Christianity

Christianity and the Miraculous

Today, Palm Sunday, and throughout the rest of Holy Week, we devote ourselves to the central mysteries of our faith as Christians: Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The Last Supper, which instituted for us the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. The suffering and death of Christ on the cross. His resurrection on the third day.

These miracles are the very center of our faith. As Saint Paul said, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Or to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor’s use of rather more modern parlance, “If it isn’t true, to hell with it.”

This central miracle, Christ’s death and resurrection, is the miracle which gives our faith meaning and sets it radically apart from the “he was a good man killed by the authorities for standing up for the poor” substitute which some propose. For if Christ was not God, if He did not rise from the dead, if He did not offer to us eternal salvation, then “he was a good man” is no half-way-there substitute. The resurrection is a miracle so unlikely, so scandalous that we must either embrace it wholly or reject Christianity with scorn. The events of Holy Week are not something we can accept half-way, and by accepting them we accept something which goes utterly and completely beyond the natural and predictable world. A miracle.
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Russian Christian Soldier a Martyr of the Chechen War

This is an fascinating story: a Russian soldier who was killed on his 19th birthday in 1996 is being venerated in his home country as a martyr and an icon of him is giving off aromas of myrrh:

Today according to Inferfax of Russia in  Penza, an Icon of Evgeny Rodinov  gave off aromas of myrrh in the St. Lukas Church at the Penza regional oncologic dispenser. Russian soldier Rodionov was executed in Chechnya in 1996 after refusing to renounce Orthodox faith and take off his cross.

“Myrrh came out in two spots, in a palm of his hand and where one wears the cross,” the church Rector Alexy Burtsev told journalists.

According to the Church Rector, it happened during the All-Night Vigil on February 15.  Those in attendance, at the Church, stood behind praying, and took in the strange pleasant aroma.

The priest noted that on February 15, 1996, Penza-born Evgeny Rodionov was captured in Chechnya, imprisoned for hundred days and when he refused to renounce Christian faith, militants beheaded him.?

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Rodionov (Russian: ???????? ??????? ?????????????) (May 23, 1977 – May 23, 1996) was a Russian soldier who was kidnapped and later executed in Chechen captivity. The purported manner of his death has garnered him much admiration throughout Russia, and even prompted calls for his elevation to sainthood.

Rodionov was born in the village of Satino-Russkoye, near Podolsk, Moscow Oblast. Though he aspired to be a cook, he was conscripted into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in 1995. Private Rodionov was deployed to Chechnya, he served in border troops and on February 13, 1996 he was captured by Chechen rebels. They held him captive for more than three months.

On his 19th birthday Rodionov was beheaded on the outskirts of the Chechen village Bamut. According to his killers, who later extorted money from his mother in exchange for knowledge of the location of his corpse, they beheaded him after he refused to renounce his Christian faith or remove the silver cross he wore around his neck.

Yevgeny Rodionov was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage. There is a growing movement within the Russian Orthodox Church to canonize him as a Christian saint and martyr for faith. Some Russian soldiers, feeling themselves abandoned by their government, have taken to kneeling in prayer before his image. One such prayer reads:

Thy martyr, Yevgeny, O Lord, in his sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from thee, our God, for having thy strength he has brought down his torturers, has defeated the powerless insolence of demons. Through his prayers save our souls.

As of 2003, religious icons depicting Yevgeny were becoming increasingly popular. Yevgeny’s mother has one herself; she has suggested that the icon of her son sometimes emits a perfume which she believes to be holy, to the extent that it actually drips with it.

Evgeny Rodinov, pray for us!

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Reprinted with permission by Eric Sammons of The Divine Life.

The Appeal of True Greatness

Christianity has a twofold challenge: to present the Good News of salvation to explain why the Good News should concern everyone. The second challenge is uniquely modern. After all, the Good News is salvation from sin, and sin is an idea foreign to most modern people. Explaining to someone that they are a sinner in need of a savior is never easy. It’s easy to come off as rude, insulting, or worse: a holy roller.

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Egypt: Christian Convert Asks Obama for Help

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A sad story coming from Egypt where a father and daughter recently converted from Islam to Christianity.  They have been attending a different church each Sunday and have slept in a different home each night in fear of the government.

In Egypt it is illegal to convert to Christianity.

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Some 500 Years Ago Like An Abduction In the Night, The Virgin Mary Was Taken From Many Christians

For many Christians today, the thought that the leaders of the Protestant Reformation believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary or her bodily Assumption into heaven would seem ludicrous, even more bewildering would be the devotions many of the Reformation’s leaders had for the Blessed Mother. Believe or not it, they did. In this month of December when Catholics celebrate three feast day’s commemorating the Mother of our Lord, perhaps it is time to remind our separated brethren of the truths their founder’s believed.

Sometime ago when I was writing my book, The Tide is Turning Toward  Catholicism,  I showed a friend of mine, who is an Evangelical, a homily about the Virgin Mary delivered in the 1500s. I asked him who gave that homily, “probably some pope,” he exclaimed. No, I said it was Martin Luther. He replied, “Dave I trust in almost everything you say, but I am going to have to call you out on this one. I mean isn’t that what the Reformation was all about, ending superstitions like those about Mary?” His mouth dropped when I showed him the passages. I am sure many of today’s Evangelicals, especially of the Calvinist lineage, would have the same reaction.

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Why I Don't Believe in a Young Earth

Some time ago, someone asked me:

Suppose–just for the sake of argument–you were convinced that an honest reading of the Tradition of the Church required you to believe that the initial chapters of Genesis were historical. Would you be able to do it, or do you think that Darwinism is so irrefutable that you would have to abandon or radically redetermine your faith?

I think this is the question that worries a lot of Catholics without a strong scientific background as they watch the evolution/creationist/ID debate on Catholic blogs. Here are these otherwise solid Christians taking common cause with the likes of the Richard Dawkins against their brother Christians. What gives? Are these folks really Christian? Do they care more about science than about faith? Do they only accept Catholicism so long as it agrees with science?

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You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

Okay, that’s a heckuva long title for a blog post, but it also happens to be almost perfect for the subject of this particular entry at The American Catholic.

On Tuesday, the voters of the state of Maine — surprisingly — rejected same sex marriage (SSM) and reaffirmed that marriage in Maine is between a man and a woman. Naturally, SSM supporters were shocked and outraged (the Catholic Church appears to be the early target), while supporters of traditional marriage were overjoyed with the results; Maine, after all, isn’t exactly in the Bible Belt.

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), was typical of the latter: “Every time Americans vote on marriage, traditional marriage wins.” And she’s right: when it comes to ballot initiatives, SSM is 0-31.

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Pange Lingua Gloriosi

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Composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Office of Corpus Christi (see CORPUS CHRISTI, FEAST OF). Including the last stanza (which borrows the words “Genitori Genitoque”—Procedenti ab utroque, Compar” from the first two strophes of the second sequence of Adam of St. Victor for Pentecost) the hymn comprises six stanzas appearing in the manuscripts

Pange, lingua, gloriosi corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi Rex effudit gentium.

Written in accentual rhythm, it imitates the triumphant march of the hymn of Fortunatus, and like it is divided in the Roman Breviary into stanzas of six lines whose alternating triple rhyming is declared by Pimont to be a new feature in medieval hymnody. In the  Roman Breviary the hymn is assigned to both Vespers, but of old the Church of Salisbury placed it in Matins, that of Toulouse in First Vespers only, that of Saint-Germain- des-Prés at Second Vespers only, and that of Strasburg at Compline. It is sung in the procession to the repository on Holy Thursday and also in the procession of Corpus Christi and in that of the Forty Hours’ Adoration.[1]

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[1] Henry, H. (1911). Pange Lingua Gloriosi. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 3, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11441c.htm

Note: For more information click here.

Rifqa, Islam, and the Mainstream Media

Rifqa BaryYou may have heard by now of the case of Rifqa Bary who fled her Ohio home to Florida to escape her father’s grasp.  The reason being is that she converted to Christianity and her family are extremist Muslims.  Meaning that she will be put to death for being a kafir, or apostasizing from Islam.  This is in line with most mainstream Islamic jurisprudence (see the Koran verses such as 2:217 and 4:89) that calls for the death of a convert away from Islam.

Andrew Bostom of the American Thinker wrote an excellent piece concerning Rifqa Bary:

Rifqa Bary faces death for her apostasy from Islam, while the media ignores the solid religious and institutional grounding for the practice.

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The 13th Day

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[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 10:33 pm CST for 8-20-2009 AD]

The 13th Day is a film based on the true story of the Marian apparitions to three shepherd children at Fatima Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months in 1917, starting on 13 May.  The three children were Lucia Santos and her cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto.  These apparitions at Fatima were officially declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

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Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ

The Transfiguration of the Lord can sound embarrassingly magical. Jesus goes up onto a mountain and his clothes become dazzlingly white. Prophets appear and talk to him. And then it is all over and Jesus tells his disciples to say nothing.

We should hold on to the absurdity of the incident. There is simply no reason for all this to have happened. In particular, there is no reason to put it into a gospel – the evangelist makes no capital out of it, it is simply there.

And this is the strength of the Transfiguration as an historical incident. There is no reason for anyone to have invented it. It is not central to the Christian case. It is not used to win arguments. There is only one reason to put it into the Gospel, and that is because it happened. It is one of those cases of the evangelists writing things down without knowing why they were important, and their very puzzlement is what makes the story so convincing.

Why, then, did it happen? Surely so that we could see and understand that Jesus is at once one of the prophets and the one that was prophesied by them; and that he is God, and lives for all eternity in a blaze of dazzling and unapproachable light.

The true miracle of the Transfiguration is not the shining face or the white garments, but the fact that for the rest of the time Jesus hid his glory so well.

[Reflection courtesy of Universalis.com]

The Prudential Science

I ran into this quote going through an old EconTalk the other day, and thought it interesting:

As economists, we’re specialists in prudence only.

That, as you say, is not what Adam Smith recommended. Not at all. I and a number of other people would like to get back to a Smithian economics, which although it didn’t throw away the very numerous insights that we get from thinking of people as maximizers — maximizers in this narrow sense — acknowledges that temperence and justice and love and courage and hope and faith can change the way the economy works.

UIC Economist, Deirdre McCloskey

I’m trying to decide if I agree with it or not. I would certainly agree that economics basically only looks at certain prudential concerns, it doesn’t consider humanistic or theological questions. However, I’m not sure if economics should acknowledge those concerns, or if it is more the case that economists (and others dealing with the field) should clearly acknowledge that there is much more to any question than the question of what is most economically efficient.

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The Petrine Ministry And Christian Ecumenism

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches) truly deserves more attention, as it remains vital to the self-understanding of the Catholic Church and for the prospect of Christian ecumenism in general.

Eastern Catholics are non-Latin Rite Christians who, at some point in the last thousand years, entered into communion with Bishop of Rome—though technically, some like the Italo-Albanian and Maronite churches, may have never left that communion. These Christians of the East are many, part of several churches, in communion with the Roman church. It is often forgotten that the Catholic Church, founded on the See of Peter, is a communion of twenty-two churches.

These Eastern-rite churches are significant to any real ecclesiology because their Catholic reality—their theological tradition, liturgy, spirituality, discipline, and customs—does not derive from Western influence. As a matter of fact, their Catholicism has its own apostolic foundations as old as, or even older than, those of Rome itself. Therefore, the way the Roman church understands its relationship to Eastern churches and the way in which it lives out that understanding is a clear marker to the shape a reunified Church will take in the future. Continue reading

The "Brothers" and "Sisters" of the Lord

The perpetual virginity of Mary has always been reconciled with biblical references to Jesus’ brethren by a proper understanding of the meaning of the term “brethren.” The predominant view in Latin Christianity is the “cousins theory” mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea as a belief of some Christians, but more widely supported by St. Jerome in De Viris Illustribus in the 4th century, as he sought to defend the doctrine of Mary as Ever-Virgin.  This biblical interpretation found favor with the Pope at the time and became widely promulgated, eventually becoming the non-official, but majority view of the Roman church.

With great respect and love of St. Jerome, a celebrated saint and Father of the Church, dare I say, I would like to boldly make a theological argument against his position and that of the majority of Catholics and delineate a just as valid, but arguably more reasonable theological opinion.

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