Monthly Archives: September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve been through worse before!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example, consider this from my companion blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[People:]  I will, with God’s help…

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

[People:]  I will, with God’s help.

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

[People:]  I will, with God’s help.

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

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

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

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

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

But in the fullness of time he backed off:

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

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

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

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 Arnold “flexed his pecs” here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lower image is courtesy of  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From which a host of object lessons might be gleaned…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Esther before Ahasuerus, by Artemisia Gentileschi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On St. Matthew and “Cinderella”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As in, “We’re All in This Together!”

 *   *   *   * St. Mark, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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

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

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

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

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

“Starting back with a bang…”

Artemisia Gentileschi: Bathing Bathsheba

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

*   *   *   * the last post noted, it’s been a busy several weeks since July 23, when I left God’s Country.  (The ATL.)  I spent almost six weeks hiking the Chilkoot Trail – “meanest 33 miles in history” – and canoeing 440 miles on the “mighty Yukon River.”  I got home on August 29, and since then have written one post, “Back in the saddle again,” again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The image of Tertullian is courtesy of Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160 – 225).

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

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

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

On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

Guido Reni - Saint James the Greater - Google Art Project.jpgFor example, in the picture at the top of the page, St. James is seen accoutred as a pilgrim, complete with the accessories “needed for a task or journey.”  That is, he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and with a walking stick in the background.  See Wikipedia:

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

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

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

Finally, the book noted that such a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

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

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

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

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

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

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The upper image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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