St Basil the Great

December 28, 2010

On January 1st, we commemorate St. Basil the Great, who died on January 1, 379 AD:

[vimeo  http://vimeo.com/15581790%5D

God is with Us!

December 25, 2010

From the Great Compline of Nativity:

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

…Give ear, all ye lands far off,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

Ye mighty ones, be humbled;
Even if your strength returns,
Ye shall again be defeated,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

Whatever conspiracy ye shall weave,
The Lord shall destroy it;
Whatever word ye shall speak,
It shall not stand even among ye,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

We shall not hear your threat,
Nor shall we be disturbed,
We sanctify the name of our God
And we fear Him,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

If I confide in Him,
He shall be my sanctification;
I shall confide in Him,
And I shall be saved by Him,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

Behold, I will come with the children
The Lord has given me,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

O nation which is walking in darkness,
Expect to see a great light,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

Upon us who dwell
In the land of the shadow of death,
A great light shall dawn,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

Indeed, unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

And the government shall sit upon his shoulder
And his peace shall have no end,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

And his name shall be called
Wondrous Counselor, Mighty God
Master, Prince of Peace,
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us.

Father of the world to come,
For God is with us!

Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit,
Now and ever,
And unto Ages of Ages, Amen.
For God is with us!

God is with us, give heed, all ye nations.
Be humbled, for God is with us!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!


Bethlehem Today: From Market to Manger

December 24, 2010

Filmed just two weeks ago, an 11-minute continuous clip that starts downtown in Bethlehem‘s outdoor market and then goes down ancient narrow alleys all the way to Manger Square and into the Church of the Nativity, into the grotto, or cave, where Jesus Christ was believed to have been born.

[vimeo  http://vimeo.com/17626971%5D

Vespers of the Nativity of Christ

December 23, 2010

All creation beholds the descent of God and rejoices. The Magi bring gifts; heaven speaks by means of a star; and the angels give glory, while the shepherds sing with awe. The manger supports Him as though it were a fiery throne. Rejoice, O Mother who sees all these wonders.

You are the Light unto the revelation of the Gentiles. O my eternal Son, O ineffable Begotten One of the Unbegotten Father. You have come in the appearance of my likeness. You come in order to enrich mankind which is afflicted with the poverty that You took upon yourself. We praise your compassion, O Lord.

O Mother, you see me resting in your arms. Be happy, for I have come to take away the anguish of Adam which resulted from the wicked plotting of the serpent who tempted him. He was outside the joys of Paradise because he fell prey to corruption.

O Bethlehem, adorn yourself! Sing, O city of Zion! Rejoice, O wilderness! Be filled with joy because the star goes ahead into Bethlehem, announcing Christ who desires to be born. The cave receives Him who nothing can contain. The manger prepares to receive the eternal Life. Therefore, let us all sing and cry out: Christ God, You are now born for our sakes; have mercy on us and save our souls.

 


The Nativity of Christ Around the World

December 23, 2010

A Serbian Orthodox parish in Italy:

Nativity Vespers in Seoul, Korea:

From Pennsylvania, USA:

From Aleutian Orthodox Eskimos in Alaska: An historical silent film portraying their custom (originally from Ukraine) of “starring” — representing the journey of the 3 Wise Men:

Additional Christmas Nativity music can be listened to here.


The Bethel “Generation of 1914”

December 21, 2010

The headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses, with several factories and residence buildings known as "Bethel," has been in Brooklyn Heights since 1909

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, their Bethel headquarters in New York is the place from which their work is governed and directed. Pastor Charles Taze Russell, the first president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, moved their headquarters to Brooklyn from Allegheny, Pennsylvania in 1909. Except for a short stint during World War I, Brooklyn remained the nerve center of the Witness Organization until much of its operations were transferred upstate to near Wallkill and Patterson, New York in the last decade. The Witnesses still maintain a high profile visibility in Brooklyn Heights but it appears they will continue to transfer the rest of their operations upstate in the near future and may soon put their buildings in Brooklyn up for sale.

I blogged a few months ago how Witness leaders were trying to salvage their teaching that Christ had returned invisibly in the year 1914 and inaugurated the last generation before Armageddon by re-interpreting how long that generation will be. In short, at last summer’s assemblies Witnesses were told that this generation actually was two generations that overlap each other — thus extending the deadline for Armageddon many more years. (A video explaining how this new interpretation was explained to the rank and file membership can be watched here or listened to here.)

This “generation of 1914” teaching has fueled great zeal among Jehovah’s Witnesses for many years and many watchers of the movement feel its demise would be catastrophic to the membership. This is perhaps one reason Watchtower leaders are still trying to retain the “generation of 1914” teaching, even if it’s now interpreted as two generations that somehow overlap into one long “generation” over 100 years long.

The first indications of a crisis of faith over this “generation of 1914” teaching began to appear in the late 1970s. Part of this was precipitated after the failure of predictions for the year 1975 that had been referenced in Watchtower publications. Some Witnesses started questioning the chronology Watchtower leaders had developed for the 1914 date for Christ’s return. One Swedish Witness submitted a study to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses suggesting that a reevaluation was in order. (The correspondence between this Swedish Witness and Watchtower headquarters can be downloaded here.) Former Governing Body member Raymond Franz revealed in his memoir Crisis of Conscience how a secret meeting of this ruling council discussed a proposal by 3 of its members to change the beginning of the “generation” from 1914 to 1957, an idea that was voted down. (The memorandum for the 1957 proposal can be seen about 2/3 of the way down this webpage.)

The significance of 1914 in Jehovah’s Witness’ belief came under more scrutiny as it was challenged after a schism began in 1980 which involved some Witnesses at Bethel headquarters. Eventually, the Swedish Witness who had submitted the study calling for a reevaluation of the 1914 chronology was expelled from membership, but his study was later published under the title The Gentile Times Reconsidered. In turn, Watchtower publications began to heavily emphasize 1914 and anyone who questioned the chronology or 1914’s significance could similarly face disfellowshipping or expulsion from membership and experience shunning from family and friends still within the religion.

As an example, the May 15, 1984 Watchtower magazine pictured several older Bethelites from Brooklyn headquarters as tangible evidence that there were still faithful elderly Witnesses of this “1914 generation” who would not pass away before the End:

Older members at Bethel, the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses, pictured in 1984 who were tangible proof that the generation of 1914 would not pass away before Armageddon. Now, nearly 27 years later, they are likely all deceased

When I first saw this magazine cover back in 1984 I recognized many of these people from when I worked at Bethel headquarters in the mid-seventies. Looking back at it now many years later I have struggled with the names and with some help from other former Bethelites we were able to identify many of these Bethelites pictured in this 1984 Watchtower. All names are identified but there are two names that we only have the last names of (a chiropractic doctor and his wife who were temporary workers at Brooklyn Bethel) and I welcome readers who may recognize them to help me get their full names for this listing. UPDATE 4/26/11: All names have now been identified — thanks for those readers who helped in the identification.

These are the Bethelites who were asked to pose for this 1984 Watchtower cover in support of the belief that those alive in 1914 would not pass away before Armageddon. No criticism of these individuals is meant. It's the false teaching of the Watchtower leaders that is being criticized.

Now, nearly 27 years later, they have all passed away, along with the rest of the 1914 generation.

To use another example:

Here is a picture of the Witnesses’ Governing Body taken in 1975 at Brooklyn Bethel:

Picture of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses (1975), used courtesy of http://www.freeminds.org

Many long-time Witnesses will remember these former leaders. These members of the Governing Body from 1975 were:

upper row, left to right: Daniel Sydlik (deceased April 19, 2006), Theodore Jaracz (deceased June 2010), Raymond Franz (resigned in 1980, deceased in 2010), Lyman Swingle (deceased), Lloyd Barry (died in 1999), Milton Henschel (deceased 5th president, top), William Jackson (deceased, bottom) Karl Klein (died Jan 2001), Grant Suiter (deceased), Albert Schroeder (deceased March 9, 2006), Leo Greenlees (forced to resign, now deceased)
bottom row: Ewart Chitty (forced to resign, now deceased), Frederick Franz (deceased, 4th president), Nathan Knorr (deceased, 3rd president), George Gangas (deceased), John Booth (deceased), Charles Fekel (deceased).

The Governing Body “Generation of 1914” have all passed away. (Some of the above pictured Governing Body members were born after 1914, however.)

Not shown in this picture are Governing Body members appointed since 1975. Three of these newer members have also passed away. They are: John Barr (deceased), Carey Barber (deceased), Martin Poetzinger (deceased). (Poetzinger was also pictured on the 1984 Watchtower cover above.)

The current Governing Body members have all been appointed since 1994. The current members are: Gerrit Losch, Samuel Herd, Geoffrey Jackson, Steven Lett, Anthony Morris, Guy Pierce, and David Splane.

Recently, a video that was shown to new Bethelites (made in the mid-eighties) was posted onto You Tube. I include it here as it includes commentary from older Bethelites and older Governing Body members who have now all passed away:

Still, Witness leaders still cling to the 1914 teaching and explain the “generation of 1914” as still in effect, reaching back with an overlap to those older Bethelites, who have all passed away.

It’s not surprising that Witness leaders are forced to try to prop up their 1914 generation teaching, even if it strains credulity. As Wikipedia points out, there are only 3 surviving veterans from World War I (fought from 1914-1918). The power of the Witness’ leadership is tied to receiving a “divine appointment” soon after the supposed invisible return of Christ in 1914. So, to change the 1914 teaching could undermine their spiritual authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses. This “overlapping” of generations to make up the “generation of 1914” before Armageddon has bought them more time.

For further reading:

Watchtower Leaders Trying to Salvage 1914 Teaching

“This Generation” Teaching Changes for 6th Time in April 15, 2010 Watchtower

1914: The Touchstone of the Watchtower (study that demonstrates the falsity of the Watchtower Society’s 1914 chronology)

1914 and “This Generation” by Raymond Franz

When Prophecy Fails — The 1975 Fiasco Viewed From Inside Bethel

What’s Wrong With the Witnesses


Explanation of the Icon of the Nativity of Christ

December 20, 2010

A video explanation from Dismas: