30 April 2018

War is a racket

Maj Gen Smedley Butler

War is a racket. One may have missed it in all the media hubbub, but Robert Fisk – an institution in Middle East reporting who has been dodging mortar shells, giving kidnappers the slip and ducking sniper bullets since the 1970s – who went on site to Douma, could not confirm that a chemical weapons attack even took place there, saying that the evidence of such an attack was ‘flimsy at best’. And now, residents of Douma have been brought before the Hague to testify, and they assert that no chemical weapons attack took place. The mainstream press of the United States, France and the United Kingdom have not been looking to either verify or challenge these accounts on a factual basis; instead they are seeking to smear the messengers.

War is a racket. As Syria was pummelled by an illegal missile attack by its former colonial oppressors, the stock values of ærospace defence concerns ‘lit up’, so to speak. Smedley Butler was never so right. And the first victim of these wars in the Middle East always seems to be the truth. Interventionist-minded Americans get to pretend they are doing good in the world and pretend that they care about Syrian lives – even though they don’t – all while the war profiteers enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, both here at home and where their death machines fell. Who cares whether or not a pretext or two for an unjust war was fabricated?

War is a racket. The words that fall from the lips of every American watching the news and every American hearing the endless drumbeat from the Beltway talking heads that our nation’s military power must be squandered in an endless fight to reshape the world must be: ‘Prove it.’ We must not allow our patriotism to be questioned, because we who oppose war seek our country’s salvation from itself. We should and must appeal, again and again, to that great statesman of our nation’s infancy, John Quincy Adams, and his words of caution against such foolish quests. We cannot truly be a guarantor even of our own freedoms when we allow, even by our silence, that the truth may be bought and sold, the way we can see it being bought and sold under our very noses.

War is a racket. Let’s not be suckered by it anymore.

28 April 2018

Tessering back

An artist’s rendering of the cherubim Proginoskes

Prefaced with the requisite SPOILER ALERT:

I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time when I was much, much younger. (I can’t remember with any great certainty, but I was probably in middle school.) It’s one of those books that was kept stuck in the back of my memory and creative imagination. Long after I had forgotten even the names of the characters and the planets and the stars, the images stayed with me. The tesseract, the transfiguration of Mrs Whatsit, the Black Thing, the creepy syncopated sameness of Camazotz, the punishment of the boy bouncing the ball, the transparent column, the brain in a vat, the kindness of Aunt Beast – and of course the final image of a sister’s love for her brother saving him – these were things that fired my late-childhood mental vision and apparently stuck with me. It made a pretty deep impression on me. And as with other novelists whose young-adult works I tend to lump in the same category, like TA Barron and Isaac Asimov, I read only one of L’Engle’s books: this one.

I didn’t come back to A Wrinkle in Time, believe it or not, because of the recently-released and lukewarmly-received Ava DuVernay film adaptation (which I still haven’t seen and have no immediate plans to see). I came back to it because it came up on the list of AP English Language and Composition recommended reads, and it was one of the few books I could unreservedly recommend to my AP class in Hunan Province. Before assigning it to them, I read it through again for myself – along with the sequel, A Wind in the Door.

The book was far more profound than I had remembered it. That was partially because, back when I first read it, I hadn’t quite cottoned on to how unusual the heroine, Meg Murry, was – a socially-inept, painfully-introverted genius with deep self-esteem issues; possibly a partial reflection of the author’s own unhappy boarding-school years. This had registered with me only on an intellectual level if indeed it registered at all. Reading it now, of course, her insecurities, temper and self-doubt are front and centre. It’s only against them that the SFnal images that were so indelibly burned into my early-teenage brain really attain to their true poignancy. Meg’s discovery of her own strengths and ability to love as she is thrown into the mission to recover her father and later Charles Wallace – against the deadening conformity of Camazotz and the cold malice of IT, against the Black Thing, against her own adolescent insecurities (and desire for security) – had an entirely new power over me. Even though the story was as familiar as a folktale as I reread it, it was as though I was reading it for the first time.

The direct Biblical allusions, delivered as they are in this SFnal context, are Lewisian in their forthrightness. The transfiguration of the Mrs W’s – and the ascent to a mountain, no less – has Gospel overtones, though Calvin’s Petrine reaction to the sight of it is lovingly but pointedly rebuked by Mrs Whatsit. She and her companions answer them, instead: ‘Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift their voice; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord!’ L’Engle, so affectionately like Tolkien and Lewis in her Anglican piety (and yet so distinct from them in her literary genius, as is only meet and fit!), has a psalmodic sensibility that best understands the Good and the True in terms of song and musical expression. Not for nothing does she have Charles Wallace and Calvin cite Shakespeare, Bach and Beethoven as fighters against the darkness, alongside Rembrandt, Buddha and Gandhi.

But the distinct message that rings through loud and clear is not one of apologetics. L’Engle chooses for the heroine of the novel an awkward, ill-tempered and self-doubting character as Meg Murry, who never seems to fit in anywhere and yet is chosen as much for her faults as in spite of them. That itself delivers a moral with distinct ramifications. L’Engle doesn’t paper over evil. She doesn’t apologise for it or try to explain it away. And she doesn’t exempt anyone, not even the Mrs Ws, from its effects. She does allow ‘the foolish and the weak’ to have the final say – and that final say is through an act of selflessness, of self-sacrificial kenōsis, when Meg decides to return to Camazotz to rescue her brother from IT.

The common assumption that the dystopia of Camazotz – all people rendered exactly alike within a vast, impersonal, yet horribly-efficient bureaucracy – was an allegory for communism is one to which Anna Quindlen alludes in her introductory ‘appreciation’ to the version I was reading. But Madeleine L’Engle didn’t make a very good Cold Warrior. The point seems she was trying to make with Camazotz was apparently much more subtle, and it seems she toyed with the idea of making the political angle explicit before deciding against it. Though I can understand why she left out this passage (Camazotz works fine as an allegory in its own right without having its ‘real-world’ significance spelt out), it still showcases the subtlety and sensitivity of L’Engle’s political thinking. She was as much concerned with the subtle undercurrents of conformity and acquiescence to impersonal guarantees of security within democracies, as she was with the totalitarianism of their Cold War foes. Indeed, it seems she herself wanted to revisit these themes in her subsequent novels in the Kairos continuity. If A Wrinkle in Time can be read as broadly anti-totalitarian with its portrayal of dystopian Camazotz, its sequel A Wind in the Door showcases a warning from the opposite direction.

A Wind in the Door is a good deal more surreal than A Wrinkle in Time; where the Murrys (and O’Keefe) explored planets in the first novel, the second has them trying to unlearn the idea that size matters. The actions of one single sub-microscopic organism have effects, we learn, that could save or shatter the galaxy. The life or death of a child, Charles Wallace, is considered a civilisational tipping point. When Meg, Calvin and a cherubim named Proginoskes are sent to Yadah (the mitochondrion/planet within Charles Wallace where this cosmic contest takes place) by their teacher Blajeny, being unable to move or see in the normal way, they begin learning from Proginoskes to communicate not through words, but through ‘kything’ (and this is an adoption of an Anglo-Saxon root word that I couldn’t help but cheer!), a kind of telepathy which allows its users to ignore distances in space and time in order to connect with each other. There’s an œcological theme at play here: it’s postulated that plants and planets are able to ‘kythe’ this way.

As part of Meg’s first ‘test’ in the novel, the enemies of life and good – manifestations of nothingness which are named in this novel as the Echthroi – impersonate a minor (and initially unlikeable) character from A Wrinkle in Time, Meg’s principal Mr Jenkins, and in so doing showcase two different ‘faces’ of evil. One of them – exhibiting a desire for uniformity and conformity and levelling to an impersonal standard of ‘like’-ness – voices the totalitarian ethos which drives IT in A Wrinkle in Time. The other one, who reappears close to the climax as the Mephistophelean voice which tempts Sporos (an infintesimally-small but crucially-important lifeform who inhabits one of Charles Wallace’s mitochondria), advocates total freedom from restraint and responsibility. (The true Mr Jenkins is the one who appears most limited, and Meg is able to recognise and Name him by the mistakes he makes.)

Sporos is a larval-stage individual member of a fictional symbiotic species (farandolæ) which keep Charles Wallace’s mitochondria healthy. A Wind in the Door has Meg and Calvin journey inside this mitochondrion in order to save Charles’s life; the crucial confrontation has Meg and Calvin urging Sporos to accept his adult responsibilities and Deepen, rooting himself in Charles, sacrificing a certain degree of freedom in order to join the ‘song’ of the faræ and thus fulfil a higher and life-giving cosmic purpose. The evil Echthros, on the other hand, encourages Sporos only to think of his own freedom and pleasure, to live for the moment, to proudly assert his ‘rights’ and individual independence from the cosmic order in which he lives. In keeping with the œcological theme: adult farandolæ, or faræ, are likened to ancient trees; one of the things the Echthros tempts the larval farandolæ to do is to destroy and consume the Deepened faræ. If A Wrinkle in Time did contain an anti-totalitarian cautionary tale, A Wind in the Door’s cautions are broadly anti-libertarian.

Even though it is not explicitly linked to Christianity, the kenotic theme of A Wind in the Door is every bit as radical as – if not more so than – that of A Wrinkle in Time. In the penultimate confrontation with the Echthroi, Mr Jenkins is able to save Sporos and Calvin by sacrificing himself; in turn, Proginoskes sacrifices himself to save Mr Jenkins (along with Calvin, Meg and Charles Wallace). The Neoplatonic theme by which the evil Echthroi are literally presented as no thing (instead, they have to imitate actually-existing things), is continued here: because Proginoskes X-es himself – erases his own existence – in order to save Mr Jenkins, he mystically earns his own existence. One may imagine that his fate is similar to that Mrs Whatsit’s. She began as a star in A Wrinkle in Time, but sacrificed herself to defeat the Black Thing.

I will own to enjoying A Wind in the Door immensely, not least for the beauty of the language. Unlike Wrinkle, this truly is the first time I’ve read this book. And it is a far more challenging read than Wrinkle, in part because L’Engle is pushing the envelope of her voice; toward the end, Wind becomes almost a kind of prose poetry. Sometimes the actions and reactions of the characters as they are plunged into this surreal and sense-bending contest between good and evil, strike me as a bit unnaturally blasé, and even the Murrys’ unquestioning acceptance of Charles Wallace’s assertions that Meg is inhabiting one of his mitochondria seems a bit unreal. But these are minor quibbles. I have enjoyed immensely this ‘tesser’ back to the works of L’Engle, and look forward to reading more in this series.

26 April 2018

Pointless video post – ‘Hidden Dance’ by Gao Hong and Issam Rafea

Yesterday, for our sixth wedding anniversary, Jessie and I went out to the Cedar to hear two instrumental masters do improvised duets on two lutes. Dr Gao Hong 高虹 (who is from my wife’s hometown of Luoyang, Henan Province) is a world-renowned talent on the pipa 琵琶 (Chinese lute), a student of the late Shanghai lute master Lin Shicheng 林石城, who has been recognised both in China and the United States and who has participated in several cross-cultural and international music groups, and is currently on the faculty at Carleton College where she directs a Chinese music ensemble. Dr Issam Rafea عصام رافع is a likewise world-famous Kuwaiti-Syrian oud عود (Perso-Arabian lute) master, symphonic composer, chair of the department of Arabic music at the High Institute of Music in Damascus and conductor for the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic music.

These two apparently met some time back and decided to do some impromptu recording sessions, out of which came their joint album Life As Is earlier this year. This concert we went to was sublime. Two masters of similarly-descended (but wildly divergent, soundwise) instruments carrying on what I can only describe as a conversation in music, on various themes. Though Gao herself did much of the introductory speaking and Rafea was quite a bit more reserved, and even their musical styles reflected their differing personalities, the two of them clearly had a musical-spiritual chemistry that shone through. For someone like me with no instrumental talent to speak of (and paltry vocal talent in comparison to the rest of my family), it was really something astonishing to listen to.

21 April 2018

Wu wei as foreign policy

In these past couple weeks of bluster, danger and illegal missile strikes, the example of China has been one to study with care. China has never really been a nation which acts rashly, and the most recent diplomatic and foreign policy crisis has proven no exception to that rule. Xi Jinping’s cabinet has lodged the obligatory objection to our precipitous military action, of course. But they’ve also been calling for dialogue and attempting to diplomatically manoeuvre the situation away from a disastrous precipice. And that’s not all. China’s government and public policy apparatus have not been lazy or remiss. They have been quietly and unobtrusively studying the behaviour of its chief informal ally in the Middle East from a strategic standpoint.

Say what you like about the Chinese Communist Party, about its domestic governance, or about Xi Jinping’s recent consolidation of domestic political power into his own hands. But his actions on the international stage have been characterised by an admirable discretion, patience, restraint and subtle persistence. China’s recent behaviour serves as a small but apposite example of the traditional philosophical principle of wu wei 無為 as applied to international affairs.

Wu wei is a somewhat slippery philosophical concept, which is often translated into English with various permutations of ‘inaction’, ‘non-action’ or ‘passivity’. The temptation to render it as ‘laisser-faire’ is a common one (but nonetheless wrong) for those who want to coöpt the Daoist philosophical tradition as a proxy for political libertarianism. But the concept (which, by the way, is not specific to Daoism) isn’t necessarily an argument against government per se, though it is true Daoism has historically exercised a greater scepticism of government action than most other schools of contemporary political philosophy. Wu wei also has a dynamic quality, though; perhaps a better translation of the term would be something like ‘action without effort’. A decent explanation for the concept is given in this brief video, for which link (and for much of the idea that went into this post) thanks are especially due to Addison Hodges Hart:

Bringing this back to China’s policy on Syria: China’s policy isn’t exactly laisser-faire. What they are doing might look like ‘inaction’ or ‘passivity’ from the point-of-view of an American policy-maker beholden to military contractors and driven by an ill-thought impulse to ‘do something’ – that ‘something’ seeming inevitably to involve the deployment of ‘shock and awe’ and ‘smart bombs’ – in response to a crisis in foreign affairs. That impression would be mistaken.

China’s actions are far more interesting than that. They are deploying their ‘soft power’ tools – diplomacy, influence, scholarship. And they are exercising tact and patience in how and when they deploy these tools. More importantly, they don’t bluster and they don’t make impossible promises or empty threats. As a result, the government of Communist China is not entangled in webs of deception and intractable geopolitical struggles in the same way the American government currently is. They are free to position themselves and free to choose when, if or how to intervene. Most importantly: they can position themselves as an honest broker, a neutral and disinterested party and an effective mediator, in a way that we are now no longer able to.

The Chinese Classics, the zhuzi baijia 諸子百家, the operatic and literary traditions, and – last, but assuredly not least – the Daoist canon, all offer a vast wealth of strategic and practical wisdom. And regardless of what you may think of Xi Jinping – whether you believe him to be a true lover of the Classics (which is my inclination) or a cynical manipulator thereof – it cannot be denied that his education has left him with a distinct mastery of strategic questions. Neither he, nor the foreign policy apparatus of China as a whole, are to be underestimated, and perhaps we might be doing well to study China’s practical philosophical legacy, every bit as eagerly as Chinese students are imbibing Strauss and Schmitt.

17 April 2018

Why Syrian Christians loved Hâfiz

Hâfiz al-’Asad

A common response – sadly too common – to the recent statement by the Christian churches of Syria condemning the American attack on their country, was that the hierarchs of these churches were displaying their sycophantic opportunism and currying favour with the government. As one of my gentle readers commented a couple of days ago: ‘Disgusting statement by bishops who could not care a damn about the suffering’ of Syrians. With respect, this sort of response is sadly mistaken, historically-illiterate, and – in the context of our day and age, right now – remarkably dangerous.

In due time, I will follow up with a contemporary look at the attitude of Syria’s Christians toward the current president, Baššâr al-’Asad. For now, however, I will focus on his father. I am currently reading From the Holy Mountain, a work of remarkable travel literature rich with historical detail, written by the Scottish Catholic journalist William Dalrymple. It is worth reading for its own sake, of course, and at this point I’m only a third of the way through. It is Dalrymple’s attempt to follow the pilgrimage route of the seventh-century Byzantine monastic and spiritual ‘novelist’ Ioannes Moskhos, who travelled from Mount Athos into the Egyptian desert, keeping a record of his travels which was eventually published as the contemporarily-popular devotional ‘novel’ The Spiritual Meadow. (Guess what I’ll be reading next?)

In any event, in our own modern time, Dalrymple journeys from Greece through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel and ends up in Egypt – along the very route that Ioannēs Moskhos took, or at least something as close to it as he could manage. Like Moskhos, he describes the living environment – the villages, the cities, the countrysides and the ruins – that he passes through, as well as the sites of historical interest that would have dated back to Moskhos’s day. As he enters Syria, he visits the (now-kidnapped) Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo. In the office, Dalrymple recounts, ‘I was shown to a gilt armchair beneath a huge photograph of a beaming President ’Asad, and a fractionally smaller portrait of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.

Why such love for such a ‘repressive’ and ‘ruthless’ dictator? Unlike those of his host, Dalrymple’s sentiments toward the senior al-’Asad not positive. He hints darkly at the sinister reputation of the mukhâbarât (al-’Asad’s Cheka-style secret police) and asides on the corrupt policies of the Syrian government with a characteristically-understated British distaste. He also relates some amusing anecdotes and Soviet-style black humour he heard from his hosts about al-’Asad. But his host is voluble about the situation in Syria, and gives a different take, to say the least, situated in the local context.
We have always thought of ourselves as citizens, not refugees… Christians are better off in Syria than anywhere else in the Middle East. Other than Lebanon, this is the only country in the region where a Christian can really feel the equal of a Muslim – and Lebanon, of course, has many other problems. In Syria there is no enmity between Christian and Muslim. If Syria were not here, we would be finished. Really. It is a place of sanctuary, a haven for all the Christians: for the Nestorians and Chaldeans driven out of Iraq, the Syrian Orthodox and the Armenians driven out of Turkey, even some Palestinian Christians driven out of the Holy Land by the Israelis. Talk to people here: you will find that what I say is true.
What Dalrymple discovers is that the Christians of Syria really do think highly of Hâfiz al-’Asad and his government. The Armenians who fled genocide and repression in Turkey found a haven in Syria, and the Arabs who met them treated them with hospitality. Aleppo became, in the period between the First World War and the Syrian Revolt, a kind of ‘Noah’s Ark’ (in Dalrymple’s words) for the different Christian communities that were being massacred and displaced by the Turks – and of course, the Mandatory government saw these recent Christian arrivals as ready allies (which was, as Michael Provence’s book makes clear, not always the case).

The socialist Arab Ba’ath, a progressive, egalitarian and sæcular current within the broader stream of Arab nationalism, was heavily Christian in character from the beginning – just as Arab nationalism itself was. Michel ’Aflaq, an Antiochian Orthodox Christian, was among the first forerunners of Ba’athism. And the Ba’athist coup d’etat in 1970 was largely welcomed by Syria’s Christians. As Dalrymple puts it, ‘the period of uncertainty for Syria’s Christians came to an end’ with Hâfiz al-’Asad’s rise to power. The Alawites – the branch of Shi’ism to which al-’Asad belonged – had long had close and friendly ties to Syria’s Christians, to the point where Sunni Muslim fundamentalists disparage them as Nusayrîyyah (literally, ‘little Christians’). Hâfiz al-’Asad was no exception to this rule. Dalrymple again:
In ’Asad’s Syria Christians have always done well: at the moment, apparently, five of ’Asad’s closest advisers are Christians, including his principal speechwriter, as are two of the sixteen cabinet ministers. Christians and Alawites together hold all the key positions in the armed forces and the mukhâbarât… The Christians themselves estimated that they now formed slightly less than 20 per cent of Syria’s total population, and between 20 and 30 per cent of the population of Aleppo, giving that city one of the largest Christian populations anywhere in the Middle East.

The confidence of the Christians in Syria is something you can’t help noticing the minute you arrive in the country. This is particularly so if, like myself, you cross the border at Nisibis: Qâmishli, the town on the Syrian side of the frontier (and the place where Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim was brought up) is 75
per cent Christian, and icons of Christ and images of his mother fill almost every shop and decorate every other car window – an extraordinary display after the furtive secrecy of Christianity in Turkey. Moreover Turoyo, the modern Aramaic of the Tur ’Abdin, is the first language of Qâmishli. This makes it one of a handful of towns in the world where Jesus could expect to be understood if he came back tomorrow.
The fear of Christians in Syria was not of the government. Even in 1994, when Dalrymple was writing, the fear expressed to him by the Christians of Aleppo and elsewhere was related to the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. An Armenian man Dalrymple interviewed put it this way:
After ’Asad’s death or resignation no one knows what will happen. As long as the bottle is closed with a firm cork all is well. But eventually the cork will come out. And then no one knows what will happen to us.
As I said, I hope to bring this topic more ‘up to date’ in a later post. But in such historical circumstances as these, the continued pro-government stance of Syria’s Christians, from the progressive presidency of Hâfiz al-’Asad until the present time, hopefully makes some greater sense. The precariousness of Syria’s Christian populace has been felt, in the bloodiest and most painful possible way, in these six years of civil war, as the anti-government rebels – overwhelmingly made up of Sunni Muslim fundamentalists of the most debauched and violent sort – have committed heinous atrocities upon Christians, Shi’ites and Yezidis. It is unsurprising to say the least that they turn to the government and to the Syrian Arab Army – built upon the promise of a semi-sæcular modus vivendi – to defend them.

14 April 2018

Understand, all ye nations

A Statement Issued by the Patriarchates of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek-Melkite Catholic

Damascus, 14 April 2018

God is with us; Understand all ye nations and submit yourselves!

We, the Patriarchs: John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and Joseph Absi, Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, condemn and denounce the brutal aggression that took place this morning against our precious country Syria by the USA, France and the UK, under the allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. We raise our voices to affirm the following:
  1. This brutal aggression is a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter, because it is an unjustified assault on a sovereign country, member of the UN.
  2. It causes us great pain that this assault comes from powerful countries to which Syria did not cause any harm in any way.
  3. The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon, is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.
  4. The timing of this unjustified aggression against Syria, when the independent International Commission for Inquiry was about to start its work in Syria, undermines of the work of this commission.
  5. This brutal aggression destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications.
  6. This unjust aggression encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.
  7. We call upon the Security Council of the United Nations to play its natural role in bringing peace rather than contribute to escalation of wars.
  8. We call upon all churches in the countries that participated in the aggression, to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace.
  9. We salute the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army which courageously protects Syria and provide security for its people. We pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded. We are confident that the army will not bow before the external or internal terrorist aggressions; they will continue to fight courageously against terrorism until every inch of the Syrian land is cleansed from terrorism. We, likewise, commend the brave stand of countries which are friendly to the Syria and its people.
We offer our prayers for the safety, victory, and deliverance of Syria from all kinds of wars and terrorism. We also pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world, and call for strengthening the efforts of the national reconciliation for the sake of protecting the country and preserving the dignity of all Syrians.

10 April 2018

Prayers for protection

Blessed Father Herman of Alaska, wonderworking patron and father of the Church in North America, please intercede with God for us sinners, for the protection of your motherland and for the protection of the land you came to serve with such loving-kindness and devotion!

Holy Martyr James the Priest of Persia, sufferer of cold and hunger and indignity for the sake of Our Lord, take pity, and intercede with Him whose lordship you confessed over that of the earthly Šâpuhr, that He may protect your homeland and have mercy upon us sinners!

09 April 2018

No, Christian democracy can’t save America

A CiF op-ed has been going around of late, that has been promoting Christian democracy as a possible antidote to America’s political-cultural woes under Trumpism. Sadly, though I can’t help but admire the intentions of the authors, I fear that their thesis is deeply naïve. Our cultural problems are far too deeply-ingrained for a political import of debased specie like that of Western European Christian democracy to have any salutary effect.

The following may seem an odd topic to broach for Bright Week – and certainly the tone of what will follow will be drastically out of keeping with the otherworldly joy of the season. For that I can only offer my sincere and contrite apologies, which I do now: I am indeed sorry. But I was put in mind of this by the Gospel reading today: the ‘short ending’ of the Gospel of Mark, upon which Ched Myers placed such literary-political importance. The direction of the young man in the white robe to the myrrh-bearing women was to tell the disciples where Jesus was going: ‘before you into Galilee’. Back to the source, in other words: to the beginning of the Gospel. In short, the women were commanded to gather up all the disciples – who had fled, who had denied Christ, who had gone to their own homes in fear of the authorities – and tell them this strange and unearthly commandment ad fontes, which left them ‘alarmed’, ‘amazed’, ‘afraid’ and literally speechless.

Another thing: I am reminded, in an odd way, of the anonymous French editorialist writing for the newspaper La Liberté in 1932, who wagged famously that ‘Americans are the only race which passed directly from barbarism to decadence without knowing civilisation’. Though I would argue that the French of that era are probably the very last people fit to lecture others on the topics of barbarism, decadence or civilisation, when it comes to us Americans, this particular Frenchman might have a point.

Not coincidentally, France of that same interwar period was also the home to a number of thinkers and activists of disparate strands (Jacques Maritain, Emmanuel Mounier, Simone Weil, Gilbert Dru, Stephen Borne, and also a few of the philosophical Russian émigrés like Nikolai Berdyaev, Mother St Maria of Paris and her collaborator, the saintly revolutionary Il’ya Bunakov), whose ideas would gradually coalesce, after the Second World War, into the theory that would come to be called ‘Christian democracy’. To be sure, the ideas that would inform Christian democracy had been kicking around Europe since the French Revolution – but the impetus that would fashion an intellectual and social movement out of them came out of the high-pressure intellectual crucible of Western Europe between the wars, where communism and fascism fought tooth-and-nail for the soul of the West.

It is necessary to note that the movement for Christian democracy – based in France, but effective also in the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, West Germany – was a revolutionary movement. It did not only militate against communism and fascism. It was also anti-capitalist. It saw the same dehumanisation at work within private corporations, that it did within mass-movement political ideologies of the extreme left and right. It therefore rejected homo œconomicus. It favoured equal political and œconomic rights for men and women. (That’s another thing: it had none of the squeamishness the modern right has over the topic of ‘œconomic rights’!) It sought to refashion society along lines suggested by, in the words of Swiss Christian-democratic œconomist Wilhelm Röpke, the ‘natural solidarity of small groups’, first among which was the natural nuclear family.

There was, for one brief moment in the human, physical and intellectual wasteland of the Second World War (on which topic, gentle readers, please do yourselves a solid favour and refer to the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr), a brilliantly-flickering spark of the civilised. This movement fashioned by Mounier and Borne truly did hold out for a humane third option, for a very brief time. But the Christian democratic movement turned out to be better at contending with the dying ‘ideologies of the extremes’ than they were at resisting the golden straitjacket of American finance capital and the neoliberal ideology that came with it. Whatever the other (and considerable) benefits of the Marshall Plan were, one side effect was the strengthening of links between European states and transatlantic multinational corporations. Political formations in the affected nations could either bankroll themselves with the funds of these ‘rebuilt’ (but heavily-dependent) industries, or they could find themselves relegated to oblivion.

Long story short: the Christian democracy of Western Europe lost its soul this way. They adapted themselves to postwar political landscape, both by becoming less politically radical and less insistent on the integrity of the family. Both transformations were meant to render them harmless and tame in the eyes of a transatlantic capitalist structure that had been wizarded back into being by American ‘aid’. Instead of being a righteous protest against the dehumanisation of mass politics, the Christian democratic movements morphed into mass parties of the centre-right themselves. I’ve used this quote from ‘third way’ theorist and author Allan Carlson on this topic before, but I will use it again here:
As early as the 1950s, Christian democracy as a vital worldview entered another period of crisis. The youthful excitement, energy and sense of positive Christian revolution evident in the 1940s dissipated… In Italy and West Germany, Christian democratic parties consolidated their hold on power at the price of their vision. By the early 1960s, they were increasingly pragmatic and bureaucratic, self-satisfied defenders of the status quo. Ambitious office-seekers, rather than Christian idealists, came to dominate the parties. Movements for ‘moral and spiritual renewal’ became simply mass parties of the right-of-centre. When a new ‘crisis of values’ hit Europe with particular force in the 1960s, the Christian democrats were unprepared to respond. They appeared by then to be old and discredited guardians of a new kind of materialism, the very opposite of what the movement’s visionaries had intended.
How else, indeed, are we to explain the sadism (there is truly no other word for it) with which the Christian democrats of Western Europe have treated the indebted, and increasingly unemployed, drug-addicted and suicidal, Greeks? How else are we to explain their idiotic insistence on austerity policies that beggar the poor and struggling in their own backyards? How else to explain their general indifference to the dissolution of the family in European countries, particularly those most deeply afflicted by debt and unemployment? How else to explain their craven, supine capitulation to a war agenda that has destroyed – in succession – Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Yemen and Syria, and condemned some of the world’s poorest people to slavery, starvation and cholera?

Consider every single one of the principles that Invernizzi-Accetti and Steinmetz-Jenkins cite in their op-ed – the principles of Mounier and Borne: anti-capitalism; radical insistence on the family; solidarity with ‘less fortunate’ peoples and countries. Consider how deeply and how thoroughly the European centre-right parties bearing the banner of ‘Christian democracy’, and the self-interested politicos and bureaucrats who run them, have betrayed each and every one of those principles! Make no mistake: far-right ‘populist’ parties like Lega Nord, Front National and Alternative für Deutschland are every bit as horrible as advertised, and old-school European conservatives should be the first ones to say so. But it’s difficult to escape the conclusion, once one accounts for the contempt and instrumental manoeuvres with which the ‘Christian democrats’ in their respective countries have treated the poor and oppressed these past five decades, that they amount to a divine judgement upon Europe’s ‘good Christians’.

Back to that old saw from La Liberté I mentioned earlier, though. Allan Carlson himself said that ‘there has never been a serious Christian democratic party in America’, and, sad to say, he’s still right. I was a supporter, for a brief time, of the only party in the United States to attempt to lay hold of the Christian democratic mantle. I resigned both my state post and my membership in December of last year. The inter-party divisions that tore through the party last year resulted in a number of resignations from the socially-conservative ‘right’, but I may hold the dubious distinction of being one of the few people who has left the party because it was leaning too far to the right on œconomics. Why is this? Long story short: I watched, in real time, as the very same mutation that destroyed the soul of the European ‘Christian democrats’ took hold of the party leadership here, with similar effects… but without the excuse that significant material or electoral gains were at stake.

The divisions within the party, tellingly, are a microcosm of the divisions now regnant within American society as a whole. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but here are the broad strokes. Each ‘faction’ can lay claim to some of the vision of Mounier and Borne, Weil and Berdyaev, but clearly not all of it. The party leadership, which is overwhelmingly based in the Acela corridor, is noticeably more ‘liberal’ on cultural and pelvic issues (inclusive of homosexuals and transgender; eager to claim continuity with the civil rights movement; mistrustful of countercultural or ‘crunchy’ tendencies), while also being sneeringly dismissive of anything stronger than a casual critique of capitalism. On the other hand, the functionaries of the state parties in middle America tend, on the whole, to be less liberal on the pelvic issues, and more open to ‘populist’ critiques of American capitalism (but also more nationalistic in a Jacksonian sense). Regardless of which side carries the day, the result will be a shadow movement to one of the major parties.

And here it should become plain why the ‘Christian democracy’ of Invernizzi-Accetti and Steinmetz-Jenkins can’t really help us, any more than the insipid psychobabble of Žižek can. The ease with which Invernizzi-Accetti and Steinmetz-Jenkins can, with such a stunning lack of historical irony or self-awareness, indict the ‘Faustian pact’ that Christians have made with sæcular authoritarianism in America while overlooking entirely the similarly Faustian bargain ‘Christian democracy’ made with transatlantic capitalism in postwar Europe, shows that they don’t even know who they are. (How dare you presume to help us? You can’t even help yourselves.) The conditions within which Christianity and democracy could be taken seriously in Europe – when the atrocities of fascism and total war had stunned us all into a state of self-awareness at the horrors we had wrought, rendered intelligible the ‘death of God’ and opened a window for a social call to repentance – didn’t obtain for very long. And here, well – did our transition between barbarism and decadence ever last long enough for those conditions to have obtained at all?

Having posed the problem as starkly as I have, though, I think it only fair to point out that many of the early advocates, particularly the Russian-French ones, of ideas that went into the Christian-democratic project diverged onto their own paths. They weren’t necessarily wrong in doing so. Through their dramatic spiritual transformations and their shared martyrific witness against fascism, Mother Maria and Saint Ilya never truly forsook their (pardon the expression) agrarian socialist roots. Berdyaev, for all his Solovyov-influenced doubts, shows through his later works that he was an anarchist to the end.

Confronted with the empty tomb, with the fearsome rupture of reality that the Resurrection had wrought, once we are shown the empty tomb and the defeat of death we are then tasked with going back to Galilee: as Myers would have it, back to the beginning of the Gospel. It should be obvious by now that I’m no myrrh-bearer. I’m not a good democrat. I’m not a good socialist. I’m not even a good Christian, Orthodox or otherwise. I’m also not interested in condemning the people of good will who are, understandably, drawn to the ideals of Mounier and Borne, of Christian democracy. But I will continue to insist as I have done, that for Christianity or democracy to be taken seriously, a more radical leaven (or perhaps a more reactionary one), one for which the Resurrection remains reality, is needed. I would not be surprised, were that to be a leaven which no single coherent ideological label can adequately describe.

08 April 2018

Хрістос воскрес!

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have laboured long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first; He gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one He gives, and upon the other He bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honours the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honour the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages! Amen.
- The Paschal Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

07 April 2018

The Great Syrian Revolt

As so often happens with such monographs, The Great Syrian Revolt by Michael Provence edified me in a number of ways. It confirmed a couple of things I had already suspected; it taught me a great many more things I simply did not know; and, showing me where my knowledge of the subject was lacking, it expanded my reading list considerably. For example, Philip Khoury’s book (cited often here) on Syria and the French Mandate is now on my shelf.

A convincing overview and analysis of the primary source documentation and ‘official history’ of the Syrian Revolt, Provence’s work not only sets out to provide a different angle on the revolt which doesn’t reduce it to class, tribal or sectarian dimensions; but in the process it also demonstrates a certain set of patterns of orientation and behaviour that are helpful in understanding the modern war in Syria going on as we speak. It tackles the Syrian revolt from the point-of-view of those most directly affected by it and those who most directly participated in it. Provence argues effectively not only that the revolt was more than just a ‘feudal’ Druze uprising. He also demonstrates that it served as a crucible for a flexible and expansive definition of the Arab nation, in which localist and religious concerns played key rôles, and which would come to colour the various liberation movements which arose in its wake.

Provence uses the official French propaganda surrounding the revolt as a kind of literary foil for his study. As I noted briefly in my prior polemical piece touching on this book, the mandatory government’s ideology positioned it as the protector, patron and enlightener of an unchanging, hopelessly-primitive ‘oriental’ society. France saw herself – and her mandatory administrators did also, of both political left and right – as bringing technology, infrastructure, liberal rule of law, civilisation tout court, to the backward tribal Arabs, mired as they were in ‘feudalism’, tribalism and barbarism. In short, France’s view of her mandatory mission was precisely the sort of orientalism described and criticised by Dr Edward Sa‘îd. Provence, rejecting this view as simplistic and outdated, instead shows that the Syrian Revolt was motivated by genuine attempts at building an alternative multi-ethnic, multi-religious and sæcular order in place of the French mandate. Far from being an exclusively ‘feudal’ or rural revolt, its œconomic basis lay in routes of trade that linked the peasantry and smallholders of Hawrân to the independent grain dealers of Damascus.

Although Provence places himself in diametric opposition to the French self-image and perspective on the conflict, he is far too shrewd a scholar to omit where the French had judged the situation rightly. The colonial French were masters of manipulating tribal conflicts, and thus not only had a keen understanding of the religious and ethnic differences that divided Mandatory Syria, but were experts at exploiting them. The French carefully cultivated client-patron relationships with Uniate churches in Mandatory Syria and the Lebanon – to wit, the Maronites and the Melkites. They dexterously isolated troublesome Druze and Alawites with religious propaganda aimed at the Sunni majority. And they fanned ethnic tensions – in particular, by using North African and Armenian mercenaries to commit the worst acts of ethnic cleansing and plunder.

Provence does not deny that these tactics were effective. After all, it was no ideological slogan that the city-dwellers shouted as they rose up against the French, but rather: ‘The Druze are coming!’ Religious and ethnic differences did matter. Orthodox Christian families and even monasteries tended to support the revolt; Uniate Catholics tended to support the French government. But the French had somewhat misread the milieu. Countervailing against the tribalist tendencies they assumed obtained within Mandatory Syria, were not only the œconomic linkages between small Damascus merchants and the peasantry of southern Syria which Provence takes pains to illustrate, but also the old Ottoman institution of the state-funded military academy, which Mandatory Syria under French rule left largely intact. The military academy served two major purposes: it was the instrument of social advancement for boys of poor peasant families, and it exposed these boys to both practical knowledge and a broader awareness of nationalism.

Thus, there were in rural areas a number of well-educated, erudite and effective military commanders of humble peasant origins, who took command of the revolt and stuck it good to the French for two whole years despite their colonial opponents’ overwhelming military superiority and total lack of humanitarian scruple. Sultân al-Atrash, the Druze leader of the revolt and the chief protagonist of this study, was one of these. Hâfiz al-’Asad, too, would later rise to prominence through the military from similar poor peasant stock. As one might expect, the guiding principles of the Revolt were quite vague from the start. Were they guided by Muslim pieties, or by French Revolutionary principles about the equality and dignity of man? Was the ‘homeland’ they sought to defend, merely the village? Was it Mandatory Syria as a whole? Was the Lebanon included? What about Iraq and Palestine? Provence notes, with perhaps a trace of mischievous enjoyment, that the governing ideas of the Syrian Revolt were kept deliberately vague, pragmatic and adaptable to the exigencies and needs of the moment. This reader might fancifully imagine in this broad take a certain echo of the Byzantine order of a previous age, even though the natural reference is instead to the Ottoman.

Though there were some exceptions, the urban élites of Damascus – the well-connected landlords from Ottoman days, big businessmen and politicians – did not join the revolt, and indeed sought a negotiated settlement with the French government fairly early on. In the rare cases where they did join the revolt, indeed, they tended to do so with an eye to their own political and material advantage. In their setbacks and failures, the rural and petit-bourgeois leadership of the Syrian Revolt did not forget the compromises and betrayals of the élite class.

Another point of interest for students of postcolonial theory, is that for this ragtag, motley assortment of rural peasants, state academy officer-graduates, craftsmen and grain merchants, localism and local networks of contact took on a paramount importance – both tactically and in terms of the ‘national idea’, which was deliberately kept vague. It’s often implied that the only way to stay one step ahead of French propaganda – which was aimed, as often as not, at keeping Damascus quiet while the modern, civilised French systematically shelled, bombed, butchered and torched entire villages – was to rely on word-of-mouth from trusted sources, and clandestine village or neighbourhood meetings. Local affinities and loyalties were also one of the key appeals used to bring various families and village leaders into the revolt. Many working-class Arabs in rural areas still did not respond well to highfalutin nationalist ‘theories’, but they could sympathise readily with the more immediate and concrete demands of hospitality, brotherhood, honour and revenge. On such firm foundations the unique, flexible and rich understanding of Arab nationalism could readily take root.

As a result of this highly-localised, highly-personalised character, the revolt was sometimes tinged with banditry. At best, this banditry took on a Robin Hood aspect – it was patriotic and aimed at taking from the wealthy to liberate the poor. At worst, it was simple selfish robbery and feuding. The two tended not to be easily distinguished, either at the time or even with the benefit of hindsight; Provence offers what primary-source data exists, but it can be interpreted in multiple ways. Al-Atrash was forced, in several instances, to rein in his fellow commanders, institute discipline among the rebels, make restitution to ‘inconvenienced’ villages and make assurances that repeat incidents would not occur.

Provence’s book is fantastic at highlighting all of these different aspects, but could probably have done with a bit more commonsensical organisation. He groups events and sources thematically rather than chronologically, and thus it can be hard to tell who did what, to whom, when. On the other hand, this book sheds a certain degree of light of understanding on why and how the current civil strife in Syria has taken the shape and character that it has. The escalation of sectarian tensions by foreign powers, the horrific total war tactics, the back-and-forth bombing and shelling, the use of poison gas, the ‘humanitarian’ propaganda from a Western power aimed to mislead a Western audience, the importation of foreign mercenaries to commit the worst atrocities – these were all presaged in the original Syrian Revolt. For this reason, the book becomes more important as a resource for the serious student of Middle East history and current events.

06 April 2018

Great and Holy Friday (of the Tyre)

This past Friday was Land Day in Palestine.

The original protest commemorated by Land Day took place during the Nakbah (a term coined by Dr Qustantîn Zurayq), the period from late 1947 to 1949 when 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were forced out of their homes by the nascent Israeli state. On 30 March 1948, six Palestinians were shot to death protesting the mass expropriation of land in Galilee to make way for Jewish settlements. Last week, Palestinians in Gaza used this date to protest for the right of return.

The protest in Gaza commemorating the 70th anniversary of the 1948 protest in Galilee, turned out to be even bloodier than the original: 17 Palestinians who protested along the border in Gaza were shot to death by the Israeli military, including snipers using live ammunition; nearly 800 more were injured. Most of those who were killed and injured were teenagers and young men. All but two of those who were killed were unarmed. This was, as several news outlets have noted, the most casualties Gaza has suffered in a single day since the 2014 Gaza war.

Though governments around the world have condemned the disproportionate and unjust violence against the protesters, typically, the American government has blocked an attempt to organise an inquiry through the UN Security council.

There is another protest today against the Israeli government: ‘the Day of the Tyre’, and the Israeli government is planning, again, to use disproportionate and unjust force against peaceful and largely-unarmed protesters. Indeed, there are already casualties. Please remember that this is a protest in just cause: the historical and moral force behind the Palestinian plea for the right of return is considerable.

For the Orthodox Christians of Palestine – making up half or more of the Christian population of Palestine – today will be Good Friday, just as the Land Day protests were Good Friday for the Catholic and Protestant Christians among the Palestinians. This is not insignificant. Like today’s Palestinians, the Judæans of the first century were an occupied people. They thirsted for liberation – a different liberation than Christ offered, but Christ showed His solidarity with them, all the same, with His mortal life. Christ Himself was crucified today, between two such men – thieves, or bandits, who were prepared to use violence against the Roman government. Notwithstanding those who have kinship with Him, today Christ would be standing alongside the same people, standing on the same land, victims of an imperial violence which looks frighteningly similar, and which is eager to wash its own hands of the blood.

The cosmic terms in which Christ’s death and resurrection obtain for us, and upon which the Church rightfully and joyfully insists, should not blind us to the historical reality within which that death and resurrection occurred, or the meaning of that historical reality as it continues to play out before our very eyes. This Great and Holy Friday, let us stand both in sorrowful contemplation of Our Lord’s passion, and in solidarity with those who continue to experience it, forsaken by the world. And let us not forget the hope for the resurrection which is to come.

01 April 2018

Venerable Father Prokop of Sázava

Venerable Prokop of Sázava

Commemorated both today the 1st of April, which happens this year also to be the Feast of the Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem, and on the 16th of September with the other saints of Carpathian Ruthenia, another great saint of the Czech and Slovak lands, is the holy hermit and abbot Prokop of Sázava.

Prokop was born to a Christian family in Bohemia, in the village of Chotouň near the ancient town of Kouřim, some seventeen years before the baptism of the Rus’. He and his family belonged to the mission founded by the great apostles to the Slavic peoples and our fathers among the saints, Cyril and Methodius, who had evangelised the peoples of what are now Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia one century before.

His parents gave him a solid education, and prepared him for the priesthood. He was ordained at the age of 33, married and had a son named Jimram. Prokop soon found himself called to a more demanding religious path, however, and by mutual consent separated from his wife and went into Hungary to become a monk. He laboured meekly and obediently for another 25 years, and the abbot, noticing his devotion, allowed him to return to the Czech lands to pursue the eremitical life. He lived in holy solitude in a small hermitage along the Sázava River, near Prague; while there he cleared the forests and cultivated the land by himself. The local people admired his industry – according to legend, they saw him yoke the devil to a plough and make him plough a long furrow along the riverbank. He attracted several followers this way.

It happened at one time, the Kníže Oldřich was out hunting with his retinue and passed by Prokop’s hermitage. The hermit engaged the ruler in conversation for a long time. Saint Prokop’s evident sincerity and meekness impressed the ruler deeply, who gave him the funds needed for himself and his followers to begin constructing a Benedictine monastery on the Sázava which held Divine Liturgies in Slavonic, according to the Orthodox Rite, until 1097 when Slavonic Liturgies were banned by papal order. This monastery was completed during the reign of Oldřich’s illegitimate son, the ‘Bohemian Achilles’ Kníže Břetislav, and produced a number of beautiful works in Church Slavonic – including, purportedly, the Reims Codex. Saint Prokop was also responsible for working many cures and miracles during his time as abbot.

The Venerable Prokop reposed in peace in the monastery he founded in the year 1053, and is venerated as a saint in both the Latin and the Orthodox Churches (having a cœnobitic spirituality that is both Basilian and Benedictine), and is deservedly considered one of the patron saints of the Czech people. Holy Father Prokop, who in life bowed before no earthly Kníže but only the One, the heir of David, who on this great day entered into Jerusalem – we beg you to spare us a branch from your plentiful gardens and intercede with Him, Christ our God and true King, to save our souls!
Enlightened by God’s grace to heavenly wisdom,
Having withdrawn your mind from earthly vanity,
You were giving it adamantly through your heart to the Giver of Life.
Undefiled life of tolerance and purity have you lived
And passed away preserving the virtuous faith.
After death let us see the light of your life,
As you are imparting wonders from the Source inexhaustible
Upon the believers who come to your sacred grave!
O, All-Blessed Procopius, pray Christ our God that He may save our souls!
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion,
You did confirm the universal Resurrection, O Christ God!
Like the children with the palms of victory,
We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death;
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!