Monthly Archives: March 2024

Happy “Eostre” – 2024!

*   *   *   *

 The Germanic goddess Ēostre – or “Ostara” – who gave us the name of “Easter..”

*   *   *   *

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 key. They show that a healthy church has two sides, including the often-overlooked “mystical” side that answers the question, “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 – another one often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did. (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:

It’s that time of year again. After 46 days of Lent – 40 days mirroring the ones Jesus spent in the Wilderness, plus six Sundays “off*” – it’s time to celebrate another Happy Easter. But you may wonder, “Where and when did all this start?” In the biggest sense of course it all started with Jesus being raised from the dead after being crucified. But the name “Easter” itself has more worldly origins. And it all had to do with how good early Christians were at adapting to the circumstances around them. In other words, applying the Bible with an open mind

In further words, how did we get from Jesus and His resurrection to the “Easter Bunny, colorfully decorated Easter eggs, and Easter egg hunts?” It seems to have started around 1682:

The Easter Bunny (also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare) is a symbol of Easter, depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs. Originating among German Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient…  In legend, [he] carries colored eggs in his basket, candy, and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows similarities to Santa Claus or the Christkind, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holidays.

Then there’s the name “Easter” itself, which comes from Ēostre (or Eastre, or Ostara). She’s the pagan goddess of spring, celebrated by the Saxons of Northern Europe. They held a festival to honor her called Eastre during the spring equinox. Her “earthly symbol was the rabbit, which was also known as a symbol of fertility.” But unfortunately – as one site noted – Easter today has become “almost a completely commercialized holiday, with all the focus on Easter eggs and the Easter bunny being remnants of the goddess worship.” But that’s where we devout practicing Christians come in. To remind people of the real “reason for the season.”

Which brings us back to Jesus, and Easter Sunday. That’s the day we celebrate His resurrection from the dead, “described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion,” at Calvary, around 30 AD.  “It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.”

In other words it’s one of many alternating rhythms of “feasting and fasting” in the church year. All of which reminds us that “life is not all fun and games.” In further words, to have a mountaintop experience you have to climb the mountain. (Then once it’s over you have to climb back down again, to the slings and arrows of everyday life. That’s how you make spiritual progress, it seems to me.) In this case, the Disciples and other followers of Jesus had seen all their hopes dashed. They’d believed in Him, yet He ended up in a painful and humiliating death.

But in this case, Jesus “kicked death’s butt,” which was of course hard to believe at first, as shown by Rembrandt‘s painting, “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen.”

Mary Magdalen had just found Jesus’ grave empty, and asks a bystander what has happened. In her confusion she thinks the man is a gardener. Only when he replies with “Mary!” does she realize who she’s talking to. To illustrate Mary’s confusion, Jesus is often depicted as a gardener in this scene.

(Which you can check on your own, as illustrating Mark 16:1-8 and other Gospel accounts.)

And to support the claim that Jesus “kicked death’s butt,” see El Greco‘s painting – just below – of The Resurrection. It shows the Risen Jesus “in a blaze of glory … holding the white banner of victory over death.” In plain words, those of us who believe celebrate this day not because of Easter eggs or chocolate bunnies. We celebrate because by His sacrifice Jesus gave us all the power to become children of God.  And that ain’t exactly chopped liver

*   *   *   *

Christ “in a blaze of glory,” finally victorious over death...

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Ēostre – Wikipedia. The caption: “Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.”

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

For this post I borrowed: From 2015 (mostly), On Easter Season – AND BEYOND. Also, from 2016, On Eastertide – and “artistic license.” From 2017, Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!” From 2019, On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor. And finally, Happy Easter – April 2020!

Re: Jesus and the 40 days. Known as the Temptation of Christ: During His 40 days and nights of fasting in the Judaean DesertSatan came and tried to tempt Him. When Jesus “refused each temptation, Satan then departed… During this entire time of spiritual battle, Jesus was fasting.” Wikipedia.

Re: Days off during Lent. See 40 Days and 40 Nights [film] – Wikipedia, the 2002 film about “a San Francisco web designer who has chosen to abstain from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.” As noted below, he could have had sex by virtue of the “Sundays off” aspect of Lent. See Why Sundays Don’t Count During Lent | Guideposts.

Re: The Rembrandt painting. The full link is “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – Art and the Bible. See also Rembrandt – Wikipedia, and/or Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work

Re: “Those of us who believe.” The citation is to 1st Corinthians 1:18, that the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The lower image is courtesy of “The Resurrection by El Greco,” and the Web Gallery of Art:

Christ is shown in a blaze of glory, striding through the air and holding the white banner of victory over death.  The soldiers who had been placed at the tomb to guard it scatter convulsively.  Two of them cover their eyes, shielding themselves from the radiance, and two others raise one hand in a gesture of acknowledgement of the supernatural importance of the event…   By excluding any visual reference to the tomb or to landscape, El Greco … articulated its universal significance through the dynamism of nine figures that make up the composition [in] one of the greatest interpretations of the subject in art.

See also Resurrection, 1584-94 by El Greco, and El Greco’s Resurrection: Ahead of its Time:  “El Greco considered spiritual expression to be more important than public opinion and it was in this way that he developed a unique style … as one of the great geniuses of Western art.”

*   *   *   *

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.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) 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

More Lenten meditation – 2024

*   *   *   *

One of many thought-provoking ideas – I hope – for this Lent 2024…

*   *   *   *

As part of my ongoing 2024 meditation, Lent as Pilgrimage, I went back and checked some older posts on the subject. I typed “Lent contemplation” in the search box above right, and found this post from December 2015: Develop your talents with Bible study.

I’m not sure what the connection was between that near-Christmas 2015 post and Lenten contemplation, but maybe it was the theme, “opening your mind with Bible study and developing your talents.” And those two subjects certainly seem worthy of contemplation during this Lent.

The post started with Matthew 25:14-30 and the Parable of the talents. The lesson?

Develop your talents! That’s the point: That you can’t be a “good and faithful servant” unless you give back to God more than what He originally gave you. And you can’t do that by being too literal, too focused on “avoiding sin.”

It went on to talk about how humans will always make mistakes and that maybe “the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us.” Also about not developing a “holier than thou” attitude, and not becoming just another “Carbon Copy Christian.” (Instead, “Sing to the LORD a new song.”)

But mostly it was about developing your talents, as a way of “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.” In other words, becoming someone “who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute.”

Which is the definition of a mystic, one who “attempts to be united with God through prayer.” I also noted the term “mystic” seems to throw Southern Baptists and other conservatives into apoplexy, adding, “Try it sometime!!!” But of course, that was only joking…

The post also noted the story of Shadrach and the Fiery Furnace. That’s when he and his buddies – Meshach and Abednego – were about to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Those three men knew that God could save them if He wanted to, but they also knew that might not fit in with His (God’s) purpose. Thus their response to the king in Daniel 3 (16-18):

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar…  If our God …  is able to deliver us, he will deliver us…  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Note the emphasized “But if not…” The three men were really saying something like this: “O Nebuchadnezzar, it’s up to God Himself to decide if He’ll deliver us… God certainly has the power to save us, but even if He decides not to, we will still believe in and follow Him…”

Definitely a great lesson for this 2024 year of political turmoil and polarization.

And finally, the Notes in that 2015 post had a link to an earlier post, from May 2014, The Bible as “transcendent” meditation. That post also talked about “so-called Christians” who focus on sin – usually someone else’s – rather than all the positive things that regular Bible-reading can give you. (A discipline like the one Paul mentions in Hebrews 12:11, that “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.”) And it should be a gentle but persistent discipline. As one writer said, the would-be meditator (or “work-in-progress” Christian) should give himself permission to make mistakes. “You will make them anyway and will be much more comfortable – and get along better with this exercise – if you give yourself permission in advance.”

Or as Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Which may not always seem true, especially when you’re going through a trial. However, with faith you’ll know, “God will save us. He will see us through this trial, so we come out stronger when it’s over.”

Another not-bad set of lessons to ponder this Lent…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of www.pinterest.com/pc554/leadership-quotes/

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

Re: “Carbon copy Christian.” The link is to “Another brick in the wall,” from February 2015. Which is another term for such a Christian, and that post was pretty close to Lent in 2015.

On singing new songs. Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 98:1 and 144:9, from [S]inging a NEW song to God.

Re: The discipline of Bible-reading producing “a harvest of righteousness and peace.” It can also give your life structure and purpose, things many people seem to be missing these days.

Re: Matthew 11. For the full reading see Matthew 11:28-30. In the King James Version (the one God uses), it reads, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (For some reason I remember the first part reading, “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden…” Travail meaning “work especially of a painful or laborious nature.”)

The lower image is courtesy of Jesus Yoke Is Easy Burden Is Light – Image Results. It comes with a page, My Burden Is Light – Love, Grief and Healing, worth reading.

*   *   *   *

On Lent as a Pilgrimage – 2024

*   *   *   *

A visual metaphor of Lent – for example – as a pilgrim path toward Jesus, per John 6:37… 

*   *   *   *

Not long ago I published an eBook, 30 Years’ Feedback from God. Which has nothing directly to do with this post, but finishing it up freed me to start on my next book. For now I’m calling it, “My 2023 Hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.” (What the French call the GR 70.) Which got me thinking about past pilgrimages I’ve made – like hikes on the Camino de Santiago.

Which also got me thinking about “Lent as a Pilgrimage.” That’s when I found out I wasn’t alone in that thought. I’ve included four links in the Notes – from which I’ll borrow here – and they all point to the wisdom of Psalm 84:5, that happy are those whose “hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.” And here are some nuggets from those links: First, that “pilgrimage” is not some abstract idea or concept. Instead it’s a “deeply fitting idea for this time of Lent:”

A pilgrim is someone on a journey – a journey away from a place of comfort and familiarity on the way toward unknown places of both possibility and challenge. 

For many of us, Lent is definitely a time of challenge, discomfort and the unfamiliar. (Though for some reason I’ve come to enjoy the idea of Lent.) On that note, in Lent we “intentionally break away from our normal routine of daily life” – with all its trivialities – and focus on the spiritual. “In other words, Lent is a pilgrimage – a spiritual pilgrimage to the Cross.”

Which you could say describes every Christian pilgrimage.

Which brings up some of the Christian-pilgrim hikes that I’ve done so far; five of them now. (The latest was that 2023 hike on the Stevenson Trail in France.) So for this installment of “Lent 2024” I offer up the following past posts, in reverse order, On St. James (2023), Pilgrimage, and “Maudlin’s Journey,” from July 2023, St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage,” from August 2019, and I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, from September 2018.

The first post said James, son of Zebedee – also called “St. James the Greater” – is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And he is the St. James – Sant Iago – whose remains (“relics”) are the focus for thousands of peregrinos who hike the Camino de Santiago. Here’s what Satucket said:

Tradition has it that [James] made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried [at] Compostela… His supposed burial place there was a major site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the Spaniards fighting to drive their Moorish conquerors out of Spain took “Santiago de Compostela!” as one of their chief war-cries.

Which is another way of saying that James’ name itself had magical powers in the past. And speaking of a pilgrim path, you could say every Christian uses some of that magic in following John 6:37, where Jesus said He would never turn away anyone who comes to Him. Meaning that from the time you “take the pledge,” your life is one long journey on the road toward Jesus.

On a related note see Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain – timeanddate.com:

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25.  Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The article noted that July 25 is a public holiday in “Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.”  (A side note: The “autonomous community” – or province – of Galicia, is in northwestern Spain, and that’s where Santiago de Compostela lies, as the “provincial” capital.) 

The article added that according to Christian tradition: 1) this James the Greater may have traveled to the area now called Santiago;  2) this James was beheaded in Judea in 44 CE, but also; 3) that his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón, on the Galician coast. Then they  buried his body “under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.”

Then there’s the Back from Rideau pilgrimage post from 2018. For the unfamiliar, the Rideau Canal is a 125-mile canoe route, in our case from Kingston, on the shore of Lake Ontario, up to Ottawa. But it’s not really a “canal.” There are canals and locks to go through, but mostly it’s a bunch of “big-ass lakes,” as one wag put it. Including but not limited to Newboro Lake, Upper and Lower Rideau lakes, and Big Rideau Lake. (With the emphasis on Big.)

Colonel By Island is somewhere in the middle of Big Rideau Lake, and my brother Tom and I reached it the afternoon of Tuesday, August 21, 2018, after “paddling through a veritable monsoon.” That morning we had paddled 10 miles, but in the afternoon we made a mere four miles. (After leaving Narrows (Lock 35.)) Which is why we decided to camp at ”Colonel By” instead of proceeding further. “But wait, there’s more!” We got up the next morning, after trying to sleep through another violent rainstorm, only to find that raccoons had broken into our food containers and taken much of our supplies of breakfast bars, crackers and trail mix. 

Which leads to it being said that all true pilgrimage calls for “discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.” More to the point, a pilgrimage – like our 11-and-a-half-day canoe trip on the Rideau canoe trail – “may be described as a ritual on the move.” Further, through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – not to mention veritable monsoons and raccoon raids – we quite often find a sense of our fragility as “mere human beings.” And finally, such a pilgrimage – like such a true Lenten discipline – can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

I’ve experienced some definite “chastening” on past pilgrimages, but I’ve also experienced a whole lot of beautifully liberating moments too. Like getting up at 4:00 in the morning – to avoid contrary winds – and getting to see the sun rise in the east over a nice calm “big-ass lake.”

Here’s wishing you both a chastening and a liberating Lenten pilgrimage…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Image Resultswhich led me to Why the Oldest Form of Travel Could Be the Most Popular in a Post=COVID World: “Pilgrimages are the oldest form of travel,” from the start to go to shrines or temples and leave offerings, and/or connect to God or ancestors. Also defined as a “hyper-meaningful journey” or sacred endeavor, making it different from regular forms of travel or leisure; “it is the meaning or transformation that occurs.”

One pilgrimage that has exploded is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes in Europe. There are many pathways, but one of the main pathways is the Camino Frances, which is a trail that goes from France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. 

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

“Feedback.” The full title, 30 Years’ Feedback from God: Or “A Look Back at FSU’s 1993 Championship Season – and Its Impact on 2023.” 

The full reading of Psalm 84:5, “Happy are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.”

Other past posts of interest, and for possible in a future “Lent 2024” post: An update – “Feast Days in France,” from September 9, 2023, and my February 2015 post, On donkey travel – and sluts. Those four links supporting the idea of Lent-as-pilgrimage: Lent as a pilgrimage on which we are not alone – Catholic Philly, The Pilgrim Way of Lent – Washington National Cathedral, Our Pilgrimage Through Lent | Christianity Today, and A Reflection on Lent as Pilgrimage – Verso Ministries.

More on ritual, and pilgrimage as “ritual on the move:” In one definition a pilgrim is someone on a quest to “find himself.” (See Self-discovery – Wikipedia.)  And one way of finding yourself is through a healthy sense of ritual, as noted in the book Passages of the Soul:  Ritual Today, by James Roose-Evans. That book provided the “all true ritual” quote It also noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

I took the lower-image photo, on one of those early-morning paddles:

[T]o avoid the often-contrary prevailing winds, we started getting up at 4:00 a.m. (Which would be – to most people anyway – a “raw experience” in the form of a lack of the usual number of hours of sleep. Not to mention having to stumble around in the dark while breaking camp.) On the other hand, getting up that early led to the picture … of one of the benefits of getting up at 4:00 a.m. Aside from the fact that the water is usually much smoother at that hour – especially important on those “big-ass lakes” in the first half of the trip – it also led to us seeing some beautiful sunrises. 

*   *   *   *