Sunday, May 18, 2008


In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger…

I’m at the end now. Dust and ashes everywhere I turn; life reduced to mere movement persisted in for its own sake, because without it there is nothing distinguishable from death. It’s time to be gone from here. Why can’t I go? Why isn’t it enough?

Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain…

- You’ve thought very long and hard about it…

Well, yes – you’ve seen it all.

And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again…

- I’ve seen a lot of strutting and fretting. I’ve seen a distracted, inattentive father and a difficult husband; a negligent worker, an introverted and inconstant friend…

Yes. I’m sorry.

- Others have paid for your high-minded conclusions.

I know. And the conclusions – they’re still not enough.

- Quite so.

Empty shuttles weave the wind

I’m sorry for the cost.

- I see that you are; but as for these “conclusions” themselves - they concern ideas and attitudes you once made your own. Do your conclusions touch your heart, or only your head? To take a man out of TradWorld is easy, but useless if TradWorld remains in the man…

I see. Metanoia.

- Yes. You know the word. You know lots of words.


It’s still not enough, is it Father?

- No.

Because I do not hope to turn
What more must I do?

- You must die. Go down to the place of blind, unarticulating silence. Lie there in the hands you cannot see or feel, of one whose voice you can no longer hear.

I am already dead.

These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
- Yes – and for some time now. Enough. Nunc hiems transiit.


Christ has risen from the dead,
By death He has trampled on death
And to those in the graves
Given life.

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter…

Quotations: TS Eliot - Gerontion, The Waste Land, Ash Wednesday, Marina


Anonymous said...

Welcome back stranger!

Please don't break like this again, it was rather depressing....



ps How is the whole bus thing working out? What were you doing for the last 7 months?

Moretben said...

Many thanks Matt. The post above offers a clue (to say the very least) to my long silence. I am uncertain whether to continue with The Undercroft or to let it stand as it is, as a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Simply "rebranding" it as an Orthodox blog and going on as before seems a little glib. It would also require an Orthodox blogger willing and able to post with reasonable regularity. I suspect however, that I've said everything necessary to bring me to my destination, and that it would suit me better now to do a whole lot more listening than talking.

The bus thing petered out, very oddly. I was accepted by the local company after a formal interview and written test, but then heard nothing. I've since discovered that the company is in deep trouble, so perhaps that's the explanation. It quickly became irrelevant, because a job was suddenly offered to me by a local yachting supplies company. It's just warehousing (a lot of heavy lifting!) but it's healthy, peaceful and not too badly paid. God is good.

Thanks again for your kind wishes and warm comments.

Ad Orientem said...

Congratulations on your Chrismation. Best wishes to you and yours.

Christ is risen!

FrGregACCA said...

Well, my friend, whether as Roman Catholic or Byzantine Orthodox, you definitely have something to say. Therefore, if you choose to end this blog, please start another one.

matt said...

I would like to second the thoughts of Fr Greg.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to learn that you have decided to leave the Catholic Church.
I recall that you once told me that Peter as the Rock was what would keep you with us.

What happened?


Moretben said...

Father Greg and Matt

Thanks again for your kind words.


What happened? Short of reposting the whole of this blog (if that's what it was) into the combox? :0))

Seriously - right at the beginning of The Undercroft there's a post in which I confess that the only thing keeping me from swimming the Bosphorus (over which I'd been gazing intermittently for most of my adult life) was the "immovable obstacle" of Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram. The idea is repeated more forcefully here, in a post that, in retrospect, exposes the extent of my disaffection (the replies in the combox, too):

Of course the present post (the one above) makes clear that there were in truth other obstacles too; that losing one's faith in the Papacy is not the same thing as becoming Orthodox. Nevertheless, this blog is essentially the record of someone struggling and ultimately failing to reconcile the claims of the Roman Church, as they relate to the office of her bishop in particular, with the present circumstances and historic course of that extraordinary institution over the past thousand years, and especially in the last fifty. A significant element in the struggle was a serious, heart-thinking engagement, beyond sentimental notions and proclivities, with the "pristine witness" of the East, and it’s that which led in turn to something I did not expect, because I had not fully understood that merely “losing” the Papacy does not make a Trad Catholic an Orthodox Christian.

To answer you succinctly, I have come inescapably to the conclusion that of the two views (broadly) of the Roman Papacy persisting from the first millennium, one is substantially correct and the other – the one that leads inexorably to the Roman Magisterium waging a pitiless forty-year campaign of extermination against the objective Catholic patrimony and most profound sensibilities of its own faithful – is not. Peter is not Peter, when he has stepped away from the Faith of Peter, and turned his back on his brethren. Papal Supremacy fails to deliver most of all the very things of which it claims to be the unique guarantee – the very things vitally alive in Orthodoxy, the “lost” Papal Primacy notwithstanding: empirically, if what you seek are the Marks of the Church in other than a sentimental or legalistic sense, it appears you’re better off without the Pope than with a false and distorted understanding of his office. How could it be otherwise? Having permitted myself to admit the self-evident, ‘rebalancing” brought a renewed recognition and understanding of fundamental ecclesiology. I recognised, for example, that the characteristic Orthodox love of the bishop, far from being a picturesque ethnic peculiarity, is in fact a lively sign of the basic constitutive element of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, as received from the Lord.

Moretben said...


Alethos aneste!

Very many thanks.

Anonymous said...

New Irish Latin Mass Blog

A new blog for an ancient Liturgy. The first few posts are self-explanatory. St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association has been working for the provision of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin since 1995. We’d be very glad if you could (a) post about the new blog and (b) link to it.

In particular, we’d be glad if you could bring to the attention of your readers the news that there will be a Walking Pilgrimage for Vocations on Saturday, 12th July, 2008, commencing at 11 a.m. in St. Brigid’s Church, Milltown, County Kildare, Ireland, with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Missal of Blessed John XXIII) for which the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin has granted, under the usual conditions, the Plenary Indulgence for the Pauline Holy Year.

God bless you!

St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

Hello, moretben

What jurisdiction of Orthodoxy did you enter?

Your comments on the papacy have been most interesting. I suggest you find the time to synthesize them.

Moretben said...

Dear Carlos Antonio

Many thanks for your comments, here and elsewhere. I'll try to do as you suggest, but perhaps not quite yet.

Meanwhile I will answer your question about Mediator Dei on Fr Finegan's:

I touched upon it earlier here:

Moretben said...

Sorry, C.A. - I'm in a Greek parish, in the jurisdiction of Constantinople.

Anonymous said...

Dear Moretben,

1. I respect your decision.
2. Congrats on the job situation.
3. I wonder, could you suggest an excellent site/source of Byzantine spirituality lived, that is, the day to day life of it, for one such as me, a westerner who is interested in knowing more?
4. The one thing I disagree with you on is the notion that Peter is not Peter when he loses faith, etc. That IS Peter; that is who Peter is: the impetuous, the one who denied Christ 3 times at the most crucial moment conceivable, the one who lost faith, who was not present with John and the Marys at Calvary, but who returns, always, better late than never, he returns, penitent, with authority, a blazing man of miracle, stepping boldly to his own crucifixion. That is Peter: full of faith, abandoning faith, returning to the faith. It is not easy on the nerves, but this is the Catholic Way. The Eastern Way moves on more slowly and less tumultuously perhaps. But again, I respect your decision.

Moretben said...

Dear Anonymous

Many thanks for your kind words. A site I really love and value is Fr Stephen Freeman's Glory to God for All Things (link on the sidebar). I can't recommend it highly enough. Fr Freeman is a priest of a Russian parish in the southern US, and the blog is a collection of sermons, reflections, passages from the writings of the Saints and Fathers, and prayers. Its author describes himself as "an ignorant man", not a theologian, but the reflections are always as profound as they are apparently simple, direct and unpretentious. For me, this is the true spirit of Orthodoxy - "heart-thinking" together with the Holy Liturgy, the Holy Icons, the Fathers and the lives of the saints, always bathed in that beautiful spirit of simplicity and repentance before the Lord, who came "not to make bad men good, but to make dead men live".

For a wealth of practical material including a daily guide through the liturgical year, lives of the saints, icons, etc,. the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America run a really excellent site, also available from my sidebar (for some reason I can't access it today). They will also email you the daily scripture readings, lives of the saints and prayers on request.

Finally, Ancient Faith Radio (sidebar again) is a marvelous resource. At present I'm following the podcasts of Fr Thomas Hopko's series of theological reflections on the Sundays & Feast of the year - but the range and diversity of material is vast.

God bless


FrGregACCA said...

Good suggestions, Ben. More on Fr. Stephen and his parish: he is a convert to Byzantine Orthodoxy from the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in which he served for many years as a priest, and a good friend of Fr. Al Kimel, also a former Episcopal priest, who, instead of swimming the Bosporus, swam the Tiber.

I would hesitate to call St. Anne's, Fr. Stephen's parish, "Russian". It is a parish of the Orthodox Church in America, which, indeed, is descended from the Russian Church, but, like many new OCA parishes, it is made up largely of converts, and the OCA, in general, is far less "Russian" than ROCOR.

St. Anne's is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, so this is "upper South" and "Appalachian" not "deep South". (It is located in East Tennessee, which nearly seceeded from Tennessee after Tennessee seceeded from the Union.) What I find particularly interesting is the growth of Byzantine Orthodoxy, not only across the United States, but specifically in various regions of the South. I live near Columbia, SC, surely at the core of the Confederacy back in the day. In the past twenty years, the Columbia metro area has gone from having a Greek parish and an OCA mission to having these, along a with a ROCOR parish/mission and an Antiochian Orthodox parish/mission. Charleston, once the home to only a Greek parish, now has additional congregations as well: OCA, Antiochian, ROCOR.

In any event, I would add Bishop Kallistos Ware's books to your suggestions: "The Orthodox Church" and "The Orthodox Way".

FrGregACCA said...

Anonymous (regarding Peter):

I tend to agree with this. As I watch events in the Roman Church, I continually remember our Lord's words to Peter on the eve of the Passion: "When you are converted, strengthen your brethren". However, issues of apostolic ecclesiology aside (Council of Jerusalem, Canon 34 of the Apostolic Canons), I find it impossible to square this Peter - who is truly Peter, whether in the flesh or in his successors, with the doctrines of Papal supremacy made de fidei at the First Vatican Council.

Further, I see a direct line between Vatican I and Vatican II, based on a magisterial positivism which is totally enshrined at Vatican I. All protestations to the contrary not withstanding, the Pope, along with the bishops in communion with him, have become the masters of "The Word of God" (as expressed in Scripture and the rest of the Tradition), not its servant.

Anonymous said...

Dear "Undercroft",

I couldn't find your email address, so leaving a request.

Can I draw your attention to the new website of the publishers, The Catholic Truth Society (CTS).

It’s got some downloadable publications on it, plus it’s got a great range of Catholic books, DVDs and other things.

We’d appreciate if you could review it in your blog.

Thanks, Sophie (CTS)