Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Feast of St. Pachomius of Egypt (15 May)

Founder of Communal Monasticism in Christianity. His rule for the monks stands as one of the early examples of Coptic literature. He organized communities for both men and women and legend says that there were some 3000 monks in those communities at the time of his death in 348.

Abba Pakhom

Troparion for Pachomius the Great (Tone VII)

With the streams of thy tears thou didst irrigate the barren desert,
and with sighs from the depths of thy soul thou didst render thy labors fruitful an hun­dredfold.
Thou wast a beacon for the whole world, radiating miracles.

O our father Pachomius, entreat Christ God that our souls be saved.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Boyan Ivanov Mishev, "The Celebration of Orpheus" (2006)

"Remember that the Redeemer's mercy wipes our sins away, not in one way alone, but in many ways."
Angelo Clareno, "Letter to Phillip of Majorca" (c.1324)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


David Jon Kassan, "Approach" (2006)

I said, "Lord, if you allow me to do something wrong here, then you must do penance for me."
God answered me, "You should come to me because I will never leave you, neither here nor hereafter. Whoever desires me in true love, I will never renounce in true love."

Margaret Ebner, Revelations (1348)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

christian carnival

The 219th Christian Carnival is posted at Chasing the Wind. This includes my brief reflections on Wright and Obama.

I would also point out the reflections on Wright and Obama that took place over at Catholic Anarchy.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

wright speaks the truth; obama apologizes for it

Christianity did not arise as a national or a class religion. As a dominant religion of rulers it must deny its origin in the crucified Christ and lose its identity. The crucified God is in fact a stateless and classless God. But it does not mean an unpolitical God. God is the God of the poor, the oppressed and the humiliated. The rule of the Christ who was crucified for political reasons can only be extended through liberation from forms of rule which make humanity servile and apathetic and the political religions which give them stability [i can't help but be reminded here of shariati's religion against religion. -LoA]. According to Paul, the perfection of the kingdom of freedom is to bring about the annihilation of all rule, authority and power, which are still unavoidable here, and at the same time to achieve the overcoming of apathy and alienation. Christians will seek to anticipate the future of Christ according to the measure of the possibilities available to them, by breaking down lordship and building up the political liveliness of each person.

Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (1972)

Jon deMartin, "Faith in the Wilderness" (2006)

i have to admit that to me, a white man from rural north carolina, the words of rev. wright were beautiful. they brought back memories of many of the sermons i heard as a child and young adult, often, or even especially around the 4th of july or an election. the theme that was often pounded home from the pulpit of my home church was "heal our land". the clear implication, often made quite explicit, was that the country was sick and subject to divine judgment.

so my question has been from the beginning, what did rev. wright say that was wrong?

on this good friday, one should remember that jesus was executed as a political threat and blasphemer. he was not sentenced and killed for being nice and loving everyone. mr. rogers and barney the dinosaur are disgustingly sweet; no one suggested they be tried for treason. so the idea that sunday morning sermons should be inoffensive and make everybody feel better about themselves seems obviously absurd...even if for the most part this absurdity has become the reality in many churches. the words of pastor wright, the 30 seconds of sermon that we get to hear online, are apparently too much for fragile american ears, even though they are some of the most christian statements i have heard in a long time. they are the words of a christianity which refuses to be shackled to a state, refuses to be the handmaid of an alien power, refuses to lie in order to placate the powers and thrones that rule the american nation. america is not the kingdom of god and has been all too often blind to its own history of injustice and murder. the fact that rev. wright's words were so controversial -- pointing out the racism that still functions so powerfully in american life; reminding americans, as we try to limit nuclear weapons, that we alone have used them; reminding americans, as we fight against terrorism, that we have waged and are waging war with little concern for the lives of others; that america is not god -- is simply more evidence that america has made an idol of itself and that the nation has supplanted god in the minds and hearts of the american people.

obama has distanced himself from the "inflammatory" words of pastor wright. there are pragmatic reasons for this. perhaps it is the case that a christian cannot say the truth and be elected president. but the fact that obama denounced the truth reveals that he is nothing new on the political scene, and the fact that america needed him to denounce the words of his pastor in order to have a chance of being president suggests that america wants many things, but it does not want change. america does not wish to hear of its illness, but wants a president that will continue to lead it -- with the imperial band playing its march -- triumphantly into the glorious future that belongs to it by right, by nature. because america is the greatest nation in the world.

and it proves once again that prophets are not welcome in their own country.


Evan Wilson, "Down to the Water" (2006)

"Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing, for you will mourn and weep.
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye', when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."
Luke 6:24-25,41-42 (c.75 AD)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

you are what you read

You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what
causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they
really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing
with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in
the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but diplomats are usually pulling the trigger."

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

snagged from ayesha

Thursday, February 21, 2008

height (concerning vertigo)

Christopher Cousins, "Unadherence" (2007)

beyond vertigo, faith is to find oneself in the grip of height and without ground. this can be confused with vertigo since, in the disorientation and fear that inevitably follows, one feels as if one might plunge into the abyss. yet vertigo is a desperate attempt to cling to self-control when in the grip of height, fearing that one may step off the edge, might lose one's footing. but beyond fear, peace will be the recognition that one was never simply one's own, and has not been plunged into the abyss. there can be, in the grip of pure height, no fall, because the height has no limit: one is actually in perfect rest. recognizing that one is at a height beyond all abyss is the constant challenge of faith. this is why there is despair even in faith: one wonders if one is not truly falling, and if one will ever truly learn to rest.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recalling 12 September 1960

The day on which American Catholics decided they wanted to be Protestants after all.

It was the day on which JFK insisted that the separation of Church and State was not merely a legal principle found in the United States constitution, but that somehow he had so thoroughly internalized it that it had become etched on his soul and that Catholicism would have no political bearing on his life.

John Courtney Murray would provide the theoretical description and pushed for the Protestantization of Catholicism all the way to the Second Vatican Council.

And may God have mercy on our souls.

Recalling 1829

In 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in the United Kingdom. In the minds of many at the time it was unconstitutional insofar as the sovereign was both the spiritual and political head of the people and as such there was no way in which Catholic's could submit fully to the crown. On the other hand, it seems more appropriate to see it as a broadening of the crown's power and a liberalization of the understanding of it's role. No longer would it be the case that English civil religion would be equated with one particular cultic form but instead the way was opened to embrace ever wider forms of cultic practice under the spiritual direction of the crown and thereby sublimate them to Englishness. In this way the law and rule of England came to be more uniformly and systematically applied to its citizens, eliminating a situation in which Catholic's existed at a lower or marginal level within the English state.

The existence of parallel courts of law at the peripheries of the English legal system is a return to the days prior to 1829 when it was recognized that there were those citizens and permanent residents of the nation who could never really be English and who did not reside within the fullness of English law. Rowan Williams, who currently has his plate full presiding over the dissolution of the Church of England, may well be presiding over the dissolution of 1829 and the liberal English state as well.


Friday, February 8, 2008

When Liberalism Loses the Courage of Its Convictions

This week the chief prelate of the Church of England, the widely respected Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, suggested that England find a way to accommodate the traditional forms of Shariah law, especially with respect to family disputes, within the legal structures of the United Kingdom. Williams is a scholar and academic with outstanding works on topics ranging widely from the Arian controversy of the 4th c. AD to the work of the Russian Orthodox theologian Sergei Bulgakov. This is hardly likely to be a spontaneous or thoughtless comment; instead it is likely to be the studied opinion of the most vocal and important spokesperson of the English government on matters of religion and faith.

In recent days I have been preparing to teach a course on world religions. It is not a task I relish since the whole discipline of world religions is a minefield of Orientalism. As a theologian, I am struck by the lack of systematic thought that has gone into the idea of dialogue with those who exist extra ecclesiam. It has sparked in me a hint of admiration for Political Liberalism insofar as it has one of the most well conceived, systematic and coherent "theologies" of religion in the West. Insisting on the private and moral nature of religion, Political Liberalism has managed to sublimate the great traditions that preceded it under its banner. Its post-Christian Protestantism insistence on the separation of faith and works allows it to leave the beliefs of the traditions "intact" while nonetheless bringing the practice of all into accordance with its vision of who humans are and the nature of a stable human community. The Secular is not so much an a-religious space, but a transreligious one with new rituals and liturgical forms that organize and interpret - and ultimately relativize - the place of other traditions in the life of its citizens.

The allowance of parallel legal institutions with the UK strikes at one of the central tenets of Politically Liberal "theology" of religions: the separation of faith and works. As a Roman Catholic the separation was never particularly appealing and it has always fascinated me the extent to which Catholics have failed to fight against it in their desire to enter into the mainstream of Liberal cultural and political life (JFK for instance had to embrace it in order to legitimize his candidacy). Nonetheless, when Liberalism begins to question the foundations of its own existence one has to wonder whether or not Liberalism has lost its faith. Is the Liberal experiment failed?

And what next from the Archbishop of Canterbury? It has been suggested that the creation of parallel religious courts will help Catholicism in such matters as adoption. Many adoption agencies in the US and the UK have run into problems as they are required, under existing law, to allow same-sex couples to adopt children (in the state of Massachusetts for instance, Catholic charities no longer arranges adoptions). But what else will be covered. Will divorces be denied to Catholic couples? What criminal charges will a husband be allowed to bring against his wife if he finds out she is using birth control? If he finds out she had an abortion - i.e., in the eyes of the Church, committed murder?

Where is Liberalism going?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reason #67 We Don't Have Children

We can't even make our cat behave!

We haven't been able to keep her off the kitchen counters lately and last night she jumped up on them right in front of us!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

eurydice to orpheus

Edmund Dulac, "Orpheus and Eurydice" (c.1934) [Watercolor & Gouache on Paper]

notes in the margins of a book i am still writing, that is not yet finished, sing to me what i am feeling; aphoristic melodies of thoughts i discover i am having before i can write them down.

and you are the author and instrument, some sort of guide across the styx behind which i have hidden. cerebus is charmed, my mind-ever-vicious, tamed; i am opened and you go into the dark and heavy what i am.

(even as a child all i wanted to do was to paint the page black, complete and entire. so i went here, to a place where finality could be attained, to a place where i would not have to hear any voice (your voice so wonderful), where i could establish the safety of a world, and leave no other space on the page for anything else.)

too light to be restrained by the inscription of laws that forbid the song C leading me outward, page by page, around the margins of the body of the text so that i am no longer trapped where i had fled and set up guards, in myself, in the interminable internality of being me C you chant and enchant me.

proclamation of resurrection

proclamation that there must be a nothingness, an other death, than the one i write: a willingness to die (like you undertook in coming to me). to cross, to step past the end of the line, to look for meaning prior to the first word, after the last period, in the space you have opened around me.

overwhelming space, refusing to let me write a life that goes to the edge of the page, that is all encompassing; leaving me to either founder in my attempts to script out the sound and to assert only eurydice C or, to admit (an olympian admission, to truly hear the song in hades) that the best of me lies with you, in the music that impinges on the margins of the page.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

new technical term

Right-Marxist: A Left-Hegelian with a desire for God

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Al Faisal University, Riyadh KSA

LoA: Honey, Look! They are opening a brand new University in Riyadh.
She: I will divorce you. *serious stare*
LoA: Shall I make chicken for dinner?
*She goes back to what she was doing*

ALFAISAL UNIVERSITY is a private, not-for-profit research university that will be self-governing and internationally recognized in education and research, and that will produce capable trained professionals who lead their fields. Students will begin their programs in Colleges of Business, Engineering, Medicine, and Science and General Studies in Fall 2008. Eventually, the University will enroll 1,000 students per class. The initial class will be much smaller with a gradual build up thereafter. The campus is being constructed on the beautiful grounds of the late King Faisal’s Palace in Al Maather in the center of Riyadh. The Palace will serve as the administration quarters; the other buildings will form an almost complete circle around it. Instruction will be in English. The University was founded by the King Faisal Foundation and organizations such as Boeing, British Aerospace, THALES, and King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, whose representatives serve on the Board of Trustees. Before entering the University, students will complete a rigorous one-year preparatory program that emphasizes English language, study skills, math and science. The College of Science and General Studies offers a four-year degree program in genetics and life sciences. In addition, the College provides core courses in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences for all university students. The curriculum of the College will involve problem-based and technologically-enhanced learning. Graduate programs will be added in the near future. The goal of these programs is to train students to use systems- and critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork. Our programs are designed to meet high international standards with collaboration from major western research universities. The College of Science and General Studies seeks faculty with teaching and research expertise in English Literature and Language; Philosophy and Ethics; Arabic Literature and Language; and Islamic Studies. Attractive salaries and generous benefits will be provided. Queries and applications should be sent to and should include a cv and the names of three references. The subject line should specify the discipline, position and advertisement reference. The deadline for applications is 15 January 2008. Off-site interviews for leading candidates will be conducted in early 2008 in the US, Europe and/or the Middle East.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

are you my mother?

Adrienne Stein, "I Looked for the One my Heart Loves" (2006)

Many of you, no doubt, know and grew up on the childhood story of the duckling that went around searching for its mother. It introduced children to various animals, and likewise provided children with a sense that was a place they belonged, some place that could properly be called home.

Heidegger argued in Being and Time that we needed to find that spot, that home, embrace it and make it ours in order live genuinely human lives. This home, according to Heidegger, was not something chosen arbitrarily; it was more something into which we were thrust by history and which we needed to accept. In effect, Heidegger is describing the idea of Tradition. That there is a cultural and historical conversation into which one is thrust, that one cannot opt out of, and with which one must wrestle.

To be American especially, and really one can say more generally to be a member of liberal society, is to be part of a tradition of forgetting for Heidegger. Systemic forgetting. The destruction of tradition. In fact the destruction of tradition has become the great liberal tradition. We are watching that tradition wage a crusade in its name in our own time. This is the tradition of which we are a part.

Having destroyed the traditions of our ancestors, or at least systematically forgotten our own origins and history, we struggle under the need for some sort of positive tradition to bind us together. Having wiped out the liturgical calendar, we institute a new one: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, etc. replaces the rhythms of a lost liturgical calendar which contained periods of feasts and fasting; penance, reconciliation and joy.

And what if one feels the weight of this loss, the loss of tradition? What is one to do? Can one choose a tradition? Having been catechized into the tradition of traditionlessness, can one enter into a new conversation that remains self-consciously historical? Is conversion possible?

I chose Catholicism. It was not my tradition. My tradition was...Pietist, Enthusiastic, Holiness, Pentecostal...the convergence of various Wesleyan strains into the historically naive Christianity that suits America so very well. But how does one convert. The awakening to history that meant the break with Pietism in its various forms does not mean that one now is part of some other history. It simply means that one is self-conscious of the historical contradiction within which one finds oneself.

One awakens to history and like the lost duck one turns to that which is near, to that closest body which seems in some form or another to have preserved historical consciousness of its own being, and asks "Are you my mother?"


Sunday, January 6, 2008

pour it early and often?

just one of the amusing sights downeast...

LoA, "What Drinking Problem? (Marshallberg, NC)" (4 January 2008)

oddly, it appears to have gone out of business.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Fritz Eichenberg, "The Long Loneliness" (1952)

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

-Hafiz (14th. century)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Ye......WTF?!?

Another story for another post, and with any luck that will follow, but I was in Oriental, NC last night for New Years. This involves taking the Minnesott Beach ferry across the Neuse River. While we were waiting for the return ferry I went into the rest station where, in both the men's and women's restrooms, one could find the following....

LoA, "Minnesott Beach Ferry, Men's Restroom #1" (31 December 2007)

The sign only appeared in Spanish...

LoA, "Minnesott Beach Ferry, Men's Restroom #2" (31 Dec 2007)

leading one to one of two conclusions. First, English speakers weren't welcome in this bathroom. Prima Facie, unlikely. Second, it was meant to be insulting to Spanish speakers, who apparently needed to be told how to use toilet paper, when English speakers don't.

In any case one cannot help but be surprised to find, in a very conservative area of the state of NC, an area where one would not be surpised to hear someone express English-only sentiments, an area with a history of racism, using Spanish only signs...unless it too is an expression of racism. That it is found in the State Ferry Station is insulting to all of us who call NC home.

LoA, "Minnesott Beach Ferry House" (31 Dec 2007)