Παρασκευή, Μαΐου 27

Favourite bit of stupid journalism... article entitled:

Woman robbed and killed before boarding train


Received Into The Catholic Church In His Sleep

Note: what follows is a true story, but names and details have been changed to protect the guilty!

My recently-departed friend David, a philosopher and master chanter, told me the story of how his grandfather Joseph was received into the Catholic Church in his sleep... in the mid 1800s!

Joseph and James were twin brothers - both Irish Protestant immigrants to Manchester. Eventually James got married to an Irish Catholic girl and converted to Catholicism. Joseph married an English Anglican girl and remained a Protestant, though he rarely ever went to church (possibly a few times a year?), however, his children eventually all went over to Catholicism.

James died at an advanced age, and was given a full Roman Catholic funeral with the bells and smells. Joseph was deeply upset over the loss of his dear brother and senile dementia, which had already set in, got progressively worse. Joseph often got confused about things, and at some point, possibly after witnessing all the Catholic ceremonial, became convinced he was a Catholic too.

'Of course I'm a Catholic... my brother was a Catholic and we're twins... how could I not be a Catholic?' was his response to anyone who said he was a Protestant. Now, Joseph's grown-up children were, of course, pleased to hear their father now considered himself a Catholic. The problem was - he hadn't yet been properly received into the Catholic Church, and wouldn't even listen when his children suggested he be received - 'I've always been a Catholic,' he would protest. His health was going rapidly downhill too, and he insisted he must be given a Catholic funeral.

What was one to do? They had a talk with the local RC priest and they had an idea. The priest, in surplice and violet stole, approached Joseph's sickbed while Joseph was asleep, and the follow conversation ensued:

Priest: Joseph, do you profess the faith which the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church teachs, and that that Church to be the one true Church which Jesus Christ founded on earth, to which you submit with all your heart? Say 'No' if you don't...

Joseph: *SNORE*

Priest: Joseph, do you believe in God, the Father almighty......... Say 'No' if you don't...

Joseph: *SNORE*

Priest: Joseph, do you believe that seven sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ.... Say 'No' if you don't...

Joseph: *SNORE*

.... and so on.....

and the Priest eventually read the prayer absolving from heresy and restoring him to the communion of the Catholic Church.

Joseph died not long afterwards, and had a grand Catholic funeral. Joseph's wife and family kept the mourners laughing by recounting this story many times, and David himself never tired of telling this story at the slightest opportunity.

If you were amused by that anecdote, say a prayer for David, a great humanist scholar and thinker, who reposed last September.

Devilled Ham

from A Saintly Salmagundi

Πέμπτη, Μαΐου 26

The Keys to Your Heart

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to those who have a split personality - cold as ice on the outside but hot as fire in the heart.

In love, you feel the most alive when everything is uncertain, one moment heaven... the next moment hell.

You'd like to your lover to think you are stylish and alluring.

Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage as something precious. You'll treasure marriage and treat it as sacred.

In this moment, you think of love as something you can get or discard anytime. You're feeling self centered.

Eeek, surprisingly accurate! Though I'm not sure about the risk of cheating being zero...

Papal Arms & Conspiracy Theories...

Was happily doing a Book Meme until blogger ate my post. Grumble grumble. Too lazy to retype everything, so here's a little diversion instead.

Behold the arms of Pope Benedict XVI:

Much has been made of the replacement of the traditional Papal Triple Tiara (triregnum) with the mitre. However, one bit that's been missed by all the Western commentators is something that they couldn't have been expected to notice, with their cultural background. Being of Chinese descent, something about the new coat of arms struck me as soon as I saw it - those three bands joined by a vertical bar. Alright, now the three bands are supposed to represent the same things as the triple tiara - the triple office of Prophet, Priest and King... but what is that vertical bar doing there? I haven't seen any explanation of its presence (Just found the official explanation... look to the end of the post). Heraldry is a deliberate art. Nothing in Heraldry happens by chance - everything is supposed to have a meaning. One never finds a case of 'oooh this might look pretty, let's put that there... or change the colour... or add a flower'. Arms are coded messages to be read by those who know the code. Could there be a hidden meaning in all of this?

Now, what I find interesting is that those three bands joined by the vertical bar make the Chinese ideograph/character: 王

So what, one may well ask - it could be co-incidence so far. Ah, but let us proceed. The Pope of Rome has two different titles in Chinese (and these titles are the same in Japanese and Korean, as far as I know). The first is jiao-huang, 教皇, literally 'Doctrine/Teaching/Religion-Emperor' - rather appropriate, I think! 教皇 is what the Japanese hierarchy uses and is also used, as far as I know, by the Koreans. The second is fa-wang, 法王, literally 'Law/Way/Path-King' (this title is quite fashionable among the Japanese press). To these is often added luo-ma 羅馬, meaning Rome, to give 羅馬教皇 or 羅馬法王.

Notice that the character for Emperor 皇 is an elaborated version of King 王. To any reader of Chinese characters (and that includes Koreans and Japanese), it would appear that the Pope of Rome has now placed his title and post clearly on his mitre on his coat of arms. Literally - I'M THE BOSS!

One could suppose it merely to be co-incidence, but if so, it's an awfully happy co-incidence. Benedict XVI has indicated a willingness to talk to China and establish official links - perhaps this is a subtle indication of his intentions to those who have the eyes to read and understand?

All we need now is to find that Benedict XVI is familiar with Chinese ideographs - given the breadth and depth of his learning, I would not be at all surprised if he knew the basic theory and principles of Chinse writing.

Of course, if newer offical explanations gave a meaning to the vertical bar, I'll either admit my theory was wrong... or declare the newer official explanations to be smokescreens - ha!

postscriptum: I'm informed that the current fashionable term for Pope in Chinese is jiao-zong, 教宗 - literally 'Doctrine/Teaching/Religion-Model'. This must be a post-Vatican II thing, as Mum and Dad (both old-school, thank God) use 教皇. The character 宗 evokes the notion of a lineage, while 皇 is more suggestive of a papal monarchy. More here.

post-postscriptum: I'm also informed that the bars'are the symbolic equivalents of the three layers of the tiara. They are connected into a unity by the vertical gold strip, representing the unity of these three kinds of authority in the person of the Supreme Pontiff. Hmmmmm. Tendentious to me...

The Name of the Rose

It happens all the time - films one watched and adored back in one's childhood, upon being re-visited at a later stage of life, seem awfully dated and slightly trite. It happened with several films that wowed me back in the 90s. It happened with Star Trek: The Next Generation (it didn't occur to me how bad the acting in some of those was). Then there are those films that one no longer looks at in the same way after one has learned a bit more about the history/culture of the period and can nitpick obvious problems with authenticity and so on.

Fortunately, The Name of the Rose wasn't one of those films. I remember watching it when I was 14 (for those of you in the know, that was back in 1991; for those of you who aren't in the know, never mind... I'm forever 18!) and being absolutely wowed by the attention to detail. I watched it again last night on DVD and was pleased to find almost nothing at all had changed.

The attention to period detail was astonishing, even now as I've learned much more about the Middle Ages. It seems they went to great pains to make sure every smallest detail was correct, and that Jean-Jacques Annaud, the director, had something like 15 advisors on every aspect of period detail. However, there were still things they missed!

  • The Renaissance Madonna - in a 12th Century Gothic Abbey? The director mentions that this got nitpicked a lot... well it should! It's about 400 years too late early for the period of the film!

  • Wrong vestments - When the Greek translator is found dead, the servants rush into the Abbey church to tell the Abbot what happened. Why on earth is the Abbot wearing a Dalmatic at Matins/Lauds?

    Still, awfully inspiring - I must dig out my copy of The Name of the Rose again and re-read it... perhaps I might even give the original Italian a try! I recall reading the book at 15 and being blown away by it - the intertexuality and so on. Who knows what other things might jump out of the book at me this time round?

  • Τετάρτη, Μαΐου 25

    Holy Week and Pascha in Dublin 2005

    So, as promised ages ago... here is the link for Holy Week and Pascha 2005 in Dublin - the bits in italics are my commentary... if anyone has specific questions, I'll answer them - I'm just not quite sure where to begin otherwise!

    Pictures forthcoming...

    Κυριακή, Μαΐου 22

    Coming Soon

    Ok, I'll blog tomorrow later today, I promise! I've been up to my eyes with adjusting to the heat in Singapore, coping with jetlag, and taking care of dad (who had a minor procedure done a few days ago but is being a drama queen about it)...

    Coming soon will be:

  • an audio clip of a work by Trubachev, whose Divine Liturgy I'm recording in October.
  • The recentjurisdictional flip-flop of an entire South-East Asian country's Orthodox population. Most edifying (NOT).
  • a full account (with some pictures) of Holy Week and Pascha in Dublin over the last week of April.
  • mystery pianist!
  • A book meme, as requested by Fr Jim Tucker.
  • A Buddhist defence of Pope Benedict XVI.
  • More material for the Chinese section of conspiracy theories about Pope Benedict XVI.
  • The story of the man who was received into the Catholic Church in his sleep - a true story!
  • Some lovely ideas for subversive T-shirts satirising the Singapore political scene.
  • Thoughts on the new Chinese emigrés to Europe and the rest of the world.
  • Recipes (of course)...

  • Παρασκευή, Μαΐου 13


    Christ is Risen!

    Hi all, sorry I haven't blogged in 2 weeks - after Holy Week and Bright Week, I had to pack up my room in London and prepare to return to Singapore for the summer. Much has happened these few weeks that's fascinating, and I intend to give a full account within the next few days.

    Right this minute, as I'm typing these words, I'm sitting in the transit lounge of Bangkok airport, having just arrived from London and waiting for my flight to Singapore.

    Yevgeny, the choir director at the Moscow Patriarchate's Dormition and All Saints Cathedral in London (where I sing), has indicated he wants me to join the London Russian Choir. As I've mentioned before, I've found my voice turning from a simple Bass into the low, dark creature known as a Contrabass or Basso Profundo - a voice particularly useful to Slavic choirs. I'm surprised to find, on surfing the website, that they're an audition-only choir - Yegveny's invited me to join, which is quite flattering. He's asked me when I'm returning to London after the summer - I told him late September. He tells me that the London Russian Choir Male Voice Ensemble will be recording the Divine Liturgy for Male Voices by Sergey Trubachev (Трубачев) in October, and he'd like me to sing in it. WHEE! I did a little search and found that Deacon Sergey Trubachev (1919-1995) wrote for the choirs of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery in Sergiev Posad near Moscow. Interesting...

    He then presses into my hands, a photocopied manuscript of the music, telling me that it's not yet published, and so I'm not to show it around. Oh, and this is the first recording of Trubachev's Divine Liturgy - whee!!!! I've looked at the music, and I like it - it's not one of the highly-emotional baroque-style compositions. It's almost chant-like in parts (it's based on Kievan and Znamenny Chant anyway), and the sub-Bass part (what I'll be singing) goes down to the C below the bass clef. I've got that note, but it's not loud at all, and neither steady nor pretty-sounding for now. I'm going to work the voice over summer and make sure that note gets heard :)

    On Tuesday we had Radonitsa - after a fencing lesson in the morning, I sang at Liturgy at the Russian Cathedral (again I was the sole bass in an ensemble of about 8 people). Radonitsa is when we have a liturgy for the departed, sing a Panikhida (votive service for the departed) and then visit the cemeteries to sing and pray over the graves of relatives, friends and other believers (announcing the Resurrection, it's called). It was quite moving - moving from grave to grave, singing litanies and the Paschal Canon, and of course, 'Christ is risen' over and over again.

    It was a bright and sunny day at Brompton Cemetery when we went there, and the event was given an... interesting dimension.... by the fact that the Cemetery (in a gentrified area of London) happens to be a gay cruising ground. So as we went from grave to grave, we encountered men loitering about the place, in the shade of trees and porches... obviously not there to visit the dead. Father Michael Fortunatto, ever the gentleman, greeted them unfailingly with 'Good afternoon!'. I imagine they must have thought us rather strange - singing the beautiful Russian-style harmonised Easter hymns, walking through the plots, with Fr Michael leading us - wearing an epitrachelion (stole) over his cassock, smoking censer in hand and sunglasses over his eyes.

    Alrighty... flight to catch, seeya!