Thursday, February 19, 2009

Preparing Athonite Prosphora

Sylvia at Adventures of an Orthodox Mom describes how to bake prosphora (bread used for Orthodox liturgies) as it is made at Mount Athos and the Athonite monasteries.
We use something called "prozimi" instead of yeast to make the bread rise. Prozimi itself is a miracle. On either September 14 (Exaltation of the Precious Cross) or on Holy Friday a bowl containing only water and flour is taken into the altar during the Gospel reading. The priest then blesses it. Afterwards our Gerondissa takes it into the kitchen and places it in the oven (the oven is not on) and leaves it there overnight. The next morning the bowl is overflowing with this "yeast". It is then separated and refrigerated in airtight containers and is used each time prosphoro is made. Every time you make a new batch of dough you tear a small piece off and set aside for next time.
Check out the full recipe, complete with pictures. Almost reminds me of my Eucharistic bread recipe adventures from a few years ago.

(H/T Byzantine, Texas)

Let's Reinstate Communal Confession

Now, for a little levity and satire... The Onion Dome has it down:
After his earlier attempts at raising the level of spiritual life in his parish, Catechumen Vasileos (formerly Vasily, aka William, aka Guillaume, etc) wondered what more he could do to eliminate the "rampant heathenry" that he found in his parish. In his intense studies of Church history, including A Beginner's Guide to the Orthodox Church and The Early Church for Dummies, Catechumen Vasileos discovered yet another thing in his parish which didn't match up with the early church: Private confession.

"Private confession is so obviously a heretical papist latinist pan-hereticalist innovation," said Catechumen Vasileos in a recent interview, "And obviously, we can't have that!"

Thus, having identified himself as the only real true Orthodox believe in this parish of "ignorant, uneducated heathens," Catechumen Vasileos decided to heed the advice of 6th century Elder Pharmaxananos who said, "The man who can condemn sin is by far the most blessed," and help his fellow parishioners on the way to true, non-papist repentance...

To start, Catechumen Vasileos distributed information in his parish about the practice of the early Church, in which everyone confessed to each other, rather than just to the priest. He even set a date for everyone to come and confess to each other. However, when that day came, he was quite saddened to discover that no one showed up.

"Clearly, no one at my parish really cares about Orthodoxy. They don't care about repentance, they are too busy at 6pm on Wednesday evening to come to the real confession, to busy doing useless worldly things like caring for their children, working, or something stupid like that. Really, these people just have no idea what the spiritual life is like."

Catechumen Vasileos decided to take it a step further: He decided that the best way to "convict the heathens of their sins" was to do what Elder Pharmaxananos advised, and show them. And since all sins are public, he reasoned, everyone should know! Thus, Catechumen Vasileos compiled a list of sins for everyone in the parish to pass out before liturgy.

What was on the list? To quote just two items:
* Alicia was spotted on July 13th at a Roman Catholic soup kitchen, helping make food for the homeless. This is clearly in violation of Canon 422 of the Synaxalion Council of Bypraxia in 1332, which forbids any contact with heretics. This woman is surely straight on the path to eternal damnation in the 13th hell, reserved for Romanist sympathizers, which we know about from the Revelation to St Phylergia of 18th century Calamaria.

* Zossimas was seen eating at restaurant with his mistress on a Wednesday eating meat during Lent! First off, it's Wednesday, what is he doing eating meat?? Second, it's Lent, why is he engaging in worldly activities like eating at restaurants? This man seriously needs some help with following the canons. This is just such a blatant violation, like seriously. People really need to conduct themselves in a more canonical way when on dates with their mistresses. His wife is such a pious woman too, I am sure she will be filled with godly rage when she hears that her husband was not keeping the holy fasts of the Church.
After having passed out his lists after Divine Liturgy last Sunday, no comment could be obtained as to the success of his efforts at bringing the parish to repentance, as Catechumen Vasileos is in the hospital with mysterious cane-shaped bruises all over his body, and an interesting loss of hearing, possibly caused by being exposed to prolonged, high-volume screaming at the hands of elderly Calamarian women.
I think I've seen this guy's twin in Catholic circles as well ;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Aquinas vs. Intelligent Design

The eminent Francis Beckwith points us to a very good essay by Professor Michael W. Tkacz, published last year by This Rock magazine, entitled Aquinas vs. Intelligent Design. Tkacz makes a number of good points with respect to a Thomistic point of view, some points which I have been attempting to articulate (lacking background, skill, credibility, experience, etc) for some time:
Both Darwinism, with its secular challenge to the unity of faith and reason, as well as the attempt of ID theorists to disprove evolutionary theory vindicate Pope Leo’s selection of Aquinas as the model for Catholic intellectuals. Thomism has something useful and corrective to say on both sides of the debate. At the same time, Thomism does not replace the natural sciences, or perhaps to put it better, a Thomistic intellectual synthesis includes precisely the sort of research found in the modern natural sciences that have produced so much understanding of nature. In the Thomistic view, the teachings of the faith are fully compatible with what we learn of nature through scientific research, provided we both understand those divine teachings correctly and we do our scientific research consistently and rigorously. The truth or falsity of the claim that the diversity of living species is due to some sort of evolutionary process is a matter to be settled through biological research. Whatever the outcome of this research, it can never replace the need to explain the existence of the natural world in terms of a creation ex nihilo according to God’s divine design.
What does this mean for Intelligent Design? He continues (emphasis mine):
Clearly, the secular claims associated with modern Darwinism require the sort of corrective provided by Thomism. Does this mean, then, that Catholics should make common cause with ID advocates? Insofar as ID theory represents a "god of the gaps" view, then it is inconsistent with the Catholic intellectual tradition. Thanks to the insights of Aquinas and his many followers throughout the ages, Catholics have available to them a clearer and more consistent understanding of Creation. If Catholics avail themselves of this Thomistic tradition, they will have no need to resort to "god of the gaps" arguments to defend the teachings of the faith. They will also have a more complete and harmonious understanding of the relationship of the Catholic faith to scientific reason.
I, too, think this approach is best when we are dealing with the abiding secularism and, indeed, atheism that is rampant in the modern, scientific world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gregorian Chant Workshop in Sugar Land

The New Liturgical Movement blog mentions my parish in Sugar Land and the Gregorian Chant workshop held there this weekend. On Friday evening, my parish schola sang William Byrd's Mass for Four Voices, one of my favorites. My wife is a member of the schola, and I know it took quite a lot of preparation to sing, but they did a very good job. I couldn't attend the actual workshop, but my wife tells me it was intense. I did get the opportunity to have dinner with a few of the folks after Friday's concert, including Scott Turkington of the Church Music Association of America who led the workshop. Lots of smart people!

The Great Entrance

From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The prayer of the priest at the Great Entrance, prayed in low voice while the people sing the Cherubic Hymn:
No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change. You have served as our High Priest, and as Lord of all, and have entrusted to us the celebration of this liturgical sacrifice without the shedding of blood. For You alone, Lord our God, rule over all things in heaven and on earth. You are seated on the throne of the Cherubim, the Lord of the Seraphim and the King of Israel. You alone are holy and dwell among Your saints. You alone are good and ready to hear. Therefore, I implore You, look upon me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, and cleanse my soul and heart from evil consciousness. Enable me by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that, vested with the grace of priesthood, I may stand before Your holy Table and celebrate the mystery of Your holy and pure Body and Your precious Blood. To You I come with bowed head and pray: do not turn Your face away from me or reject me from among Your children, but make me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to offer to You these gifts. For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed, and to You we give glory, together with Your eternal Father and Your holy, good and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Retraite dans la Ville

Ad spot for the Dominican Province of France's online Lenten Retreat: Retraite dans la Ville:

Take the time...

(Courtesy of the Dominican House of Studies, Washington D.C.)


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