An unintended consequence – and ‘Victory O Lord!’

Hey, if you think I’m strange, Google the Battle of Refidim – where Moses (at center) may have been the first “sport fan” to say, “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work…”

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“My” Tampa Bay Lightning just won the Stanley Cup, and I feel vindicatedFinally!

Not to mention, “Blessed by God,” or at least, “Back in God’s good graces.” That is, last May I posted “As a spiritual exercise.” In it I described a system of ritual purification that I’ve followed since 1989, as a way of helping my favorite college team win. It began with some experimental ways to “help” Florida State University win its first football national championship.

In the spring of 1992 I added Daily Bible Reading, with this result:

And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

“My” FSU football team went on to win two more national championships (in 1999 and 2013). They also established the Florida State football dynasty: 14 consecutive Top 4 finishes, a feat no other team has been able to match. But lately, FSU football has fallen on hard times…

They’ve suffered through back-to-back losing seasons – 2018 and 2019 – for the first time since 1976. (Bobby Bowden’s first year as head coach.) And a lousy start to the 2020 season as well… Of course I have my theories, like maybe God wanted me to ease up on my hours of the stair-stepping, with a 30-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights? (After all, I am 69 years old, and that’s a lot of wear and tear on the knees, ankles and other vulnerable joints.)

But that’s a subject for a post I’ll do later…

Meanwhile, on a personal level I have been doing quite well. (Including lots of overseas travel and other adventures, at least before the COVID hit.) Then too, there have been successes for my “other favorite teams” – and coaches – as listed in “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, from June 2018, and On my “mission from God,” from February 2019…

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There’s more on that later, but first a word about the Battle of Refidim. (Or “Rephidim” in some spellings.) You can read about it at Exodus, Chapter 17, and notably verses 10-12.

3,500 years ago the Amalekites launched a sneak attack – like Pearl Harbor – on the Children of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt. (They’d just arrived at Rephidim near Mount Sinai.) While Joshua led the army, Moses and two buddies went up to the top of a hill to watch:

Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

As noted earlier, that sounds a lot like a modern-day sport fan, watching his team on TV. Sometimes moving around the room, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting. Other times he’ll mute the sound, or tell his wife to leave the room – because she may be jinxing his team!

Or in the case of Moses, his “team” started winning when he held his arms up, but they started losing when he let his arms down. Which again raises the question: Was Moses the first sport-fan to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

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That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since 1989, trying to find those “things that work.” But lately those things haven’t gone so well. At least not for the FSU football team…

As noted in 2018’s “Unintended consequences” there have been some “collateral wins” for some of my other teams. (Adopted or otherwise.) The FSU ladies won their first Women’s College World Series in June 2018. And of course the Tampa Bay Lightning had won their first Stanley Cup, but that was way back in 2004. So aside from the Lady ‘Noles in 2018, the last one of “my teams” to win a major championship was the Atlanta United football club, which captured its first MLS Cup in December 2018. (I moved to the Atlanta area back in 2010, so I “adopted” the Braves, Falcons and Atlanta United, as those among the teams I perform my ritual sacrifice for.)

And by the way, since that December 2018 I’ve proudly worn a “bad-ass black” Atlanta United ball cap. Including but not limited to my overseas travels. That included my trip to Israel back in May 2019, where I wore a Shemagh – from Ranger Joe’s at Fort Benning – on top of my “United” ball cap. (It “combined the best of the old and the new,” and also gave a visor that helped shield my eyes from the intense Eastern Mediterranean sun.)

But we digress… The point is that it’s been a long time since one of “my teams” won a major championship. And as I’ve mentioned, the FSU football team has really gone downhill. As a result I was starting to despair. I repeatedly asked God – metaphorically or otherwise – “What am I doing wrong? Why are you doing this to me and my teams?” Which is probably the same kind of questions the ancient Children of Israel asked when things went so wrong for them. (When you’re dealing with God, it seems that’s your first tendency, to blame yourself.)

Then came the night of Monday, September 28, 2020…

But first came the night of Saturday, September 26. I hadn’t been paying any attention to the Lightning, but on a whim I checked out “NHL scores.” Much to my surprise, they seemed to be on the way to this year’s Stanley Cup finals. That Saturday night I learned that they led the Dallas Stars three games to one. I started keeping track of that fourth game – tied at two all at the time – but later found out they lost 3-2 in double overtime.

For the life of me I could have sworn these were the semi-finals, and that if the Lightning won that fourth game they’d get into the finals. I was wrong, as I found out that next Monday night. Late in the evening I checked their website and found out they’d won that fourth game, and with it their second Stanley Cup. And all the while – that blessed Monday night – I paid no attention, not keeping track, not worrying about their progress…

Then I wondered if this was not unlike what the Zen master said in Zen in the Art of Archery. That rather than “aiming” your bow, you should wait until “it shoots.” Or, “Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out! The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise.” (See Quotes From Zen in the Art of Archery.)

In other words, I didn’t pay much attention to the Lightning these past few months, and they won their second Stanley Cup. I didn’t pay much attention to the FSU women’s softball team in 2018, and they won their first College World Series. And I didn’t pay much attention to the FSU women’s soccer team in 2018, and they went on to win their first National Championship.

But what I did pay attention to – what I’ve continued doing, lo these many years – is keep on practicing the discipline of “ritual sacrifice.” (As I once wrote, “God answers our prayers, but often not in the way we expect.” Or words to that effect. Thus the Unintended consequences” post.)

But we’re ranging way too far afield. I may explore these esoteric ideas later, but for now here’s the point: For the first time in the last two years, I don’t feel totally lost in my ritual sacrifice. For the first time in a long time I feel vindicated, and that maybe all this exercise and Bible-reading hasn’t been a waste of time. (Not that I’d think that anyway. “The Reward is in the Discipline.”)

For now it’s enough to celebrate “my” Tampa Bay Lightning winning its second Stanley Cup. And feeling vindicated, finally! And enjoying the feeling of being “blessed by God,” or at least “back in God’s good graces.” Now, if I could just get that FSU football team back on track…

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Captain Steven Stamkos lifts the Stanley Cup Monday night, September 28, capping the Lightning’s “comeback season after being swept in the first round last year.”  

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The upper image is courtesy of Battle of Refidim – Wikipedia. The caption: “John Everett Millais, ‘Victory O Lord!‘ (1871).”

The full credit for the lead sentence is: Tampa Bay Lightning wins Stanley Cup – NBC2 News. See also Tampa Bay Lightning Win Stanley Cup in Pandemic Bubble, and for a kicker (so to speak), Tom Brady congratulates Tampa Bay Lightning on Stanley Cup.

Re: Battle of Refidim post. In October 2015 I posted – in a companion blog – Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

I borrowed the photo to the left of the paragraph – beginning “Meanwhile, on a personal level” – from the post, “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth. My caption: The FSU Women’s first CWS title:  A recent example of the Law of unintended Consequences?

Re: The FSU football dynasty. The reference is to If Florida State in the 1990s isn’t a dynasty, then what is? Another headline: “The case for FSU’s dynasty.” The major listed accomplishment: “Fourteen consecutive top-five finishes,” which should read 14 consecutive Top-Four finishes. In one of the 14 seasons the AP had FSU Number 5, while the Coaches Poll had them ranked Number 4.

I was going to say the lower image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup – Image Results. (Note the similar “arms up.”) An article accompanied the photo, which led me to the original story, “How social media reacted after the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup,” from | The Star | Canada’s largest daily.

On the Book of Job as “Law School 101”

From “Law School: How to Brief a Case” (“case studies”) – A useful tool for Bible study?

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Since the COVID hit – some 27 weeks ago* – I’ve been watching a lot of Great Courses Plus on TV. (Instead of cable TV, which I don’t have, or old DVDs.) One of those Great Courses – the lecture on Understanding the Old Testament – was a real eye-opener.

In Lecture 8 of the course – “The Covenant Code in Exodus” – Professor Robert D. Miller II, PhD cited Raymond Westbrook. Westbrook said the so-called “law codes” of Old Testament times were not – strictly speaking – statutory commands like the ones we know today. Instead they were the equivalent of school texts, “as if you’re teaching someone law.” He noted that in law school, teachers often start with borderline, theoretical scenarios. By starting with such “weird cases,” students can then move on to more-easily solved “ordinary” real-life situations.

One such “weird case” in the Bible – Miller said – was Exodus 21:22. (Basically asking, “how often do ‘men strive’ and injure a pregnant women?” The passage is addressed further below.) Starting with that unlikely scenario, a professor could move on to endless hypothetical examples. And all of them would be ripe with potential of educating people about the law. (Another note: Miller began the segment by saying such ancient Near-Eastern codes – like the Code of Hammurabi, strikingly similar to parts of the Torah – were never intended to be a “binding law code.”)

Miller went on to say that many such ancient law codes look more like a “Babylonian medical curriculum,” in that they were “descriptive, not prescriptive.” And finally he noted that the true meaning of Torah in Hebrew was closer to “instruction” or “teaching” rather than “The Law.” See also Torah – Definition (from Torah Resources International), which notes the “torah is, therefore, in the strict sense instruction designed to teach us the truth about God. Torah means direction,teaching, instruction,or doctrine.”

So instead of “law” as we understand that word today, much of the Torah is – according to Miller and Westbrook – more closely related to “school texts,” “curriculum,” “teaching,” and “hypotheticals.” Which brings up the “weird case” noted above –  Exodus 21:22 – along with Book of Job as a whole.

I mention the Book of Job because – since Thursday, August 20 – I’ve been reading that book as the Old Testament Daily Office Readings (via Satucket). And those rather depressing readings continued until last Friday, September 18. (When the OT readings switched to Esther 1:1-4,10-19, “or Judith 4:1-15.”) Which brings up a problem I’ve always had with Job. (“Imaged” at right.)

I’ve always felt the book is based on an impossible premise. That premise? That Job alone – of all the people in world history, aside from Jesus Christ Himself – is totally without sin. And that’s contrary to a point made repeatedly in the Bible, that no one – aside from Jesus Himself – is without sin. (See 1st John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” along with Romans 3:10-12,Psalm 14:1-3,Psalm 53:1-3, all saying “there is none who is righteous, no not one.”)

In other words, the Book of Job does seem to be a “hypothetical,” as Miller and Westbrook noted. See Hypotheticals – Wikipedia, referring to “possible situations, statements or questions about something imaginary rather than something real.” In other words hypotheticals deal with the concept of “what if?” (As in, “What if there were a man – besides Jesus – who was totally without sin, yet bad things kept happening to him?”) In turn they are important learning tools “because they provide a means for understanding what we would do if the world was different.” 

I’ve discussed the Book of Job in earlier posts, included in the notes, but getting back to the OT reading mentioned above, Exodus 21:22: It too seems more like a possible “hypothetical situation,” of the type law students dissect in their course studies. (Again, asking the question, “how often do ‘men strive’ and injure a pregnant women?”)

Which brings up the case study method that law schools are known for: The teaching method using “decision-forcing cases to put students in the role of people who were faced with difficult decisions at some point in the past.” Put another way, unlike other teaching methods, “the case method requires that instructors refrain from providing their own opinions about the decisions in question. Rather, the chief task of instructors who use the case method is asking students to devise, describe, and defend solutions to the problems presented by each case.”

In other words both Exodus 21:22 and Job seem to be “hypotheticals,” designed to teach students how to work with “the Law,” rather than a set of hard and fast “laws” to be followed literally. (Consider Job 10:18, “Why did you deliver me from my mother’s womb? Why didn’t you let me die at birth?” Taken out of context, or too literally, it could cause no end of trouble…)

Which may be why Jesusopened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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But getting back to ongoing Bible readings – and the Liturgical year (including feast days): There are three big feast days this month. The first – Monday, September 14 – was Holy Cross Day, one of several Feasts of the Cross commemorating the cross “in the crucifixion of Jesus.”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

See On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.” As another aside, the Feast day for St Matthew, Evangelist is coming up on Monday, September 21, and the Feast of St Michael and All Angels will be Wednesday, September 29. The latter featured a painting (below), “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.” To which I responded:

 “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

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“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

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The upper image is courtesy of Law School Case Brief – Image Results. It accompanies a video, “Law School: How to Brief a Case – YouTube.”

As to weeks of “the Covid,” see On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I explained that, to me “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – 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.” For my weekly-quotas, the week from Monday, March 16 to Sunday night, March 22d.

Re: Understanding the Old Testament, Robert D. Miller II, PhD, Lecture 8, The Covenant Code in Exodus. To access more information go to Great Courses Plus – Start Learning Online Today.

Re: Job as “‘imaged’ at right.” Courtesy of the Wikipedia article, the full caption: “Carved wooden figure of Job. Probably from Germany, 1750–1850 CE. The Wellcome Collection, London.”

For more on hypotheticals – in the “law school” sense – see Legal definition of Hypothetical Question:A mixture of assumed or established facts and circumstances, developed in the form of a coherent and specific situation, which is presented to an expert witness at a trial to elicit his or her opinion. (The “coherent a nd specific” errata were in the original.

Further, such a question “contains a mixture of assumed or established facts or circumstances, in the form of a coherent and specific situation, presented to an expert witness at trial to elicit his or her opinion.” And such a question “includes all the facts in evidence needed to form an opinion.” Then, based on the assumption that those facts are true, “the witness is asked whether he or she can arrive at an opinion, and if so, to state it.”

Re: Exodus 21:22: The complete passage goes on to verses 23-25:

 22 If men who are fighting strike a pregnant woman and her child is born prematurely, but there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband demands and as the court allows. 23 But if a serious injury results, then you must require a life for a life – 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, and stripe for stripe.

Note that this “Lex talionis” or an eye for an eye was a rule of limitation. requiring the perpetrator be punished only as much as the victim suffered, as opposed to unlimited or ongoing revenge. “Without it, a wrongful injury might give rise to wrongful retaliatory injuries in excess of the original loss or harm, which, in turn, would be retaliated for, and so on ad infinitum.” The ‘lex talionis’ before and after criminal law. Note too this passage has been used on both sides of the abortion debate. (Google “exodus 21:22 abortion.”)

Re: Earlier posts on the Book of Job. See On Job, the not-so-patient, from 2014, and On “Job the not patient” – REDUX, from 2015. I just reviewed the latter post just before publishing this post, and it’s worth doing another redux in the near future. The ending: “[A]s Isaac Asimov put it, ‘At the end of God’s speech, Job realizes divine omnipotence and understands the folly or trying to penetrate God’s plan and purposes with the limited mind of a human being.’ (487)   And that’s a lesson we need to keep on learning…(This was right after noting an image that humans are no more prepared to comprehend the full measure of God’s power than “cats are prepared to study calculus.”)

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption: “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.” See also Purgatory – Wikipedia, about the “intermediate state after physical death for expiatory purification.” In other words, instead of the two “pass/fail” options of heaven and hell, “purgatory” provides a third alternative, a temporary place where one undergoes a purifying “fire” that is “expiatory and purifying not punitive like hell fire.”

On an old friend – and his “Bible literalism…”

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I just found out that we don’t have any of the original manuscripts that make up the 27 books of the New Testament. None. No Gospels, no letters or “Epistles,” and not even any of the Acts of the Apostles. None.

What we do have are “copies of copies of copies.”

Which doesn’t make a bit of difference to me. But it should make a difference to someone – like an old friend of mine who I last saw several years ago – who told me that he believed the Bible was literally true, and was thus “without error.” (See Biblical literalism – Wikipedia.)

Now this old friend – let’s call him “Dick” – was a real rabble-rouser when I first knew him, back in the 1970’s. For one thing he was famous for off-color banter. On one weekend camping trip he spoke of hearing “organisms” in the night just past. (Meaning “orgasms.”) And for a while then he drove a hearse, and once – stopped by police for a moving violation – calmly said, as the officer unfolded his ticket book, “Uh, yes, I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries and a coke.”

But times change and so did Dick. Like when I visited him – the last time as it turned out – and he turned from the TV news and said that to me. (About the Bible being “literally true.”) I was totally flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say then, and it’s bothered me ever since. (Saying “What are you, an idiot” seemed a bit harsh, even with, “BTW, that’s a rhetorical question.”)

What brought all this back was a recent lecture on Great Courses Plus, The New Testament, by Bart D. Ehrman, PH.D. This particular lecture was, “Do we have the original New Testament?” The short answer – and to me the surprising answer – turned out to be, “No, we don’t.”

We can say with some confidence that we don’t have the original text of any of the books of the New Testament. … There is no alternative to this situation and there never will be unless by some unbelievable stroke of luck we discover the original text themselves. We do not have the originals of any of the books that were later canonized into the New Testament. What we have are copies of the originals, or better yet, copies of the copies of the copies of the originals – copies made for the most part hundreds of years after the originals themselves.

(Emphasis added.) Which again, doesn’t make a bit of difference to me.

Personally, I believe the Bible “proves itself” with what I do with it as an individual believer. What I do as a Believer, and how I interact with God in my own life.* In how I have gone through the tests and trials that come to every person, and yet – by and through ongoing Bible study – I came through those trials not only whole, but better for the experience.

And in the way that – through reading the Bible and applying it to my own life in my old age – I’ve ended up feeling alive and cheerful. (Despite having “come to the breaking point – and broken.*”)

Alive and cheerful about where I am and where I’m going, and how I can now be the kind of witness that people will listen to. And about feeling – with Frank Sinatra – The Best Is Yet to Come.

I’ve written on some problems reading the Bible “too literally.” First in 2014’s On three suitors (a parable), and later in 2015’s True Test of Faith. One problem came from the Hebrew method of writing:

in Hebrew there are no vowels, and the letters of a sentence are strung together. An example:  a sentence in English, “The man called for the waiter.” Written in Hebrew, the sentence would be “THMNCLLDFRTHWTR.” But among other possible translations, the sentence could read, in English, “The man called for the water.”

Another problem came from Jesus’ usual method of teaching, parables. (That is, a short story different from a fable, in that fables use animals as characters, while parables “have human characters.”) In plain words He taught by parables, “a type of metaphorical analogy.”

So one question is: “How do you literally interpret a parable?” Then too – according to the book Christian Testament – parables are “very much an oral method of teaching.” Further, in such a tradition, it was up to the listener to decipher the meaning of the parable, to him:

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 can be revealed. We are supposed to create nimshalim* for ourselves.

After which I noted such a thought was one “that can give a conservative Christian apoplexy; the fact the Bible might mean different things to different people.” Like my old friend Dick. Which means that – to me – the choice is up to the individual Bible reader. “They” can use a strict or narrow interpretation, “but for me and my house,” I will use the more open-minded or even – gasp! – liberal Interpretationso as to implement the object and purpose of the document

In other words, I’ll use the interpretation of a God who accepts anyone (who comes Him), and who expects us to do greater miracles than Jesus. And who wants our lives to be “abundant.” (Which I’ve heard before somewhere, with Luke 24:45. And that’s not to mention “adventure…”)

Meanwhile, I now have an answer to what my old friend Dick said when I visited a few years back. Thanks to the years I’ve spent working on this blog, I would respond today that – as far as reading the Bible literally goes – “That’s a very good place to start!

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Maria apparently went “beyond the fundamentals” – her “do-re-mi’s…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Flabbergasted – Image Results.

Re: The Bible as “without error and therefore completely true.” See Biblical inerrancy – Wikipedia. and – for a view different than mine – Why is it important to believe in biblical inerrancy.)

Also, vis-a-vis missing NT manuscripts: The night before posting I learned – through another Great Courses Bible lecture – that many “puns” in original OT Hebrew were lost in translation. See for example Bible Secrets Revealed, Episode 1: “Lost in Translation,” and Five Mistakes in Your Bible Translation | HuffPost. From the former, “different copies of the same Biblical books from the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t often match, [so] at the time of Jesus, the Hebrew Biblical texts existed in different versions and traditions that were still being sorted out. What this means is that it is very difficult to argue that the Bible is the verbatim ‘Word of God,’ especially when all of the ancient manuscripts contain different words.” From the latter, “In the original Hebrew, the 10th Commandment prohibits taking, not coveting. The biblical Jubilee year is named for an animal’s horn and has nothing to do with jubilation. The pregnant woman in Isaiah 7:14 is never called a virgin.” Also, “Metaphors are particularly difficult to translate, because words have different metaphoric meanings in different cultures. Shepherds in the Bible were symbols of might, ferocity and royalty, whereas now they generally represent peaceful guidance and oversight.” These may be in a future post.

Re: “My old friend Dick.” It wasn’t just me he “flabbergasted.” A mutual friend said he also cut off all communications with his family, and other old friends, who didn’t share his “conservative” views.

Re: Interacting with God in my own life. See for example On my “mission from God,” and “As a spiritual exercise…”

Re: “Christian Testament.” The full reference is Education for Ministry Year Two (Hebrew Scriptures, Christian Testament) 2nd Edition by William Griffin, Charles Winters, Christopher Bryan and Ross MacKenzie (1991). The “nimshalim” quote(s) are from page 321 of my copy.

Re: Despite having ‘come to the breaking point.'” In one of Garry Wills‘ books he uses a translation of the Lord’s Prayer which – instead of “lead us not into temptation” – reads, “and lead us not to the breaking point.” I’ve always found that translation far more applicable to my life…

Re: Nimshalim. See Mashal + Nimshal = Meaning/Teaching | Discipleship Curriculum: “The teaching method was simply brilliant. A fictional story (the mashal) was created by the Rabbi. This was almost always in response to something going on in their immediate world or an important principle they wanted to teach. The story would be crafted in such a way as to disguise it’s intent but also in such a way as to intrigue.” See also Mashal (allegory) – Wikipedia, about a “short parable with a moral lesson or religious allegory, called a nimshal.” (Nimshalim is the plural form.)  

Re: “Me and my house.” The reference is to Joshua 24:15. In the ESV, “choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The lower image is courtesy of A Very Good Place Start Sound Music – Image Results. See also Sound Of Music – Do-Re-Mi Lyrics | MetroLyrics. The lesson from this metaphoric parable – from The Sound of Musicis that real Christians will go on to read and write great works, and perhaps create great symphonic masterpieces in music, while the “boot camp Christians” will continue on, endlessly going over their a-b-c’s and do-re-mi’s in an ongoing cycle of repetition.

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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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and largely overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

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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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added-on phrase, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” And as noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” And as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The image below is courtesy of: “”

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On the Transfiguration – 2020

The Coronavirus – A Blessing In Disguise For Humanity,” and maybe a metamorphosis?

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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.”

On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid…”

I just got back from 4 days’ canoeing on the Missouri River – and no, the river wasn’t this low…

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As the photo-caption above says, I just returned from a 4-day canoe trip on the Missouri River – 115 river miles, from South Sioux City to Omaha Nebraska. (Two weeks in all – three days’ drive out, four days back, the rest setting up or packing up.) Specifically, I got back last Friday, July 17.

And my last post was on June 20, Remembering Monday, May 18, 1992. (Including the image at right, it talked about the day I did my first Daily Office (Bible) Reading, on May 18, 1992.)

Which all means that I haven’t done a lot of posting lately on liturgical seasons or feast days. And on that note, the feast day for Mary Magdalene was Wednesday, July 22.

I’ve done a number of posts on this Mary “Maudlin,” including last year’s On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations.” Also, On Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents(from 2018), 2015’s On Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” and – from 2017 – On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints. (I.e., Mary’s Feast Day – July 22 – is followed by this particular James’ Feast Day, July 25.)

Last year’s post emphasized one indisputable: That Mary Magdalene showed way more courage and faith than the 11 male disciples, when push came to shove. Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” See also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

In turn that 2019 post cited 2018’s Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.” That was an early post exploring the idea of conservative Christians “playing it too safe.” That is, choosing not to explore the “rich tapestry of life.” That led me to conclude that “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’” (“It’s an oxymoron.”) Then too, that rules and regulations post brought up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant, that “all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations.” 

On that note, the post pointed out that Jesus – by His own admission – came into the world to save sinners, not those who blindly “follow all the rules and regulations.” (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) Which certainly applied to Mary, that “bare-breasted reformed harlot.”

Which brings up “the letter versus the spirit of the law.” That is, the “idiomatic antithesis” about those who “obey the letter of the law but not its spirit.” In a sentence, “Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit” can be done by “exploiting technicalitiesloopholes, and ambiguous language.” And it’s based on 2d Corinthians 3:6, “This” – the Gospel of Jesus – “is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” That is, life in abundance. (John 10:10.)  

Which all leads us to July 25, the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament, but this James is also called “St. James the Greater.” And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. (Seen at left. See also Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.)

And speaking of pilgrimages – like my recent one down the Missouri River – see also the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts: “The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September.” September 2017 that is. That year my Adventurous Brother and I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. (The French Way. Also, in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”)

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which happened on 2016’s Chilkoot Trail hike:

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 this post celebrates both Mary Magdalene, as “the Apostle to the Apostles,” and St. James as the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And speaking of pilgrimages, they can also be a way to “escape a plague.” Or at least get away from it for four days or so. (But see also A Pilgrimage during the time of the Black Plague, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Meanwhile, we always have “the Risen Christ” to fall back on…

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 Mary Magdalene – first to see the Risen Christ – thus Apostle to the Apostles…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Lower Missouri River – Image Results. “The image was accompanied by a 2012 article from the Sioux City Journal, about how the low water level – eight years ago – could hurt boating and tourism.” I borrowed the image from a post on my companion blog, On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, from July 5, 2020. That post was a preview, and I’ll be writing a postmortem – not literally – in a future post. As in an analysis or study of a recently completed event. The caption for the photo originally said, “I just heard the Lower Missouri River near Sioux City was pretty low. Could it be this bad?” Quick answer: It wasn’t.  

As to “Week 19 of ‘the Covid'” in the post title, see 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.”

Re: Pilgrimage to escape plague. See for example, “Flight of the townspeople into the country to escape from the Plague, 1630,” seen below, courtesy of Pilgrimage Escape Plagues – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rembrandt – The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen. (It’s the lead image in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.“)  See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.  The full caption: “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, by Rembrandt (1638).”  And speaking of “racy,” the artist Titian did two versions of Mary crying.  For the “racier” – 1533 – version see Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

For more on this “Mary,” see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

Remembering Monday, May 18, 1992…

Another event from May 1992: Sister Act released – 11 days after I “started reading the Bible…”

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This post is on catching up on “skipped Propers” that often happen at the beginning of a new Liturgical Season. And about “going back to my roots.” Back to the day when I first started reading the Bible on a daily basis. Way back on May 18, 1992 – 11 days before Sister Act.

That is, two weeks ago last May 31, 2020, I did the Daily Office reading for Pentecost Sunday. (According to the Daily Office Lectionary – and my copy of “Year 2, Volume 2,” at left – of the four-volume set.)

But then for the next day’s reading, I had to skip ahead some 42 pages, to the reading for the week after “the Sunday closest to June 1.” So from that next Monday-after-Pentecost on, I had to – or really, chose to – read not only the reading for that particular day. In addition, I also had to (chose to) also read some of the “skipped Propers.”

Which means that by Saturday, June 6, 2020, I’d done the scheduled Daily Office readings, plus some skipped Propers. (And according to the Daily Office Lectionary, those Saturday readings were Psalm 55, Psalm 138, and Psalm 139, along with Ecclesiastes 5:8-20Galatians 3:23-4:11, and Matthew 15:1-20.) But also on that Saturday I had to do some more catching up.

That’s because – as noted – Pentecost came on May 31, but after that the daily readings jumped from page 12 to page 54. (Of Year 2, Volume 2.) To explain better, “Proper 1” starts the readings for the weeks of the Season after Pentecost. And it starts with the Sunday closest to May 11. Which means that this year Daily Office readers had to skip ahead to Proper 4, for the week of the Sunday closest to June 1st. But because I’m assiduous, I don’t like to skip those “in-between readings.” (Readings “in between” those listed for Proper 1, up to the start of Proper 4.)

So each morning – that first week of June, 2020 – and after doing the “proper” reading for that particular day, I tried to read one or two of the skipped readings. And so, by that Saturday – June 6, 2020 – I had gotten caught up as far as the reading for the Monday of Proper 2. (For the Week of the Sunday closest to May 18. Which of course had already passed.) And there – on page 25 of Year 2, Volume 2 – I saw my handwritten notation, “5/18/92.”

As it turns out, that date was – as far as I can tell – the day that I first started reading the Bible, on a daily basis, through the discipline of the Daily Office. And the readings for that day – now over 28 years ago – started off with Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. (Another note: When I’m in the process of catching up at the beginning of a new liturgical season, I normally skip the day’s psalms.)

Which brings up some of the main readings for that day, over 28 years ago, starting with Proverbs 3:11-2. (That set of proverbs began with “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline.”) Those readings also included 1st John 3:18-4:6, starting with “Dear children, let us not love in word and speech but in deed and truth.” (Which seems especially appropriate these days.)

And also Matthew 11:1-6. (Which told of Jesus and John the Baptist – at left – with John in prison, asking if Jesus was “he who is to come?”) Which led in turn to this especially-relevant note, for today: The New Testament reading which included 1st John 4:1.

One version of that passage reads,”Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (It continues, “because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”) Which – strange as it may seem – mirrors perfectly what I was trying to say in Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” For example, in that post I cited 1st Thessalonians 5:21.

In the Good News Translation, “Put all things to the test: keep what is good.” And in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, “Explore everything and hold what is excellent.” 

So the point of that last post was that by such open-minded “exploring,” we real Christians can achieve that rich life experience that Jesus promised. (John 10:10.)  And that – to each individual – is the surest proof that God “is.” The surest proof that there is a God and that “He” is willing to work with us as individuals, to help us grow spiritually.

And as audacious as that claim sounds, it’s part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

That – as noted in Pentecost … “pleasing to the Lord” – is a method of theological reflection. I.e., a spiritual discipline by which we attain personal spiritual growth. It’s credited to John Wesley (at left), who noted four sources of such growth: Scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience:

Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity… Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally… Although traditional proof is complex, experience is simple… Although tradition establishes the evidence a long way off, experience makes it present to all persons.

Which – as it turns out – is hardly a novel idea. (That is, it’s hardly unique to Christianity.) Consider for example what Gautama Buddha – seen “below” – once explained:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations… Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or priests. After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

Which – by the way – is a quote I cited in Jesus Christ, Public Defender. It’s now a Kindle Book but I originally published it in paperback form in 1995. (The Kindle edition was published under the nom de plume “James B. Ford.”) Then too – right after the Buddha quote, in Chapter 8, “The Bible, Yoga and Zen” – I went on to cite 1st Thessalonians 5:21 and 1st John 4:1.

That is, a mere two years after I started reading the Bible on a daily basis, I published my first novel, “Zen in the Art of College Football.” Then in 1995 – one year after “Zen Football” and a mere three years after I started Daily Office reading –  I published Jesus Christ, Public Defender. (Now in its 4th Edition. And for more details on the life-long pilgrimage that followed, see – from February 2019 – the post On my “mission from God.”)

So, can you say to come full circle? But in the good way. Like the Buddhist anecdote: “A child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain. An adult looks at a mountain and sees many things. A Zen master looks at a mountain and sees a mountain.” But the point of all this is: My starting to read the Bible on a daily basis – back in 1992 – turned out to be a life-changing experience.

I’ve been through a lot since then. The death of my first wife in 2006, getting re-married way too soon and to the wrong woman. Which led to a nasty divorce, the loss of my career and my home – and to feeling abandoned by God. (As in, “Lead us not to the breaking point,” but He did, and I broke.) All of which just might be the functional equivalent of the exile that led to the creation of the Old Testament as we know it. See “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem,” in which talked about my then-upcoming trip to Israel in May 2019.

Which brings up the point that in the past few years I’ve come through and had a number of great adventures. Like that 2019 trip to Israel. And like canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi for eight days. (See On achieving closure, or type in that search.) Or hiking the Chilkoot Trail, then canoeing 440 miles “down” the Yukon River in Canada in 2016. Or hiking the Camino de Santiago twice, once from Pamplona (2017) and once from Porto, Portugal (2019).

And I’ve been publishing two blogs, and a number of books as well. (For a partial list see For a book version.) In other words, I’ve overcome any number of obstacles and arrived at a rich, fulfilling life. And it all started back on Monday, May 18, 1992…

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An open-minded Christian can learn even from a “Fat Buddhist…”

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The upper image is courtesy of May 1992 – Image Results. See also Sister Act – Wikipedia, and Sister Act (1992) – IMDb.

The “liturgical seasons” link is to The Liturgical Seasons of the Catholic Church. But see also Liturgical year – Wikipedia, about the “cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.” And List of Anglican Church Calendars, on “my” church’s seasons. “Ordinary time” or the “Time after Pentecost” runs from Pentecost Sunday to the beginning of Advent, which leads to Christmas, and so on…

Re: Handwritten notations. When I do a “daily” reading on the noted day, or within three days thereafter, I put in the relevant date, such as “5/18/92.” That signifies that I have read both the main readings – normally Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel – and the Psalms for that day. But when I can’t do a reading “within three days” – like when I have to “skip some Propers” – I put a check mark. That means I’ve done the main readings but not the Psalms. And according to those dates and check marks, I’m now on my 14th trip through the Bible.

The John the Baptist image is courtesy of Wikipedia. The caption: “‘The Baptism of Jesus Christ,‘ by Piero della Francesca, 1449.”

Re: Monday, May 18, 1992. See Calendar 1992 May – Image Results.

The Buddha quote is courtesy of Lawrence LeShan‘s book How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-DiscoveryBantam Edition, 1975, at pages 101-102. See also On the Bible as “transcendent” meditation. Also, as noted, On my “mission from God.”

The citations to 1st Thessalonians 5:21 and 1st John 4:1 – following the Buddha quote – are at page 53 of the Third Edition paperback version of “JCPD,” in Chapter 8, “The Bible, Yoga and Zen.”

Re: “Come full circle.” See also Alpha and Omega (Freedictionary), or the Wikipedia article.

Re: “Lead us not to the breaking point.” That’s an interpretation from one of Garry Wills‘ books, and it seemed especially appropriate for my life. As in, “I was led to the breaking point, and broke.” See also Luke 11:4 (Bible Hub), which includes the usual translations of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The Good News Translation reads, “And do not bring us to hard testing.” But for the reasons noted, I prefer “And lead us not to the breaking point…”

The lower image is courtesy of Fat Happy Buddha – Image Results. But see also Skinny Buddha vs Fat Buddha: Who is the Fat Buddha, noting the Fat Buddha wasn’t “Buddha” at all:

The Laughing Buddha, or the Fat Buddha, was a Zen monk called Budai who lived in China around the 10th century, meaning about 1.600 years after historical Buddha. Budai was as a bold man with a big tummy, big smile, large ears, wearing a simple robe… The fat Buddhist monk was known as a good-hearted, happy and content man of humorous personality, jolly nature, and eccentric lifestyle. Budai was nicknamed the Laughing Buddha because of his big smile and happiness he was spreading around him. Furthermore, Budai … became a famous character of Chinese folktales.

Thus the “Gautama Buddha – ‘below,’” with the “below” in quotation marks. 

Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord…”

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We’re just starting the 12th full week of the COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, May 31, 2020, was Pentecost Sunday. That’s the 49th day (seventh sunday) after Easter Sunday, and it commemorates “the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks.” (As described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31.)

It’s also known as the Birthday of the Church, as noted in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.” There’s more on Pentecost below, but first I want to talk about one of the Daily Bible Readings for last Friday, May 29.

It was from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. (The church at Ephesus, an “ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir ProvinceTurkey.) And notably the “theme may be stated pragmatically as ‘Christians, get along with each other!‘” But the verse that caught my eye – last Friday – was Ephesians 5:10.

In the New Revised Standard Version, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” But see also the Berean Study Bible: “Test and prove what pleases the Lord.” And the Weymouth New Testament reads, “learn in your own experiences what is fully pleasing to the Lord.”

In other words, Bible study – and following The Faith of Christ – is not a matter of fitting yourself into a pre-formed cubby hole, or becoming a “carbon-copy Christian.” It’s a matter of finding out what the Bible means to you, as an individual. (“We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves,” as noted in On three suitors (a parable).) And all that was pretty much what I was trying to say – again – in my last post “As a spiritual exercise:”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible… In other words if you work with [a] kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, who is willing to work with you, and a “happy ending…”

So Ephesians 5:10 supports my theory that “the ‘factual accuracy’ of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith.” That is, a faith that goes “beyond the fundamentals” and doesn’t require that every word in the Bible be “inerrant.” (So too it seems to me that it “doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert found the actual ark used by Noah.”)

Note also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which said “to prove” is a work partly of thought and “partly of practical experience.” Or consider the Pulpit Commentary:

To prove is to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ… We are not to follow the tradition of our people, and not to take a vague view of duty; we are to prove the matter, to put it to the test. For the supreme practical rule of the Christian’s life must be to please Christ.

Which in turn is supported by 1st Thessalonians 5:21. In the Good News Translation, “Put all things to the test: keep what is good.” And in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, “Explore everything and hold what is excellent.” Or as I said in On reading the Bible:

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

Then there’s the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. That’s a method of theological reflection – of personal spiritual growth – credited to John Wesley. (At right.) Wesley said that there are four sources available for such personal spiritual growth: Scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience:

Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity… Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally… Although traditional proof is complex, experience is simple… Although tradition establishes the evidence a long way off, experience makes it present to all persons.

Note that Scripture – the Bible – “is the first authority and contains the only measure whereby all other truth is tested.” Which brings us back to Pentecost Sunday. And, “from an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.”

Thus “Happy Birthday, Church!” 

Pentecost also marks the start of “Ordinary Time,” as it’s called in the Catholic Church. And that “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church calendar year, as shown in the chart below.

That “long season” started May 31st, and will end on November 29, the First Sunday of Advent 2020. And the Pentecost described in Acts 2 (v. 1- 41) “was a momentous, watershed event.” 

For the first time in history, God empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry. Whereas in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings,” on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit went to “‘all people.’ All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” 

Which is a pretty good way to celebrate the Birthday of the Church…

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 “Ordinary Time” – at left – takes up over half the Church year…

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The upper image is courtesy of Try Learn What Is Pleasing To The Lord – Image Results.

Re: Weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. See St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I figured the “stuff hit the fan” on Thursday, March 12, “when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled.” Thus,my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15.

Text and images on Pentecost were gleaned from prior posts, On the readings for Pentecost (6/8/14); On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!” (2015); and Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016.

The full Bible readings for Friday, May 29, 2020 are: “AM Psalm 102; PM Psalm 107:1-32, Jeremiah 31:27-34; Ephesians 5:1-20; and Matthew 9:9-17.

Re: Pentecost and the Holy Spirit given to all. See What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter? – Patheos.

The John Wesley image is courtesy of Wikipedia. Caption: “Statue of Wesley outside Wesley Church in Melbourne, Australia.”

See the Ordinary Time image in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.”

“As a spiritual exercise…”

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As a Spiritual Exercise, back in 1989 I started looking for new ways to “help” my favorite college team – Florida State University – win its first football national championship… (The image at right shows the 1524 book, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. I just used a different method.)

At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics. (Initially a series of wind sprints over a 3-mile course; the goal was to finish the three miles in an ever-faster speed.)

It was only later – in the spring of 1992 – that I added the discipline of Daily Bible Reading. And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

In the 27-plus years that followed – 30-plus, if you go back to 1989 – FSU football won two more national titles. (For a more complete listing of such “wins,” see On my “mission from God,” and “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, including the image at left.) But there have been a number of heart-breaks as well, including losing the national-title game at the end of the 1996 season. (To our arch-rival Gators, no less.) And the past two seasons have been especially bad, with the Noles suffering back-to-back losing seasons.

On the other hand I’ve learned a lot of valuable spiritual lessons along the way.

Then too, this “spiritual exercise” has given me lots of insight into how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile. (The functional equivalent of having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a dog’s years? And especially after establishing a 14-year college football dynasty?)

What brings all that to mind is the recent series of Daily Office Old Testament readings. Those recent Daily Office readings reminded me of all the twists and turns, the add-ons and “do not do” list of things that thwarted spiritual progress for Moses. And for his success on the field.

For example, that recent string of Daily Bible readings had a set rules and regulations – starting with Leviticus 8:1-13,30-36 – back on Sunday, May 10 (2020). And they’ve have been jumping around ever since. (After starting at Chapter 8 – and after leaving Exodus 40, 18 to 38, on Saturday the 9th – they jumped from 16 to 19 to 23, and so on, “to this day.” Exodus 40, for example, goes into great detail on “Setting Up the Tabernacle.”)

The point is that – over the past 30-plus years – I too have gleaned a number of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” (Not unlike those of Moses, set out in Leviticus.) Rules like “Thou shalt not listen to Panzerlied* on your iPod Shuffle in the days leading up to a game.” Or “thou shalt listen to ‘We Are the Champions‘ whenever it comes up, on your Shuffle or the radio.” (Because it brings good karma.) Also, “Thou shalt have thy monthly church-tithe check in the office safe before a game starts, at or near the first of the month.” And so on… Of course those rules haven’t guaranteed success, but neither did Moses’ rules and regulations, listed in Leviticus over the past weeks in the Daily Office.

So just like Moses – and especially like those who tried to follow his rules “to the letter” – for the past 31 years or so, I’ve been “working with God,” trying to get Him to help my teams win. But again, it hasn’t always worked out. And so you could easily say there have been far more disappointments and heartbreaks. On the other hand, by combining my Ritual Sacrifice with Daily Bible reading, I’ve learned some valuable spiritual lessons.

For one thing – again – I’ve experienced how those early Hebrews must have felt, when they thought they’d done everything right. But then – for whatever inexplicable reason – they were disappointed if not shocked by how bad things turned out. I’m sure they felt like saying to God, “You OWE me. I did everything You asked, and this is how you treat me?”

But along the way I’ve also learned – based on my own experience – that there was and is some kind of causality at work. That is, there was and is some mysterious “Force” out there which (or Who) responded to my prayers and sacrifice, ritual or otherwise. Though many times not in the way I expected…

Another thing I’ve learned – over the past 31 years, and a host of both disappointments and triumphs. I’ve become convinced – by and through my day to day interactions with this “Force” – that the “factual accuracy” of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith. That is, to me, it doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert says he’s found the actual ark used by Noah somewhere in Turkey.

Or whether Jesus feeding the 5,000 is just a miracle, “taken only on faith,” or a parable whose lesson is that if we followed the example of Jesus, we could end world hunger “tomorrow.”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible, and in doing so follow the example of Jesus. And for that matter His disciples (including Paul, that “Johnny come lately” who wrote like a lawyer, with so many lawyer-like convolutions).

In other words if you work with this kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise, you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, and that “He” is willing to work with you, and that somewhere along the line, there’s a “happy ending…” And it can all come by and through the “spiritual discipline” of daily Bible reading, combined with your own version of a “canary-slash-coal-mine” way of keeping on the straight and narrow.

And incidentally (on a related note), next Thursday, May 21, is Ascension Day. For more on that feast day see 2014’s On Ascension Day and subsequent posts listed in the notes.

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The upper image is courtesy of Spiritual Exercise – Image Results. Also, the image to the right of the first full paragraph refers to the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Latin original: Exercitia spiritualia),” with the caption, “Exercitia spiritualia, 1548 First Edition by Antonio Bladio (Rome).”

A note on the post title. It’s similar in style to a Papal bull, that is, it’s “first few words of the text,” the incipit, i.e., “the first few Latin words from which the bull took its title for record keeping purposes, but which might not be directly indicative of the bull’s purpose.” See Wikipedia.

Re: Panzerlied. I first heard it in a 1965 film, see Battle of the Bulge (film) – Wikipedia. It’s a rousing song that goes well with road trips or picking up trash in a diesel-powered golf cart for the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. Unfortunately it has negative connotations having to do with the murder of “Jews, gypsies and fairies.” For more on the song see Wikipedia, or for a live version Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro) – YouTube. For more on “Jews, gypsies and fairies,” see Slaughterhouse-Five Quotes | Shmoop: “The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. (5.14.4).”

See Thou Shalt Not – Image Results. And Thou Shalt Not (musical) – Wikipedia.

The causality image is courtesy of Causality – Image Results.

Re: Ascension Day. See also On Ascension Day 2015, Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, and Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

The lower image is courtesy of Canary Coal Mine – Image Results. This particular image accompanied an article, “Idioms in the news: Canary in the Coal Mine[,] ShareAmerica,” from November 2014: “Someone/something that is an early warning of danger.” An earlier image – “now defunct,” since the original post – was accompanied by an article, “I am the canary in the coal mine,” which also explained the idiom:

The tradition at that time – to foretell the toxic environment down in the [coal] mine – was for the miners to take a canary down with them on their daily journey… The canary is very susceptible to the toxic gases that were common in the mines, and would die when the gases were at a toxic level – signaling to the miners that they had to immediately exit.

See also canary in a coal mine – Wiktionary, about a thing sensitive to adverse conditions, which “makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.”

In my case, if I was doing something wrong in my daily life, a loss by FSU or “another team of mine” would indicate the need to stop doing that! (Not unlike the old Henny Youngman joke, where a patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” To which the doctor replies, “Then don’t do that!” See Henry Youngman Jokes – Henry Youngman One Liners Jokes.)

On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020

Saints Philip and James the Lesser – together in the “Basilica of the 12 Holy Apostles…*” 

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It’s Thursday, May 7, 2020, and we are now in the eighth full week of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since wisdom begins with the definition of terms – said Socrates, at right – I’ll clarify.

To me, the pandemic hit full swing – the “stuff really hit the fan” – back on Thursday, March 12. That’s when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, and March Madness and college baseball were called off. About that time too the NBA, NHL and and other major professional sport seasons all ended. (For what those college sports mean to me, see June 2018’s “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and February 2019’s On my “mission from God.”)

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. And the pandemic shows no signs of abating, which means we’ll get used to a “new normal.” (With social distancing, extreme caution and shortages of all kinds.) So what did people do in the Olden Days when disasters struck?

One answer comes from the 1759 novel Candide, by Voltaire. It opens with the hero – Candide – “living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise.” But from there things go downhill:

The work describes … Candide’s slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes Candide [by] advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden,” in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds.”

Or as Voltaire put it in another setting, “Life is bristling with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s [own] garden.” (Voltaire’s Solution to a Life Full of Thorns.) And speaking of Eden – as in “a place or state of great happiness [or] an unspoiled paradise” – that seems to be what we used to have, before Covid-19. Or at least it seems so in hindsight…

Then there’s what historian Kenneth Clark said in his 1969 book Civilisation, about what some people did during a time of great upheaval. (Like today’s.) Writing about the violence brought on Europe by the Protestant Reformation, he said that whatever the long-term effects,

…the immediate results were very bad; not only for art, but bad for life. The North [of Europe] was full of bully boys who rampaged around the country and took any excuse to beat people up… All the elements of destruction were let loose.

So a great upheaval – with elements of panic and destruction “let loose” – can come from either other people (“bully boys”) or from nature itself. So what do we do, in the process of riding out this storm? Or as Clark put it, “What could an intelligent, open-minded man do in mid-sixteenth-century Europe?” Or for that matter, here in America this 2,020th “year of our Lord?”

His short-and-sweet answer, “Keep quiet, work in solitude, outwardly conform, inwardly remain free.” Which as a result of the European wars of religion created a figure new to Europe but “familiar in the great ages of China: the intellectual recluse.” (Which at this point evokes – to the writer anyway – the old Maynard G. Krebs repeated line, “You rang?“)

Yet another answer is to “Keep on keeping on.” As in, “to persevere,” which means to persist or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. Which brings us to the discipline of continuing our Daily Bible Reading. And that includes but is not limited to tracking liturgical feast days. In turn, the last major Feast Day was Friday, May 1. That was the feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles(That link goes to the day’s Bible readings.)

I covered the day in Philip and James – Saints and Apostles (2016), and Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members,” from 2017. But for starters, the article Saints Philip and James the Lesser – New Daily Compass explains one reason why the two saints are remembered together:

The two apostles Philip and James the Lesser are remembered with a single liturgical feast because their relics, transferred respectively from Hierapolis and Jerusalem, were placed together in the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles [“Santi Apostoli“] in Rome.

The 2016 Philip and James noted great confusion about this James (“the Lesser”) in part because of the number of Jameses in the New Testament. (It also explains the reference to “privy members.”) Fortunately we know a lot more about Philip, and especially that he serves as a lesson that God’s love is universal. As shown in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

The post starting by noting that as a eunuch the Ethiopian was beyond the pale – if not untouchable – from a “legal” standpoint. See Deuteronomy 23:1, which in the King James Bible – the one God uses – puts the matter rather delicately: “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.“

Yet Philip, guided by God’s Spirit, does not hesitate to share the good news of God’s love and salvation with this less than whole Ethiopian and to baptize him into the faith, to welcome him into the life of the Christian church. This new faith is for all, God’s love is for every human being no matter what disability or disease or affliction has come our way.

(See “Wesley Uniting Church.”)  In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal.  (See also Jonah and the bra-burners.*) So here’s to “Philip and James – Saints and Apostles,” and their Feast Day. And furthermore, here’s to a God whose love is so universal that He’s willing to accept anyone. (Who turns to Him. See John 6:37.) 

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The Baptism of the Eunuch … by Rembrandt van Rijn,

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The upper image is courtesy of Saints Philip and James – Franciscan Media. Caption: “Image: Detail of reredos | Polytych by Maestà | Wikimedia.”

Re: The ending of Candide. Wikipedia had the ending – “we must cultivate our garden” – translated into French, il faut cultiver notre jardin.” But see also Candide Conclusion Summary & Analysis from LitCharts, which worded the ending as “All that is very well … but let us cultivate our garden.”

Re: Kenneth Clark. The quotation from Clark is from the hardcover book version of his Civilisation (TV series), at page 161. For an interesting sidelight on “Sir” Clark, see A new book reveals Kenneth Clark was also a bed-hopping, wife-stealing rogue

Though ostensibly a happily married man with a dutiful and caring wife … he couldn’t keep his manicured hands or his swooning heart away from other women. He was a serial adulterer, a constant seeker of affairs, even [the] wives of his close friends. This upright pillar of the Establishment was … as one of his detractors put it most succinctly, ‘a frightful s**t’.

Re: “Santi Apostoli, Rome.” See Wikipedia, which noted this “6th-century Roman Catholic parish and titular church and minor basilica in RomeItaly, dedicated originally to St. James and St. Philip whose remains are kept here, and later to all Apostles

Re: “Jonah and the bra-burners.” See the January 2015 post:

Clearly, the Book of Jonah … is the product of that school of Jewish thought which was universalist and which opposed the nationalist view…  It is the universality of God and the attribute of divine mercy that are the lessons of Jonah.  Those who think of the book as nothing more than the story of a man and a whale miss the whole point.

And finally, a side-note. On this May 7th I was listening to a “Great Courses Plus” course on the Old Testament. This lecture included the story of Adam and Eve, and what caught my eye was the inclusion of the term “who was with her” to Genesis 3:6. A similar conclusion – to the lecturer’s – was reached in PerryDox – BeJustAChristian » Genesis 3:6:

I have concluded this is an adverbial phrase which has great meaning. It helps the reader understand what really happened. Sadly, that means Adam could have stopped Eve since he “with her” and not deceived. Instead, he abdicated his leadership … and allowed her to usurp his authority… Adam was “with her” the entire time physically; but when Eve needed him, he was absent spiritually.

I will explore this topic further in a future post.

The lower image is courtesy of The Baptism of the Eunuch – Wikipedia.