By The Waters of Babylon

Several weeks ago was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. This service in the Orthodox Church is an especially special one because it is the last sunday before Great and Holy Lent. The staple of this service is the inclusion of Psalm 136 (137 for Protestants) which is only sung 3 times the entire year.

This verse is quite possibly the most beautifuly poetic exposition of exile of the people of God. When we as Christians sing this song, we realize that it is ultimately fulfilled not in the exile of the Jewish people (though they certainly posess some of its meaning), but in the ultimate fulfillment of the people of the Church in exile here in this foreign land. In commemoration of this, I’d like to share with a beautiful versions of this Psalm, in Slavonic. Remember, in this Lenten season, Blessed are they that bash their passions on the rocks

View The Video Here

The above video features video footage of the Holy Passion-Bearers St. Nicolas II and his family.

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Alleluia.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. Alleluia.

For there they that had taken us captive required of us a song; and they that had carried us away required of us a hymn, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. Alleluia.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Alleluia.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten. Alleluia.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem as my chief joy. Alleluia.

Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Down with it, down with it, even to the foundation thereof. Alleluia.

O wretched daughter of Babylon, blessed is he that shall reward thee as thou hast served us. Alleluia.

Blessed is he, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

Just as a quick side note, the Orthodox Church has always taken this passage allegorically for the bashing of our passions on the rocks, they do not sanction infanticide of Babylonian Children. . . so please go out and do the former and refrain from the latter.

Lessons for the Fast- Nehemiah 9

I have been reading in Job for Lent on the advice of my spiritual father. Today I decided to also read another passage from one of the prophets and came across this verse in Nehemiah which for some reason really hit a nerve. I thought that I’d share it with you all.

Nehemiah 9: 1-5

Now on the twenty-fourth day of the month, the sons of Israel were assembled, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of the Israelite lineage seperated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God. Then Jeshua, Bani, Kedmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Banim and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the Lord their God.

And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah said “Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever! Blesssed be your glorious¬† name which is exalted above all blessing and praise!”

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen!

Sobering Words from Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), Memory Eternal

Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), Memory Eternal

Here are some sobering words spoken in 1978 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his address to the Harvard graduates. His warnings ring true today, as we see our system of humanistic/pleasure driven society built on the back of rationalistic humanism come crumbling down. Our sobering economic crisis (or rather series of successive economic crisis’ taking place over several decades) seems to be signaling the waning of Western decadence and power. We have become a nation of pleasure seeking “Christian” Atheists. Our chief aim is happiness and self-fulfillment. No wonder there are so many unfulfilled people. Without a creator, what is His creation? Without much more rambling, Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man’s physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.

However, in early democracies, as in American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.

Sobering words indeed. . .