Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Advent Calendars

A new church year, a time of preparation approaches. Hopefully we can find non-secular disney style advent calendars with a CHRISTIAN content in time to distribute them among the 15 or so Sunday School. For those of you in the UK any suggestions where I get them before Sunday?!!

Totally Collapsed

 Whilst on the theme of the Armenians. We may think that injustice within our own church is a problem. Have a look at how the Armenian Orthodox are having to cope. We always new that many of the ancient Armenian churches have been desecrated by the neglect of the Turks(I will address the Genocide of Armenians by the Turks on another occasion) but have a look at this report on relations with their neighbouring Orthodox of Georgia. Christ is always suffering when Christians disagree. May he have mercy on us all when the time of reckoning arrives, as it will surely do for us all and especially those responsible for their inactions as well as their actions.

On Friday, November 20, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided during a meeting of the Supreme Spiritual Council in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Discussed during the meeting was the collapse of the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church in the Diocese of Georgia. At the end of the meeting, the following statement was released:

The Supreme Spiritual Council regrets to confirm that the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church (built in 1356) in Tbilisi, Georgia, has collapsed.
The Supreme Spiritual Council regretfully states that years of effort on the part of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the authorities of the Republic of Armenia, to regulate the legal standing of the Armenian Diocese of Georgia and secure the return of Armenian churches, through dialogue with the authorities of the Republic of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church, were unsuccessful. The collapse of the St. Gevork of Mughni Armenian Church is only one of the consequences of the unwarranted delays exhibited by the Georgian side in the handling of the aforementioned issues. The authorities of the Republic of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church are wholly responsible for the collapse of the church.
The indifference exhibited by the Georgian state toward the preservation of Armenian holy sites does not correspond in any way with: 1) the establishment of good neighborly relations, 2) fidelity to universal human values, 3) respect for the rights of ethnic minorities, 4) the constant statements made by the Georgian state regarding the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of their ethnic minorities, and 5) the Georgian state’s accepted obligations before the international community.

The Supreme Spiritual Council calls on the authorities of the Republic of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox Church to immediately implement steps to grant legal status to the Armenian Diocese of Georgia and to return the Armenian churches in Georgia to the Armenian Diocese of Georgia for the normal functioning of national-ecclesiastical life for the Georgian-Armenian community and the safe preservation of Armenian holy sites.

Monday, 23 November 2009


As I suggested in a previous post I would return to the subject of the Latin shaped mitre in the Armenian Apostolic Church as depicted in the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator AD 301 recently erected on the side of St Peter's basilica, Rome. He was a successor of the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholemew the founders of the Armenian church. Although there is a small community of Armenian rite Catholics throughout the world who take their origins from Lebanon in the 18th. cent. the vast majority of Armenians are Orthodox and the mother see is based at the holy city of Etchmiadzin in Armenia within sight of Mount Ararat ( now supposedly Turkey) where Noah's Ark rested after the great flood. I attach some photos I took on pilgrimage in 2003 (post soviet occupation) showing the latin shaped mitre. They are on the whole all  of the 'precious mitre' type and the only difference is in that they are joined at the top instead of open. I have not yet found out why they follow(or perhaps they lead) the latin form. The orthodox mitre which is crown shaped is retained by the priests and also unusually the deacons as well on some occasions especially at ordinations. The Catholicos of all Armenians (His Holiness Karekin II) with whom I and others shared an audience is dynamic and friendly. These photos are during the Divine Liturgy of the Mass ( the ancient rite is a mix of St John Chrysostom and St. Basil). He is in the photos at his throne not mitred and not celebrating on this occasion but gave the blessing. The audience is in the palace of His Holiness. More details another time.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Cornered in a Storm?

Note to Liberal Well Wishers.... "Is it me or do I detect that things are getting rough on the ocean of unity? Tempers are getting hot and unpleasant, realities are beginning to bite. Who knew what when? This could be a tragic play indeed were it not for the fact that it's not fiction, it's about truth which should have a happy ending. You may not like the open welcome to Anglicans from Rome but if you don't what are you bothered about? You aren't the ones who are going to move anywhere so stop rocking the boat and upsetting the move that many will want to take in their own good time if they can and if they feel God is calling them. Let's have some decorum, we are not playing a football match we are engaged in the soul searching of men and women for their spiritual home and their longing for the truth of the church founded by their Lord and entrusted to the Apostles and their successors. Leave your fellow Christians and treat them ecumenically with love and best wishes for their future before God. I don't think I can stand any more posturing or criticism of why and how the fatherly offer of help that has been launched in Anglicanorum coetibus came about. The message to Rome from Anglican synods was clear we don't want to listen to your words of caution that the raft of ARCIC is sinking on the tide of unagreed innovations to church order, ministry and ethics. For many Anglicans now realise the Bishop of Rome knows best and if you don't agree worries just carry on as you are! Which you will do anyway. Please please stop PRETENDING you don't understand traditionalists and their longing for Christ's imperative 'let them be one' any more!" We wish you well and let's all get on with bringing Christ to those who don't yet know him in our own way. Don't be fearful, don't feel cornered, stay cool, stay faithful!" After death comes resurrection and new life.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Eastern Orthodoxy

After the Anglicans have been offered a return to the family home of SS Peter and Paul at Rome what about the Holy Orthodox being encouraged to share in this new found unity for Christians around the Pope as 'first among EQUALS'? It strikes me that this will be high on H.H. Pope Benedict's dynamic agenda. The Orientals and smaller and more disparate churches may be first. The picture is a photo I took on the outside wall of St. Peter's in a courtyard where the Vatican Museum exits. It is of St Gregory the Illuminator, the patriarch of the Armenian Orthodox Church AD 301. The first country to officially adopt Christianity under it's King Tiridates. Armenian Orthodox Bishops are unique in having adopted the Latin shaped mitre, of which more in subsequent posts.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus

These are some words from 'The Significance of the Apostolic Constitution'
(now promulgated under the name of "Anglicanorum Coetibus") by Fr. Ghirlanda of the Vatican. We have this official interpretation, which has struck me with enormous force and significance. They are ....

               " the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition IS a particular reality within the Latin Church."
Note that it does not say , may be ,could be or will become.... but IS. This gives enormous encouragement to those who have sacrificed everything to justify this reality within the Anglican church over centuries, often against vehenomous opposition within it. It also gives Anglicans who wish to move towards visible unity with the Bishop of Rome at a slower speed and those who may be forced to be left behind  a validity that the faith which they are expressing in the church of their upbringing, nationality and culture is valid, is part of the One Holy catholic and Apostolic church...already, if on an impaired and so far imperfect basis. All life is imperfect in varying degrees. Some will want to rubbish the Constitution for their own grubby church-political reasons. The more open minded and truly liberal and ecumenical, as opposed to current establishment quasi-liberal, will welcome all the words of this generous and fatherly offer of care and concern from Rome. You must read the full text, I believe you will be amazed, humbled and joyous whatever your personal views. Here is a link

Sunday, 8 November 2009

At the going down of the Sun....and in the morning....

We will remember them...Remembrance 2. A day of charged emotion here in the UK on this Remembrance Sunday. Our Parish Church is small and Celtic from the 9th. century. Most of the original stones are below ground and in the circular wall of the churchyard. We worship on sacred ground and these stones have seen many wars and burials in their time. They have also witnessed the centuries-old worship and prayers of the people that continue to soak up our catholic and post-reformation liturgies and sacrifices of prayer and thanksgiving even today....a thousand years later. The Requiem Mass this morning in our small rural parish of 900 or so souls mustered  a congregation of 50 communicants and others and 10 Sunday School members who led our intercessions. The tone was solemn, Gospel-centred and based on Jesus' promise of eternal life. The Communion concluded at 10.52 am and in the presence of the blessed Sacrament of the Lord remaining on the altar we processed to the war memorial plaque behind the font, the Celebrant carrying the wreath of Flanders poppies from before the altar in the sanctuary, through the body of the church with solemn music playing from the Victorian pipe-organ. As the wreath was laid the Deacon lit the pascal candle and at exactly 11am the two minute memorial silence began in time with the Sovereign's church parade at London's cenotaph and throughout the land. After two verses of the National Anthem we returned to the sanctuary for the post-communion and blessing.
It was at the South door and in the school room afterwards that we shared common experiences of the tragedy of war that affects many of us even in the rural parishes at the moment. Many, many people in our communities and in our nation are now again having to share in the losses and the injuries of the present war in what we used to call the North West Frontier, always a most unhappy burial-ground for the British. Our loyalty to the troops on the ground and to their families is never in question. We look to the Generals and to the politicians for strong, explicit and morally justifiable war-leadership at this time . Our question as to the truth and efficacy of this will be left for another day. For this day we shared, even in this small community, with those in tears for the bomb disposal friend blown-up, the 18yr. old brother of a niece's school friend shot down  in his youth, the garrison-town stories two miles away where too many young men have died in the heat of Afghan battles. On the way out two of the congregation quietly reflected on their war-time service. One in Palastine one in Borneo where,captured by the Japanese, 1000(one thousand) men in his Japanese  transport ship died even before they got to the prisoner of war camp due to the cruelty of man to man... no water... no light.. air.... A foretaste of the three years of continuing cruelty to come to him and his fellow compatriots and their allies. A  day of charged emotion but one of unity, common suffering and determination to overcome and to share in new life. "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will ( always) remember them.....WE WILL REMEMBER THEM."

Friday, 6 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday

This is the season of Remembrance and we with many other families will have special things to recall. Every year at this time I get out the letters sent home by my late father from the front in World War II. He was a Major serving in the Royal Artillery having been called up from his City of London territorial regiment The City of London Yeomanry ( The Rough Riders). I gave his medals and the service sword of my maternal Grandfather (Capt. Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, note the two royals) to my brother Tim who was in the RADC but I have kept the letters. I will reproduce an extract at the end.....One letter (subject to the censor of course) recounts how he was caught up in the" forgotten war" of 1944. Having fought in North Africa and in the desert(where he says "it was jolly hot"!)he found himself in the civil war in Greece between the communists(the KKE) the left(EAM ,their fighters were ELAS) and the royalists (EDES). Remembering also that he would have been 27yrs old then having begun the war at 24. He was one of five bothers( all became Doctors), four were fighting and the youngest at school. The family home, where my eye surgeon Grandfather had died prematurely in his fifties, was called Winchester House in Southampton and took a direct hit and was bombed flat. " Luckily we were out at the time "  famously quoted my widowed Grandmother!  At this season there is much to remember, much to regret and much to thank God for. Never should we glory in war but never should we forget the debts we owe. The tragedy is that our modern young troops continue to sacrifice "their today for our tomorrow" WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
Greece 1944 "There was some straffing from the air... a sniper had just shot one of our spotters, tanks were smashing a road block, fighters were destroying a defended house. The padre is magnificent. He walks about in his cassock puffing his pipe indifferent to the snipers,tanks and barricades. He always turns up for meals but in between there is no hot-spot he does not visit. He seems to have complete faith in the immunity provided by his dog-collar...or perhaps it's his complete faith" Jan 5th. On the end of hostilities that finally occurred that day.. " I walked back to my HQ in the late afternoon hardly able to believe it. It was this silence that was so odd. It made it seem like some awful nightmare from which you are just waking up. The sun was shining on the hills . The birds were singing. But there on the pavement was the body of a dead girl and there were the crators of those two mortar bombs which just missed the Colonel and I, and there in the garden a soldier's grave."   Maj.Phillip Arthur Zorab MD FRCP
 At our Parish Requiem Mass with Act of Remembrance next Sunday the prayers will be led by the young members of our Sunday School  where we with thousands upon thousand will pray for those who died and were injured, those who fought and those who suffer. We will pray for peace and hope for ... peace, knowing that through His death on the cross Jesus overcomes all death, for all time.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

St Charles Boromeo and St Ambrose

Further to the previous post last night here is a photo of this Church dedicated to these co-patrons which I took in Sept..Click the photo again to enlarge and get the full detail. It is situated in the via del Corso, Rome. Do see their website by clicking the link on my previous post or here again   Ciao!!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Roman Fever

I have been lucky enough to visit Rome three times in my life. The last was with my wife when we managed to have our first holiday without the children for eight years. It was only a few weeks ago that we returned on 30th. Sept.. If you haven't been GO!! It's a must see, especially if you are a Christian of any tradition. Our pilgrimage was a holiday too in the true sense of the word. Three visits to St. Peter's (San Pietro) in the four night stay because our Bed and Breakfast, which was more like an apartment really, was round the corner from the Vatican. We walked everywhere, the weather was 28C and we visited all the seven Basilicas, five in one day!! We had been determined to travel the quite far distance, comparatively, to pray at St. Paul's outside the Walls where the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles has been verified as 1st. century. Wow!! was it worth the noisy metro journey. When you walk out onto the street from the station you arrive in a poor run-down area with cranes leaning over building sites that have lost their workers years ago in stagnation. Empty of people and very few pilgrims one can't help feeling that Paul is being left out and in the shadow of his chief brother Apostle, Peter. Inside the Basilica is calm, quiet, prayerful, majestic and beautiful.Quite appropriate and impressive for the memory and housing of Paul. Personally I am a big fan of Peter too ( and curiously his most modern successor! ). However we could remember that Paul is to the Word of God, what Peter is to Tradition. Add in the redaction of reason and Anglicans have a natural home to turn to. In fact the same home we were forced to leave at the time of the Reformation by an accident of history through no fault of our own; simple as that! Here at the tomb of Paul we joined in the office of Vespers with the Abbot and a college of 20 priests with 15 of us in the congregation. This is where traditionally the Sovereign of Great Britain was an honourary Canon. Little did we know that our fervent prayers to God through St. Paul for Christian unity between Rome and Anglicans had already been answered!! The Dominicans prayers for this same intention months ago had got in before these particular prayers( but no doubt had joined  all of our earlier and constant intercessions for the same cause). Could Paul be a special Apostle to the Anglicans who seek unity with his brother Peter and the Universal church? Who knows perhaps very soon a British Monarch may again be installed as an honourary canon of St. Paul's Basilica outside the walls at Rome.? That would really be another ecumenical miracle to follow the Apostolic Constitution of Benedict the sixteenth! Real Roman Fever indeed! Another treasure we found was San Carlo whose feast is tomorrow. The church has a wonderful website and ministry under the direction of Mgr. Martinelli you can visit it here and be sure to visit the Your questions bar on the left. I commend  it to you. Buona Sera!!

Sunday, 1 November 2009


If I one day have to lose the recitation of the Divine Office (which is RC but used by many Anglicans) for my daily prayers I think I'm going to experience quite a bereavement. It has seen me through thick and thin in sickness and in health over the years both as layman and after Ordination. It feeds me, nourishes me, guides me and helps me. Most importantly it opens the door and enables me to live in the same household with the living God on a daily basis. It also joins me with the rest of the 'family', both of catholic Anglicans and Roman Catholics where we seek to live together and serve the Father in prayer. Although we may not meet in the same houses of prayer at the same moment to say the Offices, we are joined together by the knowledge that we are all following the same pages all over the world and uniting as Christians of the same family praying to the same God roughly at the same time. If we are ill we know that if we miss these prayers and readings they are still being prayed and read for us by our brothers and sisters in Christ on our behalf. I hope that this rich treasury of daily prayers each different for the Calendar and seasons of the church year will not be lost because of a direction to use an Anglican  book of common prayer as part of  a  more general 'Patrimony' that we may be taking with us. Where would be the wisdom in that I wonder? Many of us left the BCP in private offices as a result of Vatican Two years ago. Also would this be wisdom at the very time that the fruits of united prayer for unity in the daily Office are bearing such fruit at this time? We could still continue to use the BCP in sung and public services. Of Wisdom... " Her, then I would take to myself, to share my home; to be my counsellor  in prosperity, my solace in anxiety and grief."( Book of Wisdom ch. 8)