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 “martyrs, saints, 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 saintis 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.
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…
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 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.)
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.
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…
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 especially to 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 goodidea 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…“
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…
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: scripture, tradition, 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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.)
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.