Monthly Archives: August 2020

St. Mary, 2020 – and “Walls of Separation…”

Mary (mother of Jesus) – who heeded God’s call “to set out on a mission of charity…”

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August 16, 2020 – Finally, I get to do a fun post. Fun because it takes me back to last year’s St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem. That’s because yesterday – August 15 – was the feast day of St. Mary the Virgin. (As celebrated in the Episcopal Church.) And it’s a reminder that last year I got to visit – among other places – Mary’s spring in Ein Kerem, in Israel. For more on this Mary see August 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, and Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia:

She is identified [as] the mother of Jesus through divine intervention. Christians hold her son Jesus to be Christ (i.e., the messiah) and God the Son Incarnate. Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her, also describing the birth of Jesus… [She] is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the Church. Christians of the Catholic Church[,] Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God and the Theotokos, literally “Bearer of God.”

As for Ein Karem (at right, “in the Jerusalem hills”): According to tradition, it’s where Mary stopped for water while visiting John the Baptist’s parents. In turn, that’s when the soon-to-be born John “leaped” in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. (Luke 1:41.)

And here’s what I wrote last year about that visit: “Thursday May 16[, 2019] we visited Ein Kerem, the Church of the Visitation and Mary’s spring.” After that we had lunch at the “Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour” – a really good meal – then visited the Church of the Nativity and the “chapel” – and Cave – of St. Jerome, both in Bethlehem:

The church [including the cave] was both packed and crowded. There we stood a long while, waiting to do a hump-through-a-tunnel extension of the tour. It was then I noticed a fellow pilgrim in danger of getting stressed out by all the crowds and noise. So I did a Good-Samaritan thing – kind of – and persuaded him to join me at the garden restaurant next door – and have a prophylactic Taybeh (Palestinian) beer. 

In other words, you had a choice…

You could bend down and crawl through a small, dark, damp tunnel, with somebody’s rear-end right in front of you – and yours right in front of the face of the person behind you. Or you could do what I did and opt for some liquid refreshment. (In the process helping a stressed-out fellow pilgrim.) Of that episode I wrote later that in such situations you need to “pick your battles.” And that it always seemed to me that finding a spiritual breakthrough usually comes when you’re alone, not “surrounded and jostled by hordes of hot, sweaty and pushy ‘fellow travelers.’”

But we’re going a bit off on a tangent here…

Getting back to 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, it explained why she is often shown wearing blue, as in the top image. “In Renaissance paintings especially, Mary is portrayed wearing blue, a tradition going back to Byzantine Empire, to about 500 A.D., where blue was ‘the colour of an empress.'” Another explanation: In Medieval and Renaissance Europe they got blue pigment from lapis lazuli, “a stone imported from Afghanistan of greater value than gold… Hence, it was an expression of devotion and glorification to swathe the Virgin in gowns of blue.”

In turn the highlight of the day’s Bible readings is the Magnificat, beginning “My soul magnifies the Lord.” In Luke, Mary recites this hymn during her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. “In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist, the child moves within Elizabeth’s womb. When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings what is now known as the Magnificat in response.”

But of course Mary’s life wasn’t always – or maybe even that oftenjust a bowl of cherries. See for example the Seven Sorrows of Mary, including but not limited to the flight into Egypt, losing Jesus – at 12 years old – in the Temple, meeting Him carrying the cross, the Crucifixion and burial. “When Mary said ‘yes’ to bringing Jesus into the world, she took on both the joys and the pains that came with it. “

Which brings us back to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and to last year’s visit to Israel. And to my photo above left. That is, we ended Mary 16 – the same day we visited Mary’s Spring – at Bethlehem‘s Wall of Separation, also known as the “Israeli West Bank barrier.” And in a bit of sarcasm – or irony – we stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.”

I took some photos of both the “Walled Off” and the Wall of Separation that runs right by it, and right through the City Of Jesus’ birth. Doing that I caught the expression of the Palestinian in the foreground of the photo above left, and later commented, “That look about says it all.*”

Then there was the irony of Bethlehem as where Jesus was born, and thus where “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” – expressed in Him – were to begin. “But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in His birthplace, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

And speaking of “Walls That Divide Us,” tomorrow – Monday, August 17 – will begin the Twenty-third full week of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s hoping that someday that “wall between us” will come down too, along with all the other walls that divide people, as expressed in Ephesians 2:14. Speaking of the wall that once (?) divided Jews and Gentiles, the Good News Translation reads, “For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.”

We could use lots more of that. The only problem is, we may have to do a lot of the work ourselves. Meanwhile, here’s my photo of “Mary’s Spring,” from last year:

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia. See also Mary’s spring in Ein Kerem –, and Ein Karem – Wikipedia.

As to weeks of the Covid pandemic, see for example  On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.” Or for my exercise and other weekly-quota routines, starting on Monday, March 16 and ending Sunday night, March 22d.

The lower photo I took myself during that trip to Israel last year. (2019.) And re: “That look about says it all,” here’s a bigger view of the photo:

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“That look about says it all.”

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On the Transfiguration – 2020

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The most recent major feast day was The Transfiguration of Jesus; August 6, 2020. And just as an aside, we are now in Week 21 of the COVID-19 pandemic. So somehow I want to tie in our eventual recovery from that pandemic to The Transfiguration of Jesus.

Another aside: I’ve always found it really hard to get a good lead image for earlier posts on the Transfiguration. (Most paintings are way too long and narrow, like the one at left. It’s from my 2015 Greatest Miracle post, meaning that I had to wrap the type around the uppermost image, which I don’t like to do.) 

So this year I opted for an image by Googling “covid a blessing to earth images.” I got the topmost image by first Googling Transfiguration Synonyms at (And finding an article on how the Covid is “giving the planet a break.”)

Among the synonyms for transfiguration were advance, revision, and transformation. Somehow that led me to consider the transformation we here on earth are – and will continue to be – going through. Partly because of the Covid, but also because there may be some silver linings to this cloud. And how all that may relate to the Transfiguration of Jesus itself…

In order of posting, I wrote about this Feast Day in 2015’s Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World, then again in On the Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016. And see also last year’s (2019’s) “On to Jerusalem!” That post came up when I typed “Transfiguration” in the search box above right, but I’m not sure why. (After a quick review of the post.) But it’s an interesting commentary on pilgrimages in general, and especially my 2019 pilgrimage to Israel.

Which I could also say about Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

It’s an interesting commentary that Includes the image at right, tied to the idea how the Transfiguration “fulfilled a centuries-old dream for Moses.” Briefly, God kept Moses from entering the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52.) But in the Transfiguration, both Moses and Elijah joined Jesus at the top Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:3, e.g.), well inside the Promised Land. In other words, it took a thousand years after he died for Moses to finally enter the Promised Land. And again, that happened when he appeared with Jesus atop Mount Tabor:

Moses finally entered the Promised Land – [at] the Transfiguration – albeit a Millennium after he expected…  Moses died some seven miles due east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, inside Jordan [on Mount Nebo], while in the Transfiguration he “met up” with Jesus on Mount Tabor, inside Israel and 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.

But getting back to Transfiguration … 2016. (And its interesting commentary.) It gave me some points to add on today’s topic. I published the post just before a summer-of-2016 pilgrimage – actually two pilgrimages – the first involving a “mountain” hike, and second a canoe trip:

Next Tuesday – July 26 – I’ll be heading north to Skagway… From there I’ll spend four days hiking the Chilkoot Trail(The ‘meanest 33 miles in history.’) Once that’s done, my brother and I will spend 16 days canoeing down the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

Three days later – still driving from Utah through British Columbia up to Skagway – I posted an update. And the beginning of the update cited 2015’s “Greatest Miracle in the World:”

Transfiguration “stands as an allegory of the transformative nature” of the Bible-faith. (Indicating a “marked change…”) Other key quotes from the post include that God has His own time-table [and] that as a result, Bible-explorers generally learn quickly that patience is definitely a virtue. Which definitely applied to Moses. The thing is, while Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land … he wasn’t allowed to actually enter the Promised Land. That is, not until a thousand years or so after he died. 

A couple notes. First, some people consider the Transfiguration “the greatest” because unlike the other miracles of Jesus, this one happened to Him. (In all the other miracles Jesus did things for other people. Also, some might consider the Resurrection “the Greatest Miracle.”)  

The post also noted that Bible-explorers learn fast that patience is a virtue. Which applied to Moses, and now certainly applies to all of us suffering through the uncertainty and tragedy of a plague that seems like it will never end. But Moses probably thought along the same lines as we do today. In his case, “I spent all this time helping getting this rebellious people to their Promised Land, and I don’t even get to go in?” In our case, “When will this ever end?”

Moving on: According to Merriam Webster, “transfiguration” can refer to this Christian feast. Or to a change in form or appearance, or to a METAMORPHOSIS. In turn, a metamorphosis is a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means,” or a “striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.”

Simply put, in the current plague we are surely going through a metamorphosis. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a striking “alteration in circumstances.” And since the change was so unexpected – mostly because we thought such plagues were a thing of the past – that change in circumstance seems, to many, to have occurred by supernatural means. (Notwithstanding a number of conspiracy theories abounding these days, by which secular types search for more sinister answers.)

But getting back to the point: What is it that makes the Transfiguration special?

Just that it’s “a pivotal moment,” like the one we’re going through now. It’s a moment where the mountain setting is presented “as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.”

And you could say the same thing about COVID-19. It’s another moment “where human nature meets God.” And where – if we play our cards right – we can reconnect with Jesus in a way we couldn’t have before. In other words, in this crisis we are definitely being “weighed in the balances.” Which means we don’t want to end up like Belshazzar, in Daniel, Chapter 5.

There the key phrase was, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” (Daniel 5:25.) Which is being interpreted, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” So as a result of the current pandemic we certainly don’t want to be “found wanting,” by God.

Something to think about…

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Have we seen the Handwriting on the wall,’ as a result of the COVID pandemic?

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The upper image is courtesy of COVID-19 gave the planet a break. Now’s the time to keep up. The caption – as noted – is from Coronavirus Might Be The Biggest Blessing In Disguise. Which is another way of saying Every cloud has a silver lining. See also Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining – Deep English. Among other things, that post said when the Bubonic plague hit London in 1606, a young playwright named William Shakespeare “used the lockdown to his advantage.” And ours, “even to this day…”

The “greatest miracle in the world” is from Thomas Aquinas. He “considered the Transfiguration ‘the greatest miracle’ in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.”

The lower image is courtesy of Belshazzar’s feast – Wikipedia. The “Handwriting on the wall” verses – see also Idioms by The Free Dictionary – are found at Daniel 5:25-28. And technically speaking, the phrase “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” is found only at Daniel 5:27, and applies only to the word “TEKEL.”