As the heirs of Holy Rus are again killing one another, take this little test to see if you can tell the difference between Russia and Ukraine:

Churches: Russian or Ukrainian?






Iconostases: Russian or Ukrainian?




Icons: Russian or Ukrainian?




Pysanky (Easter eggs): Russian or Ukrainian?





Embroidery: Russian or Ukrainian?




Food: Russian or Ukrainian?





Babushkas: Russian or Ukrainian?






Monks: Russian or Ukrainian?




Alphabets: Russian or Ukrainian?







Icon of All Saints of Holy Rus

It is heartbreaking; Slavic Christianity has created among the most beautiful expressions of Christian faith in history: musically, iconographically, architecturally, and not least, in the lives of its saints. Yet two Slavic Christian peoples, heirs of Rus one and all, indistinguishable to any but themselves, speaking mutually intelligible ‘languages’ (in truth dialects), worshipping in the same rite, eating the same foods, more or less, drinking the same vodka, are again killing one another. A thousand years of Christianity, and this is what we get?

We may grant intrigue from the West, the conniving of Putin and the marks of history, but this is just sad.

And meanwhile, belligerent  Americans of a familiar type are chomping at the bit.

By my calculations, if John McCain had been elected in 2008, we would be on World War V by now.

No fan of Obama’s, but let us thank God that John McCain is not our president:


And, dear God, that Sarah Palin is not a heartbeat away from being president:

A Blessed Pascha




Why do you seek the Living among the dead?

A tree that has been uprooted, even cut down to its base, and then replanted – a willow, for example – grows and blossoms again; and can it be that a human being who has been uprooted from the earth should not live again? Seeds that have been harvested rest, sleep in the granary and come back to life in the spring; and can it be that a human being who has been harvested and thrown into the granary of death should not live again? A bud on the vine, a branch that has been cut and transplanted, these come back to life and bear fruit; and can it be that a human being, for whom everything was created, should not rise again when he has fallen?
And look at what is going on around you. Meditate on what you see in this vast universe. I sow wheat or some other seed; it falls, it rots, and can no longer serve as our food. But from its rotten state it is born again, it rises, it multiplies. I sowed only a single seed and I gather twenty or thirty more. But who was it created for? Wasn’t it made for our use? All those seeds did not come out of nothing for their own sake. So what was created for us dies and is born again, and should we, for whom this marvel is worked every day, be excluded from this benefit? How is it possible to believe that we have no resurrection?

-- Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (313-350)
Bishop of Jerusalem

painting by Maurice Denis


William Blake: Dante’s Hell

I don’t think it is possible to have an original thought, aside from the fields of physics, cosmology, and advanced mathematics. I’m sure this has all been said before, and better. But it is what I have been pondering this Holy Week…

We have been talking about Hell.

No, not gleefully, like our Calvinist and neo-Jansenist friends do.

What we have been pondering, in the combox reaction to my last post, is the conflict between the notion that if humans have  free will some will end up in ‘the outer darkness’, that state of utterly rejecting the Being that gives us all being, which seems to contradict the promise of the eventual healing of the cosmos in Christ. Especially if, as I have always intuited and the 20th century Polish visionary St. Faustina confirmed, the soul at death is shown the Reality of that mystery we call ‘God’, whose nature is pure love. But if humans are indeed free I don’t see how we can hold that rejecting even an Absolute revealed as eternal love, offered freely, is not a possibility.

It is certainly obvious that the god of the Calvinists and the True Catholic Remnant is a false one. No god worthy of the name creates the vast majority of human souls for a predestined eternity of torment. And a god who created humans for eternal life but lost  a majority of them would seem a failure.

But, as one commenter asked, isn’t the loss of any soul a defeat for a good God?

And it has always seemed to me that the existence, in any corner of the omniverse, of a black hole containing tormented persons seems to undo the promise that the messianic religions make of an eventual divine and universal conquest of evil and pain. It is like an open wound on the cosmos, after it had been declared healed. Doesn’t even an almost-universalism, which seems the consensus of Catholic theologians these days, have this problem? And isn’t the promise of all things being reconciled in Christ betrayed by the torment of even one single person? Isn’t it a defeat for God, for goodness?

But what if the souls in torment do not know they are in torment? What if they are having the time of their  (eternal) lives?

When I was young, in the 70s or so, I probably heard the cliche a thousand times when talking with friends. These were 70s metal kids, hard drinkers and smokers and sometimes worse. But I think one can substitute any genre of a certain type of hard-living human and you would hear the same. They would say that they did not want to go to heaven, but to hell, where all their friends would be partying.


Party down!

So maybe their hell is exactly what they want: ugly music and shouted drunken conversations, groping in the dark. Or whatever is the correspondent reality in that state of being.

And maybe it is like that for other kinds of  the quieter types, ones counting up their useless assets, or the ones that prefer angry solitude to communion, or the rest.

Like Dante, except they don’t even know that they are miserable, or what they are missing, aside from a sense of  relief at escaping a Presence that is perceived as painful. Maybe to them, everything is great, as they have been given exactly what they wanted. Maybe, subjectively, they are not, if exactly happy, content in their way, ‘like pigs in shit’, as the saying goes.

I think it hard to conceive that human freedom does not imply that certain souls will always choose to be assholes, no matter how many chances they are given to change, even if given a revelation of God as he is, beyond human concepts and constructs, offering them Love. Maybe to them, the divine light is annoying, painful, even.

Maybe at that point all God can do is say “All right; be an asshole.”

Maybe ‘hell’ is just the Asshole Corner of the cosmos.

To me, the concept of hell is a lot easier to take if it just means leaving the assholes alone.


Wouldn’t a Redeemer who only succeeded in redeeming half of humanity be seen as a pretty ineffectual redeemer? Surely, redeeming the world is not baseball; a .500 average does not seem impressive.





Behold the Man



Painting, Ecce Homo, by Polish St Albert Chmielowski (1844-1916), who abandoned his art career to  live and work among the destitute and to found a community of the Third Order of  St Francis dedicated to the poor.

Palm Sunday


* God has a perfect plan for your life. But it is as incomprehensible as He Is.

* Human constructs can illuminate or veil reality. Worse, many of the illuminative ones, even the ones not planted by human hands, can become veils and usually do.

* Any ‘theology’ that believes that most humans are going to suffer for all eternity is not worthy of consideration, for the ‘God’ it portrays is not worthy of worship: a total failure and cruel, too.

* In fact, the holy Being we call ‘God’ sets a very low standard. If that is not true, if most people are hell-bound, I might as well give up. And so should you, if you possess any self-knowledge at all.

* Fortunately, we can look at the ones he has chosen in sacred history and see how condescending ‘God’ is: aside from His Mother, it is  a collection of knaves and knuckleheads. Which should give us hope. Universalism? Not quite; one must leave room for human freedom, even the craziest kind that would reject Love for Self, even when that Self, by the choice, is reduced to a cold hard turd of a thing.

* In fact, if that most noxious of theologies, Calvinism, is true, we may as well ‘curse God and die’, for not only is He worthy of a curse, but we are without hope.

* Oh, except for the ‘elect’. Who are in for one Hell of a surprise.

* When I was younger I thought I was born in the wrong age. This is not an uncommon thing for romantics. And I did not like ‘modern’ science when I was in school; whatever Einstein was doing, high school science when I was a kid in the 60s was rationalist and mechanistic, and ran entirely against the mythopoetic approach to reality that came naturally to me. And anthropocentric: the assumption was that Man was about to conquer the natural world, make it sit up and beg. Not now; science if anything reveals a universe infinitely more mysterious and intricate than ever we could have imagined. And ultimately more beautiful and incomprehensible and, well, humbling. The age of scientism is over, as mysticism and science merge more and more.

* Meanwhile, ‘traditionalist’ Catholics have produced a documentary, by splicing together segments of interviews with physicists, taken out of context, promoting …. geocentrism.

* Me, I had another half-fast Lent. I am no longer a super Catholic, let alone a super Byzantine Catholic. I observed only the minimal ecclesial ‘fast’, like the average Catholic that I am.

* But I have three teenagers (four, if you count my precocious 11 year old, Maria), and that is plenty of penance, thank you. Plus, I just went through a five month period of intense physical deprivation. It was called ‘the worst winter ever’. What? It was imposed, not willed? So are all the best fasts.

* For what it is worth, I have pondered my sinfulness more this Lent than I ever did when I was observing all the traditional ascetic rules. Whole days I have spent walking around, realizing that I have been an ungrateful asshole more often than not, and full of pride to boot. And I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut when I should, engaging in fruitless arguments and general smartassedness.

* ‘Oh Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference, despondency, lust for power and idle chatter. Instead, give to your servant the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. My Lord and King, give me the grace to be aware of my sins, without judging my brothers and sisters. For You are blessed, now and forever, unto ages of ages. Amen.’

* A blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week to all….

…a particularly beautiful and sacramental one has burned to the ground. St Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Catholic Church, in Brampton, Ontario, a place of great liturgical and iconographic beauty, was destroyed by fire last Saturday night:

images_MAN6398_copy___Content n-fire_of_St._Elias-1___Content


The pastor’s response:

“The building is no more,” Father Roman Galadza told the children sitting at his feet and the adults gathered behind them. “But the church remains because it’s you and it’s me. It’s all of us.”

Read more here:



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