Monthly Archives: October 2015

“All Hallows E’en” – 2015

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

November 2  –  All Souls’ Day  –  is the third of “Three Days of Halloween…”

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Next Saturday night is Halloween.  (Literally, the evening or e’en before “Hallows Day.”)

That’s not a holiday most people connect with the process of evolving in life through daily Bible reading.  But in fact, Halloween is strongly connected with both your spiritual development and “walking that road to Jesus.”  (See John 6:37.)

Which brings up the fact that the next major set of Feast Days is actually the Halloween Triduum.

“Triduum” is a fancy Latin word for “three days.”  Here it refers to the three days set aside each year for remembering “the dear departed.”  And this particular threesome starts with what used to be called – back in the way olden days – “All Hallows E’en.”

These days it’s been shortened to “Halloween.”

The Scarred, Scared, and Sacred article noted that this is all part of the annual process of the days getting shorter and shorter.  (Fewer and fewer hours of daylight.)  And back in those way olden days, the process seemed “inexorable,” like death and taxes.   We now know that this “movement” is always toward the Winter Solstice – “the darkest day of the year.”  But long ago the largely illiterate hoi polloi didn’t know that.  And so each year they wondered:  “Is this process going to keep going?  Are we going to finally reach a point where there’s no daylight left, and our days will be nothing but complete darkness?”

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpg

Which naturally brought up the subject of death.  (And with it the possibility of an afterlife, either “down” or “up.”  Then too the thought was that at this time of year there was a mere “thin veil” separating the dead from the living, as illustrated by the jack-o’-lantern at right…)

All of which led to the Triduum centered around All Saints’ Day.

That’s a major feast in the Christian calendar and it comes each year on November 1.  (Though in this case, the term saint is more generic, and largely refers to “anyone who has been saved and … set apart for holy use.”)

Note also that the Old English word for “saint” was halig – which eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe it was easier to say.)  So the Old English “All Haligs’ Day” became “All Hallows Day.”  In turn the evening before that Feast Day became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that got shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  Later still it got shortened to “Hallowe’en,” and then just plain Halloween.

And as always, note that the term “feast” as used here doesn’t refer to a large meal – as in a family celebration – but rather to an religious celebration dedicated to a particular saint.  Or in this case, to all the “saints,” the “dear departed” or the “hallows” in general.

I wrote two posts on the subject last year, On “All Hallows E’en” – Part I and Part II.  (Mostly because it’s such a fascinating subject.)  The “Part I” post noted this:

According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain…  On All Hallows’ Eve, Christians traditionally believed that the veil between the material world and the afterlife thinned.

Maler der Grabkammer des Sennudem 001.jpgIt noted too that Samhain was an age-old Celtic festival “marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year.”  (Such festivals go back to the time of ancient Egypt, as shown at left.)

So getting back to basics:  Halloween is just one day of the three-day religious observance known as Hallowmas.  And it’s also known as the Triduum of All Hallows, three feast days which include:  1) All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en),  2) All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’ Day), and  3) All Soul’s Day.

That’s the Halloween triduum, from October 31 to November 2.  That’s also when – according to ancient belief – the veil between the “material world and afterlife” was most permeable.

So what’s the deal with wearing masks and disguises? 

The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the other world.

But who wants to “mingle” with a bunch of ghosts who died over the past year?

If it was a close friend or relative who recently died, that would be one thing.  But suppose some of those “ghosts” were people who really didn’t like you, or maybe hated you, or otherwise had a score to settle with you?  (Which is a good reason not to go around making people mad…)

So – to protect themselves on the Eve of All Hallows – people would wear masks or put on costumes.  The goal was to disguise their identities.  The idea was also to keep these afterlife “hallows” from recognizing you, in this, the “material world.”

And here’s some more history, borrowed from last year’s Part II:

A long, long time ago, our ancestors celebrated New Year’s Day on November 1.  (That meant New Year’s Eve came on October 31.)  But then about the year 835 AD, the Church made November 1 a feast day for “all saints.”  Again, the idea was to honor those practicing Christians who had died before those who were then living, and especially the “recently departed.”

Back in those long-ago days, people thought evil spirits were most prevalent during the long winter nights.  (And especially those long winter nights that started at the end of October.)  They also believed that the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were weakest on All Hallows E’en.  Accordingly, it was then that the “spirits were most likely to be seen on earth.”

Put another way, this was believed to be a time of year “when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world and were particularly active.”  (The Aos Si were Irish, and “comparable to the fairies or elves.”  They were said to live “underground in fairy mounds, across the western sea, or in an invisible world that coexists with the world of humans.”)

So anyway, our ancestors developed another custom designed to frighten away those spirits.

Briefly, they built bonfires, then feasted and danced around them.

“The fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”  The idea came from pagan times, when evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  (Note also that “bonfire” is short for bone-fire.  See Bonfire – Wikipedia, noting the term “is derived from the fact that bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)

In yet another old-time custom, travelers carried candles on All Hallows E’en, from 11:00 p.m. until midnight.  The theory here was that if the candles kept burning steadily that was a good omen.  It indicated the candle-holder would be safe during the upcoming “season of darkness.”  On the other hand, if your candle went out , “the omen was bad indeed.”  (The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches.)

On another note, in England Halloween is also called “Snap Apple Night.”  That’s from a game with apples tied on a  string, related to apple bobbing.  That in turn refers to a “game often played on Halloween,” by filling a tub or a large basin with water and putting apples in.  The apples float on the surface, and players “try to catch one with their teeth.  Use of arms is not allowed, and often are tied behind the back to prevent cheating.”  And incidentally, there’s both a fertility goddess involved, and the ancient Celtic belief that the pentagram was a fertility symbol.  (Thus “bobbing for apples” was somehow involved with fertility…)

So there you have it.  The Halloween Triduum is primarily dedicated to “All Saints:”

…the Solemnity of All Saints is when the Church honors all saints, known and unknown.  This is similar to the American holidays of Veterans Day and Presidents Day, when a group of people are honored on a specific day.  While we have information about many saints, and we honor them on specific days, there are many unknown or unsung saints, who may have been forgotten, or never been honored specifically.  On All Saints Day, we celebrate these holy men and women, and ask for their prayers and intercessions.

See All Saints Day | History, Customs.   In turn, whether you’re working on fertile fields – perhaps as in plowing with a heifer – or remembering the dear departed, or trying to disguise yourself from elves and fairies, or just trying to keep a witch from blowing out your candle…


Have a Happy Halloween!


A graveyard in Sweden, “on the feast of All Hallows…”

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

The image of the jack-o’lantern is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”

Re:  The expansive definition of “saints.”  See also What is the Bible Definition of a Saint? – Patheos, and especially the text under the heading, You are Saints in the Present:  “If you have repented and trusted in Christ, you are a saint of God today, right now!”

The right-image next to the paragraph – “people would wear masks or put on costumes” – is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Will-o’-the-wispThe full caption:  “A Japanese rendition of a Russian will-o’-the-wisp.”   Note also that a will-o’-the-wisp is also known as ignis fatuus or “foolish fire.”  It’s an “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes:”

It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached, drawing travelers from the safe paths.  The phenomenon is known by a variety of names, including jack-o’-lantern, friar’s lantern, hinkypunk, and hobby lantern in English folk belief, well attested in English folklore and in much of European folklore.

Re: “Plowing.”  See Judges 14:18, where Samson said, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.”

The lower image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:

A cemetery outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.

On St. Luke – 2015

File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

Saint Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child… 

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Today – Monday, October 19 – is the next major Feast Day.

It’s the Feast of St. Luke, who wrote the third-of-four Gospels.  (Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles, “the fifth book of the New Testament.”)

Note also  that the term “feast” as used here doesn’t refer to a large meal – as in a family celebration – but rather to an religious celebration dedicated to a particular saint.

I did a post last year, On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist.  (Which included the painting at left, of St. Luke, by El Greco.)

For the Bible readings of the day, see St. Luke, Evangelist.  They are Ecclesiasticus 38:1-4,6-10,12-14 – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes – along with Psalm 147, 2 Timothy 4:5-13, and Luke 4:14-21.

From the early days of the Church, Luke was described as a physician:

Eusebius (AD 260-340), considered to be the Father of Early Church History, described Luke the Physician in these terms:  “Luke, who was by race an Antiochian and a physician by profession, was long a companion of Paul … and in two books left us examples of the medicine for the souls which he had gained from them.”

See Luke the Physician: with “Medicine for the Souls.”  Thus the day’s Bible reading from Ecclesiasticus (also called The Wisdom of Sirach) begins appropriately like this:  “Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them.”  In turn, Psalm 147:3 speaks of God as the Ultimate Healer, with a side note that quite often He does His work using human hands.  (By extension, His physicians:  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. “)

As to the reading from the Second Letter to Timothy, Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote it.  He wrote that “the time of my departure has come” and that he had been deserted by those including Demas, Crescens and Titus.  But note 2 Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me.”

Luke was with St. Paul in his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:1; Acts 28:11, 16), and when he wrote the Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon [see Colossians 4:14], having doubtless composed the Acts of the Apostles during St. Paul’s two years’ imprisonment (Acts 28:30).

(See the Pulpit Commentary.)  Which brings up what Garry Wills had to say about St. Luke.

In his book What the Gospels Meant, Wills noted that Luke wrote the longest Gospel, and that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long.  He added that these two volumes “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And that they are longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)

head-and-chest side portrait of Dante in red and white coat and cowlHe said Luke is considered the most humane of the Gospel writers.  He quoted Dante – shown at right – as saying that Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”  He added a quote from Ernest Renan , who referred to Luke’s Gospel “the most beautiful book that ever was.”

And Wills added that Luke showed a “special sensitivity to women.”  A notable example is Luke’s treatment of The Woman with the Menstrual Disorder.  (From Chapter 8, “A Jesus for Outcasts.”)  Here’s what Wills said about the episode, from Luke 8, verses 43-48:

Jesus’ embrace of the despised is made very clear in the case of [this] woman with a perpetual discharge…  Each month when a Jewish woman underwent her period, she had to go to the Temple or the ritual baths to be purified.  So the woman with a perpetual discharge was permanently unpurifiable.  She was not only barred from the Temple but all her dealings with others would make them unclean. (E.A.)

Note that this sense of a woman being permanently unpurifiable was in keeping with Leviticus 15, verses 25-27:  “When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days … she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge…  Anyone who touches [her] will be unclean.”  And this woman had suffered for 12 long years.  And so finally now, “defying the ban on contact with others, she pushes through the crowd around Jesus and touches the tassels on His robe.”

Here she was – “permanently unclean” – and yet she had the audacity to approach Jesus. 

Which is a reminder that sometimes it pays to be a bit pushy with God.  (See also Arguing with God.)  The other point is that Jesus – being Jesus – sensed what happened.  In response the woman, “in a panic,” confessed her effrontery, and said she’d been instantly healed.  But Jesus – being Jesus – said only, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”  (See Luke 8:48.)

Then there’s the Parable of the Prodigal Son (illustrated at left).  And as noted below, this lesson in God’s boundless love appears only in Luke:

The richness of the parable comes from the fact that it can be read, as it were, backwards and forwards…  It is an endlessly reversible tale of the Father’s bounty…  Luke [] is at his very best in this parable that opens up endless mirrors of meaning…   I think it would be fair to describe the tale of the Prodigal Son as containing the inmost kernel of Luke’s thinking and theology, according to which we are all outcasts, and Jesus is coming to rescue us all.

(Which brings up the tangential concepts of mashal, if not nimshal.  For more, see the notes.)

But in closing, it should be added that to many scholars, “Luke is a historian of the first rank [and] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”  Beyond that:

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears.  Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy…   Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.

For more see last year’s St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, with the Collect of the Day:   “Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son:  Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal…“

 St. Luke, Painting by El Greco. Indianapolis Museum of Art.jpg Saint Luke, by El Greco (circa 1607)…

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

Re: The actual “feast of St. Luke.”  Normally it’s October 18, but according to The Lectionary Page, this year the date was transferred to the 19th, because the 18th fell on a Sunday.  (For those interested in the reason for such transfers – or other such minutiae – see What happens when a saint’s feast falls on a Sunday?)   On the other hand, some churches celebrated the feast day anyway, even though it fell on a Sunday.  One example was St. John’s Episcopal Church Savannah GA.  That’s where I went yesterday, during a weekend family visit to Savannah.

Of note:  St. John’s offers traditional worship from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  (Complete with all the “thees” and “thous” found in Elizabethan English.  And including those “eths:”  “And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures:  And ascended into heaven,  And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.)  That’s as opposed to the 1979 revision of the Book of Common Prayer used in most American Episcopal churches.  Again, those interested in such minutiae can find more information at The 1928 U. S. Book of Common Prayer, and/or Book of Common Prayer – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: Paul writing “Second Timothy” while in prison.  See 2 Timothy:  About Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  On the other hand, the Wikipedia article indicated that 2d Timothy was “not written by Paul but by an anonymous follower, after Paul’s death.”

Re: Garry Wills.  Other posts or pages mentioning Wills include The True Test of Faith, On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story,” and On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”

A side note:  The quotes in What the Gospels Meant are from the 2009 Penguin Books edition, beginning at page 109-11, and – from Chapter 8 – pages 127, 132-33, and 136-40.

The lower image is courtesy of St. Luke of El Greco – Wikipedia, one of several interpretations by the artist.  See for example last year’s On St. Luke, which included a painting shown courtesy of El_Greco_-_St_Luke_-_WGA10577.jpg, which included this note:

El Greco portrayed the apostles with a powerfully expressive body language.  This St. Luke is from a cycle for the Toledo Cathedral…  El Greco included St. Luke in several of his [paintings of the Apostles] although Luke was not actually one of the twelve apostles.  Here the artist provided the Western version of a subject he depicted in quite different terms during his period as an icon painter.

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See also On three suitors, on interpreting such parables, “strictly” or otherwise.  That post noted that quite often, in transposing a parable from oral to written form, it  needed an interpretation added.  The Hebrew word for such interpretation is nimshal, or the plural nimshalim:

The essence of the parabolic method of teaching is that life and the words that tell of life can mean more than one thing.  Each hearer is different and therefore to each hearer a particular secret of the kingdom [of God] can be revealed.  We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves.

On Saint Teresa of Avila

“The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, by Bernini…”

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The next Feast Day of interest is Thursday, October 15.  That’s the Feast of St. Teresa of Ávila.

St. Teresa was recently dubbed “the Pope Francis of her time,” but there’s more on that later.  There’s also more about her talking to God and saying, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”   (Note too that “feast” here doesn’t refer to a large meal – as in a celebration – but rather to an religious celebration dedicated to a particular saint.)

I’ve written about Teresa before.  See On the Bible and mysticism, and On the Christian repertoire.  (See also Teresa of Avila, Nun, which includes the Bible readings for the Day.)

The point being that Teresa was a mystic before that became a bad word:

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

That was a bit of sarcasm from The Bible and mysticism, but enough of my ramblings.  (For now anyway.)  Here’s what Wikipedia said about how Teresa got started as a mystic:

Teresa entered a Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila, Spain [in November 1535, but] found herself increasingly in disharmony with [its] spiritual malaise…  The daily invasion of visitors, many of high social and political rank, vitiated the atmosphere with frivolous concerns and vain conversations.  These violations of the solitude absolutely essential to progress in genuine contemplative prayer grieved Teresa…

Frivolous concerns?  Vain conversations?  That sounds just like today!

More to the point, noted that Teresa “lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval.  It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform.”  That is, she was born in 1515, a mere two years before Martin Luther – seen at right as a “friar, with tonsure” – nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.  (Thus starting the Protestant Reformation.)

But getting back to the idea of “mystic” freaking out some Christians.  An example:   “The term ‘Christian mystic’ is an oxymoron.  Mysticism is not the experience of a Christian.” That’s from What is Christian mysticism? –  Or this:

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

See Is There A Biblical Mysticism? |  (About one “click” down).

On the other hand, see Mysticism – Wikipedia.  That said the term originally “referred to the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative dimensions in early and medieval Christianity.”   And the article Teresa of Ávila – Wikipedia noted in pertinent part that “Teresa’s writings, produced for didactic purposes, stand among the most remarkable in the mystical literature of the Catholic Church.”  (So you’re going to argue with the Catholic Church?)

All of which I noted in On the Bible and mysticism.  In the post On the Christian repertoire, I included the image at the bottom, “The Appearance of the Holy Spirit before Saint Teresa.”  And a note to that post pointed out that an internet search will generally lead the searcher to the definition of mystic as “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute. . .”

In other words, a mystic is a person who seeks to become “one” with both God and his or her neighbor.  Not unlike Francis of Assisi(Who no doubt some contemporaries thought himself was a bit of a weirdo…)  See also The basics.

And speaking of “absorption into oneness:”  That seems to be what Jesus spoke of as He prayed in John 17:20-23.  He was in the Upper Room the evening before the Crucifixion, and asked God to help His followers:

“I ask . . . on behalf of those who will believe in me . . . that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are oneI in them and you in me, that they may become completely one. . .”

On that note, focus especially on John 17:21, John 17:22, and John 17:23John 17:21 reads – in pertinent part – “ that all of them [that’s us] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”   John 17:22 reads – ditto – “that they may be one as we are one.”  John 17:23, reads – one last ditto – “I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.”

Then too, that seems to be just what one “Common Prayer” means when it said that all Christians – by and through sharing Holy Communion – are in the process of becoming “very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son.”

But we were talking about Teresa of Avila.

Among the Bible readings for her day, the first – Romans 8:22-27 – includes one of my favorite verses.  Romans 8:26 is especially useful when you’re not sure how to pray or what to pray for:  “the Spirit helps us in our weakness;  for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  (And that “sighs too deep for words” is one of my favorite translations…)

But back to Teresa.  She was born in 1515 and died in 1882, at the then-ripe-old-age of 67.  She was a devout “theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.”

In 1622 she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV – seen at right – and in 1970 was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.  And in March, 2015 – as noted – St. Teresa of Avila [was] dubbed the Pope Francis of her time.

Witty, warm and personable, she nonetheless pushed the Carmelite order to reform.  St. Teresa taught the faithful not to be caught up with creature comforts, to be true to their vocation and to dedicate hours each day to contemplative Carmelite prayer.

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

But seriously, today she is perhaps best known as a mystic.  However, even when she was alive – a long time ago – some people considered that bad.  As Wikipedia noted, “Around 1556, various friends suggested that her newfound knowledge was diabolical, not divine. ”

So some people have always been offended by the terms ‘mystic” and “mysticism.”

On that note, it can’t be denied that there are a lot of weirdos out there calling themselves “mystics.”  But by the same token, there are a lot of people learning karate for all the wrong reasons.  (How many “hypocritical” karate students want to learn how to beat the tar out of people they don’t like?)  For example, see Deshimaru’s The Zen Way to Martial Arts:

Many people these days come to the martial arts as if to a sport or, worse, as if seeking an effective instrument of aggression and domination.   And, unhappily, there are studios that cater to this clientele.   Violent and exploitative martial arts movies contribute to the corruption…

But does that make “traditional” karate training any less valid?  In the same way, does the existence of some “hypocritical” Christians make the entire faith invalid?  Then too, how many Christians seem to view their faith as an “instrument of aggression and domination?”

That wasn’t Teresa’s way.  As the Collect of her Feast Day recalls:

God, by your Holy Spirit you moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching…

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“The Appearance of the Holy Spirit before Saint Teresa of Ávila…”

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

The Pope Francis image is courtesy of Pope Francis – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Francis among the people at St. Peter’s Square.”

See an image of Francis of Assisi at Mysticism – Wikipedia, with the caption: “Life of Francis of Assisi by José Benlliure y Gil.”

For more on Teresa of Avila, see Selections Of An Interview – St Teresa Of Jesus.  (One of her other names.)   Note that she is not to be confused with Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), best known for her “Little Way” method of what might be called “life meditation.”  See Wikipedia and also St. Therese and Her Little Way – Society of the Little Flower:

St. Therese believed that the people of her time lived in too great fear of Gods judgment… [She] translated “the little way” in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives…  Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a loving commitment that knew no breakdown.  It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.

The “Common Prayer” quote is from page 339 of the Book of Common Prayer.  See the full prayer on The Online Book of Common Prayer, at the end of The Holy Eucharist:  Rite One

Re: “Deshimaru’s The Zen Way to Martial Arts.”  The full title of the Amazon book is The Zen Way to Martial Arts: A Japanese Master Reveals the Secrets of the Samurai.  The quote itself is from the 1991 Arkana Books edition, translated by Nancy Amphoux.

Also on page 3, Deshimaru told of a student who asked, “How many years do I have to practice Zazen?”  (The meditation technique used by Zen masters.)  His answer, “Until the day you die.” (For what that’s worth.)  Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982) “was a Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist,” who founded the Association Zen Internationale.  During World War II:

Deshimaru was exempted from the Imperial Japanese Army because of his near-sightedness.  He went to the island of Banka, Indonesia, to direct a copper-mine.  He found himself on the island of Bangka, where he taught the practice of zazen to the Chinese, Indonesian, and European inhabitants.   He defended inhabitants against the violence of his own people, and was therefore thrown in jail, but released by “the highest military authorities in Japan.”  (E.A.)

Re:  Some Christians using the faith as an “instrument of aggression and domination.”  See also Dark side (Star Wars) – Wikipedia:  “The dark side of the Force is a fictional moral, philosophical, metaphorical and psychic concept in the Star Wars universe created by George Lucas.  The Force is a mystical energy which permeates the Star Wars galaxy;  its dark side represents an aspect of it that is not practiced by the Jedi who view it as evil.”

The lower image is courtesy of Mysticism – Wikipedia. The full caption:  “The Appearance of the Holy Spirit before Saint Teresa of Ávila, Peter Paul Rubens.”

*   *   *   *

On Bill Tyndale – who published a Bible you could actually READ!

William Tyndale – “strangled and burned at the stake” – for making a Bible you could read


And speaking of themes in this blog…

One prevalent theme is that the more you know about the Bible – and how it was written – the more spiritual progress you can make.

William TyndaleThat brings up the fact that last October 6 was the Feast Day for “William Tyndale, Priest.”  More to the point, he also published the first Bible that you as a “vulgar person” could actually read for yourself.  And for that he was strangled and burned at the stake.

The thing is, you can’t really learn more about the Bible – and how it was written – unless you as an individual have one you can actually read.  But for the first 1,500 years of the Christian faith, you didn’t have that option.  (Unless you were a priest, and could read Latin.)

In plain words, back in the “good old days, “the clergy” held a monopoly on the Bible.

To find out what the Bible said, you – who were likely illiterate – had to rely on the local parish priest.  (And/or his superiors, in a far-away country.)   That is, your priest told you what the Bible said, and you had  no choice but to take his word for it.

In other words, you had no choice but to rely on “stale rehashes” from your parish priest, and many of those were illiterate themselves.  To repeat, you had to rely on what other people said the Bible said, rather than being able to read it yourself.  In legal circles they call that hearsay.

One example:  A witness testifies at trial that “Sally told me Tom was in town,” as opposed to being able to testify, “I saw Tom in town.”  The question is:  Which form of evidence is considered more reliable?  To most people – and based on centuries of legal precedent – a witness saying “I heard someone say Tom was in town” is dubious proof at best.

That all changed in 1525, when Tyndale first published the Bible in English.

(What was known then as a “vulgar tongue.”  That is, “the national or vernacular language of a people … used typically to contrast such a language with Latin.”)  

But Tyndale paid dearly for publishing the first Bible not written in Latin.  As shown in the top illustration, the powers that be had him first strangled, then burned at the stake.  And all of that just so you – today- could read the Bible in “good old English…”

Which brings up again the most recent Feast Day, October 6.  (The term “feast” here does not refer to a “large meal” – as in celebration – but rather to an “annual religious celebration dedicated to a particular saint.”)  And the link “Tyndale” shows the Bible-readings and Collect for the day:

Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servant William Tyndale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue, and endowed him with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures…

See also William Tyndale, which included a note on Miles Coverdale.  (Basically Coverdale finished the work that Tyndale started, but was unable to finish – due to his being executed.)

Six copies were set up for public reading in Old St Paul’s Church, and throughout the daylight hours the church was crowded with those who had come to hear it.  One man would stand at the lectern and read until his voice gave out, and then he would stand down and another would take his place.  All English translations of the Bible from that time to the present century are essentially revisions of the Tyndale-Coverdale work.

And that of course includes the King James Bible.  (The one God uses…)

Another reason he was executed?  Tyndale taught that salvation was a free gift from God, available to all.  But that cut into the revenue of the Church at the time.  Unlike Tyndale – and Martin Luther – the religous “powers that be” at the time taught that you could earn your way into heaven, through “good works and penance.”  Which of course brought in a lot of money.  (As through the Church selling indulgences.)

That is, the medieval Church sold indulgences as “a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins.”  But we digress.  (Or perhaps not…)

See, the strange, ironic and/or incongruous thing about all this is that Tyndale’s death was largely the work of Sir Thomas More.  “Saint Thomas” is venerated as a saint (“and martyr“) by the Roman Catholic Church.  (See e.g. the CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA.)  As Wikipedia noted:

More opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale.  He also wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary ideal island nation.

But then he himself ran afoul of the powers that be, in the person of King Henry VIII.  That episode in his life was popularized by the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons. A Man for All Seasons (1966 movie poster).gif“The title reflects [the] portrayal of More as the ultimate man of conscience and as remaining true to his principles and religion under all circumstances and at all times.”

More opposed the King’s separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge him as Supreme Head of the Church of England and refusing to acknowledge Henry’s annulment from Catherine of Aragon.  After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and beheaded.

But at least he wasn’t “strangled and burned at the stake.”  See Decapitation – Wikipedia:

Decapitation … was sometimes considered the honorable way to die for an aristocrat…  [I]n England it was considered the privilege of noblemen to be beheaded.  This would be distinguished from a dishonorable death on the gallows or through burning at the stake.  In medieval England, the punishment for high treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered but in the case of nobles and knights it was often commuted to beheading…

Which leads to the phrase, “Thank God for commutation!

But seriously – that was a bit of sarcasm – that takes us to some recent Daily Office Readings.  For example: the readings for Monday, October 5 included 1st Corinthians 10:14-11:1:

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, for ‘the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.’   If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.  But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice’, then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience – I mean the other’s conscience.

That loosely translates to “Eat what the heck they put in front of you, and stop whining!

Then there’s Psalm 127, one of the readings for Tuesday, October 6.  Which leads to the fact that some people tend – in my view – to take isolated passages of the Bible way out of context.  One example is people who “handle” snakes, based on .)   (See On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide – Part I.)  Another example is people who take Psalm 127, verses 3-5, “way out of context:”

[T]he “Quiverfull Movement” can be found at sites including Quiverfull – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaWhat Is Quiverfull? – Patheos, part of “No longer quivering,” an ostensible “gathering place for women escaping and healing from spiritual abuse;”  5 Insane Lessons from My Christian Fundamentalist Childhood ;  and/or QuiverFull .com :: Psalm 127:3-5.

Which means we wouldn’t have the “Quiverfull” movement if it hadn’t been for Bill Tyndale.

Meanwhile, there’s the matter of karma and/or “turnabout is fair play…”


“Sir Thomas More … after his sentence of death.”

The upper image is courtesy of William Tyndale – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “William Tyndale, before being strangled and burned at the stake, cries out, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,’ woodcut from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563).”

The portrait-image of Tyndale is courtesy of the link, William Tyndale.  

Re: Clergy.  See also Benefit of clergy, a principle of English law which originally meant that “clergymen could claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the secular courts and be tried instead in an ecclesiastical court under canon law.”  In other words a priest charged with murder or rape – for example – could demand to be tried by a “court” of his fellow priests.

Various reforms limited the scope of this legal arrangement to prevent its abuse.  Eventually the benefit of clergy evolved into a legal fiction in which first-time offenders could receive lesser sentences for some crimes (the so-called “clergyable” ones).  The legal mechanism was abolished in 1823 with the passage of the Judgement of Death Act which gave judges the discretion to pass lesser sentences on the first-time offenders.

The “witness – trial” image is courtesy of Famous Trials – UMKC School of Law – Prof. Douglas Linder.  The specific trial image is from the Selected Images link at O. J. Simpson Trial (1995) The caption:  “Simpson tries on ‘the gloves that did not fit.'”

The image of “King James” is courtesy of the James I link included in King James Version – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Portrait after John de Critz, c. 1606.”

Re: “Quiverfull.”  See also On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”:

On the other hand, it could be argued this is another example of some people taking isolated Bible passages out of context, like those who handle snakes based on Mark 16:17-18, or those who have a “quiverfull” of children based on a passage from Psalm 127. 

The lower image is courtesy of Thomas More – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “William Frederick Yeames, The meeting of Sir Thomas More with his daughter after his sentence of death, 1872.”  See also Karma – Wikipedia, and the idiom: “turnabout is fair play – Wiktionary.”  (An idiom is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning.)  Also:

An idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.  There are thousands of idioms, and they occur frequently in all languages. It is estimated that there are at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language.

Other sources for this post include: William Tyndale | Christian History, William Tyndale Bible History, and William Tyndale – Christian History Facts – Christianity.