they sat with grieving parents, helped to direct traffic, and mopped the blood and residue from classroom floors. 

In a related topic, a few small voices did say something at our last diocesan convention about drone warfare and its questionable morality, but they were quickly appeased and there was little, if any, further discussion.  As with the plague of psychotropics, the greater Church will not discuss drone warfare in any serious manner unless a Republican is elected to the White House and he or she continues the current administration's odd non-policy policy about the use of such devices.

However, drone warfare is a practice that should trouble anyone who considers him- or herself a Christian moral agent in the world.

"Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen born in New Mexico, was whacked by a Predator not on a battlefield but after an apparently convivial lunch at a favorite Yemeni restaurant. Two weeks later, al-Awlaki's son Abdulrahman was dining on the terrace of another local eatery when the CIA served him the old Hellfire Special and he wound up splattered all over the patio. Abdulrahman was 16, and born in Denver. As I understand it, the Supreme Court has ruled that American minors, convicted of the most heinous crimes, cannot be executed. But you can gaily atomize them halfway round the planet. My brief experience of Yemeni restaurants was not a happy one but, granted that, I couldn't honestly say they met any recognized definition of a "battlefield."

Al-Awlaki Junior seems to have been your average anti-American teen. Al-Awlaki Senior was an al-Qaida ideologue and a supposed "spiritual mentor" to everyone from the 9/11 murderers to the Fort Hood killer and the thwarted Pantybomber. On the other hand, after September 11th, he was invited to lunch at the Pentagon, became the first imam to conduct a prayer service at the U.S. Congress, and was hailed by NPR as an exemplar of an American "Muslim leader who could help build bridges between Islam and the West." The precise point at which he changed from American bridge-builder to Yemeni restaurant takeout is hard to determine. His public utterances when he was being feted by the New York Times are far more benign than those of, say, Samira Ibrahim, who was scheduled to receive a "Woman of Courage" award from Michelle Obama and John Kerry on Friday until an unfortunate flap erupted over some ill-phrased Tweets from the courageous lass rejoicing on the anniversary of 9/11 that she loved to see "America burning."

The same bureaucracy that booked Samira Ibrahim for an audience with the First Lady and Anwar al-Awlaki to host prayers at the Capitol now assures you that it's entirely capable of determining who needs to be zapped by a drone between the sea bass and the tiramisu at Ahmed's Bar and Grill. But it's precisely because the government is too craven to stray beyond technological warfare and take on its enemies ideologically that it winds up booking the First Lady to hand out awards to a Jew-loathing, Hitler-quoting, terrorist-supporting America-hater."

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Sense A Growing Undercurrent

This Week's Lesser Feasts

March 7: Perpetua [181-206] and her Companions

From the original edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts -

Early in the third century, the emperor Septimius Severus decreed that all persons should sacrifice to the divinity of the emperor. There was no way that a Christian, confessing faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ, could do this. Vibia Perpetua was a young widow, mother of an infant and owner of several slaves, including Felicitas and Revocatus. With two other young Carthaginians, Secundulus and Saturninus, they were catechumens preparing for baptism. Perpetua and her companions were arrested and held in prison under miserable conditions. They received baptism during their imprisonment. Felicitas, pregnant when arrested, bore her child in prison.

In a document attributed to Perpetua, we learn of visions she had in prison. One was of a ladder to heaven, which she climbed to reach a large garden; another was of her brother who had died when young of a dreadful disease, but was now well and drinking the water of life; that last was of herself as a warrior battling the Devil and defeating him to win entrance to the gate of life. “And I awoke, understanding that I should fight, not with beasts, but with the Devil…So much about me up to the day before the games; let him who will write of what happened then.” At the public hearing before the proconsul, she refused even the entreaties of her aged father, saying, “I am a Christian.”

Perpetua and her companions were martyred for their faith in Christ in the year 202 or 203 on March 7.
O God the King of saints, you strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.