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Interlude: Complicated Ecclesiastical Terminology

My last post was on the topic of Apostolic Succession.  Over the years I’ve written a lot about theology and such; but I haven’t really written that much about specific churches or church structure.  It occurred to me while writing the earlier post on Apostolic Succession that it’s more “inside baseball” than average.  That is, it assumes a knowledge of a lot of terminology–or at least, it will over the course of coming posts–that might be familiar to Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, or others, but not so much to the public at large.  Even many members of the aforementioned groups may have only a fuzzy idea of the meaning of some of them.  Therefore, I decided to take a short interlude with a post serving mainly to define terms that I have used or will use in writing on this topic.

The terms I’m going to discuss are broadly applicable to the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, the churches of the Anglican Communion (the American branch of which is known as the Protestant Episcopal Church), the Old Catholic communion of churches, the Polish National Catholic Church, and some smaller splinter groups.  In some cases, the terms vary slightly in actual use depending on many factors, or from church to church, and there are any number of exceptions, subtleties, and special cases.  My main goal here is to familiarize my readers with terminology necessary for understanding this series of posts without getting too bogged down in minutia.  Thus, if there are any seeming errors or omissions in what I write here, it’s probably either an omission to save space, or a deliberate decision to omit excruciating details about special cases.  If I have made in true errors, though, I do welcome correction.

Finally, I’m not putting this “glossary”, as it were, into alphabetical or any specific order, aside perhaps from the more specific or lower-level to the more general or  higher-level concepts.  If I had a larger number of terms, I’d worry more about organization; but with the relatively small number I want to deal with here, it shouldn’t be an issue.

All right then!  On with the informal glossary!

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Space: Stars, Solar Systems, Galaxies, and Such

I had been mulling over making a post on this topic when I saw this story in my Facebook newsfeed.  A new galaxy, tiny and dim, has been discovered orbiting our own.  That was a fascinating piece of news, and it confirmed my intention to write about the topic of space.  More specifically, I want to discuss how the structure or layout of space seems to be widely misunderstood, even by some writers of science fiction.  In this regard, this post is a sort of follow up to this one and this one.  Thus, let us now boldly go into space and see what we’ll find there!

Since October 4th, 1957, with the launching of the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to be sent by humans into Earth orbit, we have lived in the Space Age.  Press coverage of space and space travel seemed wall-to-wall throughout the 1960’s and into the early 70’s.  Space figured largely in pop culture, too, with the 60’s giving us Star Trek and the monumental 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  With time, the allure wore thin and the extraordinary became humdrum.  Still, over sixty years later, we are more deeply connected to the inventions of the space program than ever before.  Cell phone signals, Internet transmissions, and GPS all depend on satellites to function.  Many of us get satellite TV as a matter of course.  There has even been a resurgence of interest in space in both pop culture and reality.  In the former, the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, after periods of dormancy, have re-started.  In the latter, Elon Musk is making plans for manned travel to Mars, while various government sources have spoken of returning to the moon and of founding a military “space force”.

Given all this, one would assume a certain amount of science literacy regarding space.  Certainly in the beginning of the Space Age, there was a strong push towards what we’d now call STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, out of fear of the head start of the Soviet Union in space.  With space more integrated into our lives than ever, a permanent international space station in orbit, and the aforementioned space exploration plans, it would seem more imperative than ever that we have a good grasp of science and terminology of space.  Most particularly, one would expect such science literacy from the writers of science fiction, which is perhaps the most characteristic genre of our age.  Alas, that seems to be far from the case.  Thus, along the lines of previous posts of mine which detail areas in which sf writers often fall short, I want in this post to look at some of the basics of space.

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