Today’s two Topics
The Maccabean Martyrs
Syrian families trying to escape to Turkey
Yesterday, August 1, was a multiple-observance in Churches following the Byzantine Rite, Orthodox or Catholic. It is
a. the Procession of the True Cross — from when the Cross was carried in old Constantinople’s streets to invoke protection from plague and other sicknesses in the August heat; the Cross is still honored today in church;
b. Little Blessing of Water – formerly the Byzantine Rite had this service on the first day of every month from February – December. Only the August one has survived, I think because of its connection to spiritual fight against the sicknesses of medieval cities in the summer heat, something that was quite real in most of the urbanized world until recently.
c. The Maccabean Martyrs: the elder Eleazar (over 90 years old!), the mother of seven boys, and the boys themselves, killed during the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV. See 2 Maccabees chapter 7-8; and these articles on the net: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_with_seven_sons ; Orthodox note at http://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/los/August/01-03.htm ; and this rather comprehensive site: http://www.enotes.com/topic/Maccabees#Holy_Maccabean_Martyrs
The Martyrs have been invoked by Christians since the earliest generations, because of their stalwart example in not yielding to any temptation, even that of saving a parent’s last surviving child. This is the kind of heroism I met in the survivors of our Church in Eastern Europe from the communist era.
Ironically, it also marks the day that our glorious HHS secretary and the Obama administration have chosen to force all Catholic schools which carry student health care/ insurance to provide for sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing contraceptives. Why “reproductive health” means the ability to prevent human life or kill it off, is beyond me.
Should Church institutions yield, it will give government a big step into our world. A world that should not have government intrusion. And for those who cheerily say, “bring on the persecution! I’ll stand and fight!” this is what persecution is – the fate of these nine Jews on a very sad day.
Or of the pregnant wife of a Greek Catholic priest, who had refused to sign the paper to convert to Russian Orthodoxy – the policemen had failed in their torture of him, so now they told him ” Sign or we will beat your wife, and if the baby dies – it is your fault.” And she stood there, pregnant with their first baby, and said “don’t sign.”
That is what a persecuting state can resort to. So let us pray first of all that this HHS business is shoved aside, and for the strength to be firm like that young Greek Catholic couple, or those nine Jews. And may God grant that it never comes to this in our country.
The soukh – one of the oldest markets in the world
And now, Aleppo – it is Syria’s biggest city, and the commercial capital. The battle is shaping up to be a pivotal one. Aleppo has been inhabited since 5000 BC and a major city since 2000 BC. It is a tragedy that in the 21st century it is being destroyed by its own government, while the world powers sit helpless because of the UN vetoes.
Christianity in Aleppo dates from the first generation of converts. Aleppo is home to Catholic dioceses/ eparchies with faithful from the Armenian, Chaldean, Latin, Maronite, Melkite and Syriac Churches, along with the larger Greek Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox (Syriac and Armenian), and many Protestants; see this site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_churches_in_Aleppo for a complete list.
Armenian church in Old City of Aleppo
Armenians who flew out to Armenia reported that fighting is encroaching the Armenian Christian neighborhoods, and that people can not only hear the guns, but feel the houses shake. A ride to the airport used to be $6, now it is $150 because of the fighting and rebel roadblocks. The rebels have not bothered Christians who are leaving, but bombs are not going to ask “are you for or against Assad?” The rockets and mortars from their own army are at work destroying this most ancient of places.
Syrian fighter in Aleppo, July 31, 2012
The failure of the West to act – again – and yes, stopped by Russian and Chinese vetoes – again – has led to this revolt that was started by children asking for more freedom to drag on and on and become more violent on both sides, and now al-Qaeda jihadists are showing up. The longer it goes, the worse it will be, and frustrated oppositionists may by overtaken by the jihadist forces. And thus the chance for a secular democratic state disappears. Why doesn’t Putin just invite Assad and the Alawites to find sanctuary in Moscow? Because he is enjoying this power trip. And the innocent suffer – again.
St. Anthony of Padua in Istanbul was completed in 1912. Its congregation once numbered 40,000 souls!
In 1912, the territories of the Ottoman Empire were 25% Christian. Today that same arc from Palestine to Istanbul to Baghdad is mostly at 2%. Even Lebanon, the great refuge of Ottoman Christendom, is now barely 40% Christian.
The loss of Christianity’s original home is having major consequences, and we in the West should understand why: ttp://www.pri.org/stories/world/middle-east/as-minorities-flee-the-middle-east-loses-its-once-rich-religious-diversity-10926.html
and be ready to support CNEWA which is trying to provide Christian employment and housing in the Muslim states and now give relief in Syria:
and Aid to the Church in Need which is smuggling bread and baby food (!) into Damascus and other places: https://secure3.convio.net/acn/site/Donation2?idb=1026773961&df_id=1240&1240.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=tul38dxok1.app304b
May the Maccabees inspire us.
May the Cross comfort and challenge us.
May we intercede for those in Syria and far too many places who are at risk for loving Jesus Christ.
And may our own Catholic doors in America be spared the sight of such persecution and hatred!
in helping this disaster to slow down, or better, stop. See this article as to why the Christian exodus is a very bad thing for the whole world: