Monthly Archives: July 2014

On Thomas Merton

“Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama, 1968. . .”


Thomas Merton was a Roman Catholic monk.  In his later years he found parallels between his orthodox Catholicism and those exotic Eastern religions that became all the rage back in the 1970s.   Near the end of his life – he died in 1968 – Merton traveled to India and Tibet and at one point interviewed the Dalai Lama, as shown above.

Merton also met with Chatral Rimpoche, “a Dzogchen master and a reclusive yogi known for his great realization and strict discipline.”  (See Chatral Rinpoche – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)   Merton interviewed Rimpoche on the subject of meditation, and how difficult it was to reach the “perfect emptiness” that is one main goal of Eastern meditation:

“He said he had meditated in solitude for thirty years or more and had not attained to perfect emptiness and I said I hadn’t either.”

That brings up what might be called the ongoing Christian meditation, as it is practiced by most denominations.  One version begins each Sunday service with this summary:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

(See the Book of Common Prayer – “BCP” – at page 824, referred to in an earlier post as a “Cliff’s Note summary” of the entire Bible by Jesus.  See On “what a drag it is. . .”.)

But not too much later in this standard mainstream Sunday service, parishioners “confess their sins” by admitting candidly, “We have not loved thee with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” (See the BCP at page 331, emphasis added.)

So what’s the point?

The point is this: both orthodox Christians and Eastern meditators like Chatral Rimpoche and Dalai Lama are – in their spiritual discipline – literally trying to do the impossible.

Both are trying to do what can’t be done, either meditating “perfectly” or loving God and all humanity with all your heart and soul and mind.  But to make a long story short, in practicing such  spiritual discipline you tend to become both a better person and closer to that “oneness” with The Force That Created The Universe that is the goal of true spirituality, as Jesus prayed:

I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.  I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one.  I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one.  Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.

See John 17:21-23, emphasis added.  (And before you get all huffy, Mr. or Ms. Orthodox Christian, I’m not saying all religions are equal.  But see the notes below.)

There’s another point.  One biographer said Merton was helped in his spiritual quest by both Christian mysticism and his “wide knowledge of Oriental religions.”  As noted, Merton became fascinated with Zen Buddhism and Zen writer D. T. Suzuki.  He studied Taoism, “regular” Buddhism and Hinduism.  But dallying in these exotic disciplines didn’t weaken Merton’s Catholicism; if anything, they strengthened his faith.  As the biographer wrote:

[B]y approaching the spiritual quest at unexpected angles, they opened up new ways of thought and new ways of experiencing that invigorated and released him. . .

 Which leads to my theory:  The Bible is for liberating the human spirit, not shackling it.




The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Merton in Pictures, which included the caption quoted.

The lower image is courtesy of the Thomas Merton Center website;  “The Thomas Merton Center [at Bellarmine University in Louisville KY] is the official repository of Merton’s artistic estate, which includes over thirteen hundred photographs and nine hundred drawings in addition to his writing.  The Center archives more than fifty thousand Merton-related materials.  See also Thomas Merton Center (Pittsburgh) – Wikipedia, the free …, “a non-profit grassroots organization in Pittsburgh whose mission is to educate, raise awareness and to ask the moral questions that surround issues of social justice, poverty, workers’ rights, racial discrimination, environmental and economic justice, peace and nonviolence.” 

Sounds like a pretty radical guy. . .


As to “the real Good News.”  The term Gospel is from “the Old English gōd-spell . . . meaning ‘good news’ or ‘glad tidings.’   The word comes from the Greek euangelion.”  See Gospel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Unfortunately these days that Good News seems to have been transmogrified into bad news, as in “How can we get political power so as to control other people?”  (That seems to be the perception anyway.  See e.g. Why are Christians so negative and judgemental? – RZIM Europe, Do Christians spend too much time being negative? – Christian …, and 5 Negative Effects of Complaining for Christians – Patrick’s ….)

Merton’s conversations about meditation and/or his interviews with Eastern “masters” were related in Monica Furlong’s Merton  A Biography, Harper and Row, 1980, at pages “xx” and 324-26. 


Finally, not all Roman Catholics are enamored of Merton’s spiritual explorations.  See for example, Can You Trust Thomas Merton? | Catholic Answers, which said that Merton was controversial and that some of his ideas were dangerous, then asked:  “where do his ideas become suspect?  Does he stray from Catholic orthodoxy?”

Which raises a good question:  If Jesus was “orthodox,” why aren’t we all still Jewish?

On “St. James the Greater”

Saint James the Elder (and/or “Greater”), by Rembrandt. . . 

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July 25 is the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee, one of the Twelve Apostles.  According to tradition was the first apostle to be martyred, which happened somewhere around 44 A.D.

He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle.  He is also called James the Greater or James the Great to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus.

For more see James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia.

James was one of the first disciples to join Jesus (Matthew 4:21-22, and/or Mark 1:19-20), and one of only three apostles selected by Jesus to witness His Transfiguration.  One author suggested James was the first martyred apostle mostly because of his “fiery temper, for which he and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder.'” (See Mark 3:17.)

On that note the second reading for this Feast Day is Acts 11:27-12:3:

At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.  One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius.  The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. . .   About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.  He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

As always, you can see the full set of readings – and more – at The Lectionary Page.

Tradition says that James traveled to Spain, to spread the Gospel there.  (He’s the patron saint of Spain and Portugal.)  Specifically, the tradition is that on January 2, in the year 40 A.D.:

[T]he Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia.  She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain.  Following that apparition, St. James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44.

Note also that in the painting above, St. James is pictured as a pilgrim, complete with a pilgrim’s hat and walking stick in the background.  Which brings up the topic of Bible-reading on a daily basis as part of your own personal spiritual pilgrimage.   As Wikipedia noted:

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

So your path – once you decide to “commit to Christ” or start reading the Bible on a regular basis – could also be considered a spiritual pilgrimage, not unlike the one illustrated in the painting above (complete with hat and walking stick).

As yours truly once wrote, starting your spiritual pilgrimage by reading the Bible on a regular basis “is a bit like water-skiing,” or more precisely, “a bit like grabbing the handle of the rope” attached to a metaphoric “Big Motorboat in the Sky.  (As shown below.)  Once you grab on, your main job is simply to hang on for dear life.”  To extend the metaphor further:  “What kind of ride can we expect once we grab the handle of this commitment to Christ?”  And also, “What do we do if our ‘hands’ get so tired that we let go of the handle?”

That’s pretty much what this blog is all about.

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CG-20 The Big Jump Water Skiing at Florida Cypress Gardens Lakeland

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim; note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”  As to “the real Good News.”  The term Gospel is from “the Old English gōd-spell . . . meaning ‘good news’ or ‘glad tidings.’   The word comes from the Greek euangelion.”  See Gospel – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Surfing and Waterskiing Vintage Postcards & Images, and/or CG-20 The Big Jump Water Skiing at Florida Cypress Gardens  Lakeland Florida (FL), Linen unused.

The “pilgrim” link is in the Wikipedia article on St. James.   (On a related note, see More Than A Building: St. James Church – Lakewood, Ohio, and also St James, Lakewood, vis-a-vis St. James Catholic Parish, 17400 Northwood Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio.  This church was recently visited by the nice-lady inspiration for the July 15 post, On the “Infinite Frog.”  More to the point, while there the nice-lady inspiration “lit a candle” on behalf of the poor benighted Protestant soul of Yours Truly.  See also A Catholic Life: Why do Catholics Light Prayer Candles?  That link included this:  “Lighting a candle is a way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.”  To which Yours Truly responds, “Thank you, I need all the help I can get!”)

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As to pilgrims and pilgrimages, see also Passages of the Soul[:] Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans (Element Books Ltd. 1994), at pages 23-25, which noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.  The book said all true ritual “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”

More to the point, the book noted that a pilgrimage – like a week-long canoe trip in the wild or a long hike on the Appalachian Trail – “may be described as a ritual on the move,”  and that in doing so – that is through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings, especially when compared with “the majesty and permanence of God” and His creation.   Finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

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

(Image courtesy of Dirty Harry – Wikipedia.)

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On the DORs for July 20





From the Scribe – 21 July 2014:


Welcome to DOR Scribe, a blog about reading the Bible.

The focus here is on the real Good News* – the positive aspects of the Bible – and especially the Three Great Promises of Jesus.   For more on those promises, click the links above.

In the meantime:

As noted in About the DOR Scribe above, “DOR” stands for Daily Office Reading, which is where the “DOR” in “Dorscribe” comes from.  So on that note:  The Daily Office readings for Sunday, July 20, 2014, included the morning (“AM”)  Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98; and the evening “PM” Psalm 103.   The other readings are Joshua 6:15-27; Acts 22:30-23:11; Mark 2:1-12.

Acts 22 told the story of Paul on trial before the Sanhedrin, at which time he recalled the Biblical directive, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”

That story was covered in On dissin’ the Prez, which brought up this problem:

. . . conservative Christians who think the Bible must be interpreted literally.   As the International Bible Commentary noted, “Paul’s stern rebuke was contrary to the letter of Exod. 22:28, and he at once admitted it.  The president [i.e., the high priest Ananias] was a criminal, but the ‘seat’ was sacred.”  (Emphasis added.)  And Exodus 22:28 says, in the New Revised Standard Bible, “You shall not revile God, or curse a leader of your people.” (E.A.)

In other words, conservative Christians who think the Bible must be taken literally should be the ones defending the President most ardently, or at least not “disrespecting” him.  (Whoever he is.)  But lately that directive seems “more honored in the breach.”

Of course there is a way to get around that Biblical command, but it would require a liberal interpretation of the Bible.  That’s where the “Oh the irony” image comes in.

Psalm 63 was also covered by a prior post, On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher.   The post noted the movie about the general, starring George C. Scott:

Patton was at a low point in his career during World War II, after the “slapping incident” in Sicily.  He was almost sent home in disgrace, but he found comfort in Psalm 63. . .  The film showed Patton praying, then going out to apologize to the troops. As he went, he recited Psalm 63, “humble and defiant.”  As abbreviated . . . the psalm went like this: “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee. My soul thirsteth for Thee…  But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. They shall fall by the sword, they shall be a portion for foxes…   Everyone that sweareth by Him shall glory. But the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.”

Also on the note of irony, the post pointed out that aside from believing in reincarnation, Patton read the Bible on a daily basis.   For example, during a tour of his private quarters an Army chaplain noted a Bible on a desk.  Later “the chaplain asked if Patton actually had time to read that Bible.  Patton said, ‘I sure do.  Every Goddamn day.’”

And finally, Psalm 98:1 was also covered by prior post including On the Gospel for May 18, and About this Blog.  The former post asked the musical question:

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.)

Isaiah 42:10 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!”  Psalm 96 and 98 say pretty much the same thing, while Psalm 144:9 adds, “I will sing you a new song, O God, with a ten-stringed harp.”  (The Revised Standard and Living Bible versions, emphasis added.)  As to Psalm 144:9, if taken literally it seems to be a direct command that you can only sing a new song to God using a ten-stringed harp.  (Which would seem to be an absurd result, contrary to the intent of the person who drafted the directive.)

On the other hand, if interpreted metaphorically Psalm 144:9 could indicate that while God wants you to sing a new song to Him now, your best “song” will result from your unique experiences, as shaped and arranged according to lessons learned from other people who have sung songs that were new then, back when the Bible was originally written.   (Hmmmm.)

Okay, this is going to take a whole lot more thought. . .

The “irony” image is courtesy of:

As always, you can see the full readings at The Lectionary –

As to “guilt trips,” see The Psychology and Management of Guilt Trips | Psychology Today“Guilt trips are a form of verbal or nonverbal communication in which a guilt inducer tries to induce guilty feelings in a target in an effort to control their behavior.”  It also refers to a 2012 movie, The Guilt Trip (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

As to “more honored in the breach.”  See e.g. Mangled Shakespeare –, and/or More honoured in the breach than in the observance

And a BTW:  You can actually get a ten-stringed harp, as for example from Jubilee Harps, Inc. — 10String Harps — Kinnor of King David.

The “Thinker” image is courtesy of  “The Thinker (French: Le Penseur) is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin . . . a nude male figure of over life-size sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand as though deep in thought, and is often used as an image to represent philosophy.  There are about 28 full size castings. . .   Originally named The Poet (French: Le Poète), the Thinker was initially a figure in a large commission, begun in 1880, for a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell.”  See The Thinker – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


On reading the Bible

Reading the Bible can provide you with “the marrow of lions…”

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Here’s what Isaac Asimov said about “The Book” – and how often it’s been read:

The most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world is the Bible.   No other book has been so studied and so analyzed and it is a tribute to the complexity of the Bible and the eagerness of its students that after thousands of years of study there are still endless books that can be written about it.* [E.A.]

So even after 2,000 years or so, “there are still endless books that can be written” about the Bible.  And – one might add – there could still be endless blogs written about it.

As for the photo caption above, it comes from Romain Rolland’s novel  Jean Christophe:

The Bible is the marrow of lions.   Strong hearts have they who feed on it…  The Bible is the backbone for people who have the will to live.

So that’s one thing this blog will  try to do:  Help you develop that “marrow of lions.”

To begin with, one key to reading the Bible is to remember that it’s not a history book in “modern sense.”  The people who wrote the Bible “lacked the benefit of of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and not significant in history.” (Asimov.)

Then too it’s important to remember that the people who wrote the Bible had to keep in mind their primary audience.  In the case of Moses, that meant his fellow Hebrews who had far less education than he did.  As a result, he pretty much had to dumb it down.

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and CalebIn other words, Moses had to write very carefully.  In the first place, he had to make sure his primary audience of soon-to-be desert cut-throats would listen to him.  Second, he had to insure they wouldn’t turn and stone him for heresy.  [See On Moses getting stoned, including the illustration at left.]

Thus in the Torah – the first five books of the Bible – Moses had to tell the history of the world from its Creation, up to where he and his fellow Hebrews were wandering in the wilderness.  In doing so he had to use language and concepts his “relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience could understand.”

The point being:  Moses’ ability to “tell the story he wanted was limited to his audience’s ability to comprehend.”  (See On the readings for June 15 – Part I.)

Which by the way is also pretty much the problem God has, in trying to communicate with us. (Or that we have when trying to communicate with Him.)  See for example Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

That’s a good reason why you’re only cheating yourself if you choose to read and study the Bible only in a strict, narrow, or fundamental way.

One risk is that you create God in the image of you, instead of the other way around.  (See Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 5:1.)   And you risk limiting your appreciation of the majesty of God – the Force that Created the Universe – to your puny, “pea-brained” ability to comprehend.

So I’d say the better course is to admit that you can never fully comprehend “God.”

But you can try and glimpse Him, albeit “through a glass, darkly.”  See 1st Corinthians 13:12:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then [in heaven] we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Note first that the “through a glass, darkly” phrase is from the King James Translation.  (The one God uses.)  But  note also that Paul was saying no matter how long we study the Bible and follow The Faith, we can never fully comprehend “God.”  (At least not in this “incarnation.”)

Which doesn’t mean the effort won’t pay off.  (See On the Bible as “transcendent” meditation, and Spiritual boot camp.)  Then too, that doesn’t mean the best place to start your Bible training is not to take it literally.  Just like Army Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals:  “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…”

But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private his whole time “in service.”  (Although there are some few who enjoy having no additional responsibility…)

That’s what this blog is about:  Developing into more than just someone who knows the bare “fundamentals.”  Which is another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you can reap its full benefit and do all that God intended for you to do.

To put it yet another way:  If those six blind men had gotten together and compared notes, they would have gotten a much better picture of what they were seeking. . .

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First note that I edited and/or updated this post on January 21, 2016.  That was in preparation for publishing my fourth collection of blog-posts, also titled “On Reading the Bible.”  (Which I haven’t gotten around to yet.)  In turn, this post was originally published on July 19, 2014, and was updated and/or edited again on October 22, 2018,

References to posts after July 2014 will be in brackets, as in “[See On Moses getting stoned.].”

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The upper image is courtesy of Lion – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A Male Lion at Bannargatta National Park, Bangalore, India.”

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[Re:  The ancient Hebrews as “desert cut-throats.”  From the paragraph beginning “In other words, Moses had to write very carefully.”  Note first that this end-note was added as part of the 1/21/16 update, and thus is listed in brackets.  As to the reference, see Contradictions Of Christianity – Vanguard News Network Forum, which referred to “Yah being the ancient tribal god of the Habiru Sagaz or Desert Cutthroats, as jews [sic] were known in those times.”  The writer also noted the “hypocritical chameleon called Christianity,” which gives a flavor of that writer’s not-so-hidden agenda.  Be that as it may, see also Habiru – Wikipedia, noting the name from which “Hebrew” arguably sprang, and also The Mysterious Habiru – The History of Israel.  The point being:  After 40 years of Wandering in the Wilderness, those ancient Hebrews were not anything “civilized people” would want to mess with.  In further words, they were arguably the functional equivalent of the Bedouin – “desert dwellers” – if not today’s Hells Angels, at least in terms of fighting capacity.]

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*  Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at page 7, Introduction.

Note also that the term Gospel is from “the Old English gōd-spell . . . meaning ‘good news’ or ‘glad tidings.’   The word comes from the Greek euangelion.”  See Gospel – Wikipedia.

Jean-Christophe was a novel – written in 10 volumes and completed in 1912 – that earned Rolland the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915.  As for the quote, see the web article Part VIII –, under “Conflict with Evolution,” emphasis added.  Romain Rolland (1866-1944) was “a French dramatist, novelist, essayist, art historian and mystic,” awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915 “as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings.” 

The Isaiah 55 quote is from The Living Bible translation, emphasis added.   

The King James Bible image is courtesy of King Jame’s Bible – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Blind men and an elephant – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Wikipedia noted that this parable “has crossed between many religious traditions and is part of Jain, Buddhist, Sufi and Hindu lore.”   In the Buddhist version, “The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king.  The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views.”  See also Matthew 13:34 (ESV):  “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.


On the “Infinite Frog”

Infinite Frogs

There actually IS a website for “infinite frogs. . .”

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From the Scribe – 15 July 2014:

I just got back from a two-week vacation to New York City and Montreal, which included a round-trip on Amtrak’s Adirondack Route, “through the wine country of the Hudson Valley.”  (See On the Bible readings for July 13, “written in beautiful Montreal.”)

So anyway, last Sunday afternoon – July 13 – I was driving home on Interstate 81, through western Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and talking on the phone* with Mi Dulce, who happened to take her two-week vacation at the same time (albeit in Cleveland Ohio).

This nice lady was saying something about getting some things back from her former life in Cleveland, which included what sounded like her Infinite Frog.    There followed a couple of definite say whats?   But as it turned out, this mi Dulce o’ mine was actually saying that she’d gotten her Infant of Prague back, which then became the seed thought for this blog-post.

The Infant Jesus of Prague . . . is a 16th-century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of child Jesus holding a globus cruciger, located in the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic.  Pious legends state that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila and allegedly holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers.

See Infant Jesus of Prague – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  (As was explained later, this statuette – also known as a “Child of Prague” –  was a gift from a former mother-in-law.)

As Wikipedia noted, thousands of pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague every year, and statuettes of this “Infant Jesus are placed inside many Catholic churches, sometimes with the quotation, ‘The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.'”  Further, devotion to the “Child of Prague and belief in its power to influence the weather is still strong in many parts of Ireland. A wedding gift of a statue of the Child of Prague is particularly auspicious.”   (E.A.)

It further turns out that the basis for this adoration goes back four centuries:

In April 1639, the Swedish army began a siege of the city of Prague.  The frightened citizens hurried to the shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague as services were held day and night at the Church of Our Lady Victorious in the Little Quarter.  When the [Swedish] army decided instead to pull out, the grateful residents ascribed this to the miraculous Holy Infant.  The tradition of the Infant Jesus procession and the coronation continues to this day.  This ceremony is the closing highlight of the annual Feast of the Infant Jesus in Prague.

All of which brings up the power of prayer (and there was no doubt a passel of prayer going on back in 1639 Prague).  It also brings up the different types of prayer.

As the Book of Common Prayer noted, “the principle kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.”

Most people are more familiar with the petition type of prayer, basically translated, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”   On the other hand, we’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve found ourselves in way over our heads, like those people of Prague in 1639, but that’s a totally different “petition.”  It also brings up the “thrilling drama” noted above, and Psalm 50:15:

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

Which is another way of saying that God loves drama.   So, if you expect to go from victory to victory when you begin your Christian Pilgrimage, you’re in for a big surprise.  (For one thing, drama makes a much better story to bore your grandchildren with.)

But all of this drama in your life can lead to the best, simplest and most appreciated-by-God type of prayer, adoration, “the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.”  For more on that see On three suitors (a parable), and this prayer:

O God, if I worship Thee in fear of hell, burn me in hell;   if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise;   but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, withhold not Thine everlasting beauty.

In the meantime, enjoy having learned about this Infinite Frog.

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The upper image is courtesy of Infinite Frogs | Are We Full Yet? 

The lower image is courtesy of the article, Infant Jesus of Prague – Wikipedia, and includes the caption: “The elaborate shrine which houses the wax-wooden statue.  Church of Our Lady Victorious, Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic.”

The article includes a section on Vestments:

Several costly embroidered vestments have been donated by benefactors.  Among those donated are those from Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, which are preserved to this day.  A notable garment in the collection is an ermine cloak placed on the statue the first Sunday after Easter, which is the anniversary day of the coronation of the statue by the bishop of Prague in 1655.   In 1713 the clothing began to be changed according to the liturgical norms.  Other valuable garments worn by the image are vestments studded with various gemstones, embroidered with gold French bullion wire threading, and silk fabrics as well as handmade lace customised purposely for the statue.

The schedule includes Green for “Ordinary Time;” Purple for “Lent, Candlemas and Advent;” Red or Gold for Christmas and Easter; and Royal Blue for “Immaculate Conception / Feast of Assumption.”

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As to Amtrak’s Adirondack Route, see Adirondack Trains Travel from New York City to Montreal, and/or Adirondack Route Guide – Amtrak.

*  As to “talking on the phone,” I was using the functional equivalent of Bluetooth.

As to adoration and the other types of prayer, see the Book of Common Prayer at pages 856-57, or The Online Book of Common Prayer, and/or The Catechism.

On the Bible readings for July 13

Esau Selling His Birthright – (to the crafty Jacob, ancestor of Moses)


From the Scribe (7/8/14)


Today’s post was written in beautiful Montreal, as part of my vacation to “Yankee-land and beyond,” but more about that later.   In the meantime:

The Bible readings for next Sunday, July 13, are: Genesis 25:19-34, Psalm 119:105-112, Romans 8:1-11, and Matthew 13:1-9,18-23.

The Genesis reading – 25:19-34 – began with the birth of Jacob and Esau, to Isaac and Rebekah.  It moved to “Esau‘s loss of his birthright to Jacob and the conflict that had spawned between their descendant nations.”  (Jacob was “father of the Israelites,” while Esau was progenitor of the Edomites, from the land of Edom, or Idumea.  “The Edomites may have been connected with  . . . nomadic raiders mentioned in Egyptian sources.”  Edom – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

The conflict started in the womb and continued to young adulthood, with Isaac liking his first-born Esau more, while Rebekah loved the younger Jacob more.   (Keep in mind, Jacob was an ancestor of Moses, who wrote the book.)

Surprisingly, the writer emphasized Jacob’s trait of being sneaky, again starting in the womb as Jacob grabbed Esau’s heel, “seemingly trying to pull Esau back into the womb so that he could be firstborn.  The grasping of the heel is also a reference to deceptive behavior.”

The deception continued to young adulthood when Esau gave up his birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew, because he was so hungry.  (In the painting above Esau is the hungry one on the right.   The shifty-looking guy on the left is Jacob.)  But as Wikipedia noted:

The birthright has to do with inheritance of goods and position both.  The tale is typically biblical.  Esau acts impulsively.  As he did not value his birthright over a bowl of lentil stew, by his actions, Esau demonstrates that he does not deserve to be the one who continues Abraham’s responsibilities and rewards under God’s covenant, since he does not have the steady, thoughtful qualities which are required.   Jacob shows his wiliness as well as his greater intelligence and forethought. What he does is not quite honorable, though not illegal.  (Emphasis added.)

There are a host of object lessons here, one of which might be that we as Christians are expected to be harmless as dove, but also expected to be “wise as serpents.”  That’s Matthew 10:16, where some translations say to be “cunning as serpents,” “crafty as snakes,” or “shrewd as serpents.”  And since the serpent is a metaphor for the Devil, what Jesus seemed to say in Matthew 10:16 was that we should be “wise as hell” or “wise as the Devil.”

Which by the way is something much harder to do if you only interpret the Bible in a narrow, strict, or “fundamental” way.    (BTW: that’s the theme of this blog.)

 The Psalm 119 reading begins with the beloved Bible-verse, “Thy word is a lantern [or lamp] unto my feet.”  That’s Psalm 119:105 in the King James Version ( the one God uses).  If you Google that phrase, you’ll get some 3,900 results.

[T]he word of God is like a torch … in a dark night.  It shows … the way; it prevents [us] stumbling over obstacles, or failing down precipices, or wandering off into paths which would lead into danger, or would turn him away altogether from the path to life.

(See Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, at Psalm 119:105 Commentaries: Your word is a lamp to my feet …, and Second Peter 1:19, saying we have – from Jesus – “a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”)

The Psalm 119 reading ends at verse 12, “I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes, for ever and to the end.”  As noted in the “About” pages above, those statutes were fulfilled in Jesus and his three main promises:  1) that He would accept anyone, 2) that He came so His followers could have life in abundance, and 3) that He expected His followers to perform even greater miracles than He did. See ABOUT THIS BLOG.

In Romans 8:1-11, Paul compared the old law and the new grace, available through faith in Jesus.  In Romans 8:6 Paul said, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  Compare that with what he said in Second Corinthians 3:6, that the letter of the law kills, while the Spirit of the law gives life.  See also John 4:24 (in the KJV), “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

That’s another way of saying rather than focusing only on the literal sense of the Bible, the better course to try and discern what it means spiritually, in a deeper sense, or what Paul Harvey might have called “the rest of the story.”  (See below.)

And finally, in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Jesus told the Parable of the Sower.  For more on that see Parable of the Sower – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.




The top image is courtesy of Jacob and Esau – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:  “Hendrick ter BrugghenEsau Selling His Birthright, c. 1627.”

The bottom image is courtesy of Paul Harvey’s 1978 ‘So God Made a Farmer’ Speech – Garance . On the matter of being “wise as the devil,” noted above, see also Harvey’s “If I were the Devil,” at If I Were the Devil – (BEST VERSION) by PAUL HARVEY audio .

Speaking of “the rest of the story,” see also Paul Harvey – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which added of Harvey’s service in World War II:  “He eventually enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces [after Pearl Harbor] but served only from December 1943 to March 1944.”   Some critics claimed he was “given a psychiatric discharge for deliberately injuring himself in the heel. Harvey angrily denied the accusation, but was vague about details: ‘There was a little training accident…a minor cut on the obstacle course…I don’t recall seeing anyone I knew who was a psychiatrist…I cannot tell you the exact wording on my discharge.'”


For Sunday of the July 4th weekend

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July 6, 2014 – “Happy 4th of July Weekend!” As I’m writing this, I’m riding a train north from New York City to Montreal. That means I had to find my passport, and in the process I found out that passport makes for some interesting reading. Especially on this holiday weekend. Like page 1, where the “Secretary of State of the United States of America” personally requests, of “all whom it may concern,” to permit this named citizen – me – “to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.” Pretty impressive.

That’s followed by the Preamble to the United States Constitution, which also makes for some pretty impressive reading.  That’s followed by pages of Important Information, then pages where you get your visa(s) stamped. Each two-page set is topped with a pithy quotation, about America and the promise of freedom it entails. For example, pages 8-9 are topped by a saying from George Washington, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.

Unfortunately – and as we’ve seen way too often lately – the stupid and dishonest can also “repair to the standard” of freedom that America promises.  But that seems part and parcel of what “freedom” is all about. Or as John Steinbeck said:

…this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.  And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.  And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.  This is what I am and what I am about.

See Quote by John Steinbeck. (Of course he always was an ornery cuss.) Then there’s a quote on pages 16-17, attributed to Teddy Roosevelt:  “This is a new nation, based on a mighty continent, of endless possibilities.” Get that?  “Endless possibilities.”

But to get to that land of endless possibilities, our ancestors – the people with gumption and nerve – had to leave behind the old and corrupt ways of where they came from. (Another way of saying “conservative types,” but that’s a subject for later posts.) And finally there’s the last quote on page 28, from the late astronaut Ellison Onizuka:

Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds . . . to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.

(Ellipses in the passport.) But that’s just another way of saying, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Also a way of saying you can’t “live up to, fulfill or implement” either promise – either of the American Dream with its “endless possibilities” or Promises of Jesus – if you interpret the Bible or the Constitution in a closed, narrow, or “strict” way.

The point is that our duty as Americans – and especially Christian Americans – is to help and not hinder the endless possibilities of the American Dream or the promise of Jesus that we should live a life of abundance, in His name. (Some things to remember this July 4th weekend.)

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 Ellison Shoji Onizuka, American astronaut – and philosopher…

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Onizuka (1946-1986) was an American astronaut “from Kealakekua, Hawaii, who successfully flew into space with the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-51-C. He died in the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger, on which he was serving as Mission Specialist for mission STS-51-L. He was the first Asian-American to reach space.”  See Ellison Onizuka – Wikipedia. The image above is courtesy of that article. As to singing a new song to the Lord, see for example Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.

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On the Bible readings for July 4, 2014

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Happy July 4th!!

July 4, 2014 – As I write this I’m sitting in a McDonald’s on Concord Pike northeast of Wilmington Delaware.  (They have free Wifi.)  That means I’m taking a vacation from God’s Country – down south – on a trip that will include but not be limited to a family reunion.

But back to Independence Day. . .

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Google “Freedom Day” – instead of the usual Independence Day.  If you do that you’ll probably get a host of sites, including National Religious Freedom Day.  That day is celebrated on January 16, and it’ designed to remember the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark statute.  That would be the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, noted in the photo below.  (Read more about it at Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom – Wikipedia.)

That article – and this post – make compelling reading on this July 4th:

The statute disestablished the Church of England … and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths, including Catholics and Jews [and] was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Statute for Religious Freedom is one of only three accomplishments Jefferson instructed be put in his epitaph.

(Emphasis added.) By that statute legislators (“burgesses”) of Virginia “disestablished” the official religion of the state. That state religion was Anglican – Church of England – and most if not all Burgesses back then were members of that official church. In other words the Established Church of Virginia voluntarily gave up its power, including the power to impose taxes for its own support. It did that to guarantee freedom of religion to people of all faiths.  To the members of all other religious faiths – and those who had no faith at all. For starters, the statute said “Almighty God hath created the mind free.”  It also said when any government or majority tries to influence the religious beliefs of others, they only “beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness.”

That sounds like it was written yesterday!

The statute further noted the “impious presumption of legislators and rulers” to establish “their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible,” even though they were “but fallible and uninspired men.” The statute said it was wrong for “fallible and uninspired men” to try and establish their own view of religious truth as “the only true and infallible.”

Finally, the statute said noted “Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself . . . and has nothing to fear from the conflict.” I.e., that religion is best that proves itself in the “free market place of ideas.” See Marketplace of ideas – Wikipedia.  In further words, if your faith is true and sound, you won’t be afraid of a little competition. What that means is that under the Constitution and the ideals of Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom,  our government isn’t a teacher of religion. Instead that government should be an impartial referee, to insure a level playing field.

So if your Faith is true and sound, you don’t want help from the government.  As by having officially-sponsored prayer at public events.) That in turn also means you have the confidence to say in the open marketplace of ideas, “My views of religion can beat yours with one hand tied behind its back – on a level playing field without any outside help.” 

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So Independence Day is a Feast Day of the American Episcopal Church. That church is a direct descendant of the Church of England that voluntarily “disenfranchised itself” to help gain that precious freedom of religion for people of all faiths (or no faith. And the Bible readings for this day are – according to the Revised Common Lectionary – are:  Deuteronomy 10:17-2Psalm 145Hebrews 11:8-16, and Matthew 5:43-48. The Collect for this Feast Day is as follows:

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:  Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Note that a Collect is a “form of prayer unique to the  Western Church;” in the Scribe’s church, it is said at the beginning of each Sunday service.  It is a form of collective prayer, often followed by a period of silence “collect all their thoughts and prayers and, in essence, give them to the celebrant, who prays on behalf of all.” (Emphasis added.)

Note too that there are a number of definitions of grace, but the one that seems most fitting here seems to be a “disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.” See Definition of grace by the Free Online Dictionary. So the prayer above could be tweaked to read that God grants “all the people of this land” the goodwill and disposition to be generous and/or helpful, in order to “maintain [all] our liberties in righteousness and peace .”  (Say what?  See also More honoured in the breach than in the observance.)

Turning to the Bible readings for July 4th, one point to be noted from Deuteronomy 10:17-21 is that God “is not partial and takes no bribe,” He executes justice for orphans and widows, and “loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Emphasis added.   Various translations substitute “sojourner,” “foreigner,” or “immigrant” for the word “stranger” in the King James Version.)

Psalm 145 verse 9 reads:  “The LORD is loving to everyone [maybe even moderates and/or liberals] and his compassion is over all his works.”  Psalm 145 verse 4 says of God, “One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your power.”  (Emphases added, and all of which is one reason why we have holidays like July 4th and the commemoration of D-Day.  See On D-Day and confession.)

Hebrews 11:8-16 talks about Abraham having the faith to heed the call of God to “set out for a place . . . not knowing where he was going,” which is pretty much what all of our ancestors did.

And finally, in Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus told His disciples and followers to love everyone, even their most obnoxious neighbors, because God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  Besides, they might be right and you might be wrong, or you might both be partly right, but working together you might both find the truth.   (See also Adversarial system – Wikipedia.)

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To some guy named Jefferson, and his Statute for Religious Freedom. . . 

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The picture just above is courtesy of Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom – Wikipedia. The full caption reads, “Jefferson’s tombstone. The inscription, as he stipulated, reads Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.” (Emphasis added.)

As to Collects, see What is a collect? | Trinity Episcopal Church in Cranford, NJ, and What is a Collect? | Reformed Liturgical Institute. As to the adversarial system, see also Adversarial system, to wit: a “system of law that relies on the contest between each advocate representing his or her party’s positions . . . trying to determine the truth of the case.”

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