Friday, November 30, 2007

Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, the Protocletos, the First Called

Today, Holy Mother Church liturgically commemorates the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, the Protocletos, the First Called. St. Andrew is claimed as the Patron and Founder of the Church of Constantinople and who also happens to be my Patron Saint. =)

The older brother of St. Peter and a disciple of John the Baptist, St. Andrew, upon seeing the Christ pointed out by John as the Lamb of God and acknowledging Him as the long foretold Messiah, brought others to faith in Him. Notable among these is St. Peter, Vicar of Christ and the First Bishop of Rome and Pope.

I am striving bear the name of St. Andrew worthily and, in imitation of him, to acknowledge and serve Christ as the Messiah and to bring others to faith in Him. I take that as my mission.

Pray for me that the Lord will give me the grace and strength to emulate St. Andrew.

Here’s the Greek Orthodox prayers for the Feast of St. Andrew. The prayers of the Latin Church to St. Andrew follow.

St. Andrew, the First Called Apostle.

November 30.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

As first of the Apostles to be called, O Andrew, brother of him (Peter) who was foremost, beseech the Master of all to grant the world peace and our souls great mercy.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Let us praise the namesake of bravery, the divinely eloquent and first to be called of the Disciples of Christ, the kinsman of Peter. As he called out to him in days of old, so now he calls to us, "Come, we have found Him for whom we yearned."

On the Life of Saint Andrew
This Saint was from Bethsaida of Galilee; he was the son of Jonas and the brother of Peter, the chief of the Apostles. He had first been a disciple of John the Baptist; afterwards, on hearing the Baptist's witness concerning Jesus, when he pointed Him out with his finger and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1.29,36), he straightway followed Christ, and became His first disciple; wherefore he is called the First-called of the Apostles. After the Ascension of the Saviour, he preached in various lands; and having suffered many things for His Name's sake, he died in Patras of Achaia, where he was crucified on a cross in the shape of an "X," the first letter of "Christ" in Greek; this cross is also the symbol of Saint Andrew.

Prayer to St. Andrew, the First Called Apostle

Lord Jesus, Saint Andrew was the first Apostle. He enthusiastically led other people to You, starting with his brother, Saint Peter. Saint John Chrysostom said in a homily about these saints, "To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, loving kinship and sincere affection." I ask Saint Andrew to pray for my relationships with family members. Jesus, You came to divide us from our families if they do not follow You. Bring conversion to the hearts of disbelieving loved ones so that we may become united in the Faith and bonded in our love for You. Saint Andrew, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On this day... last year

On this day last year, Pope Benedict XVI paid his first visit as Supreme Pontiff to the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Constantinople as the invitation of Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Oh how good it is, when brethren dwell together in unity.

The two leaders enter the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar.


The two bishops reverence the holy relics of St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom.


The Pope, seated, listens to remarks by Bartholomew, Patriarch of Constantinople who in turn stands as the Pope delivers his remarks.


Bishops of the Holy Synod of Constantinople with the Pope's entourage.

Delivering a join blessing.

All photos by N. Manginas courtesy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

That historical even was covered, with full photos, in these pages here:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Extraordinary Form of the Roman Pontiff

Mitre, belonging to Pope Pius IX

Cope, with elements from 15th century vestments

Throne, belonging to Pope Leo XIII

Effect, timeless.

I think Pope Benedict's hermeneutic of continuity had moved to include sartorial continuity as well and emphasizes the part that truly noble vestments play in re-orienting the liturgy. Not only the Mass that our forefathers regarded as sacred but the vestments they celebrated those sacred mysteries in as well cannot be discarded.

With the Tridentine Mass now dubbed the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, are we in fact now seeing the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Pontiff? =)

Kudos to Msgr. Marini (Guido, not the other one) on his excellent taste. I caught the consistory and the Mass on EWTN and I have to admit that the flow was a little shaky at times. For example, there was a delay in Cardinal Patriarch Delly's reading of the Roman Canon in the concelebration as his part was not pointed out to him.

Papa Ratzi himself raised an eye. But Cardinal Delly has superb Latin pronunciation. Very very Roman, compared to Cardinal Foley's very Americanized Latin. I laughed out loud!

Cardinal Patriach Emmanuel III Delly is the prelate on the extreme left wearing vestments proper to the Chaldean Rite as canon law dictates when celebrating a Rite that is not one's own.

But I'm sure all of us are willing, more than willing to overlook whatever faults and teething problems the new Papal MC has in his new job in exchange for his adherence to Catholic tradition.

It is as it was ... and should be.

The Cardinal Deacons are back, in dalmatics. One of them being traddie Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Protodeacon of the College of Cardinals.

Note that the Altar Cross is oriented towards the celebrant, even when the says Mass facing the people. And they even got the altar candlesticks correct as the old rubrics state that the candles should gradually slope upwards towards the Crucifix. Most of us simply trim the candles but this set has candlesticks of varying heights.

Long live the Pope and long live Msgr. Guido Marini and may his tribe increase.

Photographs with watermarks are from FotografiaFelici while the others were sourced from Yahoo News.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seeing red

This Saturday, St. Peter's will be awash in a sea of red as Pope Benedict raises 23 men to the Sacred College of Cardinals.

The red is a sign of the dignity of the office of a cardinal, signifying their willingness to act with fortitude, even to the point of the shedding of blood for the increase of the Christian faith, for peace and harmony among the people of God and for freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Let's remember them, and the Pope, in our prayers.

Cardinal robes are displayed on a tailor shop window in Rome, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007. 'When in doubt wear red' is a well-known fashion tip. But to a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, there's never much hesitation. Red is the color of his uniform, and the hue symbolizes a commitment to die for his church if necessary. In a formal ceremony on Saturday, 23 new 'princes of the Church' will don the crimson outfits when Pope Benedict XVI brings them into the elite circle of his closest advisers. They join a group which, when the time comes, will elect his successor from within their own ranks. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving thanks

I was leaving the office yesterday and I saw the elderly cleaning lady sitting on a piece of cardboard, bent over and scraping muck off the bottom of the walls. When I came in the morning, she was already here mopping the floors. When I walk around throughout the day, she can be seen mopping, sweeping, cleaning, dusting and always working, working, working. Seeing her diligently at her job, the thought a me about how fortunate I am, being who and what I am.

Today, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving which commemorates the day some Indian pilgrims got lost searching for their pet turkeys and ended up eating some English mayflowers with corn for dinner ... or something like that.

I too need to give thanks, and give lots of it. I actually really admire the old lady as she’s doing an honest and terrific job. She’s really hardworking and works long hours and even on weekends. But I’m very fortunate because I have it easy, so very easy compared to her and so many other hardworking decent people. Some people have it so hard.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not rich, not by a very, very, very long shot. But I have had a great and wonderful life, a terrific and loving childhood (I was not only happy, but ecstatic through most of it) courtesy of my late grandfather of beloved memory and my grandmother and breezed through a great schooling life, the marching band and numerous clubs and societies at a wonderful institution where tradition still meant something.

God save the Penang Free School! [cos only He can, now]

My college years were wonderful too, surrounded by good and close friends. I played lots of football and ping pong (when I was supposed to be in class) and was addicted to Counterstrike which I played at smoke filled dark parlours in the wee hours of the morning. I was also active in many societies and clubs and rose to lead many of them including the Engineering Society, the Editorial Board, the Christian Fellowship and the Gateway Project Team. I was also in the Catholic Student’s Society and the Internet Research and Development Team (where we organized a Counterstrike tourney in the college computer labs!) besides being a tutor. Those were fun times and as an added bonus, I even achieved a childhood dream of being Valedictorian of my graduating class and spoke before a crowd of thousands [who could not run away because the doors were locked =)]. And I did all that without letting my education get in the way of learning.

In Church, I was privileged enough to lead the Youth for a couple of years, lead the novena once a month and occasionally, even take a few Catechism classes as a substitute teacher. I now teach bible study and I’m supposed to be teaching the confirmation year kids next year besides directing our garage schola which was officially invited to sing for Masses starting this Advent. I now have a comfy job which is flexible enough to give me the time I need to carry out my various activities. For all this, I give thanks.

Things were not hunky dory all the time. Life was hard too. We were a rather poor family and sometimes, we had to scrape through with very little. Of course, I was shielded from this by my grandparents and their heroic sacrifice. I never went hungry but neither did I ask for the latest toys or for stuff that caught my fancy. And believe you me, as an inquisitive young lad, many things did but I learned early on never to ask. I grew up on TV (black and white, only 2 channels) and learned loads from Sesame Street. I had to take 2 buses to school and 2 buses back with a long wait at a smoke infested, dirty terminal in between. And this continued through college though it was 1 bus each way by then (Yay!) and only got my own transportation when I started working.

I did win many prizes and awards throughout my academic career but this joy was tempered by the fact that often, there was no family there to witness these triumphs. I would be the idiot standing with prizes under his arms while waiting for the bus alone. But my grandmother was able to witness both my graduations and for this I am extremely grateful.

I had only one meal a day throughout my secondary school years, but on the bright side, it kept me fit as a fiddle. When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother had to babysit so that I could eat and buy books. And most of my earliest books were Penguin Classics. They were cheap and thick and lasted me until I could raise the funds for another book. Thanks, Tolstoy!!


Money isn’t everything, not by a long shot. But it does fund your college education and I’m thankful and grateful for the scholarships I received that allowed me to complete my studies.

But hard though it was, everything was good, very good and through even the darkest moments and especially at the greatest triumphs, God was there always. I give thanks.

Oh, yeah, and I have a wonderful dog! Will the blessings never cease?

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's dog, so don't

Like the LFO song says:

Life is good,
Life is great,
Life is unbelievable
Life is hard,
Life is cruel
Life is so beautiful!

These are some of the great and marvellous blessings which the Lord has bestowed on me though I am His most unworthy servant. For that and for all else, I give thanks. As long as God is with me, I am content. God is great and greatly to be praised. To Him alone be all glory and honour and power, forever and ever.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία; "Holy Wisdom", Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Medieval Seville Cathedral in 1520.

Although it is sometimes referred to as Saint Sophia (Greek for wisdom), the Greek name in full is Church of the Holy Wisdom of God Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας - and it was dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God rather than a specific saint named Sophia.
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An artist's impression of Hagia Sophia, as it might have been in Byzantine times.

The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots). It was designed by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. The Church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 50 ft (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focus point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.

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Hagia Sophia now

On May 28 1453, as the Ottoman army prepared for the final assault, large-scale religious processions were held in the city. In the evening a last solemn ceremony was held in the Hagia Sophia, in which the Emperor and representatives of both the Latin and Greek church, reunited in the Council of Florence, partook, together with nobility from both sides. After the city had fallen, it was a converted into a mosque during the Muslim occupation of Constantinople and after the Revolution converted into a museum.

Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic value was its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian proclaimed, "Solomon, I have surpassed thee!" (Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών). Justinian himself had overseen the completion of the greatest cathedral ever built up to that time, and it was to remain the largest cathedral for 1,000 years up until the completion of the cathedral in Seville in Spain.

Interior and dome

The vast interior has a complex structure. The vast nave is covered by a central dome which has a maximum diameter of 31.24 meters and a height from floor level of 55.6 meters, about one fourth smaller than the dome of the Pantheon. The dome seems rendered weightless by the unbroken arcade of 40 arched windows under it, which help flood the colourful interior with light. Due to consecutive repairs in the course of its history, the dome has lost its perfect circular base and has become somewhat elliptical with a diameter varying between 31.24 and 30.86 m.

The dome is carried on pendentives — four concave triangular sections of masonry which solve the problem of setting the circular base of a dome on a rectangular base. At Hagia Sophia the weight of the dome passes through the pendentives to four massive piers at the corners. Between them the dome seems to float upon four great arches. These were reinforced with buttresses during Ottoman times, under the guidance of the architect Sinan.

The church was richly decorated with mosaics throughout the centuries. They either depicted the Virgin Mother, Jesus, Saints, or emperors and empresses.

Following the building's conversion into a mosque in 1453, many of its mosaics were destroyed or covered with plaster, due to Islam's ban on representational imagery. This post is mainly about the mosaics of the Church of Holy Wisdom.

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Imperial Gate

The Imperial Gate was the main entrance between the exo- and esonarthex. It was reserved only for the emperor. The Byzantine mosaic above the portal depicts Christ and Emperor Leo VI the Wise.

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Imperial Gate mosaics: located in the tympanum above the gate used only by the emperors when entering the church. Based on style analysis, it has been dated to the late 9th or early10th century. It represents the emperor Leo VI bowing down before Christ Pantocrator, giving His blessing and holding in His left hand an open book. The text on the book reads as follows : "Peace be with you. I am the light of the world". On each side of Christ's shoulders is a circular medallion : on His left the Archangel Gabriel (founder of the church), on His right His Mother Mary. These mosaics express the timeless power bestowed by Christ on the Byzantine emperors.

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Southwestern entrance mosaics, situated in the tympanum of the southwestern entrance, date from 944. They were rediscovered during the restorations of 1849 by Fossati. The Virgin sits on a throne without a back, her feet resting on a pedestal, embellished with precious stones. The Child Christ sits on her lap, giving His blessing and holding a scroll in His left hand. On her left side stands emperor Constantine in ceremonial attire, presenting a model of the city to Mary. The inscription next to him says : "Great emperor Constantine om the Saints". On her right side stands emperor Justinian I, offering a model of the Hagia Sophia. The medallions on both sides of the Virgin's head carry the monograms MP and OY, an abbreviation of "Mater" and "Theou", meaning "Mother of God".

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Apse Mosaic of the Virgin and Child: this was the first of the post-iconoclastic mosaics. It was inaugurated on 29 March 867 by Patriarch Photios and the emperors Michael III and Basil I. This mosaic is situated in a high location on the half dome of the apse. Mary is sitting on a throne without a back, holding the Child Jesus on her lap. Her feet rest on a pedestal. Both the pedestal and the throne are adorned with precious stones. These mosaics are a reconstruction of the mosaics of the sixth century that were previously partly destroyed. The mosaics are set against the original golden background of the 6th century. The portraits of the archangels Gabriel and Michael (largely destroyed) in the bema of the arch also date from the 9th century.

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The Empress Zoe mosaics on the eastern wall of the southern gallery date from the 11th century. Christ Pantocrator, clad in the dark blue robe (as always the custom in Byzantine art), is seated in the middle against a golden background, giving His blessing with the right hand and holding the Bible in His left hand. On either side of His head are the monograms IC and XC, meaning "Iessus Christos". He is flanked by Constantine IX Monomachos and Empress Zoe, both in ceremonial costumes. He is offering a purse, as symbol of the donation he made to the church, while she is holding a scroll, symbol of the donations she made. The inscription over the head of the emperor says : "Constantine Monomachos, the pious ruler of Romans and the servant of God's Jesus". The inscription over the head of the empress reads as follows : "Very pious Augusta Zoë". The previous heads have been scraped off and replaced by the three present ones. Perhaps the earlier mosaic showed her first husband Romanos III Argyros or her adopted son Michael IV. Another theory is that these mosaics were made for an earlier emperor and empress, with their heads changed into the present ones.

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The Mosaics of the Comnenos, equally located on the eastern wall of the southern gallery, date from 1122. The Virgin Mary is standing in the middle, depicted, as usual in Byzantine art, in a dark blue gown. She holds the Child Christ on her lap. He gives His blessing with His right hand while holding a scroll in His left hand. On her right side stands emperor John II Komnenos, represented in a garb embellished with precious stones. He holds a purse, symbol of an imperial donation to the church. Empress Eirene stands on the left side of the Virgin, wearing ceremonial garments, offering a document. Their eldest son Alexius Comnenos is represented on an adjacent pilaster. His mournful features, reflect his death from tuberculosis in the same year. In this panel one can already see a difference with the Empress Zoe mosaics that is one century older. There is a more realistic expression in the portraits instead of an idealized representation. The empress is shown with plaited blond hair, rosy cheeks and grey eyes, revealing her Hungarian descent. The emperor is depicted in a dignified manner.

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The Deësis (Entreaty) mosaic probably dates from 1261. It was commissioned to mark the end of 57 years of Catholic use and the return to the Orthodox faith. It is the third panel situated in the imperial enclosure of the upper galleries. It is widely considered the finest in Hagia Sophia, because of the softness of the features, the humane expressions and the tones of the mosaic. The style is close to that of the Italian painters of the late 13th or early 14th century, such as Duccio. In this panel the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist (Ioannes Prodromos), both shown in three-quarters profile, are imploring the intercession of Christ Pantocrator for humanity on Judgment Day. The bottom part of this mosaic is badly deteriorated, probably due to rain since the mosaic is next to the windows. This mosaic is considered as the beginning of the Renaissance in Byzantine pictorial art.

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The northern tympanon mosaics feature various saints. They have been able to survive due to the very high and unreachable location. They depict Saint Ioannes Chrysostomus and Saint Ignatius the Younger standing, clothed in white robes with crosses, and holding richly jewelled Holy Bibles. The names of each saint is given around the statues in Greek, in order to enable an identification for the visitor. The other mosaics in the other tympani have not survived probably due to the frequent earthquakes as opposed to any deliberate destruction by the Ottoman conquerors.

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