Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On the Dormition of the Theotokos

Today is the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos!

Today, we remember the Virgin Mary's repose. Her being a child of Adam, she still carried with her the consequences of a fallen world, even if she herself never personally sinned.

The account of her dormition ("falling asleep") starts with her visiting the site of her Son's death, Golgotha. There, the Angel Gabriel appeared, presented her with an olive branch, and told her that her repose is impending. From there, she went to Bethlehem, and asked for the Apostles to arrive.

All the Apostles (even those dead) arrived, save Thomas, to celebrate her life and repose with her. As they were singing, she passed away as peacefully as falling asleep. Then the light of God shone down on her, and Christ Himself came down and carried the Virgin Mary's soul up to Heaven. Her body was then buried.

During her burial procession, the unbelieving Jews tried to interrupt it, even going so far as to burn everything with fire. Some were struck blind. One of the Jewish priests, Athonios, got close enough to try and topple the body of the Virgin Mary from the procession, but when he touched her, his hands were cut off by an angel. This event caused him to fall down in repentance and was a fervent follower of Christ from that moment on.

Two days later, Thomas arrived from India. When he arrived, he told the Apostles a marvellous story. He told them that when he was on his way, he witnessed the body of the Virgin Mary being taken to Heaven, following her soul's departure. (This is the portion of the feast the Latins emphasise, often to the point of forgetting that she did die first. The Catechism of the Catholic Church vaguely says "when the course of her earthly life was finished" and only in a footnote quotes the Troparion which mentions her falling asleep. (CCC 966))

Reversing his infamous doubt, the other Apostles doubted Thomas's story. They opened her tomb and indeed saw that it was empty.

Her death, as in life, points us to Christ. Her death shows us how to we are to have a "Christian ending to our lives (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)," and ultimately the final resurrection we will all share in, as she already has.

Troparion — Tone 1
In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Kontakion — Tone 2
Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,

She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Great American Eclipse

L'├ęclipse totale de soleil en 1999 faite en France. by Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be
This post is in response to this post here.

There is such wrong in that post, that it is astounding. 

In case no one has heard, there will be a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 that will be visible in the Lower 48. This will be the first total total solar eclipse visible in the Lower 48 since February 26, 1979, and the first total solar eclipse visible from one coast to the other since June 8, 1918. It will not be visible here again until April 8, 2024. For many American astronomers, and amateur astronomers, this will be a spectacular event. It will draw large crowds in places where the total eclipse will be completely visible.

Total solar eclipses, while rare in the US, are not rare events at all. They happen annually, or near annually. Usually, they are visible over Asia, Africa, or the Pacific or Indian Oceans.

What the above post tries to accomplish is tie this rare (not actually rare) event, to the Catholic Calendar. First it notes that August is the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and then points out that August 21 is the eve of the traditional (but not current) date of the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that that day is the feast of the Queenship, celebrating the Latin understanding that Mary is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. This does not begin to mention that this completely disregards the Eastern Rites, who do not even have the Immaculate Heart of Mary, or even the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as part of their spirituality, so these will not be on their calendars. August 21 will be the continuation of the Afterfeast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (known in the West as the Assumption, well, kind of), and is also the memorial of St. Thaddeus of the 70. The queenship of Mary is not celebrated in the East as a feast.

No, the "whole world" will not be seeing something strange on the no-longer-eve of a feast day that is now suppressed by the currently used Latin-only calendar. It does not line up with anything in the Eastern calendars, nor will anyone outside of the US get to see the total eclipse (though Canada south through northern Brazil will see the eclipse partially).

"What does all of this mean? We don’t know. Is it meant to convey something? Probably." Wait, what? This right here makes your entire post meaningless. The correct answer to "Is it meant to convey something?" should be "Probably not." It is a common astrological occurrence. It is asking the same question as "What do the eclipses mean?" It means that God "made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows the time of its setting," and since God loves us, and wants us to experience beauty in Creation, he set the sun, the Earth, and the moon to occasionally cross over each other, thus giving us the eclipses.

"Scientists are lined up across the country to take all kinds of measurements and tests during this eclipse using the latest technology. It will be interesting to see what kind of data will result from this study. Will they find anything groundbreaking, perhaps 'proof' of God’s existence that will convert hardened atheists? Will witnessing this breathtaking astronomical event be a quasi-religious experience for some, causing them to begin to seek a right relationship with God?"
 I certainly pray that too (glossing over the not-so-subtle drop that all scientists must be atheists). I pray that all of humanity comes to know Christ, and worship Him in His Church.

That post, however, is making too much spirituality over nothing. This is the kind of numerological junk I expect to come from Pentacostals, or Jehovah's Witnesses, or the like, not from Catholics. I would be shocked to hear this coming from, or getting approved by, any of the bishops. Catholics, you are smarter than this. Enjoy the beauty of the heavens that God has given us, and stop adding more to it than necessary.


Today (New Calendar, Aug 6) celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration, the eleventh of the twelve Great Feasts, and a feast shared with Catholics and Anglicans. 

Troparion — Tone 7
You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, / revealing Your glory to Your disciples as far as they could bear it. / Let Your everlasting Light also shine upon us sinners, / through the prayers of the Theotokos. / O Giver of Light, glory to You!

Kontakion — Tone 7
On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God, / And Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it; / So that when they would behold You crucified, / They would understand that Your suffering was voluntary, / And would proclaim to the world, / That You are truly the Radiance of the Father!

The feast celebrates Christ revealing Himself in radiant glory to His apostles, so that they knew that the Cross was voluntary. While saints (such as Moses and St. Seraphim of Sarov) shown light as well, this light was only a reflection of the light of the Transfiguration. This shows us the possibility of our own theosis.

Let us relax this fast, and celebrate that Heaven is open to us, and death is overthrown. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Happy Dormition Fast!

Today (Aug 1, New Calendar for all you Old Calendar users who happen to be reading this) marks the first day of the Dormition Fast, which is my favourite fast of the liturgical year. Growing up Catholic, I always had a deep love for the Theotokos, and had great comfort in her intercession, so feast days celebrating her tend to be some of my favourite feasts (after Easter, of course). Unfortunately, this fast is almost unknown in the West, except by Eastern Catholics or Orthodox, what few of us there are.

Every year, I look forward to this fast. It signals that summer is nearing an end, and it is time to buckle down again for the next year, as the perpetual student I live as. Coincidentally, the Byzantine new year is September 1st, celebrated liturgically as well.

While not as strict as Lent, it still serves as a final workout to snap us out of the haze of summer and prepare for the coming year. It comes as no surprise that by celebrating the end of the year, the Church celebrates the end of the life of the Mother of God, as an example of our own Christian lives. It gives us the time to reflect on our own lives, work on where we fail as Christians, and start the new year off on a new slate.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review of the Servile State - Section IV

HOW THE DISTRIBUTIVE STATE FAILED:—This failure original in England—The story of the decline from Distributive property to Capitalism—The economic revolution of the sixteenth century The confiscation of monastic land— What might have happened had the State retained it—As a fact that land is captured by an oligarchy England is Capitalist before the advent of the industrial revolution Therefore modern industry, proceeding from England, has grown in a Capitalist mould"
The Servile State, Synopsis of Section IV

Mr. Belloc says that the seeds of capitalism were sown in the sixteenth century, and were in full maturation by the nineteenth. I am sure it was not lost on the Anglo-Frank Catholic that this is also roughly the start and growth of Protestant theologies and Enlightenment philosophies, something he would consider as heresies against orthodox Catholic theology.

In 1535, the Church owned roughly 30% of English property, English aristocracy owned roughly 30%, the rest was divided among the peasantry and public land. Then, King Henry VIII started to confiscate property from the monasteries (lowering the amount of property owned by the Church), only to have that property taken from the Crown and given to the aristocracy (thus more land owned by them) by acts of an ever-stronger Parliament. By the time King Henry had passed away, the aristocracy had owned more than half of English land. With Parliament growing stronger, both the Crown and the Church weaker, the aristocracy owned more and more land until effectively becoming an oligarchy by the 1630's. This oligarchy was able to assert near complete control over the Crown, the Church, and local administration by the 1660's.

By the 1700's, less than one-half of the English population owned land and means of production. It was at this point that England became a capitalist state, well before the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Thus, when the innovations of the Industrial Revolution were made, the mindset of capital was already in place. The Industrial Revolution only made it easier for the oligarchs to gain more and more power, land, and capital.

It is interesting to note that it was simultaneously a stronger centralized power and a stronger church that allowed for the protection of the poor. It was when the stronger centralized power, in the hands of the king, tried to take too much power, and tried to take it from the church, did the balance of power give rise to a strong oligarchy and the fall of the peasant. Also, interesting to note, as the Crown handed more and more power to Parliament, the less and less free the peasants were, and the less property they were able to own for themselves. As the influence of the church diminished, the oligarchs had nothing telling them not to live in accordance to their greed and power lust. As the centuries past, capitalism grew in the heart of Europe.

As I wrote that last paragraph, I could not help but remember J.R.R. Tolkien. He was an anarcho-monarchist, or an unconstitutional monarchist. The king was king by the virtues he possessed. He had the authority to do what was necessary, but yet still, each subject was his own master in his own right. Note, the Shire. Technically, ruled by the Thain (usually a member of the Took family) and officiated by the mayor, the actuality was that each family minded their own business for their own affairs, and worked together when necessary. While Tolkien would have hate such a word, the proper balance of powers in the Shire made it an ideal distributist state. Any reading of Tolkien's works shows the destruction when one or a group gets too much power (please do not limit Tolkien's works to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations, as great as they were). Belloc would have been proud.

  1. Introductions
  2. Definitions
  3. Maintaining that civilization was originally servile
  4. How the original servile state was dissolved
  5. How the distributive state failed
  6. Growth of capitalism and its instability
  7. The stable solutions to this instability
  8. Socialism
  9. The inevitable move towards the servile state
  10. Maintaining that the servile state has already begun
  11. Conclusion

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review of the Servile State III

How THE SERVILE INSTITUTION WAS FOR A TIME DISSOLVED:—The subconscious effect of the Faith in this matter—The main elements of Pagan economic society—The Villa—The transformation of the agricultural slave into the Christian serf—Next into the Christian peasant—The corresponding erection throughout Christendom of the DISTRIBUTIVE STATE—It is nearly complete at the close of the Middle Ages 'It was not machinery that lost us our freedom, it was the loss of a free mind'"
The Servile State, Synopsis of Section III

Mr. Belloc starts off the section by acknowledging that the Church did nothing to actively prohibit slavery, nor made a dogma that selling humans or imposing servitude on humans were sins. Yet, over the centuries as the Church grew, slavery disappeared from practice.

As the pagan society collapsed, and the Dark Ages grew into the Middle Ages, the class of men who toiled the ground were no longer slaves, but serfs. The difference being is that the serf is no longer permanently bound to work forever as a slave, but has the option of being free once his quota to his lord has been filled. Note that by definition previously stated in Section I, this is still a servile state, as Mr. Belloc himself points out, that "[t]he Serf of the early Middle Ages [...] is already nearly a peasant." Nearly, but not yet.

It was not until the fourteenth or fifteenth century, after art and industry has boomed, does the serf become the peasant. Now the peasant pays rent to the lord instead of bound to work in servitude. This was when the poor could save, invest, and purchase of his own free will, just like his lord.

Once peasants grew into their own wealth and were able to work separate from the imposition from the lord, they were able to join in cooperation of trades called the guilds. Even here, the apprentice would work under the master, but the master was the owner of his own capital. This is in sharp contrast of the labor unions of today. The labor unions are merely a body of organized labor workers in order to represent the labor worker to management. It is not a co-op of masters and apprentices as is the guild, and the wealth of the labor union is owned by the union for the sake of maintaining the union whereas the wealth of the guild is owned by the masters of the guild. Labor unions may be better than nothing at all for the labor worker, but the guild structure is superior in this regard.

Common property during this time was very little, and was only as a tool for the function of private property. The guilds themselves only owned the guild hall in common, and the tools were the property of the trade master.

Mr. Belloc had stated, that by 1912, this collaborative state is quickly disappearing. More and more property is being owned by a few capitalists and less and less proletarians have access to ownership. He does not blame this change on the Industrial Revolution, as his contemporaries do, but instead on capitalism. He makes the claim that capitalism was present in England before the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and had capitalism not been present, the technological advances would have been to the benefit of England instead of to her determent and the determent of her workers.

It is interesting to note that a lot of millennials (only personal experience based off of my friends and acquaintances; I myself am a millennial; not a lot of hard fact to back this paragraph up with) seem to despise the idea of ownership. I rent a house with my wife, and my office space is also rented. Other than our car, and the stuff inside the house and office (TV, clothes, computer, etc.), we do not own any property. Our longing to actually own real estate is rare. Actually, a friend of mine had the opportunity to own a house, and backed out of the deal on the basis that he did not want to own a house. I am a travel agent, and I came across an article that millennials are more willing to spend their money on traveling instead of home owning or entrepreneurship.

The next section gets into the rise of capitalism and the fall of the distributist state.

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Maintaining that civilization was originally servile
  4. How the original servile state was dissolved
  5. How the distributive state failed
  6. Growth of capitalism and its instability
  7. The stable solutions to this instability
  8. Socialism
  9. The inevitable move towards the servile state
  10. Maintaining that the servile state has already begun
  11. Conclusion

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of the Servile State - Section II

The Servile institution in Pagan antiquity—Its fundamental
character—A Pagan society took it for granted—The institution
disturbed by the advent of the Christian Church"
The Servile State, Synopsis of Section II

This section was rather short, only 6 pages. In this is section, Mr. Belloc made the claim that the servile state was the original state of civilization. Further, he states that he is writing of European states specifically, that between the Celts to the Greeks, slaves were a part of the very fabric of pagan European society. He then goes on to give credit to the Catholic Church for teaching emancipation of the slave.

He gives credit to philosophers for initially arguing that the ideal society would be without slavery, but despite the philosophers, there was never any great movement for slavery emancipation in the pagan societies.

He states this to state that slavery is within the ancestral memory of Europe, and in many ways, is returning. Just as pagan ideas are returning, so is the concept of slavery among free men.

Remember, 1912 was just after the Industrial Revolution. It was well after the Enlightenment and the Romantic periods. This was the beginning of the modern period. Secularism had embedded itself deep into societal thought and was not going to leave anytime soon (still not going anywhere now).

In 1912, the Liberal party had a very slim control over the House of Commons. The Liberals were classical liberals, not the New Left liberals of today. It was rife with internal party factions that simply could not work together. Similar to today, there was a heavy populist movement and concern for the families locked in the factories and mines. This was shown in 1918, when the Liberal Party split on faction lines, and have since failed to be a major British party, and the Conservatives took a sweeping majority. The Conservatives, like the Republicans here in the United States, have flirted with populism as a party platform off and on. Or at least made it appear that they cared about the rural peoples, the blue collar workers, small business owners, but then did little ease the political burden on them when they actually got power.

The fear was that the corporations and the wealthy were taking advantage of the peasant. They were drafting contracts that were impossible to break, and did not allow the poor to grow out of their poor conditions, and then used the courts to enforce these contracts. In short, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the government either did little to stop that or did much to aid it. Does the rhetoric sound familiar?

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Maintaining that civilization was originally servile
  4. How the original servile state was dissolved
  5. How the distributive state failed
  6. Growth of capitalism and its instability
  7. The stable solutions to this instability
  8. Socialism
  9. The inevitable move towards the servile state
  10. Maintaining that the servile state has already begun
  11. Conclusion