RELIGION, NATION, MARRIAGE: THE LOYALTIES OF MEN
PRAY, WORK, STUDY, PROTECT: THE DUTIES OF MEN


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nov 30: Saint Andrew and the 2,000 Byzantine monks on the Holy Mountain

[first published November 30, 2016]


MOUNT ATHOS in northeastern Greece is one of the powerhouses of prayer that keeps our tired old world going -- because sturdy men of faith submit their hearts to God.

On this feast day of the Holy Apostle Andrew, it is right that we deepen our understanding of our Christian brothers in Greece and Russia. East and West, the bonds of a praying brotherhood define the monastic and Apostolic Church. But in the heart of this all-male environment where even the animals must be male, there is a special presence and she is decidedly feminine.

"There are 20 monasteries on Mount Athos of which 17 are Greek, one Russian, one Serbian, and one Bulgarian. There are also twelve Skites (similar to monasteries but much smaller), a large number of Kellia (large farm houses), Kalyves (smaller houses), Kathismata (small houses for a single monk) and Hesychasteria (hermitages or caves in desolate cliff faces, for the most austere hermits)."

             
                                   



                                                   


From the parish bulletin of a Russian Orthodox church in Minneapolis:
Last October, Fr. Andrew and I visited Mt. Athos, affectionately known as the Garden of the Theotokos. As we experienced this beautiful place where God’s glory seems to radiate from everything, we were made aware of her presence. When we spoke to the monks in that holy place, they would refer to her and say things like: "Whatever the holy Mother wants." They live in humble submissiveness to her and understand the value of her intercessory prayers and guidance. We met an older monk on one of the remote walking paths by his hut (it was very old and abandoned-looking), who explained to us that he had lived 30 years alone with the Mother of God in "her garden." 

Sit back and enjoy one of the finest segments that has ever appeared on "60 Minutes."

               




UPDATE: Here is a short video of one of President Putin's visits to Mount Athos. He was joined by the Patriarch of Moscow.


Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God, / the namesake of courage, / the first-called of the Savior’s disciples / and the brother of Peter. / 
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us: / "Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"


Sunday, November 28, 2021

ADVENT and the three comings of Christ

(first published December 1, 2013; edited 2017)

by Dr. David Pence



The Church year begins today as we enter into the Advent season to prepare for the Coming of Christ in History, in Mystery, and in Majesty.

First we recall the long period of history before He came to Mary at the Annunciation and was born in Bethlehem the first Christmas night. We reflect on the setting aside of Israel and the setting aside of Mary – the perfect temple who is a template for our souls. But the significance of Christ's entrance into history cannot be confined to the short time humans have been on earth. His coming is the cosmic culmination of matter itself.  The Incarnation of Christ is the epicenter of natural history, in that physical matter now has a new interpersonal center of gravity in Christ and His Queen Mother. The great mass of the physical universe dissipates into space while the tiny earth is set aside for life. The garden is set aside for man, the Israelites for Mary, and Mary for Christ.  His life and death will form the center of human history as he makes holy the forms of interpersonal communion that will be the foundation stones of a Living Temple. He establishes his holy priesthood. His sacred brethren will man the Ark of the Church and lead the hunt to separate the Evil One from the communion of the living. Christ has come in history. 

The separative and unification acts which characterized His coming in history are continued in the liturgy. The Holy Spirit draws mankind into the Trinity by incorporation in the Body of the Son. The Apostolic Church fishes for men dispersed at sea and reconstitutes mankind through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This present-day coming of Jesus is fully experienced only in the sacramental life of the Church. His Real Presence is still with us here on earth. We are not just with Him but becoming Him through the Eucharist. Being in the state of grace secures us to an ark of angels and saints amidst the floodwaters about us. The unspeakable intensity of this Eucharistic incorporation has always made Catholics less likely to discuss our day-to-day "personal relationship with Christ".  Theosis  or becoming a member of the Mystical Body of Christ through sanctifying grace seem better ways to express this sacramental reality. Christ comes today in mystery.  
                               

Christ has established His Kingdom on earth and is reorganizing all social relations around the Eucharistic priesthood, the sacrament of marriage, and the covenants of the nations. He is moving history to its culmination when He will return amidst his angels and the Church to fully restore His kingship by uniting the submitting nations and dispersing the Evil One from the earth. We are not waiting for our individual souls to go to heaven. We are working to draw humanity into the Body of Christ. That is truly the Opus Dei which Christians share. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conspire to make humanity fit to be the Body of our returning Head. This is the one true world wide conspiracy. We have put on the Heart of Christ and are building the Kingdom on earth to be consummated in the fitting time of the Lord. Our mission is to be sure at that time of the final separation and expulsion, the Devil gets as few of our people as possible. Christ is coming in majesty.  

So let us begin our Advent – the little Lent in which we set aside some part of ourselves to better attend these three comings.

                                               

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27

by A. Joseph Lynch

R&G ROUND UP

TERROR IN WISCONSIN: Darrell Brooks, Jr. has been arrested for using his SUV to plow through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The suburb of Milwaukee had fallen prey to the far left takeover of the justice system as Brooks was out on a mere $1000 bail after allegedly attempting to run his girlfriend over with the same SUV he used to murder at least seven people in the parade. Brooks, a BLM supporter and amateur rapper, sung about being a terrorist and seemed to call for violence against white people. He may also be a sex offender and child sex trafficker. Although the local authorities resist calling Brooks' act of mass murder an act of terrorism, it's not hard for a citizen with common sense to disagree. Even a BLM activist has pointed out that Brooks' actions might be the beginning of "the revolution" - but what revolution? The war on working class whites? The creation of a new black nationalist nation? Brooks should be the living proof of the dangers of ethnic/racial nationalism in America and the BLM movement that pushes it.

BIDEN'S CABINET DISASTER: Although Biden receives his fair share of criticism, the level of incompetence among his cabinet members and closest officials is something of a marvel. Buttigieg is too busy calling America's infrastructure racist to fix America's commercial transportation system. The Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, has no idea how much energy America uses. Merrick Garland, the US Attorney General, is eager to weaponize the DOJ against concerned parents and investigative journalists. The head of the joint chiefs, General Mark Milley, embraces woke ideology while seeming to admit to back channeling with a potential US adversary. Jake Sullivan, Biden's National Security Advisor, appears to be caught up in the "Russiagate" affair. And last - but certainly not least - Biden's own VP, Kamala Harris, holds the record for the least popular VP in decades with a shocking 28% approval. If his goal was to surround himself with imbeciles, then bravo Joe Biden, you succeeded.

US OIL RELEASE: Biden has pushed forward with the release of some 50 million barrels of oil after he failed to gain much traction with other nations to do the same. It's been reported that 50 million barrels of oil will only support 2.5 days of America's oil usage. Meanwhile OPEC has threatened to cut production by whatever amount is released by the US and those nations cooperating with the US. In the end, Biden has helped to deplete our strategic oil reserves, angered OPEC, and made no impact on the energy crisis.

MORE COVID DEATHS IN 2021 THAN IN 2020: Despite the vaccine rollout that began in January, more Americans have died from the coronavirus in 2021 than died in 2020. One might wonder what good a vaccine mandate will really do, not only given these numbers, but also when one considers the emerging omicron variant spreading outwards from Africa.

FOXNEWS RESIGNATIONS: Trump-hating Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes have resigned from FoxNews over an upcoming Tucker Carlson special on the January 6 Capitol Riot. Carlson continues to be FoxNews' best host and investigative journalist. We applaud the resignations and look forward to the upcoming special.

Father and Sons Defending the Sacred: The Real Hanukkah Lesson for Christians

by David Pence

Hanukkah begins this evening. It will end in eight days. It is not "the Jewish Christmas." Several hundred years before Christ, the Greeks, the very cosmopolitan educated Greeks, ruled over Palestine. When Antiochus had become the ruler he sought a uniformity of customs and loyalty. Circumcision -- that sign between Abraham and G-d that all the males would shed their own blood to be united as a people in Covenant with the Almighty -- was banned. The sacred precincts of the temple were defiled. Women who had their sons circumcised "were publicly paraded with their babies hanging at their breasts and then thrown from the top of the city wall."

                             

"... the Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; they amused themselves with prostitutes and had intercourse with women even in the sacred court. They brought into the temple things that were forbidden, so the altar was covered with abominable offerings prohibited by the law." Most defilements were done by consenting adults and there were plenty of Jewish collaborators. "There was great mourning for Israel. Virgins and young men languished and the beauty of the women was disfigured. Her sanctuary was desolate as a desert. She became a stranger to her own offspring. Her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths to shame, her honor to contempt. Her dishonor was as great as her glory had been and her joy was turned into mourning."

Against this sexual perversity so deeply linked with the defilement of sacral things, Mattathias and his five sons withdrew from the over-educated Greeks who scoffed at their ancient purity codes and rituals of divine worship. Before they organized to fight, the patriarch and the brothers "tore their garments, put on sackcloth and mourned bitterly." They knew the evil that had befallen their fellow Israelites followed their infidelity to G-d. They also knew they must organize to fight. They had seen a group of Israelites come before the Greeks and "refuse to profane the sabbath. Then the enemy attacked them and they did not retaliate... and they died with their wives and their children and their cattle to the number of a thousand persons." Mattathias resolved: "If we all do as our kinsmen have done and do not fight the Gentiles for our lives and our traditions they will soon destroy us from the earth. Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the sabbath so that we may not all die as our kinsmen died in the hiding places." Mattathias and his men tore down the pagan altars. They also forcibly circumcised any uncircumcised boys they found in the territory of Israel." They stitched back together the only bond capable of ridding the land of abominations. They conscripted their state anew to guard the sacred of old.      
                
Sculpture of Mattathias by Boris Schatz (d. 1932)


"When the time came for Mattathias to die, he said to his sons, 'Arrogance and scorn have now grown strong, it is a time of disaster and violent anger. Therefore, my sons, be zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant of our fathers." He appointed his son Simeon because of his wisdom to be "like a father to them," and appointed his son Judas (called Maccabeus, the 'hammer') to be "the leader of your army and direct the war against the nations." His sons and the men they gathered around them defeated the Greeks. They tore down the defiled altar and built a new one with uncut stones. They repaired the sanctuary and purified the courts. On the anniversary of the day the Gentiles had defiled the temple they reconsecrated the sacred precinct with song and acts of worship. For eight days they celebrated the dedication, and then "Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days…"

There are many tales of noble martyrs who refused to profane the commands of the Lord before the Maccabees restored a civic order in consonance with G-d's decrees. In the Book of Maccabees the most notable was the mother and her seven sons who refused to defile themselves by eating pork. The holy mother watched her sons be tortured and killed and urged them one after another to persist in courage. Then "her womanly heart with manly courage" was pierced as well. In the Babylonian Talmud there is the story of the miracle of the oil in which one day's supply lasted for eight.  When the Church recounts this re-dedication of the temple in her late November liturgy she couples the reading from Maccabees with the Gospel of Jesus cleansing the temple. Two centuries after the Maccabees, the Jewish convert from Tarsus asked Christians, "Do you not know that you are a temple of the  Holy Spirit?"

For eight days let us Christians look for the lights of the candles shining forth from Jewish homes. They are not lit for the use of the household, but to give glory to G-d by reminding all who see them that the sacred practices of a culture can only be protected if there are fathers and sons who will covenant together under God to fight for them.
                             
Hanukkah candles in Jerusalem

Thursday, November 25, 2021

THANKSGIVING: Don’t call it Turkey Day

[first published November 22, 2012]

David Pence writes:

Thanksgiving Day is an embarrassing holiday for the atheists. Whom should one thank?

Nonbelievers first turned this day of formal national prayer into a rekindling of an earlier bliss betwixt Pilgrims and Indians. A little rewriting, and secularists turned the feast into a memorial of Pilgrim settlers thanking the native-born Americans for their ecological wisdom that allowed us a full table and survival through the winters. As usual, the guilt-ridden white folk reminded us of something true but missed the real story. There were formal acts of prayerful thanksgiving before we became a nation but unfortunately for the Protestant imagination the first such acts were in that old liturgical  form of the Catholic Mass.

The Pilgrim parable was soon debunked by Indian activists who reminded the well-meaning storytellers that the only gifts white men gave Indians were smallpox blankets. "Who wants to celebrate that, white man?"

Instead of returning to the first Congress or Washington or Lincoln to get the holy day back on track as a civic duty of a repentant nation to a Sovereign God, our adaptable consumer culture had a new answer. Let the appetites be sacralized! There was a surge to elevate not "Whom We Thank" but "What We Eat." Turkey Day was proclaimed!

No more messy cross-cultural narratives. Instead of asking that our sins be forgiven and as a nation we bow to God, a turkey was pardoned and the whole affair was consummated in a next-day orgy of shopping called Black Friday. That spin-off Feast Day is demanding a vigil service of its own, which may drive the whole embarrassment of public thanksgiving to God  back in the memory hole where school prayer now abides.
               

Contrast our evolving celebration of  Black Friday Eve with George Washington’s understanding of Thanksgiving Day in the first sentence of his 1789 Proclamation:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to recognize the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…” 
Contrast Turkey Day with the content of his prayer:
“And also that we may unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually…” 
This is a day as a nation we are supposed to perform a religious duty -- to ask forgiveness and give thanks to a Divine Ruler who governs not only the lives of men, but the public communal forms of men: the nations. That is what Congress requested Washington to declare; and that is what this national day of prayer for forgiveness and thanksgiving is still meant to be. Let us assemble in our houses of worship, at community kitchens, and at our family tables but remember we are acting as members of the larger national political community.  Let us ask God forgiveness for turning away from Him and allowing these sacred goods to be defiled: His holy Name, our sacred flag, our national brotherhood, the institution of marriage, the protective love of mother for child, and the sacred virginity and innocence of our young. In Lincoln's words: "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience...we fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."




UPDATE: Be sure to check out Andrew Lynch's essay.

The Thanksgiving proclamation of our First Continental Congress.
 A reminder from "War on the Rocks" that Thanksgiving is a holiday forged in national wars.
  Lincoln declared the last Thursday of every November as a national holiday at the bequest of Sara Josepha Hale, editor of the popular magazine, Godey's Lady's Book.