Friday, April 30

ponderings on the reading

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." (John 13:34-35)

This is the Gospel reading for Sunday. Here we see Christ commanding that his disciples should love each other as he has loved them and this love shall prove their discipleship to the world. In every case here, it is agape-love. Note, too, that it is by their fruits that they should be known to the world.

So, how has Christ loved the disciples? Does he show favouritism? What about Peter, the well-meaning
shlemiel? Or Mary Magdalene, the invisible apostle? What about Thomas, the ever-practical Missourian? Or James and John, the sons of Thunder? Or Judas, who Christ knew would betray him?

To each and every one, he shows love and understanding equally. The form that love may take is different, as each person is different, but the love is still there. Are we not to show this to each other? To everyone? That is how it works. Not by coming to church or wearing a cross, not saying a rosary or knowing the hymns...but by loving one another. That is the fruit of our faith and it is by the fruit a tree is known.

Thursday, April 29

Sorry, Dr. Dawkins, the evidence does not support your science

"Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion. ... Well, science is not religion and it doesn't just come down to faith. Although it has many of religion's virtues, it has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence." - R. Dawkins

I have a number of friends and associates who are agnostics and/or atheists, all of whom strongly believe that science is superior than any sort of faith-based system. As someone who openly has faith and believes, I am commonly on the receiving end of rants not unlike Dawkins' above.

Full disclosure time. I hold three degrees in the sciences and have been professionally involved with applied, natural science for over two decades.

Returning to the main point, Dawkins, Hitchens and others like them forget/ignore the point of science and one of the underlying fundamental articles of science. Science (specifically applied science) is about gathering knowledge about the world and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories. The present method of doing so involves creating models which simulate and explain the natural world. To do so, there are a certain number of underlying assumptions which are agreed upon at the first. If mathematicians do not agree on the value of the number one or agree on the base numbering system, then 1+1=2 may not be an absolute truth. Ergo, science is based upon agreed-upon assumptions.

This leads me to the fundamental article which they are ignoring - that the nature of the universe is constant. Evolution, to use Dawkins' hobby horse, is a well crafted theory based upon a single data set. There is no verifiable evidence to support the idea that life follows Darwin anywhere else in the Cosmos. Similarly, the fundamental laws of physics (including universal constants and the ilk) have been proven to hold true in our local neighborhood, but nowhere else. Yet to refer to that belief in evolution (or String Theory or Q.E.D.) faith would be worse than saying bad things about his mother.

My point is not to denigrate the work of these people, nor to hold a faith-based system of belief above (or in contradiction to) science. Rather, it is to highlight that science is, itself, a faith-based system of belief. One thing I have learned in my direct dealings with the natural world is that our universe does not read textbooks or reports or what the 'authorities' declare. The apple does not fall from the tree in accordance to Newton's law of gravitation, but rather the law of gravitation describes what the apple does of it's own accord. We're back to the finger pointing at the moon again.

In a TED Talk that he gave, Dawkins asks the question "Are there things about the universe that will forever be beyond our grasp?" He then spends the remainder of the time explaining how, due to the constraints of human conception, there are. How different is that from saying "Is God unknowable?"

Wednesday, April 28

I stepped out of the house this morning to go to work and had to stop for a moment. The sun was just up enough that everything had a slight golden cast and the light breeze carried with it the songs of several birds. A robin stood at the top of the large spruce, heralding the day. As I watched, a pair of mallards slowly winged in, landing on the creek beside the house. The whole of it had a bucolic air which was almost surreal in the wonder and beauty.

No matter what my personal turmoils are, how I feel, the wheel of life continues to turn.

It is a new day.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Tuesday, April 27

There goes the neighborhood

I just found out that I have been linked back by that irreverent reverend, MadPriest. No doubt, there will be a rush of those thinking people coming in here and stinking up the place.

*sighs* C'est la vie.

(seriously, though. Thanks MP)

Reflections on Ripples (and maelstroms)

Things for me have been quite interesting (in the chinese sense) for me as of late, with a whirlwind of emotions and personal matters. These recent events brings to mind something I said long ago: "The sage sits in the center of the hub of the wheel of the Universe; though the maelstrom swirls about, he remains unmoved."

Back when I was actively studying Tai Chi, we would do Chi Gung meditations. One of these meditations involved sitting perfectly still and calming your mind of everything till it was a mirror-calm lake.

Once in that place, a single thought would be as a tiny pebble, causing ripples to move across that lake, moving your mind to explore the idea, examine it's implications and consider the consequences. Where the ripple ended was far from the source and the results could be rather dramatic, yet all of it came from that tiny pebble and a calm lake.

However, if your mind was troubled then there is distraction and discord, making the mental waters choppy. Eventually (and it took me quite a while), you come to understand that you are stirring up the water and that, if you only let go of the stick, the water will eventually calm. Only then can you see the ripples.

There are times in our lives when the press of things and the cacophony of events threaten to sweep us up. Sometimes these storms blow up and over quickly. Sometimes, they are tempests which follow us around for years. Only when one sits ere-so quietly can we hear the Voice Within and see the ripples it makes.

Monday, April 26

Reflections on Spring

While I have been ruminating and cogitating here on this blog, the wheel of the year has turned in true. The slumber of winter is over and Nature is shaking off her algid drowse and putting on a crown of flowers and an emerald cloak of leaves. Sometime last week, the spotty-brown meadows were turned overnight into swards of green so shocking and bright that people would believe the photos are altered.

As the cycle of the year processes, we too should consider processing in our journeys. The cold winter of contemplation and the Lententide of reflection is over. Now is the time for renewal, for new growth and for a celebration of the natural world around us.

Spring is a reaffirmation. No matter how hard the winter, how difficult things are, they cannot last. For myself, it is a singular reminder of the subtle and simple nature of the Divine.

I would challenge you to look about for the signs of Spring. Whether it is verdant growth, the birth of new creatures, buds pregnant with glorious blooms or the return of birds, note them all. Consider the Divine within them, the grand and incalculably complex plan in which we are all a part and how we are all a part of this. Feel the kiss of the warming sun and revel in the wonder and mystery that is unfolding around you.

Friday, April 23

Lessons from Saints - George

Today is the traditional observation of the feast of Saint George.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the saints can inspire us and teach us things. The mythos which has built up about George is vast, varied and vague. Let us examine the most significant of tales associated with George which comes from the Golden Legend, George and the Dragon.

The crux of the story is that there was a horrid dragon who was terrorizing the country. The kingdom has tried for years to appease the dragon with sheep and virgins. The king's daughter was to be the sacrifice for the dragon when George shows up. Praying to God for aid against the evil, he strikes the dragon and, with the help of the virgin princess, subdues it and brings it back to the city, whereupon he slays it. The king (and the city) are grateful and attempt to reward George, who tells them to get right with God and to donate the reward to the poor. He then rides off.

What I derive from the story is that, when the average people were content to suffer under a social ill, a righteous man must stand against the evil. Note that he is not alone, for the would-be victim assists him and is important to the final dispatch of the social evil. When victory is achieved, no reward is desired nor glory accepted. Once the injustice is vanquished, the saint gives praise to God and moves on.

Open your eyes, then, to the social ills which are prevalent around you.
Do not turn from these evils, or attempt to appease them.
Ask for the aid of the Divine and actively engage the evil around you.
Find allies in your fight and work with them for the common good.
Eschew accolades and do not dwell upon your victories.
Always work for the Good of all.

Thursday, April 22

Earth Day Quotes

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." - Seattle, Chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes

"We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically"
- Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist

"The universe is uncaused, like a net of jewels in which each is only the reflection of all the others in a fantastic interrelated harmony without end." - Ramesh Balsekar, author

"There's a larger universal reality of which we are all a part"
- Brian Greene, theoretical physicist

"We are connected to the land and to the animals. In spirit, we are one. our ties with the land and animals help us survive. Listen and feel for the ancestor's guidance. We are all connected." - Andrew F. Abyo, artist

"Whoever in prayer can say, 'Our Father,' acknowledges and should feel the brotherhood of the whole race of mankind" - Tyron Edwards, theologian

Wednesday, April 21

Roses and Tulips - Love by any other name

Thanks to Rev Bob, I have realised that my earlier short statements regarding love may be insufficient due to the vagaries and weaknesses of the English tongue and the brevity with which I disposed of the matter.

In the first, it should be pointed out that we are attempting to discern the meaning of words which are separated from us by almost 2000 years and several civilizations. This is further conflated by the recent trend in the United States (at the least) of hyperbole as well as vocabulary distillation, which is to say the reduction of the common lexicon with the remaining words agglomerating in meaning. An example with relevance here would be the word 'love'.

Whereas at one point the term was commonly used only to refer to heartfelt affection or emotional bliss, it has been broadened to include any sort of positive feelings of relationship towards any other tangible or intangible item.

C.S. Lewis examined the topic of love from a Christian perspective in his book The Four Loves. He identified these loves as being affection, friendship, eros and charity from the greek στοργή (storgē), φιλία (philía), έρως (érōs) and αγάπη (agápē) respectively.

Affection is that love that one feels for another in the most general of senses, as a parent for a child, or a human for a pet. The closest latin cognates for this would be amor or (sometimes) delectāre.

Friendship is the virtuous love which is shared between friends, associates and family, though one can feel this friendship for partners. Friendship, in this way, is the platonic virtue of love, devoid of attraction and passion. This 'brotherly love' is reflected in the latin cognate diligere.

Eros is the passionate and emotional love that is bound up with people who are very close as well as attraction between individuals. Outside of the greek philosophers, it is considered deeper than friendship and often (though not always) has sexual connotations. Amor is also used in this manner in the Latin.

Finally, we come to Charity, which is the highest/deepest form of love. Unlike the others, Charity is without conditions or boundaries and it may demand of us sacrifices for the good of those we show this Charity to. As one may suspect, caritas is the Latin root and this is the love which was referred to earlier being 'the selfless, unqualified and unending love and kindness which is the Divine'.

It would be instructive to point out that, of these four terms, only philía and agápē are found in New Testament scripture (As the Old Testament was orginally in Hebrew and very much beyond my personal scope, I will leave the task of hunting that down for another day). Further, it is may also be informative to highlight that the early Christians were in a long and bloody fight with the Neoplatonists about the time these texts came to light. As inferred earlier, the virtuous and rational philía is the apex of love in the Platonic heirarchy, whereas the early Christians held the selfless and unboundless agápē as the pinnacle.

It is of interest, then, to compare the greek study bible and the latin vulgate. There are multiple examples of where agápē is translated, not as caritas, but as diligere or even amor. This, of course, influences all of the vulgate-based translations of the New Testament (Starting with the Textus Receptus, Luther Bible and King James), having the concepts of 'agape-love' and 'earthly-love' all muddled up.

My primary concern in all of this, to borrow from an earlier post, is to be confused by all of this discussion as describing the finger. The moon is this : θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν Deus caritas est, God is Love. Not just affection, nor friendship or passion, but all of these and more, as the endless and selfless love which empowers us and asks us to be more than ourselves.

Tuesday, April 20

Hagiography and the usefulness thereof

The study of saints and their lives is something which I personally find fascinating and of great value. From the outlandish to the ordinary, each has a valuable lesson to convey to us that comes down through the centuries.

Take, for example, our friend on the left here, Saint Homobonus. Living in the late 12th century, homobonus was widely recognized as an honest merchant (arguably the only honest merchant in Italy). He believed that his gifts for making money were given by God so he may better the poor and disadvantaged. He led a holy and upstanding life and died during a mass he had sponsored. To paraphrase Pope Innocent III, who canonized him scarcely 2 years after the merchant's demise, "He made the ordinary things of life extra ordinary."

THIS is a man whom I can relate to. Born of some money, married, a man of commerce. Yet, he did a myriad of small, good things and kept himself 'clean'. This is the definition of pure religion (James 1:27).

And that is the importance and true relevance of saints. They are not Christ, perfect and whole in a way which seems so out of reach to us on a daily basis. They are so very human and flawed. Yet, when they heard the call, they answered. When they heard the voice within, they followed, even unto death. Homobonus could sit in church next to me.

As I personally feel that everyone should form their own direct and personal connection with the Divine, I am not a believer in the intercession of saints (whose number include Mary Christotokos). That said, their lives, sacrifices and deaths are no less valid to us than the gift of whispering in God's ear. Whether it is the perpetual dignity that Theresa of Calcutta would treat the lowliest of people, the valiant and rebellious spirit of Lawrence in the face of horrid death, the intellectual devotion of Thomas Aquinas or the love and joy in the works of Julian of Norwich, all of these can inspire us to think, speak, act and love in a manner more in tune with the Divine.

Friday, April 16

Cargo cult religion

I just read the 1974 Caltech commencement speech given by the eminent physicist, Dr. Richard Feynman. It is a fascinating read and he makes some very valid points. In it, he introduces a concept he calls 'cargo cult science'. The concept stems from South Sea Islanders who recall WW2 planes which came ostensibly from nowhere and brought valuable cargo seemingly at random. The Islanders faithfully recreate the conditions as they saw it to have the magic work, building mock airstrips, control sheds and the like.

I wonder if there aren't people who do the same in religion today, people who confuse the forms of religion and communion with the Divine with the function of those forms. An example of this which comes to mind is the Rosary. Originally, the belief was that if a person would recite all 150 psalms each day, their soul was assured salvation. Later, the recitation of the psalms was transformed into repetition of 'Pater Noster', whence the medieval form of the rosary was named, then further transformed into a combination of Pater Nosters and Ave Marias. The physical strand of beads was a simple counting device, so as to ensure you did not err and risk damnation due to coming up short.

The point of the exercise was to meditate and pray, not to count. Does the Divine really care the exact number of Aves and Paters you have said? Does a soul's final resting place depend upon the order of the prayers?

In a larger sense, is it vital that the chants intoned in a precise manner, the liturgy is performed in just such a way, or the recitation of the lesson be exactly as it has been for 500 years?

Or is it more important that one meditates on the meaning of the words, the symbolism behind the actions and the concepts which drive the lessons?

"it's the moon, dammit. Stop looking at my finger!"

Thursday, April 15

Put into practice - part two

Having examined the matter of the internal virtues, let us turn attention to the remaining four, cardinal virtues. The term 'cardinal' comes from cardo, the hinge, for just as a door swings upon a hinge it is by the four external virtues that a moral life swings. The four are Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude.

Note that these virtues are not unique to the Christian experience. Plato outlines these very things in the Republic as to the various classes of a city and the Wisdom of Solomon says that She [Wisdom] teaches the four virtues. Still, they are most solidly and emphatically embraced by the early and medieval church.

Indeed, I will ask Augustine to start things with his discussion of the meanings of the virtues.
So we may express the definition thus:
that temperance is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God;
fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God;
justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man;
prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it. (Against the Manichaeians, I,15)
Putting this into a 21st century light, Justice is to treat everyone as they should be treated, neighbour as neighbour, person as person, God as God.

Prudence is the ability to discern good from evil and the choice to embrace the former and eschew the latter.

Temperance is the measure of self-control and moderation. Put differently, it is the ability to ensure that your head rules your heart. This virtue is sometimes known as restraint.

Fortitude is the ability to endure with the same aplomb in tasks both difficult and easy, under adversity and prosperity, doing all with humility and free from despair or pride. This virtue is sometimes known as courage.

These virtues are as engines driven by the water alluded to earlier, doing the Good Work which leads to the perfection of Christ on earth. By the pursuit of them, we pursue the manifest goodness which is the Divine. Recognize that it is their pursuit, not perfection, which is the proper goal, as we all make mistakes.

Finally, I would point out that all seven of these are bound up together, so that one who is virtuous should "be wary and prudent, just in the doing of Justice, continent and temperate, enduring and courageous; and withal he must have great faith in God, hope in his Glory, that he may attain the guerdon of the good that he has done, and finally he must have charity and the love of his neighbour."(The Unconquered Knight, p5)

Wednesday, April 14

Put into practice - part one

For someone like myself with a protestant background, a discussion of the seven heavenly virtues is something new and interesting. As a nascent medievalist, their importance can't reasonably be understated in regards to the influence on the ideas of chivalry and what was considered 'noble and christian'. In brief, the virtues are normally split into two groups, the three theological and the four cardinal virtues. Let us consider the Trivium first.

The three theological virtues are set forth in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα· μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I prefer to consider these virtues not 'theological', but rather 'internal' virtues. By these ideas our inner self is guided and they are self-contained. Let us consider them each in turn.

ἀγάπη - Agape (latin Caritas) is Love. The selfless, unqualified and unending love and kindness which is the Divine. Agape is the wellspring from which the other virtues flow and are sustained. Without it, Faith and Hope (as well as the Cardinal virtues) will either wither or be subverted. It is the Divine manifested and reflected within us.

πίστις - Pistis (latin fides) is Faith. One translation of pistis is belief, but another is trust. This is very important, as it makes Faith something much more than what we commonly consider it. Pistis is not "merely belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking", as Richard Dawkins contends, but it shows trust in the Divine in its myriad forms. Trust in ourselves, in others, in the universe and in the Divine. If agape is the wellspring, then pistis is the aqueduct that carries the Living Water of the Divine.

ἐλπίς - Elpis (latin spes) is Hope. When Pandora released all of the evils upon the world and all the gods retreated to Olympus, it was Elpis that remained. It is hope that sustains us when we see no reasonable way forward, hope which can carry us in spite of the evidence. Elpis has another translation, too - expectation. An expectation that, no matter what our present situation, things will be better. An expectation that our trust and our love are well placed. With agape being the wellspring and pistis the aqueduct, it is elpis that is the fountain that brings the Living Water of the Divine to our thirsty souls.

Abide in Love, Trust that it will be carried to you, and Expect that it shall flow forth and you will be infused with the water that gives life.

Tuesday, April 13

Comments are welcome

As enjoyable as some folk would consider bloviating into blogspace, it is not something which, in general, I find particularly desirous nor, in the specific, do I consider it reasonable or productive. Rather, it is my earnest hope that my thoughts and reflections may spur discussion and dialogue.

Therefore, in short and brief, to say but two words about this, I would heartily invite, embrace, nay even entreat observations, opinions, musings and relevant elucidations. Your indulgences in this matter are most appreciated.

Reflections on Forgiveness

After a few discussions and some thoughtful reflection, I thought I may wish to discuss forgiveness a bit more in full. This is not a credo, for it is less formal and less 'finished' in the thought process. Rather, it is how I feel on the matter and what works specifically for me. Your Milage May Vary.

It is common for there to be a strong emphasis on forgiveness in the Christian faith, with the 'turn the other cheek' replacing the older 'eye for an eye'. This puts me in a conundrum.

On the one hand, the idea of forgiveness feels right - we're all on the journey to greater perfection and knowledge of the Divine. If we regard sin as error, then to forgive comes naturally. From a more traditional perspective, "and forgive us our sins as we also forgive those are indebted to us". (Luke 11:4) Note that Luke uses the word ἁμαρτίας, amartias - our sins are mistakes, missing the mark. Note the other word here, ὀφείλοντι opheilonti, which translates to either 'who is indebted' or 'to owe'. Given it's modern meaning, I prefer the second translation.

So, we ask the Divine to forgive our mistakes as we forgive those who owe us. Turning this around, we should forgive people who owe us as our Father forgives us for making mistakes. Alright, then, how does that work?

Well, the Divine understands us more intimately than we understand ourselves. It knows where we've made mistakes and our reasons why. For myself, at least, having an idea why a person has done the things they have allows me a better perspective on them, their situation and puts me in a better place to forgive. This can be a difficult process, but I find that it is also quite pathos generating (especially for someone like myself who can easily be overly-detached).

Secondly, for us to be forgiven, we have to be contrite. That means you're to step three in the reconciliation process. If you don't recognize the situation or claim your part in it, then there's no forgiveness. Same goes with others and us. If they don't recognize the situation or acknowledge that they messed up, then they can't truly be contrite. No contrition, no doughnut forgiveness.

Your thoughts are welcome.


Monday, April 12


It appears that the theme of my life in the last few weeks has been about communities and how they function (or don't function). Perhaps the most interesting thing for me is how we tend to react in regards to crises. There's a lot whirling about in my head regarding more and more scandals and general bad which is being seen today. Rather than focusing on those things specifically, I wish to juxtapose two quotes for you.

“We need God's help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can't expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.” -Ronald Reagan

“When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters-one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” -John F. Kennedy

I believe that both of these quotes are important and informative. When we feel that we have gone far beyond our own capabilities is most often when we turn to God. That, however, is not when we should be speaking with the Divine.

Think about this a moment. Do you talk to your friends only when you need help? Would you want to have children who only call when they want something? That's not how one should be talking with God any more than it is how you should relate to others. The word community and communion have the same root, which is fellowship. We should have fellowship with each other and with the Divine.

As to the second quote, a crisis is an opportunity, a time when old patterns may be broken, new ones formed and a point when our mettle is tested. It is also a time of danger, to be sure.
There are a lot of good, honest folk out there in churches today where there is crisis in their parish, synod or top-level assembly - in their communion with each other and the Divine.

I would humbly submit that they should trust the Almighty with the danger and grasp the opportunity to change their community for the better. To do so requires prayerful, respectful and honest communication. It takes patience and loving. Most of all, it takes a willingness to come together.

Sorry if this doesn't make too much sense right now.

Friday, April 9

Credo - Point the fifth, Regarding the Self

This post is the last of this cycle, and ties all of the previous thoughts together. There will, no doubt, be further credos as this journey progresses and I want to touch on consequences and such, but this is the last of this grouping. As such, permit me a brief summation.

  • I believe in a loving Pancreator who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.
  • I believe that, due to this Divine being within us all, everyone and everything is innately worthy of love and respect.
  • I believe that we make mistakes by forgetting the above lessons and harming each other in the process.
  • I believe that we should make amends when we see that mistakes have been made, as these mistakes are all part of the learning process.

Here's the last part...all of these things include you.

YOU are filled with the Divine.
YOU are, by your being here, worthy of love and respect.
YOU make mistakes, too.
YOU are worthy of being forgiven, because you're learning how to become more perfect, just like everyone else.

I make this point and hammer it home because too often these sorts of discussions aren't internalized. It's easy to forgive someone else, but it is much harder to see yourself as worthy. Other people are good, mistaken, lovely, filled with the Divine.

So am I.

So are you.

So is everyone and everything in this wonderful and awesome world.


Thursday, April 8

Credo - Point the fourth, Upon the matter of reconciliation

Sin damages our relationships, both with the Divine and with Creation. As foreshadowed in the previous Credo, the damage should be worked upon and we should reconcile ourselves with the Divine and Creation.

I purposely choose the word reconcile over redemption or atonement and I should say two words on this.

Redemption (and redeemer) comes from the latin root, redemptio, "to buy back, to ransom". The question is begged 'to buy back/ransom from whom? What was gained in the original selling?' Additionally, the common usage of the word today implies the supplicant is fundamentally unworthy of the exchange, an assertion which has been refuted days ago. Atonement (from atone, ME atonen (at-one), poss. L adunare, to unite (ad-unam, at one)) is a great word from an etymological standpoint, but the modern, theological context precludes it as an unprejudiced word. It IS of interest, however, that the word is so commonly used in reference to 'return to one-ness with God'. In contrast, reconcile comes from the latin reconcilare, "to make good again, to bring together again". That is, at the heart, what we are attempting to do, to come to repair our relationship with the Divine and Creation and to reunite with them.

Easy to say, but what are the steps in the reconciliation process?

1. The first part is recognition of the situation. If one does not see the 'problem', then nothing goes further. There are two people who are married but have recently become estranged. A gulf has opened up between them and recognizing that gulf is the first step.

2. The next is acknowledgment of error. One can see that there is a 'situation' but eschew responsibility for an error which precipitated it. This is another stumbling block to coming back together. The gulf between these two people was created by unkind, hateful words said by one of them.

3. Contrition. Going hand in glove with acknowledgment is soulful remorse. This shows not only recognition of the action but also of the results of the action. This remorse should be communicated (if possible) to both the injured party and to the Divine, for the relationships of both are affected. Seeing the pain and suffering caused by the harsh words, the mistaken one feels crappy and wishes they could retract the words. After prayer on the matter, the mistaken one goes to the partner and apologizes for what was said, expressing their remorse for the misdeed.

4. Restitution. This step does not specifically deal with money (though it could), but more strongly deals with the one at fault making concrete steps to restore things. It is the words and feelings of contrition made manifest and should be a positive step to rebuilding the relationship damaged by the error. The two speak at length as to how the speech came about, work towards a mutually agreed way to make things right and derive a method by which the error can be avoided in future.

5. Forgiveness. The last step, it is important to let go of the error and its consequences. One cannot cross a bridge without taking your foot off of the embankment. Further, it is important to understand that the sin/reconciliation process is a vital learning tool and that it is all part of the individual's education. Seeing the sincerity of contrition and the willingness for restitution, the partner forgives the mistaken one for the mistake, reconciling their relationship.

Note the things which are missing. There is not discussion of punishment, retribution or vengeance. These things are beside the point and commonly run counter to the motive behind reconciliation. It is not a forum to punish or 'bring to justice' nor is it about the one who has suffered. It is about the injuring party, their mistakes and their rehabilitation. So, too, it is not about forgetting the error that occurred. Remembering the mistakes of the past is a powerful tool to guide people towards right-minded thoughts, words and deeds.

Reconciliation is a vital tool by which an individual may recognise errors, fix them and learn from the lesson. Further, it is how we, as imperfect people, show our compassion and willingness to maintain relations with those who have erred.

It is also hard, sometimes very much so, but that's all part of the learning process too.


Wednesday, April 7

Credo - Point the third, upon the nature of sin

In the previous Credo, we discussed the concept of humanity and their inexorable link to the Divine. Further, it has been established that, due to this link, the concept of Original Sin (being considered as a fundamental separation from the Pancreator due to actions which predate any individual mentioned) is nullified. What is, then Sin? From whence does it derive? How do we, as 'normal humans', relate to it?

To start, I would put forth what Sin is not. It is neither a state of being nor is it a laundry list of specific behaviours or thoughts. The state of being is antithetical to our link to the Divine and any list of items incompletely describes what sin may or may not be.

Sin is, in short and brief, what the New Testament in the original greek called it - ἥμαρτον, emarton (or hamarton). The word means 'to err' literally meaning 'to miss the mark'. Expanding on this, it is a person, through action or inaction, makes a mistake and Creation is harmed.

In this discussion, a few definitions may be in order. A person means everyone individually or collectively. Action includes thought, speech and deed. A mistake, here, means an action which causes harm or prevents good. One could define it as an action against the 'will of God', but that implies that any of us can derive the will of the Divine, which is ineffable. Creation, in this specific context, refers to the connected Divine entities, which comprise all of creation.

This is the root of the matter: when a person does not understand (or forgets) the Divine connection that they and all other things have, they strongly tend towards acting in ways which harm or are contrary to the betterment of the whole. So, when people think they are separate from the Universe, apart from others, or alone, that is when they are more likely to do things which will harm Creation.

Noting the relational nature of the discussion, it may prove useful to consider it slightly differently. Sin would be a mistake which injures the relationship between the person erring and Creation and/or the Divine.

A few key takeaway points to mention in the last. The first takeaway is that everyone makes mistakes. In Romans, Paul says it straight out. "for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" with the word 'Sinned' being 'ἥμαρτον'. I would argue that Paul is not counting Jeshua bin Joseph in his counting of 'all' because it is my belief that a great part of the mystery and importance of the humanity of Jesus is that he DID go through life without error.

The second takeaway is that Sins are mistakes. We may, from time to time, aim to misbehave (as a friend would say), but even then the actions are errors/mistakes. Sometimes, the error is in intent (doing the right thing for mistaken reasons). Sometimes, we may not intend for our actions to be sinful, but things don't go smooth (doing the wrong thing for the right reasons). For these errors to be considered sin, they are mistakes which cause harm of some sort.

We have spoken about Sin and how it damages our relationship with the Divine and Creation. Not wishing to live in a damaged state we need to reconcile ourselves with the Divine. This process, sometimes known as redemption, is the next step in our journey.


Tuesday, April 6

A thought to ponder....

"Reality itself is about relationship."
- Tobias S Haller

Credo - Point the second, Upon the nature of humanity

As I mentioned in the previous post, this exposition will examine the concept and implications of the universality of the Infinite Divine as it relates to humanity.

The universality of the Divine, which is to say the concept that the Pancreator is everywhere at once, is a simple and yet deeply profound assertion. If we accept the first Point (as outlined yesterday), then it follows naturally that the incorrupt and eternal nature of the Divine resides within each and every creature, plant, rock and stream. Thus all of Creation is a part of the Pancreator. That would include our little fellow to the right, but that's beside the point, right?

That is the point, though. Each human, like everything else, is born in the image of the Divine (Genesis 1:26-7). At our core, we are made in the likeness of the Pancreator. Thus, and here's the real sticky part, we are created without blemish or error.

Think that through for a second. In the first, it means that the concept of Original Sin is misplaced. Those who do not have the ability or opportunity to make choices which would be sinful are therefore without blemish. If the little one above passes over before he can figure out right from wrong, there's no Limbo or Hell or any of that. Sorry, Abelard.

The other aspect is what I wish to touch on more fully. If the Divine rests within each of us, then it is right, fitting and proper to recognize that Divinity and pay respect to it. This is (at least partly) the premise behind the modern conception of the Sikh and Hindu greeting of namaste which, as one person put it, intimates

'The God in me greets the God in you
The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you'

As we have previously established, the Pancreator is full of love, then we should return that unreserved affection towards the Divine...which is in each and every one of us. Thus, every person is innately deserving of love and respect. It is important, nay vital, to say this again.

Every person is innately deserving of love and respect.

There is nothing which a person does or does not think/say/do which alters the fact that they are, by their very existence, worthy of love and respect. This applies to Mother Theresa as much as to Mao Tse-Tung, cherubic choirboys as much as paedophilic priests. It matters not that they do not see this connection, that they deny their own links to the Divine or that they work against a global realization of these ideas. What matters is that you know this to be true and that you recognize and treat with love and respect those who are worthy, which is each and everyone of us.

Let me cast my net a bit wider for a moment. A corollary to the above statement is that everything in this world is also innately worthy of love and respect. The mountain streams, the icky bugs, the forest trees, the oceans...all of them are no less worthy of respect and love than myself, yourself, or Christ.

So, then, how should we act towards one another? How then should we treat the environment?
"As you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me." (Matthew 25:40)


Monday, April 5

Credo - Point the first, Upon the nature of the Divine

Since the name of this thread is in latin, and much of the terms I am going to use are in latin, let me put this forth in the same tongue.

Credo in Deum, omniscientum omnipotentem et omnipraesentum, factorem visibilium omnium et invisibilium, caritas plenum.

"I believe in God, all-knowing all-powerful and everywhere at once, the creator of all which is seen and unseen, full of love."

Examine and ponder this for a moment.

Being able to see to the end of time and tracing back the threads, this Pancreator would know what decisions were made in any circumstance, the reasonings behind them and the outcomes (both possible and actual). Herein unwinds the Gordian Knot of free-will vs. predestination. At the fork in the road, you choose left, the Divine knows what will happen. If you choose right instead, that action's consequences are also known. Indeed, the outcome of any possible choice is known. That does not obviate a man's free will, but rather recognizes the omniscience of the Divine.

Another part of this is that the Pancreator is all powerful. This sort of limitless ability means that the Divine can be male, female, other, both, none or all...and may very well be. What does this mean? In short, that the Divine is no less (or more) a god than a goddess and that concepts like the sex and appearance of the Pancreator are methods by which we may be able to help ourselves comprehend the Divine, but are not descriptions of the Divine itself. In a different way, we may be able to discern some things about a potter from the clay pitcher, but we should never confuse the pitcher for the potter.

The next bit is trickier, for the implications are far-ranging. The Divine is everywhere at once. That means that it is in you, me, the tree atop Rushmore, the rocks at the bottom of Challenger Deep and the dog on Alpha Centauri....all at once. That means that the Divine is within you, right now. This will be discussed in depth in the next Credo post.

That this Divine Entity created everything I take as an article of faith. I will state that I have no specific explicit evidence for this, but I'm not really wanting to argue this point at the moment. That the Pancreator is the Pancreator is good enough for the nonce. (read, I may revisit this more in full later).

That the Divine is full of love is our last point and it is at this time I should bring back the latin. I specifically chose caritas over a number of other words to describe the love of the Divine. Caritas, and it's greek cognate agape, refer to a specific type of love. It is unconditional and abounding in both love (as we normally consider it) and kindness.

It is this love which is the very definition of the Divine "qui non diligit non novit Deum quoniam Deus caritas est/ Who does not love does not know God, for God is love"(1 John 4). It is also the basis for the English word and the Christian virtue of Charity, the greatest of the seven heavenly Virtues.


Friday, April 2

My grandfather, a german bishop and a revelation

News has broken today that a number of people have filed statements which say that they were habitually physically abused and denigrated while they were children at an orphanage during the 1970's and early 1980's. The priest, one Walter Mixa (at right), was in charge of the home and is a friend of the pope, who elevated Mixa to the episcopate in 2005. Bishop Mixa is known to be controversial and outspoken conservative who has ascribed the outbreak of sexual atrocities within the Church to the liberalization that occurred in the late 20th century, specifically the second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and the sexual revolution of the 1960's. You may recall the story about Georg Ratzinger (brother of His Holiness) who admitted to hitting choir boys when he was a choral director in Regensburg and the horrifying physical abuse suffered in Ireland that came to light last year.

What I try to do when I hear about something which is substantively outside my experience is to attempt to understand the individual and their motivations. This is not to dismiss, lessen or mitigate what has been done, but rather to make sense of it all and, if possible, find compassion for those who have done such terrible things. This leads me, in an odd way, to my grandfather.

In the first, I should mention that my grandfather was a loving, caring and generally wonderful man who taught me a lot of valuable lessons about life. He was also a rather unmitigated racist. It took me a long time to reconcile these two facets of his life. Pondering this, I realise that he grew up in a small town in the 1930's where there simply weren't any blacks. For his time and place, his prejudices about the inferiority of blacks and the rightness of segregation were considered socially acceptable and, by the time when social changes made it no longer acceptable to have the aforementioned opinions, he was unable to adapt.

This sort of 'being left behind' by rapidly advancing social change is almost endemic to our present western society. Putting the focus back onto Bishop Mixa, Monseigneur Ratzinger and their ilk, I would point out that what was once considered 'stern discipline' (repackaged as 'tough love') is now considered to be child abuse. The "spare the rod, spoil the child" thought process, combined with the legendary discipline of the 'old RC' priests/nuns at private schools would easily be imbued into these men and others like them.

It is no surprize, then, that these people would reject the 'radical liberal ways' of Vatican II and the post-60's social culture as 'decadent and soft'. Further, it would go far to explain why these people seem to have no substantive remorse over their actions. In the context of the society and the religious upbringing they were raised in, they have done nothing wrong. Indeed, they have done what they were taught was right! *sighs*

Again, I point out that I am, in no way, condoning the behaviour nor attempting to minimize the pain and suffering that has been caused. Rather, I am trying to understand them so that I may better find compassion for them.

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."

Damned hippies and their free-love crap. Oh, wait.

Credo - establishment

As I mentioned yesterday, I am endeavouring to put to paper the principal concepts (dare I say, principal principles) which are the matters which I believe. That is all well and good, one might say, but apart from the obvious (and valuable) matter of sussing such things out, wouldn't it be quicker, simpler and better to just say "I adhere to [X] faith/sect with the following variances"?

From a philosophical perspective, I would argue that no questioning individual agrees completely and explicitly with the beliefs of any established sect. The variances may be small (I think that Christopher should still be considered a saint) or they may be large (Trinity, Schminity...there's only one God) but those who examine the fixed precepts of others with an open mind and heart will find things which 'don't work' for them. This should seem reasonable and logical, as no two people are identical nor have the identical set of experiences it follows that no two people would perceive or conceive of the universe in identical ways.

From a semantic perspective, I find a very real problem with describing oneself as 'I'm [X] except'. In this regard, the [X] functions as a label, a shorthand for a system of beliefs, traditions and concepts. A friend of mine (a practicing moderate, reformed Jew) once told me that there are only two kinds of Jews - Orthodox and Orthodox except. That means that the Ultra-orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and Messianic Jews are all the same, they're 'Orthodox except'.

This shorthand makes sense only to those who understand what the original means. Neither having been raised jewish nor having studied Orthodox Judaism, saying 'Orthodox except' is a disturbingly content-free statement. Further, the beliefs and concepts which form the sect/faith are, in and of themselves, labels which describe rather complex and arcane ideas which have far-reaching and, often, unexpected consequences.

From a practical perspective, the idea of '[X] except' doesn't function with where I am at any more than saying 'I'm [X]' does. I COULD say that 'I am ECC', but that statement lacks certain meaning as the exact definition is unclear, even to those in the pews. Let me explain.

I presently attend Light of Christ, an Ecumenical Catholic Church. I have yet to see a formal catechism and, as I explore things more fully, I realise that to draw one up would be nigh impossible. The majority of our parishioners are former RC who have deliberated and discerned and have joined in a new faith community for the 'except'. At LoC, the 'except' varies wildly from person to person and from priest to priest. What they all have in common is that they are all thoughtful, prayerful and right-minded folks who earnestly wish to follow the will of the Divine.

Thus, I consider it important to not to use shortcuts, but rather start at the basics and work through things. I am not saying that these things are right, but rather that (at least at the present) they are right for me.


Thursday, April 1

Credo - background


The word means I believe and just saying the word aloud has a certain gravity and importance to it underlies the magnitude.


This journal is all about belief and the implications and applications thereof. It would be useful, then, to outline and circumscribe the concepts of belief, the theological and philosophical interpretations of things with an eye towards forming an internally consistent doctrinal corpus. In short, what is it that I believe, why and how does that work?

To assist in this, I believe a bit of my spiritual background is in order. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, attending a PC(USA) (formerly PC of the USA) and went to a private school that was sponsored by a large PCA church. Around 15 or so, I felt a strong calling by God and became much more active in my church, becoming ordained as a deacon at 16 (the youngest in the history of the church).

After graduating High School, I went into the Navy and worked with the chaplain corps. I found the experience very moving and helped spark my interest in comparative religion studies. During this time, I spent time attending services and a revival at Church of God of Prophecy, where the feeling of the Spirit was strong in the church.

Returning from the service, I continued studying different philosophical and theological systems. I closely examined Taoism and Stoicism as well as some forms of neo-paganism. Eventually, I hammered out a world-view which worked well enough for me.

Then I went to a lenten service last year. There, in that small community, the Spirit was there, vibrant and intoxicating. That's when I heard the Call again. A year of soulful prayer, contemplation and study later brings us to this journal.

Throughout this long and circuitous journey, one abiding principle has guided me at every turn and in every way.


I believe.