Beit Maron

Ancient Maronite truth and spirituality for a modern world.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ask me anything about faith, religion, God, philosophy, theology, life, etc.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why don't Roman Catholics just come to their senses and become Orthodox?

I don't know. Because we're stubborn?

But on a serious note, I've witnessed many people who belonged to the, for lack of a better term, traditionalist movement within Catholicism ultimately decide to join an Eastern Orthodox jurisdiction. There was a time when I considered doing the exact same thing, but then I just kind of drifted out of the traditionalist movement entirely. I can't really explain it. One day, I discovered folk music at Mass no longer bothered me and I stopped caring so much about the rubrics and began truly enjoying whatever Liturgy I attended, regardless of the rite or style in which it was celebrated. I'm not saying this is a good or a bad development in my spiritual life, but it has brought me a great deal of peace. God ought to be the final arbiter in what a person should or should not care about, not my personal experience.

I don't view those who become Eastern Orthodox negatively. They acted in accordance with what they tell me was God's will for them. And the Lord works in very mysterious ways, so it is not unreasonable that he might have a good reason for leading someone away from the visible Church, at least for awhile, in order to draw them further into the invisible Church, to which the visible Church is really only a portal. Who am I to question such things? And what benefit could possibly come from it?

As for the Papal claims, I accept them. But I'm not really on fire, so to speak, about them. They aren't exactly sources of great religious passion and sentiment. I mean, the Pope exists merely as a guardian and custodian of the faith. And as long as a person believes fully in the doctrines he protects, his own role in the matter is rather superfluous. Once found, truth needs no defenders; truth defends us. When I'm up late at night questioning the meaning of life, whether the Pope is, in fact, infallible when speaking ex cathedra or whether Vatican II was a bad idea are the very last things on my mind. Some folks are extremely passionate about these matters. I suppose they have good reason to be, and at one time I had good reason to be as well; but somewhere along the line I forgot what that good reason actually was and now I honestly doubt whether it even existed in the first place.

I serve Jesus as best I can. I try to follow God's will. You do too. I pray God will find us both worthy on the last day. Perform what you think he wants you to do. As for me, God's will, as best as I can discern it, is for me not to care much about such things as the Papal claims or the Great Schism. They seem to me to be peripheral. Once again though, consult God on this. I can only answer questions within my scope; matters concerning eternal destiny and whether one should leave or enter the Catholic Church are beyond my capacity.

Ask me anything about faith, religion, God, philosophy, theology, life, etc.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How should a church bring more people in? Will changing the name of the Church attract more people? For example, if it changes its name from St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church to St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church? What's the best way to get youth

These are all very good questions, to which no one has yet provided fully satisfactory answers.

In my personal opinion, I think shorter, clearer Church names grab folks' attention more. For instance, a lot of Roman rite Catholics who may otherwise visit your Church could be confused as to what "Byzantine" or "Ukrainian" even means. They may think you all are not in communion with them, or they may be under the impression that only certain individuals of a specific ethnic heritage can participate in the life of your parish. If I were your pastor, I would simply change the name of your community to St. Nicholas Catholic Church.

Another way you could attract more people is to make your Church well known in the wider community. Do what the Jehovah Witnesses and Evangelicals do; knock on doors, talk to people, visit various neighborhoods, etc. Why not have regular Eucharistic processions through residential areas? Why not start sports teams which non-Catholics and non-Christians can be a part of? Make people aware that they needn't be Catholic, nor completely agree with Catholic teachings, to visit and help out at your parish. This is how evangelization is done. Go win converts.

To reach out to the Catholic community, have the bishop of the local Roman rite Diocese come out and concelebrate a Divine Liturgy at your parish. Broadcast his visit in all the Roman Churches of the area, and people will come and participate. It will be an educational experience for everyone, and you might even gain some new members who find eastern Christian spirituality to be a good fit for them.

If you want youth, stay away from everything gimmicky and corny. Get conversations on the Church Fathers or the Theology of the Body going. Don't dumb anything down, at all. Don't condescend. And do provide lots and lots of good, free food.

Ask me anything about faith, religion, God, philosophy, theology, life, etc.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why do catholics worship statues?

We do not in fact worship statues, but rather the people they represent. We do this in the archaic sense of the term, which means giving honor to someone, usually through a symbolic gesture, in recognition of their merit. These gestures might include kissing an image, using incense, making the sign of the cross, bowing the head, bowing at the waist, laying flowers, lighting votive candles, etc. Such actions comport to a very basic aspect of human nature, and thus are good because God created this aspect of our nature and everything God creates is good; by honoring the creation we honor the Creator.

Our inclination to worship is also the fundamental motivation behind all the liberal arts. That is why we adorn our parks with statues of heroes from our history, write ballads to remember famous lovers, dedicate novels to friends and family, put up a huge monument to the concept of liberty in New York Harbor (carved in the form of a Greek goddess, by the way), etc. It's a natural thing to do, and it only becomes wrong when we fall into superstition; for instance, imagining we can trap a spirit's essence in a figurine, and then by manipulating the figurine, obtain favors from the spirit.

The sin of idolatry consists in reducing God to one power among many or to no power at all; it entails denying his omnipotence and seeking to exalt ourselves over him, to override his will by fooling ourselves into thinking there are spiritual back alleys and short cuts. Spiritual pride is at its root.

Hence not everyone who bows before a statue, or offers incense, is guilty of idolatry. The Bible agrees on this point, as I shall now demonstrate.

Most of us are familiar with the account of the golden calf, but I reproduce it here for convenience:

"When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And Aaron said to them, 'Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!' When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.' And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. And the LORD said to Moses, 'Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" (Exodus 32:1-8).

People often come away from this story with the impression that the chief sin of the Israelites was making a golden calf; this simply isn't true though, because later during the construction of the temple, God commands the forging of bronze bulls, along with many other representations, to be used in worshipping him (cf. 1 Kings 5-9).

The Israelites' real sin was thinking they could trap spirits in figurines--literally, to make gods for themselves--in order to manipulate them for their own gain. In fact, it is implied the Israelites even imagined they could do this with God's own Spirit. To further compound this blasphemy, the Israelites adored the statue they had made (in an effort to impress or terrify the spirits they supposed were trapped inside) with the most despicable and depraved rites imaginable. Although it doesn't come across in translation very well, "rose up to play" is a euphemism here for mass orgies and the practice of religious prostitution. It is very likely the "burnt offerings" and "peace offerings" included human sacrifice in this context.

Therefore, the graven image the Israelites made of God was carved mainly on their hearts, not on any material thing. It is for this reason they were punished.

In regard to material objects being used, legitimately, to represent spiritual realities, we find this time and again throughout Scripture. Returning to the description of Solomon's temple (cf. 1 Kings 5-9), we observe it is reminiscent of many Catholic, and especially Eastern Orthodox, houses of worship. This is because our cathedrals and churches are built in continuity with and are modeled upon the Hebrew temple. We feel justified in lining the walls with images of God's saints and messengers, because our Jewish fore-bearers did the exact same thing with his approval. It reminds us of the "great cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us, which St. Paul spoke of (cf. Hebrews 12:1).

We even use certain images to depict God himself, all of which are taken from the words of the Bible. If it is wrong to construct such images, surely it is wrong to imagine God under such forms; but who can resist doing this when the very text we are reading intentionally conjures these images in our mind? Moreover, God has taken flesh among us in Christ, the image of the imageless. Because it has always been permissible to make images of men, and since Christ is fully man, we may image him, and in doing so, because Christ is fully God, we may image God.

For example, Jesus applied the bronze serpent of Moses (cf. Numbers 21:4-9) to himself as a figure of his own crucifixion and resurrection. So it is not wrong to make crucifixes for the same purpose, or to venerate such crucifixes to symbolically honor Christ's sacrifice. Did not the Israelites do the same when they looked upon the bronze serpent for healing? Yes, and through this act of devotion, Christ, the true Bronze Serpent of which Moses' staff was only a representation, healed his people.

That is why Catholics worship statues--to honor the persons they represent, and in doing so, to honor the God of whom we are all images.

Ask me anything about faith, religion, God, philosophy, theology, life, etc.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What "Freedom of Choice" really means...

For those of you who want the truth, click on the link below. As Matthew Archbold says over at Creative Minority Report, "You're not going to believe this story about an abortionist who is being sued for not stopping an abortion even though the patient begged him to stop. And not only that, there's video of the doctor saying that a medical license is actually a license to lie."

Kyrie eleison!

Question Box

Noteworthy Petitions

Acclamation of God's Triunity

One holy Father, one holy Son, one holy Spirit; blessed be the name of the Lord, for he is One in heaven and on earth. To God be glory for ever.

Memorial of the Plan of Salvation

You are truly holy, O King of all time and source of all holiness. Holy is your only Son, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Holy is your Spirit who reaches the depths of all things, even the depths of your own Being. You are our God and Father, holy, almighty, all-powerful, awesome, and good, compassionate to the sufferings of your creation. You formed us from the earth and conferred on us the joy of paradise.

When we transgressed your command and sinned, you neither neglected nor rejected us, but rather, like a merciful father, you sought us. By the Law you called us back; by the prophets you guided us; and, at last, you sent your only Son, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, into the world, that he might renew your image in us.

He came down from heaven, and, taking flesh from the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God, he dwelt among us and accomplished everything for the salvation of our race.

Farewell Prayer to the Altar

Remain in peace, O holy altar of God; I hope to return to you in peace. May the offering I have received from you forgive my sins and prepare me to stand blameless before the throne of Christ. I know not whether I will be able to return to you again to offer sacrifice. Guard me, O Lord, and protect your holy Church, that she may be the way to salvation and the light of the world. Amen.

Intercession for the Dead

O Lord, God of spirits and of all flesh, remember all those whom we have known and those whom we have not known; those who, in true faith, have left this life. Grant rest to their souls and bodies; free them from eternal damnation and make them worthy to find rest in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where the light of your face will shine upon them, and where every grief, adversity, and sighing will flee away. Do not count their failings against them and do not enter into judgment with your servants, for no one living on earth can be justified in your sight, and no one is free from guilt or clean from sin, except one, our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, your only Son. Through Christ and because of him, we hope to find mercy and forgiveness of sins, for ourselves and for those for whom we pray, now and for ever.

Invocation of Divine Mercy

O Christ our God, we celebrate the memorial of your plan of salvation.

When you come in glory with your blessed angels and establish the throne of your awesome majesty; when you command the earth to bring forth the dead and they stand before you in fear and trembling; when you separate the sheep to your right and the goats to your left and all behold the reward due to them; then do not let us hear, O Lord, the bitter voice of condemnation, and do not command us: “Leave me, O damned, to the eternal fire. I do not know you.”

Do not consider us as strangers to your household, nor turn your face away from us and look at us with anger. Do not let our sins and offenses touch your holy heart. Do not enter into judgment with us nor treat us like those who bitterly have lost all hope. Do not seek revenge on us like enemies nor abandon us like strangers. Do not reject us from your presence, O Lord, for we have known your holy name and professed your divinity.

Do with us, rather, according to your promises. Pardon our faults and forgive our sins. Have mercy on your inheritance and on the sheep of your flock.

Peace Blessing

Peace, charity, and faith, brothers and sisters, from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Hymn to the Incarnation

You have united, O Lord, your divinity with our humanity and our humanity with your divinity; your life with our mortality and our mortality with your life. You have assumed what is ours, and you have given us what is yours, for the life and salvation of our souls. To you, O Lord, be glory for ever.

Prayers before Communion


The Church proclaims: “Holy, holy, holy are you, O Lord; blessed is he who gives me his body and blood for my salvation.”

Alleluia! Alleluia! To Christ be glory, for he gives us his living body and blood for our salvation.

May this offering intercede for us on the day of judgement, when we stand before God’s awesome throne.

Alleluia! Alleluia! To Christ be glory, for from his cup the Church and her children drink, and sing his praise.


My soul longs for your body, yet I am afraid to get close, for I tremble because of my sins. In your kindness, O Lord, grant me pardon.


The heavenly hosts stand with us in the sanctuary. They carry in procession the body of the Son of God, immolated before us. Let us all approach and receive him for the forgiveness of our sins and faults. Alleluia!

May our parents, brothers and sisters, and teachers be commemorated at your altar, O Lord, and may they stand at your right hand on the day of judgement, O Christ the King. Alleluia!

Blessed is the Lord who gives us his living body and blood that we may find pardon in them. Praised and exalted are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Glory to them for ever and ever. Alleluia!

Thanksgiving after Communion


We render always glory and thanksgiving to you, O Lord, for giving us your body to eat and your blood to drink. O Lover of all, have mercy on us.


We thank you, O Lord God, and we ask that this divine communion be for the forgiveness of sins, the glory of your holy name, and that or your only-begotten Son, and of your Holy Spirit, now and for ever.


O Lord, our Savior; you became flesh and by sacrificing yourself for us you saved us. Redeem us now from eternal damnation, make us temples of you holy name, for we are your people and your inheritance. To you, O Christ, to your Father, and to your Holy Spirit, are due glory, honor, and power, now and for ever.