Blessed are the Peacemakers: Sts. Wenceslaus & Gorazd

One of the saints that I particularly revere is St. Wenceslaus of the Czechs.   (Also variously called St. Vaclav, or St. Vyacheslav).   He is known as a peace loving saint, whose peaceful ways led to his brutal murder by his own brother on 28 September 935AD.    St. Wenceslaus was 32 years old when murdered on the steps of a church. 

I’ve had the blessing of being able to visit the tomb of St. Wenceslaus on several occasions and to see his relics.  The first time was in 1979 when the then Czechoslovak Republic was under communism.  Visitors were able to enter the room where his relics were kept, but veneration of the relics was not permitted.  Today, the room is sealed off and one can only view the relics from the door of the room.

The room is the same one that Reinhard Heydrich, the WWII Nazi governor of the puppet Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia entered and took the crown of Wenceslaus and placed it upon his own head seeing himself and the Nazis as the conquerors of the Czechs.   An old Czech legend says that any usurper who places the crown on his head is doomed to die within a year.  Heydrich was assassinated less than a year later by the Czech resistance.  A detailed report with many photographs about the Heydrich assassination and the Nazi reprisals which followed can be viewed here.  You can view a  You Tube film re-enacting the assault on Sts. Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Cathedral where the Nazis trapped and killed the resistance members involved in the assassination.  The Cathedral now houses a national museum about the Nazi terror.

The Nazi reprisals for the assassination of Heydrich were severe, especially against the Orthodox population in Czechoslovakia whom they blamed for suporting the resistance.  The Orthodox bishop of Prague, St. Gorazd, showed himself to be a true shepherd of his flock and took complete blame for the activities of the resistance in order to spare his people.   The Nazis executed Gorazd on September 4, 1942.   He has since been canonized as a saint and martyr by the Orthodox Church. 

To the left the relics of St. Wenceslaus.

To the right a photo of the Hieromartyr Gorazd of Prague.

Like St. Wenceslaus, St. Gorazd was a true peacemaker, and he laid down his life for his friends rather than taking up arms to save himself.

“In God We Trust”: Especially When Money is Our God

I wonder if it is irony that America places the words “In God We Trust” on our dollar bills but not on congressional or senate bills?  The world’s greatest capitalistic nation, trusts money and economic growth as if these things were an all good God.  At times we don’t seem to distinguish between wealth and God – they are an equal good in our experience, and we will trample on a lot of ethics, and look away from a lot of morality, in order to pursue the ominpotent dollar and the divine prosperity we believe it gives us.   For example greed, one of the seven deadly sins, is seldom railed against in prosperous America and sometimes is euphemized as “profit”.

Marketplace commentator Robert Reich in his 6 August 2008 “A Contest Between Two Capitalisms” offers us something to think about as he compares and contrasts the phenomenal and unprecedented growth of the Chinese economy and its “authoritarian capitalism” with the faltering U.S. economy’s democratic capitalism, using the Olympics as a metaphor:  the Chinese Olympic games versus the American Olympics: our upcoming presidential election.

For years, American policy toward China assumed that trade and economic growth would generate a large Chinese middle class, and this middle class would demand democratic reforms. … We thought capitalism and democracy went hand in glove. They don’t.  … But when it comes to civil and political rights, China today is where it was almost two decades ago at the time of Tiananmen Square.

Authoritarian capitalism works wonders if all you care about is getting ahead economically and being able to afford more stuff. … Democratic capitalism should win in the end because it responds far better to what people want — not only as consumers but also as citizens. Yet right now it’s not so clear. The Chinese economy is booming while we’re in deep trouble. Eighty percent of Chinese are optimistic about the future but only 20 percent of Americans say this nation is on the right track.

In terms of this big contest, you might think of our upcoming presidential election as our own Olympic games. It will showcase to the world how well democratic capitalism still works.

Maybe a question Reich should ask is whether Americans themselves are not so addicted to getting ahead and getting more stuff that they will be willing to trade the freedoms democratic capitalism affords for the wonders authoritarian capitalism delivers?   Will Americans sacrifice their ethics and religious beliefs to embrace philosophies that can deliver greater economic prosperity?   Have profit and wealth in fact become our gods?  Maybe atheists do not have to fear “In God We Trust” on money, for maybe the money itself is our God.

The Transfiguration of Christ & the Creation of Light

In Matins this morning for the Transfiguration, I was taken by the relationship of light and sound at the Transfiguration as recorded in Matthew 17:1-9.  Peter, James and John taken apart from the other disciples by Jesus suddenly see the light emanating from Christ:  Jesus’ “face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”     As stunning a scene as that may have been, it is not until the Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son… listen to him,” that the three disciples are terrified and fall down on their faces in absolute fear.   They were able to see the sight but are knocked off their feet when they hear God speak.

Were they perhaps experiencing in some manner what Genesis 1:3 reports ?

And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

 The voice of God, His Word, creates the light which shines even though the sun has not yet been created in Genesis 1.  It is the voice of God which is so powerfully creative.    God’s Voice/Word creates light, but it is not the light, it is the Voice/Word which sweeps the disciples off their feet.  

Standing outside in the sunlight on the top of a mountain as the disciples were doing, it would take a pretty significant light to outshine the sun and capture the attention of the disciples.  And that is the kind of light they saw; the light shining forth from the transfigured Christ is not sunlight but the light God called into existence as the first creative act of the Creator. 

How mighty and fearful is the vision seen today! 

The visible sun shone from heaven,

but from the earth shone incomparably upon Mount Tabor

The spiritual Sun of Righteousness.        (Matins Canon Canticle 6)

The matins hymns reflect the mystery which the three apostles saw:

The invisible has no become visible to the apostles:

The Godhead shone out before them in the flesh.  (Canticle 7)

Christ was fully visible to the disciples, but now suddenly they see in Him something which had been hidden from their eyes: His transfigured appearance reveals what is always true about Christ but not always visible, even to His select followers.

The unheard of has now been heard,

For the Sun who came forth from the Virgin without a father,

Receives glorious testimony from His Father’s voice

That He is both God and man, throughout all ages.  (Matins Canticle 7)

There was no one to hear the voice of God the Father when He first spoke light into existence in Genesis 1.   But now the disciples looking at this light hear the voice of God!  “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,”  (1 Corinthians 2:9).    The transfiguration of Christ was indeed prepared for those who love him.  And the disciples saw and heard what God had prepared for humanity from the beginning:  “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

For other blogs on the Transfiguration see my Tablets of Stone: Do Not Petrify the Word of God, The Transfiguration of the Son of God:  Listen to Him,  The Transfiguration:  Man Fulfilling His Mission  and Feast Days: Signs of God’s Coming Kingdom