Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Pure Malice

My computer blew up on Saturday. It had been slowly failing for a while, and luckily I backed up all my important documents on Friday night--the next day the hard drive was dead. So, I switched hard drives and installed a whole new Windows XP system on it.

The problem came when I connected to the internet to download the security patches and updates for XP--within an hour, some enemy computer had targeted me for destruction. There is a Blaster Worm virus that causes the computer to reboot constantly whenever it is on the internet, which leads to a problem: how can one download the fix when one can't stay on the internet? I finally solved the problem (Install XP, then Firewall, then Viruscan, then (and only then) connect to the internet), but while cursing loudly I reflected a bit on evil.

Augustine stole pears when he was a young man. A small crime, it seems--just a few pears, stolen in the company of friends, and thrown to the hogs. But he examines this sin over and over, excessively so, it seems, to modern readers. But I think Augustine was right to do so. The theft of the pears was one of the gravest of sins. The reason lies in the fact that Augustine could find no motive for stealing the pears (he had better ones, and didn't even eat them) except the motive of breaking God's law. It was disobedience for the sake of disobedience, pure pride.

It's one thing to kill a man for vengeance, or to steal to enjoy what one has stolen. At least there is a motive, no matter how inappropriate the means to that goal are. But what good does creating a computer virus do for the creator? Does it gain him wealth? Fame? It is evil done for the sake of doing evil, for the cheap thrill of a sham display of power. Augustine says that such sins are like the ineffectual rebellion of a prisoner, by which the sinner flees from God's omnipotence by attempting to be godlike.

Don't get me wrong. Murder is bad. But murder is explicable, whereas writing viruses is demonic.

Friday, April 23, 2004

New Liturgy Document

Go ye forth and read. My favorite bits are the smackdowns on extraordinary communion ministers. We shouldn't have them, unless we need them, and the fact that liturgy might run a bit longer isn't a good reason. But, if we do need them,

[151.] Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.[252] Furthermore, when recourse is had out of necessity to the functions of extraordinary ministers, special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a Priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred Orders.

So, when you have extraordinary ministers at your Mass, you also need to have prayers like this: "Lord, grant that we may have many vocations to the Diaconate and the Priesthood, so that we won't need to use extraordinary ministers of communion. Let us pray to the Lord!"

Lord, hear our prayer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Prayer requests

Could you please say a prayer for Mrs. Athanasius and me, that we can work out a way to get her home, soon, all day with little Macrina (not her real name)?

Also, could you say a prayer for a special intention, which I'm not going to tell you about, but if it ever comes to pass, will be Very Big?


Oremus pro invicem!

Another neat effect of God's grace

is that my lovely wife, who is very busy, and doesn't have to go, since it isn't a holy day of obligation (not that we Easterners think that way) and she's still Roman, not Ruthenian Catholic, is willing and pleased to go to Extra Church tomorrow night, for the vigil of the feast of St. George.

I love Extra Church.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Too much despairing going on

All over St. Blog's people are upset about the various scandals and evils overtaking the world. So am I. But we need to keep some perspective. There has never been a perfect time in the Church. Read some Church history--there have been schisms and heresies and betrayals of Christ for less than 30 pieces of silver since the beginning. Repeat this phrase whenever you see scandal: "It has always been thus." If you are a teacher of religious education, I suggest you include lots of Church history as an inoculation against the evils of the present age.

But, also, I think we need to realize that lots of good things are happening. Here's a few:
1) A couple I know who have been in an irregular marriage for 30 years or so is going to fix everything this weekend. And the husband is becoming Catholic. Praise the Lord!
2) My parish is working very hard to pay off our debt without Bingo or pierogie sales. We've raised about 180000$ strictly through stewardship appeals. We're doing things the right way, and we're succeeding. Praise the Lord!
3) Speaking of my parish, our teen group is wonderful. There are no rock-and-roll liturgies, no raves, no watering down of the teaching of the Church. Rather, there are courses in apologetics, in the theology of the body, and in the treasures of the Eastern liturgy. In fact, our teens stayed overnight at the church from Holy Thursday through the Easter Vigil, chanting the Byzantine liturgy of the hours. Praise the Lord!

Despite all that happens, Christ still wins. People are being saved every day. Christ is risen from the dead, and by his death he has conquered death, and to those in the graves he has granted life! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Jesus, St. Paul, and Popeye

One of the most shocking things about the teachings of Christ is his expansion of the Jewish Law. Take a look at the Sermon on the Mount, which, if you can read it without being scared to death, you aren't reading it correctly. The Jewish law was directed to the external acts of man--don't kill, don't commit adultery, etc. The new law of Christ doesn't relax the old law, but makes it tougher, adding internal rectitude to the external act. Look at the following passage:

Mat 5:21 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'
But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.

How are we to take such a thing? I'm not even allowed to be angry with my brother, or anyone else, for that matter. What might Jesus have in mind? I think he may have been thinking of Popeye. Do you remember the Popeye cartoons (the early ones) where Popeye would keep up an on-running monologue under his breath, saying all sorts of caustic and funny things that only the audience could hear, but that Olive couldn't hear? I love Popeye, but I think he was breaking Christ's command in the Sermon on the Mount. I do the same thing.

For example, consider that it's a Sunday afternoon. I've just finished cleaning the dishes from brunch, and am settling down on the couch to watch baseball and take a nap. My wife says "Could you help me fold clothes?" Perhaps on the outside I say "Sure," but on the inside I'm Popeye: "Darn it, I was just settling down to take a nap. Can't we fold clothes later? I like them wrinkled anyway." I do the external act, but all the time on the inside I'm resenting it.

What difference does it make what my internal state is, as long as I fold the clothes? Certainly harboring such resentment will damage my dealings with my wife. If I have habits of resentment, eventually I'm going to do something hateful in the external act as well. This applies to the other commandments of Christ in the SOTM as well: if I continually and habitually look lustfully at women, I'm far more likely to do lustful things.

But I think even the internal act is sinful as well. There is a modern cliche about sin, calling it "brokenness"--the priest at an old parish of mine used regularly to adlib in the mass about the sin of brokenness; I was tempted to go to confession and say "Bless me Father, for I have been broken six times." It is a cliche, but like most cliches, has some truth to it. Plato noted in the Republic that wrongdoing is damaging to the person that does it, primarily because it brings about disorder in the soul. Our mind says "fold the clothes," but our appetites say "stay on the couch." By indulging the appetites, even in the internal monologue, we set our minds and hearts to fighting, and that makes us less good than we ought to be. We become at war with ourselves. Our public acts, which may be in accord with all ten commandments, nevertheless are a sham, hypocrisy, nothing more than acting. That's not good.

Where does St. Paul come into this? He recommends to us the solution to this problem of melding the internal and the external: 1Th 5:16 Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Pray constantly, rejoice always, give thanks always. This is the will of God! So, when my wife asks me to fold the clothes, I should already be praying (since Paul says "constantly"), and I should rejoice and give thanks to God for the opportunity to do such a good action. This is the way to act in accord with the Sermon on the Mount, to act not just without killing and adultery, but without even anger or lust. Let's return to my situation on the couch and see how it should happen:

Athanasius' inner monologue, while sitting on the couch, watching baseball and getting ready to nap: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. . . ."

Mrs. Athanasius: "Could you help fold clothes?"

Athanasius' thoughts "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. . . Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. . . Thank you Lord for my beautiful wife, and the beautiful daughter whose clothes (thanks for those, too!) I now get to fold. . . Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner. . . ."

Athanasius' words: "Sure!"

Isn't that better? By the way, that's the genius of the Jesus Prayer. If you practice it, eventually you can get to the stage where the name of Jesus is constantly running through your mind, no matter what you do. This is a sure defense against such Popeye problems as Christ warns against in the Sermon on the Mount.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Terry Jones and Monks

I flipped briefly by the History Channel while pedaling away on the bike, when I saw the beginning of a show called Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. The episode was on monks. Interested, I watched for while. Jones described St. Benedict as a man who didn't like the fact that people were having too good of a time in Rome. So he left Rome, and lived in a cave, to make sure that he didn't enjoy any of the good things of life. Jones then said that Benedict's solitude was short-lived, since lots of other people came out "in order not to enjoy themselves in the presence of a great man."

His description of monasticism as "not enjoying oneself" was worth a chuckle. But then he contradicted his own statement without noticing it, when he acknowledged the great attractiveness of monastic life. If all these men came out to join Benedict, monasticism can't consist simply of lack of enjoyment; what would be the appeal? How could it be so attractive if it wasn't any fun at all?

An observant person would notice the tension between the glib statement that monasticism consisted of "not enjoying oneself" and the fact that lots and lots of people used to want to be monks.

I have been reading a history book by Peter Brown called "The Rise of Western Christendom", and he relates this fact: In 593, the emperor Maurice issued an edict that forbade all persons liable to military service to become monks. Can you imagine? So many people wanted to be monks that it threatened the security of the Byzantine Empire.

There must be something good about it, don't you think?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Real men don't drive SUV's,

They drive minivans bursting with their progeny!

(overheard in another internet forum.)

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Let me tell you a secret. . . .

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!



OR: El Messieh Kahm! Kakken Kahm!

OR: El Mshi kam! Bel hakkan kam!

OR: Al Maset’h ahm! Hat’em ahm!

OR: Al Massiah qam! Haqqan qam!

OR: Al Mesiech Kam! Hakan Kam!


Christos harjav i merelotz! Orhniale harutjun Christosi!

OR: Chrisdos haryav ee merelotz. Orhnial eh harootiunn Chrisdosi.

(Christ is risen from the dead) (Blessed is the Resurrecton of Christ)

from: Sacraments and Prayers of the Armenian Church

Diocese of the Armenian Church, 1956

Chaucerean Middle English

Crist is arisen! Arisen he sothe!


Helisituosi fuhuole! Queshi fuhuole!

(The above was originally coined and used by 19th Century Russian missionaries

and used mainly today only by some within the Synodal Church.

Thanks to Jim Forrest for this information.)

OR (Cantonese): Gaydolk folkwoot leew! Ta koksut folkwoot leew!

Thanks to Ross Conner (as told to him by Paul Smith)

OR (Mandarin): Ji-du fu-huo-le! Zhen-de Ta fu-huo-le!

("The latter reflects contemporary Mandarin pronunciation.

This is the version the Church in Hong Kong is using. Of

course when they look at the same characters, they would use

Cantonese pronunciation. But for any modern Chinese dialect,

there would be more than one way to translate it, just as in

English we might say, for example: 'Indeed, He is risen!' or

'He is risen indeed!' or 'Truly He is risen!'.")

(Thanks to Galina Rol Haring for parts of this information!)


Pikhirstof aftonf! Khen o methni aftonf!

Coptic (Sahidic; Egypt)

Pchristos aftooun. Alethos aftooun.

(NOTE: This is not the Bohairic dialect which is the Coptic

Church's liturgical language)


Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

OR: Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!


Christ est Ressuscité! En Vérité, Il est Ressuscité!


Kriste aghsdga! Cheshmaritad aghsdga!


(Thank you to Angelo Comino for the corrections.)

Christus ist auferstanden! Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!


Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

OR: Kalo Pascha! Kali Anastasi!

(Good Pascha! Happy (Good)Resurrection!)


Ha Mashiyach qam! Ken hoo qam!

(that ch is the really gutteral one)

OR: Ha-Mashiah qom! Be-emet qom!


Cristo è risorto! È veramente risorto!

OR: Cristo è Risorto! Veramente è Risorto!


Harisutosu Fukkatsu! Jitsu Ni Fukkatsu!


Krist peplu'ta'.......taHbej peplu'ta'

Pronunciation: H = German ch in Bach,

apostrophe is a glottal stop)

(Thanks to Douglas/Dmitri Mosier)

Latin (3 versions)

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!

Surrexit Christus! Vere!

Christus surrexit! Surrexit vere!

(Thanks to several people, but the third is from

Hieromonk Aidan.)


Khristus Zmartvikstau! Zaiste Zmartvikstau!

Pronunciation: Chrystus Zmartwychwstal! Zaiste zmartwychwstal!

(Thanks to Ania Worobiej)


Christo Ressuscitou! Em Verdade Ressuscitou!

OR: Cristo resucitou! Em verdade, resucitou!

(Thanks to Bryan Pitts)

Cristo ressuscitou, Aleluia! Santa Pácoa! Páscoa Feliz!

(Thanks to Manuela Galvao)


Khristos voskres! Voistinu voskres!


Hristos Vaskrese! Vaistinu Vaskrese!


Christos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!


Kristus vstal zmr'tvych! Skutoc ne vstal!


Cristo ha resucitado! Verdaderamente ha resucitado!

(Thanks to Daniel Alberto Ayuch [born in Argentina] for the above)

OR: Cristo ha resucitado. En verdad ha resucitado.

Spanish (Baskian): Cristo berbistua! Benatan berbistua!

Spanish (Castilan): Crist ha ressuscitat! En veritat ha ressuscitatado!

(Thanks to Galina Rol Haring for additional dialects!)


Kristus är upstånden! Ja, Han är sannerligen uppstånden!

(Note: The 'a' in 'är' is pronounced like the 'a' in 'cat'.

The 'a' in uppstånden is pronounced as 'o'.)


Meshiha qam! Bashrira qam!

OR: M'shee ho dkom! Ha koo qam!

(Thanks to John and Barbara)


Hristos Diril-Di! Hakikaten Diril Di!


Kristos Voskres! Voistinu voskres!


Atgyfododd Crist! Atgyfododd in wir!

(Thanks to John and Barbara)

West Syriac

Qom Msheeho (men qabro)! Shareeroyith qom!

(Thanks to Larry Koroloff from the

Syrian Orthodox Church in Toronto)


Eybershter undzer iz geshtanen! Avade er iz ufgeshtanen!


Ukristu Uvukile! Uvukile Kuphela!

(Page courtesy of this site. There are many more languages found there.)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

No more on celibacy

At least for the time being. I'm still a bit disappointed that no-one has offered an alternative explanation of the scriptural texts I cited. But I'll get over it.

As the last exhibit to prove my point, I give you Tiger Woods. He got married and turned into Phil Mickleson.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Some Perspective

I've been zipping around St. Blogs, and there are a lot of people upset at various examples of episcopal evil. My response? Be upset, of course. But have faith! Things have always been thus. When Henry VIII broke the Church of England away from Rome so he could get a divorce, guess how many bishops refused to go with him. There's one. He's a saint, John Fisher. The rest betrayed Christ with breathtaking ease.

It isn't news that most bishops are poor sinners. Most humans are poor sinners. Did you think baptism or ordination made us perfect?

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I will be very busy this week

and have to do some traveling. Blogging will be intermittent or non-mittent. If you need something to read, go catch up on the Old Oligarch, especially his post about the washing of the feet.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Feeling good about yourself? Haven't been to confession in years?

You've come to the right place!

People don't go to confession much anymore. Why is that? I think this has its roots in the legalistic mentality of the western world. Strictly speaking, confession is not necessary unless one is in a state of mortal sin. Most Catholics today think that the only person who ever committed a mortal sin was Judas, or maybe Hitler. Mortal sins are so awful and terrible that ordinary people just don't commit them, right?

Wrong. Consider me your prosecutor, Mister-legalistic-US-Catholic.

For a sin to be mortal, all that is required is that the matter be grave (the sin must be something serious in its nature), that knowledge be full (you need to know it is wrong), and consent must be given (you need to want to do it). See the Church's teaching here. Let's start in reverse order and look at these requirements:

1. Consent: You don't need to make a contract in blood with Beelzebub in order to commit a mortal sin. You just need to have a complete consent, sufficient to make the sin a personal choice. You make personal choices all the time. Here are some examples: what to eat for dinner, what book to read, what clothes to wear. All very simple, everyday choices, but choices. So consent is not hard to give.

The CCC says (1860) the promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest. So, it is possible that one can be carried away by passion, and in such a case the sin may be less. But then the question is: why are you the sort of person who gets carried away by passions in such an irrational way? You have a duty to form your character--if it is your fault that you give into passions habitually, then you have already failed in that grave duty to form one's character.

2. Full knowledge. Perhaps, you may say, I didn't really know it was that bad! How much knowledge is required for a sin to be mortal? Again, the Catechism sets a low bar: (1859) It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. You need to know that the act is sinful. It doesn't say that you need to understand the full depths and ramifications of the nature of the sinful act; you only need to know that it is sinful. Further, if you say that evil 1970's nuns didn't teach you correctly, you still don't have an excuse: (1860) But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.

By nature, we have at least some knowledge of right and wrong. Even non-theology PhD's are capable, it seems, of committing mortal sins.

3. Grave matter. "But I've never murdered anybody!" Jesus says in Matthew 5:21You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So, one need not actually twist a knife in the guts of another in order to sin mortally. Insults could be mortal, as Jesus says.

The Catechism says that grave matter is determined by the content of the ten commandments. If you act against a commandment, it is possible that such an act is about grave enough matter to be mortal. But you might say that the commandments are vague. Luckily for you, the Church gives more specific direction. The following list was culled from the Vatican online edition of the catechism, by looking up the word "grave." It isn't complete, but gives the sorts of things that are objectively grave matter. If you've done any of these things with knowledge and consent, you need to get to confession.

2. Divorce
3. Fornication
4. Hatred
5. Drunkenness that puts the safety of others at risk.
6. Scandal--behavior that leads others to sin.
7. Suicide. (Presumably none of my readers have committed this sin.)
8. Abortion.
9. Murder. Most people seem to think that this is the only possible case of grave matter. It's one of many.
10. Missing Mass on Sunday. Yup. It's still grave matter. Sleeping in rather than going to church could put you in hell.
11. Blasphemy! If you talk bad about God, you could be committing mortal sin. Test: what would you say if you dropped a brick on your foot? That might be blasphemy.
12. Sacrilege, a very common sin these days. This consists in treating sacred things as if they weren't sacred.
13. Masturbation.
14. Pornography.
15. Homosexuality. If you indulge in homosexual pornography (I hear that all-female films are popular), you've got an act that is three-times grave matter.

Note, that this is just the result of a quick trip through the Catechism's search engine. It is not an exhaustive list--for example, contraception is also grave matter, although it didn't show up in this simple and quick search.

I dig all of this up not to make any individual judgments--I myself am convicted by the same list. The point of this post is to get rid of the foolish, devilish notion that mortal sin is impossible. It is very possible. In fact, I think that mortal sin is likely extremely common, given the Church's criteria for it.

Now go get yourself to confession!

I'm still here.

Had a bad bout of grading-itis.

I'll post something wonderful soon, I promise!