On Saints Peter and Paul, January ’23…

“Two Scholars Disputing” – Saints Peter and Paul – but they mostly worked together… 

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

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It 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 Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.)  

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

I’ve been remiss in posting lately. December 2022 turned out to be a busy time, what with two family Christmases, one up in Massachusetts. (Which included my driving up there through yet another “storm of the century.”) That’s why my posts went from Advent ’22 to Epiphany ’23 – without much to say about Christmas. (Not to mention having to say “farewell Mi Dulce.”)

But hopefully I can now start getting back up to speed.

On that note, last week’s January 18 was the Feast Day for the Confession of St Peter. This Wednesday, January 25 is the Feast Day for the Conversion of St Paul. I covered these two feast days in Peter confesses, Paul converts, from January 2016. The post started off saying that on June 25 each year we have a feast day for both Apostles together. But in January we remember both men separately. “Or more precisely, we remember how these two ‘Pillars of the Church‘ took two completely different paths to the same destination.” That is, closer to God:

On 18 January we remember how the Apostle Peter was led by God’s grace to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20), and we join with Peter, and with all Christians everywhere, in hailing Jesus as our Lord, God, and Savior.

Put another way, January 18 commemorates Peter as the first apostle to confess Jesus as Messiah. On the other hand, the January 25 Feast Day commemorates how “Saul (or Paul) of Tarsus, formerly an enemy and persecutor of the early Christian Church, was led by God’s grace to become one of its chief spokesmen.”  (See Conversion of St. Paul, emphasis added.)

In other words, Peter came to his position of authority from “inside the church.” On the other hand God pretty much dragged Paul kicking and screaming into his position of authority.

Turning to the Confession of Peter, that refers to this New Testament episode:

[The] Apostle Peter proclaims Jesus to be Christ – the Messiah. The proclamation is described in the three Synoptic GospelsMatthew 16:13-20Mark 8:27–30 and Luke 9:18–20. The proclamation of Jesus as Christ is fundamental to Christology … and Jesus’ acceptance of the title is a definitive statement for it in the New Testament narrative.

In turn, on January 25 we remember how Paul was once a devout and zealous enemy of early Christians, as told in Galatians 1:13-14. He was “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers,” persecuting the newly-formed Christian Church and trying to destroy it. But then came his Damascus Road Experience. He was literally struck blind, for three days. Thus the claim that Paul was “pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority.”

The Bible also includes his part in the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 7:57-8:3.  (“Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”) So in plain words, Paul’s Damascus Road experience “changed him from a Christ-hating persecutor of Christians to the foremost spokesman for the faith.” But before that could happen, he had to convince those Christians – in Jerusalem especially – that his change of heart was genuine.  Their change of heart came about mostly through the work of Barnabas:

To sum up, if it hadn’t been for Barnabas and his willingness to give Paul a second chance – a second chance for the formerly zealous persecutor of the early Church – he might never have become Christianity’s most important early convert, if not the “Founder of Christianity.”

For more on Paul’s change of heart, see Paul restored – from the Damascus Road, from April 2016, which spoke of the transforming power of Jesus.

Which sums up the theme for the post, that power to be transformed – if you let God into your life and read the Bible with an open mind. As for my not being able to do a post for Christmas ’22, you can see some background details at The 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019. Which included the thought that If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all [still] be Jewish!

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Caterpillar to butterfly – what stage are you in, Biblically speaking?

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The upper image is courtesy of Albert Bierstadt Museum: Two Scholars Disputing REMBRANDT.

The Book of Common Prayer. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Storm of the century.” See December 2022 North American winter storm – Wikipedia, on the “extratropical cyclone created winter storm conditions, including blizzards, high winds, snowfall, or record cold temperatures across the majority of the United States.” I tried to make the 1000-mile drive in two days, but because of that snow, ice and fog had to stop the second night in Milford PA…

The 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019.” That post also included a note that the concepts of sinrepentance and confession should be viewed as tools to “help us grow and develop, and are not to be used as a means of social control.”

The lower image is courtesy of Caterpillar To Butterfly – Image Results. See also How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly? – Scientific American.

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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, “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:

…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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer 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.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you 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 related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

Re: “mystical.” Originally, 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!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

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

Epiphany ’23, the end of Christmas and “farewell Mi Dulce…”

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January 11, 2023 – I know should be doing a post on the feast of Epiphany, last January 6, but I just had a big shock. I learned – on Facebook of all places – that the “young” lady I started dating in June 2013 just died. She was a mere 76 years old, as I also just found out. (I never could get a straight answer about her age when we were together.) But she seemed remarkably healthy the last time I talked to her, on December 30, 2022. (We stayed in touch even after the dating.)

During our halcyon days I took to calling her “Mi Dulce,” which roughly translates in Spanish as “My Sweet.” (She was a sucker for such flattery.) And in reviewing my past posts I just did get my memory refreshed about the times I mentioned her in this blog. One post was Returning from a pilgrimage – and the coming holidays, dated November 21, 2014.

That November 2014 post fits in nicely with the idea of Epiphany – January 6 – as marking the end of a long holiday season. That long holiday season – that “old-time winter festival” – actually started back on Halloween and just ended two months later, this past January 6.

There’s more about that long holiday season later on, but first here are some notes from an earlier post that year, On the “Infinite Frog.” (From July 2014, that mentions Dulce.)

That summer I took a two-week trip to New York City and Montreal. At the same time Mi Dulce took a two-week trip up to her home town, Cleveland. As I drove home – on I-81 through Virginia – I called her on the phone and we had a nice chat. But then she started talking about some “infinite frog, infinite frog.” Which made me wonder, “What the heck is an Infinite Frog?” It turned out she was talking about getting back her Infant of Prague doll – like the one at left – which she’d somehow lost track of as she grew up.

Which gives a flavor of how our conversations often went.

Later that year, on August 10, 2014, I did a post on St. Michael and All Angels.  

There’s a church in Stone Mountain –  St. Michael & All Angels’ Episcopal –  that Yours Truly and his Dulce passed the other day while leaving Stone Mountain Park. That led to the question, “Who the heck is this St. Michael guy?” 

Which just goes to show you can advance a spirit-pilgrimage even driving past Stone Mountain, east of Atlanta. I came to learn that the Archangel Michael is the one who reach[es down] to save souls in purgatory.” To which I said, “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

Skipping ahead – to May 2015 – I mentioned Dulce again in On “Job the not patient” – REDUX. In it I noted that I spent a lot of time driving, and that much of that driving back then was spent “visiting Mi Dulce, who lives three counties over.” (Close to 60 miles each way.*)

To pass the time driving I got the habit of listening to lectures on CD. One lecture was Hebrews, Greeks and Romans:  Foundations of Western Civilization, by Professor Timothy Shutt. Through that lecture I learned that at the end of the Book of Job, “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.” Put another way, we are just not up to the task of fully understanding God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload. We are no more prepared to comprehend an answer than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus. It’s just not in our nature

Which is something I wouldn’t have learned without driving over to visit Ms. Dulce. (And come to think of it, I never managed to figure out – to fully understand – her mind either…)

Put another way, too many humans limit the majesty and power of God to their limited brain-power. So they tend re-make God’s mind to be more like their mind. They don’t do what God wants them to do. They don’t expand their minds or their horizons. And they never come close to eventually doing greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.)  

All of which is not a bad set of lessons to learn driving over the visit Mi Dulce.

And now back to Epiphany. The post mentioning the lady that is most relevant to Epiphany is Returning from a pilgrimage – and the coming holidays. Posted in November 2014, it talked about my return from an eight-day canoe trip out in the Gulf of Mexico, 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi. It also talked about Epiphany as “the end of Christmas,” noted in the title:

Christmas ends the season of Advent and begins the 12 days of Christmas. Those 12 Days end on 12th Night, which marks the start of The Epiphany. “12th Night” … is the evening of January 5, also called the Eve of 12th Day. It’s also called the Eve of Epiphany, and was formerly known as the last day of the Christmas season, “observed [also] as a time of merrymaking.” Note also that in medieval times, 12th Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve – now called Halloween – back on October 31.

There was a note – in the Notes – “regarding the title of Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night.” In parentheses I added, “courtesy of ‘Mi Dulce,'” and I think that was because I had to explain to her either the play or the concept of Epiphany. But as they say, “in teaching you will learn.” And through the lady in question I learned that there actually are websites for Infinite Frogs.

For more information on Epiphany, the end of 12 days of Christmas and the long liturgical season starting last October 31, check the links above. But it’s been exhausting trying to process this emotional jolt, so I’ll sign off for now. Here’s hoping the rest of the year turns out better.

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There actually IS a website for “infinite frogs. . .”

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The upper image is courtesy of Image Rest In Peace – Image Results.

“Mi Dulce.” See also, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian (or actually an Independent), from my companion blog. I posted that on November 8, 2016:

Mi Dulce is Spanish for “My Sweet.” That’s what I call the lady I’ve been “dating” some time now. (Since the start of the relationship, [when] I started saying she had me “wrapped around her little finger…”) Also since then she’s broken up with me at least 10 times.

And that was just in the three years since we first met in June 2013. Therein I also wrote about her using the “8-track tape mode of political discourse.” The thing about 8-tracks was that they never stopped, they used a “continuous loop” system, and no rewind. “As long as you played the tape, you got the same thing over and over again.”  

“Infant of Prague.” The full cite is e Infant Jesus of Prague – Wikipedia, referring to the 16th-century wax-coated wooden statue of the Child Jesus holding a globus cruciger of Spanish origin, now located in the Discalced CarmeliteChurch of Our Lady of Victories in Malá StranaPragueCzech Republic. First appearing in 1556, pious legends claim that the statue once belonged to Teresa of Ávila and was consequently donated to the Carmelite friars by Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz in 1628.” See also Infant of Prague Doll – Etsy.

On that note, the “Infant doll” image is courtesy of Wikipedia, with the caption, “A German copy of the statue, with a white wig instead of the traditional blonde hair, circa. 1870.”

“Three counties over.” From Peachtree City to Conyers. Google Maps says its 60 miles using the interstates up to and through Atlanta, but traffic that way is always congested, if not stopped completely. So I usually took the back roads, which meant a drive of an hour and a half to two hours each way.

The lower image is courtesy of Infinite Frogs | Are We Full Yet? 

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On Advent ’22, Tradents, and “Scriptio continua…”

As he grew in grace (and age) Billy Graham believed the Bible is inerrant “in all that it affirms…

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I just published a book, On Mystic Christians: (You know, the REAL ones?). One theme involves the difficulties in considering the Bible inerrant in every “jot and tittle.” Without error of any kind, grammatical, scrivener’s, whatever. And that every Bible “fact” must be accepted as literally true, even to the point of accepting the earth as only 6,000 years old. That view seems flawed,* but the short and simple answer is that the Bible is inerrant “in all that it affirms.”

That was good enough for Billy Graham (see the Notes) and it’s good enough for me.

Of course we are nearing the end of Advent – Christmas Day is next Sunday – and I did just promise to write more about “Andrew, Advent and The 12 DAYS of Christmas.” I’ll say more about those later, with links in the notes for more information. But getting back to the difficulties in translating the Bible, one big difficulty involves translating from the original Hebrew. For one thing ancient Hebrew, the kind used to write the original Old Testament (or at least the Torah), had no vowels. It had only consonants, and all the consonants in a sentence were strung together. Also, there was no punctuation, so sentences too were just “strung together.” 

That style of writing is called Scriptio continua. It has no spaces or other distinguishing marks between either words or sentences. The letters – all capitals – are simply strung together, page after page. Take for example a sentence in English, “The man called for the waiter.” In Biblical Hebrew the sentence would read, “THMNCLLDFRTHWTR.” But that sentence could also read, when translated into English, “The man called for the water.” And again, that sentence would have no period to mark its end, or space to mark the beginning of the next sentence coming up. That next sentence would start right up without any “break in the action.”

Another point: When the Torah was written only a very few people could read at all, and fewer still could write. So what they ended up doing was relying on a trained mentor. A mentor who had memorized what all those strung-together letters actually meant. Which brings up Tradents. And that’s something I only learned about recently, by watching a course lecture taught by Professor Gary A. Rendsburg, on The Dead Sea Scrolls.

In Lecture 11 of the course – “Biblical Manuscripts at Qumran” – Professor Rendsberg made some interesting points. For one thing, he said that back in Old Testament time, “texts were produced in two versions: oral and written. Scribes copied the text over and over again, while tradents transmitted the text orally from generation to generation (though most likely they held a text in their hands as a guide).” This was after noting again that at that time, Hebrew had only consonants: no vowels or punctuation marks. (See also TRADENT English Definition and Meaning.)

So, what’s the point? Just that when Moses wrote the Torah he had no vowels or punctuation marks to work with. (Which raises another question: When and where did he learn to write Hebrew?) And in the years after Moses died, the scrolls he worked with got worn out, and so they had be copied, over and over again. And that was a two-step process, involving tradents and that person or persons doing the actual writing. So basically the written version – with no vowels or spacing between words and sentences – operated as kind of a “cheat sheet.”

But only in the sense of a paper with “summarized information used for quick reference.”

In otber words, Tradents worked with the actual writers, the scribes. They kept the oral tradition alive by telling the person copying the ancient texts – as they wore out – just what all those jumbled-together consonants and sentences actually meant. So in the original, the books of the Torah especially were handed down from generation to generation using a two-part process. The person copying the original worked with a tradent. The tradent knew the text from memory, and he – again – passed on just what those strung-together symbols actually meant.

So according to this theory, the person copying down the words had to use the original writing as kind of a “cheat sheet,” and needed a “tradent” to fill in the blanks. So “writing” the Old Testament was originally a two-step process. One person transcribed but needed both the original written text and an “elder” to give that text its full meaning.

Beyond that, all that information had to be passed on to whoever was going to read this scriptio continua, out loud, in a synagogue every Sabbath. That was because up until at least a thousand years after Jesus – to the time of Gutenberg – precious few people could read at all. And other information about scriptio continua – as detailed in the notes – indicate the reader of such a strung-together text was more of a “trained performer.” And such a trained performer had a lot more room for subjective ambiguity than would be possible in reading the Bible today.

Which is enough of “giving a Southern Baptist apoplexy,” for now. As for St. Andrew, the end of Advent and Christmas, see the links in the notes. But some things to point out: 1) Andrew was the “First Apostle,” the one who first brought Peter to meet Jesus. 2) It wasn’t just Guy Lombardo who said “it’s later than you think,” back in 1949.* The same view was expressed in Ecclesiastes 5:18, “It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good … all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.” And 3) Christmas isn’t just one day:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season [including “Twelfth Night”] beginning on Christmas Day … that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God.  This period is also known as Christmastide…  The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus.  In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.

Which means the Three Wise Men didn’t visit Jesus in the manger on the night He was born. (Christmas Eve.) Instead they came some time later, as I’ll explain in the next post. Also in a later post I’ll explain how the original “Christian Mystic” was Jesus Himself. Stay tuned!

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The upper image is courtesy of Young Billy Graham Images – Image Results. See also Billy Graham – Wikipedia. The “grace and knowledge” refers to 2d Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!”

“Mystical” and “corporate.” See The Online Book of Common Prayer, at page 339, the post-communion prayer in The Holy Eucharist:  Rite One.

Re: Age of the earth. According to How Old Is Earth? | Britannica, it’s more like 4.4 billion years old, while Age of Earth Collection | National Geographic Society says “4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years.”

Re: Billy Graham. He agreed the Bible was inerrant in all that it affirms when he took part in shaping the Lausanne Covenant. (The July 1974 manifesto promoting active worldwide Christian evangelism.) See Billy Graham, Evangelism, Evangelicalism, and Inerrancy:

We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. (Emphasis added.)

That was also the view of John R. W. Stott (1921-2011), the Anglican cleric who Time magazine ranked among the world’s 100 most influential people. In his book, Understanding the Bible, and on pages 140-143, made three key points. His first point was that the process of God’s inspiring the Bible “was not a mechanical one. God did not treat the human authors of Scripture as dictating machines or tape recorders.” He said God spoke to the Bible writers in different ways, sometimes through dreams and visions, “sometimes by audible voice, sometimes by angels.” 

Re: “Scriptio continua,” the writing style with no spaces or other distinguishing marks between words or sentences. “The role of the scribes was to simply record everything they heard to create documentation. Because speech is continuous, there was no need to add spaces.” In turn, the person who read the scroll-text out loud – most people were illiterate – was a “trained performer.” He would memorize the “content and breaks of the script.” In turn, during such “reading performances, the scroll acted as a cue sheet:” Also, the “trained performer” had the liberty to insert pauses and dictate tone, which made the act of reading significantly more subjective.

Re: St. Andrew, Advent and the coming Christmas season. See On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, from 2016, and from last year, Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself.” Because – in the midst of a new COVID variant – “it’s later than you think.” For some views on Christmas see On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019, and On the 12 DAYS of Christmas – 2021-22. As to Guy Lombardo, the Advent 2021 post led off with a picture of an album cover of his, featuring the “Enjoy yourself” song. This was after noting that at the time of posting there was a “new Covid in town,” the Omicron variant, and that as of December 5, 2021, “COVID that has already claimed the lives of 803,045 Americans.” 

I got the image of the “Mystic” book from the Kindle bookstore. As to Jesus as the first Christian Mystic, see the Penguin paperback version of What Jesus Meant: [by] Wills, Garry, at pages 22-23 and 110-111. See also the “mystical body” of Jesus quote from the Book of Common Prayer, above.

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On Advent 2022 – and St. Andrew…

St. Andrew – Protoklete or “First Apostle” – brought his brother Simon Peter along with him…

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November 30 is the Feast day for St. Andrew. And depending on the year, the First Sunday of Advent falls either just before or just after that November 30 Feast day. This year the First Sunday of Advent came on November 27, three days after Thanksgiving 2022

There’s more on these two events below – the First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Liturgical year – but first I wanted to check out something called Advent Calendars. Some nice ladies at my local church are extolling the virtues of such calendars, so I thought I’d explore the topic further. (Instead of my usual, “Nah, I’m not interested!”) So here goes:

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count down to December 25: The celebration of the Birth of Jesus. The Advent calendar tradition evidently dates back to the 1850s and typically includes 24 doors or boxes to open, one for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day.

One article I ran across said Advent calendars are raking it in while counting it down. It noted that liturgically, advent is the period of preparation for Christmas, and “can be a serious time for reflection, prayer and even fasting.” And indeed, the first advent calendars “from 19th-century Germany offered up a Bible verse each day.” But modern commercialization of Christmas “brought mass-produced calendars for children and enhanced the tradition with chocolate.”

Eventually the calendars evolved into boxes of “delayed-gratification chocolates to help children count down to Santa,” then transmogrified into calendars offering a wide variety of luxury goods like beer and winejewelry“healing” crystalsdog treats, and “Ariana Grande perfume.”

Because that’s what this is really about: Getting people to buy a product that will get them to buy more products. “Having sampled new products in the run up to the holiday, consumers are likely to follow up on their new treats post holiday” [including] “anticipation calendars” to turn every occasion into a prolonged opportunity for multiple gifts, “from graduations to birthdays and anniversaries

Another site – Everything to Know About Advent Calendars – said the most common type is one that has “paper calendar doors and a little piece of chocolate behind each door.” And that the concept “dates back to the 19th century, when German families would mark their doors or walls with a tally mark in chalk to count the days until Christmas.” In the United States, “the popularity of the Advent Calendar didn’t really take off until 1954, when Newsweek published a photo of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandchildren holding one,” as shown below.

But now we’re getting really far afield. I hope to write more about Advent in a week or so, and there’s some detail in the Notes, but in the meantime you could check out a post from 2017, On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology.” Then from the past two years, December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning,” and Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself.” For starters, St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but few people know much about him.  Which is another way of saying he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four… That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[. In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

I’ll write more later about Andrew, Advent and The 12 DAYS of Christmas, but for now:

Happy Advent!

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President Eisenhower‘s grandchildren hold up an Advent Calendar in 1954…

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The upper image is courtesy of Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Saint Andrew the Apostle’by Artus Wolffort.” 

Re: More on Advent. See On St. Andrew, Advent, and “Prosperity Theology.” Then December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning,” and Advent 2021 – “Enjoy yourself.” One note:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas….”  The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah…  (E.A.)

One of the three posts talked of human life being always risky, filled with wars, pestilence and disaster. But “modern folk” got spoiled a bit, which brought up a review of “The Plague” by Albert Camus:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

Thus the “Enjoy yourself.” (It’s later than you think…)

The lower image is courtesy of Everything to Know About Advent Calendars. The caption: “President Eisenhower’s three grandchildren join in an appeal for sales of ‘Little Christmas Town’ Advent calendars by the national Epilepsy League. Holding one of the calendars at Fort Leavenworth are (left to right) Susan, 3; David, 6; and Barbara, 5; children of Major John Eisenhower.
‘Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
.'”

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On Thanksgiving 2022 – and an Unknown American Icon

 John Howland – a Mayflower pilgrim – holding on for dear life in the cold North Atlantic

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A note: For the most recent post see On Saints Peter and Paul, January ’23.

(I’m not sure why the platform is doing that…)

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I just googled “what’s new for Thanksgiving 2022.” The answer is apparently “not much.” (Which could be a good thing; who needs more excitement?) So, aside from getting stuffed with turkey and fixings, the big news is a full slate of football, college and NFL. (Thanksgiving Football Schedule: Egg Bowl tops Turkey Day marathon: The Egg Bowl has Mississippi State playing “Ole Miss,” along with three NFL games.) So I guess I’ll have to revisit some old posts from the past…

Like Thanksgiving – 2021. Two years before that – meaning before COVID – I posted Thanksgiving 2019. Before that came three earlier posts, on Thanksgivings in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Before that – in 2014 – I posted On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part II. That Part II has – I just discovered – some errors that need correcting. The most noticeable is a missing lead painting, showing John Howland, holding on for dear life in the middle of a North Atlantic storm, with only the slenderist of lifelines back to the Mayflower, far off in the distance.

So maybe it’s time to revisit Howland’s story, because he not only survived that “adventure,” he went on to populate America with 2 million descendants. Interestingly, he came over as an indentured servant, but signed the Mayflower Compact in 1620. He went on to serve as trusted assistant to Governor Carver, and in 1621 helped make a treaty with the Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe. By 1626 he’d finished his indenture and become a “freeman.” 

In the years after becoming a freeman, Howland “served at various times as selectman, assistant and deputy governor, surveyor of highways, and as member of the fur committee.” And aside from various adventures during the early years of Plymouth Colony, Howland married Elizabeth Tilley. The couple then started what became a dynasty of sorts: 

John and Elizabeth Howland founded one of the three largest Mayflower families and their descendants have been “associated largely with both the ‘Boston Brahmins‘ and Harvard’s ‘intellectual aristocracy’ of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” American actors Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957), Anthony Perkins (1932-1992), and Alec Baldwin (b. 1958) are counted among Howland’s descendants.

Howland died at the ripe old age of 80, outliving “most of the other male Mayflower passengers.” And left quite a legacy, detailed at Meet John Howland, a lucky Pilgrim who populated America with 2 million descendants. But first he and the other Plymouth Pilgrims had to survive. On the voyage over two people died, and once they arrived in America, “in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in the cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.”

I’ve listed the gory details of that first harsh winter, and the First Thanksgiving that followed a year later in 1621. Which brings up the ongoing “need for a reality check every so often:”

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

So, as we stuff ourselves into a stupor this Thanksgiving, let’s remember that after this national “Splurge Day,” it’ll be time to get back to work. And to remember that when it comes to Jesus:

It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.

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And don’t forget to remember those not “home for Thanksgiving…”

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Re: The upper image is courtesy of Meet John Howland, a lucky Pilgrim who populated America with 2 million descendants.

Re: Book of Common Prayer. At page 339.

Re: Howland’s “indenture.” Wikipedia noted that William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony for years, “wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation that Howland was a man-servant of John Carver.”

Re: “vigor rather than comfort.” The quote is from Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill:

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigor rather than comfort that you are called.  (E.A.)

Ariel Press (1914), at page 177. See also Evelyn Underhill – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Norman Rockwell’s Beloved “Home For Thanksgiving” Sells For $4.3 Million to Benefit American Legion Post. The article further noted:

The painting was one of Rockwell’s legendary homecoming pieces painted as war began transitioning to peacetime. For The Saturday Evening Post he painted myriad images of the soldier home from war, including the iconic “Homecoming GI” that appeared in May 1945 and was famously used in the film “Broadcast News.” “Home for Thanksgiving” became so beloved because it showed “the veteran doing K.P. (kitchen patrol) and liking it…

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Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – 2022

“There WAS a man who tried to pressure Jesus into being more political: Judas Iscariot...”

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The one major holiday between Halloween and Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday, next November 20. It’s also called the Feast of Christ the King, or “Proper 29” in the church calendar, or the “Last Sunday after Pentecost,” as discussed in the notes. I covered this recently-created Feast Day in the 2015 post, Hitler and Mussolini help create Christ the King Sunday.

Speaking of recently created, it all started in 1925, mostly “Over There” in Europe:

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 [after] the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe…  These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church [and] the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning…  (Emphasis added.)

And speaking of 1925, here’s how that year started: On January 3Benito Mussolini “promised to take charge of restoring order to Italy within forty-eight hours.” (Marking the beginning of his dictatorship.) Aside from Mussolini in Italy, in Russian a new organization was created, TASS, which quickly became a front for the NKVD, later the KGB. (Of Vladimir Putin fame.) And that’s not to mention Adolf Hitler. In July 1925 he published Volume 1 of his personal manifesto Mein Kampf. Also in July, in the United States, 1925 featured a show of strength by a group called the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan held its parade in Washington, and their five million members at the time made it the “largest fraternal organization in the United States.”

In plain words, Pius XI created the Feast of Christ the King in response to world events swirling around him. (Including – but hardly limited to – Hitler, Mussolini, and the KKK.) 

Which brings up the recent U.S. elections and a potential rise in Christian nationalism. The problem: “nationalist governments tend to become authoritarian and oppressive in practice. (See What Is Christian Nationalism?) Or see Christian nationalism isn’t Christianity. It’s spewing hate in ‘the name of Jesus.’ That article said “Christianity is grounded in Christian scriptures where Jesus teaches love, peace, unity and truth. Christian nationalism preaches hatred, violence, separation, and disinformation.” All of which could be problematic for American democracy.

Another problem is that today’s Christian Nationalists get a lot of political power from the fact that their political opponents just don’t know much about the Bible. They can’t tell when the Bible is being misquoted, misused or abused. But that “problem” is also the Achilles’ heel of Christian nationalism. Mostly because Jesus opposed all such “Nationalism.*”

As Garry Wills pointed out, Jesus was above politics. Or as Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus was all about saving souls, even the souls of people who hated Him the most. “I came to save, not to condemn.” Which means He definitely wasn’t into today’s politics. But of course there WAS one man who tried to pressure Jesus into getting more politically involved, into being more of a nationalist. His name was Judas Iscariot.

Getting back to such nationalism and its Achilles’ heel. All this makes a good case for more Americans reading and studying the Bible: Political self-defense. Those who stand for Jesus and against exclusionary “nationalism” can start saying things like, “What part of ‘love your neighbor’ don’t you understand?” Or, “What part of ‘love your enemy‘ don’t you understand?” Or my favorite, 1st John 4:20, “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.” In other words:

Play the “Jesus card:” It’ll drive ’em crazy!

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These guys prompted Pope Pius XI to create “Christ the King Sunday…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Judas Iscariot – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘The Kiss of Judas’ (between 1304 and 1306) by Giotto di Bondone depicts Judas’ identifying kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

Re: Book of Common Prayer. At page 339.

Re: “Last Sunday after Pentecost.” Christ the King Sunday ends one version of “Ordinary Time.” It also bridges the gap between the end of Pentecost season and the start of Advent. (Which leads to Christmas.) In plain words, Ordinary Time refers to two “seasons of the Christian liturgical calendar.” The better known Ordinary Time takes up half the Christian calendar. See On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!” The better known Ordinary Time begins with Pentecost Sunday, for Catholics. In the Anglican liturgy, it’s known as the Season of Pentecost.

[In] 2015 the Season of Pentecost [ends on] November 28 [Thanksgiving Weekend.  T]he day after that – November 29 – marks … a new liturgical year.

See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia, and an earlier post On the 12 Days of Christmas. They note an alternate “New Year” to the one on January 1: “Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches.” It also marks the start of the season of Advent, and leads to Christmas. See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia, and also Advent – Wikipedia.

I’ll clear things up in future posts at month’s end and December 2022.

The first mention of Christian Nationalism cites Wikipedia. The first non-Wikipedia article on Christian Nationalism is from Christianity Today. See also “Patriotism” vs. “Nationalism”: What’s The Difference? The article noted that while patriotism has a positive connotation, “nationalism” often doesn’t:

[F]ascist regimes have merged the fervor of nationalism with the notions of superiority, especially when it comes to ethnicity and religion. In such contexts, “patriots” can become those who happened to agree with you or look like you, and “traitors” those who do not.

Re: Garry Wills. See his What Jesus Meant. In the paperback, at pages 102-103, in Chapter 6, “Descent into Hell.” The “not of this world” quote is from John 18:36. The “save not condemn” quote is from John 3:17. See also Why Do We Condemn When Jesus Came to Save? – Christianity.

Re: “Love your enemy.” See Matthew 5:44. Or Google “love your neighbor as yourself.” I did that and got four billion, 260 million results. The 1st John 4:20 quote is from the Good News Translation.

The lower image is courtesy of Hitler and Mussolini meet in Rome | History Today

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On Halloween 2022 – and a “Samaritan” update

“A man[,] traveling down from Washington to Richmond, Virginia … was attacked by robbers...” 

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For many people, the fun part of Halloween is being able to think outside the box. I’m not that crazy about Halloween myself, but I do like the part about thinking outside the box. So here goes, an extra added treat for this “All Hallows E’en:” I’m imagining Jesus updating the Parable of the Good Samaritan, as He would tell it today, in this deeply divided country.

“A man was traveling down from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and then went away, leaving him near death. In due course a Christian Evangelical happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed him by on the other side. So too, a Southern Baptist preacher, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

“But a California Liberal, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, took pity on him. He went to him and tended and bandaged his wounds, then put the man in his car, brought him to a nearby Hilton and took care of him. The next day he took out his credit card and paid for two night’s lodging, and told the clerk, ‘Look after him, and when I return, I’ll reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'”

The thing is, the Pharisees in Jesus’ time hated Samaritans as much as today’s Conservatives seem to hate Liberals. (See Hatred Between Jews and Samaritans | Bible.org. Or google “liberal heresy.”) So, I wonder what point Jesus would be making, if He updated the story that way?

Then there’s this: “If God [is] generous with you, He will expect you to serve Him well. But if He has been more than generous, He will expect you to serve Him even better.” (Luke 12:48.)

A reminder for those who have “been given much,” now and in the near future.

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But we were talking about Halloween, which isn’t just one night. It’s part of a three day celebration – a “Triduum” – that begins on “All Hallows E’en.” It then continues into “All Hallows Day” – better known to us as All Saints’ Day – and ends on November 2 with All Souls’ Day. (The term “Hallowe’en” developed from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.) This three-day period is a time to remember the dead, including “martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.” The main day of the three is November 1, what used to be referred to as Hallowmas

Halloween itself started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter. And those “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable on the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

And about traveling on All Hallows E’en. If you hiked from 11:00 p.m. until midnight, your had to be careful. If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen. (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”) But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.” (The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches…)

Next comes November 1, which honors all saints and martyrs, “known and unknown.” These are special people in the Church. A saint is someone with “an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.” On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’” In other words, the third day of the Halloween Triduum – November 2, All Souls’ Day – remembers the souls of the largely unknown “dear departed.” Observing Christians typically remember such relatives, and in many churches the following Sunday service includes a memorial for those who died in the past year.

I’ve done a lot of posts on Halloween, and you can see more deep background in posts like The Halloween Triduum – 2019, and On Halloween 2020 – “Scariest ever?” (And links therein.)

 Incidentally, there were some good reasons why Halloween 2020 was the “scariest ever.” (A Halloween Like We’ve Never Seen!) For one thing, there was the ongoing COVID pandemic, as noted in Halloween: CDC says no trick-or-treating amid COVID. Then there was an economic recession – another one? – not to mention an upcoming presidential election. (We still haven’t gotten over that event.) In turn, aside from all that there was a “blue moon:”

With the convergence of a full moon, a blue (Hunter’s) Moon, daylight saving time and Saturday celebrations — plus the unprecedented events of this year — Halloween 2020 will truly be one to remember. 

By the way, to say something happens “once in a blue moon” just means it happens rarely. And here’s hoping a presidential election like the one in 2020 will be equally rare. (Or better yet, never happen again.) And while we’re wishing – and thinking outside the box – here’s hoping that the election after this one will feature civilized discourse and an exchange of thoughtful views, not name-calling, ad hominem attacks, and especially not personal physical violence.

And yes, I am naive, but then so was Jesus. I’m sure He hoped that 2,000 years after He made His Ultimate Sacrifice, we’d all be getting along a lot better than we are now…

Happy Halloween!

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The upper image is courtesy of Good Samaritan Image – Image Results.

Re: Book of Common Prayer. At page 339.

The full “box” link is to Thinking Outside the Box | HuffPost Life:

Thinking outside the box” refers to taking an imaginative approach to solve a problem, as opposed to a rigid, unyielding method that calls to mind a square box. In other words, thinking outside the box is often counterintuitive. Each problem is unique and often can’t be anticipated or tackled with prescribed methods.

Which is pretty much a major theme of this blog…

A note on Luke 12:48. I capitalized all the “he’s and him’s” when the quote referred to God. The original used lower case.

Re: Once in a blue moon: A term “something of a misnomer, because an actual blue moon – that is, the appearance of a second full moon in the same calendar month – occurs once every 32 months or so. Further, the moon can appear blue in color at any time, depending on weather conditions.”

The lower image is courtesy of Blue Moon Image – Image Results.  

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On Luke, James the Just and Halloween…

Coming up, Hallowe’en “Triduum” – but first, St. Luke and James the Just. October 18 and 23…

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

The Book of Common Prayer* says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It 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 Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.)  

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

The last two posts focused on my recent “Camino” hike on the Way of St Francis.

I flew over from Atlanta to Rome on August 27 and came back on September 22. In between I hiked – with my brother and his wife – some 140 miles, from Assisi back to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, in Rome. I’ll be doing more reviews on the hike-pilgrimage in the future, but as it turns out, the last two weeks of October are full of Feast Days. The two biggies are for St. Luke, on October 18, and October 23 is the Feast for James, brother of Jesus.

But first a note about the big Christian hubbub over “Faith and Works.” See for example, Faith and Works: Reconciling the Two Doctrines – Learn Religions or Faith, Works, and the Apparent Controversy of Paul and James. Briefly, the question is “How do I get to Heaven?” Or, “Can you ‘buy your way into heaven,'” or is it enough just to believe in Jesus?

The controversy came to a boiling point way back in 1517, over the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. The implication became that you could “buy your way into heaven.” The practice became so corrupt – in Martin Luther‘s view – that in 1517 he published his 95 Theses and thus started the Protestant Reformation and all the religious wars that followed.

So, on the one hand you had the implication that you could buy your way into heaven, either by performing good works or by paying out “filthy lucre.” On the other hand you had Martin Luther’s sola fide, “by faith alone.” The implication there was that you could simply express your belief in Jesus, then take it easy for the rest of your life. (See The Just Shall Live by Faith Meaning – Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11, etc.) But as usual, the best answer is “somewhere in the middle.”

I recently found that answer “in the middle” back on October 10, 2022, doing my daily Bible readings. Specifically, in Acts 26:20. And the Bible book Acts of the Apostles is one of the two Bible books written by St. Luke. (Whose Feast Day is October 18.) There are a number of translations for Acts 26:20, but the one I like best is in my DOR book, which uses the Revised Standard Version (RSV). In that version the Apostle Paul tells the people he is addressing that they should “repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.”

As noted, in John 6:37, Jesus said he would accept anyone who turns to Him. Then there’s Romans 10:9, where the Apostle Paul reiterated that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No ifs, ands or buts. That’s the “turn to God” part, but it’s not enough to just accept your free gift from Jesus. (Then sit on your spiritual butt for the rest of your life.)

So the better answer is not, either what Paul said, or what James said. You don’t have to choose between them. It’s not an either-or situation. The best answer is both. Or as it says in 2d Corinthians 1:20, “all the promises of God are ‘yes’ in Christ.” Problem solved…

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Anyway, getting back to the October feast days, I covered St. Luke and James, brother of Jesus in 2019’s Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, and other posts listed therein. In turn I noted that James, brother of Jesus is one of several “Jameses” in the New Testament…

About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part. He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

It’s easy to confuse the “Brother of Jesus” with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25. (Among other differences, James the Greater is the “patron saint of pilgrims,” especially Camino pilgrims.) But the James remembered on October 23 is said to be the author of the Epistle of James. In turn, other New Testament books mention him – the Pauline epistles and Acts of the Apostles – and show him as a key player among the Christians of Jerusalem.

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9 Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

There’s also confusion on how he died. “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.” But Clement of Alexandria relates that “James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.” Either way, he was important.

Which is also true of St. Luke.

The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels.  He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)  He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”

Thus Luke’s Gospel was – to Wills and many others – the most beautiful book that ever was.” Which means that Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one to which we should pay special attention.  And especiallto being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

“We could use a lot more of that Christian kindness these days…”

And speaking of Christian kindness – something else we could use a lot more of these days – Luke added some distinctive accounts in version of the Gospel:

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

And finally, see the Collect for St. Luke’s Feast Day, Saturday October 18:  “Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son:  Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal…

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And if the soul doesn’t, the Holy Spirit does

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The upper “witch” image is courtesy of Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead …54disneyreviews.

The full Daily Office readings for October 10, 2022, are: “AM Psalm 1, 2, 3; PM Psalm 4, 7, Micah 7:1-7Acts 26:1-23Luke 8:26-39.” I do those daily readings using “my DOR book.” It’s part of a four-volume set published by Church Publishing Incorporated. (Formerly The Church Hymnal Corporation. See ChurchPublishing.org: Church Publishing Incorporated.) Or for more see What’s a DOR

Re: “Other posts listed therein.” see more detail on St. Luke in Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021 or in 2014’s St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 2015. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”)

The lower image is courtesy of Healing Power Image – Image Results. Also re: “Holy Spirit does,” see Romans 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.” That’s from the Good News Translation.

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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, “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:

…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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer 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.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you 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 related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

Re: “mystical.” Originally, 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!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

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

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And finally, some notes for my next post:

Jesus on those so-called Open Borders. Matthew 25:38 is generally translated “when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?” But the better translation from the original Hebrew is alien. As in “”when did we see you an alien and welcome you?” In turn, Matthew 25:43 is properly translated, “I was an alien and you did not welcome me.” Followed by Matthew 25:45-46: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is in keeping with Exodus 22:21, and Deuteronomy 10:19. Exodus 22:21 reads “You must not exploit a resident alien or oppress him, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19 reads, “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”

From Luke 10:25-37, where a smarmy lawyer wanted to test Jesus and justify himself. When properly recited the Two Great Commandments, including the one to Love Your Neighbor, the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

The following is how Jesus might update the parable today:

“A man was going down from Washington D.C. to Richmond, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A Christian Evangelical happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Southern Baptist, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a California Liberal, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man in his car, brought him to a nearby Hilton and took care of him. The next day he took out his credit card and paid for two night’s lodging, and told the hotel clerk, ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The point is, the Pharisees in Jesus’ time hated Samaritans as much as today’s Conservative Christians hate California Liberals.

الغريبة

Some highlights – Way of St. Francis 2022

A typical switchback, cut-back, whatever, of which there were plenty on “The Way…”

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As noted in the last post (From Jerusalem to Assisi), I flew over to Rome last August 27, a Saturday. On Tuesday, August 30, I took a train up to Assisi and met up with my brother and his wife. On Thursday, September 1, we started hiking back to Rome, via the Way of St Francis.

But not before I got a &^%#$ ticket – costing 30 Euros – for not validating my bus pass, in Assisi. It happened on the ride back from the Basilica of San Francis, at right, on the 31st, but it wasn’t my fault. Two knuckleheads in front of me had trouble making change (or whatever). A long line started forming behind me, so the driver told us – starting with me – to “go to the back of the bus.” That’s where, supposedly, there was another machine to validate your bus ticket.

For whatever reason I didn’t validate the pass, possibly because I didn’t see any such machine. So, when we got back to the train station in Assisi – a short walk from our lodging – an officious-looking official magically appeared and announced the aforementioned fine for failure to validate. I protested long, hard and loud – “but the driver told me to go to the back of the bus!” – but to no avail. It was all, “No comprendo,” or however they say it in Italy.

Not a good start to what was supposed to be a pilgrimage to enlightenment.

But this post is supposed to be about some highlights of the trip, so I’ll move on. Which is another way of saying that now that the project is over, it’s time to start the post-mortems.

For starters, the original proposed route was 154 miles, from Assisi to Rome. Specifically back to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, in Rome. But after our night spent in Piediluco on September 7, one of our party developed a temporary (GI) health problem. Aside from that, the weather forecast for September 8 was for really heavy rains. So instead of hiking that day we had to take a bus back to Trevi, then a train to Rieti – our destination for Friday, September 9 – then take a bus back to Poggio Bustonne, our reserved lodging for September 8.

That took off the 13.5 mile hike scheduled for that day (9/8/22), which was another good reason for the bus-train-bus alternative. (Along with the really heavy rain.) The net result was to round down our total miles hiked from 154 to 140 miles. Which we did in 18 days, from September 1 to the 18th. But we took days off from hiking on September 4, September 10, and September 15. Of course we didn’t hike on September 8, but that wasn’t what you could call a day off.

That is, the bus-train-bus travel day wasn’t what you could call a day off.

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Some other observations: Much of the Way of St. Francis is like the Appalachian Trail. Except that it’s over, up, down and around the Apennine Mountains, not the Appalachians.

Like the Appalachian Trail, there were many days with very few places to stop for refreshment during the day. It wasn’t that unusual to go a whole day’s hike, of 10 or 12 miles or more, without any of those stops so prevalent on the Camino Frances (French Way). (On the other hand, in Italy you could still always look forward to a hot shower and a cold beer at the end of the day.)

I suppose there’s a chicken-and-egg question here. The Camino Frances is big business. Lots of places to stop and refresh because there are lots of pilgrims hiking. But such a cafe would have a hard time surviving on the Way of St. Francis, because of so few pilgrims. One suggestion to improve things: Construct shelters every five or ten miles, with picnic tables – or one at least – so weary pilgrims could stop and at least put our feet up and our packs down.

Also, my 8th grade math teacher taught us that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. However, that rule doesn’t apply to the Way of St. Francis. And that led me to wonder, “Why did St. Francis follow this ‘path?‘” Back and forth, up and down, full of zig-zags, switchbacks and cut-backs. And why wouldn’t he take the smoother route along the valley that beckoned down below? (The smooth path that the train takes from Rome up to Assisi.)

As best I can tell, Francis never actually hiked this one path all at once. Instead “the Way” seems to be an amalgam of trips he took during his lifetime, often responding to requests from a nearby village or town, to help out in an emergency. (Including one literal “wolf at the door.”)

Another note: Earlier this summer, before leaving for Rome, I read that Europe was having a severe drought. But we seem to have brought some rain with us, at least in Italy and at least along the Apennines between Assisi and Rome. Which often turned the Trail into a deadly combination of gumbo-like muck, caking around the bottom of your shoes, and slippery-slick rocks and gravel, especially treacherous hiking down one of those many switchbacks or cutbacks.

Which raises the question, “What kind of fool would put himself through such an ordeal?” And that’s a question I found myself asking quite often on the Trail, especially during the early days of the hike. The answer I came up with? The idea on such a trek is to push beyond your limits. To ask yourself at least once a day, “What the heck am I doing here?” Or in my case, “What sane 71-year-old would spend good money just to put himself through all this?”

And then keep going…

On the St. Francis, the hiking is often rugged, rocky, sticky and/or slippery, like after a torrential rain the night before. Zig-zag, east, west, north, south, repeat, up, down, round and around. Whereas on the Camino Frances, once you get past Pamplona you’re heading straight west. It’s much harder to get lost, and there are a lot more friendly locals to help you get back on track.

Another feature of such a pilgrimage, sleeping in a different bed pretty much every night, and having to figure out a different shower set-up every late afternoon. Which made Rome such a great place to reach: Getting to sleep in the same bed four nights in a row.

Then there was our one 15-hour day. There was a mix-up in addresses for our rental. One note said Ferrentillo, the other said Macenano. We passed Macenano in the dark and hiked the extra three miles to Ferrentillo, only to find out the rental was back in Macenano. (The closest I came to crying the whole trip.) By that time it was 10:30 at night, and nobody relished hiking back the 90 minutes or so, in the dark. Fortunately, one of our party approached a group of three local ladies, and through some combination got us a ride back to Macenano, free of charge. That could well be the biggest highlight of the ordeal, seeing how nice Italian people can be.

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There’s more to come in later posts, but this is supposed to be a spiritual blog. On that note, while hiking in Italy I faithfully kept up with my Daily Office Readings. And in September they included three major feast days: Holy Cross Day on September 14, St Matthew, Evangelist on September 21, and St Michael and All Angels, on September 29. You can see a quick take on these feast days at October 2018’s On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.”

That October 2018 post talked about the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church, and how it says the idea of purgatory is both a “Romish doctrine” and “repugnant to the Word of God.” On the other hand, there’s the painting below, of the Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory. Which brings up the fact that without purgatory, your dying day turns out to be a pass-fail test. You’re either in or you’re out.  You either go to heaven or “down, down the down-down way.” But with purgatory you get another chance. 

You get a chance to enter that “intermediate state after physical death,” where some of those “ultimately destined for heaven” can first undergo “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” Which to me, means another chance of getting to heaven. And who knows, maybe a challenging pilgrimage like my recent hike on the Way of St. Francis is, in its own way, a form of purgatory. And who knows, maybe that hot shower and cold beer at the end of each day’s hike was – in its own way – a metaphor, a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet to Come. First comes the harsh reality of negotiating the twists and turns of life here on earth, followed by the metaphoric “hot shower and cold beer.”

So the idea of purgatory gives me another chance at that metaphoric “hot shower and cold beer” at the end of my earthly life. Which is why I ended that October 2018 post by saying, “here’s to Michael (archangel), and his reaching out to save souls in purgatory…”

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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I took the top photo, one of many many switchbacks we saw hiking from Arrone to Piediluco, on September 7, 2022. By the way, Piediluco is a swanky resort area, by the Lago (Lake) di Piediluco. So the best fiscally responsible one-night rental option – at the Hotel Miralago, Piediluco – was one room with three beds right next to each other. They had a great breakfast buffet though!

As noted in the last post…” The full title, From Jerusalem to Assisi – 2022.

Re: The bus-pass ticket. In hindsight I can see the logic. An unvalidated pass can be used again for a free ride. (But 30 &^%$# Euros?)

Re: “Post mortem.” The link is to Guide to Post-Mortem in Business: “a process that helps improve projects by identifying what did and didn’t work, and changing organizational processes to incorporate lessons learned. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) refers to this activity as ‘lessons learned.’” Also, according to mors, mortis [f.] M – Latin is Simple Online Dictionary, the plural form of mortem is “mortes,” not “mortems.” (I took two years of Latin in high school.)

Re: The Way of St. Francis as an “amalgam.” See for example The Way of St. Francis: Walking 550 Kilometers Along One of the World’s Greatest Pilgrimages:

St. Francis is said to have taken literally the scripture passage, “preach the good news to all creatures.” My favorite story focuses on the historic town of Gubbio where residents were haunted by a wolf that had developed a taste for human flesh. They begged St. Francis to intervene with the fearsome creature and then were amazed when the wolf sat peacefully at his feet while the two made a bargain.

The bargain: “If the townspeople would feed him daily, the wolf would leave them alone.”

“The closest I came to crying…” Not really, though I was concerned.

Re: Feast days in September. My DOR Lectionary book also included the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on September 8, the “Christian feast day celebrating the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” For more details see the link.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on St. Michael, captioned, “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.”

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From Jerusalem to Assisi – 2022

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi – that’s where I hope to be next August 30…

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Next August 27 – a Saturday – I’ll be flying over to Rome. From there I’ll take a train up to Assisi to meet up with my brother and his wife. Then on Thursday, September 1, we’ll start hiking the 154 miles back to Rome, via the Way of St Francis. But first I have some feast days to cover.

The first one is The Transfiguration of Jesus, celebrated back on August 6. I covered that in The Transfiguration – 2020. (Back in “Week 21 of the COVID-19 pandemic.”) The following Monday, August 15, was the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. I covered this “Mary” in 2019’s St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem, and the next year in St. Mary, 2020 – and “Walls of Separation.”

Which is where “From Jerusalem to Assisi” comes in. My 2019 pilgrimage to Jerusalem included a side trip to Bethlehem, and in that town – where Jesus was born – we found the “Wall of Separation” discussed below. That is, the 2019 post Mary [and] more on Jerusalem gave some background on this particular feast day. But it also talked at length about my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel. (Beginning with arriving in Tel Aviv on another Saturday evening and being able to get quickly – and surprisingly – through the “dreaded Israeli security at Ben Gurion airport.”) 

That post covered the Jerusalem visit from our arrival on Saturday night, May 11, to the following Friday, May 17. That’s when we visited the Judean wilderness, the Jordan River and Jericho. I revisited the post the following year in St. Mary, 2020 – and “Walls of Separation.” It covered at greater length our visit to Bethlehem on May 16. The coverage included the ironic if not incongruous “Wall of Separation” that runs through Bethlehem. (Where Jesus was born.)

I say ironic because what some call the Wall of Separation, the powers that be call the “Israeli West Bank barrier.” And there, right next to the Wall, our group stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.*” For more see Banksy′s hotel with ′the world′s worst view′ opens in Bethlehem:

“With a play on words on the luxury Waldorf Astoria chain, this place is called the Walled Off Hotel, because it was built almost immediately next to Israel’s separation wall in the Palestinian-ruled city where Jesus Christ was born.”

Which of course would be Bethlehem. That’s where Jesus was born and where “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” were expressed in Him. But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in that birthplace, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” And I still don’t.

But there’s another reason to review those two posts. I’m just finishing up a book, “On Mystic Christians – (you know, the real ones?”) Of which more in a future post, but once I finish that book, I plan to start another one, on that May 2019 three-week visit to Jerusalem. (And much of the rest of Israel, including my taste-testing the distinction between Israeli Maccabee Beer, and the also-locally-brewed Taybeh Palestinian beer.) But I also want to start a book on my three hikes on the Camino de Santiago, to include that next one coming up, the Way of St Francis

It just so happens that I wrote about St. Francis back in October 2015, in Saint Teresa of Avila:

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

Which brings up two possible foreshadowings. One, my eventually writing a book on Mystic Christians. (“You know, the real ones?”) And a soon-to-be pilgrimage to Assisi and the Way of St Francis. But before closing, let’s get back to those feast days. Or at least the highlights.

Turning first to Mary, 2019’s St. Mary … and more on Jerusalem noted that aside from being the mother of God the Son Incarnate in Christianity, “Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her.” And millions of Christians consider her to be the most meritorious saint of the Church, as both the Mother of God and the Theotokos. (Literally “Bearer of God.”) On that note, in Renaissance paintings especially, Mary is shown wearing blue. That tradition goes back to Byzantine Empire, to about 500 A.D., “where blue was ‘the colour of an Empress.’” Which seems appropriate…

Going back to the August 6 feast day, the Transfiguration – 2020 post talked about how COVID might be a blessing in disguise. Then it harked back to the Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. No less a person than St. Thomas Aquinas considered it The Greatest Miracle because – unlike the other Gospel miracles – this one happened to Jesus. (Making it “unique among those listed in the ‘Canonical gospels.'”) Then too, the episode also transformed the disciples who witnessed the event, and “never forgot what happened that day.” (Which was probably what Jesus intended.) One witness, John, wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only.” (John 1:14.)  Peter also wrote of it, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18.)

And from there they went on to TRANSFORM (Transfigure) the world.

But there’s still a lot of work left for us to do. For one thing, we need to start tearing down the walls that separate us, and turn neighbor against neighbor. (See Divisive walls can be broken down through Jesus for one thoughtful review, with citations to Romans 10:12 and Galatians 3:28, among others.) Then there’s Ephesians 2:14, which reads in the Good News Translation, “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.”

So as for my pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and the Way of St Francis:

Here’s hoping I don’t find any Walls of Separation!

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Bethlehem’s Wall of Separation: “That look about says it all…

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The upper image is courtesy of St Francis Assisi Basilica – Image Results. It is accompanied by an article, Finding Peace and Faith in Assisi by Rick Steves.

In Assisi, my favorite ritual is to sit quietly on the rampart of the medieval fortress high above town. I look down at the basilica dedicated to the saint, then into the valley at the church where Francis and his “Jugglers of God” started the Franciscan order. Hearing the same birdsong that inspired Francis, and tasting the same simple bread, cheese, and wine of Umbria that sustained him, I calm my 21st-century soul and ponder the message of a saint who made the teaching of Jesus so accessible.

Re: Book of Common Prayer. See page 339, under Holy Eucharist:  Rite One:

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…

Or see Online Book of Common Prayer. As to “corporate” and “mystic,” it’s like body and soul. Ideally they are a unified whole, but some people lose sight of the one in focusing too much on the other…

Re: The Way of St. Francis. The Via di Francesco website says it is a “route to reach Assisi following in the footsteps of St Francis, whether leaving from the North (La Verna) or the South (Rome).” In our case, we’ll explore Assisi on the afternoon of August 30, after meeting up, then during the day of August 31. Then we’ll head from Assisi back to Rome.

Re: Getting “quickly – and surprisingly – through ‘the dreaded Israeli security.'” A driver from Saint George’s College Jerusalem met our group of nine from my church back in Georgia. We were part of a larger group taking the 14-day Palestine of Jesus course, and in a sense that driver whisking us through Ben Gurion security was a minor miracle in itself.

Re: The Walled Off Hotel link. Be sure to read the Safety Notice, advising that due to current political developments, there is a potential for “increased tension” in the area. And further that the “narco’s [sic] among you” should bear in mind that the UK Foreign Office has advised against joining any demonstrations while visiting the area.

Re: Still a lot of work to do. For more reviews search “Jesus breaks down walls.”

I took the photo of the Wall of Separation, just outside the “Walled Off Hotel.”

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