Saturday, December 25, 2004
ORTHODOX/BYZANTINE CATHOLIC LITURGICAL TEXTS FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
The Byzantine prayers have not undergone symplistic reduction for "clarity" and speed. They still contain all of the poetry and beauty that was once part of the Roman Catholic liturgy. The mysticism is still intact.
Here below is the beginning of the service from the Liturgical Texts website. They have asked that the prayers not be copied to the web, so I will not use more of them. Go to the website to get the full flavor of these prayers.
Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord
as we tell of this present mystery!
The dividing wall has been destroyed;
the flaming sword turns back,
the cherubim withdraw from the tree of life,
and I partake of the delight of Paradise
from which I was cast out through disobedience.
For the express image of the Father, the imprint of His eternity,
takes the form of a servant,
and without undergoing change He comes forth from an unwedded Mother.
For what He was, He has remained: true God,
and what He was not, He has taken upon Himself,
becoming Man through love for mankind.
Unto Him, let us cry aloud:
O God born of a Virgin, have mercy on us!
Thanks to Lee Penn for sending in the link.
Friday, December 24, 2004
They look like the crown jewels of Heaven.
The snowstorm that swept through northeast Ohio over the last two days left the trees covered in ice. Today the sun is out, striking that ice and turning the tree branches into diamonds. Every branch, every tiny twig has a coating of ice that is staying in place despite the sun thanks to low temperatures and a very cold wind. Running errands this morning provided a good opportunity to appreciate God's artistry. It has no equal.
Everywhere I've been in the last couple of days, I've heard nothing but "Merry Christmas." It seems that all of the "Holiday" cheer finally woke up to the reason for the season.
May God grant to each of you abundant Christmas joy.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
SOME ANGEL STORIES
Some of them a bit weird.
KWANZAA TURF WARS
It isn't only the Christians who find themselves in the midst of disagreements about how holidays should or should not be celebrated in public. Now Kwanzaa, a secular holiday at its inception, is being adopted by Christian churches, much to the chagrin of those who do not want to see a religious association for this celebration.
NO HAPPY CHRISTMAS IN IRAQ THIS YEAR
Associated Press writer Rawya Rageh reports in theledger.com:
Basman Sabah doesn't feel it's Christmas. He'll stay home and skip Mass. Most of his friends and relatives have fled the country. He didn't even buy a Christmas tree.
"The feeling of festivity is no more there," said the 27-year-old electrical engineer.
For Iraqi Christians, it will be a gloomy Christmas.
Saddam Hussein's secular regime did not persecute the Christian community, though his government did give rough treatment to some other religious and ethnic groups. But since the U.S. occupation of Iraq last year, radical militants have regularly attacked churches.
As a result, Iraq's community of 700,000 Christians have called off celebrations this year.
ARCHBISHOP PELL'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
is that the birth of Christ is a sign that God rememberes us.
SOME BELIEVE CONTROL OF THE TEMPLE MOUNT OFFERS A KIND OF MAGIC POWER
and they would like to effect a change in ownership. Haarezt.com reports:
...the foundation stone of the Temple Mount gives strength and ability to whoever possesses it. ...
But among the extremists in the Temple Mount movements, a different wind is blowing these days. As the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements draws near, a return to the old beliefs - the ones that Rabbi Yeshua Ben Shushan tried to put into practice 25 years ago, in the framework of the Jewish underground - has become evident. On the eve of the evacuation of the Yamit settlement in Sinai, Ben Shushan, basing himself on kabbalistic sources, concluded that "Muslim control of the Temple Mount is the root of the corruption of the Jewish nation, and this control gives Islam a spiritual wellspring from which its believers draw the strength of their presence in Israel." Ben Shushan and some of his comrades therefore reasoned that removing this "abomination" from the mount by blowing up the mosques would halt the withdrawal from Sinai.
Blogger credit to Spirit Daily for the link.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
A CONCRETE WAY TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS
Ribbons are nice. A suggestion from my mailbox is somewhat more practical.
The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards.
The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home.
Many will be there throughout the holidays.
Really support our troops --Send phone cards of any amount to:
Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001
They say they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount
even $5 is greatly appreciated.
Walmart has good prices on AT&T cards, Sams Club is even
better, if you are a member.
THE CONTINUING WAR ON CHRISTMAS
From Agape Press...
After describing a Florida school Christmas program from which several Christmas songs were replaced by Hanukkah songs:
Christmas Wars: the Push to Secularize America
The incident in Jupiter appears to many Christians to be part of an alarming trend. They see public schools, municipalities, and other government-funded entities across the nation apparently complying with efforts to secularize Christmas, or at least to censor all religious references to the real reason for the season. In some cases, the administrators are responding to actual complaints. In other scenarios, it is only the fear of giving offense or inviting litigation -- or the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) -- that has prompted officials to adopt such secularizing policies.
In New Jersey, for example, the South Orange/Maplewood School District recently banned instrumental Christmas carols for fear of giving offense. Then, in Mustang, Oklahoma, a school district recently decided to cut the Nativity scene from a school play while holiday symbols associated with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa were allowed to remain in the program. And in Washington State, a couple of plaintiffs have raised objections to a Christmas tree being placed at City Hall in Bellevue, saying the tree is a Christian symbol and inappropriate for display in a public area.
In other parts of the U.S., schools have forbidden Christmas music on buses, banned the exchange of candy canes with messages attached explaining their religious symbolism, and even excluded the colors red and green at school Christmas parties. Meanwhile, some schools and companies are urging their students and staff to avoid accustomed greetings and references to Christmas, and instead use seasonal or generic terms, such as "Winter Solstice" celebrations and "seasonal holiday" parties.
* * * * * * * *
In a piece from the Washington Times, Germany is described as a country that has forgotten the meaning of Christmas, but is showing hints of a desire to recapture the lost faith. Perhaps we will have to travel all the way down this road as well.
* * * * * * * *
In California Christmas has been traded in for a Winter Solstice ceremony at the public library, a holdover from Mithraism:
SAN MATEO -- While some people may have been hitting the malls Tuesday and counting down the three days left until Christmas, a festive group of around 200 spent the evening celebrating an older and mellower Persian holiday.
The City of San Mateo's temporary Main Library hosted Yalda, a 3,000-year-old winter solstice celebration that has its roots in the ancient religion of Mithraism, according to librarian Mina Abdollahian. Solstice is the day of the year with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night.
Would a Catholic celebration from the local Catholic church also be welcome at the library? Not likely, I'd imagine. It's not freedom from religion that the government pursued. It's not separation of church and state. It's separation of Christianity and state...freedom from Christianity that is being pursued. All other religions are welcome, so long as Jesus is not the object of worship.
Monday, December 20, 2004
FROM MY PARISH BULLETIN YESTERDAY:
Censors Target Christmas
The attempt by radical secularists to censor Christmas started early this year. They not only want to bar nativity scenes on public property, they want to shut down Christmas celebrations in the workplace.
On November 10, in a legal newspaper out of San Francisco, The Recorder, two lawyers advised those who work in human resources to protect their company by censoring Christmas. Putting up Christmas decorations, they warned, might create a "hostile environment based upon religion." Their conclusion: "When in doubt, go secular with decorations."
Here's what led them to that conclusion: "One police department in another state had to face that issue (what to do about Christmas decorations) when it received a religious discrimination complaint filed by a Jewish employee. The employee complained that the display of Christian-related holiday decoration (in this case, a nativity scene) violated his religious beliefs. As a result, the department banned all decorations with a Christmas theme, resulting in no Christmas tree, no Santas, no lights--nothing associated with the holiday season. Then there are proverbial battles over nativity scenes on public property. Town officials in LaGrange, Kentucky decided in November to stop a 14-year old tradition of putting a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn; they feared an ACLU lawsuit.
Most likely none of that is new to readers of Catholic blogs. I thought it was interesting that my pastor found it significant enough to put in the bulletin where space is at a premium.
When I was growing up, I often heard the advice from my mother, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." It meant, of course, that one went along with the majority unless it violated moral norms. Today she would have to say, "When in Rome, do as the Moslems do," because the minority now determines what will be permitted to the majority. Is this the way we really want to live? When the culture has been completely secularized, will a new religious belief then move in and take over, demanding that we pay homage to a strange god?
Also in yesterday's bulletin:
From The Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla, Bishop of Cleveland
As part of our efforts to help assure trust in the fiscal operations of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, I am writing to update you on the many actions taken already this year to provide strong leadership, appropriate internal controls and responsible stewardship of resources.
Most recently, John Maimone accepted my invitation to serve as Chief Financial Officer effective September 14, 2004. Mr. Maimone, a CPA, provides the utmost integrity and brings pertinent skills and experience to the position, having previously served as CEO and CFO of Premix, Inc., a closely held multimillion-dollar company in Ashtabula County. He also served as CFO of Smythe-Cramer Company and has extensive experience in a non-profit, youth development organization.
Previously, Brother Patrick Shea became General Counsel, effective June 1. Brother Pat, a veteran legal expert in civil and canon law, most recently held a similar position with the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, having previously served in the Legal Office of our diocese.
Anthony Lang, the retired managing partner of Hauser & Taylor LLC, provided strong and stable leadership in his capacity as Administrative Assistant to the Bishop for financial matters. I thank Mr. Lang for his outstanding service to the diocese. I also deeply appreciate the continued loyalty and hard work of the financial and legal staffs during this period of transition.
The Diocesan Finance Council, a panel of lay persons prescribed by Church law, continues to provide oversight of the Finance and Legal Offices, including reviewing and approving budgets. The seven-member council comprises persons with vast experience in business finances and operations who provide a valuable independent perspective for the diocese, and I thank the members for their continued service.
To provide greater accountability and sharper focus of resources, the Finance Office and the Legal Office now operate separately. Also, the Finance Council is now responsible for hiring the independent auditors, who submit their annual report to the Council.
The Finance Office has been restructured, and certain work that was previously done by outside contractors is now being handled internally. This will result in significant savings to the diocese.
We established a written Conflict of Interest Policy intended to minimize the possibility that diocese employees and members of advisory boards and committee engage in activities that actually, potentially or apparently conflict with the diocese's interests or interfere with its duty to serve the church's teachings and missions.
Beyond these actions, it is with gratitude to our parishioners that I am able to report that the Diocese of Cleveland remains on a solid foundation, as will be confirmed by the annual audit. Revenues, including parish collections, are above recent historical averages, and controls over expenditures have been significantly strengthened.
The Diocese of Cleveland remains committed to the highest standards of Christian stewardship and professional conduct. I pray that our efforts will result in renewed confidence among the good people of our diocese.
The announcement was made to give the laity confidence in the Cleveland Diocese once again. For me it doesn't accomplish its mission. Some of the reasons why:
1. Most glaring is the fact that "the Finance Council is now responsible for hiring the independent auditors, who submit their annual report to the Council". Am I misunderstanding something here? Are independent auditors going to bite the hand that feeds them?
2. The work of outside contractors being turned over to internal efforts in a cost-cutting measure also raises warnings of insularity.
3. How will separating the finance and legal offices work to insure greater accountability so long as both offices report to the bishop?
4. In fact, what I see in all of this announcement is evidence that everyone ultimately reports to the bishop, is subject to his hiring and firing, and thus is going to tell the bishop what he wants to hear.
What it comes down to, still, is that the bishop is in charge; and his bureaucracy might just have grown larger with this restructuring, though I can't be sure of that. Yes, the opportunity to make waves may be in place. The waves, however, could still be reduced to ripples if the bishop so determined that they will be. And this bishop's handling of the sexual abuse scandal does not inspire my confidence.
Final conclusion? Business as usual. But collections are apparently up, so everything is copacetic so far as the chancery is concerned.