Puritans, Constantinople, and Oak Apple Day

My close friend Chalcedon has a post up at All along the Watchtower on Oak Apple day. Before we get to that, I must say how much it pleases me to see posts there again. Last winter in his absence it became unmanageable, without administration and with an influx of that mostly British phenomenon of hatefully aggressive atheists. Many here will know that for years, AATW was my second internet home, where I am a contributor and both Jessica who founded it and Chalcedon himself are contributors here, as well. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah. In any case here is part of what he says about Oak Apple Day, which I suspect many Americans have never heard of.

Until 1859, the Church of England marked 29 May as “Oak Apple Day,” marking the day that the Monarchy, and with it, the Church of England, was restored after the interlude of the Commonwealth under Cromwell. As Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary:

Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he returning to London that day.

The “oak tree” commemorated the fact that after the Royalist defeat at Worcester in 1651, the young Prince of Wales (later Charles II) had hidden in one whilst the Rounheads sought him. The English like a good story, and a good party, and Restoration Day provided both.

The Church of England had good reason to commemorate the day, and the decision to abolish its official memorial in 1859 was, along with the decision to drop the service for Guy Fawkes’ day, a sign that parliament wanted to take a less censorious line towards Nonconformists and Catholics, which whilst welcome in itself, should not lead us not to celebrate the day on which the Monarchy was restored.

History and identity are important to a nation, and as one commentator has shrewdly suggested:

“Against a joyless Puritan commerical republic, the Restoration symbolised the renewal of convivality, balance, memory, locality, a deeper, more joyful vision of communal flourishing than the Puritan republic could envisage or allow.”

That’s something we see with our new puritans too, isn’t it? A reduction of people to politically correct economic unit automatons. Well, Americans love a party perhaps even more than the English, and a good story always works as well, so I think we need a similar story and reason for a party.

But yesterday is also the anniversary of a calamity of the first order for Christianity, for as Raymond Ibrahim tells us in American Thinker, in 1453 Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet. And thus the last living link with the Roman Empire itself was sundered. Here’s some of what he writes.

Today in history, on May 29, 1453, the sword of Islam conquered Constantinople.  Of all Islam’s conquests of Christian territory, this was by far the most symbolically significant.  Not only was Constantinople a living and direct extension of the old Roman Empire and contemporary capital of the Christian Roman Empire (or Byzantium), but its cyclopean walls had prevented Islam from entering Europe through its eastern doorway for the previous seven centuries, beginning with the First Arab Siege of Constantinople (674–678).  Indeed, as Byzantine historian John Julius Norwich puts it, “[h]ad the Saracens captured Constantinople in the seventh century rather than the fifteenth, all Europe — and America — might be Muslim today.”

When Muslim forces failed again in the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople (717–718), conquering the ancient Christian capital became something of an obsession for a succession of caliphates and sultanates.  However, it was only with the rise of the Ottoman sultanate — so named after its eponymous Turkic founder, Osman (b. 1258) — that conquering the city, which was arguably better fortified than any other in the world, became a possibility, not least thanks to the concomitant spread of gunpowder and cannons from China to Eurasia.  By 1400, his descendants had managed to invade and conquer a significant portion of the southern Balkans — thereby isolating and essentially turning Constantinople into a Christian island in an Islamic sea.

Thus an end to a 2000 year history, since Romulus and Remus burst forth onto the stage of history. And so soon came King John  Sobieski and the siege of Vienna and the naval battle of Lepanto, as Christendom again stopped the advance of Islam for another 500 years. But now I’m reminded as the psalmist had it:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

It’s also my oldest nieces birthday, and I can remember when she got a birthday card from the President of the United States, John Kennedy, who shared it.

 

To sip or dip … that is the question.

There are many denominations under the umbrella of ‘Christian’ – including ‘non-denominational’. The different denominations have a different view of The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, The Family Table; for those who are not Christian, those phrases represent our receiving of the sacrament (bing definition-“(in the Christian Church) a religious ceremony or ritual regarded as imparting divine grace, such as baptism, the Eucharist and (in the Roman Catholic and many Orthodox Churches) penance and the anointing of the sick”. For many of us, a sacrament is an ‘outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace’. To Christians who receive Holy Communion, it’s a big deal. A really big deal.

Here we are in the clutches of an illness that may – or may not – be the end of the world as we know it (remember that old song?). Depending on how deeply you traverse the canyons and underground tunnels of YouTube, this could be start of the Zombie Apocalypse. If you listen to the whispers, you may hear that Covid-19 was deliberately ‘released’ from its cage to wipe out the elderly of every nation in order to rid the planet of old folks who would stand (on a cane, a walker, or with orderlies on both sides) in the way of globalization. Take your pick of ‘conspiracy theories – you’ll find one that suits you no doubt.

But for Christians, death holds no fear (1 Corinthians 15:55 55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” In 2011, Stephen Hawking, probably the greatest mind of our age, said heaven is a ” … “fairy story for people afraid of the dark”“. Poor man; on this he was completely wrong. Christians don’t fear the dark because they live in the light of Christ. For us, there is no darkness.

Which brings me to the title of this essay – to sip or dip? One school of thought, from our Suffragan Bishop, Chad Jones, is that as we are receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, sipping from the Common Cup can in no way sicken us. That is my understanding as well. Just as an aside, during the ‘outbreak’ of Aids, I was attending a little mission church in a local store front. We received Communion and went back to foldable metal chairs and said our ‘after Communion’ prayer. At that point, a gentleman felt moved to stand up and announce that he had Aids. Guess who was right after him on the Common Cup? Here I am, all these many years later and completely disease free.

The second school of thought maintains that for the safety of the communicants, they have the option of ‘intincture’, that’s when the priest slightly submerges the Body of Christ (what some call the wafer or bread) into the Blood of Christ (the wine, for folks who are new to this) and then places the Bread on the tongue of the communicant (you often see this on televised religious programing). What some priests have decided to do, since there’s a fear of ‘hands’ and their cleanliness, some priests are opting for wearing gloves for intincture. Then, of course, there’s the issue of, “Well, what if the priest happens to touch the inside of the communicant’s mouth and then does another intincture right after?” You can see how this starts to go down a long road.

Franklin D. Roosevelt made a wonderful, thoughtful statement, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. And that’s where we are right now. Fear. Dread. The unknown. Each Christian must decide for themselves – sip or dip.

(For a wonderful discussion on this matter, and the matter of church closings, I recommend watching this You Tube video. Just a little background, Gavin Ashenden (once a bishop) was a Chaplain to the Queen of England – when the Church of England strayed from the Gospel, he resigned his position. He has since felt led to become Roman Catholic. George Conger is a priest and a writer of some significance. He’s Episcopalian, as is Kevin Kollson. They are three very strong Christians. Here is the link

The Glory and Beauty of the Liturgy

Photo: Interior of the Hagia Sophia today by Ian Scott / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Gene Veith at Cranach found a story that fascinates me. Let’s let him establish the base.

The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the history of the church.  It is also one of the oldest, having been built in 537 A.D.

The building, whose name means “Holy Wisdom”–a reference to the Logos of John 1–is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture.  Its vast dome, its interior arches, and its other design elements are marvels of ancient architecture.  It was adorned with magnificent mosaics and other works of art and its acoustics for music were legendary. Built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the cathedral–the world’s largest for a thousand years–became a major center for the Orthodox Church.

In 987 A.D., the King of the Russian tribes, Vladimir the Great, resolved to put away his people’s pagan gods and find a new religion.  He sent out emissaries to investigate the major religions of the surrounding nations:  Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.  Vladimir resolved to adopt a religion for himself and the Russian people based on their reports.

From the website of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral:

When they experienced the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral there, here is what they reported:

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget the beauty.

In an example of the role aesthetics can play in apologetics, this overwhelming experience of transcendent beauty led to Russia’s commitment to the Orthodox Church ever since.

And so the beauty of the sung Liturgy at Hagia Sophia is one of the reasons that Russia is an Orthodox country. It sounds a bit far fetched, doesn’t it? But is it?

I don’t think so. Compare say O Holy Night sung by some very good carolers in your local mall, to the same carol sung at King’s College, Cambridge. Quite the difference acoustics makes, isn’t it? One of the reasons I no longer go to theaters to see movies lies in the fact that a box of concrete blocks totally destroys the soundtrack and so it is much better at home. Yes, gentle reader, there are other reasons as well. If you doubt that, find one of the rare old theaters still running films, you will be amazed.

But back to Hagia Sofia:

Two researchers from Stanford, two scholars at Stanford University, art history professor Bissera Pentcheva and computer music specialist Jonathan Abel, were discussing the Hagia Sophia.  They realized that it would be possible to analyze the acoustics of the building today and to create a filter using that data, which would make music sound as if it were being performed in the Hagia Sophia.

Prof. Pentcheva went to  Turkey, got permission to visit the museum after hours, and after setting up microphones and recording equipment, popped a balloon.

That single sound–its echoes, resonance, and tonal qualities–provided data that was analyzed by computers and turned into an algorithm that could be applied to other electronic recordings.  And thus the sound of a choir singing in the 13th century could be recreated today.

That is a remarkable thing that is completely taken for granted. It is possible to greatly change the acoustical environment this way, as you’ll see, The Link goes to an NPR report on this which is fascinating.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/808404928/808404929

Hagia Sofia, like many churches, is obviously very live acoustically, that balloon pop is a remarkable recording in and of itself. It is also coherent, which is the difference between it and trying to understand the PA in most gymnasiums. They too are very live, but they also have incredible standing waves, which depending where you are may multiply or completely negate some sounds. Here from one of Pastor Veith’s readers is a different experiment.

Surprisingly this has some of the coherence of the Hagia Sofia, which I would attribute to a grain bin not having any parallel walls or ceilings. It is a lot ‘livelier’ because of the difference between sheet metal and stone. If you ever been in a grain bin when somebody hits it with a hammer you’ll understand.

It can also be hard to understand spoken words in a bin, but it was not designed to be a soundstage nor a church, and even six inches of grain on the floor makes a dramatic change.

That Constantine’s engineers had all this figured out in the 6th century and were able to engineer this cathedral for this specific sound is almost beyond belief. In fact, for me, it is beyond my belief in Eastern Roman engineering, but not beyond my belief in God’s engineering.

Capella Romana has released a whole album recorded with the filter for Hagia Sofia, and tracks are available on YouTube, or the album may be purchased. Here is one.

Wow!

Dies Irae

Do you guys listen to (or play) classical music? That’s my normal fare, to listen to, and yes, I used to play some of it, although as a brass player, marches were more my style. One composer that I have always liked rather a lot is Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff. He came along pretty late in the Romantic period, a Russian who ended up escaping to the United States, and there are clues in the music. He was also an Orthodox Christian which perhaps matters as well.

Anthony J. DeBlasi over at American Thinker has noticed as well. I’m frankly weak on Medieval Latin Hymns, but I am familiar with Requiem Masses, therefore the phrase Dies Irae is not wholly unfamiliar. I did not recognize that Rachmaninoff worked the plainsong of this into almost all of his works. A message? Perhaps.

What I hadn’t heard till this morning was his Symphony Number 1. It was completed in 1895 and had a disastrous opening, was lost in World War II and put back together from the various parts. Talk about eye-opening. It’s arguable that the semi-hidden plainsong in his other works is a message, here it is 60 point blackface type. From the inscription on, for it originally carried an inscription from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Here is the Symphony:

Mr. DeBlasi speculates (and that’s all any of us can do) that Rachmaninoff saw the future of Russia and the communist uprisings of 1905 and 1917, and this was his answer. I’m inclined to think he is right. This is so different and so foreboding, not to mention boiling over with anger compared to anything else he wrote that I can’t see how it could be anything else.

As I said, its opening was a disaster, causing the composer mental distress for the rest of his life. Perhaps a prophet unheeded in his home, and perhaps we, in his second home are doing a pretty good job of not heeding him as well.

Long ago (in 2012) Jessica found a translation of the hymn (I think) from the 13th Century. It certainly carries a warning.

THE day of wrath, that dreadful day, Shall all the world in ashes lay, As David and the Sibyl say.

What tremor shall the soul affright, When comes that Judge whose searching light Brings thought and word and deed to light.

The last loud trumpet’s spreading tone Shall through the place of tombs be blown, To summon all before the throne.

Death is struck, and nature quaking, All creation is awaking To its Judge an answer making.

The written book shall be outspread, And all that it contains be read, To try the living and the dead.

Then shall the Judge His throne attain, And every secret sin arraign, Till nothing unavenged remain.

What shall my guilty conscience plead, And who for me will intercede, When even saints forgiveness need?

King of tremendous majesty! Who savest whom Thou savest, free, Thou fount of pity, save Thou me.

Remember, Jesus Lord, I pray, For me Thou walked’st on life’s way; Confound me not on this last day.

‘Twas me Thy weary footsteps sought, My ransom on the Cross was bought, Let not such labour come to naught.

Just Judge of recompense, I pray, Cancel my debt, too great to pay, Before the last accounting day.

My groans a culprit’s heart declare, My cheeks shame’s burning livery wear, Spare me, O God, Thy suppliant spare!

As Thou didst Mary’s sin efface, And take the thief to Thine embrace, So dost Thou give me hope of grace.

Though all unworthy be my cry, Give grace, O gracious Lord, or I Shall burn in fires that never die.

Grant me among Thy sheep to stand; From outcast goats my soul diband, And raise me to Thine own right hand.

When cursed foes are put to shame, And given o’er to biting flame, Ah! with Thy blessed call my name.

Prostrate, my contrite heart I rend; My God, my Father, and my Friend, Do not forsake me in the end.

O day of weeping, day of woe, When rising from his pyre below, The sinner to his Judge shall cry,

‘Spare me, Thou mighty God on high!’ Ah, gentle Jesu, Saviour blest, Grant to them all eternal rest!. Amen.

And this is the very important part of Christianity that our churches rarely speak of. There will be a Judgement Day, and when that trumpet sounds, it will be too late to repent what we have done in this life. We are all sinners, but if we are wise, we repent often and sincerely. Many in our churches have not been taught this, but God has made it clear as glass, there will be no excuses, I suspect.

An Unalienable Right

Yesterday, more than a million Americans gathered to protest America’s violation of the very first right God gave us – the right to life. While there are marches across the country, the focus is always Washington, where the violation of the right was first condoned, and where it will be restored one day.

From The Catholic Herald.

‘This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,’ President Trump said

The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.

“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive January 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.

“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”

“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.

Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding. […]

“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.

“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”

Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”

Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”

Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”

“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.

“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

He’s right, we are winning finally, a clear majority of Americans want abortion severely restricted or outlawed. It’s up to us to continue the fight, it’s far from over.

It is time, nay, it is well past time for America to again recognize abortion as what it is, infanticide, and treat it as it should be. We owe it to the Founders, and we owe it the over 60 million American dead from this abomination. We best respect their right by continuing the struggle to end abortion in the United States.

 

The Feast of Bede the Venerable

The first great English historian, patron of writers and historians, writer of what is still the standard history of Anglo-Saxon England in his Historia Ecclesiastica, the only English-born Doctor of the Church, and the first to translate the Bible into English. He was born about 672 and died on 26 May 735, which, as it is this year, was the feast of the Ascension.

From A Clerk of Oxford:

[…]This is a lovely coincidence (or occasional mercy, rather) because the feast of the Ascension and the words of its liturgy were in Bede’s mind, and on his lips, as he lay dying. We know this because a moving account of Bede’s death was recorded by a monk named Cuthbert, a former pupil of Bede’s and later abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Cuthbert was present at Bede’s deathbed, and this is how he describes his death.

For nearly a fortnight before the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection he was troubled by weakness and breathed with great difficulty, although he suffered little pain. Thenceforward until Ascension Day he remained cheerful and happy, giving thanks to God each hour day and night. He gave daily lessons to us his students, and spent the rest of the day in singing the psalms so far as his strength allowed. He passed the whole night in joyful prayer and thanksgiving to God, except when slumber overcame him; but directly he awoke, he continued to meditate on spiritual themes, and never failed to thank God with hands outstretched. I can truthfully affirm that I have never seen or heard of anyone who gave thanks so unceasingly to the living God as he.

O truly blessed man! He used to repeat the saying of the holy Apostle Paul, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’, and many other sayings from holy scripture, and in this manner he used to arouse our souls by the consideration of our last hour. Being well-versed in our native songs, he described to us the dread departure of the soul from the body by a verse in our own tongue, which translated means: ‘Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers – before his soul departs hence – what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing’.

The English translation of John’s Gospel which Bede was working on at his death has not survived, and nor have any of Bede’s other English writings (it’s not clear whether his ‘Death Song’ was of his own composition, or if he is quoting a poem he knew). But a century or so after Bede’s death, an Anglo-Saxon poet composed a poem on the Ascension which must be one of the greatest poems ever written on that subject. I quoted it at length here, but this is my favourite part:

Swa se fæla fugel flyges cunnode;
hwilum engla eard up gesohte,
modig meahtum strang, þone maran ham,
hwilum he to eorþan eft gestylde,
þurh gæstes giefe grundsceat sohte,
wende to worulde. Bi þon se witga song:
‘He wæs upp hafen engla fæðmum
in his þa miclan meahta spede,
heah ond halig, ofer heofona þrym.’
…Wæs se siexta hlyp,
haliges hyhtplega, þa he to heofonum astag
on his ealdcyððe. þa wæs engla þreat
on þa halgan tid hleahtre bliþe
wynnum geworden. Gesawan wuldres þrym,
æþelinga ord, eðles neosan,
beorhtra bolda. þa wearð burgwarum
eadgum ece gefea æþelinges plega.

So the beautiful bird ventured into flight.
Now he sought the home of the angels,
that glorious country, bold and strong in might;
now he swung back to earth again,
sought the ground by grace of the Spirit,
returned to the world. Of this the prophet sang:
‘He was lifted up in the arms of angels
in the great abundance of his powers,
high and holy, above the glory of the heavens.’
…The sixth leap,
the Holy One’s hope-play, was when he ascended to heaven
into his former home. Then the throng of angels
in that holy tide was made merry with laughter,
rapt with joy. They saw the glory of majesty,
first of princes, seek out his homeland,
the bright mansions. After that the blessed city-dwellers
endlessly delighted in the Prince’s play.

Here is where English, British, and American written history begins, where it ends depends, in large part in our diligence in studying what has come before.

Also: Bede’s death — NEWMAN LECTURES.

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