Culture

Syria…

Pictures emerge of thousands of residents of the Damascus district of Yarmouk, who have remained trapped for nearly a year, queuing for food and aid.

This picture taken on January 31, 2014, and released by the UNRWA on February 26, 2014, shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk queuing to receive food supplies in Damascus, Syria

This picture taken on January 31, 2014, and released by the UNRWA on February 26, 2014, shows residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk queuing to receive food supplies in Damascus, Syria…

More here.

 

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Church

Frontline Confessions

Get Religion:

Hearing the confessions of soldiers shortly before they go into combat is one of the most important and symbolic duties performed by priests who serve as military chaplains representing Christianity’s ancient churches.

After all, the soldiers are going into harm’s way and there is no way to know if they will return. In a way, the priest knows that he could be hearing the penitent’s  final confession — turning this encounter into a kind of Last Rites for a person who is not sick unto death, but may be moments from death.

This brings me to the first photo — pictured above — in a remarkable online slideshow produced, using photos from a number of different news sources, by the foreign-affairs desk at The Washington Post.

This particular photo is from Getty Images. There is no way for me to know what kind of information was attached to this photo that could have been used by the copy-editor or editors who produced this feature. There is no way to know if the photographer had any way to talk to the specific priest or this penitent to obtain more information about what was happening in this dramatic scene.

As readers can see above, the photo caption reads:

A man kneels before an Orthodox priest in an area separating police and anti-government protesters near Dynamo Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014, in Kiev.

This is, I guess, a literal statement about what the photographer saw.

However, for the hundreds or perhaps even thousands of Ukrainians at the scene, that is not what was taking place.

The priest in this picture has placed his stole over the man’s head and is reading prayers. This is what happens at the end of the rite of confession, which under ideal conditions would take place in a sanctuary with the penitent facing an icon, often the icon known as Christ Pantocrator. The penitent is confessing his or her sins to Christ, with the priest hearing this confession representing the church.

Is there another circumstance in which a priest would place his stole over the head of a kneeling believer and then say prayers? There may be, but not one that I know of as an Eastern Orthodox layman. The same was true for my priest, to whom I took this question over the weekend.

Would it have been more dramatic to say that this believer, in the midst of territory that was turning into a war zone in downtown Kiev, felt the need to say his confession?

I would say so.

Is he confessing his sins because of something he has just done? There is no way to know that.

Is he confessing his sins because he believes he is about to be placed in a situation resembling combat, a setting in which his life will almost certainly be at risk? I would say that this is the safest interpretation of the information contained in this photo…

Read on here.

 

 

Church

Archbishop Bans Eulogies at Funeral Masses

Canadian Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast:

Roman Catholics in Ottawa are no longer permitted to deliver eulogies during funeral Masses, the local archbishop has decreed.

The Feb. 2 decree from Archbishop Terrence Prendergast reminds the faithful that Catholics gather at funerals “not to praise the deceased, but to pray for them.”

Contrary to popular belief, eulogies “are not part of the Catholic funeral rites, particularly in the context of a funeral liturgy within Mass,” the decree stated. Many Catholics, it pointed out, do not know this.

Rest here.

 

Bible Archaeology

How to Make a Mudbrick

Via the Biblical Archaeology Society:

The recipe is simple—and the ingredients common: As long as you have access to mud, water and straw (or another type of organic material), you, too, can mimic the manufacturing process used by ancient Egyptians—and Israelite slaves—to make mudbricks.

There is a slide show here too.

So basically, it goes like this:

1. Mix topsoil and water to create a thick mud.
2. Add straw. While the composition of the mud will affect the exact proportions, as a general rule, add a half pound of straw for every cubic foot of mud mixture. If you have access to grain chaff (a byproduct of threshing), you can use that as temper. If not, chop straw into very small pieces—called straw chaff—and use that.
3. Knead the mud mixture with your bare feet for four days.
4. Once it has fermented (after four days of kneading), leave the mixture alone for a few days.
5. Knead the mixture again on the day you plan to form your mudbricks.
6. Pour the mud mixture into molds (the shape of your choosing) and let them solidify in the molds for at least 20 minutes.
7. Remove from molds and deposit on a drying floor layered with sand and straw to prevent the bricks from sticking to the floor itself.
8. Let the bricks dry for a week.

After the bricks have dried, they are ready to be used—whether to build something new or to reconstruct ancient walls!