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Do this – “and you WILL be saved!”

Empty shelves in Melbourne Australia. Do they symbolize the emptiness in people’s lives today?

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

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

This year’s Season of Lent continues. (See Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.) But the 2020 version of this “solemn religious observance” is made even more solemn by the recent Coronavirus pandemic.

On that note – and if you want to open a “whole new can of worms” – try Googling the phrase, “No atheists in foxholes.” Some say that familiar aphorism is an attack on atheism, while others say it’s really an attack on Christianity. But it’s pointless here to argue which version is true. (See Titus 3:9, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies … because these are unprofitable and useless.”)

The real point is that – especially in times of crisis like the one we’re in now – most people are way more likely to look for some source of spiritual comfort.

Which should come from the Bible, but for many people that Bible is way too long and way too complicated. Which raises the question: How can you best explain the Bible in the simplest possible terms? You know, in the kind of short-and-sweet sound bite that most people expect these days? (Since so many of them “have the attention span of a gerbil.”)

For me the best possible Bible sound bite – the best short summary of the message of the whole Bible – is Romans 10:9, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” (In the Good News Translation, fittingly enough.) 

Of course John 3:16 is a nice sentiment too, but it’s a general statement “for the whole world.” To me, Romans 10:9 best sums up the entire message of the Bible. It’s more personal, and offers the kind of personal guarantee that many people are looking for in this time of crisis.

“Jesus feeding the 5,000…”

Which – in a way – brings up the DOR Gospel reading for March 19, Mark 6:30-46. It tells of Jesus feeding the multitude (or “the 5,000”). I covered that reading in two posts, Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000, and Then Jesus “opened their minds.”

The problem is, that “other view” threatens the faith of some people. But it also supports the theory that we can solve any problem, ourselves, using the lessons of the Bible.

In Jesus “opened their minds,” I summarized the difference between the traditional (narrow-minded?) interpretation of this parable, and one that’s more in line with reason and experience.* I.e., in the narrow “traditional” interpretation, Jesus performed a fairly-routine magic trick. (A “pure miracle, plain and simple.”) The miracle can’t be explained rationally and was never meant to be understood rationally.

But since Jesus was and is the Son of God, what’s the big deal?

Poof, He made some extra food appear. But isn’t that the least you could expect from a close blood-relative of the Force that Created the Universe? On the other hand there  is a non-traditional view, and that non-traditional view forces people to “expand their minds.” But it can also make some people very nervous, and even threaten their faith.

It’s based on the idea that many people in Jesus’ time never left home without taking a spare loaf of bread – or some other foodstuff – stashed in the folds of their robes. Under that theory, Jesus started off with a lesson in faith, and/or a lesson in sharing. In turn that example got a lot of other normally-greedy people to act on that faith, and share what they had. 

Which led to this ending in the post:

Suppose the lesson Jesus intended to teach us was that – by His example – He got a bunch of normally-greedy people to share what they had. That by His example, Jesus got those normally-greedy people to share so much of their own stuff that no one – in the crowd of “5,000 plus” – went hungry. And more than that, there was even a surplus. The question is:

Which would be the greater miracle?

(If that’s too subtle: The Son of God making some extra food appear, or – by His example – getting a lot of greedy people like us to share so much that no one in those “5,000-plus*” went hungry?)

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So what’s that got to do with the present Coronavirus crisis? Just this, that we can solve this problem by pulling together, and by avoiding the temptation to be greedy and selfish. (In other words, by following the “non-traditional” example of Jesus in Mark 6:30-46.)

More to the point, by realizing that all life is just a gift we should cherish and enjoy, while we can. (See 1st Corinthians 4:7, “What is so special about you? What do you have that you were not given? And if it was given to you, how can you brag?”) And that the better way to live is to do what Jesus did, to love and care for all people in all conditions, “even to the point of death.”

Or as one writer said recently:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

That’s from a review of Albert Camus’ “The Plague.” Written in 1947, The Plague tells the story of a “plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.” The novel poses a number of questions about “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of a plague on a community.

One lesson? If we as a nation believe in and act on Romans 10:9, we “will be saved.” And in what could be an even greater miracle – greater even than the Son of God making some extra food appear? – it might even lead to a massive change in our present national life.

That is, the present “Coronavirusmight lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

And wouldn’t that qualify as an “even greater miracle than Jesus did?” (John 14:12.) 

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The upper image is courtesy of 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Supermarket shelves that stock dry pasta varieties are almost empty due to panic-buying as the result of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. This was taken at a Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne, Australia.” The article further noted: “The outbreak was first identified in WuhanChina in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. As of 21 March, more than 275,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 185 countries and territories, resulting in more than 11,300 deaths and 90,000 recoveries.”

Re: Atheists in foxholes. For other views, see Atheists in Foxholes, in Cockpits, and on Ships, or We Should Stop Saying There Are No Atheists In Foxholes.

Romans 10:9. Note that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is one of the first books of the New Testament, generally said to have been written somewhere between 55 and 58 A.D. (“C.E.” to the politically correct.) As to which NT book was first: I Googled “what was the first book of the new testament to be written,” and got a variety of answers. Some authorities say Galatians and the Letter of James came before Romans, while some say the Gospel of Matthew was the first written, in 35 A.D. Which would be two years after the presumptive year of Jesus’ crucifixion. Isaac Asimov – in his Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One – indicated that Romans was most likely written in 58. As for James, Asimov wrote of the letter possibly being written any time between 48 and 90 A.D. (See pages 1159-60.) He agreed that Galatians was “possibly the earliest of all the books of the New Testament to achieve written form. (1116.) As for Matthew and Mark, he suggests the former was written around 70 A.D., preceded by the latter – Mark – by some four years or so. (771,903)

Re: The Gospel reading for March 19. The other readings were “AM Psalm [83]or 42, 43; PM Psalm 85, 86,” Genesis. 46:1-7,28-34; and 1 Corinthians. 9:1-15. March 19 was also the Feast Day for St. Joseph, with the following readings, “AM: Psalm 132Isaiah 63:7-16Matthew 1:18-25[,] PM: Psalm 342 Chronicles 6:12-17Ephesians 3:14-21.”

Re: “Reason and experience.” See Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, about the “methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley… This method based its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience.”

Re: “5,000-plus.” See Mark 6:44. In one translation, “The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.” In another, “A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.See also Matthew 14:21, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

Re: “As one writer said recently.” The full citation is Alain de Botton: In ‘The Plague,’ Camus reminds us that suffering is random.

The “feeding” image is courtesy of Feeding the multitude – Wikipedia The caption: “Jesus feeding a crowd with 5 loaves of bread and two fish,” by Bernardo Strozzi, circa 1615.

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. The full caption is from a quote in the book: “Dr Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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 Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent – (a metaphor of sorts by Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

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

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

The next Feast Day – after St Matthias, Apostle, on Monday, February 24* – is Ash Wednesday, February 26. There’s more on Ash Wednesday further below, but first a note on different types of Christian.

One key difference is “Literal” versus “Spiritual” Christians. A Literal Christian tends to read and study the Bible only in a strict, literal or “Fundamentalist” way. A Spiritual Christian – on the other hand – tries to read the Bible in both a literal and a spiritual way.

Such a Spiritual Christian can go back and forth, often reading the Bible in a way that helps him open up new spiritual horizons. In doing so he tries to follow the path Jesus set out in Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” But as a matter of course he comes back – from time to time – to “the Literal way.” He does that when necessary to stay grounded in the basics, the fundamentals of Bible study.

In other words. he gets the best of both worlds.

In further words, he keeps in mind what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6. In the Contemporary English Version, Paul said that Jesus “makes us worthy to be the servants of his new agreement that comes from the Holy Spirit and not from a written Law. After all, the [letter of the] Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life.” Then there’s John 4:24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” And also John 6:63, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life… And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

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Now, back to the topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.  Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, and also On Ash Wednesday and Lent. In turn, the Ash Wednesday – Lent post explained a bit about the “Fight Between Carnival and Lent,” as shown in the top painting. The point is, Ash Wednesday is always preceded by Fat Tuesday. And as an aside, the French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and that’s now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!” 

As Wikipedia said, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.” But that debauchery is always – in the church calendar – followed by Lent. Lent in turn is a season devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, almsgivingatonement and self-denial.

And as noted, those “40 days of Lent” are supposed to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent “wandering in the wilderness.” In turn, that act by Jesus – “wandering in the Wilderness” – mirrored the 40 years that the Hebrews – led by Moses – also spent “wandering around.”

But before those days of Lenten “wandering in the wilderness,” there’s one last celebration, one last “blowout.” (And the whole Christian – or liturgical – calendar year is pretty much filled with such alternating seasons of celebration and penance…) But while fasting and abstinence are the usual components of a Lenten discipline, keep in mind what Jesus said.

In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus said, “Do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”  Instead, He said to basically put on a happy face. That way, “your fasting may be seen not by others, but by your Father who is in secret.”

In other words, the Christian pilgrimage consists of both fasting and feasting:

Lent is about both fasting and feasting… And that’s what we Christians do during Lent. We retell our story of slavery to sin and death. We remember that we are dust and into dust we shall return. We remember our helplessness and hopelessness. We remember that we are utterly dependent on God’s gift of deliverance. And we celebrate, we feast.

Here’s wishing you a happy and spiritually-fulfilling Lent!

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mardi gras

Could these upraised arms have a double meaning, including one not so “indelicate?”

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Past posts used in writing this post include 2015’s On Ash Wednesday and Lent, 2016’s On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, and from last year, OMG! Is it time for Lent again? The images in this post were all borrowed from those past posts.

For more on St. Matthias – “the apostle chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and suicide” – see On St. Matthias – and “Father Roberts.”

Re: Fasting and feasting. See also Fasting and Feasting – Flowing Faith.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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?

The “Presentation of our Lord” – 2020

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus” – at the Presentation of Our Lord

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

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

Last Sunday, February 2, was the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpg

Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus.” That is, His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem, “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  And by the way, it’s also known as Candlemas.  (As shown above right.)  

I’ve covered this Feast Day in past posts, including 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord,” and last year’s “The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019.

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The 2015 post has lots of information on Mardi Gras, which happens this year on February 25. (The point being that the “Feast of the Presentation” leads directly on to Ash Wednesday, Lent and ultimately to Easter.) And the fact that way too many people see Mardi Gras as just another excuse to party, without seeing any connection to religion or spirituality.

 The bad news – to some – is that Mardi Gras is followed immediately by Lent, a “solemn religious observance,” 40 days of atonement, self-denial, prayerpenancerepentance, and almsgiving. And incidentally, that’s not 40 days straight of “self-denial.”  You get Sundays off to enjoy whatever it is you’ll be giving up for Lent.

As to the last, see OMG! Is it time for Lent again? That is, there are actually 46 days of Lent: 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. That’s because Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” (A bit of Bible wisdom that got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights. See below right.)

Which brings up another bit of Bible wisdom that I overlooked – or failed to mention before – based on my recent trip to Utah. (From December 27 to January 9.) That is, the fact that January 1st is the day celebrated by some Christians as the time “Our Lord first shed His blood for us.”

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. Since we are more squeamish* than our ancestors, modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older. Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.

See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” which notes the anomaly that – in our “modern” view – January 1 is only seven days after December 25. 

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And finally, one note of interest: Generally the February 2d “Presentation” comes roughly halfway into the Season of Epiphany. Which this year ends with Ash Wednesday, February 26. Which leads – as noted – to both Lent and Easter:

As it is the first day of Lent, some Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Eastertide arrives.

Which also leads to what could be called the Second Presentation of Jesus.” That is, Ash Wednesday leads to Good Friday, with Jesus about to be crucified – for us and our shortcomings – as shown below…

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Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation.  That caption:  “Simeon the Godreceiver [sic] by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”  The caption for that “upper image” is actually the one from Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus. That’s another interpretation of the event, by Rembrandt (van Rijn).  (Far better known that Egorov.)  You can see Rembrandt’s interpretation at “Wikigallery,” or at “Rembrandtonline.”

Re: “squeamish.” That is, “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.”

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  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…)

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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”  Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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?



My recent Utah trip – and “3 Wise Guys…”

The Adoration of the Magi, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – as it relates to Epiphany. . .

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Grand Island, Nebraska.

I haven’t posted anything since December 5, “last year.” One reason? This past December 27 I got in my car and drove 1,800 miles out west, “in the bleak midwinter.” (As illustrated at right. A truck stop in Grand Island Nebraska, snowed in on December 29.)

I drove out to visit my brother in Utah, and his wife. (My “hiking buddies” on the Portuguese Camino. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino!) Their son and daughter also came out – from Back East – along with my new (as of June 2018) “nephew by marriage.” (See On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul.)

It was a great trip and I’ll be writing more about it in later posts. But in the meantime, I need to get back to some of the themes of this post: Like reading and studying the Bible to get closer to God. And – on that note – paying more attention to Feast days.

The most recent feast day was Epiphany, celebrated back on Monday, January 6. Some previous posts on the subject include Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!” Then came last year’s Happy Epiphany – 2018.

To start off, the “3 wise guys” post explained how the Adoration of the Magi – illustrated by the painting at the top of the page – fits in with all this “Epiphany” stuff. We know the full story better from the hymn, We Three Kings (of Orient Are). Which hymn in turn celebrates…

… the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of goldfrankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. It is related in the Bible by Matthew 2:11

And as noted, the event is remembered as the Feast of Epiphany (January 6).

The “3 wise guys” post gave some further details, like theories on the actual names of the three wise men (three kings), and a fuller, more earthy explanation of circumcision:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ… Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us. (E.A.)

The post also noted that because we are “more squeamish than our ancestors,” modern church calendars usually list January 1 – “eight days*” after December 25 – as the “Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.” And finally, it noted the practice of circumcision can be traced back as far as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which described “the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.” (Thus making him “One Tough Monkey!”)

But enough about circumcision. (Including the circumcision knife above left, “from the Congo; wood, iron; late 19th/early 20th century.”) The point is that January 6 – the Feast of Epiphany – “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.” But that day goes by other names as well. It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (And just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is known as Twelfth Night.) Yet a third name for January 6 is Three Kings Day.

As discussed above…

But the end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to Jerusalem, On my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

Or my September trip to hike 160 miles the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, from Porto to Santiago. (Type “Portugal” in the search box.) But my most recent pilgrimage was a 15-day drive out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.

Which included getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of the near-frozen North Platte River from my motel-room window, as shown below. But it also included a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door. (As shown in the notes.) So the way I figure, “there’s some kind of lesson there!

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The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.”

Re: “‘Eight days’ after December 25.” Today we would begin the eight-day count the day after December 25, which would make January 1 the seventh day after 12/25. But in Jesus’ time the Hebrews would have included December 25 in the eight-day count.

The Motel 6 in question was at 7301 Bosselman Ave, Grand Island, NE. The full link to the “Thunder Road” website is Thunder Road Grill | Pizza, Wings & Burgers | Grand Island, NE.

As for the “lesson there,” see Ecclesiastes 8:15, “I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” Or Psalm 104:15, on wine (or beer) “to gladden the heart.” In other words, if you’re stuck next door to a snowed-in Nebraska truck stop, you might as well enjoy a burger and beer(s), especially if you can do laundry at the same time.

I took the “Grand Island” photos, including the one above right, of my glasses on the bar next to a half-empty glass of draft beer. The circumcision-knife image is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia.

A delayed “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem…”

By the Waters of Babylon, Hebrew exiles vowed never to “forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

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I just reviewed some “posts to be done” from a few months ago – and ran across this. As noted in the first ‘graf, it’s from the first week of last May. (I was about to fly to Israel for three weeks.) But I didn’t publish it then, so I’ll do that now. Accordingly, here’s that first pre-look at my planned Israel trip, and Psalm 137, “the middle of the Bible.”

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As told in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’m flying to Jerusalem for a two-week pilgrimage (As part of a local church group venture.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to some lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

On a related note, I connected to a Jerusalem Post article, If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which mirrors one frequent theme of this blog.  The point is:  That title in the Jerusalem Post article refers to Psalm 137:5-6, which reads  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version. You know, the one God uses?)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel course, as described below.

See for example Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, describing “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.” One result? The people of Judah ended up “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon (539 BC):”

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of JewishEastern OrthodoxCatholicAnglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Chapman focused first on Psalm 137 as the story of how that Hebrew Remnant – those Exiles – created the final version of what we know as the Old Testament.

That is, the Old Testament – as we know it today – did not exist before the year 586 B.C. Again, that was the year most Judeans were taken from their homeland – after the horrors of the Babylonian conquest – and suffered a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon.  “After this defeat, they compiled, edited and shaped” their collected national stories into a virtual library.

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpg
Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century)

And again, according to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 (at right) constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history and the very middle of the Bible itself. 

In turn Psalm 137 was written at just the time when the books of the original Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came to be because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.” That idea was mirrored in the Babylon captivity link at Psalm 137:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

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Which is about as far as I got: The story of how the Old Testament as we known it finally came into being. And it might never have occurred but for this humiliating “national disgrace” for the Children of Israel. (On that note see The Blessings of Trials – Crosswalk.com.)

But in the meantime we’ve moved on to the Season of Advent. See 2016’s On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, and On Advent – 2015, which described the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

And it should be noted that in some of the readings for the Season of Advent, Jesus tells the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree.  (Not to be confused with the barren fig tree):

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees;  as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”

In doing so Jesus quoted Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel.  See also Jesus and messianic prophecy.  The main point Jesus was trying to make?  “Beware, keep alert;  for you do not know when the time will come.”  And also, “What I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.”

Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…

And that “High Holy Season” always starts with the Feast of  St. Andrew – “the First Apostle.” That posts and others cited in it noted that while Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus,” he seems to be the least known about. Which is ironic because Andrew was one of Jesus’ the first followers. In fact he “followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others,” and so he is “called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.” 

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 St. Andrew, “the First Apostle,” and his x-shaped cross or saltire*

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘By the Waters of Babylon,’ painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

The lower image is courtesy of ncregister.com/blog/st.-andrew-apostle-11-things-to-know and share, which included the full text of St. Andrew’s words before he died, showing “a very profound Christian spirituality.  [He] does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.  Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ…”  See also Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

About that “saltire” see St Andrew … 5 facts you might have known:

Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus.  The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

As to the Feast of St. Andrew beginning the new church year, see Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with Saint Andrew.  Or see St. Andrew, from the Satucket website:

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year…  The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).

On Thanksgiving 2019

 The Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving behind their homeland – for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. See On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, along with Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

Keep America Beautiful’s famous 1971 Ad Campaign, featuring Iron Eyes Cody, the “Crying Indian”

For one thing, I got hired back as a supervisor at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. (Supervising mainly young folk working off community service hours.) For another thing, I got back from Portugal in the middle of the “High Holy Season.” (I.e., the season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”)

Which means that – since the regular college season is now nearing an end – it’s time to get back to posting more regularly. And next Thursday’s Thanksgiving is a great place to start. But first a couple passages from today’s Daily Office Readings.

For starters, there’s the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25. It tells of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: “when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:”

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

Lamassu from “Sargon II…” 

The problem? The Assyrians and Egyptians were at the time arch-enemies, both with each other and with Israel, which they took turns conquering. Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.

That theme got mirrored in the New Testament reading, Romans 15:5-13, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of which could be very good news indeed, giving us hope for the future.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving. I covered the subject in On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, and On Thanksgiving – 2017. The caption for the Mayflower Pilgrim image at the top of the page – borrowed from “Part I” – alludes to a song from the movie Aladdin.  See Aladdin – A whole new world – YouTube.  Also Aladdin – A Whole New World Lyrics:  “A whole new world, A new fantastic point of view, No one to tell us no, Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…” 

All of which – I noted – could describe the feelings of any pilgrim who is setting out for any “new world,” before reality sets in and the real work begins. And which might be said of any “baby Christian” just starting out on his or her spiritual journey…

Which brings up a key point to remember. See for example the post Thanksgiving 2015, which noted this reality check on that much-celebrated First Thanksgiving:

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

Which reminds us that any true pilgrimage – or any spiritual journey worth its salt – involves a lot of disciplined, persevering work. And that “stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor” isn’t the real purpose of Thanksgiving. (Any more than “getting presents” is the real purpose of Christmas.)

We should be thankful – above all – for the right to explore our own spiritual pilgrimage – our own spiritual journey – in our own way and at our own pace. Which means that – if we choose – we can follow the lead of Luke 24:45 and read the Bible “with an open mind.” 

All of which is another way of saying that once you start reading the Bible on a daily basis – with an open mind – you can find an exciting “whole New World out there.” 

You can become – in your own way – like an old-time explorer whose main job – it often seemed – was to push past grim warnings and superstitions:

In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world.  At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again…   For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one.  (E.A.)

That’s from the INTRODUCTION. Then there’s Thanksgiving – 2016, referring to a quote from William Bradford (Plymouth colony) on the difficulties inherent in all great and honorable actions. (“Like trying to maintain a true democracy after the kind of heated-rhetoric election we just went through.”)  Which could be summed up this way:  “If it was easy, anybody could do it!”

Which brought up the topic of “dormancy, darkness and cold,” referring to the Dark Ages, that period of intellectual darkness between the “light of Rome,” up to the rebirth or “Renaissance in the 14th century.”  (Not that there was any connection to current events or anything…)  

Which in turn serves as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age” you may be going through, during this fine but politically-hectic November of 2019:

“This too shall pass…

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

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

The “lamassu” image is courtesy of a link n Assyrian captivity – Wikipedia. It refers to “an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings.” Sargon II began his reign in 722 BC, then “conquered the Kingdom of Israel, and, in 710 BC, conquered the Kingdom of Babylon, thus reuniting Assyria with its southern rival, Babylonia.”

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

The Halloween Triduum – 2019

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

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Here’s a news flash: Halloween isn’t just one day, October 31st. It’s part of what are called the “three days of Hallowe’en.” More precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (Or Allhallowtide. And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”)

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgYou can get a more complete story from prior posts like – from 2018 – On the THREE days of Hallowe’en, and from 2016 On “All Hallows E’en” – 2016. Including an explanation of how the term “Hallowe’en” developed from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.

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

Halloween started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter. And those “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

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

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

You can see more on Halloween in those prior posts, including details of that strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That is, the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Or about traveling on All Hallows E’en. If you hiked from 11:00 p.m. until midnight, your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.” (The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches…)

But next comes November 1, All Saints Day, which honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  I.e., special people in the Church. (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”) On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

That is, that third day of the Halloween Triduum – November 2 – is All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the following Sunday service includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

All of which makes for the Good News of Halloween.  Accordingly, here’s wishing you:

A Happy “All Hallow’s E’en!”

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

The “Three Days of Halloween” end November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

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The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

See also the 2017 version of On the THREE days of Hallowe’en., which came just after…

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

As to that 2017 Camino trip, I wrote that on October 3 (207) and in Puente La Reina, in Spain – “about eight miles shy of León” on reaching Leon – “we will have hiked 250 miles from Pamplona, in the 21 days since we left on September 13.”  Then there was this:

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

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

On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, ocean, sky, outdoor, nature and water

A beach-view, northwest of Porto, along the coastal alternative to the Camino de Santiago …

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

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

It’s been a month since I got back from last September’s 160-mile, 19-day hike on the Camino de Santiago that runs through Portugal. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino! Which means it’s time to start moving on from that pilgrimage and back to this blog’s main themes.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorBut first, a tip of the hat to the lovely ladies of Portugal, including the one at the top of the page. (Via telephoto on our first day’s hike, from Porto up the 10.8 miles to Cabo do Mundo.) And to the lady Camino hikers we saw going out of Porto Itself, as shown at right. (Which just goes to show that a true pilgrimage doesn’t have to be all “raw experience … hunger, cold and lack of sleep.” See “I pity the fool!” From March 2015.)

Which brings us to the more recent Feast Days this October. For instance, the October 18 just passed was the Feast Day of St. Luke. For starters, you can see more on him in 2014’s On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 20. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”) Then too Wednesday, October 23 is the Feast Day for James, brother of Jesus.

About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part. He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

See On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men, which clarifies some of that confusion on my part. (When I confused “Brother of Jesus” with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25.) And among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”

Saint James the Just.jpgWhich would have brought us back to the topic of such pilgrimages, if this James had been “the Greater.” As for the confusion, see The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study. That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude. Other sources indicate there were as many as six “Jameses” in the Bible.

So anyway, this “October 23″ James is considered the author of the Epistle of James. (He’s portrayed in the icon above left.) Other books – the Pauline epistles and Acts of the Apostles  – show him as key to the Christians of Jerusalem.

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9 Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

There’s also confusion on how he died. “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.’” Either way, he was important.

Then there’s St. Luke, from last October 18. On that note, I’ve written before on Bible study as a great way to “develop your talents.” See for example December 2015’s Develop your talents with Bible study. Which brings us back to Luke the Evangelist.

The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels.  He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)  He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”

Thus Luke’s Gospel was – to Wills and many others – the most beautiful book that ever was.” Which means Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one we should pay special attention to.  And especially to being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

We could use a lot more of that Christian kindness these days…

But – again speaking of developing your talents – Luke wasn’t just a great writer.  He was also – according to tradition – an artist of note.  Beyond that he was said to be the first icon painter, and to have painted the Virgin Mary and Child, as shown in the image below.

So here’s to Luke as a prime example of Scripture-study to develop your talents.

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“Saint Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child…” 

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As indicated in Just got back – Portuguese Camino, I took the photos of the ladies in Portugal.

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.   As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.   Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”     http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

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

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

Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

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A not-so-typical scene on the Portuguese Camino – early on along the “Coastal” alternative…

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Image may contain: drinkI just flew back from Lisbon in Portugal. “And, boy, are my arms tired!” But seriously, I did just finish a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Camino. I flew to Lisbon on August 28 and flew back on September 25, and so technically was gone a full month.

During which I greatly enjoyed the local Iberian beers, including Mahou (at left), Cruzcampo, Sagres and Super Bock. See Beer in Portugal – Wikipedia, noting the “long history, going as far back as the time of the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, where beer was commonly made and drunk.”

My Utah brother, sister-in-law and I started in Porto, then hiked “back” up to Santiago to Compostela – again. (My brother and I hiked the Camino Frances in 2017, and so came in to Santiago from the east, not the south, like this time.) I wrote about that then-upcoming pilgrimage last August 2d, in St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage.”

In 2017 … my Utah brother and I hiked (and biked) the most popular “Camino,” the French Way… But a month from now – September 2, 2019 – my brother and I will start hiking the 140 or so miles, from Porto “back” up to Santiago.  Via the Portuguese Way, and this time we’ll be joined by my Utah sister-in-law.

But first a note. While in Portugal – then Spain – I posted pictures on Facebook. They were pictures I took with the same $50 tablet I used on the Camino Frances in 2017.

But this time I also took a lot of pictures with a Canon camera that was much easier to operate. And on getting home I promptly cut down the number of “Canon” Camino pictures to 591. So I’ll do some future posts featuring pictures from my Canon camera. (Some of which are a lot more spontaneous – interesting – than the tablet.) But getting back to that $50 tablet…

Posting pictures on Facebook with it wasn’t too bad, but writing commentary was a real pain. For one thing I seem to have fat thumbs. For another, the tablet had “autocorrect,” which had a serious problem with foreign names. It kept changing the “de” or “do” in a lot of Portuguese names to “Dr.” Every time. See also another example in an early post from Portugal:

Good morning from Cabo do Mundo. (BTW, autocorrect is having a hissy with these Portuguese names, plus my colloquialisms.) Ready for another 10 mile hike. Slept through the night. “Cozy quarters.”

No photo description available.Which brings up an early-on collection of “estampas.” The photo at right shows the stamps in my credencial as of September 6, four days into the hike. The “cozy quarters” note referred to our first night’s lodging on the hike. (A tiny two-rooms and a kitchen place, where my brother and I shared the “parlor.”)

That came after this post: “First day’s hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.”

That last referred to the first day’s hike. Nice thought, but it turned out to be misleading.

I learned it’s not the first day – or even three – of hiking that wears on your feet. It’s the pounding from day after day hiking with a 15-pound pack. And it’s my humble opinion there’s no way to train in advance for that – except to do the same constant hiking at home, day after day. A long hike once or twice a week won’t do it. It’ll help, but you’ll still have to go through the agony of getting your feet accustomed to the constant pounding. Day after day.

Another note. Remember how we used to peel our skin off after a bad sunburn? Back in the old days, when we were young and before today’s fancy-schmancy creams and lotions that prevent such peeling?  Something like that happened to the soles of my feet once I got home. By the time we reached Santiago the soles of my feet were like shoe-leather, tough, blister-over-healed-blister and callused. (Or “cayused,” as one cute Farmacia lady said.*)

But then in the week or so since I’ve been home, I’ve peeled off several layers of tough, leathery skin. Apparently the affected parts of the body – like the soles of your feet – also go through a process of “decompressing,” just like you do mentally after such an adventure.

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Moving on, here’s a picture of my brother and sister-in-law heading back home after dinner, September 4.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First some notes I made after getting to my hotel in Lisbon.

It came after another red-eye flight, just like the one I made to Tel Aviv and Israel last May. And one thing I learned early on in the trip was that the internet lied about cheap Portuguese taxis. (Bonjour!)  Instead of the four-Euro ride to my hotel like I’d been led to believe, it was more like 15 Euros. Which wasn’t that bad, for one ride anyway. But luckily I got hooked up with the Metro.

I took the Red Line from the Aeroporto and got off at Saldanha station. My “Hotel Alif” was right across from Campo Pequeno. It’s a famous bull ring togged out like one of our football stadiums, but with lots of restaurants open on weekdays. (That first day I got yelled at for cutting through one restaurant, getting acquainted with the area. Then the next night I went back for dinner and got served by the same waiter.)  Next day – Friday, August 30 – I did some touristy stuff, including a visit to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (“Monument to the Discoveries”).

It was a lifelong dream. (Or at least since 1979, when I made my first trip to Europe and couldn’t make it to Lisbon.) For a nominal fee I took the elevator to the observation tower, where I met three young ladies from Australia. (I could understand what they were saying, mostly…) Also the Museu de Marinha, a few blocks up from the Monument. (After stopping to enjoy a “Sagres.”)

On Saturday, the 31st, I took a train up to Porto, met up with brother and sister-in-law, and spent a day sightseeing, before heading out. And now for some flavor of that first-day hike:

We hiked west along the Douro River, along the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic Ocean and swung north. It’s the lesser traveled scenic alternative for the Camino Portuguese. Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.

So again, I’ll be doing more posts in the future on this adventure. But in the meantime there are the main themes of this blog. Like the Liturgical year‘s Feast Days. The most recent Feast Day was St. Michael and All Angels, on September 30. For more on that feast day see On “St. Michael and All Angels.” And while I hiked the Camino in September there were two other Feast Days. For more on those and St. Michael see On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.” (Holy Cross Day, 9/1419, and St. Matthew, 9/21/19.)

But in closing, here’s a camera-photo from the first day’s hike out of Porto. I’m always interested in my fellow peregrinos, including how they adjust their packs. Then too, in a future post I’ll include more camera shots of some not-so-typical scenes on the “Coastal” alternative…

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I took all the photos in this post.

Re:  “Cayused.” It happened first thing one morning on the hike. We stopped at a Farmacia, as my sister-in-law wanted something like Band-aids for her blisters. She looked at one brand in Portuguese, but the lovely clerk said “those are not for blisters, they are for – how you say? – cayuses.” Which is how the Portuguese pronounce “calluses.” It was very cute, and very memorable…

On Gun Nuts and bulls goring…

candlelight vigil – for one of the 947 mass shootings in the last two years and 214 days?

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Saturday August 24 is the Feast day for Bartholomew the Apostle. Unfortunately, he may best be known for the famous massacre on his feast day in 1572.  There’s more on that and “St. Bart” below, but speaking of massacres (and some recent responses thereto):

I recently read on Facebook that “when Cain killed Abel, God didn’t blame the rock.”  I then Googled the phrase and saw that it came from a “Top NC Republican.”  See Top NC Republican on Mass Shootings: “Cain Killed Abel.”  (And “God didn’t punish the rock,” to which the article writer responded, “It’s so weird how gun violence has nothing to do with guns.”) 

Which sums up the response of “gun nuts,” and with it the need to clarify.

To me a Gun Nut isn’t the guy who thinks the Second Amendment is perfectly valid – including the “well-regulated” part – and goes along with the idea of responsible gun ownership.  A Gun Nut is the guy who refuses to consider even the most trifling, minimal attempt to “maybe, kinda sorta” try to find some way to cut down the number mass shootings plaguing the nation.

So getting back to that “top NC Republican.” Lt. Governor Dan Forest referred to Genesis 4:8, “One day Cain suggested to his brother, ‘Let’s go out into the fields.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.”  Notice there’s nothing about a rock, which doesn’t speak well of Forest’s knowledge of the Bible. (See also the Titian painting below right.  And for another interesting take see “Cain killed Abel with a rock”? … atheism.)

The point?  Forest seemed to say that – according to the Bible – the “powers that be” in this country have no responsibility whatsoever to correct an ongoing problem resulting in frequent, unnecessary death. His take? If a man kills 40 people with an assault weapon, you hold only the man responsible. You don’t look for “cause and effect,” and you don’t even try to find out if even one person’s life could be saved by some reasonable solution.

Which is of course a gross misinterpretation of the Bible.

For one thing, Forest apparently didn’t read far enough.  In Genesis 4:9 – after the murder, shown at right – God asked where Abel was. Cain answered, “I know not.  Am I my brother’s keeper?” To which God said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!”  (Genesis 4:10, to which the Good News Translation adds, “like a voice calling for revenge.”)  Which leads to this question.  If God could hear the voice of one victim “crying out from the ground,” how could He possibly not hear the voices of 3,788 Americans, victims of mass shootings in the last two years, 214 days (plus)(Conservatively-estimated, as of August 20, 2019.)

Which brings us to another Bible take, on how American society as a whole has a God-given duty to end repeat killings of which there has been ample warning.  See Exodus 21:28-29:

If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death…  But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.

So it may be true that God didn’t “blame the rock” for killing Abel.

But according to the law of Moses – Exodus 21:28-29 – the owner of a bull who keeps killing can’t avoid guilt by saying, “Don’t blame me!  Blame the bull!” According to God’s Word, the owner of a rogue bull is responsible for his failure to keep the second death from happening. (Or the third, or the 3,788th.) As reasonably interpreted, that principle applies to American society as a whole, when it knows the danger of repeated, ongoing mass killing.

On that note, see Dog owner charged with murder after fatal mauling (8/22/19):

The owner of three dogs that fatally mauled 9-year-old Emma Hernandez on Monday has been charged with murder…  Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Thursday that Pierre Cleveland, 33, will face charges of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a dangerous animal causing death.

That  third charge – having a dangerous animal causing death – goes directly back to Exodus 21:28-29 (It was noted at the hearing that members of Cleveland’s family “cried out in the courtroom when [the] prosecution alleged Cleveland knew his dogs were dangerous.”)

So did the pit bulls themselves – alone – “cause” the fatal mauling?  Or was it a combination, of pit bulls being inherently dangerous and the owner’s failure to “keep the dogs in check?”

Some further notes:  The dogs were set to be euthanized (in accordance with Exodus 21:28), on which note prosecutors argued that Cleveland knew the dogs were dangerous. Yet he left them alone, “despite the dogs allegedly having killed a puppy in Cleveland’s home a week before.” Then too “one of the dogs had also killed multiple puppies on July 29.”

So to repeat:  According to  Exodus 21:28-29, Americans as a group – by and through their elected representatives – can’t escape responsibility by saying “blame the rock!”  Which brings us back to the Feast day for “St.  Bartholomew, also known as Bartholomew the Apostle.*”  As to that famous massacre see St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre (8/2017).

More to the point – and as to the Catholic Church’s responsibility for the massacre – here’s what Pope John Paul II said in August of 1997, in Paris, where the massacre took place:

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

So here’s hoping that some day soon we too in America may begin a “fruitful dialogue.”  Like on how to stop the great number of mass shootings that presently plague our nation…

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The Louvre, August 24, 1572: Catherine de’ Medici (in black) considers “her” massacre

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The upper image is courtesy of Mass Shooting – Image Results.  The photo accompanies an article, “Stop blaming the mentally ill for mass shootings.” With a comment by conservative author Ann Coulter: “Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do.” The article noted less than 5 percent of the “120,000 gun-related killings in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.”  Instead, people with mental illness were more likely to be victims. “You’re more likely to be attacked by other people, more likely to be shot,” one professor said. “You’re odd. You’re a target.”  Also, mass shootings are most often attributed to things like disgruntled workers or family disputes. “It’s loss of control by people who are extremely angry.”  Finally the article said efforts to link mental illness and violence are “a political strategy to turn attention away from more serious efforts to restrict access to the means of violence – which is guns.”

The black-and-white image to the left of the paragraph “Saturday, August 24” – “Jesus-and-fig-tree” – is courtesy of Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Treesacredstory.org.  

The Cain and Abel image is courtesy of Wikipedia:  “Cain and Abel, 16th-century painting by Titian.”

Re:  The number of “recent” mass shootings.  See An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings, from a companion blog, first posted on May 3, 2019, but updated August 20, 2019.  As of 8/20/19 the number of mass shootings in the last “How long has Trump been president” stood at 947.  The definition of mass shooting – a minimum of four victims – led to the calculation of 3,788.

The image at left of the paragraph with “set to be euthanized (in accordance with Exodus 21:28),” is courtesy of Bull Gore – Image Results. Accompanied by an article, “British student escapes death after being gored by killer bull at Pamplona festival.” Thus note that Exodus 21:28 apparently doesn’t apply to injuries resulting from one’s own stupidity. See also Running of the bulls – Wikipedia.

More about St. Bartholomew: This “St. Bart” is generally identified as the Nathanael Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under a fig tree. As to the way he died, one tradition says that during his last missionary journey he was “flayed alive and crucified, head downward.” 

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