One-pointed love

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There is a woman who is married, and her husband doesn’t want to divorce her even if she falls in love with many other men, one after the other.

I am watching a reality show (The Convent, by BBC, its great, but that’s not the point.) I got acquainted with this woman there, and got to hear a few words from her husband too.

Infact her current lover is staying with them, so she is in a polygamous relationship. Her husband loves her anyway.

And I think it’s beautiful. (As conjugal love goes, there is of course the love of God and our fellow human and all creation that I adore more, we’ll talk about that another time. )

It’s beautiful! Women have always loved men like that. Exclusive, deep, unfailing, one-pointed. No matter if he has a mistress, a whore, a second wife, a tenth wife. We women love our man anyway.
To see a man love like that! That is beautiful.

And I realize, that while no one should have to live with the love of one’s life loving another, and everyone has the right to his or her partners exclusive love, true love is not ownership. True love loves even when the beloved loves another. Unless you love like that, you don’t truly love.

Thereby not saying that it isn’t a struggle to love the one who loves another. Ofcourse it’s the worst thing in the world. But true love forgives and loves on anyway. Because it can do nothing else. To stop loving is not an option.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t support polygami, adultery or fornification, this is to show what true love is, being loved truly isn’t a license to take advantage and hurt the one who loves you by expecting them to continue loving and forgiving you while you’re fooling around.
To hell with only women loving men who go to other women. For centuries and even today, women have and are expected to love and love and love. No matter what. Love fathers and brothers and uncles and sons and presidents and and and… And being blamed, called selfish, intolerant, superficial, when her love finaly dies from abuse, starvation, suffocation or a broken heart.

Now Men, its your turn! I challenge you, if you would love your woman even if she goes to another man, then you are worthy of her exclusive attention and undying affection. Otherwise not.

Because that is how we have always loved you. For centuries.

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I love her

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​I do know when I first fell in love with her. It must have been during that first six months. What I don’t remember is when I realized that I was. And am. Maybe not until tonight. 

The 19 years I spent with her came over me tonight after a tvshow we saw. The realisation that it was 19 years of close contact. Together or planning to be.  

Now seven long years apart and in another lifetime it seems… I still remember every detail of her – fragrance and smell, sound, sight, movement, atmosphere, heat. Her houses and bicycles and food. Every spot and variety of her being. How she feelt on my skin. Around me. How it feels to long for her and reach her. 

She is full of life. A vibrant life of colours flowing like a river. Endless for eternity to come and from time immemorial.

Her folks have a way about them – a laidback carefree life. Maybe it is because, as a guy put it in the show we watched, they ‘never doubt their own existence’, not like us westerners who worrry about everything. I have never met worry around her. And that total confidence that life goes on for eternity and there’s nothing you can do about adding to your wealth or your lifespan or even to justice. Everyone gets what is coming to them. No more and no less. 

Ofcourse there are things lacking. She is not particularly great on forgiveness and justice for her oppressed and freedom for her women and many of her people often lie and steal and are lazy. Things to work on. Jesus could fix that.

But 19 long short years growing up and she was always there. Like a rock in troubled waters. Steady. Unwavering.

Every time my feet hit her solid ground after a long flight and I breathed her thick warm air it was like coming home.

Now I remember the light of the midday sun, guesthouses with dirty bathrooms, the worlds most beautiful languages, train rides for days, mangoes, stations stinking of urine, softly flowing rivers, peacocks, honking horns, cockroaches, fine dust, crows, garbage, colourful clothing, incense, burning human bodies, cows in the middle of the street…

I was a foreigner among her people but she was my second mother. Maybe it was when I learnt to sing Bande Mataram in fourth grade that I realized. 

I love her.

And I miss her.

Saccidananda Ashram in India

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Interesting place I hope to visit 🙂

The aim of the ashram is to establish a way of contemplative life, based alike on the traditions of Christian monasticism and of Hindu Sannyasa. Our life is based on the Rule of St.Benedict., the patriarch of Western monasticism. The ashram seeks to be a place of meeting for Hindus and Christians and people of all religions or none, who are genuinely seeking God. We have many visitors from many parts of India and from all over the world, who are seeking God by way of different religious traditions, and we seek to respond to the need for a spiritual centre where such people can come and find an atmosphere of calm quiet for study and meditation.

Saccidananda Ashram

A Christian Ashram

The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration on “Non-Christian Religions”, said that “the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions,” and encouraged Catholics to “recognize, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral values as well as the social and cultural values to be found among them.” Following this direction the All India Seminar in 1969, which was attended by the whole hierarchy and representatives of the whole Catholic Church in India, spoke of the “wealth of truth, goodness and beauty in India’s religious tradition” as “God’s gift to our nation from ancient times.” The seminar showed the need of a liturgy “closely related to the Indian cultural tradition,” and theology “lived and pondered in the vital context of the Indian spiritual tradition.” In particular, the need was expressed to establish authentic forms of monastic life in keeping with the best traditions of the Church and spiritual heritage of India.

Among the gifts given by God to India, the greatest was seen to be that of Interiority: the awareness of the presence of God dwelling in the heart of every human person and every creature, which is fostered by prayer, meditation, contemplative science, the practice of yoga and Sannyasa. “These values” it was said, “belong to Christ and are a positive help to an authentic Christian life.” Consequently it was said, “Ashrams where authentic incarnational Christian spirituality is lived, should be established, which should be open to non-Christians so that they may experience genuine Christian fellowship.” The aim of our ashram, therefore, following these directions of All India Seminar, is to bring into our Christian life the riches of Indian spirituality, to share in that profound experience of God which originated in Vedas, was developed in the Upanishads and Bahagavad Gita, and has come down to us today through a continual succession of sages and holy men and women. From this experience of God lived in the context of an authentic Christian life, it is hoped that we may be able to assist in the growth of a genuine Indian, Christian liturgy and theology.

Saccidananda Ashram, Shanttivanam, the ashram of the Holy Trinity, was founded in 1950 by two French Fathers, Jules Monchanin, who took the name of ParamaArubiAnanda (the bliss of the Supreme Spirit) and Henri Le Saux, who took the name of Abhishiktananda (the bliss of Christ). By taking these names and giving the ashram the name “Saccidananda” “Being, Consciousness and Bliss”a Hindu term for the Godhead used as a symbol of the three persons of the Christian Trinity, they intended anticipating the Second Vatican Council and the All India Seminar, to show that they sought to identify themselves with the Hindu “search for God”, the quest for the Absolute, which has inspired monastic life in India from the earliest times: they also intended to relate this quest to their own experience of God in Christ in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, Father Monchanin died in 1957 before the ashram couldbe properly established, and Swami Abhishiktananda, after remaining for some time alone at Shantivanam, eventually settled as a hermit in the Himalayas, where he died in 1973.

Upon Swami Abhishiktananda’s departure in 1968, the ashram was taken over by a group of monks led by Fr.Bede Griffiths from Kurisumala Ashram in Kerala. Since 1980 Shantivanam has been part of the Benedictine Order as a community of the Camaldoese Benedictine Congregation. On the feast of St.Romuald, 19th June 1985, two Indian Brothers made their solemn monastic profession and one his temporary vows as members of the Order. Fr.Bede Griffiths passed away on 13th May at 04.30 p.m 1993. At present the community consists of ten permanent members, one student, two novices and three postulants.

A PLACE OF PRAYER

The aim of the ashram is to establish a way of contemplative life, based on the traditions of Christian monasticism and of Hindu Sannyasa. Hinduism has a tradition of Sannyasa, renunciation of the world in order to seek God or in Hindu terms ,”liberation” which goes back many centuries before the birth of Christ and continues to the present day. Our aim at Shantivanam is to unite ourselves with this tradition as Christian Sannyasis.

Our life is based on the Rule of St.Benedict, the patriarch of Western Monasticism and on the teaching of the monastic Fathers of the Church, but we also study Hindu Doctrine (Vedanta) and make use of Hindu methods of prayer and meditation (Yoga). In this way, we hope to assist in the meeting of these two great traditions of spiritual life by bringing them together in our own experience of prayer and contemplation.

In externals, the community follows the customs of a Hindu ashram, wearing the saffron colour robe of the sannyasi (Kavi), sitting on the floor and eating with the hand. In this way, we seek to preserve the character of poverty and simplicity which has always been the mark of the sannyasi in India. A distinctive feature of the life is that each monk lives in a small thatched hut which gives him a great opportunity for prayer and meditation and creates an easy atmosphere of solitude and silence. There are two hours specially set apart for meditation, the hours of sunrise and sunset, which are traditional times for prayer and meditation in India. The community meets for prayer three times a day, in the morning after meditation, when the prayer is followed by the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, at midday and in the evening. At our prayer we have readings from the Vedas, the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita as well as from Tamil classics and other Scriptures, together with psalms and readings from the Bible, and we make use of Sanskrit and Tamil songs (Bhajans) accompanied by drums and cymbals. We also make use of “arati” waving of lights before the Blessed Sacrament, and other Indian customs, which are now generally accepted in the Church in India. In this way we hope to assist in the growth of an Indian liturgy according to the mind of theChurch today.

A PLACE OF MEETING

The ashram seeks to be a place of meeting for Hindus and Christians and people of all religions or none, who are genuinely seeking God. For this purpose a guest house has been built, where both men and women can be accommodated for retreat, recollection and for religious dialogue and discussion. There is a good library, which is intended to serve as a study centre. It contains not only books on the Bible and Christian Philosophy and theology but also a representative selection of books on Hinduism, Buddhism, other religions and a general selection on Comparative Religion.We receive many visitors from different parts of India and from all over the world, who are seeking God by way of different religious traditions and we seek to respond to them by providing an atmosphere of calm quiet for study and meditation. No charge is made, but guests can make an offering to cover their expenses.

For those who seek to become permanent members of the community, there are three stages of commitment to the life of the ashram. The first is that of “sadhaka” that is the seeker or aspirant. The second is that of “Brahmachari” that is one who has committed himself to the search for God, who need not remain permanently attached to the ashram. The third is that of “Sannyasi”,  that is one who has made a totaland final dedication, when the Kavi dress is given and he is committed for life to the search for God in renunciation of the world, of family ties and of himself, so as to be able to give himself entirely to God. This however need not involve a permanent stay in the ashram but in accordance with Indian traditions the sannyasi is free to wander or go wherever the Spirit may lead him.

The ashram is attentive not only to spiritual seekers but is also conscious of the poor and the needy neighbours in the surrounding villages. Though the ashram’s primary call is to discover “the kingdom of God within”, it is also deeply proactive to the cry of the poor in their milieu through the words of Jesus “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me.” The ashram runs a Home for the Aged and Destitute; involved in educating the children of the poorest; provides milk to the children, who are below three years to fight the malnutrition; and repairs/builds the houses for the homeless. Thus the ashram gives free boarding and lodging and medical care to 25 aged and the destitute. There are poor and deserving children who receive books, school uniforms and clothes every year. We care for the children below three years of age by providing additional cow’s milk. If you desire to be the part of ashram’s mission to the poor, you may kindly contact the guest master or Superior by email address.

The ashram supports itself partly by cultivating 8 acres of land in its possession; by a dairy farm and from the contributions received from the visitors and well-wishers. In our serious efforts to support ourselves and the poor around, we constantly remind ourselves, the visitors and the poor we serve that the ashram is primarily a place of prayer, where they can experience the presence of God in their lives and know that they were created not merely for this world but for eternal life and where they find God.

SYMBOLS USED IN THE LITURGY

In our prayer, we make use of various symbols drawn from Hindu tradition, in order to adapt our Christian prayer and worship to Indian sacred traditions and customs according to the mind of the church today.

In the Morning Prayer, we use“Sandal paste.” Sandal wood is considered the most precious of all woods, and it is therefore seen as a symbol of Divinity. As it also has a sweet fragrance, it is perceived as a symbol of divine grace. We place it on the forehead or the handsas a way for consecrating the body and its parts to God. It is also a symbol of the unconditional love of God as it gives its fragrance even to the axe that cuts it. We, as we put it on our forehead, are reminded that we too need to thatgive that unconditional love of God to all in our daily living.

At the Midday prayer, we use the purple powder known as “Kumkumum”.  This is placed on the space between the eyebrows and is a symbol of the “Third Eye”. The third eye is the eye of wisdom.  Our two eyes are the eyes of duality, which see the outer world and the outer self, whereas the third eye is the inner eye which sees the inner light according to the Gospel, “if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” This single eye is the third eye, which was often marked on Greek icons of Christ, and is thus a universal symbol. In India the red colour is considered to be feminine, the mark of mother goddess. We consider that it symbolises the feminine wisdom which we attribute it Our Lady of Wisdom. It should be observed that Midday prayer is a wisdom prayer consisting of wisdom psalm (118) and a reading from one of the Books of Wisdom.

At the Evening Prayer we use ashes known as “Vibhuti”. The symbolism here is not merely that of Ash Wednesday. “Dust thou art, unto dust thou shalt return”, but has a deeper meaning. Ash is the final product of the matter from which the impurities have been burnt away. Placing the ashes on the forehead signifies that our sins and impurities have been burnt away and we have become the purified self.

At each of the prayers, we offer “Arati” before the Blessed Sacrament.Arati consists in waving of burning flame/ incense in a circular motion before any sacred object or person as a sign of honour worship. The root meaning of arati before the central shrine in the temple seems to be this: The inner sanctuary of a temple is always kept dark to signify that God dwells in “the Cave of the Heart.’   The burning flame waved before the shrine, as it were, reveals the hidden God. We wave theburning flame before the Blessed Sacrament to manifest, as it were, the hidden Christ.  After that the flame is brought around and we then take the light of Christ to our eyes by placing the hand over the flame.

At the offertory of the Mass, we make an offering of the four elements: Water, Earth, Air and Fire. Every Hindu puja consists in the offering of the elements to God, as a sign of the offering of the creation to God. In the offertory therefore, we offer the four elements as a sign that the whole creation is being offered to God through Christ as a cosmic sacrifice. The celebrant first sprinkles water round the altar to sanctify it. After that he sprinkles water on the people to purify them. Then finally hetakes a sip of water to purify his inner self.  Then he offers the fruits of the earth and work of human hands viz., the Bread and the Wine, and places eight flowers on the “Tali” the sacred plate on which the sacred gifts are offered. These eight flowers, which are offered with Sanskrit chants, represent the eight directions of space and signify that the Mass is offered in the “Centre” of the universe thus relating it to the whole creation.  This is followed by anarati with incense representing the air and then with camphor representing fire. Thus the Mass is seen to be a cosmic sacrifice in which the whole creation together with all humanity is offered through Christ to the Father.

In our daily prayer, we make constant use of the sacred syllable “OM.” This word has no specific meaning. It seems to have been originally a form of affirmation rather like the Hebrew “Amen” used as a form of solemn assertion in the Gospel where  Jesus says” “Amen I say to you….” Thus it came to be conceived as the primordial sound, the original Word, from which the whole creation came. In this it is a kin to the Word of St. John’s Gospel, of which it is said that it was in the beginning with God and without it nothing was made. In the Upanishads, it came to be identified with the highest Brahman,that is with the Supreme reality. Thus it is said: “I will tell you the Word which all the Vedas glorify, all self-sacrifice expresses, all sacred studies and holy life seek. That is OM, that Word is the everlasting Brahman,that Word is the highest end. When that sacred Word is known, all longings are fulfilled. It is the supreme means of salvation, It is the help supreme. When that great Word is known one is great in the heaven of Brahman. For us Christians, of course, that Word is Christ.

THE TEMPLE

The Church is built in the style of a South Indian temple. At the entrance is a “Gopuram” or gateway on which is shown an image of the Holy Trinity in the form of “Trimurti”, a three headed figure, which according to Hindu tradition represents the three aspects of the Godhead: Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universe. This is taken as a symbol of the three Personsin one God of the Christian Trinity. The figure is shown emerging from a cross to show that the mystery of the Trinity is revealed to us through the Cross of Christ.

Between the gopuram and the “Mandapam” or outer court of the temple is a cross enclosed in a circle. The circle represents the cosmic mystery, “the Wheel of the Law(dharma)” of the Hindu and Buddhist tradition. The Cross at the centre of the circle signifies that the cross of Christ is the centre of the universe and human existence. At the Centre of the cross is the word OM which, in Hindu tradition is the Word from which the whole creation comes and through which we come to the knowledge of God, and is thus a fitting symbol of Christ the word of God.

In the mandapam or outer court of the temple, where the congregation assembles, there is a similar cross with  the words “Saccidanandanamah” written on it in Sanskrit, that is “worship to  Saccidananda.” Saccidananda is the name for Godhead in Hindu tradition as Being, Knowledge and Bliss. This is taken as a symbol of the Christian Trinity as “SAT – absolute being, the source of being in the Godhead and creation; as CIT-absolute “consciousness “ expressed in the word, the image of the Godhead, the self-manifestation of the One; as ANANDA “bliss”, the expression of the Joy of God, the fruit of love.

Over the doors which give access to the inner sanctuary or “Mulasthanam” there is an inscription in Sanskrit taken from the Upanishads: “Paramathstvamevaikonananyostijagatapate” which means “You are alone the Supreme Being; there is no other Lord of the world.” Under this are the words “Kurios Christos” –the Lord of Christ in Greek letters.

The inner sanctuary or “Garbagriha”, is always kept dark, to signify that God dwells in the darkness in the Cave of the Heart. There, is a stone altar with a tabernacle in which the Blessed Sacrament, the sign of the real presence of Christ is preserved. The Sacrament signifies the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, through which the worshipper is able to pass through death and resurrection and thus experience the new birth to eternal life. Through the resurrection an ascent is made to the “new creation”. This is represented by the “Vimana” above the sanctuary. At the base of the vimana are the figures of the four beasts of the Apocalypse, the Lion, the Ox, the Man and the Eagle. (Rev 4:7), which represent the whole creation redeemed by Christ. Above them are the figures of four saints, representing redeemed humanity, and above them are four figures of Christ in different postures seated on a royal throne “Simhasana” and surrounded by angels. Towards the East is the figure of Christ as King in the royal posture and beneath him is the figure of the Virgin Mary, as Queen of Heaven clothed with the Sun and the Moon and Stars at her feet (Rev.12:1) treading on the Serpent. The serpent has different meanings in the Bible. If it raises its hood, it is the symbol of human consciousness in harmony with God. If it is crawling on the ground, it is the symbol of human consciousness which has fallen from eternity into time. It is the symbol of the Ego. Mother Mary treading the serpent means that a virgin is one who stops this movement of the ego and opens it to the divine consciousness.  Towards the North is Christ as Priest in the “Abhaya mudra” taking away fear and conferring grace and beneath him is St. Peter with the keys of the kingdom of heaven. To the South is Christ as Prophet or Teacher of the nations. Finally to the West is Christ as Contemplative in the posture of “Dhyana” of meditation and beneath him St. Benedict, the father of monks and founder of contemplative life in the west.

Above these figures of Christ and the saints is the throne of God, represented by the dome covered with peacock feathers and above this the Lotus, the symbol of purity supporting the “Kalasa” an ancient symbol of the four elements viz., Earth, Water, Air and Fire pointing upwards to the “Akasa” the space, in which God dwells “in inaccessible light.” Thus at the entrance of the temple the mind is directed to the mystery of the Godhead as three persons adored by angels. Then through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection it is drawn to contemplate on the “new heaven and the new earth” which is the destiny of man, and beyond this the mind is finally turned to the ineffable mystery of the Godhead beyond name and form to which all earthly images are intended to lead us.

Women and Jesus

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I am preparing a bible-study-series for this spring on women’s encounters with Jesus in the New Testament. “The gospel can’t really be understood without first understanding the problem the good news of Jesus addresses in our lives.  In terms of womanhood, the gospel-centered woman must understand not just the gospel but what the gospel addresses about her identity as a woman.” (http://gospelcenteredwoman.com/)Jesus_crippled_woman

Without getting overly feministic in a bad way I want to study how Jesus message and life and interactions can be an inspiration and a consolation in the life of a woman and raise every woman from the gutter of life. Here are some nice links I found, the list will probably grow and if you know of any more, please comment or send me a message 🙂

Jesus interactions with Women – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus%27_interactions_with_women

Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel – Women Priests

http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/brown2.asp

Jesus and Women in the Gospel of John – Direction Journal

http://www.directionjournal.org/19/2/jesus-and-women-in-gospel-of-john.html

Women as Model Disciples in the Gospel of Mark – Christian Apologetics & Research ministry

https://carm.org/women-as-model-disciples-in-mark

The Prominence of Women in the Gospel of Luke – Grace Communion International

https://www.gci.org/bible/luke/women

Women in the Synoptic Gospels – Catholic Resources

http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Synoptics_Women.htm

Women in the Gospel – Catholic Ireland

http://www.catholicireland.net/women-in-the-gospel/

Luke: Men and women have equal dignity before God 

http://scalar.usc.edu/works/jesus-christ-in-luke-acts/women-in-the-gospel-of-luke

Women in the Bible 

http://www.womeninthebible.net/index.htm

(In Swedish) Kvinnorna i Nya testamentet

http://www.alltombibeln.se/bibelfakta/kvinnornaint.htm

Woe to the rich…

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basil-the-greatOne of my favorite of the early church-fathers is St. Basil the Great (AD 330-379). He was a vegetarian, a great theologian, fearless preacher and one of the founders of monasticism. He said: “If one lives soberly, the animals will be secure; they will never pour forth their blood; men will never cause beasts to die; the knives of cooks will be useless; and the table will be loaded with the fruits given us by nature, and we will be content.”

But this post has another topic… The following is sermon (oh, to be brave enough to preach like this!) he held on the woes of being rich. Goes right into my heart atleast… what kind of life are we living – is it life at all? (Thanks to Micael for sharing first)

 


You call him [Jesus] teacher, and you won’t do his lessons? You acknowledge him to be good, and what he gives you you throw away? But, surely, he who is good supplies good things; this is obvious. Although what you ask about is eternal life, you give proof of being utterly addicted to the enjoyment of this present life. What, after all, is this hard, heavy, burdensome word which the Teacher has put forward? “Sell what you have, and give to the poor.”

If he had laid upon you agricultural toils, or hazardous mercantile ventures, or so many other troubles which are incidental to the life of the wealthy, then you’d have had cause for sorrow, taking the order badly; but when he calls you by so easy a road, without toil or sweat, to show yourself an inheritor of eternal life, you are not glad for the ease of salvation, but you go away pained at heart and mourning, making useless for yourself all that you had labored at beforehand. […]

Now, you are obviously very far from having observed one commandment at least, and you falsely swore that you had kept it, namely, that you’ve loved your neighbor as yourself. For see: the Lord’s commandment proves you to be utterly lacking in real love. For if what you’ve claimed were true, that you have kept from your youth the commandment of love, and have given to each person as much as to yourself, how has it come to you, this abundance of money?

For it takes wealth to care for the needy: a little paid out for the necessity of each person you take on, and all at once everything gets parceled out, and is spent upon them. Thus, the man who loves his neighbor as himself will have acquired no more than what his neighbor has; whereas you, visibly, have acquired a lot. Where has this come from? Or is it not clear, that it comes from making your private enjoyment more important than helping other people?

Therefore, however much you exceed in wealth, so much so do you fall short in love: else long since you’d have taken care to be divorced from your money, if you had loved your neighbor. But now your money sticks to you closer than the limbs of your body, and he who would separate you from it grieves you more than someone who would cut off your vital parts.

For if you had clothed the naked, if you had given your bread to the hungry, if you had opened your doors to every stranger, if you’d become a father to orphans, if you had suffered together with all the powerless, what possessions would now be causing you despondency? Why should you now be upset to put aside what’s left, when you’d long since have taken care to distribute these things to the needy? […]

But how do you make use of money? By dressing in expensive clothing? Won’t two yards of tunic suffice you, and the covering of one coat satisfy all your need of clothes? But is it for food’s sake that you have such a demand for wealth? One bread-loaf is enough to fill a belly. Why are you sad, then? What have you been deprived of? The status that comes from wealth? But if you would stop seeking earthly status, you should then find the true, resplendent kind that would conduct you into the kingdom of heaven.

But what you love is simply to possess wealth, even if you derive no help from it. Now everyone knows that an obsession for useless things is mindless. Just so, what I am going to say should seem to you no greater paradox; and it is utterly, absolutely true. When wealth is dispersed, in the way the Lord advises, it naturally stays put; but when held back it is transferred to another. If you hoard it, you won’t keep it; if you scatter, you won’t lose. For (says the scripture), “He has dispersed, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” (Ps 112:9).

But it isn’t for the sake of clothing or food that riches are a matter of such concern to so many people; but, by a certain wily artifice of the devil, countless pretexts of expenditure are proposed to the rich, so that they strive for superfluous, useless things as though they were necessary, and so that nothing measures up to their conception of what they should spend. For they divide up their wealth with a view to present and future uses; and they assign the one portion to themselves, and the other to their children.

[Here, Basil presents a looooong list of luxuries and superfluities that the rich consume and own]

“It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25). But, while this statement is so plain, and its speaker so unerring, scarcely anyone is persuaded by it. “So how are we supposed to live without possessions?” they say. “What kind of life will that be, selling everything, being dispossessed of everything?” Don’t ask me for the rationale of the Master’s commandments. He who lays down the law knows how to bring even what is incapable into accordance with the law.

But as for you, your heart is tested as on a balance, to see if it shall incline towards the true life or towards immediate gratification. For it is right for those who are prudent in their reasonings to regard the use of money as a matter of stewardship, not of selfish enjoyment; and those who lay it aside ought to rejoice as though separated from things alien, not be embittered as though deprived of what is nearest and dearest. So why become depressed? Why are you so sick at heart, when you hear the words, “Sell your possessions”?

For if, on the one hand, these possessions could follow you into the afterlife, they should not therefore be highly valued, when next to the prizes that await there they should be thrown into the shade; on the other hand, if they must stay here, why don’t we sell them and get back from them what can be gained? When you give up gold, and acquire a horse, you are not in poor spirits; but when it comes to giving up things corruptible, and receiving in return the kingdom of heaven, you weep, and deny the asker, and shake your head at the gift, having your mind set upon a thousand and one ways of spending money.

What answer shall you make to the judge, you who dress walls, but will not clothe a man; who spruce up horses, and overlook an unfashionable brother; who leave grain to rot, but will not feed the starving; who bury your money and despise the oppressed? And truly, if you dwell with a covetous wife, the sickness is redoubled: she turns up the flame on luxuries, she multiplies hedonisms, and provokes overactive longings, while she sets her fancy upon various stones: pearls, and emeralds, and sapphires; as also gold, some forged, some woven: aggravating the disease with every form of bad taste. For it’s not a part-time occupation, these concerns, but night and day are caught up in their cares. […]

When you hear it said, “Sell your possessions, and give to the poor,” so that you might have provisions for heavenly enjoyment, you go away grieving; but if you should hear, “Give money for pampering your wife, give to stonemasons, carpenters, mosaic pebble-layers, portrait-painters,” you rejoice as though you had acquired some high-rated annuities. […]

When I enter the house of a man who is tasteless and nouveau-riche, and see it shimmering with every kind of flowery crass trinket, I apprehend that this man has acquired nothing more valuable in his life than visible things, but, while he gives what is soulless a facelift, he possesses an unbeautified soul. Tell me, what better service do silver beds and silver tables, ivory sofas and ivory chairs provide, when because of these things wealth fails to pass over to the poor, and thousands huddle about the door, all of them letting loose a miserable howl?

You, however, refuse to give, declaring that it’s impossible to satisfy those who ask. With your tongue you excuse yourself, but by your own hand you’re convicted; for even in silence your hand proclaims your falsehood, sparkling round from the ring on your finger. How many people could one of your fingers release from debt? How many broken-down homes could be rebuilt? One box of your clothing would be able to dress the whole shivering populace; but you, unfeeling, dismiss the needy, not fearing the just repayment of the Judge. You have not shown mercy, you shall not receive mercy; you’ve not opened your home, you shall be evicted from the kingdom. You haven’t given of your bread; neither shall you receive eternal life.

The Importance of Both Preaching Healing and Eternal Life

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Guestblog, or rather reblog, from my good friend Micael Grenholms blog Holy Spirit Activism. He has some great points!


Why are not everybody healed when they receive prayer? Why was that person healed but not this person, even though they both believed in Jesus? Charismatics are often asked these questions, and as they are related to theodicy and the problem of evil and suffering, they take some time to answer. I have appreciated the Kingdom theology response to why not everyone are healed developed by John Wimber, which can be read in his great book Power Healing.

In this blog post I want to address a particular type of healing theodicy, where one points to the death of a loved one as an argument for the strange selectiveness of God’s healing. I have several times heard friends describe how a dear relative was very sick and they prayed and prayed, bit eventually they died. Several of those who have told me this have then said that because of this they have some problems with the healing message; some of them have been mad at God for healing others but not the one they prayed for.

Such a scenario reminds me of how Martha questioned why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus while he was dying:

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:21-26)

After mourning Lazarus Himself Jesus eventually raised Lazarus there and then from the dead. But as we can tell from His other teaching on eternal life, He really means what He said concerning that all who believes in Him will live even though they die. He promises resurrection and eternal life to everyone who follows His footsteps. Lazarus, after all, died again (he’s still not around as far as I can tell) but will like all other Christians be resurrected on the final day.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess 4:13-14, 16-18)

That’s the Gospel! That’s what Jesus died for to give us. Healing, exorcisms and other “here and now”-miracles are awesome, but the greatest miracle is eternal life in Heaven. Jesus even said this to His disciples:

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:19-20)

Of course, Heaven may feel far away sometimes and we may have very good reasons to miss our loved ones very much. But death really isn’t a defeat for Christians, it’s our heavenly birthday. Paul was so excited by Heaven that he even questioned why he was still on earth, before coming to the conclusion that it probably was good for him to evangelise some more before he died (Phil 1).

Thus, a healing message should always be followed by a resurrection message. The Holy Spirit doesn’t keep on healing and healing and healing Christians so that we get 10 000 years old in this hostile and dark world, but after we die He raises us to a new world with no suffering or death. Everybody are healed in Heaven.


 

Was Christ a Vegetarian?

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Jesus and the early Christians

Was Christ a Vegetarian?

by Ted Altar, from http://www.ivu.org/history/christian/christ_veg.html

The following arguments are to be found, for the most part, in Keith Akers’ very useful, A Vegetarian Sourcebook, 1989. Another sourcebook I would also highly recommend for its scholarship is Lewis Regenstein’s Replenish the Earth: The History of Organized Religion’s Treatment of Animals and Nature–Including the Bible’s Message of Conservation and Kindness Toward Animals, 1991.

“I require mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13 & 12:7)

This is a significant message when we remember that in the context in which this was said meat eating was commonly considered part of these sacrifices. Sacrificial offerings often entailed meat consumption and a strict reading of Leviticus 17: implies that, indeed, all meat consumption necessitated a sacrifice. Also, the noted confrontation of Jesus in the Temple suggests that he was not at all pleased by the desecration of the Temple by the money changers AND by “those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons” (John 2:14-15) since these animals were being sold for sacrifice before being eaten.

No Unequivocal Biblical Reference to Christ Eating or Buying Meat

Consider the verse where it is said that Jesus’ disciples “were gone away unto the city to buy meat” (John 4:8). This translation from the King James version has been misunderstood as meaning literally “meat”. In fact, the Greek word for “meat” from which the James translation based its choice for this word, simply meant nutrition in the generic sense. Hence, the Revised Standard Version now simply translates this same passage as “his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food”.

Regenstein notes that nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus depicted as eating meat and “if the Last Supper was a Passover meal — as many believe — there is, interestingly, no mention of the traditional lamb dish”.

Did Christ at Least Eat Fish? (e.g., Luke 24:43)

Note that on the two occasions where he is said to have eaten fish, these were after his death and resurrection. Also, we should maybe keep in mind that fish was a well known mystical symbol among these early Christians. The Greek word for fish (Ichthys) was used as an acronym whose initials in Greek stood for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”. Given how the early Christians employed the term, there is therefore good historical evidence for the argument that all of the “fish stories” that managed to get into the gospels were intended to be taken symbolically rather than literally.

Biblical Breaks and Contradictions

We should not forget that the Bible is not complete and its many inconsistencies require thoughtful interpretation. For instance, we have the contradiction between Genesis 1:29-30 with Genesis 9:2-3. Some scholars interpret the first prescription for vegetarianism as the preferred diet, and suggest that it was only after God became grievously disappointed with human sin and flooded the earth did the second provision become permitted, and not without qualification (and maybe only as an expedient for the situation). To take another example, the New Testament makes repeated attacks on meat offered to pagan idols (Acts 15:20; Revelation 2:14), but Paul gives assurances that eating such flesh is all right if no one is offended (Corinthians 10:14-33). Paul, then, would seem to be contradicting Christ.

Examples of Early Christians

Not a few Christian scholars have concluded vegetarianism to be the more consistent ethic with respect to the spirit of Christ’s teachings. For example, we have the Ebionites, Athanasius, and Arius. Of the early church fathers we have Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Heronymus, Boniface, St. Jerome, and John Chrysostom. Clement wrote, “It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals. Accordingly, the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh”. One of the earliest Christian documents is the `Clementine Homiles’, a second-century work purportedly based on the teachings of St. Peter. Homily XII states, “The unnatural eating of flesh meats is as polluting as the heathen worship of devils, with its sacrifices and its impure feasts, through participation in it a man becomes a fellow eater with devils”. Many of the monasteries both in ancient times to the present practiced vegetarianism. For instance, Basilius the Great‘s order, Boniface’s order, Trappists monks, etc. Also, we have the examples provided by the stories around some saints like Hubertus, Aegidius and Francis of Assisi.

Indirect Historical Evidence

Knowledge about how the Essenes, the Nazoreans and Ebionites lived suggests that Christ was probably a vegetarian. The Essenes were Jews who were remarkably similar to the early Christians as evinced in their deemphasis upon property and wealth, their communalism and in their rejection of animal sacrifices. The first Christians were known as the Nazoreans (not to be confused with Nazarenes), and the Ebionites were a direct offshoot from them. All three groups were vegetarian which is suggestive of the central role such a practice once played in Early Christianity.

Paul’s need to constantly deal with these vegetarians is also evidence of how prevalent they were and not a few fellow Christians, it would seem, took issue with Paul. Paul, if he is consistent with his words, would have been vegetarian (Corinthians 8:13), notwithstanding his opposition to the Ebionites. According to Clement of Alexandria, Matthew was a vegetarian. Clementine `Homiles’ and `Recognitions’ claim that Peter was also a vegetarian. Both Hegisuppus and Augustin testify that the first head of the church in Jerusalem after the death of Christ, namely Christ’s brother James the Just, was a vegetarian and raised as one! If Jesus’s parents raised James as vegetarian then it would be likely that Jesus was also so raised.

Conclusion

Given the above points, it is reasonable to believe that vegetarianism would be consistent with, if not mandated by, the spirit of early Christianity, a spirit that advocated kindness, mercy, non-violence and showed disdain towards wealth and extravagance. Meat eating would hardly have been considered the way of the humility, non-extravagance and love for all of God’s creation. Hence, the orthodox early church father, Christian Hieronymous, could not but be compelled to conclude:

The eating of animal meat was unknown up to the big flood, but since the flood they have pushed the strings and stinking juices of animal meat into our mouths, just as they threw quails in front of the grumbling sensual people in the desert. Jesus Christ, who appeared when the time had been fulfilled, has again joined the end with the beginning, so that it is no longer allowed for us to eat animal meat.

Postscript: What Happened After Christ?

Maybe an even more important question than that of whether or not Christ was a vegetarian, was why Christianity later abandoned its vegetarian roots. Steven Rosen in his book, Food for the Spirit, 1987, argues:

The early Christian fathers adhered to a meatless regime…many early Christian groups supported the meatless way of life. In fact, the writings of the early Church indicate that meat eating was not officially allowed until the 4th century, when the Emperor Constantine decided that his version of Christianity would be the version for everyone. A meat eating interpretation of the Bible became the official creed of the Roman Empire, and vegetarian Christians had to practice in secret or risk being put to death for heresy. It is said that Constantine used to pour molten lead down the their throats if they were captured.

Ironic indeed that pagan Rome here would have this longstanding influence upon Christianity.

In any case, I think we can all be thankful that it is a lot easier today to be a vegetarian. The occasional rudeness and social disapproval a vegetarian must tolerate is a pretty small inconvenience in comparison to Constantine’s way of dealing with vegetarians.

To cite another sad example: in southern France a group of Albigensian vegetarians (a Cartharist religious group) were put to death by hanging in 1052 because they refused to kill a chicken

San Damiano

As you might already know this blog is named after St. Francis prayer. My mother and I visited his town Assisi for a day last year (I really want to spend more time there!) and his San Damiano Cross has been on my mind ever since. Today I atlast got my wish for enough time to paste this poster on cardboard and put it above my bed 🙂

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It’s not as large as the original, but its big! Since before I have this for inspiration…

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Please pray with me:
Lord, make me Your instrument!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…

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Find one wrong sentence in these texts from Revelations 21 and 22! I have added one sentence that doesn’t fit in – it’s a bit like the game Find five wrongs but this time its just one wrong you need to find 🙂

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

[…]

And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There were also on either side spaces where animals were slaughtered for the great feast prepared for the holy people who stood before the throne glorifying God and the Lamb. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

I was planning to make it visual but can’t find the time…

Psalm 122: I Rejoiced When I Heard Them Say

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Walking today for the first time within the walls of Old Jerusalem I remembered again this wonderful song I often listen to and that has had a greater significande the last months in anticipation of this trip… I couldn’t find it on youtube, so I just post the text for now. Available on iTunes and the like.

Sung by John Micheal Talbot.

Refrain
I rejoiced when I heard them say,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
And now our feet are standing within your gates,
Jerusalem. (repeat)

Jerusalem, God’s city,
built strong by the hand of the Lord.
To Jerusalem will the tribes go up,
the people of our God.

For the peace of Jerusalem we pray;
may peace come to your homes.
For the love of my relatives and friends,
may peace come to you. Sing! A New Creation

For the love of the house of the Lord,
I will pray for you.
May the throne of justice
be restored in you.

Jerusalem, God’s city,
built strong by the hand of the Lord.
To Jerusalem will the tribes go up,
the people of our God.