On St. Ignatius – and “Persecution Porn”

A more-subdued paintings of Christians and lions…  (“Christian porn” is discussed below.) 

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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.  (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.)

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live in abundance 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:

Ignatius of AntiochOctober 17 is the Feast Day for one of our lesser-known saints: Ignatius of Antioch.  Rumor has it that he was one of the first Christian martyrs to be literally “thrown to the lions.” (Possibly in the Colosseum in Rome, and as shown at left.)

But there are some who doubt that he was torn apart by lions, or that it happened in the Colosseum.  (As opposed to some other place in Rome.)   But it seems uncontested that he died before his time, and that his “crime” was being an early Christian bishop.

As noted in Satucket, “After the Apostles, Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch in Syria.”  Or see Ignatius of Antioch, Apostolic Father – Podcast:

Ignatius of Antioch, whom the Church remembers on October 17, is one of the most important of the apostolic fathers, the Fathers of the Church who[se] lives overlapped the lives of the last of the apostles.  Ignatius was, in fact, only the second successor of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas in the important city of Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were called Christians for the first time.

And as Wikipedia noted, “St. Peter himself left directions that Ignatius be appointed to the episcopal see of Antioch.”  In addition, a tradition arose that Ignatius “was one of the children whom Jesus took in his arms and blessed.”

In other words, he was a pretty important guy in the early Church.

We don’t know much about his early life.  (Except he converted to Christianity at an early age.)  Most of what we do know came after he was “arrested by the Imperial [Roman] authorities, condemned to death, and transported to Rome to die in the arena.”  (Wikipedia said he was sentenced to die at the Colosseum – like those at right – but actually ended up in the Circus Maximus.)  

Which brings up the question – asked by some anyway – whether Christians [were] really thrown to the lions?  According to The Straight Dope, the “story has its suspicious aspects:”

According to the historian Tacitus, Christians during Nero’s time (at least) were mainly torn apart by dogs, crucified, or burned alive – no mention of lions.  The Romans did throw people to lions on occasion, and Tertullian, writing later, remarks that the Romans were always ready to exclaim “Away with the Christians to the lion!” whenever times got tough.

But – according to Straight Dope – Tertullian didn’t witness any such throwing-to-the-lions, “and anyway he was a Christian himself.”  The site also said it was possible the “whole Christians-lions thing was a Christian ploy for sympathy.”  (The site did concede that Romans evidently “fed Christians to animals, and people to lions, [but] we have no source stating directly that they specifically fed Christians to lions.”)

Talk about picky…

But whether he was torn apart by dogs, crucified, or burned alive, Ignatius’ main claim to fame came from the meetings he had and the letters he wrote, from the time of his arrest to his arrival in Rome.

That is, he was arrested in Antioch, in now south-central Turkey, about 12 miles from the border with Syria.  (As shown above left, the tip of the island of Cyprus points directly to today’s city of “Antakya.”)  Also, Antioch is known as “the cradle of Christianity,” and Ignatius had a lot to do with that.

That’s because – on his long trip from Antioch to Rome – he was met by various groups of Christians;  “Ignatius took the opportunity to encourage them, speaking to groups of Christians at every town along the way.”  And he wrote seven letters – to various congregations – “in which he gives us a window into the soul of an early Christian martyr on his way to execution.”

Now, about those Doubting Thomases

There seems to be ample evidence that Christians – along with others deemed “undesirable” by the Roman authorities – did suffer greatly.  See Throwing Christians to the Lions: Fact and Legend:

Most Roman magistrates believed themselves to be enlightened and the government they represented to be merciful. and gave the Christians many opportunities to renounce their “strange unpatriotic beliefs…”  The crowds who came to witness the games were a different matter altogether.  Sometimes they became worked up into a frenzy of hate.  They considered the Christians to be antisocial scum and clamored for a painful death for them in the arena, being mauled and torn apart by wild beasts or forced to fight gladiators who killed them for a public spectacle.

(BTW: The part on crowds “worked up into a frenzy of hate” sounds surprisingly modern, somehow.)

But see also Tales of Roman Emperors Feeding Christians to the Lions Are Titillating to Christians … and Wholly Made Up.  That article took issue with tales of “Christians being thrown to the lions by hard-hearted Roman emperors,” as wholly made up:

There are zero authentic accounts of Christian martyrdom in the Colosseum until over a century after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  In fact, not a single legitimate record exists of the Romans executing any Christians in the Colosseum.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  [E.A.]

You can see the full response to this claim by Wholly Made Up in the notes below.  However, the article did make a couple of valid points.  Like this one:

When people talk about being persecuted in modern America … it’s dangerous…  When American Christians yelp about being discriminated against, it is doubly galling:  for one, because the whole thing is so obviously spun out of thin air;  and also because such claims make light of Christians elsewhere who really do get a raw deal from their governments.

The other good point was about “persecution porn.”  You can see some examples at Damnatio ad bestias – Wikipedia, referring to “damnation to the beasts.”  That in turn referred to the “form of Roman capital punishment in which the condemned person was killed by wild animals.”

The article noted that from “the 1st to 3rd centuries AD, this penalty was mainly applied to the worst criminals, slaves, and early Christians.”  But the article also included at least two paintings of nubile young Christian women – in the altogether – bravely facing death at the “hands” of wild beasts.

Unfortunately, this is a family-oriented blog, so I can’t include them here.  However, that seems to be where the phrase “persecution porn” came from.  (The comparatively-tame painting, “Martyrdom of St. Euphemia” – which occurred at Chalcedon – is shown above right.)

As to how long such “martyr literature” has been around, Isaac Asimov* indicated that it goes back at least as far as 100 or more years before Jesus.

That is, 1st Maccabees is a book written “after the restoration of an independent Jewish kingdom by the Hasmonean dynasty, about the latter part of the 2nd century BC.”  But Asimov said the writer of the Second Book of Maccabees included a number of gruesome martyr stories, in a lovingly-gory detail that was not evident in the first book.

Accordingly – he said – “one might wonder if they are not merely atrocity stories made up after the fact.”  (Which seemed to be the point Wholly Made Up was making.)  

However – Asimov went on to note – the “history of Nazi Germany has proved to all of us that atrocity stories are sometimes simple truth, and understatements at that:”

In any case, the stories, whether strictly true or propaganda inventions, are told in grisly detail as edifying examples of loyalty to the death.  These are the first martyr-details in the Judeo-Christian tradition and formed a precedent for many later such tales that formed so large a part of the early Christian literature.

See also 2d Maccabees – Wikipedia:  The “long descriptions of the martyrdoms of Eleazar and of a mother with her seven sons … caught the imagination of medieval Christians [and are] considered the first model of the medieval stories of the martyrs.”

It should also be noted that this tradition continued in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.  That book – published in 1563 and with illustrations like that below – was highly influential in England and Scotland, “and helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism there.”

And finally, this seems to be a tradition that goes on “even to this day.”  (I.e., we can probably look forward to a whole lot of “persecution stories” – if not “martyr porn” – after November 8…)

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William Tyndale – “strangled and burned at the stake…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Colosseum – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “‘The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer,’ by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883).”

Other sources on this saint include Ignatius’ Martyrdom by Lions in the Colosseum  (“Bible History, and Ignatius of Antioch | Theopedia.

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning, “Unfortunately, historians don’t know much,” is courtesy of Christian Martyrs at the Colosseum – Konstantin Flavitsky (www.the-athenaeum.org).

Re:  The Straight Dope: Were Christians really thrown to the lions?  This article included a wealth of information on such Roman practices, including this interesting side-note:

Roman animal sports did at least provide an answer to one perennial question:  Which is tougher, a bull or a rhino?  Answer:  Never bet against a rhino, which according to the writer Martial had no problem getting its horn under a bull and flipping it like a flapjack. 

The “writer Martial” was formally known as “Marcus Valerius Martialis,” and best known for his 12 “books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan…  He is considered to be the creator of the modern epigram.” 

The map showing Antioch is courtesy of tofspot.blogspot.com, “Crossroads of the Middle East: Lebanon and Palestine.”

Re:  “Full response to Wholly Made Up.”   For one thing, note the claim in that article that such cruelties were “wholly” made up.  As in “completely or fully,” “to the full or entire extent,” “completely ,” and/or “to the exclusion of other things.”

File:Aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-4574.jpgFor another thing, note the number of “provisos, limitations and quid-pro-quos.”  Early Christians may have been torn apart by dogs, crucified, or burned alive, rather than being “eaten by lions.”  Or they may have died in the Circus Maximus, not the Colosseum.

The fact remains, they were just as dead.

Then there was the claim of no such martyrdom “until over a century after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.”  The fact is that the Emperor Constantine didn’t make Christianity the “religion of the Roman Empire” until 313 A.D.  See Constantine the Great and Christianity – Wikipedia, which said the effect of the Edict of Milan – aside from “decriminalizing Christian worship” – was to “cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.”

Needless to say, there’s a big difference between “decriminalizing” a religion and making it official.  Then too, early Christians were just as dead even if the Emperor wasn’t “hard-hearted.”

And Re:  “Provisos, limitations and quid-pro-quos.”  See Quotes from Movie Aladdin :: Finest Quotes.  The image above left is courtesy of Image – Aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-4574.jpg – Disney Wikidisney.wikia.com.

Re: Isaac Asimov.  The quotes about 1st Maccabees and 2d Maccabees are from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 762-63. 

Asimov (1920-1992) was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.  Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.”  His list of books included those on “astronomy, mathematics, theBible, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.”  He was a long-time member of Mensa, “albeit reluctantly;  he described some members of that organization as ‘brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.’”  See Isaac Asimov – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “William Tyndale, just before being strangled and burned at the stake, cries out, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,’ in woodcut from an early edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”  See also, Bill Tyndale – who published a Bible you could actually READ!

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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…)

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgNow, 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 want to move on to more Advanced Individual Training

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

In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See also Slogans of the United States Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image above 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. Teresa – and Karl Marx?


Did Teresa of Ávila – the “Pope Francis of her time” – also get attacked by conservatives?

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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.  (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.)

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live in abundance 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:

Saturday, October 15, is the feast Day of St. Teresa of Ávila.

On that note, back on March 30, 2015, St. Teresa was dubbed “the Pope Francis of her time.”  Which leads to the musical question:*  Did she also get attacked by conservatives?

About a year ago, conservative cartoonist Michael Ramirez pictured Pope Francis espousing “the Gospel of Marx.*”  For an update, I Googled “gospel of marx pope francis.”  I found some very interesting reading.

You can see some of the results of this off on a tangent search in the notes.  But perhaps the best – the most common sense – response came from The Gospel of Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis: Darcy cartoon.  (That’s where the cartoon above came from.)  

Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders are guilty of the sin of socialism in the eyes of conservatives…  The Pope’s comments on capitalism, wealth disparity, corporate responsibility to society and climate change, have been touted by Democrats and criticized by conservatives as espousing socialism and even communism.  [E.A.]

But – the writer noted – the Pope also criticized Cuba’s Fidel Castro and his brother.

In their case, it was for the kind of dictatorship that “Pope Francis is all too familiar with having had to live under military dictatorship in Argentina.”  The Sanders and Pope Francis writer concluded:  “The fact that the Pope has Democrat and Republican politicians both agreeing and disagreeing with him, tells me he’s on the right path…”

I covered Teresa in last year’s On Saint Teresa of Avila.  That post included this nugget:

Somewhat surprisingly, she was “of Jewish descent,” and among other things could be rather droll.  (If not apparently disrespectful to God.)  According to one story, she was traveling to visit another convent when her cart overturned and she was thrown into a mud puddle.  Embarrassed at having to show up in a dirty habit, Teresa reportedly prayed, “God, if this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!

(On that note, see More on “arguing with God.”)  But the point here is that Teresa (1515-1582) was a reformer; that is, a person “who works to change and improve a society, government, etc.”

In her case, the reforming spirit began when she joined a Carmelite order in Ávila(In Spain.  The image at right shows the city’s “Fiestas de Santa Teresa.”)

However, she soon found herself “increasingly in disharmony with the spiritual malaise prevailing at the monastery.”  (Which you might expect from someone who takes God to task.)  She moved to reduce the “laxness” in the order’s spiritual discipline, but her devotion “excited a scandal among the citizens and authorities of Ávila.”  (Sound familiar?)

Then too, while she had powerful support, her hard work also made her a slew of enemies.

On that note, it seems that – throughout history – true reformers have always made enemies of the entrenched interests in power at the time.  Saint Teresa was no exception:

In 1576 a series of persecutions began on the part of the older observant Carmelite order against Teresa, her friends, and her reforms…  The general [“older’] chapter condemned her to voluntary retirement to one of her institutions.  She obeyed and chose St. Joseph’s at Toledo.  Her friends and subordinates were subjected to greater trials.

Fortunately, her years of sending letters to King Philip II of Spain – pleading for relief – finally paid off.  (Shortly before the Spanish Inquisition came into play.)  The charges against her were dropped, and her efforts at reform continued.

In other words, St. Teresa ended up by not getting burned at the stake, like the poor schmuck at left.

Then too, Teresa was a mystic, and as noted before:

The terms “mystic” or “mysticism” seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (Try it sometime!!!)

See On Saint Teresa of Avila, which added this about the idea of a “mystic” freaking out some Christians.  For example:  “The term ‘Christian mystic’ is an oxymoron.  Mysticism is not the experience of a Christian.”  (From What is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.org.)  Or this:

Mysticism is when you get into a mystical state and it’s something you cannot understand, you’re out there in “la-la” land, it’s an “oooh” experience and you’re really not thinking.

See Is There A Biblical Mysticism? | thebereancall.org.

On the other hand, it’d be hard to describe Teresa’s experience – shown in the sculpture below – as anything but a “mystical experience.”  (See e.g. Christian mysticism – Wikipedia and The mystical teachings of Jesus. Or check the notes below.)  The fact remains:  Teresa was canonized as a saint, and that alone may have made lots of people jealous, both during her time and since.

But before we go off on another tangent, I’d like to close this post on St. Teresa with an observation.  Some people – who should know better – portray Jesus as some kind of a button-down conservative.  Which leads to this “musical question:”

If Jesus was a “conservative,” how come we’re not all going to synagogue?

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“The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, by Bernini…”

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148751 600 Gospel According to Marx cartoonsThe upper image is courtesy of The Gospel of Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis: Darcy cartoon.  It’s an update on last year’s accusation – by cartoonist Michael Ramirez – that the Pope was either a Marxist, Communist, or both.

(For my take on the issue, see On the “Gospel of Marx.”)

On the same topic – of whether Pope Francis is a “Marxist,” or worse – see also “Pope Francis: A Socialist By Any Other Name:”

Francis has [] referred to ours as “an economy of exclusion and inequality…”  As a consequence,” Francis concludes, “masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”  Where have we heard this lingo before?

(For one answer see:  Trump pitches black voters: “What the hell do you have to lose?”)

A second article: “Pope Francis says ‘freedom … of God allows Christians to break some laws:”

The Popes are believed to be infallible, meaning while acting in his capacity as head of the church, he can never err or lie.  Simply put, everything from his mouth is gospel truth. Well, it has never been and this time it is worse.

That writer concluded, “The catholic church is not a church but a den of demons.”  (Note the non-capitalized “catholic” and “church.”)  The article got one response:

Dude, you have NO idea what you’re talking about!  “Papal Infallibility” only applies to matters of Faith and Morals…  It does not — repeat NOT — apply to off-the-cuff comments or statements made such as the one you are making such a big deal out of…  What His Holiness is talking about is Phariseeism – those who would complain about the speck of dust in their brother’s eyes while ignoring the log in their own.

(See also Ex cathedra, at Papal infallibility.)  Which could lead to one valuable object lesson:  That there’s a lot of crap on the internet.  (Not to put too fine a point on it…)

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 As for the phrase “asks the musical question,” see e.g. Carol Brady – Quotes – imdb.com:  “Carol Brady:  ‘Yeah, the show that asks the musical question: Can eight average people make it in the big time?’” (It’s under “‘The Brady Bunch Variety Hour: Episode #1.4 (1977).)  See also “Bibliographia” – Verbatim, Vol. 29, Issue 1, Spring 2004 (“A Decade-by-Decade Guide to the Vanishing Vocabulary of the Twentieth Century”), which included this:

In the postwar years, young people became increasingly anti-authoritarian in their behavior. Blame it on Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones.  One way to keep the old folks at bay was to cut them out of your communications…  “KIDS,” a song from the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdieasks the musical question, “Who can understand anything they say?”

See also “Birdie” – What’s the Matter With Kids Today – YouTube.  (Talk about “deja vu all over again.”)

For more on St. Teresa – from the Satucket website (with the DORs) – see Teresa of Avila.  As to Avila’s “fiesta,” Wikipedia noted, “The festivities of Santa Teresa last almost the entire month of October.”

Re:  Death by burning.  Wikipedia noted that the practice “has a long history as a form of capital punishment,” for crimes such as treason.  “The best known type of executions of death by burning is when the condemned is bound to a large wooden stake (this is usually called ‘burning at the stake,’ or in some cases, auto-da-fé),”  On that note, the caption from the “Inquisition” article – to the left of the paragraph beginning “Fortunately, years of letters” – reads as follows:  “The burning of a 16th-century Dutch Anabaptist Anneken Hendriks, who was charged with heresy.”

Re:  Jesus as a mystic.  See also, contraWas Jesus A Mystic? – Shane Hipps.

The lower image is courtesy of Teresa of Ávila – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.”

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Also, in case I miss it, next Tuesday, October 18, is the feast day of St. Luke, the Evangelist.  I covered St. Luke in On St. Luke – 2015, and – from 2014 – On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, including the image at right.

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…)

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgNow, 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 want to move on to more Advanced Individual Training

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

In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See also Slogans of the United States Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image above 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?

Re: “The standards you use for others…”

Is the inscription on “Liberty Enlightening the World” really “just a poem?”

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This morning’s Daily Office Readings really hit a nerve.

Spirit of America - Staten Island Ferry.jpgThe thing is, I just finished a mini-vacation to New York City, while based in Staten Island.  That meant we took the Staten Island Ferry twice a day.  In turn, that meant we passed by the Statue of Liberty twice a day, for four of five days. And that meant we passed by the statue – officially, Liberty Enlightening the World” – eight times in five days.

It was quite a moving sight. every time I passed by.  So naturally I figured the statue – together with the inscription on it – would have a special meaning for all real Americans:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…

But not everyone seems to agree.  Like back in 2014, when  someone wrote a Letter to the Editor suggesting that “Congress read the inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty in order to make a more informed decision regarding immigration.”

It sounded like a good idea to me.  But one knucklehead objected:

[The inscription on the Statue of Liberty] is just a poem.  It’s not one of our founding documents, nor is it a law, nor is it anything more than what it is:  a poem.  A nice poem, with stirring, emotion-driven rhetoric, yes, but a poem nonetheless. [E.A.]

See Words on Statue of Liberty merely a poem – azcentral.com.

Bellus photoBut that – it seemed to me – was like saying the Bible is “just a nice set of old-time stories.”  And by the way, it turns out that about 75% of the Old Testament is also “just a bunch of poems.*”

That’s where this morning’s Daily Office Readings came in.

They seemed to support my theory that we get a whole lot more from the Bible than just a bunch of “mere poems,” or just a “nice set of old-time stories…”

Today’s main (non-psalm) readings were Micah 5:1-4,10-15Acts 25:13-27, and Luke 8:16-25.

Acts 25:13-27 tells of the Apostle Paul, on trial before Porcius Festus.  (Procurator of Judea, at left in yellow).

He later asked for help from Herod Agrippa.  (The puppet King of Judaea, which was actually under Roman rule.)  As noted in Acts 25:2, “the chief priests and the Jewish leaders [had] appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul.”

In response to the charges “Festus laid Paul’s case” before Agrippa.  He then added, in Acts 25:16:  “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges.”

But – after having been able to both face his accusers and present a defense – Paul appealed to Caesar.  (Apparently rather than face a hostile trial in Jerusalem.*)  Festus then responded:

I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him.  Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write – for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.’

Which means that there – in today’s short New Testament reading – are found three key Constitutional safeguards in our  Sixth Amendment.  (And – as noted below –  if there’s any group more despised than immigrants, it’s criminal defendants.)  See also Confrontation Clause:

In noting the right’s long history, the United States Supreme Court has cited Acts of the Apostles 25:16, which reports the Roman governor Porcius Festus, discussing the proper treatment of his prisoner Paul:  “It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man up to die before the accused has met his accusers face-to-face, and has been given a chance to defend himself against the charges.”

... Pie is the American synonym of prosperity. Pie is the food of theNote also that in tracing the history of the right, the Supreme Court cited the Bible, not “Roman law.”  (Meaning the Bible is arguably more important…)  As to the “chance to defend himself against the charges,” see also The Right to Present Defense Evidence – The Advocate.  That article noted that the “right to present a defense is as American as apple pie.”

Then there’s the right to Notice:  “A criminal defendant has the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.”  Or as it was said in Acts 25:27, “without specifying the charges against him.”

Which brings us back to my theory that we get a lot more from the Bible than just a bunch of “mere poems,” or just a “nice set of old-time stories.”  Like, maybe a national consciousness, if not a national conscience?  Which again brings up the fact that if there’s any group of people more despised than criminal defendants, it’s immigrants.  (Legal or otherwise.)

But what does the Bible say about immigrants?  (Legal or otherwise.)  

For one example see Exodus 22:21, in the WEB:  “You shall not wrong an alien, neither shall you oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”  Then there’s Leviticus 19:33-34, in the ISV:  “If a resident alien lives with you in your land, you are not to mistreat him.  You are to treat the resident alien the same way you treat the native born among you – love him like yourself, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

And that brings up one of the psalms in today’s Daily Office Readings. (See NRSV.)  I’m referring to Psalm 137, “one of the best known of the Biblical psalms.”  As Wikipedia noted:

The psalm is a hymn expressing the yearnings of the Jewish people in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 607 BCE.

In other words, Psalm 137 was written well after Exodus and Leviticus.  In Exodus and Leviticus, the Hebrews were still Wandering in the Wilderness, and hadn’t yet found their “Promised Land.”  Moreover, the memory of their time as slaves in Egypt were still relatively fresh.

But Psalm 137 was written centuries later, after that long-awaited Promised Land had been lost, through invasion and exile.  Which means that there may be a bit of enlightened self-interest at issue here.  (See also Karma, and Turnabout is fair play.)  For the Bible take, see Luke 6:38:

Give, and you will receive.  A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your pocket.  The standards you use for others will be applied to you.”

The point being that Mr. “Just a Poem” – quoted above – may want to re-think his negative attitude about members of Congress re-reading the inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

And while they’re at it, those members of Congress might want to go back over those portions of the Bible dealing with immigrants, foreigners and/or “aliens.”

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“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept,” remembering our lost homeland…

 *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Statue of Liberty – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “‘Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World’ (1886) by Edward Moran. Oil on canvas. The J. Clarence Davies Collection, Museum of the City of New York.”

Re:  The Old Testament as also arguably “just a bunch of poems.”  See Poetry in the Hebrew Bible:

Approximately 75% of the Hebrew Bible is poetry.  All of Psalms and Proverbs are Hebrew poetry and many other books, such as the book of Genesis, are filled with poetry.  The reason much of the Bible was written in poetry is that it was originally sung and stories that are sung are much easier to memorize that when simply spoken.  There is much more poetry in the Bible than most realize because most people do not understand it.*

(See also Biblical poetry – Wikipedia, and The Therapeutic Benefit of Poetry:  “From the beginning of time, poetry has been a means for people to express their deepest emotions and create healing in ritual and ceremony.”  See also my companion blog, at “No city for Grouchy Old White People.”

The caption in Wikipedia for the image of Porcius Festus reads:  “Stained glass window in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne showing Festus in yellow.”  Note the NIV translation of Acts 25:27 reads:  “For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.”  

Re:  “Hostile trial in Jerusalem.”  Isaac Asimov said Paul wasn’t sure he’d get a fair trial in Jerusalem, even with Festus presiding.  “Indeed, he probably suspected that Festus would be successfully pressured into a conviction, as had been the case with Pontius Pilate thirty-two years  before.” (Referring to Jesus’ conviction.)  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 1081-83, which also noted that Herod was “scorned as a Roman puppet.” 

The “apple pie” image is courtesy of priceonomics.com.

Re:  The Bible on prisoners.  See Isaiah 61:1:  “The LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” mirrored and/or quoted in Luke 4:18.  Then there was tomorrow morning’s New Testament reading, which included 2 Timothy 2:9:  “I’m suffering to the point that I’m in prison like a common criminal.”  See Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.

Re:  “Legal or otherwise.”  See e.g., Poll: Americans’ Anti-Immigrant Attitudes Are Fueled By Racism, and Donald Trump Consults Anti-Immigration Groups.

Re:  Congress-people going back over those portions of the Bible dealing with immigrants, foreigners or “aliens.”  If nothing else they might save themselves a whole lot of ‘Splainin to do, later on at the end of their lives.  Or they might not end up weeping “by the waters of Babylon…”

The lower image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘By the rivers of Babylon,’ painting by Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920.”  See also Psalm 137 NIV.

“With God’s help, we can get through ANYTHING…”

Are we in for a new “national nightmare?”  Half the voters in the next election seem to think so…  

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I just got back from a mini-vacation:  Six days visiting New York City, from a home base in Staten Island.  During much of that trip, conversation centered on November’s presidential election.

Which brings up Matthew 13:44-52, the Gospel for this morning’s Daily Office.

File:Escribano.jpgI’m specifically referring to Matthew 13:52, where Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.*

And a reminder:  The full and accurate name of this blog is “DOR Scribe,” as “Daily Office Reader Scribe.”  So here’s the “what is new” part of Matthew 13:52, from a treasure trove of 65 years’ worth of wisdom.  (Or at least “something new” to consider from the SCRIBE‘s storeroom.  Which link includes the image above left):

No matter who half “plus one” of the American people elect as their next president, the rest of those voters will think we are about to embark on another “long national nightmare.”  Put another way, no matter who the next president is, he or she is going to face intense – if not rabid – opposition from close to half the American people.

If you think I’m exaggerating, check these four links:  For Trump, Trump presidency would be a ‘nightmare,’ says Joseph Stiglitz, and The Trump nightmare is real. Clinton could lose this.

From the other side of the aisle, consider these:  The Nightmare World of a Hillary Clinton Presidency, and A Clinton Presidency: Humanity’s Worst Nightmare.  Or you could Google the term “presidency nightmare,” and add either candidate’s name.

That’s where the “what is old” part of Matthew 13:52 comes in.  Simply put:

We’ve been through worse before!

Think the American Civil War.  Think the Great Depression.  Or think about the episode in our national history that led to the “long national nightmare” quote in the first place.

That quote came from Gerald Ford, when he was sworn in as president after Richard Nixon resigned.  (A result of the Watergate scandal.  For more on Ford’s speech see This Day in Quotes: “Our long national nightmare is over.”  But see also a parody of the phrase – from The Onion, a “digital media company and news satire organization” – which quoted President George W. Bush as saying – on his taking office – “Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity is Finally Over.”)

Be that as it may, here’s the full quote from Gerald Ford’s acceptance speech in 1974:

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.  Our Constitution works;  our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.  Here the people rule.  But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

And that sentiment – about a national nightmare being over – could foreshadow January 20, 2020.  It could well foreshadow how those 40% of voters – disappointed by the outcome of the 2016 election – will feel when – it is entirely possible – a new president takes office.  (And when – it is entirely possible – that new president will be neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton.)

In the meantime, we’ve got to get through the next four years.  (No matter who wins.  But in either case it may be more of a “Jimmy Carter collapsing” endurance run…)

For one thing, there’s the fact that – no matter who wins – he or she will face rabid opposition from at least 40% of the American electorate.  That alone means neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton will be able to do as much damage as their opponents argue.

For another thing, I’ve been surrounded by negativity these past eight years.  (Of Obama’s presidency.)  And – quite frankly – it’s getting very boring.  (I’ve taken to saying “Thank you Obama!” whenever there’s an arch-conservative around and we pass a station with low gas prices.  Not because I believe he’s responsible, but just because it “ticks them off.”)

And third, I feel it’s my duty as an ostensibly-good Christian to take the high road.

For example, consider this from my companion blog:

The Presidents Club gave me a sense that – generally speaking – the men who occupied the White House have been – overall – decent, honorable and capable.  Then too, Life’s a Campaign gave me a sense that maybe the same applies to politicians in general.  (Gasp!)

See “Brother from another mother” and other ex-Prez tales.  And who knows, maybe the same thing is true of both Donald and Hillary.  Maybe beneath all the lies and distortion spread by their political enemies – a practice now more “commonplace” than ever – there are in fact two people who are – deep down – “decent, honorable and capable.”

Then there was  “Great politicians sell hope,” which included the following:

Which seems to indicate the candidate who offers hope rather than fear will win.  (Think Ronald Reagan.)  And that post included some other interesting observations, at least to me.

For one thing, “Maybe today’s politicians are simply a reflection of the nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.”  The flip side of that observation – that today’s politicians simply reflect a generalized nastiness that has taken hold of a large number of voters – is this:  “Swing voters need to figure out what a politician really stands for, beyond those nasty things he has to say to get elected.”

But those observations don’t get us any closer to taking the high road.

For that we could go back to our Baptismal Covenant.  (That’s the question-and-answer “statement of faith [about] how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith”*):

[Celebrant:]  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

[People:]  I will, with God’s help…

[Celebrant:]  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?

[People:]  I will, with God’s help.

[Celebrant:]  Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human

[People:]  I will, with God’s help.

As a practical matter, the “resisting evil” part could reflect how fully 40% of the American people will rabidly oppose the new president, no matter who gets elected.  Then too, if the voters choose the wrong candidate, they will be free – in four years – to undo their mistake.  (To “repent and return.”  For example, if a certain candidate “promises the moon” and fails to deliver, the voters could turn on that candidate-become-president in the proverbial New York Minute.)

Which arguably ties in with my “mini-vacation:  Six days visiting New York City.”  (See “preordained before the beginning of time,” in Judith, Esther, and ANOTHER lady, etc.)

As far as the latter part of the quoted part of the covenant – especially the part about respecting the dignity of every human being – consider Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold Schwarzenegger by Gage Skidmore.jpgWhen he first took office, Arnold was something of a blowhard himself.

In one notable example, he characterized opponents in the legislature of California as girlie men, in a battle over the state budget.

But in the fullness of time he backed off:

Schwarzenegger then went against the advice of fellow Republican strategists and appointed a Democrat, Susan Kennedy, as his Chief of Staff.  Schwarzenegger gradually moved towards a more politically moderate position, determined to build a winning legacy with only a short time to go until the next gubernatorial election.  [E.A.]

And who knows?  Maybe the next president too will eventually “move towards a more politically moderate position.”  More moderate, that is, than his or her political opponents think possible.

But here’s the point of this post.  (In case I’m being too subtle.)  Each of the three questions above – in the question-answer format – has the same answer:  “I will, with God’s help.”  So maybe we should face the upcoming presidential election with this in mind:  “With God’s help, we can get through anything.  Even if – God forbid! – [fill in the blank] gets elected!”

 *   *   *   *

 Arnold “flexed his pecs” here…

(but later had to retract his girlie men comment).

 *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Nightmare – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “The Nightmare (Henry Fuseli, 1781).”  The Henry Fuseli link added:

Since its creation, it has remained Fuseli’s best-known work…  Due to its fame, Fuseli painted at least three other versions…  The canvas seems to portray simultaneously a dreaming woman and the content of her nightmare.  The incubus and the horse’s head refer to contemporary belief and folklore about nightmares, but … critics were [also] taken aback by the overt sexuality of the painting…

After noting again that contemporary critics “found the work scandalous due to its sexual themes,” the link pointed out that the main subject of the painting – the woman – seems to have been prompted by “unrequited love.”  It seems that Fuseli had “fallen passionately in love with a woman named Anna Landholdt in Zürich … the niece of his friend, the Swiss physiognomist Johann Kaspar Lavater.”  However, Landholdt “married a family friend soon after” the artist proposed to her…   

*   *   *   *

The Daily Office readings are courtesy of The Lectionary – Satucket Software Home Page.  The readings for September 25, 2016 are:  “AM Psalm 66, 67; PM Psalm 19, 46Hosea 2:2-14; James 3:1-13; Matthew 13:44-52.  The translation of Matthew 13:52 is the one used in the four-volume Daily Office Readings, as offered – for example – by Amazon.com

The “Jimmy Carter” image is courtesy of ussporthistory.com.   See also Jimmy Carter’s Collapse in a Maryland Road Race Sparks a Moment of Fear.

The quotes from the “Baptismal Covenant” are courtesy of The (Online) Book of Common Prayer, at the link Holy Baptism, at pages 304-305.

The lower image is courtesy of giphy.com.  

Judith, Esther, and ANOTHER lady you don’t want to “tick off”

“Judith with the Head of Holofernes,”  from one of the gorier stories in the Bible…

*   *   *   *

Here’s one that comes under “preordained before the beginning of time…”

Spirit of America - Staten Island Ferry.jpgI started a mini-vacation back on Wednesday, September 14.  (To Staten Island, as a base for visits to New York City.)  During that time I’ve also been keeping up with the Daily Office Readings.

On that note, starting Friday, September 16, “Daily” Readers have had a choice of Old Testament readings.*  (The OT readings for September 16 were either Esther 1:1-4,10-19 or Judith 4:1-15.)  In other words, the September 16 readings marked the beginning of both the Biblical Book of Esther and the Book of Judith.

So naturally it surprised me when – visiting NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last Saturday, September 17 – I came across two paintings that tied right in with those readings.

That is, on Saturday, September 17 – after taking the Staten Island Ferry (shown above left) – we visited the “Met,” in New York City.  That’s when I saw the two paintings at the top and bottom of this page:  Esther before Ahasuerus, and Judith with the head of Holofernes.

Esther haram.jpgStarting with the Book of Esther, it tells of a Jewish woman who married a king and in turn saved her people from annihilation.  (Or a fate worse than death, either one of which may sound familiar…)

Here’s what happened.  Ahasuerus was the king of Persia.  (He was also known as Xerxes.)  One day he got drunk with his buddies.  He then sent for his wife – Queen Vashti, who was very beautiful – with orders to come to the party and strut her stuff.  But she refused – she was very proud – so Ahasuerus decided to get rid of her.

Then – in a process very much like today’s American Idol – Esther ended up being chosen as the new queen.  Which was a good thing, mainly because the Grand Vizier for Xerxes – a guy named Haman – hatched a plot against the Jews.  (Of which Esther was one.  This was during the Babylonian exile, one of the times when the Jewish people were carried away into captivity.)

Haman “hatched the plot” as noted because he was insanely jealous of Esther’s cousin Mordecai.  (For reasons including but not limited to the fact that Mordecai “refused to do obeisance” to him; that is, Haman.)  And incidentally, Mordecai had raised Esther “as his own” after she had lost both her mother and father.  (She was an orphan.)

File:Punishment of Haman.jpgSo Haman “pulled a fast one.”  He tricked the king into giving orders to “exterminate this alien race.”  (To execute both Mordecai and all his people.)  To that end, Haman had a tall gallows built, to hang Mordecai on.  But in the readings after September 16, Haman’s plans backfired.  (As shown at right.)

For one thing, Esther finally told the king she was Jewish.

That – and some other factors – led to the king hanging Haman, “on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.”  (See Esther 7:10, with some translations reading that Haman was “impaled” on the pole he intended to use on Mordecai.)  

More than that, the Jewish people were saved from annihilation, which led to the present-day Jewish festival of Purim.*  (See also “hoist on his own petard,” from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”)

And incidentally, the readings for Tuesday, September 20, included Esther 5:1-14.  That included Esther 5:3, “The king asked, ‘What is it, Queen Esther?  What is your request?  Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.'”

Those words are repeated in Mark 6:23, when Salome – shown at right – danced in a way that led to the beheading of John the Baptist:  “And he swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask of me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom!'”

The point being:  In the case of Esther, the appearance before the king – together with his promise of “up to half my kingdom” – led to the Jewish people being saved.  (But in the case of Salome those factors led to the beheading of John the Baptist.)

Turning to the book of Judith:  Some scholars have called it “perhaps the first historical novel” in history.*

The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors.  She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites.  Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor.  She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen.  The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved.

From which a host of object lessons might be gleaned…

Incidentally, the image at left – of Judith – is just one interpretation of this beguiling story.  (It’s the version done in 1901 by Gustav Klimt.)   Wikipedia said this particular version was “shocking to viewers and is said to have targeted themes of female sexuality that had previously been more or less taboo.”

(See also double-edged sword, both in the secular and Biblical senses.  As to the latter see Hebrews 4:12-13.)

All of which brings up the third lady in the Bible who you “wouldn’t want to ‘tick off.'”

For the Biblical reference see Judges 4:21:  “But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand.  Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died.”  See also Jael – Wikipedia:

Deborah, a prophetess and judge, advises Barak to mobilize the forces Naphtali and Zebulon on Mount Tabor to do battle against King Jabin of Canaan.  Barak demurred, saying he would go, provided she would also.  Deborah agreed but prophesied that the honor of defeating Jabin’s army would then go to a woman.

Deborah‘s prophecy came true at the hands of Jael.  (When she hammered that tent-peg into the head of Sisera.)  And Wikipedia noted another – “extra-Biblical” – reference to the episode: “And while he was dying, Sisera said to Jael, ‘Behold pain has taken hold of me, Jael, and I die like a woman.’  And Jael said to him, ‘Go, boast before your father in hell and tell him that you have fallen into the hands of a woman.'”  (Getting beat by a woman was especially humiliating…)

All of which sounds very modern somehow.  (Considering some current jibes.)

Incidentally, the “Barak” noted above was a “commander in the biblical Book of Judges.”  It was he who – with Deborah the prophetess – “defeated the Canaanite armies led by Sisera.”

Which may turn out to also come under “preordained before the beginning of time…”

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Esther before Ahasuerus, by Artemisia Gentileschi

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Massimo Stanzione | Judith with the Head of Holofernes, from the website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  See also Favourite Paintings – Massimo Stanzione’s ‘Judith with the head of Holofernes:

The head of Holofernes lies with an expression almost of sleep.  A divine light catches Judith’s face, confirming the righteousness of her deed…  I suppose what I like about this picture, and what’s so eye-catching, are the colors and the big, beautiful  rhythms of the composition.  It jumps off the wall at you and captivates you.  Judith’s dress is composed of big triangles of red, blue and yellow ochre, and the directions and movement of this drapery sweeps your eye around the painting…  

Re:  “Choice of OT readings.”  For the sake of completeness, I’ve been reading both Esther and Judith.  Also, the full DORs for Friday, September 16, 2016, are:  “AM Psalm 69:1-23(24-30)31-38;  PM Psalm 73,” along with “Esther 1:1-4,10-19 or Judith 4:1-15; Acts 17:1-15; John 12:36b-43.”

The “Haman’s plans” image is courtesy of Haman (Bible) – New World Encyclopedia.  The caption: “‘The Punishment of Haman,’ by Michelangelo.”  See also On the Bible readings for September 27.

Re: Purim, the “Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (מגילת אסתר … in Hebrew).” 

The “Salome” image is courtesy of “her” link in Herodias – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Salomé,’ by Henri Regnault (1870).”

Re:  Judith as “historical novel.”  Wikipedia indicated the book has a number of “historical anachronisms.”  Thus it is accepted as “canonical” by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church, but is “excluded from Jewish texts and assigned by Protestants to the Apocrypha.” 

Re: The Bible and women as leaders.  See also Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, which may turn out to be not such a good idea, considering the three stories noted above. 

The lower image is courtesy of Artemisia Gentileschi | Esther before Ahasuerus | The Met.  

On St. Matthew and “Cinderella”

File:Brugghen, Hendrick ter - The Calling of St. Matthew - 1621.jpg

“The Calling of St. Matthew,” by Hendrick ter Brugghen, as described in Matthew 9:9-13… 

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The next major feast day – after September 14’s Holy Cross Day – is September 21, for St. Matthew, Evangelist.  I wrote about him and his feast day in On St. Matthew – 2015.  (Which included the image at right, of Matthew as an old man.)  Back in 2014 I posted On St. Matthew.

Both are based in large part on Matthew 9:9-13:

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all of us.  (He said, tongue-in-cheek.)

St. Matthew, after Rubens. From a 19thC illustrated Book of Common PrayerSee also the Satucket article on St. Matthew, which noted that in Jesus’ time tax collectors – like Matthew – were “social outcasts.  Devout Jews avoided them because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).”  Which led to this:

Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast.  Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

(Emphasis added.)  See also Tax collector – Wikipedia, and the Wikipedia article on tax farmers.  And as noted in 2014’s On St. Matthew, such a tax collector as Matthew was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.”  Further, in Jesus’ time “the word ‘publican’” – or tax collector – was “used as representing an extreme of wickedness in the Sermon on the Mount.”

(See e.g., Matthew 5:46, in the NIV:  “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”  In the NLT:  “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?  Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.”)

Saint Matthias.PNGYou can read more about St. Matthew in the 2014 and 2015 posts.  But note that this St. Matthew is not to be confused with “St. Matthias, the Apostle who came ‘after’ Judas.”  (See On St. Matthias – and “Father Roberts.”  St. Matthias is shown at left.)

As to the “Cinderella” part of the post-title, see St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.”  The thing is, Mark wrote the first Gospel, but for years that honor was given to Matthew.  (That’s why his Gospel is listed first.)   

Matthew is first of the gospels in the New Testament because, according to early tradition, it was the first to be written.  This, however, is now doubted by nearly everyone.  The honor of primacy is generally granted to Mark, which is the second gospel in the Bible as it stands.

In other words, Mark’s is – or was – the most “dissed” of the Gospels…

That is, for many centuries the Early Church Fathers pretty much neglected Mark’s Gospel.  St. Augustine for one called Mark “the drudge and condenser” of Matthew.

For one thing, Mark’s written Greek was “clumsier and more awkward” than the more-polished Matthew, Luke and John.  As a result, Mark’s was the “least cited Gospel in the early Christian period.”  But “this Cinderella got her glass slipper,” beginning in the 19th century.  That’s when Bible scholars finally noticed the other three Gospels all cited material from Mark, but “he does not do the same for them.”

As a result of that conclusion – that Mark wrote the first Gospel – since the 19th century Marks’ “has become the most studied and influential” of the four Gospels.

And so, on September 21 we remember the work of St. Matthew.  But we also need to remember the man “on whose shoulders he stood.”  (St. Mark, whose work was long disregarded and disrespected.  The man who finally – after 1,800 years – got his props.)

There’s an object lesson there, and it probably has to do with the value of teamwork.

As in, “We’re All in This Together!”

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https://arthistoriesroom.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/st-mark-1621.jpg St. Mark, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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The upper image is courtesy of  Brugghen, Hendrick ter – The Calling of St. Matthew.  See also Matthew the Apostle – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

HSMposter.jpgRe:  “We’re all in this together!”  The link is to the lyrics from a song in the 2006 High School Musical.  (See Wikipedia.)  But the larger meaning has to do with the current process of electing a new president, for a term to begin in 2017.  And that’s not to mention political gridlock in general.

The lower image is courtesy of “Ter Brugghen … Rembrandt’s Room. See also Hendrick ter Brugghen – Wikipedia, on the Dutch painter (1588-1629), a “leading member of the Dutch followers of Caravaggio – the so-called Dutch Caravaggisti.”  Also:

His paintings were characteristic for their bold chiaroscuro technique – the contrast produced by clear, bright surfaces alongside sombre, dark sections – but also for the social realism of the subjects, sometimes charming, sometimes shocking or downright vulgar.

For more information on other paintings of “St. Mark,” see FRANS HALS ST MARK – Colnaghi, a PDF file with the full title, “Frans Hals’ St. Mark[:] A Lost Masterpiece Rediscovered.”  The article compared paintings done of St. Mark by Ter Brugghen, Hals and others, as well as their common “painterly conventions.”  For example, the article said Mark is commonly shown “writing on a scroll” and that Mark and John “tend often to be portrayed as the more mystical figures among the Evangelists.” 

“Starting back with a bang…”

Artemisia Gentileschi: Bathing Bathsheba

Bathsheba taking a bath –  with David watching  – “from his balcony (top left)…” 

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http://www.americaremembers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/GATRI_photo.jpgAs the last post noted, it’s been a busy several weeks since July 23, when I left God’s Country.  (The ATL.)  I spent almost six weeks hiking the Chilkoot Trail – “meanest 33 miles in history” – and canoeing 440 miles on the “mighty Yukon River.”  I got home on August 29, and since then have written one post, “Back in the saddle again,” again.

Now it’s time to start back with a bang, which explains the painting at the top of the page.  “Which is being interpreted:”

In case you were wondering, you can find one set of Bible readings for this upcoming Sunday – September 11 – at Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 19.  Those readings include Psalm 51:1-11, which I wrote about in The readings for July 26.  That post included the painting above, of David watching Bathsheba taking a bath.  And one result of that encounter was that David wrote Psalm 51.  (Because he felt so guilty…)

In writing Psalm 51, “David threw himself on the mercy of God after committing adultery and murder…  His two-fold repentance provides a model that we should follow.”

You can see the story behind Psalm 51 at 2d Samuel 11:1-15.  It tells how David – after he became King of Israel – came to see Bathsheba taking a bath “in the altogether:”

It also tells what David did to Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband.  (After he – David – got her pregnant.)   When Bathsheba told him about that, David had Uriah brought back from the war and tried to trick him into knowing her in the Biblical sense.  (That way, Uriah would think that the kid was his.)  When that didn’t work, David basically had Uriah killed.  (But he made it look like an accident.)  And it was because of all this that David wrote Psalm 51, “by any measure, one of the best-known and most often read penitential texts” in the Bible.

But from there this Sunday’s Bible readings get a lot more cheerful.

For example, the Gospel is Luke 15:1-10.  It includes Jesus telling both the Parable of the Lost Coin – shown at right – and the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  (And believe me, there were times I felt like a “lost sheep” hiking the “Chilkoot &^%$ Trail.”)  But we digress…  

As far as feast days go, coming up on September 14 is Holy Cross Day.

As Wikipedia noted, “there are several different Feasts of the Cross, all of which commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus.”  And within the Church as a whole – Eastern and Western – such Feasts of the Cross are celebrated on various days:  like October 12, March 6, May 3, and August 1.

What they have in common is celebrating “the cross itself, as the instrument of salvation.”  The Feast Day on September 14 is known by different names, including – in Greek, translated – “Raising Aloft of the Honored and Life-Giving Cross.”  However, in the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day, “a name also used by Lutherans.”

For more see Holy Cross Day, on the Satucket or Daily Office Reading* website.  It noted that this was a day for recognizing the Cross as a “symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ’s victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, ‘And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.’” (John 12:32.)    And the article noted that this practice goes back a long time:

Tertullian [seen below left] around AD 211, says that Christians seldom do anything significant without making the sign of the cross…   The Cross is the personal mark of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to Him…  [Or] as one preacher has said, if you were telling someone how to make a cross, you might say … “Draw an I and then cross it out.”

Tertullian of Carthage (from André Thevet)See the day’s Bible readings – in the “RCL” – at Holy Cross Day:  Isaiah 45:21-25Psalm 98, Philippians 2:5-11, and John 12:31-36a.

Of particular interest is Psalm 98:1, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.”  I noted the implications of Psalm 98:1 in the post, Singing a NEW song to God.

The gist of which is this: “How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?  For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to ‘sing to the Lord a new song?’”   (See also Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

Getting back to the Feast of the Cross, Wikipedia added this note, on how Constantine‘s mother found the “True Cross,” and in passing about the value of pilgrimages in general:

According to legends that spread widely, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great,* during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.

And speaking of pilgrimages:  Of course the two  I went on this summer weren’t close to being like going to Jerusalem.  However, for next summer – or more precisely, September 2017 – my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago, mostly in Spain.

I’ll talk more about that – and pilgrimages in general – in St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts…

 The “Way of St. James pilgrims (1568)”

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The upper image is courtesy of David and Bathsheba – The Life and Art of Artemisia Gentileschi.  The painting was done in 1650.  The full caption:  

Pretty Bathsheba has finished her bath.  She is fixing her hair, using the mirror held by a servant…   Perhaps she has already received King David’s message.  David has been watching her from his balcony (top left) and asks her to pay him a visit.

Gentileschi (1593-1656) was a woman artist in an “era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons.”  She was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, and painted “many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible – victims, suicides, warriors.”  

Her best-known work is Judith Slaying Holofernes, which is pretty gruesome.  It shows her decapitating Holofernes, in a “scene of horrific struggle and blood-letting.”  She – Gentileschi – was raped earlier in life, which apparently wasn’t that unusual at the time.   What was unusual was that she “participated in prosecuting the rapist.”  For many years that incident overshadowed her achievements as an artist, and she was “regarded as a curiosity.”  But today she is seen as “one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.”

*   *   *   *

Turning to the other notes, an asterisk (“*”) in the main text indicates that a word or two of explanation will be made in these notes.  For example, about “Psalm 51.*”  On many Sundays the Revised Common Lectionary has two “tracks,” or two sets of Bible readings to choose from.  (At the same time, usually the second – New Testament – reading and Gospel reading are the same for both Tracks, as for September 11, 2016.)  On that note, the church I attend usually follows Track 1, but Psalm 51 – listed on “Track 2″ – is much easier and much more interesting to write about.  

The image of Tertullian is courtesy of EarlyChurch.org.uk: Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160 – 225).

Re:  “Draw an I and then cross it out.”  The article adds this proviso, “As if to say ‘Help me, Lord, to abandon my self-centeredness and self-will.’”

The Bible readings for Holy Cross Day – on the “Satucket or Daily Office Reading” website – are: “AMPsalm 66; Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:11-17,” and “PM Psalm 118; Genesis 3:1-15; 1 Peter 3:17-22.”

The lower image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago – Wikipedia.

On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts…

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

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At the end of “Starting back with a bang,” we were talking about how the mother of Constantine the Great found the “True Cross.”  (Shown at left, he was the Roman emperor who became the first “great patron of the Church.”)  We were also talking about the value of such pilgrimages in general:

According to legends that spread widely, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great,* during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.

And speaking of pilgrimages:  Of course the two  I went on this summer weren’t close to being like going to Jerusalem.  (See “Back in the saddle again,” again.”)  But for next summer – more precisely, September 2017 – my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago

(…mostly in Spain.*  In fact, on both the Chilkoot Trail and on the Yukon River, one or both of us brothers would think ahead to “sunny Spain.”  That is, on the usual sunless day on the Yukon, we would look ahead to the prospect of hiking, but not over one &^%# pile of rocks after another.  And to the prospect of hiking where the sun comes out occasionally…)   

The point being that hiking on the Camino de Santiago will be more like a pilgrimage to Jerusalem than one on the Yukon River.  For one thing we probably won’t see any “Naked lady,” as on the Yukon.  (Friday, August 12, around 4:15 p.m.  Not that it stuck in my mind or anything…) 

But once again we digress.  We were speaking of pilgrimages.  More to the point, of why an otherwise-relatively-sane 65-year-old would either hike the Chilkoot Trail or spend 12 days canoeing 440 miles on the Yukon River.  That of course brings up St. James the Greater, seen below right and again at the bottom of the page, just above the Notes.

And St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

Guido Reni - Saint James the Greater - Google Art Project.jpgFor example, in the picture at the top of the page, 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:

A 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.

Also on the topic, see Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans.  It noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

The book added that all true ritual “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”  More to the point, the book said a pilgrimage – like a 12-day canoe trip on the Yukon or “hike” on the Chilkoot &$%# Trail - “may be described as a ritual on the move.”  Further, that through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep,” we can quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.  (Especially when compared with the “majesty and permanence” of God’s creation, which of course includes all those &$%# rocks!)

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.

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.”

So you could say this past summer I was “discovering the self within.”  (There was more than enough hunger, cold, and lack of sleep.)  But as I said in I pity the fool, “I pity the fool who doesn’t do pilgrimages and otherwise push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”  (Loosely translating Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”)  

Then there’s John Steinbeck.  He began Part Two of Travels with Charley:  In search of America by noting many men his age who – told to slow down –  “pack their lives in cotton wool, smother their impulses, hood their passions, and gradually retire from their manhood.”  (They “trade their violence for a small increase in life span.”)   But that wasn’t his way:

I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage…  If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway.  I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage.  It’s bad theater as well as bad living.

So if nothing else, I’m in good company:  With people like St. James the Greater, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Steinbeck.  And that’s not to mention Robert Louis Stevenson, whose own pilgrimages I wrote about in On donkey travel – and sluts



“One of the single greatest works of English literature” – said John Steinbeck

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The upper 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.”

Re:  Constantine the Great.  Wikipedia said he was a “significant figure in the history of Christianity,” the first Roman emperor to “stop Christian persecutions and to legalise Christianity along with all other religions and cults in the Roman Empire.”  See also Constantine the Great and Christianity – Wikipedia:  “Constantine’s decision to cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a turning point for Early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian shift.  In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship.  The emperor became a great patron of the Church.”

The caption for the image of Constantine – immediately below the painting of St. James – reads as follows:  “‘Constantius appoints Constantine as his successor’ by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622.”

Re:  “Mostly in Spain.”  As noted in Camino de Santiago (route descriptions), there are a number of routes – both inside and outside of Spain – by which such pilgrims may “walk for weeks or months to visit the city of Santiago de Compostela.”  (In northwestern Spain.)  And the Original Way or Camino Primitivo,” begins in Oviedo,” in northeastern Spain.  

Further, while my brother hopes to hike the 500-plus miles of the popular “French Way” including going over the Pyrenees Mountains – I’m figuring on a more-manageable 14 days, or around 200 miles.  (The French Way runs “from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles on the Spanish side before making its way through to Santiago de Compostela through the major cities of Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León.”)

Central pyrenees.jpgOn that note, the “Central Pyrenees” – at left – look way too much like the Chilkoot &^%$ Trail

Re:  Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today, by Roose-Evans.  The quoted portions are from the “Element Books” edition (1994), at pages 23-25.  On that note see also The Social Importance of Rites of Passage and Initiations.  The study said that “all people have a psychic need to have the support of ritual at transitions in their lives.”  On the other hand, one authority asserted that “Western societies do not have initiation at puberty, instead of ritual, we have disturbed teenagers and infantile adults.”

The lower image is courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Walking in France.

“Back in the saddle again,” again

You call this a pilgrimage?  I call it a pile of ^%$# rocks!  (Other people call it the Chilkoot Trail...)

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http://www.americaremembers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/GATRI_photo.jpgSunday, August 28 – I said this a year ago, but once again “I’m back in the saddle again.” (Not unlike Gene Autry – “Singing Cowboy” – at left.)

I posted the first “Back in the saddle” after last year’s canoe trip on the Columbia River.  That four-day canoe trip took a total of three weeks to accomplish, from August 10 to August 27, 2015.

This year’s pilgrimage – including 12 days canoeing on the Yukon River – is now in its sixth week.  (I flew out to Salt Lake City on July 23, and am “fixin'” to fly back tomorrow, to the ATL.  Also known herein as “God’s Country…”)

For one description of this latest pilgrimage, see “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  (From my companion blog.)  It noted that last July 26 – a Tuesday – my brother and I started the drive from Utah to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  Four days later – on Friday, July 29 – we met up with my nephew, fresh from the Army.  From there we drove to Skagway, and the following Monday – August 1 – we started a four-day hike on the Chilkoot Trail.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)

Once we three finished the “Chilkoot &$%# Trail” – as seen at the top of the page – my nephew flew back to Philadelphia, and from there to Penn State University, for fall classes:

That left two old geezers – my brother, 70, and me, just turned 65 – to paddle our canoes “up*” the Yukon River.  From Whitehorse  to Dawson City, that’s a distance of 440 miles, and we covered it in 12 days.  (Not counting the full day we took off on Sunday, August 14, in beautiful Carmacks, Yukon Territory, to rest and refit.)

So it’s been a busy several weeks.  And – during most of that time – I haven’t had a chance to write much on this blog.  But my last post – The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016, which included the image at right – did note that I was “on a pilgrimage of my own.”

It also noted, “Assuming I survive all that” – that being the Chilkoot and Yukon ventures – “I should be back in business some time after August 29.”

It’s now Sunday, August 28, and I’m “back in business.”

On that note, a word on “reading the Bible on a daily basis.”  Not only did I have no time or opportunity to write on this blog, neither did I have time to do my daily Bible readings.  That is, neither on the Chilkoot Trail nor on the “mighty Yukon River” did I have the time to do my Daily Office.  (That’s where the “DO” in the name “Dorscribe” comes from.  See THE SCRIBE.)

And aside from no time, there just wasn’t room to pack either a Bible or the laptop I’ve been using since leaving home.  (Using the Satucket website instead of the actual books at home.)  

Aerial view of Dawson City with the Yukon RiverWhich meant that beginning on Sunday, August 21 – the day after our two canoes landed at Dawson City, Yukon Territory, at left – I had some catching up to do.

So this post will focus on two things, to help bring us up to game speed:  The spiritual side of pilgrimages like the one – or two – that I just finished, and catching up on the gap in Bible readings between August 1 and 21.

As to why an otherwise seemingly-sane 65-year-old would leave the comforts of home for the “harsh northland” – as Jack London might call it – see “I pity the fool!”

That post noted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”  I freely translated that to:  “I pity the fool who doesn’t do pilgrimages and otherwise push the envelope, even at the advance stage of his life.”

It also quoted Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, by Robert Louis Stevenson:

Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for.  To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind.  And when the present is so exacting, who can annoy himself about the future?

In much the same way, nothing can “occupy and compose the mind” so much as trying to walk the Chilkoot Trail. (Especially with only one good eye and thus no depth perception, as illustrated at right.)  Or for that matter, canoeing 440 miles “down” the Yukon River…

Which brings up a moment during that river pilgrimage.

At that moment I thought to myself, “I wonder how the Don-and-Hillary show is going?”  Then I asked myself, “Who is Don again?”  Which itself is a very good reason for a pilgrimage.

I’ll be writing more on the Chilkoot and Yukon experiences in later posts, but now it’s time to address that gap in the daily Bible readings.

On August 1 – when we started on the Chilkoot – the non-psalm Bible readings included Judges 6:25-40; Acts 2:37-47; John 1:1-18.  The “Judges” part was about Gideon, who was a “judge of the Israelites who wins a decisive victory over a Midianite army with a vast numerical disadvantage, leading a troop of 300 men.”  The reading from John started with the well-known, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

PullingBy Thursday, August 11, “Judges” had moved to the story of Samson. (And Delilah.)  As Wikipedia noted, Samson was blessed with supernatural strength.  However, “Samson had two vulnerabilities – his attraction to untrustworthy women and his hair, without which he was powerless.  These vulnerabilities ultimately proved fatal for him.”

From which story an object lesson or two might be gleaned…

But then on Thursday, August 20, the Old Testament readings switched from Judges to the Book of Job.  I covered that perplexing book in On Job, the not-so-patient and On “Job the not patient” – REDUX.

One key point from the “Redux” post:  No matter how hard we may try, our limited human minds are simply incapable of ever fully understanding God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend [God] than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature.

Which may have been why God “chose to bring Jesus into the world.”  Without that image of Jesus as a “finite” human being to focus on, our poor little pea-brains simply couldn’t even begin the process of bringing The Force That Created the Universe into any kind of focus at all.

In other words, the main point of the Book of Job seems to be this:  We can never fully either understand or explain “God.”  Yet that’s just what Job’s friends tried to do.  Their solution was to “make a god of their idea of God.”  They tried to put God into a “conceptual box.”

Which seems to be a fallacy trap that many people fall into, “even to this day.”  They give the impression that their limited minds are capable of not only fully understanding God, but also of telling other people that their interpretation of God is the only valid one.  (And that if you don’t believe their version, you will certainly “burn in hell.”)

Which is one good reason to go on a pilgrimage, like the one – or two – that I just did.  A good pilgrimage will remind you – sometimes forcibly – that you are not the center of the Universe.

And it may even help by making you ask yourself, “Who is Don again?”


Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

Job – on the left – “and his friends, by Ilya Repin (1869)…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is from a series of photos I took during the aforementioned “pilgrimages,” on the Chilkoot Trail and the Yukon River.

On the Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016

“Moses viewing the Promised Land” – proving once again that God has His own time-table

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The next major feast day coming up is The Transfiguration of Jesus, on August 6.  I wrote about the day in last year’s Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World.

One key quote noted that this Transfiguration “stands as an allegory of the transformative nature” of the Bible-faith.  (Indicating a “marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better.”)  Other key quotes from the post include that God has His own time-table, noted above.  And that as a result, Bible-explorers generally learn quickly that patience is definitely a virtue.

Which definitely applied to Moses.  The thing is, while Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land – from the top of Mount Nebo – he wasn’t allowed to actually enter the Promised Land.

That is, not until a thousand years or so after he died.  That’s when he appeared with Jesus, along with Elijah, when Jesus was being “transfigured” on Mount Tabor:

Moses finally entered the Promised Land – [at] the Transfiguration – albeit a Millennium [a thousand years] after he expected…  Moses died some seven miles due east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, inside Jordan [on Mount Nebo], while in the Transfiguration he “met up” with Jesus on Mount Tabor, inside Israel and 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.

And by the way, that part about “the greatest miracle in the world” came from Thomas Aquinas: “Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration ‘the greatest miracle’ in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.”  Others note that all the other miracles of Jesus involved Him doing things for other people.

But unlike the other miracles of Jesus, this one happened to Him.

moses viewing the promised land from mount nebo by robert dowling

You can get the full story at the Greatest Miracle in the World post.  Or see On Exodus (Part II) and Transfiguration.

But another key thing to remember is that the Transfiguration shows that God always keeps His promises, even though His time-table may be different than ours.

That is, the Transfiguration “fulfilled a centuries-old dream for Moses, who God kept from the Promised Land. (See Why was God so upset with Moses and Why Moses [couldn’t] enter the Promised Land, as illustrated at right.)

In the meantime, I’m on a pilgrimage of my own.

I wrote a while back that this “may be the last post I’ll publish for awhile…  Next Tuesday – July 26 – I’ll be heading north to Skagway, Alaska.  From there I’ll spend four days hiking the Chilkoot Trail.  (The ‘meanest 33 miles in history.’)  Once that’s done, my brother and I will spend 16 days canoeing down the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

“Assuming I survive all that, I should be back in business some time after August 29.”

“But stay tuned.  There may well be ‘further bulletins as events warrant!'”

Calvin and Hobbes

Here then, is one of those “further bulletins.”

I’m finishing this post up in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, on Thursday, July 28.  Going back to Tuesday, July 26, we made it to Great Falls, Montana.  This was after driving 560 miles:  “That means it’s about 120 miles to the Canadian border – unless they’ve built a wall or something.”

The  next day we made it to Drayton Valley, Alberta.  (West and a bit south of Edmonton.)

It took about 30 minutes to get through customs, and from there into Alberta, but once through customs and on the road “we saw a ton of these yellow plants, fields and fields of them.  It turns out they are Canola plants” – as shown below – “and they’re quite the cash crop:”

From Drayton Valley, today we made it to Fort Nelson, British Columbia.  In America-talk, it runs from Mile-marker 301 to 308. (On the famed Alaska Highway.)  But they use kilometers here.

That means when the speed sign says “Maximum 110,” you have to calculate kilometers to miles and figure that means about 65 mph on your dashboard.  And that when the speed sign says “40,” that means you have to slow down about 25 mph.

And the gas prices are unbelievable!  We saw signs in Alberta that said “96.9.”  Unfortunately, that was the price for a liter, or one-fourth of a gallon.  So to get the “American” price you have to multiply that by 4 and get gas at $3.87.

Also today, we passed through Dawson Creek, B.C., about 3:00 this afternoon.  It’s the southern end of the Alaska Highway, as shown at right.  And on the way we “gained an hour.”  Once we crossed into British Columbia, 3:00 p.m. magically became 2:00 p.m.

Tomorrow we’ll continue, heading up to Whitehorse and Skagway.  Monday the three of us will start that four-day hike on the Chilkoot Trail.  In the meantime, there will be “further bulletins as events warrant.”

But on August 6 I’ll be sure to pause to remember the Transfiguration.  (As shown below.)

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*   *   *   *

 The upper image is courtesy of Moses on Mount Nebo – Robert Hawke Dowling – Athenaeum. Dowling – whose middle name is spelled alternately as “Hawke” or “Hawker” – was born in England in 1827, the youngest son of Rev. Henry Dowling.  He and his parents moved Tasmania in 1839, but after taking art lessons – and showing an artistic aptitude – he moved to London in 1856.  In the next 20 years or so he exhibited 16 of his paintings at the Royal Academy.  Around 1882 he moved back to Tasmania, then to Melbourne , Australia, where he painted portraits.  He returned to London in 1886, “but died shortly after his arrival.”  Other online biographies noted that as a youth “he was deeply impressed by the tragedy of the Tasmanian Aboriginals.”

The colorful image just below “In the meantime” is courtesy of Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, a website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  The article added that in the painting, Moses and Elijah symbolically represented “the Law and the Prophets.”  Further, Moses and Elijah also “represent the living and the dead.”  (Elijah represented “the living, because he was taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire.”  Moses represents “the dead, because he did experience death.” 

The smaller image of Moses on Mount Nebo is courtesy of Robert Dowling Auction Results – Robert Dowling on artnet.  The alternate title is Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Nebo, 1879.

The cartoon image is courtesy Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, October 25, 1986.

I borrowed the lower image from a prior post, On the Bible and mysticism.  Courtesy of Christian mysticism - Wikipedia, it has the caption:  “Transfiguration of Jesus depicting him with Elijah, Moses and 3 apostles by Carracci, 1594.”  The site said church practices like “the Eucharist, baptism and the Lord’s Prayer all become activities” noted for both their “ritual and symbolic values.”  Further, “Jesus’ conception, in which the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, and his Transfiguration, in which he is briefly revealed in his heavenly glory, also become important images for meditation.”