The End of the Crusades

Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen!

It was a long and hard Lent, and I was glad to have time off for Holy Week and Pascha. We were privileged to have not one, not two, but three priests celebrating the Resurrection with us in our little mission. It was a joy to watch a grandfatherly priest playing with our children and blessing them. As a convert to Orthodoxy I sometimes find myself overly serious and so concerned with doing things “correctly” that I miss the joyfulness and beauty. Perhaps someday we will be able to be as comfortable and at home in the prayers as our children and those who have grown up in the church.

Christians have an added reason to rejoice this Pascha—healing has begun between the East and the West. In a visit to Greece in 2001, Pope John Paul II formally apologized for the involvement the Roman Catholic church had in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204. On April 13, 2004 — the 800th anniversary of that terrible event — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I accepted the apology. “The spirit of reconciliation of the resurrection … incites us toward reconciliation of our churches,” he said. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is recognized as “first among equals” among Orthodox patriarchs.

Perhaps surprisingly for many in the West, for which the Crusades are a faint memory, for the Eastern Orthodox they have been painfully recalled. And no wonder—when you read the account of the sack of Constantinople you cannot help but wonder how Christians could do this to other Christians. After the attack, the city and Great Church were subject to days of looting, during which many of its precious treasures were removed or destroyed.

In his apology, the Pope said:

There is a need for a liberating process of purification of memory. For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him.… Some events of the distant past have left deep wounds in the minds and hearts of people to this day. I am thinking of the disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople, which was for so long the bastion of Christianity in the East. It is tragic that the assailants, who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret… To God alone belongs judgment, and therefore we entrust the heavy burden of the past to his endless mercy, imploring him to heal the wounds that still cause suffering to the spirit of the Greek people.

During a liturgy attended by Philippe Barbarin, the Archbishop of Lyon, France, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said “The spirit of reconciliation is stronger than hatred. We receive with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture for the tragic events of the Fourth Crusade.”


  1. St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church — I attended the pan-orthodox Sunday of Orthodoxy services here. Wow! It’s wonderful to be called to prayer by the bells.

  2. Eastern Standard Tribe — I read this article a while ago and recent work experience has me wishing that our distributed team was part of the tribe. There’s just too few typical hours of overlap between the Orient, Middle East, Europe, and Us.

  3. Exposé window-switching feature for Mac OS X — When I first saw Apple’s Steve Jobs demonstrating this I found it beautiful, brilliant, and stunningly useful, and I immediately wanted it for Windows. I rarely have fewer than 6 windows open and frequently far more than that. I’ve heard of some “clones” for Windows, but haven’t tried them yet:

    • iEx — Sounds like a pain to get, apparently doesn’t do the slick graphic movement, and reportedly buggy. Free.
    • WinPLOSION — Looks to be exactly the same as the Mac version. This was known as WinEXPOSÉ for a while. $9.95.
    • Windows Exposer — Also looks like the Mac version. $7.
  4. 7 Zip — A free and open source compression/archiving tool that supports a slew of formats including 7z, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB.

  5. Scanning the Stanford library using a Book-scanning Robot — I wish all books were available online.

    “When you’re turning pages by hand, you can do maybe 150 to 200 pages per hour. It’s slow. But the robot can easily do 600 to 1,200 pages per hour without damaging the books. And it’s rigorously consistent — the page is always flat, the image is always good, and software conversion allows you to index the text so you can search it.”

    “A technician lays the book onto a special cradle inside the machine and air jets gently fluff up pages on the right side. A robotic arm swings over the book and sucks up one page with a special vacuum, and pulls the page over. Two more robotic arms then swing over and flatten out the pages with clear plastic clamps.

    “Meanwhile, a high-resolution digital camera snaps away, taking color digital pictures of the pages. A computer automatically crops and cleans up the digital image until the book is done. The result: a DVD with digital images of every page.”

  6. Plucker e-book reader — Looks to be a nice free and open source tool to let Palm devices view web pages and e-books.

  7. Posters for GUI Obituaries — Where has the metal trash can gone? The component icon comparisons and the screen shots of multiple operating systems (and versions) are also worth a look.

  8. The making of a LEGO brick — Fun and educational. I like that.

Reading Mozilla blogs

Reading the blogs of Mozilla contributors is a great way to keep up with the latest news about Mozilla. (Reading mozillaZine is required.) To save you time, Henrik Gemal has put together a page of Mozilla Related Blogs aka Blogupdates that shows a snippet from the latest few posts from each blog. Even better, each time you visit the page it marks which blogs have been updated since your last visit. Many thanks for the page!

To save a few more seconds, I created a bookmarklet that will open a new window for each blog that has been updated. Go to his Blogupdates page and click the bookmarklet. I wish there was a way to get them to open in new tabs — opening lots of windows can be slow — but that doesn’t seem to be possible from a bookmarklet. (I’ve heard that there’s an extension (multizilla?) that might support this but haven’t checked. Perhaps there’s one that lets you force opening of new windows to use tabs.) The bookmarklet also leverages code and specifics of his site, so it may break if he makes any changes.

Open New Blogs


I’ve found that a quick way to switch between them on Windows is to use Alt+Tab immediately after they finish opening. If you close each blog window after you read it and then press Alt+Tab, you’ll jump to the next one. This also lets you read them oldest to newest.

Update: Well that didn’t last long. I fixed it to work with the site again after some style changes caused it to break.

Mozilla Firebird renamed Mozilla Firefox, 0.8 released

Revised Firefox Logo showing the Red Panda head

I’ve had a chance to play around with the new and shiny Mozilla Firefox release. First, I have to say that the new logo makes a surprising difference. With its bright colors and obvious polish, it makes the browser feel more like a real product. I am surprised that the logo has the fox facing the globe. They had a tremendous opportunity to create a friendly “mascot” for the browser based on the cute red panda and passed it up. Ah, well. I played with the logo to quickly try a front facing variation that looks more like a firefox (that’s it on the right), but I’ll go with the official brand.

Second, the name change is good. I complained about Mozilla Firebird stealing the name of another open source project and I’m glad they’ve done the right thing and changed names. Again. (This makes at least five, but I may have miscounted.) The amusing Firesomething Extension lets you attempt the difficult task of changing the name more frequently than the developers. Actually, based on the trademark registrations, I expect Mozilla Firefox will be around for a long while.

I was stunned to find that I like the new download manager. It just does what I expect it to do and then gets out of the way. Wow. It has a slick appearance and shows the download percentage in the titlebar, which suits me fine. If only I could get rid of the completely unnecessary “biff” that pops up near the taskbar at the end of a download. I think it’s only there to show off. It almost ruins the experience for me.

I continue to be impressed with the Firefox Preferences, er, Options dialog. It’s well designed and elegant. I heartily agree with them moving the Proxies selection to the General panel. Much better than Advanced in Mozilla.

Firefox still has areas that need to be improved. Below are things that I believe will frustrate users switching from Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) yet can be easily fixed. These are also some of the most long-standing and contested bugs in Mozilla. Although I’m including the bug numbers, if you’re wise you won’t go and read them. They’ll just annoy you with the mindblowing lack of common sense.

  • Replace File|Exit with File|Close. bug 65121 (or bug 171892)–This used to trip me up in Mozilla relatively frequently, but after repeatedly bashing my head on the keyboard and crying I managed to learn not to use the bottom menu item. Firefox’s IE-like qualities must have lulled me into thinking I could trust menu items again. “Where’d my browser windows go!?” Just fix it already.
  • Add Print to the page right-click context menu. bug 24221 (and more optimistically bug 204519 This has been “won’t fixed” since 2000 and has gotten many duplicates. There are specific cases in pop-ups where there is no menu other than the context menu. This would likely be my third most frequently used context menu item after Back and View Source.
  • Improve plugin installs. bug 224227 and others. While it’s better than it was before Netscape 6 shipped, plugin installation is still not as easy as in IE. Some of this would be mitigated if “typical” plugins were preinstalled or detected automatically.
  • Show the URL of bookmarks in the status bar when mouse hovers over them. bug 23460 IE does this in the favorites and it’s quite useful. I even developed a fix for this bug. Hyatt’s comments in the bug made me think it was fixed in Firebird. If it was, I don’t see the fix in Firefox.
  • Support multiline tooltips 45375 Sites often use tooltips for extra information. Firefox crops the text so you may miss the important bits. IE shows it all.
  • Add a help system. (bug 165960) Mozilla 1.6 comes with a help system that even includes tips for those switching from Internet Explorer. This is a great idea that needs to be included with Firefox. After reading through the bugs it looks like this is already fixed on the trunk. Looking a little deeper I found the Firebird Help Project at Good!

Below is a list of a few things that bother me about Firefox. I use and develop web-applications all day, so I want a powerful and elegant browser. Firefox feels and is incomplete in areas compared to Mozilla. (It is also better in others, such as the form autocomplete dropdowns and customizable toolbars.) Yes, there are extensions that would give me the functionality I want, but Mozilla already has it so I’m not sure I see the point. Still, I’m finding it hard to stay away from Firefox.

  • I want the Mozilla history window. Sure it’s nice to have quick access to history in the sidebar in Firefox, but when I really want details Mozilla’s history window is superior. Why can’t we have both like we do with the Bookmarks sidebar and Organize Bookmarks window?
  • I can’t change my language preferences. I’m frequently switching my default language in Mozilla to test various language versions of sites. I’m told this is a not uncommon experience in internet cafes. Firefox has no current support for switching languages.
  • The backspace key goes back!? I know this is an IE-ism, but this is terrible. I use Find As You Type all the time and frequently revise it with backspace. In Mozilla I can backspace multiple times with no problem. I seem to do the same in form fields. In Firefox I’ve found myself multiple pages back for no apparent reason.
  • Bring back MNG and JNG support. It looks like this will soon be back on the Mozilla trunk. It’d be great for Firefox, too. While the current IE market dominance limits the web usefulness of these image formats, they can be used in fantastic ways in themes. And I hope Firefox can steal some marketshare.
  • Ok, this is a bit silly, but get a better throbber. I’m sure it’s cool to have your personal logo as a browser’s throbber, but the Q-scythe doesn’t do it for me. Mozilla’s M/Mozilla head throbber has the benefit that it is extremely obvious when it is active. I gotta give some credit to Firefox: at least the throbber is there by default. Can’t we make one based on the new Firefox logo? Perhaps this provides the chance to show the front of the firefox?

Icons: Theology in Color

Karl posted some notes from a recent lecture by Fr. John Chryssavgis. Josh took issue with it and critiqued the idea that icons convey theology. Instead of writing a long comment Karl responded on his blog. Something struck me when I read Karl’s notes and I’ll get to that in second, but first I’ve been thinking about what Josh wrote.

From Karl’s notes:

Faces in icons are always frontal—the eyes always look out, look forward toward us, inviting us inward. They are alive and present. Icons show us that we must face the world with our eyes open.

Josh responded:

Of course, the most dangerous possible way of doing theology is proving things from human inventions. Karl will probably retort that the Holy Spirit has inspired and guided EO icon painting, but of course, this is an a priori assumption that has little or no foundation anywhere except the idea that the EO communion is infallible. It bears no material difference from the Roman Catholic doctrine that the Holy Spirit gradually reveals new articles of faith through the papacy. The main difference is that RC’s have a more consistent source of authority—how do you know which sources in the EO tradition are sources of new divine revelation? This is, of course, an argument for sola scriptura, since nothing is more subjective than proving something from your own creation, whether it is writing or icons. I might as well start making theological statements with my own blog as an authoritative source. The fact that Easterns paint icons a certain way doesn’t prove anything about God or heaven.

Josh leans on scripture as an authoritative source and rejects the icons, but I’d say his concerns also apply to the scriptures. The scriptures and the icons developed through the Holy Spirit working in the church. The canon of scripture was decided by the church. It’s not like they dropped out of the sky already intact and created by God.

Josh later writes:

If I want to know about the eternal perspective of reality, I’m not going to look at a painting some guy painted, no matter how holy he may or may not be. He’s not infallible. I’m going to go to the Gospel.

What makes the scripture preferred? Why shouldn’t we say this:

If I want to know about the eternal perspective of reality, I’m not going to read some book some guy wrote, no matter how holy he may or may not be. He’s not infallible. I’m going to go to the icons.

Icons have been called “theology in color” and teach us truth. As with scripture, we must read them with care, and check that we are understanding them in accord with the teaching of the church. They are certainly worthy of study. Saint John of Damascus said if a pagan asks you to show him your faith take him before the holy icons.

And now to the point that struck me when I read Karl’s notes. Faces in icons point outward in direct response to the Old Testament scripture. “No man looks on the face of God and lives.” (Ex 33:20). Moses, hidden under a cleft in the rock, sees only God’s back (Ex. 33: 21-3). In contrast, through the incarnation of Christ, we now know his face. With an open gaze, he invites us to know him. The depiction of the saints in the icons does the same: they invite us to know God as they themselves do.

Short memories

In my journey toward Eastern Orthodoxy, I am surprised and increasingly saddened by how much I did not know about the Church, despite my Christian heritage. I was raised in the Wesleyan-Armenian (Methodist) tradition. My grandfathers were pastors and my parents were active in the church, teaching sunday school, serving as treasurer, singing in the choir, being part of the pastor’s “cabinet”. Others in our family served as missionaries and Christian leaders and teachers. A love for God surrounded me and taught me as I grew. There is no question about who we loved and desired to serve.

Given all this, it has been troubling to learn not just how I was separated and skewed from the Orthodox faith, but how many Protestant denominations are presently teaching or acting in ways that are frustratingly opposed to their own doctrines and history.

Today’s Protestants when learning about Orthodox practice often struggle with the idea of using the sign of the cross and with calling priests “Father.” I recently discovered that not using these is a relatively recent innovation.

In his book, Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, Fr Peter explains how the sign of the cross has been used from the early centuries of the church. He notes that Martin Luther, who is called the Father of the Protestant Reformation, exhorted his flock to use the sign of the cross. He continues:

Astonishingly, it was not until the seventeenth century, at the time of King James, that a small group of Puritans began writing and speaking against the use of the sign of the cross. Reacting to the ills of the medieval Roman Church, they believed it to be a human invention which catered to superstition. These same English Puritans, who significantly influenced the North American continent, deserted one of the most powerful and cherished weapons of the entire history of the Church.… Today, many American Christians have been deceived by the actions of a vocal minority and have become ashamed of the glory of the cross signed on their breasts.

From the earliest times, Christian practice has been to call spiritual directors “Father” or “Mother.” In an article in The Christian Century, David L. Holmes discusses the question Are ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ Appropriate Titles for Protestant Clergy? He writes:

Protestants would undoubtedly reject both titles. “A wall goes up whenever I hear clergy addressed as ‘Father’ and ‘Mother,’” a Protestant churchwoman recently told me.

Such opposition, however, is ironic in the context of church history. For American Protestants regularly called their clergy “Father” 200 and 300 years ago, and some continued to do so a century ago. And during the same years, Protestants addressed venerated women in their churches as “Mother.”

He then describes various ways that Americans used “father” and “mother” for church leaders. Significantly for me, he notes that “American Methodists, for example, referred to John Wesley not only as ‘Mr. Wesley’ but also as ‘Father Wesley.’” He also shows that missionary pioneers were often called father, including Francis Asbury. Apparently an anti-Roman backlash led to the change in terminology among Protestants: Prior to the rise in Irish immigrants coming to the U.S. in the 1840s, Roman Catholic non-monastic priests were mostly called “Mister,” “Monsieur,” or “Don.” Irish Roman Catholics called all priests “Father.”

Although these are minor examples of differences in practice, it makes me wonder how many other beliefs I took for granted as long-held Protestant dogmas were actually recent changes. Lord have mercy.

What’s a Name Day?

Today the Orthodox Church remembers the holy apostle Timothy. For some unknown reason I’ve been anticipating this day for almost a week. Since early childhood I’ve been aware that Timothy is a biblical name. My knowledge of this special day for remembering him is new. What a gift to have the name of this holy martyr, whose name means “one who honors God.”

Troparion for Timothy, Tone IV
O master of goodness renowned for moderation, you were robed in the purity of conscience that befits a priest. Drawing forth ineffable truths from that chosen vessel, Paul, you preserved the faith and completed a course equal to his. O holy martyr and hierarch, Timothy, beg Christ, our God, to save our souls.

Kondakion for Timothy and Anastasius, Tone I
Let us all faithfully sing the praises of Timothy, Paul’s holy disciple and companion, and the wise Anastasius, too, let us honor, as a star that rose over Persia, that by their prayers the Lord will heal the maladies of our bodies, as well as the brokenness of our souls.

Laura’s Front Porch

One of my favorite blogs to read right now is Laura’s Front Porch, written by Laura Nee, a new catechumen in the Orthodox church. Her struggles and successes with her children during the liturgy sound so familiar that at times I just have to laugh and sometimes cry.

I first found her blog a number of months ago and remember reading back some entries about how she got interested in the Orthodox church. In October last year she wrote that she and her husband Jim were investigating Orthodoxy pretty seriously. As with so many of us converts Bp Kalistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Way helped them along the path. I believe they actually started back in September reading Becoming Orthodox by Fr Peter Gillquist.

When we seek him, God gives us the desires of our heart. Reading “It’s getting spooky” Part I and Part II, I can’t help but rejoice at how God had been drawing them. Although new and different to them, Orthodoxy clearly feels like a kind of homecoming for them. As Laura put it once, it feels like an old fuzzy blanket you’d would wrap yourself into…ahhh. When they were received as catechumens a few weeks ago, she wrote “Jim and I become catechumens today in the Orthodox Church. I am excited, but not overly so. It feels like the natural thing to do…so off we go!” God bless you!