There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia…)

The REAL Saint Nicholas – of Myra – “saved three innocents from death.”  (“Inter alia…”)

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us all to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (See John 14:12.)

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes below or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Virginia O'Hanlon (ca. 1895).jpgAside from the ongoing Season of Advent – from December 3 to 24 – there’s another Feast day to celebrate in early December.  Wednesday, December 6, was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  He was Saint Nicholas of Myra, and he lived from 270 to 340 A.D.  So when Dr. Philip O’Hanlon told his daughter Virginia – at left – “Yes, there is a Santa Claus,” he was telling the truth.

Or at least the truth as that term is defined in today’s politics.

But seriously, on December 6 each year Nicholas of Myra is celebrated as a friend of children, giver of gifts and climber of chimneys.  (“Etc.”)  And as noted in the painting atop the page, he was brave enough to “save three innocents from death.”

Nicholas was visiting a remote part of his diocese [when he heard of the “three innocents.”  He set out for home and] found a large crowd of people and the three men kneeling with their arms bound, awaiting the fatal blow.  Nicholas passed through the crowd, took the sword from the executioner’s hands and threw it to the ground, then ordered that the condemned men be freed from their bonds.  His authority was such that the executioner left his sword where it fell…

Location of Demre in Antalya province, Turkey.Incidentally, the three innocent men had been sentenced to death by the ruler of Myra – today’s city of DemreTurkey – “the corrupt prefect Eustathios [who] had accepted bribes to bring about the deaths of three men.”  This first St. Nicholas “was not one to be intimidated by the power of others, especially the power of the corrupt.”  He “stormed into the prefect’s office and demanded that the charges against the three men be dropped.”

That corrupt official eventually “confessed his sin and sought the saint’s forgiveness.  Nicholas absolved him, but only after the ruler had undergone a period of repentance.”

Which leads to this thought:  “Boy, we could sure use him today!!!

Then there were the stories of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor:”

The best-known story involves a man with three unmarried daughters, and not enough money to provide them with suitable dowries.  This meant that they could not marry, and were likely to end up as prostitutes.  [This was in “the good old days.”]  Nicholas walked by the man’s house on three successive nights, and each time threw a bag of gold in through a window (or … in colder climates, down the chimney).  Thus, the daughters were saved from a life of shame, and all got married and lived happily ever after.

Another story was more gruesome, but also had a happy ending.  During a time of famine, a butcher “lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham.”  But Nicholas of Myra both “saw through the butcher’s horrific crime” and resurrected the three children from the barrel.

And it was from that “first St. Nicholas” that the jolly old elf at right evolved from.  (Even if some stories about him may lessen your appetite for pickled goods this holiday season…)

But then there’s the question:  “Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25, if St. Nicholas Day is December 6?”  There are a number of theories, but the most reasonable says that December 25 is nine months after March 25, by tradition the date of The Annunciation(I.e., the date of the “announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.” See On the Original St. Nicholas.)

You can see more at St. Nicholas [the] Saint Who Stopped an Execution, and Celebrating St. Nicholas: the Story of the Three Condemned Innocents.  Or from this blog, On the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick,” and On St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas.”  But in the meantime you can meditate on the image below of St. Nicholas “transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus…”

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St. Nicholas … “transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting by Ilya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).”   See also St. Nicholas Center … Saint Who Stopped an Execution.

The upper image is courtesy of saint nicholas church st nicholas church is the most outstanding … tourmakerturkey.com, which added:  “The protective personality of St. Nicholas and desire of helping children in difficult situations have been transformed into a sympathetic old Santa Claus … appearing on Christmas Eve to make everybody happy.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that the only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology”

Artus Wolffort - St Andrew - WGA25857.jpg

St. Andrew – the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle” – brought his brother Peter along with him…

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Thursday, November 30, is the Feast day for St. Andrew.   And:  “Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year.”

Advent2007candlelight.JPGWhich brings up that Liturgical (church)  year that begins with the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas….”  The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah…  (E.A.)

As Wikipedia also noted, the church calendar “divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their own mood, theological emphases, and modes of prayer.”  Put another way, “Advent” begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and/or “the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day (30 November).”  So this year the First Sunday of Advent falls on December 3.  (Which is also the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s day.)

Incidentally, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmas Eve Day (Which is cutting it really close.)  

And which brings us back to St. Andrew.  As noted in St. Andrew, the “First Apostle,” Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know very little about him.   Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

All of which means that if it hadn’t been for Andrew – dragging his brother along – we might never have had a St. Peter.   Also incidentally, St. Andrew ended up crucified on an x-shaped cross, as illustrated above left.  (Which will be tied in a bit further below…)

Andrew chose that method – according to tradition – because he  “deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been.”  And that x-shaped cross –  a saltire or crux decussata – is now commonly called a “Saint Andrew’s Cross.”  (Which appears on a number of flags and emblems, including Great Britain’s Union Jack, seen at right.) 

And that raises the question, How Did The Other Apostles Die?

Short answers:  Peter and Paul died in Rome around 66 A.D.  Paul was beheaded – an “honor,” because he was a Roman citizen – while Peter chose to be crucified upside down.  (Like Andrew, he “did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.”)  Matthias – who replaced Judas Iscariot – died by burning.  Thomas was “pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.” Philip was “arrested and cruelly put to death,” for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. And James was said to have been “stoned and then clubbed to death.*”

And all of that brings up the hoax – if not heresy – of “prosperity theology.”

Briefly, prosperity theology “is a religious belief among some Christians [which] views the Bible as a contract between God and humans:  if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.”  Which brings up the question:  Didn’t the Apostles have faith in God?

The short answer is yes they did, but they certainly didn’t end up secure and prosperous.  They ended up with something far more precious, despite their gruesome deaths  See 1 Peter 1:6-7:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Then too, as Jesus Himself said in Matthew 6:24:  “No man can serve two masters…  Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  (In the King James Version, the Bible God uses.  “Mammon” is illustrated above left.)  And speaking of a “contract,” according to the Wex Legal Dictionary it is an “agreement between private parties creating mutual obligations enforceable by law.”

So, if Mr. Prosperity Theologist feels like he isn’t getting all he “deserves” from God, in what court will he file a lawsuit?  (See e.g., You Can Sue God, But You Can’t Win.  For one thing, “There could never be service effectuated on the named defendant…”)  But we’re digressing here.

The point is that mixing up the worship of God and Mammon has been around since the time of Jesus.

The same could be said of “peddling God’s word,” along with other forms of hucksterism.  That’s also been around for some 2,000 years.  See for example, 2 Corinthians 2:17.  In the New Living Translation it reads, “You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit.”  Or in the New International Version:  “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.”

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You can read more on the upcoming Season of Advent in the following posts:  On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent(11/30/16.)  On Advent – 2015(11/30/15.)  And An early Advent medley (12/4/15.)

As to all of which a follower of prosperity theology might simply say, “Why bother with all that Advent rigamarole?  I’ve got a contract with God.  He owes me!!

In the meantime, the rest of us can enjoy the upcoming “time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  And also the calling of St. Andrew, who – along with his brother Peter – were two of the preeminent Apostles

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Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew,” by Caravaggio

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The upper image is courtesy of Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Saint Andrew the Apostle’ by Artus Wolffort.”  Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. 

Thus as to how other Apostles died:  Of the rest of the 12, some accounts say Matthew “was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.”  There are various accounts of how Bartholomew “met his death as a martyr for the gospel.”  Simon the Zealot was said to have been “killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.”  Only John was “thought to have died a natural death from old age,” after writing the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.  But an early tradition had him “escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil.”

The “snake oil” image is courtesy of Patent medicine – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Caravaggio: The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew – Art:

A beardless Jesus gestures Peter … and his brother Andrew to follow him…  Caravaggio gives his own interpretation.  Because of his prominence, the man on the left is thought to be Peter…  One of the details that shows this work must be the original is a carving in the ground layer under Peter’s ear.  Caravaggio often used such incissions [sic]…

See also, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew – Wikipedia.

And finally, a distinction between “prosperity theology” and lives of abundance, per John 10:10:

“Abundant life” is a term used to refer to Christian teachings on fullness of life…  For a Christian, fullness of life is not measured in terms of “fun” and “living large”, or in terms of wealth, prestige, position, and power, but measured by fulfilled lives of responsibility and self-restraint, and the rewards and blessings that accrue over a lifetime of pleasing God. According to the abundant life interpretation, the Bible has promises of wealth, health, and well-being, but these promises are conditional promises.  

In other words – Mr. Prosperity Theologist – lots of luck in that lawsuit where you start off, “I’ve got a contract with God.  He owes me!!

On Thanksgiving – 2017

The “First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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I posted the painting above at the end of On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, in 2014.  (And an FYI:  I included a footnote – featuring Dirty Harry – which asked the rhetorical question“So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”)

Which had to do with pilgrimages in general.

And which seems especially appropriate, given my own recent pilgrimage to Spain and the Camino de Santiago.  (See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And incidentally, the “Santiago” in that pilgrims’ route refers to “St. James the Greater.”  He in turn is thepatron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.”  Further on, the post on St. James included this:

“In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

I don’t know about that “state of beatitude” at the end of my Camino trip.  However, I do know that I was pretty darned happy to be back in the ATL and “God’s Country.”  Anyway, I ended the St. James post with this:   “you could say that – in a sense – we’re all Pilgrims

File:Louvin.jpgWhich brings us back to that First Thanksgiving…  And which ties in to my last post, “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Bear with me.

As noted,* the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock suffered greatly for their faith.  49 of the original 102 died between 1620 – when they landed – and that First Thanksgiving in 1621.  Of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter.  And they did all that  just to get the hell away from “conservatives” back home!

And incidentally, the word “pilgrims” – applied to passengers of the Mayflower – first came from the pen of William Bradford (Of whom it is said the author is a distant relative.) 

In his book, Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford wrote about whether they should return to England, from their stay in Holland.  He noted that he and his compatriots “had the opportunity to return to their old country but instead longed for a better, heavenly country.”

In other words, they wanted to get the hell away from “conservatives” back home!  (Conservatives, how about “Make America Better!”  It never stopped being great, fool!”)

Anyway, Bradford also wrote about conditions that made that decision easier:

[The “Pilgrims” in England] were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them.  For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped…

See Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony) – Wikipedia.  That site also said Bradford used the imagery of Hebrews 11 – “about Old Testament ‘strangers and pilgrims'” – to make his point:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning;  they were sawed in two;  they were killed by the sword. 

And all of which – arguably – came at the hands of conservatives.  The same “conservatives” who threatened to stone Moses, who insisted the world was flat and threatened anyone who disagreed, and burned people at the stake in the form of the Spanish Inquisition

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Of course some of the foregoing is mere hyperbole:  “exaggeration as a rhetorical device… In poetry and oratory, it emphasizes, evokes strong feelings, and creates strong impressions.  As a figure of speech, it is usually not meant to be taken literally.”

The problem is that today’s conservatives – in both politics and religion – have used hyperbole so long and so often that they do take it literally.  They ignore the fact that “If Jesus was a Conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”  (See The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says.)

Which leads to this thought:  It’s time for all of us to take a long pilgrimage away from our gross overuse of hyperbole – to the point where far too many people take it far too literally.  Enough of “strong feelings” and “strong impressions.”  Let’s all tone it down a bit.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…

That’s from Isaiah 1:18, in the King James Version(You know, the one God uses…)  And that seems to be a Bible passage that today’s “conservative Christians” seem to ignore.

Meanwhile, those of us who  aren’t “conservative Christians” still have reason to give thanks on this holiday.  Those of us who dare call such conservatives to account aren’t “hunted & persecuted on every side,” we aren’t “taken & clapt up in prison,” and we aren’t “put to death by stoning,” “sawed in two,” or “killed by the sword.”   (Not yet anyway…) 

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As to the phrase “whole new world” in the caption below:  It’s “a nod to the song by that name in the movie Aladdin.”  See A whole new world … YouTube.  and Whole New World Lyrics:

“A whole new world,  A new fantastic point of view,  No one to tell us no,  Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…”

All of which could describe the feelings of any pilgrim setting out for any “new world.”  But finding that New World necessarily entails getting the heck away from the conservatives!

But finally, to all y’all out there, liberal, conservative, and way too “moderate and nicey-nicey:”

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Or as it says in Deuteronomy 26:11, “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.”  But of course, the “emphasis” brings up a whole ‘nother subject entirely…

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 Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving conservatives back home, looking for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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The upper image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the phrase “As noted,* the Pilgrims:”  This year’s post was gleaned – in reverse order – from past posts:  On Thanksgiving – 2016On Thanksgiving 2015On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, and On the first Thanksgiving – Part II.

Re:  William Bradford‘s use of Hebrews 11.  Wikipedia said he “used the imagery of Hebrews 11:13–16.”  The passage about people being sawn in two (etc.) is from Hebrews 11:35-37.

The caption for the map to the right of the paragraph beginning “See Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony) – Wikipedia,” is captioned:  “Samuel de Champlain‘s 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor, showing Wampanoag village Patuxet, with some modern place names added for reference.  The star is the approximate location of the 1620 English settlement.”

 The lower image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia:  “Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.”  

“There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?

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It came most recently from Rick Santorum.  In 2008 he supposedly said, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.”  And although some debate whether he actually said that,* his sentiment is hardly new.

There was for example the 1952 song by the Louvin Brothers, “That word, ‘broad-minded’ is spelled s-i-n.”  (As shown in the image at the bottom of the page.)

One strange thing?  Ira Louvin was “notorious for his drinking, womanizing, and short temper.”  (Or maybe it wasn’t so strange after all.)  Ira ended up getting married four times, and his third wife Faye ended up shooting him six times.  (Four times in the chest And that was after one time he allegedly beat her up.  See On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.”)

And then of course – more recently – we’ve seen the saga of Judge Roy Moore.

But we’re digressing here.  The point is that in the interest of turnabout is fair play, it’s time for someone to say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”

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As noted previously, my brother and I recently hiked the Camino de Santiago(From September 13 to October 12, 2017.  See “Hola! Buen Camino!”)  And one thing you definitely have time for – on such a long and arduous pilgrimage – is a lot of thinking.  (In mile after  mile of hiking.)  And one thing I definitely thought about was:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle!

As in:  Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle about what this particular blog is all about…

Which brings up the question in the caption above:  Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God … and risk being transformed (See also On arguing with God.)

(In Jacob’s case he got transformed significantly,  He had his name changed – from Jacob to “Israel” – and then became “Father of the 12 tribes of Israel.”  See Genesis 32:22-32.  If he’d been a conservative, Jacob would probably have been content to stay Jacob…)

William TyndaleSo anyway, the answer is probably not.  (A conservative Christian wouldn’t think of wrestling or arguing with God.)  But an FYI:  The link to the definition of “transformed” in the caption above leads to the King James Dictionary (And you can’t get any more “old school” than that.  As I’ve noted, the King James Version is the “Bible God uses.”  See Bill Tyndale [left] – who[se] Bible you could actually READ!)

In turn, the King James Dictionary defines “transform” – in one sense – as “to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”  Using that definition, it would seem most so-called conservative Christians would prefer to stay caterpillars.

Another definition is in the field of theology, where it means to “change the natural disposition and temper of man from a state of enmity … into a disposition and temper conformed to the will of God.”  (The KJ Dictionary even provided a Bible quote, from Romans 12:2:  “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”)  And that leads to another observation:  That one thing conservative Christians hate – and/or can’t handle – is change.

Which raises a question:  “Is God really a bloated, sanctimonious old white guy in a pin-striped suit?”  And that leads to another definition of “transform” from the KJ Dictionary:

Among the mystics, to [“transform” is to] change the contemplative soul into a divine substance, by which it is lost or swallowed up in the divine nature.

And if there’s another thing so-called conservative Christians hate, it’s the term “mystic.”  (Or mysticism.)  Which led me to note previously:  “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”

All of which leads to the question:  Should “real” Christians be narrow-minded or broad-minded?  To me, the best answer to that question comes from Luke 24:45:  “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Which brings up the Daily Office Readings for Monday, November 13.  They included Matthew 15:1-3:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,  “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”  He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

And incidentally, the image at right is by Gustave Doré, “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”

Another note:  The “DORs” are the Daily Office Readings.  (See What’s a DOR?)  And that brings up the DORs for this morning, Thursday, November 16.  They included Matthew 16:12:  “Then they understood that he” – Jesus – “had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees.”  And that’s a problem we’ve had ever since…

That is, at least initially the “relationship between Early Christianity and Pharisees was not always hostile.”  (Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee, at least initially.)  But as the term has evolved – and as it is now used in the lower case – the term pharisee has come to mean a “sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.” 

So it seems to me that a lot of “Christians” who say they’re conservative are actually pharisees.

For example, when I just Googled the phrase “negative Christians,” I got over 500,00 results.  And when I Googled “hypocritical Christians,” I got 189,000 results.  But to me, real Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical.  Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press.

Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear.  And that leads to a final note:

“It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture…” 

And that’s another problem that we’ve had since the time of Jesus…

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File:Louvin.jpg

Would the Louvins let Jesus “open their minds,” per Luke 24:45?

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The upper image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.  For more on the idea of “struggling with the idea of God,” see On arguing with God (posted May 2014) and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella (posted April 2016).

Re:  Rick Santorum.  See also The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to debate about Santorum’s supposed comments, see e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum.  And aside from the Louvin Brothers’ sentiment, see also The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:

Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom.  Freedom from tradition, freedom from institutions, freedom from authority, freedom from dogma.  The freedom to be and do as you choose…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.  In short, it is anathema to God and should be recognised and treated as such by all who consider themselves Christian.

And an FYI:  I Googled the phrase “there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian” and got some 17,500,000 results, including the following:  Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus (HuffPost), Rick Santorum In 2008: There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal ChristianNo Such Thing As A Liberal Christian – tgm.org, and Article on: There is no such thing as a conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist.  Thus it seems the title was designed to be deliberately provocative, as was this thought in the main text:  “consider now that you have been led to associate ‘Jesus’ with the views of those who are not really Christians.”  Which is pretty much the theme of both this blog and this particular post…

Re:  “Conservative Christians” and mystics:  See The Bible and mysticism, or The Christian repertoire.

Re:  Jacob being transformed.  See 9 Famous Fathers in the Bible, and also Genesis 32:22-32:  

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,  because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Re:  “Narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading.”  See On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

The lower image is courtesy of The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.  

 

On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

There are actually “Three Days of Halloween,” ending on November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

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Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgMy last post was “Hola! Buen Camino!”  It described some of my just-finished five-week trip to Spain  (I was hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago.)  I’ll be writing more about that trip later, but now it’s time to focus on the upcoming three days of Halloween.  That set of three feast days is called the Halloween “Triduum,” or in the alternative Allhallowtide.

Triduum* is a fancy Latin word for “three days.”  And the word “hallow” – in both “hallowe’en” and “Allhallowtide” – comes from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.  That eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe it was easier to say.)  Which led to November 1 now being called All Saints’ Day.

The Old English “All Haligs’ Day” – November 1 – eventually became “All Hallows Day.”  The “eve” before that Feast Day – October 31 – became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  Later still it shortened to “Hallowe’en,” then just plain Halloween.

There’s more on these three days of remembrance in “All Hallows E’en” – 2016, and earlier still in “All Hallows E’en” – 2015.  But here’s the short and sweet version.

As Wikipedia noted, this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead, including martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.”  The main day is November 1, now All Saints Day, but previously referred to as Hallowmas.  It was established sometime between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

All Hallows’ Eve – October 31 – was originally established around that time as a vigil.  That is, it was originally designed as a “period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance.”  (From the Latin word for “wakefulness.”)  In other words, Halloween was originally designed to be more like the “Easter Vigil held at night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.”  That is, “a devotional exercise or ritual observance on the eve of a holy day:”

Such liturgical vigils usually consist of psalmsprayers and hymns, possibly a sermon or readings from the Holy Fathers, and sometimes periods of silent meditation.

But boy has that changed.  (The painting above left shows “A Knight’s Vigil.”  See the notes.)

There’s more on those changes below, but first note that November 1 honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians ‘who are unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.'”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks

But getting back to Halloween, a good friend recently asked how such a Holy Day “evolved into an opportunity to drink and party?”  (Not to mention getting way too much candy…)

It all started with the old-time belief that  evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter.  Those “old-timers” also believed that the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable on the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was build bonfires, or literally bonefires(That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)  The original idea was that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  But that evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

Like I said, there’s more information in “All Hallows E’en” – 2016, and in “All Hallows E’en” – 2015 (On things like trick-or-treatingjack-o’-lanterns representing “Christian souls in purgatory,” and “foolish fire” leading travelers from their safe paths “to their doom.”)  But I’ll close with this:

There was another old-time custom, that if you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches.

Have a Happy Halloween!

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Wicked_witch

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The upper image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”  See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by reference detailed in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the term Triduum, it is usually defined as a “period of three days  for prayer before a feast.”  A better-known example is the Paschal Triduum, from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday.

Re:  “A Knight’s Vigil.”  That’s the title of the painting – by John Pettie (1839-1893) – to the left of the paragraph beginning “All Hallows’ Eve – October 31 – was originally…”  The painting is courtesy of Vigil – Wikipedia, which added this note on knights’ vigils:

During the Middle Ages, a squire on the night before his knighting ceremony was expected to take a cleansing bath, fast, make confession, and then hold an all-night vigil of prayer in the chapel, preparing himself in this manner for life as a knight.  For the knighting ceremony, he dressed in white as a symbol for purity and over that was placed a red robe to show his readiness to be wounded, over which a black robe was placed as a symbol of his willingness to die for his king.

The lower “witch” image is courtesy of Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead …54disneyreviews.

“Hola! Buen Camino!”

My Camino pilgrimage started at Pamplona, at lower right, for 450 miles of hiking and biking…

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Well, we did it.  My brother and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday, October 12.  This was after hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago, as shown in the map above.  Along the way I occasionally listened to my iPod Shuffle – to help pass the time – and one of my favorite songs was It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.  Except in my mind I had to change the words to “It’s a long way to Santiago!”

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Just as an aside, Monday October 23 was the Feast day for St. James of Jerusalem.  He was also known as James, the brother of Jesus, “James the Just,” and was said to be the first Bishop of Jerusalem.*  He held that post until his death, by “martyrdom in 62 or 69 AD.”

And just in case you’re confused – about the number of “Jameses” in the Bible –  there are at least three men named James in the New Testament, and possibly as many as eight.  (See “BIO of Philip and James,” which attempts to sort them out.) 

In that list, James the Just (“Brother of Jesus”) is listed third.  James the Less – possibly the “son of Alphaeus” – is listed second.  Listed first is St. James the Greater – “for whom the Camino de Santiago is named,” and who is in fact the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  Which is something I mentioned in my last post, On a pilgrimage in Spain.  A link in that post added this, after first noting that in English the route is known as “the Way of St. James:”

The Way of Saint James … is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.  Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth.

So on October 23 we remembered St. James of Jerusalem, also known as James, the brother of Jesus.  But from September 13 to October 12 – you could say – I “remembered” St. James the Greater, by going for a long walk on his pilgrimage route.  (Sore feet and all…)

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Getting back to the pilgrimage itself:  On October 3, in Puente La Reina, in Spain – “about eight miles shy of León” – I wrote that – on reaching Leon – “we will have hiked 250 miles from Pamplona, in the 21 days since we left on September 13.*”  Here’s another note:

The first 10 days after [Pamplona] – on the hike – were pretty miserable.  My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough.  But the day off in Burgos helped a lot.  And since then we’ve made good progress.  Still, we had to implement a Plan B, which involves renting bikes in Leon and cycling the remaining 194 miles.

Image may contain: sky and outdoorAnd speaking of Burgos, here’s a picture of the city’s famous cathedral.  It shows my fellow traveller, and was taken on the morning of September 26, on the way out of town.  (That took over an hour, hiking.)

To make a long story short, we covered the last 195 miles or so in seven days, riding mountain bikes, complete with panniers on the back.  In other words, during the first two-thirds of the trip we averaged 12  miles a day, hiking.  In the last seven days we averaged closer to 28 miles a day.

But in a way that turned out to be simply a variety of Dorothy Parker‘s “different kind of hell.*”  (We just got way too sore again, but in different parts of the body.)

You can get a better idea from the map at the top of the page.  It took ten days to hike from Pamplona to Burgos, where we too our first day off.  It took another 10 days to reach Leon, where we took our second day off and picked up our pre-ordered bikes.  Then that long section from Leon to Burgos – some 195 miles of the 450 – we covered in seven days.

But not without mishap.  Neither of us had ridden a bike in 40 years or so, so it wasn’t real surprising when my right handlebar smashed the heck out of the side-view mirror of some poor slob’s nice new car.*  In the second mishap I literally “ran my ass into a ditch…”

We were zooming downhill one afternoon.  I tried to adjust my left pantleg, and the next thing I knew I was laying in a ditch, bleeding like a stuck pig.  And not just any ditch.  A nice deep ditch covered with thorns and brambles on the sides and bottom.  The “stuck pig” part came when my Ray-Bans gashed the bridge of my nose, causing it to bleed profusely…

The third major mishap came a mere six kilometers from Santiago, when my rear tire when flat.

We finally got a new tube on and inflated, but then had a time getting the chain back on the derailleur.  I finally flagged down a passing Spanish cyclist.  He helped get that straight, but then – after he peddled his merry way – we found out there were no rear brakes, which posed a problem.  We knew that much of the remaining six kilometers was downhill, and also that if applied too forcefully, using front-only brakes can cause a cyclist to go “ass over teakettle.”

So my brother had us switch bikes, and we both glided – carefully and gingerly – into Santiago.

I’ll be writing on more of these adventures, including the several times I – or we – got Lost in Spain.  But after five weeks in Spain – the last part of which included a nine-hour bus ride from Santiago to Madrid, and a 10-hour flight from Madrid to Atlanta – I can only say, with feeling:

There’s No Place Like Home!!

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There is indeed “no place like home” (especially after a long pilgrimage…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT: Map of the Routesilverarrow18.blogspot.com.  

The “Tipperary” image is courtesy of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary – Wikipedia.

Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Jesus’ brother being the “first,” see James the Just, First Bishop of Jerusalem, Jesus’ brother.

For the “RCL” Bible readings for the October 23 feast day, see St. James of Jerusalem.

As to the asterisk next to the passage “the 21 days since we left on September 13:”  We actually reached Leon on October 4. 

Re: Fellow traveller.  Here referring to a person who is “intellectually sympathetic” – in this case, to the crazy idea of spending thousands of dollars and five weeks to hike in a foreign country – as opposed to the term as used in U.S. politics in the 1940s and 1950s.  At that time and place the term was a “pejorative term for a person who was philosophically sympathetic to Communism, yet was not a formal, ‘card-carrying member‘ of the American Communist Party.” 

Young Dorothy Parker.jpgRe:  “Different kind of hell.”  The allusion is to Dorothy Parker‘s famously saying – whenever the door rang in her apartment – “What fresh hell is this?”  That’s also the title of Parker’s 1989 biography by Marion Meade.  See Amazon.com: Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?  

Re:  “Some poor slob’s nice new car.”  City streets in Spain are generally very narrow and difficult to maneuver. 

The “bicycle in a ditch” image is courtesy of Cyclist falls into ditch at opening of new safer bike path …telegraph.co.uk.

The lower image is courtesy http://f3nation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/no-place-like-home.jpg.   See also No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in the movie Wizard of Oz – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop; the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,’” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.”  For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.

On a pilgrimage in Spain…

I’m going east to explore Spain.  (That’s where Columbus – center – started west to explore us…)

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us all to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (See John 14:12.)

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes below or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

In less than 24 hours I’ll be winging my way from Atlanta to Madrid (As in Spain.)  From there I’ll take a train to Pamplonafrom whence my brother and I will hike 450 miles in 30 days.  (On the Camino de Santiago.)

Which brings up the whole “whence we came” thing.  (As illustrated above right.)  That phrase is attributed – variously – to John F. KennedyJames Baldwin, and Jesus.

John F. Kennedy put it this way:  “When we go back to the sea … we are going back from whence we came.”  And James Baldwin said, “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”  Jesus said – in the King James Version of John 8:14 – “I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.”  

But unlike Jesus, many of us have no idea – spiritually – “whence we came.”

Which pretty much sums up the whole idea of going on a pilgrimage.  Put another way, both the Bible and a good pilgrimage can help answer life’s three biggest questions:  “where did I come from, who am I, and where am I going.” (See Where Did I Come From? – Wommack Ministries.)

And one of the best-known pilgrimages involves the Camino de Santiago(As shown at left, in an illustration from a far earlier time.)  Or as Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI put it:

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history.  To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself…  Above all, Christians go on pilgrimage [for example] to Compostela,* which, associated with the memory of Saint James, has welcomed pilgrims from throughout the world who desire to strengthen their spirit with the Apostle’s witness of faith and love.

The point of all this being that – in hiking Spain – I’ll be going back where the American Journey began.  You could say it began when one Chris Columbus met “Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.”  In another sense you could say I’m heading back to explore “whence we all came.”  (All we Americans that is;  metaphorically anyway.)

Or finally, you could say all this brings up St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.

That is, St. James the Greater – for whom the Camino de Santiago is named – is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.   For example, in the picture at right, St. James is seen accoutred as a pilgrim, complete with the accessories “needed for a task or journey.”  That is, he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and with a walking stick in the background.  See Wikipedia:

pilgrim … is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place.  Typically, this is a physical journeying (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system.  In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (…as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

See also Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans.  That book noted that all true ritual – including but not limited to religious – “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”  It added that a pilgrimage “may be described as a ritual on the move.”  That is, through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep,” we can – on a pilgrimage – quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.

And finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  I’ll get back to you on all that, once I return home from Spain, on or about October 17.  (And no doubt skinnier and more foot sore…)

Between then and now – and in closing this post – I’m not sure when I’ll get to do another one.  (Another post that is, before I get home.)  That is, I’m not sure how safe, secure and user-friendly are the “public” wi-fi connections in Spain.  But in the meantime:

Here’s a map of my proposed route, of some 450 miles…

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My hike will start at Pamplona, at the lower right, for some 450 miles of hiking…

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The upper image is courtesy of Spain – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Christopher Columbus meets Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in the Alhambra.”

Re:  “Whence.”  The Kennedy-quote image is courtesy of To sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we camequotefancy.com.  Kennedy made the comments at the “Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews,” on September 14, 1962.  Here’s the full quote:

I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea.  And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.  We are tied to the ocean.  And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.

Re:  “American Journey.”  See also The American Journey: A History of the United States, the text book, not to be confused with American Journey, the “six-part orchestral composition” composed by John Williams and “commissioned by U.S. President Bill Clinton to accompany a multimedia presentation titled ‘The Unfinished Journey’ directed by Steven Spielberg for the 2000 ‘Millennium‘ celebrations.”

Re:  “Back ‘whence we all came.’”  Yeah, I know, the Vikings Beat Columbus to America, but they didn’t stick around very long.  See Norse colonization of North America – Wikipedia:  

The Norse colony in Greenland lasted for almost 500 years.  Continental North American settlements were small and did not develop into permanent colonies.  While voyages, for example to collect timber, are likely to have occurred for some time, there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by reference detailed in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the Christian pilgrimage to Compostela:  In my case, I’ll be hiking the 450 miles from is Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.  My hiking partnet – my brother – will be hiking further.  He’ll hike over the Pyrenees, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, and meet me in Pamplona.  So he’ll do 500 miles and I’ll do 450 miles.  But personally I had enough mountain hiking last August.  See On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Parts One  and Two.)

The St. James image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

The lower image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT: Map of the Routesilverarrow18.blogspot.com.  

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that the only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre

“One morning [at] the Louvre,” with Catherine de’ Medici – in black – who authored the massacre

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us all to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (See John 14:12.)

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes below or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

August 24 was the Feast day for St.  Bartholomew, also known as Bartholomew the Apostle.  Unfortunately, he is perhaps best known for the famous massacre on his feast day in 1572:

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre … in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots…  Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.”  Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.”

This particular massacre occurred during “the French Wars of Religion.”  (Those wars lasted some 40 years – beginning in 1562 – and resulted in the deaths of some 3,000,000 people.)  A more modern illustration of such “mob violence” is shown above left.

And on a personal note:  My French ancestors – who came to America to get the hell away from such religious “conservatives” – were Huguenots.  (“French Calvinist Protestants.”) 

But before talking more about this one massacre, here’s some information on the saint at issue.

See for example the article CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Bartholomew.  (Note the irony.)  It said the name “Bartholomaios” means “son of Talmai” (or Tholmai), but that little else is known about him.  “Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel.”

See for example, John 1:45-51:  “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about…  Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'”

And so our August 24 “St. Bart” is generally identified as the famous Nathanael who Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under the fig tree.

For more see Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  It noted a number of traditions about this saint, including that he went on missionary journeys to India, or in the alternative to “EthiopiaMesopotamiaParthia, and and Lycaonia.”  But the best known tradition is this:

He is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia.  According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward.  He is said to have converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity.  Astyages, Polymius’ brother, consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution.

Which may mean that if you want to convert one king to Christianity – or some other powerful leader of a country – you probably want to convert all his brothers as well.

For the Bible readings for the day, see St. Bartholomew, Apostle.  And there’s a painting at the bottom of the main text – by Michelangelo of Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin.”

Which brings us back to the St. Bartholomew’s massacre.  As Wikipedia noted, in the years since 1572 the massacre “has inevitably aroused a great deal of controversy.”  (Adding that “Modern historians are still divided over the responsibility of the royal family,” including Catherine de’ Medici, seen in black in the painting at the top of the page.)

But perhaps the best answer came from Pope John Paul II.  In August of 1997, and while in Paris,* he issued a statement on the Massacre:

On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns.  I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue…  Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension.  On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.

And speaking of “fruitful dialogue,” the Pope’s comments in 1997 pretty much mirror what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:1-8 – the New Testament reading for Sunday, August 27:

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…

In other words, maybe it’s about damn time that we started celebrating our differences.  As opposed to flaying each other alive.  (Metaphorically or otherwise…)

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“Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin…”

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘One morning at the gates of the Louvre,’ 19th-century painting by Édouard Debat-Ponsan.  Catherine de’ Medici is in black.  The scene from Dubois (above) re-imagined.”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by reference detailed in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “modern illustration of mob violence,” the image is courtesy of the mob violence or “riot” link in the first indented paragraph.  The caption:  “Law enforcement teams deployed to control riots often wear body armor and shields, and may use tear gas.”

The Jesus-and-fig-tree image is courtesy of Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Treesacredstory.org.  

Re:  Pope John Paul II’s 1997 statement.  He issued it on August 23, the eve of St. Bartholomew’s Day, in the city where the massacre took place.  Note also the poignant painting by “Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais,” who…

…managed to create a sentimental moment in the massacre in his painting A Huguenot on St. Bartholomew’s Day (1852), which depicts a Catholic woman attempting to convince her Huguenot lover to wear the white scarf badge of the Catholics and protect himself.  The man, true to his beliefs, gently refuses her.

Googling the phrase “celebrate our differences” got me some 115,000,000 results.

Re:  Being “flayed alive.”  Wikipedia noted that the practice, “known colloquially as skinning, was a method of slow and painful execution in which skin is removed from the body.  Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.”  The article added this:

Dermatologist Ernst G. Jung notes that the typical causes of death due to flaying are shock, critical loss of blood or other body fluidshypothermia, or infections, and that the actual death is estimated to occur from a few hours up to a few days after the flaying.  Hypothermia is possible, as skin is essential for maintaining a person’s body temperature, as it provides a person’s natural insulation.

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin in Michelangelo‘s ‘The Last Judgment.'”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that the only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Perverting “Fundamental” – ism…

Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1865 http://necspenecmetu.tumblr.com/post/15803982029/alexander-louis-leloir-jacob-wrestling-with-the

Jacob wrestling with the angel” – or with God – something a Fundamentalist would never do…

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Last Sunday, August 6, was the Feast day for The Transfiguration of Jesus.  And Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of St Mary, the Virgin.  But first, a word about “perverting Fundamentalism.”

In the religious sense, Fundamentalism indicates “unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.”  Or in the alternative, it indicates a faith “characterized by a markedly strict literalism.”

But the main theme of this blog is that such “markedly strict literalism” results in a closed mind.  And a whole set of Christians who are only cheating themselves.   And a set of Christians who are driving away potential converts “in droves.”

I’ve referred to such close-minded literalists as boot-camp Christians, or as “Comfort Zone Christians.”  Yet another descriptive term could be “half-way Christians.”  As in, Christians who go only half way in building up their spiritual “mansion.”  They put in a foundation, as in “an underlying base or support; especially:  the whole masonry substructure of a building.”

Which makes this a good time to note that the word “fundamental” comes from the late Middle English – Medieval Latin – term fundāmentālis , meaning of or “belonging to a foundation.”

But then these Christians don’t build anything on top of that foundation.  That results – spiritually speaking – in something like the image at right:  A “foundation,” with noting built on top of it.  Or put this way:

The theory or theme here is that people who read the Bible in a strict, narrow or “fundamental” way are only cheating themselves.

(See About the Blog.)  The result is that they have “perverted” the original sense of the word “fundamental;”  they have altered that term “from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.”  Instead of laying a foundation, and then building a spiritual house on top of it, they’re happy living on just the foundation itself.

 And they end up living a barren, “spirit-less” life, contrary to John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (Not to mention, 2d Corinthians 3:6:  “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”)  Not only that, these too-iiteral fundamentalists end up – spiritually speaking – sleeping, eating and living only on a cold, concrete foundation, and thus effectively in a hole in the ground.  That’s the metaphor for the day anyway…

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On a more positive note:  Last Sunday, August 6, was the Feast day for The Transfiguration of Jesus,  For more on that see On the Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016, and/or The Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World.  One key point is that it’s arguably the “greatest miracle in the world” because – unlike the other miracles of Jesus – this one happened to Him.   All the other miracles involved Jesus doing things for other people.

But the key point there is that the Transfiguration “stands as an allegory of the transformative nature” of the faith of the Bible.  That is, the allegory of undergoing a “marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better.”

But you can’t do that if you read the Bible too literally.

And finally, Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of St Mary, the Virgin.   For more on her see On St. Mary, Mother, and/or St. Mary the Virgin, and/or Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.

The key point there is that this Mary had to undergo quite a transformation herself…

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Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

“The Virgin Mary in prayer” – by Sassoferrato – circa 1650.

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The upper image is courtesy of Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.  I’ve used the image in previous posts, including On arguing with God and On “originalism.”

The image to the left of the first main paragraph is courtesy of a 2012 post by Peter Enns, the “American biblical scholartheologian, and writer…  Outside of his academic work Enns is a contributor to HuffPost and Patheos,” and is “best known for his book Inspiration and Incarnation, which challenged conservative/mainstream Evangelical methods of biblical interpretation.”  The post is titled Why I Don’t Give up on Fundamentalists (including the not nice ones), and includes these thoughts:   1) “Fundamentalists are human beings and therefore are of infinite worth,”  2)  “Fundamentalists are my brothers and sisters in the faith,” and  3)  “Some fundamentalists are on a journey out of fundamentalism, even if they do not yet know it, and they need a place to land.”

The “‘foundation,’ without anything built on top of it” image is courtesy of Construction of the administrative building foundationszfk.ru.  

Re:  Spiritual “mansion.”  See John 14:2, translated in the King James Bible:  “In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

The lower image is courtesy of the Marian perspectives link at Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650.”  (Or in the alternative:  “Jungfrun i bön(1640-1650). National GalleryLondon.”)   Also, for a thorough analysis of how the term has evolved over the years, see What Is “Fundamentalism” and Who Is a “Fundamentalist?”

On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints

Tizian 009.jpg

A “Penitent Magdalene,” by Titian (1565)…

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And speaking of getting back on track,* we just had two major feast days.   Last July 22 – a Saturday – was the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  And last Tuesday, July 25, was the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee.  He was also known as “St. James the Greater.”

mm-he-qiMary of Magdala was “the Apostle to the Apostles.”  (As noted in last year’s post.)  Which she did “despite a sordid past and a really lousy reputation.”  (She’s seen at right, in a modern interpretation.)  But there’s some thought that – in being tagged as a prostitute – she got mixed up with the “sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.”  (“Mary” was a common name back then.)

Then there’s another thought:  That her lousy reputation was due to “jealous males trying to  sully her reputation.”  Put simply, she showed a heck of lot more courage than all the male Apostles did after Jesus’ crucifixion.

That is, while they cowered behind closed doors, she braved the danger and went out to become “the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus, and one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.”  That’s one reason that St. Augustine referred to her as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  But it could also explain other efforts to trash her reputation:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

Guido Reni - Saint James the Greater - Google Art Project.jpgOn a more positive note, July 25 was the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee.  He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament. (“Mary” and “James” were both common names in  New Testament times.)  But this James is also called “St. James the Greater.”  (That post included the image at left, of St. James.)

And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

See for example, the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  The “sluts” in question were mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  (It was considered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” and the inspiration for John Steinbeck‘s 1962 nonfiction work, Travels with Charley.)

The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September:  Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  And in the  Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude:”

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which occurred after last year’s hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

Which brings us back to St. James the Greater, who is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

In the picture below, St. James is seen accoutred as a pilgrim, complete with the accessories “needed for a task or journey.”  That is, he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and with a walking stick in the background.  And here’s part of the prayer to St. James:  “O Glorious Saint James … Obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending struggles of this life.”

To which we all might add a hearty Amen, “So be it!

Especially as to those blisters-on-blisters that get infected.  (The two-six-pack cure:  Optional.)

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 St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim

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The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

That is, Titian did a “racier” version in 1533.  See Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to “getting back on track,” that refers to getting back to the business of Bible-related posts, after “Comfort Zone Christians,” and The “Bizarro Rick Santorum.”

The Bible readings for the two feast days can be seen at Mary Magdalene, and St James, respectively.

The image to the right of the paragraph including “shown at right in a modern interpretation” was originally courtesy of “FutureChurch.”  A re-check of the link on July 30, 2017, showed that it included information on Mary Magdalene, but no longer included the “modern” image.  

The lower image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”