Monthly Archives: March 2019

“On to Jerusalem!”

A late-afternoon view of Jerusalem – with the Dome of the Rock, in gold, in the left foreground…

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And speaking of pilgrimages This May I’ll be making such a two-week journey to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  On that note, Kenneth Clark – the noted British “art historian, museum director, and broadcaster” – discussed the origin of such spiritual journeys in his 1969 TV series, Civilisation (The following quotes are from the book version, at pages 40-42.)  

In Chapter 2 – “The Great Thaw” – Clark noted the “sudden reawakening of European civilization in the 12th century.” (That is, the years from 1101 to 1199 or so.)  He said that “great thaw” – the sudden spurt of growth in human development – did not come about from mere idle contemplation.  Instead it came as the result of action:  “a vigorous, violent sense of movement, both physical and intellectual.”

The physical – action – part took the form of pilgrimages; most often to Jerusalem.  That led in turn to the Crusades (“Traditionally, they [the Crusades] took place between 1095 and 1291;” and of course “the most important place of pilgrimage was Jerusalem.”)   But these early pilgrimages were not at all like our “cruises or holidays abroad” today.  For one thing they took a long time; often two or three years.  “For another, they involved real hardship and danger.”

That is, despite efforts to organize (“pilgrims used to go in parties of 7000 at a time”), “elderly abbots and middle-aged widows often died on the way to Jerusalem.”  (Note that our church group requires a doctor’s note from those over 70, saying they “must be able to walk three miles at once at a normal pace” – at least 2-and-a-half miles an hour – “without assistance from others.”)

Another difference:  Today such a pilgrimage is typically “a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.”  But in those early days, the “point of a pilgrimage was to look at relics.”  (On that note, see 2015’s On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

The belief in the “magic” of relics – Clark said – was a product of the Medieval Mind.  “The medieval pilgrim really believed that by contemplating a reliquary containing the head or even the fingers of a saint he would persuade that particular saint to intercede on his behalf with God.”  (Clark cited an example, Saint Foy, a “little girl of who in late Roman times” was put to death for refusing to worship idols, and then was “turned into one herself.”  That is, an idol.*)  

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.In other words, the man with a Medieval Mind believed that by going on a pilgrimage – and in the process venerating relics – he could “get good stuff from God.”  Which is of course the same incentive for many practicing Christians today.  (If not for those of any religion.)   Or as Napoleon put it, “Men are moved by only two things:  fear and self-interest.”

But we digress…  As seen in the links at the right of this page, I’ve devoted a whole category to Pilgrimages(Including – the summer of 2018 – I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, and – October 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!”) 

On the topic being discussed, the most relevant blog-post is probably On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from September 2016.   That post pointed out that St. James the Greater is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  And it indicated that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can “quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  And it noted that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

In Back from Rideau, the chief ordeal was hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling.  In Buen Camino the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister.  (At least for the first 250 miles.  From León, we mountain-biked the remaining 200 miles.  Which just meant different parts of the body got sore, achy and/or blistered.)

So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?'”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”  Or maybe I’ll find somewhere a relic to venerate, and so in turn get some “good stuff from God.”  (Aside from being chastened and liberated…)

On that note: Stay tuned!  There may well be “further bulletins as events warrant!”

Calvin and Hobbes

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On another note, last Monday – March 25 – was the Feast of the Annunciation.  See The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling,” from March 2015.  The full title is the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the post showed how in this case the early Church “figured it backwards.”  That is, they started with the birth of Jesus on December 25, then figured backwards nine months.  Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25.  That’s where the Annunciation comes in.

It celebrates “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation.”  There’s more on the Incarnation in the post, along with how and why the Conception and Annunciation both got to happen on the same day.  Now, about that “getting the ball rolling.”

Technically the liturgical year – the church’s calendar year, illustrated at left – begins with Advent (December 1 or so), and goes through next November.  (When it starts all over again.)  But it could be argued that the liturgical year properly starts with the Annunciation; that is, the first moment when it became obvious that God would intervene on our behalf, by and through the birth, life and death of Jesus.

More to the point, the church year “sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus.”  (It’s not an “arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days”):

It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective [and] proposes to help us to year after year immerse ourselves into the sense and substance of the Christian life…   It is an adventure in human growth;  it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.

As noted in the “ball rolling” post, I couldn’t have put it better myself.  Thus in one sense the Church Year does begin with Advent.  On the other hand, you could say that while “technically the liturgical year begins” with Advent, it’s the Annunciation that gets the ball rolling

And speaking of “getting the ball rolling.”  Who knows:  My upcoming adventure in Jerusalem will result in some personal “human growth.”  At the very least it should be:

“An exercise in spiritual ripening…

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

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The upper image is courtesy of Jerusalem – Image Results.  See also Jerusalem – WikipediaNote that the post-title – “On to Jerusalem!” – is an allusion to the Civil War’s famous (or infamous) battle cry, “On to Richmond!”  See the National Park Service’s The Focal Point of the Civil War, and Richmond in the American Civil War – Wikipedia.

I cited Clark’s book in On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down:”

Which is another way of saying that all the people who wrote the Bible had to keep in mind the human limitations of their audience.  They were trying to put incomprehensible things into plain and simple language that even the most obtuse dolt could understand.  Or to paraphrase Sir Kenneth Clark, the people who wrote the Bible had to have the intellectual power to make God comprehensible.

The Kenneth Clark paraphrase is from the hardcover book version of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). On pages 84-85 of the book, Clark compared the poet Dante with the painter Giotto.  Then on page 85, Clark noted the differences between the two men, beginning with the fact that “their imaginations moved on very different planes.”  But in the film version – and only in the film or TV version – Clark said Dante had  “that heroic contempt for baseness that was to come again in Michelangelo.   Above all, that vision of a heavenly order and the intellectual power to make it comprehensible.”  Which is the phrase that drew my attention…  See also Wikipedia, for more on the TV series.

Clark’s writing about early pilgrimages – especially to Jerusalem – are at pages 40-42 of the book.

Re:  The medieval mind.  The link is to The Medieval Mind: A Meditation:

The latter [people in the Middle Ages] were drenched in mysticism, whereas the contemporary world has been shaped by rationalism so that mystical concepts and experiences have been stripped away except among a small number of people steeped in the religious thought of our Western ancestors…  [Also:]  It can be argued that the decline of pilgrimages is a loss to Christian spiritual life in an age of unbelief and immorality when people have a profound need for spiritual examples.

Re:  Saint Foy, put to death for refusing to worship idols, then “turned into one herself.”  (The “idol” is shown at left.)  Clark wrote that she was “obstinate in the face of reasonable persuasion – a Christian Antigone” – and so was martyred.  But then her relics began to work miracles,” including the restoration of sight to a man who eyes had been gouged out “by a jealous priest.”  As to the little girl whose “relics” were turned into an idol – even though she’d been put to death for refusing to worship idols – “that’s the medieval mind.  They care passionately about the truth, but their sense of evidence was different than ours.” 

Also, the link in the text is to St. Foy’s Golden Reliquary – Conques, France – Atlas Obscura, about the “huge golden reliquary of a testicle smashing saint.”  The article added that “Pilgrims pray to saints for holy intercession in all kinds of problems, but they should be very careful what they ask for when approaching St. Foy, who seems to have a wicked sense of humor.”  That is, “St. Foy developed her reputation for… unusual cures. [Ellipses in the original.]  Notably, when a knight came to her seeking a cure for a herniated scrotum, she, via vision, helpfully suggested that he find a blacksmith willing to smash it with a white-hot hammer.”  See the article for the “rest of the story…” 

Also, re “idol.”  See Idolatry – Wikipedia:  “ldolatry literally means the worship of an ‘idol,’ also known as a worship cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue.  In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God.”  Note the subtle difference to the medieval mind, asking the “saint” in question to intercede with God…

Re:  Hiking the Meseta part of the Camino de Santiago:  “Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon,” while others – who aren’t so wussified – think that misses the whole point of hiking the Camino.

I borrowed the “further bulletins” cartoon from The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

I borrowed the lower image from St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from 2016.  See also Wikipedia, with 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.”  Also, the “sluts” post noted in part:  “Of course the two [pilgrimages] 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…”  (Can you say foreshadowing?)

 

On the Bible’s “dynamic tension…”

I don’t mean the Dynamic Tension of Charles Atlas.  (It’s about Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel 3…)

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We’re now well into Lent, 2019.  (As illustrated at right.)

That is, the time in between the holidays of Mardi Gras and Easter.  In other words, it’s a time for “prayer, doing penancerepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  And for many people, Lent means giving up something.  “On the other hand, some people choose to add a discipline ‘that would add to my spiritual life.’  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For example, last year for Lent I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I’ll be doing the same thing.  (For reasons including that my “discipline” ended up netting the United Thank Offering a little over $25 in penalties.  At 25 cents a violation.)  But this year I feel the need to add something else.

So – for this Lent – I’m going to try mightily to prepare a reasoned, careful, logical blog-post treatise on precisely “why I don’t like Donald Trump.”  (Without resorting to the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks.”)  In other words, I will try – without resorting to name-calling – to present the valid reasons why I think Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate.  (Though not yet on par with the Civil War.  Not yet!) 

Beyond that – for my Lenten discipline this year – I am also going to try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him.  (Without saying, “What are you, dumbasses?”)  And that is definitely going to be the hard part…

(A note:  I firmly believe this “story” will have a happy ending, but that’s for a later blog-post.)

So anyway, that latter part of this year’s Lenten discipline will be so hard in fact – it will take up so much time – that I haven’t a prayer of doing a new post on it within a reasonable time after my last post.  (OMG! Is it time for Lent again?  From March 5, 2019.)  So for now I offer up this in-betweener, which as it turns out is related to unsupported name-calling.

In the lead caption I noted the difference between the Dynamic Tension of Charles Atlas, as distinguished from that “tension” between Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

I wrote about Deuteronomy 19:16-19 – and Ezekiel 3:16-19 – in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  Briefly, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says that if you accuse someone of a heinous crime – like murder or heresy – and it’s not true, you will be punished as if you had committed the crime yourself.  (You can’t blithely make false accusations without penalty.)  For example, if you accuse someone – perhaps even a fellow Christian – of being a “heretic,” and that accusation is false, then you will be punished as a heretic yourself.

See for example The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:  “Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.”  But if that statement is inaccurate – and is tantamount to an accusation of heresy – the person who wrote it faces the prospect of being punished as a heretic himself.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  On that note see Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus.

Or as I’ve noted, “If Jesus was a conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”  See Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”  That post noted that What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

Which is pretty much what the Apostle Peter – shown at right – said in 2d Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is.  In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”  (Emphasis added, to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.)

That is, according to 2d Peter 3:9, God seems to want the Bible to “apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”  Which means that the person who wrote “The Heresy of Liberalism” could be in big trouble.

On the other hand there’s Ezekiel 3:16-19, where this prophet wrote of the Christian duty to warn other Christians of the error of their ways.  (I.e., characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman.”)  Briefly, if you don’t warn a fellow Christian to mend his ways, and he keeps sinning, God will punish both of you.  But if you warn him – and he keeps on sinning – you will have saved your spiritual butt:  “they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So what you end up with is a dynamic tension between Deuteronomy 19:16-19 and Ezekiel 3:16-19.  Note also the twin “16-19s,” which could translate to, “It’s a message from God!”

Which means in turn that if you suspect that being “liberal Christian” is tantamount to heresy, you’re better off saying to such liberals, “Excuse me, but I think you’re reading the Bible in the wrong way.”  In other words, you will want to refrain from mere, unsupported ad hominem name-calling.  That’s because such phrasing could be tantamount to an accusation of heresy, punishable under Deuteronomy 19:16-19.

Because one thing you don’t want to risk is being punished as a heretic yourself…

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The 1545 “Massacre” where heretics were thrown to their death off castle walls…

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The upper image is courtesy of Dynamic Tension Charles Atlas – Image Results.  See also Dynamic Tension – Wikipedia, and Charles Atlas – Wikipedia.

Re: “Trump-humping.”  On a related note, see On dissin’ the Prez, and also An update on “dissin’ the Prez” – from November 13, 2016.

The “Atlantic – Evangelicals” image is courtesy of Atlantic Magazine (April, 2018) How Evangelicals Lost Their Way – And Got Hooked on Donald Trump.  For another take, see Frances FitzGerald on how evangelicals lost their way, and/or How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today’s Media Driven World.

Re:  Liberalism as “heresy.”  See The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says, and “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re:  Ezekiel 3:16-19 (characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“).  The full passage:

[T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

See also Ezekiel 3 – Wikipedia:  “This chapter contains the call for Ezekiel to speak to people of Israel and to act as a sentry for them.”  And Night-watchman state – Wikipedia, regarding the libertarian political philosophy, which advances the “model of a state whose only functions are to provide its citizens with the military, the police and courts, thus protecting them from aggressiontheftbreach of contract and fraud and enforcing property laws.”

The lower image is courtesy of Heresy – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Massacre of the Waldensians of Mérindol in 1545.”  The article included the following:  That the first “Christian heretic to be executed, Priscillian, was condemned in 386;”  That the “edict of Theodosius II (435) provided severe punishments for those who had or spread writings of Nestorius,” and that those “who possessed writings of Arius were sentenced to death;”  That for some years “after the Reformation, Protestant churches were also known to execute those they considered heretics, including Catholics;”  and that the “number of people executed as heretics under the authority of the various ‘ecclesiastical authorities’ is not known.”  Also:

The Catholic Church by no means had a monopoly on the execution of heretics.  The charge of heresy was a weapon that could fit many hands.  A century and a half after heresy was made a state crime, the Vandals (a heretical Christian Germanic tribe), used the law to prosecute thousands of (orthodox) Catholics with penalties of torture, mutilation, slavery and banishment…  About seven thousand people were burned at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition, which lasted for nearly seven centuries…  Religious Wars slaughtered millions. During these wars, the charge of “heresy” was often leveled by one side against another as a sort of propaganda or rationalization for the unde

OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

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

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It is indeed time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, again.

As noted in The beginning of Lent – 2018, the whole idea of Lent – as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness – started back in the time of Moses.  That’s when he led the Children of Israel through the original Exodus, as detailed later in Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  For example, “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.

Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Moses.  Then too, “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.  Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”  Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

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

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So Moses and the Children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus did His own wandering, during which He was tempted by Satan.  Thus:  “There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter.  Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights.”

mardi grasNow, about that “Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”  As Wikipedia noted, the battle between the figures “Carnival” – given a modern-day illustration at left – and Lent “was an important event in community life in early modern Europe.”  Lent was characterized by “enforced abstinence and the concomitant spiritual purification,” but to  good cause.  That is, “in preparation for Easter.”  Which itself is a metaphor, in that Bruegel the Elder‘s painting is “rich in allegories and symbolisms that have been long studied.”  In the end, Lent – and Easter – ultimately triumph.

That is, they triumph over the spectacle of people “guided by a fool, and not by reason” – as symbolized in the painting – along with a burning torch, “symbolic of dispute and destruction.”  (Hmmmm…)  In short, Bruegel‘s painting “is often read as the triumph of Lent, since the figure of Carnival seems to bid farewell with his left hand and his eyes lifted to the sky.”

All of which could well be metaphors for some of what’s going on these days…

Another note from The beginning of Lent – 2018:  The “Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or ‘full-scale practice.’  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)”  And then there’s this additional side note:

There are actually 46 days of Lent.  That is, 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which again just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Fight Between Carnival” link in the Wikipedia article on Lent.  The full caption: “‘The Fight Between Carnival and Lent‘ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1558–1559).” Note the upper image shows a mere “detail;”  see the whole painting at Wikipedia.

For additional information on the upcoming season – during which I’ll do further posts on the appropriate subjects – see My Lenten meditation and/or On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.  Or for suggestions, see 10 Things To Give Up For Lent In 2019.

Re:  The “modern-day illustration at left.”  It’s from Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, which noted Lent is devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, alms-givingatonement and self-denial.

But that season of self-denial is preceded by “Fat Tuesday.”  That’s the day before Ash Wednesday…  The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”  

Wikipedia added, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.  A side note:  I Googled “film 40 days and 40 nights Sundays off,” to see if any Hollywood types had caught on to the “Sundays off” aspect of Lent.  From what I could see, “Apparently not.”  For more information, see Why Sundays Don’t Count During Lent | Guideposts.