Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Weeknd, Ge'ez, and the University of Toronto

What a great story.


(The Star) - A language that hasn’t been spoken for more than 1,000 years is being taught this semester at the University of Toronto, a step perhaps towards decoding rarely understood excerpts of history.

The ancient Ethiopic language of Ge’ez is written in a script that’s read left to right and has 26 letters. Letters have variations for the vowels that go with them, meaning students have to learn 26 characters in seven different ways.

The goal of the class, which meets twice a week, is to get students on their way to reading.

Milen Melles, a history major who said her parents immigrated to Canada from Eritrea — which became independent from Ethiopia in the early 1990s after three decades of war — is taking the class as an opportunity to connect with her roots. She one day hopes to study texts from the region at a graduate level.

“This is a huge step for western academia to be exploring African languages, ancient languages, because they usually only study Swahili,” Melles said, noting that African studies often get lumped together at universities, differently than other regions where specific areas or countries are studied independently of one another.

“They treat Africa like a monolith, if they were to have an Ethiopic studies program that would clearly change that whole model of the way that they look at Africa,” said Melles, noting that the Ge'ez language pre-dates Ethiopia as it exists today.

U of T’s Scarborough library is working on digitizing tens of thousands of pages of historical manuscripts written in Ge’ez that hardly anyone can understand.

In its first semester, five undergraduates and five graduate students are enrolled in Holmstedt’s class, with a handful more auditing. He said his students are taking the class for many different reasons, for some it’s a chance to connect with their heritage while for others it’s an effort to unlock ancient bits of history.

Funding for the class started with a $50,000 donation from U of T history professor Michael Gervers, who worked on digitizing manuscripts for the university from the Gunda Gunde monastery in Ethiopia.

Gerver’s donation was later matched by Scarborough’s Abel Tesfaye (better known as Grammy award-winner, the Weeknd) and by the university...
Complete article here.

On modern languages and Syriac in the Assyrian Church

I found this article, entitled "Modern Assyrian Hymns: The Introduction of the Vernacular in the Liturgical Services of the Church of the East," to be quite intriguing. The music and poetry of the Church is built in such a way that it fits hand-in-glove with the language it's written in. Playing on words, matching musical notation to phrases, etc. is hard to translate into another language. Every jurisdiction has its beloved music and some clunkers in English. Phrases in English get squished into the musical notation written for another language, things get moved around and don't make as much sense, and all other sorts of problems doggedly follow the musical translator. What's more, the first or second attempt which tried to make the transition gets seen to be the way to sing the song in English so that later improvements are maligned as playing with a sacred and time-honored bit of hymnography. No Church is immune and no two jurisdictions handle it the same way. Enjoy this bit of scholarly discussion on the topic.

Friday, January 13, 2017

March for Life. I'll be there. You?

Iraq Council of Churches proposed

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean (Catholic) Patriarchate, at the initiative of the Primate Mar Raphael Louis Sako, has launched a formal proposal to Iraq’s Christian Churches to set up an ‘Iraq Council of Churches’.

The proposal was made public today in an official statement released on the Patriarchate’s website and sent to AsiaNews.

“The Council,” the statement says, “is a religious body including Church families of Catholics, Assyrians, Orthodox and Evangelicals in Iraq,” to be headquartered in Baghdad.

The Iraq Council of Churches would “promote the spirit of unity among the different Churches in Iraq, to coordinate the educational and social activities”.

The press release goes on to say that the Council would also “organize prayers meetings, unify the position and its discourse toward national issues, such as social justice, equality and the rights of Christians”.

It would also “activate the dialogue with the Muslim and other religions in order to promote a culture of peace and coexistence.

The Council itself would include two bodies.

The first body would be an Executive Council that included the Chaldean patriarch, the patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, the patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East, and the bishop at the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church. It would also include the bishops of the Syriac Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Latin, and Evangelical Churches, as well as representatives from the Coptic, Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches.

The second body would be a General Council, composed of all the heads of Churches and all the bishops of the various Christian Churches.

The statement by Chaldean Patriarchate notes that the “Executive Council meets every three months and the General council meets once a year.” Decisions would be reached on the basis of half+one votes.

Official letters by the Iraq Council of Churches would be signed by the Council president, or, in his absence, by his deputy.

The patriarch of the Chaldean Church would head the council. The patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, the patriarch of the Ancient Church of the East, or one of the Churches with the greatest membership would serve as deputy. (This would be discussed in the meeting of the General Council.)

With the Council’s structure so outlined, the leaders of Chaldean Patriarchate are waiting for answers from the leaders of the country’s other Christian denominations.

When all of the Churches give their greenlight, a formal ratification would take place.

At that point, the Council and its status would be submitted for full approval to the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, as well as the international Churches and fora.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Syriac Orthodox working to build seminary in US

Whippany, NJ (SCOOCH) – For nearly a decade, H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in North America has been working tirelessly to establish a seminary on the premises of the Archdiocesan Headquarters for the education of his clergy and faithful. In the meantime, since 2010, the Archdiocese has convened an annual week-long Deacon’s Camp for the purpose of inculcating the ideals of Christian fraternity and fidelity to the Orthodox Faith and Orthodox practice among the young men who serve on the altars of its churches across the continent, from New York to California and from Saskatchewan to Texas.

In keeping with the vision of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches that each of the member jurisdictions participate regularly in one another’s ecclesiastical life, H.E. Mor Titus and the organizers of this year’s Deacons Camp – which ran from January 1 through January 7 – invited several speakers from the Coptic Orthodox Church to join their own priests and scholars in addressing the camp’s participants on theological and pastoral topics ranging from Making the Gospel Incarnate in North American Culture, to Discipleship & Leadership in Ministry & Spiritual Life to The History and Development of the Syriac Orthodox Liturgy. The participants were also trained in liturgical chant. In addition to H.E. Mor Titus, speakers included: Rev. Fr. Bijo Matthew, Rev. Fr. Joseph Varghese, Rev. Fr. John Rizkalla, Rev. Fr. Faustino Quintanilla, Rev. Fr. Varghese Paul, Rev. Fr. Michael Sorial, Rev. Dn. Shiryl Mathai, Professor Nicholas Siniari, and Dr. Sinu John.

His Eminence Archbishop Titus expressed his happiness that the Archdiocese could do its part “to provide a venue in which its young clergy could pray together, live together, and fellowship together as one body that shares the same values and interest in ordained ministry and the Syriac Orthodox Faith and Tradition”. The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches strongly supports the idea of theological education by and for Oriental Orthodox Christians, and hopes and prays that it can serve to facilitate the cooperation of the member jurisdictions to this end in the future.

Theophany at the Phanar


Orthodox parish in Georgia shot at multiple times

A sad state of affairs. The below is the reposted text from the parish's Facebook page (with some small editorializations).


Cummings, GA (Joy of All Who Sorrow) - Our church has been under fire again. The pictures shows bullet holes found on our church sign. The first time the holes were discovered on December 12, 2016. New ones were found today January 11, 2017. Since this is (at least) the second shooting at the parish, I am sure it is not a random incident, and if not stopped, perpetrator(s) will repeat shooting. The police have been informed. We'll have to see if they do anything to find the criminal(s) responsible.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Georgetown boast abortion training "club"

(TFP Student Action) - Catholic Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is allowing a radical pro-abortion club to operate on campus: Medical Students for Choice. Its mission: To train "tomorrow's abortion providers..."

Every pro-lifer should urge the university to close the club. For the record, this is how Medical Students for Choice describe their activities:
  • "Many MSFC [Medical Students for Choice] chapters host a 'Papaya Workshop', a hands-on training session using fruit to simulate a uterus, to teach students the basic concepts of Manual Vacuum Aspiration."
  • "Learn to perform an abortion using this quiet, portable technology," continues the Medical Students for Choice Facebook page.
  • "At the end, Dr. Costescu-Green will give a special demo of a 2nd trimester abortion using dilation and evacuation simulators. This is a great session to bring back to your campus."
In other words -- the Medical Students for Choice clubs teach students how to kill unborn babies... With a crude vacuum.

Which begs the question: How can a Catholic university such as Georgetown allow this club to operate on campus when its public mission is to train medical students how to kill innocent and defenseless unborn babies?

Sign and share this peaceful protest. God bless you.

Anglican service includes Muslim denial of Christ's divinity

Note: Update on January 12th. You won't be surprised to see that the below video was pulled down. I can't imagine the uproar pointed towards that diocese.



(Christian Today) - Christians are familiar with the Bible texts that detail the conception and birth of Jesus to His mother, the Virgin Mary.

But they are not so used to hearing the Muslim version of the story read out in church. And especially not on Epiphany, which celebrates the incarnation of God as His son Jesus - a doctrine denied by Muslims.

Michael Nazir-Ali, a leading evangelical Christian in Britain, has now condemned the reading on a service at the Scottish Episcopal Church's Glasgow Cathedral last Friday.

The congregation at St Mary's cathedral heard the Muslim version of the Virgin Mary's conception of Jesus, from the Koran's Sura 19, sung by Madinah Javed. The passage explains how Mary gave birth after an angel told her God would give her a child.

Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, and that He was a precursor to Mohammed rather than the Son of God.

Sura 19 states that Mary was "ashamed" after she gave birth, and that the infant Jesus miraculously spoke to her from his crib and claimed he was "a servant of God".

It denies Jesus was the Son of God.

A post on the cathedral's Facebook page describes the service as a "wonderful event".

It says: "The congregation was also reminded during the service that it is not only Christians who give honour to Jesus. We were joined by friends from two local Muslim communities." The post also shares a video of the recitation.

But Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester condemned the reading and called for discipline against those involved.

"The authorities of the Scottish Episcopal Church should immediately repudiate this ill-advised invitation," he said in a statement.

If the Internet does anything, its rile people up.


Two quotes come to mind. One for the imagery and one for the common sense of it.


For as the churning of milk produces butter, and wringing the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife.
- Proverbs 30:33



So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
- James 1:19-20

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Large repository of Ethiopian religious texts is now in DC

(CNA) - With a recent gift of more than 600 handmade leather manuscripts, the Catholic University of America is now home to one of the most important collections of Ethiopian religious manuscripts in the United States.

The collection includes Christian, Islamic, and “magic” texts. It is the largest collection of Ethiopian Islamic manuscripts outside of Ethiopia.

Dr. Aaron M. Butts, a Professor of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literature at Catholic University, said in a statement that the manuscript collection “provides unparalleled primary sources for the study of Eastern Christianity” and reaffirms the school’s standing as one of the leading places to study Near Eastern Christian language, literature, and history.

The manuscripts are handmade of goat, sheep, or calf hides, and most of them date to the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.

In total, the collection includes 125 Christian manuscripts, such as psalters, liturgical books, and hagiographies. Within the 215 Islamic manuscripts of the collection are Qurans and commentaries on the Quran.

The collection also contains more than 350 so-called “magic” scrolls – Christian prayer talismans. Each talisman, Butts told CNA, is handwritten by a “debtera” – a lay person or cleric in the Ethiopian Church, and contains the name of the person for whom it is written.

The scrolls are worn around the neck, and are created to help the wearer with a certain kind of ailment, such as headaches. Many of these talismans are dedicated to women’s ailments – such as childbirth or painful menstruation – and Butts said it is clear that some of these “magic” scrolls have been passed down through the generations from mother to daughter.

Butts also noted that at various times in Ethiopian history, use of these prayers has been discouraged within the Ethiopian Church. Because of this status, as well as the domestic, personal nature of their use, he continued, not much research has been done on these devotional tools.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bethlehem receives him who is ever seated with the Father.

On this day the Virgin gives
birth to the Super-essential.
To the Unapproachable,
earth is providing the grotto.
Angels sing and with the shepherds offer up glory.
Following a star the Magi are still proceeding.
He was born for our salvation, a newborn Child, the pre-eternal God.

Climacus Conference "Encountering God" set for next month

(Antiochan.org) - The sixth biennial Climacus Conference, a pan-Orthodox spiritual/academic event, is scheduled for February 24–25, 2017 and will be hosted by an Antiochian parish, St. Michael Orthodox Church, in Louisville, KY. The 2017 theme has been chosen to remind us that our reason for existence and our purpose as human beings is to encounter (and experience) God. The conference will give primacy to Theology; moreover, it will explore ways to encounter God through patristics, philosophy, beauty, liturgical arts, saints and miracles, poetry, et al.

The conference will feature more priests speaking, along with more spiritually-focused speakers. After all, the website says, we are all going to die soon, and there we will encounter God. Imagine such an encounter after having actively sought Him in this life. Perhaps such encounters here are already encounters there? Perhaps these encounters prepare us for that encounter? Perhaps they influence or shape the Great Encounter? With this desire and purpose in mind, attendees will convene from near and far for another weekend of enrichment and fellowship, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Conference website available here.

Memory Eternal! Mother Vasilissa stabbed to death

(OCP) - On the 5th of January Mother Vasilissa, hegumeness of the St. Xenia of Petersburg convent (Belarus), was stabbed to death in her monastery. The tragedy is being inquired by the Belarusian Investigative Committee.

It is reported that the hegumeness was stabbed by a 29-year-old woman who had been sheltered in the monastery in order to get help in her personal problems. The inmates of the convent noticed her peculiar behavior which was a result of mental instability. This is believed to have caused the tragedy.

On the 6th of January, a memorial litia was served at the monastery for the soul of the recently deceased hegumeness Vasilissa. After the litia, Bishop Veniamin of Borisov and Maryna Gorka asked the congregation to engage in fervent prayers for mother Vasilissa. He noted that the most important thing for the community is to understand the spiritual sense of the tragedy because this is how the ‘devil tries to make us feel confused, create sorrow and anxiety’ (on the eve of the Christmas day – the day of a common joy).

Mother Vasilissa (Medved’), the hegumeness of the Convent of St. Xenia of Petersburg (in the Belarusian village of Baran’), was born on the 10th of March 1949 in the Ukrainian town of Sosnytsia. She graduated from the faculty of history from the Chernihiv pedagogical institute and worked as a school teacher. After moving to Belarus, she became a parishioner at the St. Peter and Paul cathedral in Minsk and as well as a sister of mercy. She was admitted to the veil in 2004 and was elevated to the rank of mother superior of the newly created monastery in the same year.

Stay warm, people.

For all of you like me in an area full of churches closed due to inclement weather, I ask you what good are all these roads if we can't get to church with them? The below was made popular by the Georgian movie Repentence (მონანიება) with this exchange:

Old Woman: Excuse me, does this street lead to a church? I want to know whether this street leads to a church.

Ketevan Barateli: No, this is Varlam Street, and it doesn't lead to a church.

Old Woman: Then what do you need it for? Why have a road that doesn't lead to a church?