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On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a Happy Halloween!

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Wicked_witch

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

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

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

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

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

D-Day remembered – June 6, 2017

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg

Men of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade “into the jaws of death,” on D-Day, 73 years ago…

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On June 6, 2017, it will have been 73 years since the Normandy landings in World War II, otherwise known as D-Day.

And what – you may ask – does D-Day have to do with the Christian faith and Bible reading?  One answer came in On June 6, 2016.  Another answer from On D-Day and confession, from June 6, 2014.  The latter talked about sin, confession, and the kind of “de-briefing” American fliers got during World War II:

Maybe that’s what the [] concepts of sin and confession are all about.  (Or should be about.)  When we “sin” we simply fall short of our goals; we “miss the target.”  When we “confess,” we simply admit to ourselves how far short of the target we were.  And maybe the purpose of all this is not to make people feel guilty all the time, as some seem to imply.

Impromptu pipes and drum on Gold Beach during the D-Day 70th AnniversaryIn other words, the “negative” concepts of sin, repentance and confession are just tools to help us get closer to the target “next time out,” even if we know we can never be perfect.

Then too,  June 6, 2016 – including the image at right – talked about the value of independent judgment rather than a “rigid obedience to a pre-formed set of ‘rules.’”  

(Which seems to be just the approach advanced by boot-camp Christians.  See the Notes.)

The whole point of this blog is that such independent judgment – along with regular Bible reading – is the key to success in life, and especially spiritual life.  And like I mention in the notes – beginning and end – “God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.”

In turn, just like I note in the Introduction, “How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?”

Which brings us back to the value of being able to think on your feet, to be able to adapt, to meet and overcome unexpected obstacles, like our forefathers did on D-Day and beyond:

During World War II, German generals often complained that U.S. forces were unpredictable…  American troops [were] famous for this kind of individual initiative.  It’s a point of pride among officers that the American way of war emphasizes independent judgment in the fog and friction of battle, rather than obedience and rules.  (E.A.)

Which is just the kind of Bible study and interpretation this blog is all about.  (One example:  Before D-Day the Allies’ created the fictitious “First United States Army Group under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex.” That ruse was complete with the creation of the shoulder patches seen at right, designed for the units of that fake “army.”)

But to get back on point – and as I noted in DORs for June 6, 2015 – a Bible-approach that emphasizes literalism or fundamentalism simply “stifles the very creativity that is such a big part of interacting with God.”

And all of that brings us back to why we were able to win World War II.  (And on D-Day.)

Like the obstacles our servicemen faced on and following D-Day, life is unpredictable.  And if you approach life by trying to force it – and yourself – into some pre-formed, pre-digested set of cubbyholes, you’re bound to fail.  In turn, that’s exactly the kind of approach you’ll get if you follow the kind of fundamentalist “Bible-thumpers” who advance a way of Bible study-and-interpretation that “rewards conformism and stifles creativity.”

File:David Playing the Harp 1670 Jan de Bray.jpgOn the other hand, the Bible itself tells us many times to “sing to the Lord a new song.”  In other words, you are not – with your life – supposed to sing to God a “stale, warmed-over rehash, like what you tend to get by reading the Bible too literally or ‘fundamentally:'”

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?”   (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

See On singing a NEW song to God.  And that ties in with one of the Daily Office readings for June 6, 2017, Psalm 45:1:  “My heart is stirring with a noble song [and] my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.”  And just what is the reward for all this “creative” hard work?  The same reward gotten by all those brave American servicemen who died on D-Day, and beyond.

They – and we – will ultimately get to “go where the music is born…”

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 The upper image is courtesy of Normandy landings – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944.”  Clicking on the picture in the Wikipedia article will lead to the attribution: “File: Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg.”

Re:  The “DORs” for June 6, 2017.  The full set of Bible readings:  “AM Psalm 45;  PM Psalm 47, 48
Deut. 12:1-12
; 2 Cor. 6:3-13(14-7:1); Luke 17:11-19,” and also Ini Kopuria.

The lower image is courtesy of humanlifematters.org/the-quest-to-express, and was used in the post  On the DORs for June 6, 2015.  That post talked about “the Bible-approach that emphasizes literalism or fundamentalism.  It seems to me that such an approach can comfort some people, like those ‘creatively challenged.’  But more often it just stifles the very creativity that is such a big part of interacting with God.”  As for Bach’s last words, see also Bach’s last words … The World’s Greatest Music:  “‘Don’t cry for me, for I go where music is born,’ Bach said to his wife as he lay on his deathbed.  Or, so the story goes…”

Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds…”

 “Jesus’ ascension to heaven,” by John Singleton Copley – after He “opened their minds…”

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The next major Feast Day commemorates the Ascension, and this year comes on May 25.  This Feast commemorates the “bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven,” and is “ecumenical.”  (That is, it’s “universally celebrated.”)  In terms of importance it ranks up there “with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, and Pentecost.”

It’s always celebrated on a Thursday, the 40th day of Easter.

More precisely, it’s celebrated on the 40th day of Eastertide, the 50-day church season running from Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday.

On that note, last year – 2016 – Ascension Day was celebrated on May 5.  (See Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, a post featuring the image above left, with the caption:  “Before Jesus could Ascend into Heaven, He had to Descend into Hell….”)

Which is another way of saying that since Easter Sunday is a moveable feast – a “liturgical event that comes on a different date each year – all the other feast days measured after Easter get shifted around too.  (Like Ascension Day and Pentecost.)  And all that’s not to be confused with A Moveable Feast.  That’s the title of Ernest Hemingway‘s memoir – published posthumously in 1964 – about his years as a struggling young writer in Paris in the 1920s.

And just as an aside, the title of Hemingway’s memoir was a “play on words for the term used for a holy day for which the date is not fixed.”  (Like Christmas, always celebrated on December 25.)  Which is as good a definition as any, but we digress!!!

More to the point, you can see the full Bible readings for the feast at Ascension Day.  Or you could check out two other prior posts, On Ascension Day 2015 and – from 2014 – On Ascension Day.  (That year it was celebrated on May 29.)  

The event itself was described in Luke 24, which starts with the first Easter day – “the women” finding the empty tomb – followed by the Road to Emmaus appearance.  That’s followed in turn by the last of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.  The two disciples at Emmaus had gotten up and “returned at once to Jerusalem.  There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together.”  Jesus then appeared in the midst of all of them, and taught them things; i.e., He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (E.A.)

On that note see Luke 24:45, which – BTW – pretty much sums up the main theme of this blog.

And finally, Jesus led the disciples out of the room and on out of Jerusalem.  See Luke 24:50-51:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgAll of which may be pretty hard to believe, but that’s also addressed in 2014’s On Ascension Day.  It talked about things like Arguing with God – which included the imag at left – and the First law of thermodynamics.  (Which is – I argued – proof positive that the human soul – a definite form of energy – is neither “created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.”)  

The point being that there are some Christians who definitely believe you shouldn’t argue with God.  And there are lots of other people out there who don’t believe the whole idea of life after life – or after death – or for that matter the “bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven.”

Which brings up Robin Williams’ “Top Ten…”

To explain:  If you type “ascension day” in the search box above right, that Top Ten post will be the fourth post down.  (Right before Jesus in Hell.)  Specifically, the list at issue is Robin Williams’ Top 10 reasons to be an Episcopalian.  (Which is definitely one of the “believer” groups.)

One of the key points of Williams’ list:  Stop worrying so much about trying to understand the hard-to-understand parts of the Bible.  (Like the bodily Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.)

Instead, focus on our own “life’s journey, leaving our destination to a ‘Higher Power.’”  That is, “celebrate life as a pilgrimage as the basic metaphor of Christian life.”  Which is one way to turn tragedy into something to laugh at, and so deal with much better.  And so enjoy the pilgrimage:

I have a feeling that somewhere, somehow – “even as we speak” – the spirit of Robin Williams is making some being – some entity – laugh his or her spiritual butt off.

And the key to that approach is reading the Bible with an open mind.  In turn, if anyone objects, we can say we are simply following the example of Jesus as told in Luke 24:45:

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

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Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. . .

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus, with the full caption:  “Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775.”   

The lower image is from Channel 4 News apologises for Robin Williams gaffe.  The “gaffe” came after Williams‘ death-by-suicide on August 11, 2014:  “Broadcaster criticised after tribute to late actor features ‘get a rope and hang me’ quote from Good Morning Vietnam.”  The Gaffe post added this:

Channel 4 News has apologised after airing a clip of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam saying: “Get a rope and hang me,” a day after the star’s suspected suicide. . .  Channel 4 came in for criticism for the gaffe.

On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members”

Rubens apostel philippus.jpg

Philip the Apostle – the saint we know is being celebrated on Monday, May 2…”

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Monday, May 1, was the  Feast Day of and for Saint Philip and Saint James.  I covered these two saints in last year’s Philip and James – Saints and Apostles.

That post included the painting of St. Philip at the top of the page.  (Along with the “quotated” caption discussed further below.*)  It also included the photo at right – of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry – along with the mock caption:

“So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”  

(The post talked about the kind of ritual – religious and otherwise – that should “pervade a healthy society.”  It also noted that a good pilgrimage – a kind of religious ritual “on the move” – can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of human experiences.)

But we digress…   The point of the caption at the top of the page is that we know who the “Philip” is that we celebrate on May 1.  We’re not so sure about the “James…”

According to the Satucket (Daily Officearticle on Philip and James – there are eight possible “Jameses” who could be celebrated on May 1.  These include but not limited to:  1) James the Greater (or “James, son of Zebedee”);  James the Less (“either the younger or shorter of two”); and/or James the Just (also known as the brother of Jesus).  At any rate, the full list of eight is included in the notes below.  (And incidentally, that “James the son of Zebedee” is the patron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.  See e.g., On “St. James the Greater.”)

But again, even though we don’t know exactly which James is being celebrated on May 1, we do know which “Philip” is being celebrated.

This Philip was the Apostle described in Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40), and the Wikipedia article on Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. (As shown at left.)   And speaking of last year’s post – Philip and James – Saints and Apostles – it noted that as a eunuch the Ethiopian was an untouchable, at least from a Christian fundamentalist standpoint.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1.  On that note, the New Living Translation is pretty specific (if not graphic):  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – puts the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD:”

Yet Philip, guided by God’s Spirit, does not hesitate to share the good news of God’s love and salvation with this less than whole Ethiopian and to baptize him into the faith, to welcome him into the life of the Christian church.  This new faith is for all, God’s love is for every human being no matter what disability or disease or affliction has come our way.

(See “Wesley Uniting Church.”)  In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – and the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal.  

Which is – I suppose – just another way of saying that God will accept anyone.  (As described in John 6:37, where Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”)  Or see On total love – and “the Living Vine.”  The point of that post as well was, first, that God’s love is universal.

The second point was that we as Christians should try to imitate that all-encompassing love.  Or as Jesus aptly – and succinctly – put it in his summary of the entire Bible:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ said:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it:  you shall love your neighbor as yourself.   On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

That’s from Matthew 22, verses 37-40, emphasis added.  In plain words, our goal in life should be to “live in full communion,” with both God and even our most obnoxious neighbor.  And be good stewards of nature besides.  (On that note, Earth Day was last April 22.)

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Earth Day Flag created by John McConnell…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Philip the Apostle – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “St. Philip, by Peter Paul Rubens, from his Twelve Apostles series (c. 1611), at the Museo del Prado, Madrid.”  That article added:  “In the Roman Catholic Church, the feast day of Philip, along with that of James the Just, was traditionally observed on 1 May, the anniversary of the dedication of the church dedicated to them in Rome (now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).”  A note:  “James the Just” is third on the Satucket list, just below James the Greater and James the Lesser.

Re:  “Quotated.”  The reference is to part of the lyrics from Alice’s Restaurant.  See also Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant lyrics | LyricsMode.com:  

And I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it
Down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the
Pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the
Other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on
The other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the
Following words:

(“KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?”)

Re:  The full list of eight possible “Jameses” celebrated on May 1:

(1) JAMES THE GREATER: James the son of Zebedee, called James the Greater or James Major or James the Elder, was one of the Twelve Apostles, and also, along with his brother John and with Peter, belonged to what seems to have been an inner circle of Three. He was killed by order of King Herod, as reported in Acts 12:2. (See M 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; P 1:19,29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2; 10:35,41; 13:3; 14:33; L 5:10; 6:14; 8:51; 9:28,54; A 11:13; 12:2)

St. James Minor, from a 1708 Book of Common Prayer(2) JAMES THE LESS: James the son of Alphaeus (Alpheus) appears on lists of the Twelve Apostles (usually in the ninth place), but is never mentioned otherwise. He is called James the Less, or James Minor, or James the Younger. (See M 10:3; P 3:18; L 6:15; A 1:13)

(3) JAMES THE JUST: James called “the brother of the Lord” appears in Acts 12:17 and thereafter (A 15:13; 21:18; 1C 15:17; Ga 1:19; 2:9,12) as the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. He is counted by later Church historians as the first bishop of Jerusalem, with Simeon (described as also a kinsman, something like a great-nephew of Joseph) as the second. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James was put to death by order of the high priest during an interval between Roman governors, over the protests of the Pharisees, who thought him an upright man. He is known as James the Just or James of Jerusalem or James Protepiscopus (first bishop).

(4) JAMES THE WRITER: One of the New Testament Epistles is written by a James. (See Jas 1:1)

(5) JAMES THE SON OF CLEOPAS:
John (19:25) lists the women standing by the cross of Jesus as “his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If this list mentions only three women, then Mary the wife of Clopas is presumably a sister-in-law to the Virgin Mary.
The Synoptists give lists of women apparently at a distance.
Matthew (27:55f) lists as “looking on from afar” some Galilean women “among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
Mark (15:40f) lists “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses, and Salome… and also many other women.”
Luke (24:10) lists “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them.”
By “mother of James…” do the Synoptists denote the mother of Jesus? It seems odd that they would omit to mention her if she were there, but odder yet that they would identify her as the mother of James and Joseph (Joses), but not as the mother of Jesus. Besides, we note that Matthew and Mark are speaking of women who stood at a distance, while the Virgin was close enough to hear her Son speak. I therefore assume that Mary the mother of James etc is not the same as the Virgin Mary, and is either not mentioned by John at all or is identical with his “Mary the wife of Clopas,” who is probably the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary. Conclusion: James the son of Clopas was perhaps the nephew of either Mary or Joseph, and so would have been known as the first cousin of Jesus.

(6) JAMES THE NAZARENE: The residents of Nazareth speak of brothers of Jesus, including one named James (M 4:55 = P 6:3).

(7) JAMES THE KINSMAN OF JUDE THE APOSTLE: When Luke lists the Apostles (L 6:16; A 1:13), he has, in places 9 thru 11, “James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas of James.” [This is not Judas Iscariot.] Now, “Judas of James” would ordinarily mean “Judas son of James,” and so the RSV translates it. However, the KJV renders is as “Judas the brother of James,” and some suppose him to be the brother of James the son of Alphaeus, so that we have no fewer than three pairs of brothers among the disciples: Peter and Andrew, sons of Jonas; James and John, sons of Zebedee; James and Jude, sons of Alphaeus. This seems unlikely, since (a) if Luke had intended us to understand that the two were brothers, he would have written them together instead of separating them by Simon the Zealot (but note P 3:16-18); and (b) if he had meant us to understand “brother of” rather than the more usual “son of”, he would have said “brother.”

(8) JAMES THE BROTHER OF JUDE THE WRITER:   The author of the Epistle of Jude calls himself the brother of James. Presumably this James would be someone well-known to his readers, otherwise why bother to mention him?

Here are the full Daily Office readings for Saint Philip and Saint James “AM Psalm 119:137-160Job 23:1-12; John 1:43-51, PM Psalm 139Proverbs 4:7-18; John 12:20-26.”  For yet another take, see Daily Office update (and “scapegoating.”

The lower image is courtesy of Earth Day – Wikipedia.  See also Remembering the Purpose of Earth Day, and from last year, Pope Francis Urges All People to Protect the Earth On 45th Anniversary of Earth Day.  (For a contrasting take on the “politics” of Pope Francis,” see On the “Gospel of Marx.”)

 

On my “pain in the back…”

Back-Pain

“Why – indeed – does my back hurt so much?”  See my answer below…

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Now about that “pain in the back.”  Unfortunately,  I’m not speaking metaphorically.

mardi grasI actually didthrow out my back,” back on Thursday, March 2.  That was only three days after I did my last post, The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras.  (Which featured the image at left, of revelers in New Orleans “showing skin for beads;” of which I am speaking metaphorically.)  And the reason that that was the last post I did is because – ever since then – I’ve been unable to sit at my “laptop” desk at home for more than a few minutes at a time.

As noted in September 2016,* for next September – 2017 – “my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago, mostly in Spain.”  As part of my training for that upcoming event, I tried a type of “forced march.”  (Also known as a “loaded march.”)  Briefly, a forced march involves alternating periods of walking and running – or jogging for older folk – but with increased resistance provided by a heavy pack.

In my case, on the Camino itself I hope to maintain a pace of 20 minutes per mile, with about 20 pounds of pack weight.  So for training purposes, I started experimenting with cycles of one minute – 85 steps – of jogging, followed by a number of minutes walking.

Product DetailsAll the while wearing a 22-pound weight vest.  (Like that at right.)

I started out with one minute of jogging followed by six minutes of walking.  But I also wanted to be time-efficient, so I kept increasing the pace, by decreasing the number of walking minutes.  Finally, on March 2, I tried a four-minute cycle:  One minute of jogging and three minutes of walking.  To make a long story short, I overextended.

The problem – I figured out later – was that the weight vest was a bit too loose, so that my back got a constant pounding.  (Much in the nature of a series of kidney punches, as I also figured out later.)  There were warning signs, including the fact that it hurt to breathe during those minutes I was jogging.  Unfortunately, I succumbed to the temptation to “Walk it offNancy!

Bad move.

Which is another way of saying that I’ve been paying for it ever since.

Which is also a problem, because Lent started back on March 1, and Lent is a key time in the church calendar and for this blog.  (For reasons including that it leads to the climax of Easter.)  So for your consideration – and as I type these words through my pain – I offer up last year’s On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.  Also, from 2015, Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus 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 also Wikipedia, which noted that Lent is “devoted to ‘prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.'”  And if you’re interested in even more history on Ash Wednesday see The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday.

That site noted the “pouring of ashes on one’s body” as an “outer manifestation of inner repentance” is an ancient practice.  The earliest mention seems to have come at the end of the Book of Job, “older than any other book of the Bible.”  In Job 42:6, after he is rebuked by God, Job says, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

The text set is in a phallic column extending from Hartnett's crotch.And incidentally, there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is that you’ve given up for Lent.  (A fact overlooked by the writer/producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights – as shown at left – a “2002 romantic comedy film” which showed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  As noted, the main character could have “taken Sundays off.”)

But we digress.

One important point is that for many people, the whole purpose of the Season of Lent is to “draw themselves near to God.”  For example, My Lenten meditation for last year involved trying to figure out “just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)”  And one thing I figured out from that Lenten meditation was that in writing the first five books of the Bible, Moses had to really dumb it down:

Moses was addressing an audience of the largely “unwashed.”  That is, illiterate men and women who had been trained since birth to be “mindless, docile slaves…”  Suppose Moses had mentioned dinosaurs in his writings.  Or how “we” revolve around that “big bright thing in the sky.”  The result would have been similar to what nearly happened [in] Exodus 17:4, “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What should I do with these people?  They are ready to stone me!’”  [For the full story see Exodus 17:1-7.]

See also On Moses getting stoned, which included the image below.  That post included this observation:  That in plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance ‘to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.’”

Meanwhile I have my own thorn in the flesh, as part of this year’s Lenten discipline…

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Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

One time when Moses almost got stoned to death…

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The upper image is courtesy of Back-Painemdocs.net.  Although the article concerned pediatric back pain – such pain suffered by “infants, children, and adolescents” – it did note that the “incidence of back pain increases with age.”  Also re:  “Threw out my back.”  See also Throw Out Your Back? 8 Tips to Help You Recover, which includes steps I wished I’d taken three weeks ago. 

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to “As noted in September 2016,” the reference (*) is to the post “Starting back with a bang.”  It told of the “almost six weeks” – last summer – that my brother and I spent “hiking the Chilkoot Trail – ‘meanest 33 miles in history‘ – and canoeing 440 miles on the ‘mighty Yukon River.’”  I ended that post by noting I would “talk more about that [projected journey] – and pilgrimages in general – in St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.”

The weight-vest image is courtesy of Amazon.com: weighted vest.

Re:  “Forced march.”  See Loaded march – Wikipedia, which noted that in the U.S. Army, a forced march for training purposes means covering 12 miles in three hours, while carrying 70 pounds including pack.  (Meaning four miles per hour, whereas I was considering an average of three miles per hour on the Camino, carrying no more than 20 pounds, or 10% of my body weight.)  Also, in the French Foreign Legion, a forced march meant covering five miles in 40 minutes, while carrying a 26-pound pack.  After describing other, longer types, Wikipedia noted:

Troublemakers are made to place extra rocks in their backpacks for the duration of the marches.  Further in the training of a “Caporal” there is a 100 km march which must be completed in 24 hours.

Re:  “Nanc[y].”  See also Tough it out – Idioms by The Free Dictionary.

The lower image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia.

The “stoning” article said this of the “Korah” painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the right the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raises anew the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

“Same time, last year…”

A scene from the 1978 film “Same Time, Next Year,” which suggested the title of this blogpost

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SameTimeNextYearPoster.jpgI haven’t had much time to post anything lately, as explained below.

So today – Thursday, December 29 – I present “Same time, last year.”

That’s  an allusion to “Same Time, Next Year,” the 1978 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. (And featuring the theatrical release poster at left.)

 But getting back to:  “It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.”

In fact it’s been since December 6, when I posted On the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  But I have a good excuse:  I had to go to a funeral.

My aunt died on December 7.  She was a mere 80 years old, and so still fairly young by today’s standards.  (Especially as I myself get closer to that age.)  But she had a host of health problems, and so it wasn’t really surprising to get a text from my sister-in-law on December 3.  It said Joan was in the ICU, “critical but stable.”  But unfortunately she went downhill from there.  So I had to “attend another stinkin’ funeral!”  (As we say in our family, having gone through too many lately.)

Then – less than a week after returning home from the funeral – my “mission” was to turn around and head back north again, this time to Greater Cincinnati and Cleveland.  (A trip that was basically a reprise of the one taken in December 2014, detailed in “Another brick in the wall” and featuring an image of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as seen in the notes…)

Which is why the title of this post is “Same time last year…”

Last year at this time I posted Develop your talents with Bible study, which “continues the theme of Bible study to open your mind and develop your talents.”  (And which included the image at right, about certain “moral[s] of the story” in the manner of Aesop and his morality tales.)

It included a pretty good summary of the main theme of this blog:  To help you – and me – get a better feel for communicating with the Force that Created the Universe.

It also included a reference to Matthew 25:14-30, about the Parable of the talents.

That parable was about three servants, each of whom were given some “talents.”  Taken literally, a talent was worth 50 or 60 shekels, and “so was a good chunk of change.”  But viewed metaphorically, it can also refer to a “special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude.”  Which is something we all have, to one degree or another.

So anyway, one servant got ten talents, and basically doubled his master’s investment.  The same thing happened with the servant given five talents.  But the third servant did nothing:  “So what the master got back on his investment was nothing more than the original talent he’d given out.”  Which led to the moral of the story that Jesus seemed to make:  That you can’t be a “good and faithful servant” unless you give back more to God than what He originally gave to you.  And that you can’t do that by being too focused on “avoiding sin:”

[W]hile it certainly is important to not make really stupid mistakes – which tend to have really bad consequences – that’s not the main job of a Christian.  The main job of a Christian is to “develop his talents[,” which] means a real Christian is bound to make mistakes.

Then too, once you realize that all real Christians make mistakes – if they’re really developing their talents – you’ll be that much less likely to develop the “holier than thou” complex that afflicts so many who call themselves Christian.  (Which is the kind of thing that led Paul to sayThe name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”)

http://www.releasetheape.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/arrow-target1-890x556.pngOn that note see Sin and cybernetics:  “Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us, to wit:  to ‘live life in all its abundance.’”  (See John 10:10; the second part.)  Put another way, maybe “sin” is not so much to make people feel guilty – as some Christians say – but rather as a means of self-correction, so that we can better “hit the target…”

Which brings us back to the Parable of the talents, and what it means.  As  Wikipedia noted:

It is clear that the master sought some profit from the servants’ oversight.  A gain indicated faithfulness on the part of the servants.  The master rewards his servants according to how each has handled his stewardship.  He judges two servants as having been “faithful” and gives them a positive reward.  To the single unfaithful servant who “played it safe,” a negative compensation is given.

And speaking of the hazards of a Christian “playing it safe” – focusing too much on sin, and especially that of other people – that’s pretty much what I said in Singing a NEW song to  God: “How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?”  (And for that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   See Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

So here’s a New Year’s wish for 2017:  Let’s all work hard to avoid being boot-camp Christians.  Let’s all work hard, so that this “same time next year” – December 29, 2017 – we can say:

Boy, we sure developed our talents!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Same Time, Next Year (1978) – IMDb.  Photo  6 of 13, with the caption:  “Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year … by Archive Photos/Getty Images – © 2012.”

Picture

The post  Develop your talents with Bible study included the image at left, of Daniel in the lions’ den.  See also Daniel and the Lions Den – Hebrew Bible and ArtThe painting itself is by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), “the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim.  He moved to Paris in 1891 to study, and decided to stay there, being readily accepted in French artistic circles.   His painting entitled Daniel in the Lions’ Den was accepted into the 1896 Salon.”  The painting itself “uses light to symbolize God’s presence.  It is simple and there is not a lot of detail but it gets the point across.”  See also Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: Morality plays – noted here as “morality tales.”  See Wikipedia, referring to the…

genre of Medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment.  In their own time, these plays were known as interludes, a broader term given to dramas with or without a moral.  Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a Godly life over one of evil.  The plays were most popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.

See also Morality tale … by The Free Dictionary, and/or What is a moral tale? | Reference.com:  “a type of story, popular during the 15th and 16th centuries, that uses allegory to portray the struggle between good and evil, often culminating in a lesson.” 

Rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-sunset.jpgRe:  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “as seen in the notes.”  The “Hall” is shown at left, and in “Another brick in the wall.”

Re: “God’s name blasphemed…” See Romans 2:24.

The lower image is courtesy of  Parable of the talents – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “The parable of the talents, depicted in a 1712 woodcut.  The lazy servant searches for his buried talent, while the two other servants present their earnings to their master.”

On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent

 St. Andrew and his “x-shaped cross” or saltire*

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Last Sunday – November 27, 2016 – was the First Sunday of Advent.  And this is the theme for that Season of Advent.  That is, that season of the church-year that ends on Christmas Eve:

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 as even Scrooge recognized, “Christmas is a very busy time for us.”  (The “spirit of Scrooge” is illustrated at right…)

But this time of year – in the church calendar – can also be very confusing.  That’s because both the Season of Advent and the church-year itself actually begin with St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.*”  His Feast Day is celebrated on November 30, today.

And according to the National Catholic Register, “St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.”  Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

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

For more on this day see On St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.”  But getting back to the Season of Advent, see An early Advent medley, or On Advent – 2015.  (From last year.)

Or for that matter see On the readings for Advent Sunday, from 2014:

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches.  It also marks the start of the season of Advent…  [T]he symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.   Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King.

See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia.  The article added that for a time – starting about 300 A.D. – Advent was “kept as a period of fasting as strict as in Lent.”  But around 1917 the Catholic Church “abolished the precept of fasting …  but kept Advent as a season of penitence.”

I’ll be writing more about Advent in the coming weeks, but one thing to remember is that for those four Sundays, the Old Testament readings will be from the prophet Isaiah, shown below:

Isaiah is the prophet who guides our journey through Advent as we prepare for Christmas. Advent is a season of joyful anticipation, and Isaiah invites us to look forward to the coming of the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord.

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The prophet Isaiah, featured in this season’s Advent O.T. readings…

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Notes:

The upper 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.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement with a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to the “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).

That site includes the Daily Office readings for the day:  “AM: Psalm 34; Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Corinthians 4:1-16,” and “PM: Psalm 96, 100; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42.”  Or see St Andrew, Apostle.

Re:  “Isaiah [as] the prophet who guides our journey.”  See Isaiah: Old Testament prophet for the Advent season, which added:  “Isaiah urges us to straighten out our crooked ways, tear down our mountains of misdeeds, and fill in the valleys of our bad habits.”

The lower image is courtesy of Isaiah – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican City).”

John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016

“Scholars Disputing” – a painting of Peter and Paul – yet still they managed to work together… 

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We have two major feast days coming up.

Friday, June 24, is the feast recalling the Birth of St. John, the Baptist.  (He went on to “preach in the Wilderness,” as shown in the painting at right.)  The following Wednesday, June 29, is the day for remembering St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles.

And as noted in last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics:”

On January 18 [each year,] we celebrate the Confession of Peter:  “Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God.”  A week later on January 25 we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul.  Then comes June 29, when we celebrate both men…  (Emphasis added.)

http://www.dralionkennels.com/images/newsflash.jpgBut getting back to The Nativity of John the Baptist.  Last year’s post noted that  “John the Baptist served as a precursor, forerunner or advance man for Jesus.  (As in, ‘News Flash:  Jesus is on the way!)  Or as it says in the Collect for the day:  ‘Your servant John the Baptist [was] sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.'”

Which is pretty much what he did with his life…

See also Nativity of St. John the Baptist, from the Satucket website.  (It lists the Daily Office Readings.)  The article there helps explain the comment by Jesus – so puzzling to many – in Matthew 11:11:  “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;  yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he:”

Which sounds a lot like a backhanded compliment

So what was the point Jesus was trying to make?  One interpretation goes like this:

John represents the climax of the long tradition of Jewish prophets…  John is the climax of the Law.  He lives in the wilderness, a life with no frills…  He has renounced the joys of family life, and dedicated himself completely [to] calling people to an observance of the law…   In terms of natural goodness, no one is better than John.  But he represents Law, not Grace.  Among men born of woman, among the once-born, he has no superior.  But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.

How Faith WorksWhich brings up the controversy that’s been going on for over 2,000 years.

(Since the birth of the Church.)

That’s the ongoing controversy between Faith and Works.  (Or between Faith and following “the Letter of the Law,” as illustrated at right.)

The question is this:  “Are you ‘saved’ by following a set of rules and regulations, or by faith in Jesus alone?”  (See e.g.Controversy Over Faith And Works Continues.”  As also noted in last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

Thus the argument is about how “Jesus saves.”

Does Jesus want you to earn your way into heaven?  Or do you get there simply by accepting His free gift?  (Or put another way, the issue is one of  “legalism” versus “grace.”)

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/upload/img/caravaggio-salome-receives-head-saint-john-baptist-NG6389-fm.jpgIn this debate, John represented the Old Way.  (Resulting in the kind of “ending” illustrated at left.)  Jesus – on the other hand – represents the New Way.  “John is the climax of the Law…  But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.”  That would be grace, which “excludes merit.”

Which is another way of saying that practicing Christians should not go around being obnoxious, as Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 4:7:

Who says that you are any better than other people?  What do you have that wasn’t given to you [by God]?  If you were given what you have, why are you bragging as if it weren’t a gift?

Of course many say, “I earned everything I have, through the sweat of my brow.”  Which raises the questions:  “Who gave you the brow?  And who gave you the capacity to sweat?”  Which is another way of saying the myth that you can earn your way into heaven dies hard.

But we digress…   Getting back to the feast for the Birth of John the Baptist:  The Bible readings for the day are Isaiah 40:1-11Psalm 85Acts 13:14b-26, and Luke 1:57-80.

Turning to the Feast for June 29:  Last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics” noted that that particular date was chosen as “the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics:”

On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles.  The date is the anniversary of a day around 258, under the Valerian Persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.

Thus the term relic – as used here – means the body parts of people considered especially holy. (Like Peter and Paul.)   In turn translating relics means moving those “holy objects from one locality to another.”  (Usually to a “better neighborhood,” metaphorically.  For example, the image above right  shows “St. Corbinian’s relics being moved to Freising from Merano.”)

Last year’s post indicated the dispute between Peter and Paul came to a head with the Incident at Antioch.  As to that dispute the Wikipedia article added,  “The final outcome of the incident remains uncertain resulting in several Christian views of the Old Covenant to this day.”

(Briefly, that question involves how much of the Old Testament “law” is binding on Christians.)

However, to me the main point of the Feast of Peter and Paul was that it’s okay to have differences of opinion between Christians.  (Or even to “squabble” from time to time.  And for that matter, that it’s okay to argue with God too, if and as necessary…)

In the meantime, enjoy the painting below, of Jesus and John, together as youngsters

 

 John the Baptist – at right – and the boy Jesus, enjoying their childhood

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The upper image is courtesy of Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon … (web gallery of art.)  The explanatory section added that the most likely explanation of the painting is that it “represents St Peter and St Paul in conversation,” or even Argument:

Rembrandt omits the attributes by which the two apostles were traditionally identified, he relies only on their physical characteristics … and on what they are seen to be doing, that is earnestly discussing a text which the one (St Peter) is explaining to the other.

For other interpretations and/or images, see also www.canvasreplicas.com/Rembrandt.htm.  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

The upper “painting at right” – of John the Baptist preaching – is courtesy of John the Baptist – Wikipedia.  The caption: “St. John the Baptist Preaching,c. 1665, by Mattia Preti.”

Re: The Controversy Over Faith And Works.  See also the Matthew Henry Commentary on  Matthew 11:11:  “The things of God are of great and common concern.  God requires no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us.” 

Re:  John as “climax of the Law.”  See In the Bible we read about “the law”. What does this mean?

As God’s new creation we actually want to obey His law – not because it gets us anything, but because of our love for Him.  We still say with the Psalmist in his ageless words, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

Emphasis added.  Which is yet another way of saying that even Christian of long-standing need to remind themselves that “the myth that you can earn your way into heaven dies hard.”   

The “Jesus is Lord” image is courtesy of How Faith Works | Christianity Today.  That article studied the issue in-depth, including a note on the “progressive character” of the Christian spiritual journey.  It said that “under the influence of the Word and the Spirit … believers begin to grow in holiness.”

Re: the “sweat of my brow,”  The term also refers to an “intellectual property law doctrine, chiefly related to copyright law.”  See Sweat of the brow – Wikipedia.

Re:  The image to the left of the paragraph, “Briefly, John represented the Old Way.”  Titled “Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist,” it is courtesy of nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/caravaggio

The subject is from the New Testament [Mark 6, verses 14-29].  Salome had danced so well for King Herod that he swore he would grant her any request.  Her mother, Herodias, who sought revenge on John the Baptist, persuaded Salome to ask for his head.  The old woman behind Salome may be Herodias.”

The lower image is courtesy of John the Baptist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.”

Re: John and Jesus enjoying their childhood.  See also Childhood – Wikipedia, which noted:

Nature deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the trend in the United States and Canada towards less time for outdoor play resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. With the heavy use of cellphones, computers, video games and television, children have more reasons to stay inside rather than outdoors exploring…  The media has accelerated the trend by de-emphasizing views of nature, as in Disney films.

See also Food for thought, i.e.:  “something that warrants serious consideration.”

On June 6, 2016

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg

Men of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade “into the jaws of death,” on D-Day, 72 years ago…

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As of today – June 6, 2016 – it’s been 72 years since the Normandy landings.  (Otherwise known as “D-Day.”)  See 72nd Anniversary 2016 Events #DDay72, which noted celebrations in France:

World leaders and other dignitaries flew into Normandy to pay tribute to the real VIPs – the veterans themselves – whilst the global media descended on the region in huge numbers as they do every five years.

Impromptu pipes and drum on Gold Beach during the D-Day 70th AnniversaryThat article was affiliated with “the UK’s only museum” dedicated to the D-Day Landings,” near the “Southsea Castle in Portsmouth,” England.  It included the picture at right, of last year’s “Canopies Over Normandy (#DDay71).”  In that “jump:”

British airborne veteran Jock Hutton (89) and American veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin (93) both returned to the skies above Normandy.  At different ends of the invasion area, both veterans bravely made tandem parachute jumps into the countryside into which they dropped 70 years before.

Closer to home, see D-Day in the United States – Time and Date.  That site noted that throughout America, museums and war memorials “host exhibitions featuring photos and film as a tribute to soldiers who were part of the Normandy landings.  D-Day memorials and ceremonies are also held to remember these soldiers.”  The article also noted that the invasion of Normandy was “one of history’s most significant military attacks.”

I first wrote about the commemoration – and “covenant renewal” – in On D-Day and confession, in 2014.  That post compared the kind of “de-briefing” that American fliers got – after their missions – with the concepts of “sin” and “repentance.”  But the goal back then was not to make people feel guilty.  (As some seem to imply.)  Instead they were and are “tools to help us get closer to the target ‘next time out,’ even if we know we can never become ‘perfect.'”

Description of  Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)Then came On the DORs for June 6, 2015.  (Which included the image at left.)  That post noted that June 6, 2015 was a “red letter day, and not just because it’s been 71 years since the best-known D-Day.”  And from the Daily Office Readings for that day, I came up with the idea that those 40 years of wandering in the wilderness were a kind of “boot camp.”

(Of the kind necessary for the armed forces to succeed in their mission, 72 years ago…)

That idea was based on Deuteronomy 29, which was both a commemoration – like our remembering D-Day – and a “renewal of the covenant.”

Which by the way, seems to be another function of such celebrations of such long-ago events.

We “renew the covenant” that led thousands upon thousands of perfectly sane men and women to risk their lives for a cause they believed in.  And in that effort, those people who fought those battles 72 years ago succeeded largely because they weren’t “rigid.”

Put another way, this is a day to remember that “independent judgment” – not rigid obedience to a pre-formed set of “rules” – is the key to success in life, and especially the spiritual life:

During World War II, German generals often complained that U.S. forces were unpredictable…  After the Normandy invasion in 1944, American troops found that their movements were constrained by the thick hedgerows…   In response, “Army soldiers invented a mechanism on the fly that they welded onto the front of a tank to cut through hedgerows…”   American troops are famous for this kind of individual initiative.  It’s a point of pride among officers that the American way of war emphasizes independent judgment in the fog and friction of battle, rather than obedience and rules.  (E.A.)

Which is precisely the kind of Bible study I believe in.  And that in turn is “just another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you’ll be on your way to the creative judgment that overcomes ‘the fog and friction’ of everyday life.”

On a somewhat related subject, this upcoming June 11th will celebrate St. Barnabus.  For more on that, see On St. Barnabus’ Day, 2015.  That post spoke of Barnabus, the apostle who was open-minded enough to welcome Paul, formerly an enemy of the early Church.

if it hadn’t been for Barnabas and his willingness to give Paul a second chance – a second chance for the formerly zealous persecutor of the early Church – he might never have become Christianity’s most important early convert, if not the “Founder of Christianity.”

“So we might just call Barnabas ‘the Apostle of Second Chances.’”

 

 If it wasn’t for Barnabus, Paul’s experience “might have gone for naught…”

*   *   *   *

 The upper image is courtesy of Normandy landings – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944.”  Clicking on the picture in the Wikipedia article will lead to the attribution: “File: Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg.”

The lower image is courtesy of Conversion of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Conversion of Saint Paul, a 1600 painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio.”  See also What happened on the road to Damascus?  That site noted:  “The events that happened on the road to Damascus relate not only to the apostle Paul, whose dramatic conversion occurred there, but they also provide a clear picture of the conversion of all people.”  (E.A.)

On Eastertide – and “artistic license”

“Moses doesn’t like this.  Moses doesn’t like this one bit…*“

 

Last (Holy) Saturday night, I stayed home and watched part of The Ten Commandments.  (As noted further below.)  That’s where Moses – as seen in the image above – comes in.

By the way, the “quote” is pure illeism:  “the tendency in some individuals to refer to themselves in the third person.”  That’s where the imaginary quote – “Moses doesn’t like this. Moses doesn’t like this one bit“ – comes in.  (Moses wrote the First Five Books of the Bible in the third person.)

There’s more on that later, but first a note:  In many churches this year, the Annunciation will be celebrated on April 4, instead of the usual March 25.  (See e.g. The Lectionary Page.)  That is:

The Annunciation would normally fall on Friday, March 25, 2016.  That day, however, is Good Friday, and Annunciation is never celebrated during Holy Week.  It is transferred, therefore, to Monday, April 4, 2016, the first open day after Easter Sunday.

See also An Annunciation-Good Friday anamoly.  (Including the image at left.)  Then there’s Easter Season – AND BEYOND, which noted that Easter isn’t just one day, it’s an entire season.  (Aka Eastertide.) 

In turn, Eastertide is defined as that long period – of 50 days – that runs from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  (For more on Pentecost, see Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”)  But before we get into that, I wanted to make a few comments on watching part of The Ten Commandments, the Saturday night before Easter Sunday.

(The real version, the one with Charlton Heston.  You know, the one God watches…)

I happened on the movie while channel surfing the night of Holy Saturday.   I came in just as Moses was about to learn he wasn’t really a Prince of Egypt, as he’d been taught “since birth.”

As the faithful reader will know, that was pretty much the topic of my .

(Briefly, What did Moses know, and when did he know it?)  

As for watching the movie:  Some time and a lot of commercials after I started watching, I realized this Hollywood version was a whole lot longer than the original.  So I pulled out my trusty Bible and checked.  Sure enough, in a short time I found Exodus 2:11-14, telling what made Moses to flee to Midian (seen at right):

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.  He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.  Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting.  He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”  The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”  Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”  (Emphasis added.)

That’s it.   That’s all there was to the Bible version.  But Cecil B. DeMille turned those four short verses into what seemed like hours of viewing time.  (Including commercials of course.)  He also added a host of complicated sub-plots that simply aren’t anywhere to be found in the Bible.

From which – I figured – there had to be some kind of object lesson.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give any clue about how Moses knew those two fighting Hebrews were “his own people.”  (That passage follows right after Exodus 2:10, describing how Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter:  “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses, saying,  ‘I drew him out of the water.'”)

The point of all this being:  The 1956 Hollywood-DeMille version of this passage featured a great deal of artistic license, used to fill in a whole lot of blanks in Exodus 2:11-14.

If you don’t believe me, read the Wikipedia plot summary of the movie yourself.  You’ll see that the mere summary alone is much longer than the Bible account.  For another thing, you’ll see that the movie included a whole lot of drama that the Bible doesn’t even infer.

Anne Baxter as Nefretiri in Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments.'You’ll see things like Moses growing up to be a winning Egyptian diplomat, and general.  (As in “winning a war with Ethiopia.”)  Then too there’s the torrid love affair between Moses and Nefretiri. (Played by a very hot Anne Baxter, as seen at left.)

The movie also had Moses meeting “the stone-cutter Joshua.”

Incidentally, Joshua did go on to become “the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses.”  (He also went on to write the sixth book of the Bible, after Moses wrote his “First Five.”)  But the movie had Moses meeting Joshua way too early, while the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt.  (And it was this Joshua who – in the movie – tells Moses “of the Hebrew God.”)

But in the Bible, Joshua isn’t mentioned until Exodus 17:9.  That was way after the Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and wandered around the wilderness a good long while.

Debra Paget in Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments.'For more examples of such artistic license – again – check out the Wiki-plot summary yourself.  But here are a few more highlights.

For one thing, while Moses is still an Egyptian general and overlord, he saves an old woman from being crushed to death.  That woman – in the movie – turns out to be “his natural mother, Yoshebel.” (Or Jochebed.)  Then there’s the matter of the beautiful Hebrew virgin “Lilia.”  (Seen at right.)

In the movie – but not mentioned in the Bible – Lilia is engaged to Joshua.  But she is variously lusted after by the evil Egyptian “master builder Baka” – played to perfection by Vincent Price – and by the “ambitious Hebrew chief overseer Dathan.”  (Ditto, by Edward G. Robinson.)  Then too, in the movie – but not in the Bible – Moses kills Baka, but only to save Joshua.  (In the movie, Joshua attacked Baka to keep him from raping Lilia, and he in turn is rescued by Moses.) 

Further, when Moses “confesses” to Joshua that he too is a Hebrew, the ever-sneaky Dathan overhears the confession.  In turn Dathan tells Pharoah – Yul Brynner – and in turn is rewarded with his freedom, various “riches” – and his own shot at Lilia.

But in a strange turn of events, when Pharaoh tells Moses to take His People and leave Egypt,  Dathan gets turned out with them.  From that point on – throughout the film – Dathan remains a “thorn in the flesh” to Moses.  (As the Apostle Paul might put it.  See 2d Corinthians 12:7.)

There are other examples of such whole cloth and/or artistic license episodes drawn from those four short verses in Exodus 2:11-14.  They include but aren’t limited to:

Yul Brynner as Rameses in Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments.'1) A Hebrew woman named Memnet telling Nefretiri that Moses is the son of Hebrew slaves, then being murdered – pushed off a high balcony – by Nefretiri.  2) Moses voluntarily becoming a slave himself – after he wangles the truth from Nefertiri – “to learn more of their lives.”  And 3)  Moses brought in chains to Pharaoh – as seen at left, played by Yul Brynner – and then “banished to the desert.”  (All because Nefertiri is still madly in love with himMoses – and because Yul Brynner doesn’t want Moses as a martyr to his new queen.)

These then are the few comments I wanted to make, “on watching parts of The Ten Commandments on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. ”

Which brings up the topic of rabbit trails.  Some people say running down a rabbit trail is an “exercise in futility.  It means wasting time and energy pursuing leads that go nowhere – or everywhere.”  (Obviously, if a rabbit trail “leads everywhere,” it doesn’t waste your time.)

Others take a more broad view, like Today’s Idiom Is … Rabbit Trail.  That fellow-blogger noted that while going down rabbit trails in “discussions can be fun and interesting,” they can also “interfere with resolving the topic at hand.”  But the blogger noted this distinction:

You would never use that phrase to describe a leisurely trip when you explored a side path and had an interesting adventure.  That’s more like taking the road less traveled[,] which is a literary reference to a poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” (E.A.)

So “we” may have ended up going down a rabbit trail here.  Or we may have “taken the road less traveled.”  Either way, it was fun for me, and I hope for the reader as well.  (Not only did I learn some things, I also got to share pix of some really hot 1956 Hollywood babes…) 

In the meantime, back to the subject of Easter being “not just one day, but an entire season.”  (Also called Eastertide.)  I’ll be writing more about Eastertide in the near future.  But for now we can look forward to Pentecost – as the Birthday of the Church!

 

An artist’s depiction of Pentecost – the “birthday of the Church…”

*   *   *   *

I borrowed the idea of the upper image from On Moses and “illeism,” a post I did on May 20, 2014.  But to get a larger version of the image I went to pinterest.com/pin/131237776614965931.

Also, as to the asterisk (*), I cut-and-pasted the caption quote for the upper image from Moses and “illeism.”  As in: “Moses doesn’t like this.  Moses doesn’t like this one bit…“

The map of Moses’ path to Midian is courtesy of treasureboxmy.blogspot.com/2013/12/exodus-moses-flees-to-midian.

Re:  “Yoshebel” or Jochebed.  Wikipedia noted that the “story of Jochebed is thought to be described in the Book of Exodus (2:1–10) – although she is not explicitly named here.”  The article further noted that according to the Torah, she was “a daughter of Levi and mother of Aaron, Miriam and Moses.” Also, she is “praised for her faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The images of Anne Baxter (as Nefretiri) and Debra Paget (as “Lilia”) are courtesy of Pictures – DeMille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’ still the Biblical Epic Master Class.  The image of Yul Brynner as Pharaoh (Ramses) – to the left of the paragraph beginning “There are other examples” – is also courtesy of that website.

Re: Joshua’s first mention in the Bible.  See When is Joshua first mentioned in the Bible – Answers.com.

Re: Rabbit trails.  Today’s Idiom also noted this:  “If you’ve ever seen a dog follow a real rabbit trail in a field or someone’s back yard, you’ll see where this idiom comes from.  The dog will endlessly sniff around in circles, never getting anywhere.  And it certainly never finds the rabbit!” 

Other links about the “road less traveled” – or more precisely “the road not taken” – include:  The road less travelled – meaning and originThe Road Less Traveled – New York UniversityThe Road Not Taken – Wikipedia, and How to Take the Road Less Traveled: 14 Steps – wikiHow.

The lower image is courtesy of Pentecost – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption: A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.”