Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hail and Farewell

I'd just like to say thanks for all of the people who have read, or had interest in, this weblog. I lost track of a lot of time, and have had to do other things that got in the way of my writing.

Those are, I hope, over.

But I've moved to another weblog: Random Conjectures, which may be found here. 


Friday, April 04, 2014

An Open Letter to Greg Cook

Dear Mr. Cook,

I would like to thank you for your kind comment which you made to my poor offering in this weblog, "A Modest Proposal."

I would also like to thank you for your published story of your journey of faith, which led you to the Roman Catholic Church, after a sojourn in several protestant and Orthodox churches. For the benefit of my readers, that story may be found here. I highly recommend it to all (of those few) who read my poor weblog.

I would agree with you when you say: "I find much of the polemical space around this issue to be most distressing and distasteful". So do I.

In order to follow your irenic example, I thus intend to combine my studies with the Holy Trinity Orthodox School website with those of a review of the writings of the last three popes: Beatus Ioannes Paulus Secundus Magnus, Benedictus XVI, and Franciscus I.

And, since I am presently an eastern Catholic, I shall endeavor to keep in mind the wise counsel of the Second Vatican Council, which may be found in the Constitution Lumen Gentium:

25. ...Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. (emphasis added)
 At the very least, as a Catholic, I owe the Pope of Rome (and his predecessors) the duty of understanding what he has to say, from his own documents, and not what others have put into his mouth, be they from the media, or from among his opponents. I wish that more Catholics would bother to do this.

But that said, I thank you once again for your kind and helpful example. I shall do my best to follow it, in the best way that I can.

Very truly yours,

Bernard Brandt

P.S. I would normally write you privately, Mr. Cook, but I am unable to find a weblog or an e-mail address for you. I hope that this will do instead. In the event that you would wish to continue a correspondence, my e-mail address is bfbrandt at hotmail dot com.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

An Examination Question

It seems that the venerable and estimable Fr. Hunwicke has come up with a beautiful set of examination questions, along the same lines as those which have been devised for the torture edification of candidates at Oxford University for Literae Humaniores.

I invite you to peruse them at his website, which might be found here.

Of particular interest to me, however, is his FINAL QUESTION, which I quote in full:


It is the most open secret in English Catholic life that the high point of the social year is the Dinner which the Bishops annually give in Westminster to Catholic Clerical Bloggers. Their motive as wise pastors for doing this is to thank us, with immense enthusiasm and sincerity, for all our hard work; to encourage us to carry on; to facilitate dialogue; to help the Bishops to understand the Bloggers and vice versa; to enable us all to work reflectively together with great concord for the Kingdom; and, quite simply, as Bishops, to be alongside their clergy. It is a most unbuttoned occasion; the Bishops speak increasingly frankly as the Cardinal's Wine Butler and Footmen make us free of the extensive and well-stocked cellars beneath Archbishop's House. (You wouldn't believe what was actually said by ... But NO, my lips are sealed.) These vast cellars contain, as you have probably heard, entire ancient vintages, entire growths, which are passing their best and badly need drinking up; and the Bishops enormously value the help generously given by the Bloggers in doing this ... for example: I rather think the Challoner Port is beginning to fade just a little, just the teensy-weensiest bit ... and with five dozen bottles still left ... so ... umm ....

Question 7. Construct a menu, including wines (growths and vintages), which would be suitable for the next Bishops' and Bloggers' Dinner. [Candidates should assume a Dinner of at least six courses.]

I have taken the liberty of sending to Fr. Hunwicke a proposed candidate's answer, which at present has not seemed to pass muster with his comments moderation process. Pity. I'm sure that the most excellent Father has better things to do, though, than to peruse my poor offering.

In the interest, autem, of what my current rulers in the U.S. are calling 'transparency' (although they do not seem to practice it themselves), I am posting my answer to my weblog, as follows:

Candidate's Answer:

Footnotes (omitted from printed menu):

1) Guests are requested not to immure themselves with or in jests re Poe's, 'A Cask...')
2) After the wine is poured, but before the almonds are served, Fr. Hunwicke or some other worthy might propose the Loyal Toast.
3) Perhaps a bit long in the tooth by now, but worth it.
4) The recipe from Larousse Gastronomique, not the artesanal cheese.
5) For something Homeric
6) Château de Montifaud 50 Year for the more conventional
7) Guests are invited to make this dinner a feast of reason, not a Cena Trimalchionis
* I find that one of the unfortunate lacunae of the Internet (otherwise known among the cognoscenti as "teh Webz"), is that it fails to provide the recipe for the above estimable comestible. I will however supply that lack by quoting from the appropriate section of the Larousse Gastronomique:

"Peel twelve large truffles which must be perfectly ripe, black, firm, and regular. Cut each into 4 or 5 thick slices. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, and spice. Just a few minutes before serving, sautee the truffles in quail fat, taking care not to fry them. Drain them and set them in a low crust of puff pastry. Dilute the cooking juices with Madeira, add a little concentrated veal stock, cook down and pour over the truffles."

I will note, for the benefit of the discerning, that I have confected all of the courses mentioned above, with the exception of the Lièvre à la Royale and the Truffes à la Brillat-Savarin, and if and when I have the means of obtaining the materials for the same, be assured that I have the culinary skills to make those last two as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Modest Proposal

For the past quarter century, I have been a some time communicant and full time attendant at St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church. For all of that time, I have been informed in the ways of Eastern Christianity, by participation in the services at St. Andrew's as a cantor, choir member, and choir director, as well as study of Eastern Christianity, both self directed and under the direction of my spiritual father, Archimandrite Alexei Smith.

While I make no claims of being “Orthodox in Union with Rome” (a claim, by the bye, which I hold in the same regard as I do such items as “kosher bacon”, or such matters as current “academic freedom”), I will say that St. Andrew Church has been given the highest accolades (in writing) by His Grace, Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) of the OCA, and (in my presence) by Archimandrite Robert Taft, during his extended visit to St. Andrew's last year. I therefore have nothing to prove, at least about my sources of knowledge for matters Eastern and Orthodox.

But for all of that, and for all of the quarter century that I have been at St. Andrew's, I have been aware of the tension between East and West, between Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Each has made extensive and repeated claims that each is the center, if not the fullness, of Christ's Church on earth.

In my heart of hearts, I know that it is time for me to try to find which Church is the center and fullness of Christ's Church on earth.

In doing so, I know that I may well imperil my soul by my choice. The very word, 'choice', in Greek, is haeresis, or heresy. I also know from my own experience that things that I was sure of in my youth, or even a few years ago, I have later found to be mistaken. The possibility exists that because of my all-too-fallible nature, I am all-too-apt to err, no matter what or who I choose.

But I can not stay in the place where I am, not without more examination of matters. As Nicodemus, the wise rat in The Rats of NIMH said, “We can no longer live as rats. We know too much.”

On the other hand, I can not follow the example of all too many traddies, or other post-modern Protestants, who decide on the basis of their own judgment what or whom they are to follow. In that way leads madness. Or Protestantism. Or both.

Instead, I will take the counsel of Confucius, who said, “When carving a hammer, the model is in one's hand.” This I take to mean that when one engages in any labor, one should make use of that which has been given in the past. I know that the great saints of the past, whether of East or of West, have engaged in prayer and fasting, work and study, in order to achieve, through the grace of God, their theosis. I shall therefore attempt to follow their example, and to pursue my studies with work, prayer, and fasting.

I shall also attempt to find that which is common to both Churches, and in which they differ. Most importantly, and in this context, I shall base my studies on Sacred Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the conciliar and papal magisteria, in common with the Roman Catholic Church. But in common with Orthodoxy, I shall be guided by Holy Tradition, which encompasses Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, and the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

Thus, I shall start with the study of Scripture, as guided by the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers, working my way forward in time. But I shall also work backwards, studying what the Roman Church calls the other 'Ecumenical Councils', and the encyclicals and other writings of the Bishops of Rome, from the present to the past. I shall also be studying the textbooks of Holy Trinity Orthodox School, so as better to learn the Orthodox complaints as to the Roman Church.

As an aside, one would have to be blind not to have noticed that in the Western Churches (primarily Roman Catholic, but also Anglican, Reformed, and general Protestant), a crisis, rather like a great storm, has been abrewing for the last century or so. Many, if not all, of these Churches, have been on the verge of shipwreck, if they have not in fact foundered. And likewise, for the past century, the Eastern Churches have suffered persecution on a scale not seen since the beginnings of Christianity. My studies will include an inquiry as regards why these crises from within, and why these persecutions from without, are ongoing.

I foresee that if I continue to pursue these studies, I will arrive at the following outcomes: I will find: 1) that the Roman Church is the Center; 2) that the Orthodox Churches are the Center; 3) that neither Roman nor Orthodox Churches are the Center; or 4) that in some way beyond my present understanding, both Roman and Orthodox Churches somehow participate in the Center of Christ's Church.

If you, O gentle reader, should have any advice as to my future course of studies, I will be happy to read it. And if you should happen to pray for me, and for my studies, I would most appreciate it.

But please, do not try to draw me into the polemics that have been in process for the last millenium or so between Eastern and Western Churches. Feel free to state the ways in which the Roman and Orthodox Churches differ. Also, feel free to show examples of continuity or discontinuity from the time of the Apostles or the Fathers and the present warring Churches.

But don't bother telling me that you are no longer Catholic or Orthodox because of some betrayal you suffered at the hands of some Catholic or Orthodox bishop, priest, or deacon. Yeah, it happens. As a matter of fact, I too have suffered from both allegedly Catholic or Orthodox clergy. But in my not so humble opinion, that's a piss poor reason for abandoning the Church you were born or raised in. It is basically an ad hominem argument, and I will not countenance such. That means YOU, Martin Luther, Rod Dreher or Modestinus.

Of more interest to me is an attempt to demonstrate causes which result in certain effects. After all, Our Lord said of prophets, false or otherwise, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” For example, what were the results of the West's adoption of the Filioque? When and why did the West adopt the doctrines of papal infallibility and authority, and why did the East reject such doctrines? Did the crises in the Roman Church result from the Second Vatican Council, or did they simply happen after that Council?

Finally, I would recommend that those making such demonstrations do so on their own web pages or weblogs, and link to them in my comments page. Thus, my comments section will not be locked up, and you will have more traffic to your webpage, etc.

Watch this space. Change is afoot.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm back

To be brief, I was away, taken with other duties that prevented me from writing much. Now I'm back.

Watch this space.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Not with my consent!

It seems that someone impersonating the President of the United States has decided to kill a U.S. Citizen, without benefit of presentment or indictment, and without due process of law. The facts of that killing are evident, and without any doubt. The person in question has all but boasted of them.

I will remind you of the relevant words of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which I believe remains the law of the land here:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. (Emphasis in bold)

It would appear to follow that the so-called President has violated his Oath of Office, which I will quote here: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The text of that oath may be found in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight of that Constitution.

I do not care if the person killed was the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler, or had simply engaged (as he appears to have done) in the aid and comfort of the enemies of the United States. The so-called President should have had the brains, the heart, and the guts to declare war, and (at the very least) should have occasioned a trial of the man for treason, before killing him.

The failure of the so-called President to do so was and remains a violation of his Oath of Office. Under Article 1, Section 3, clauses 6 and 7, it is for the Senate to determine whether the so-called President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for his actions under Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution.

While I doubt that the Senate will do so, as we currently have the best government that money can buy, I can at least exercise my rights of speech, the press, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances to say that this was a great wrong against the Constitution, and against the people of the United States.

Perhaps the so-called President can go down the road of tyranny.

But not with my consent!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What if this present were the world's last night?

What if this present were the world's last night?
Mark in my heart, O Soul, where thou dost dwell,
The picture of Christ crucified, and tell
Whether that countenance can thee affright,

Tears in his eyes quench the amazing light,
Blood fills his frowns, which from his pierced head fell.
And can that tongue adjudge thee unto hell,
Which prayed forgiveness for his foes' fierce spite?

No, no; but as in my idolatry
I said to all my profane mistresses,
Beauty, of pity, foulness only is

A sign of rigor: so I say to thee,
To wicked spirits are horrid shapes assigned,
This beauteous form assures a piteous mind.

John Donne