Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

30 April 2003

The government of Cyprus plans to extend benefits to Turkish Cypriot citizens in the north of the island, according to a report from the BBC. The following paragraph is nothing short of remarkable:

"The philosophy behind this is that Turkish Cypriots living in the occupied north should enjoy the same rights and benefits enjoyed by all citizens of Cyprus," Mr [Kypros] Chrysostomides told a news conference in Nicosia.


This is tremendously encouraging, because it suggests that Cypriots of whatever ethnic origins are beginning to accept the notion of the state as a differentiated community called to do justice to everyone within its territorial jurisdiction. So much of the history of Cyprus in recent decades has been marred by an ethnic conception of nationhood--one that ties citizenship to membership in the Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian community. The guerrilla war that broke out in 1955 (in fact only hours after my birth) was fought to force Great Britain to cede the island to Greece outright. Instead it gained for the island an exceedingly tenuous independence that few Cypriots had expected or even desired at that point.

There are still ethnic Greek nationalists in Cyprus. But perhaps the turbulence of the past nearly half century will finally convince them that their quixotic dream should be abandoned in favour of a political and territorial understanding of nationhood.

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29 April 2003

More good news out of Cyprus in tomorrow's edition of The Times: "Cyprus sees ‘Berlin Wall’ begin to crumble." it seems the Turkish Cypriot authorities are now allowing visits from the south for up to three nights. Up until now, and as of last wednesday, visits had to end before midnight. This is all happening so quickly. I have to pinch myself to be sure it's really happening. I wish I could be there. I'd love to go visit my father's hometown in the north. A few years ago I composed a song dedicated to this village for my daughter and in honour of her grandfather. (You may have to click on it more than once before it will play.)

It was the events of 1974 in Cyprus that in part moved me in the direction of studying political science while a university undergrad. I didn't actually make it to the island until 1995. While there I was able to ascend to the top storey of a building in Dherynia and look over the green line into the abandoned city of Famagusta, where my father grew up. I was so close and yet so far. I'd love to go back now and see all this happening.

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Poor Gregory Baus. Last I checked his blogsite, the advertisement at the top was for posted essays by John Shelby Spong, the heretical Anglican bishop--mercifully now retired--in the Episcopal diocese of New Jersey. From what I know of Gregory, he will not be amused! First Brian Dijkema's blogsite was hawking Russian caviar, and now this. In the meantime, the blogger software still thinks I'm a Roman Catholic.

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28 April 2003

This site, Lectionary Central, seems to represent a rather misguided form of christian traditionalism. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church, along with Anglicans and Lutherans adopted an ecumenical three-year lectionary to replace the old one-year lectionaries of the western church. This three-year lectionary prescribes specific biblical lessons to be read for each sunday of the church year, including an Old Testament lesson, a gradual Psalm, an Epistle lesson and a Gospel lesson. The old one-year lectionaries prescribed an introit Psalm, a gradual Psalm, and a passage each from the Epistles and Gospels. Why would one prefer a lectionary that covered so little of scripture and excluded the Old Testament entirely outside of the Psalms? One would never hear a sermon on, say, Moses or Elijah or Daniel.

The Orthodox still use a one-year lectionary and are not likely to abandon it any time soon.

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Here's more on Cyprus from British journalist and perpetual gadfly Christopher Hitchens, who has written two books (actually one book and a subsequent revised edition) on the subject: "The Fall of Another Wall." This article, "Cyprus deplores anti-Turk attack," offers hope that any effort by individuals to take revenge for past hurts will be quashed by the authorities.

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The semester is over and I'm in the midst of marking exams. The campus is suddenly very quiet, as the vast majority of students have gone their separate ways to engage in their various summer pursuits. I always miss them when they're gone!

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27 April 2003

The paschal liturgy in the Orthodox Church contains the following hymn:


Christ is risen from the dead,
by death trampling down death,
and giving life to those within the grave.



I tried to post the hymn in Greek, but that didn't work. Click here to listen to the tune to which it is often sung. The arrangement is mine, but the tune itself is very ancient.

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XPICTOC ANECTH! Christ is risen!

Today is Orthodox Pascha, which usually follows western Easter by a week or two. The difference is due to the fact that the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar, while the west follows the Gregorian. As a child our family celebrated both Easters, the second with my father’s relatives. We would go to visit my aunt and uncle in Chicago, and she would prepare us a sumptuous feast consisting of lamb (what else?), dolmadhes (stuffed grape vine leaves), and various other Greek and Cypriot delectables. Like westerners, Greeks also have Easter eggs, but they are always coloured a deep red to represent the blood of Christ.

Occasionally some of us would accompany my aunt and uncle to their church for the Good Friday (or “Great Friday” in Greek) liturgy or the Paschal vigil taking place on late saturday night and into the early hours of sunday morning. What a rich experience! One can almost imagine being beneath the magnificent dome of Aghia Sophia in Constantinople, with all those centuries of Byzantine civilization stretching back into the remote past.

After the lengthy service had come to an end, parishioners would make their way back home, carrying their lit candles with them (a rather scary thing to do, especially if you’re driving!), and enjoying something called maghiritsa soup, an egg-lemon soup containing the organs and intestines of the lamb to be eaten the following day. This breaks the lenten fast.

I myself did not grow up with all of this in its fulness, as we were members of an Orthodox Presbyterian church and later of a Baptist church. My Byzantine side was always at the periphery of my spiritual consciousness, but there has always been a part of me that has fervently desired to be in the centre of such a rich and ancient tradition.

Here is a poem in rondeau form I wrote several years ago which first appeared in the 6 April 1990 issue of Calvinist Contact:

                                 IF CHRIST AROSE


If Christ arose and put an end
To evil's sway, can I depend
On Love's true life to set aright
A life once lived by human might,
Or must I yet alone contend?


But if he did indeed ascend
From hellish depths, I cannot rend
Myself from him, nor quench the light,
If Christ arose.


I could not on my own intend
To live anew, or hope to mend
My errant ways; but in my plight
His life will shine amid the night,
And darkness shall no more impend,
If Christ arose.


© David T. Koyzis 1990


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26 April 2003

I find myself emotionally affected by the reports coming out of Cyprus: "Greek Cypriots Vote with Their Feet," "Greeks Swarm Turkish-held Cyprus," and "Cypriot exiles make emotional return." The notion of being able to return to a home one hasn't seen in nearly three decades is marvellous. Perhaps there really will be a happy ending after all.

The entire region once occupied by the Ottoman Empire has seen repeated episodes of partition and what we now call ethnic cleansing for nearly two centuries. In 1923 long-established Greek Orthodox communities in Asia Minor were uprooted and sent to Greece proper, while most of Greece's Muslims were "repatriated" to Turkey. Imagine if you will a thriving Greek community in Trapezounta (now Trabzon) along the Pontic coast of Turkey. Or a thriving Muslim community in Crete. These were both realities prior to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. Sadly, the polyglot lands of the old Levant have been replaced by more homogeneous states on the nationalist model. Moroccan Jews? Alexandrian Greeks? Armenians in Constantinople? These have either vanished or drastically diminished.

Perhaps Cyprus will be the place where this enforced homogeneity will begin to be turned around. Let's pray so. Kyrie eleison.

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If you'd like to hear Tallis' theme, along with my own introduction and conclusion, then click here.

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25 April 2003

The new International Criminal Court has sparked a fair bit of debate, especially in the United States. In July of last year James W. Skillen, of the Center for Public Justice, wrote a Capital Commentary in favour of US adherence to the court. In November First Things editor Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote a brief Public Square article disputing Skillen's position. In the first quarter issue of CPJ's Public Justice Report, Alaine Gherardi wrote a lengthier and highly persuasive article in support of the ICC, "The International Criminal Court: Out of the Blocks or on the Block?" Now John M. Czarnetzky and Ronald J. Rychlak have written a First Things opinion piece, "A Court Out of Order," in the April 2003 issue.

I did not find Fr. Neuhaus all that persuasive against Skillen. However, it seems to me that Czarnetzky and Rychlak make a case that is more formidable against the ICC. They argue that a permanent court lacks the ability to incorporate the sort of flexibility characteristic of domestic criminal justice systems, where, for example, it might become necessary to mitigate the severity of the letter of the law in the interest of doing justice in the larger sense. Would South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission have been allowed to carry on its work under the ICC regime? Moreover, "there’s the problem that the ICC is an independent entity with no legislative or executive branch to check its power." I look forward to reading a response to Czarnetzky and Rychlak by ICC supporters.

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24 April 2003

Could this really be the beginning of the end of the nearly three-decade-old division of Cyprus? Read the latest Reuters report. I have a lot of relatives who will be ecstatic at this news. Just last month the talks to reunify the island collapsed, and it looked like the lengthy stalemate would continue for ever.

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For those of you in the Boston area, you might wish to check out the following:

Gordon College and The Barrington Center for the Arts Present:

INTIMATE SPACES

Paintings by

ROBYN GIVENS COTTA

April 26 - May 1, 2003

Open Reception April 26
6-8 pm

Gallery Hours
Mon.-Fri. 9am-4pm

Gordon College
255 Grapevine Rd
Wenham, MA 01984
USA


Incidentally, Robyn is my exceedingly gifted niece. And, although I myself am in the social sciences, I am all for supporting the arts!

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23 April 2003

This morning we got our first glimpse into the SARS epidemic--or at least into efforts to contain it. We were keeping an appointment made some time ago with an orthopaedic surgeon at McMaster University Medical Centre. Only staff were permitted to park in the underground garage; everyone else was rerouted to the above-ground lot near the general admission entrance. We were all ushered into a makeshift anteroom encased in somewhat transparent flexible plastic, where we were greeted by officials straining to be heard through their face masks. We filled out three green forms verifying that we had not been to specific southeast Asian countries within the last ten days, had not been to Scarborough Grace Hospital recently, were not running a temperature, &c. Needless to say, we had to wash our hands on the way in and on the way out.

It was all rather disconcerting, but it's good that they're taking precautions. Let's hope officials meet with success in containing the outbreak.

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Check out the Center for Public Justice, a US-based thinktank on the cutting edge of articulating a christian approach to politics. I've been a member of the CPJ and its predecessor organizations since 1975. Definitely worthwhile.

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Isn't this peculiar? From the ads at the top, the blogger software seems to have figured out that I'm a Catholic... despite my self-description as a Calvinist! Go figure.

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Testing... one, two, three...

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22 April 2003

I teach political science at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, and I will shortly be having a book published by InterVarsity Press, titled Political Visions and Illusions. It's an attempt to grapple with the phenomenon of political ideologies from a christian standpoint. More about this later.

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I have finally succumbed and opened my own blog site. A few short months ago I didn't even know what blogging was. Well, it seems that Gideon can't have world peace, but he will have a Koyzis blog after all.

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