Mary’s Visitation and Jefferson’s Monster – 2023

Artist He Qi‘s interpretation of The Holy Spirit Coming down OR: “Jefferson’s Monster…”

*   *   *   *

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 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:

May 28, 2023, was Pentecost Sunday. (The Day of Pentecost, not the Season of Pentecost.) Three days later, May 31, 2023, celebrated the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin. A week later, Sunday, June 4, came the First Sunday after Pentecost, also called Trinity Sunday.

The weekend of Trinity Sunday, I visited West Springfield, Massachussetts. My brother and his family live there, and they insisted I come up to see the 2023 NEPM Asparagus Festival. The “family-focused event offers more than 100 local vendors providing food, beer, wine and cider as well as agricultural crafts and exhibits.” Including a lot of attention to Asparagus.

I may update all that later,* but in “the other meantime,” back to the the Feast of the Visitation. And Trinity Sunday. Past posts include The Visitation – 2016, Mary’s Visitation – and Pentecost – 2017, and – from May 2018 – The Trinity – Jefferson’s “3-headed monster.”

Taking the last one first, the 2018 post noted first that Pentecost Sunday is the birthday of what was one church. (Now many denominations, hopefully united in Faith.) It marked a big change in Ministry. Before Pentecost One, “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.” But now God recruited “all different sorts of people for ministry… All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” Thus the First Pentecost was a “momentous, watershed event.”

Which brings up the Trinity – as in Trinity Sunday. Many find “God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit” hard to understand. Even one as smart as Thomas Jefferson. He called the idea a “Three-headed Monster.” (A side note: I like better the metaphor, “an ocean in which to swim.”) I said Jefferson was too much like Nicodemus, taking the Bible “way too literally.” Or you could say:

The Trinity is one of the most fascinating – and controversial – Christian dogmas.  The Trinity is a mystery.  By mystery the Church does not mean a riddle, but rather the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith.  It has been said that [this] mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.

From which we can glean: 1) Reading the Bible too literally only takes your spiritual journey so far. 2) Jesus said – to people who didn’t understand His earthly sayings – “Then how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” 3) John 21:25 noted many things Jesus did, “which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” And finally, 4) “The Lord has not empowered even his holy ones to recount all his marvelous works.” (Ecclesiasticus 42:17.)

Which is another way of saying there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.

That’s why the Wesleyan Quadrilateral says that apart from Scripture, “experience is the strongest proof of Christianity.” (See also Job 42:5.) In other words, “we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally.” (Apparently Jefferson didn’t have that experience.) In sum, the Trinity is a “reality above our human comprehension.” A reality that we can only begin to grasp. The same is true of much of the Bible, especially the “mystical” parts. (Which may be why some choose literalism. It’s ever so much easier…)

Back to the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (The formal name.) As Wikipedia noted:

The Visitation is the visit of Mary with Elizabeth as recorded [in] Luke 1:39–56.  It is also the name of a Christian feast day[,] celebrated on 31 May…  Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist.  Mary left Nazareth immediately after the Annunciation and went “into the hill country” [of Judah] to attend to her cousin.

Wikipedia added, “In the Gospel of Luke, the author’s accounts of the Annunciation and Visitation are constructed using eight points of literary parallelism to compare Mary to the Ark of the Covenant.” (Which I didn’t know.) Also, Mary’s Magnificat echoes Old Testament passages including the Song of Hannah, in 1st Samuel 2:1-10. There’s more background in Visitation – 2016, but here’s the main point: On May 31 we celebrate the early meeting of Mary and cousin Elizabeth. “Their meeting sets the stage for all that will come later, and it is women who recognize it first.” (See also Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles.”)

*   *   *   *

The Virgin Mary in prayer – Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of The Good Heart: Holy Spirit Coming (Painting by He Qi):  

“A genuinely good heart is a heart that is open and alight with understanding.  It listens to the sorrows of the world.  Our society is wrong to think that happiness depends on fulfilling one’s own wants and desires.  That is why our society is so miserable…”

See also He Qi « Artist:  “One could say that among other things his paintings are a celebration of colour.  The style of his work is iconic, and [his] images are strong but gentle.”

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

For more on the Asparagus Festival, see Ninth annual Asparagus Festival held on Hadley town common – MSN. Or Google “asparagus festival western massachusetts.” Then on Sunday June 4, we visited the “Little Poland” festival. See 10th annual Little Poland Festival takes place in New Britain (CT), and PHOTOS: New Britain celebrated Little Poland Festival. My verdict, the Asparagus Festival featured draft beer, the Polish Festival only canned. Plus the Polish Festival was livelier, with more music and lots of people celebrating and “dancing in the streets.”

See also Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Re: Trinity. According to What is the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity, “The Trinity is Christianity’s most unique, defining, incomprehensible, and awesome mystery.” And that while some “unbelievers mistakenly call this a contradiction,” it is rather “a mystery revealed by God in His Word.”

Re: Jefferson’s “Three-headed Monster.” In his letter of December 1822, he used phrases like “hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus,” and that with Christian believers, “gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.”

“Heavenly things.” John 3:12, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

Re: Job 42:5. The Bible Hub site has different translations. The CE Version reads, “I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes.” The NLT reads, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” See also Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

We are not to suppose that Job means to say that he actually “saw” God, but that his apprehensions of him were clear and bright “as if” he did. There is no evidence that God appeared to Job in any visible form. He is said, indeed, to have spoken from the whirlwind, but no visible manifestation of Yahweh is mentioned.

The lower image is courtesy of the Marian perspectives link at Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650.”  (Or in the alternative:  “Jungfrun i bön (1640-1650). National GalleryLondon.”)

My 2016 post included a cite to The Visitation Painting by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, and this:

Although not a big part of the Christmas story today, in the past, the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth was considered very important.  The two women were cousins.  Elizabeth, an old woman, is the wife of the priest Zechariah, who is told by an angel that his elderly wife will become pregnant.  Unknown to the couple, their child will grow up to become John the Baptist.  Mary was pregnant with Jesus.  When they meet, Elizabeth’s baby leaps for joy inside her womb.  Elizabeth and Mary both realize that Mary’s child is very special.  Their meeting sets the stage for all that will come later, and it is women who recognize it first.

The site added that all paintings of the Visitation “are based on the Gospel of Luke, 1:40-45, the only place where this story appears.”

*   *   *   *

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.”

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: “” 

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