STRANGERS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS

The commercialism of Christmas is highlighted in this year of the pandemic for our true priorities are revealed as we try to decide whether shared festivities, parties, shopping and presents take precedence over safeguarding the lives of those we love.

Today, only around 51% percent of people in Europe are Christian, with 65% in the US. For them and many others Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ  – Christ Mass. Those who believe that Christianity simply high jacked pagan traditions, might consider a different perspective…The melding of pagan beliefs with Christianity provided an interface, ensuring the teachings of Jesus Christ were heard, however imperfectly they were understood, interpreted and recorded. Whatever our beliefs Christmas remains the unique point on the calendar when the spirit of good will prevails. In an increasingly secular world Carol concerts and midnight mass have given way to eating, drinking, parties and shopping with little or no reference to the Nativity story as Christmas becomes Xmas. Christmas trees and lights represent a time to forget about the long dark days, an opportunity to celebrate with friends and family, reminiscent of a pagan past with elements of Christian and folk traditions interwoven.

Yule tide celebrations and traditions at the winter solstice predate Christianity by thousands of years. The name Yule is derived from the Old Norse HJOL, meaning ‘wheel,’ to identify the moment when the wheel of the year is at its lowest point, ready to rise again. Originally a Nordic tradition, Yule the name of the old Winter Solstice was celebrated in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe and Germany. The Yule Log, the origin of todays Christmas tree was originally an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house to decorate. Yule marked the return of the God Baldur from the realm of Hel and the loosening of winter’s grip on the frozen Earth. Numerous references to Yule in  ancient accounts testify to how Yule was celebrated by giving gifts, feasting and dancing.

Around December 20-23 each year, the North Pole is tilted at its furthest point  from the sun, bringing the shortest day and longest night of the year in advance of Christmas. Cosmic cycles have  long been recognised and celebrated by indigenous peoples and those who honour the seasons. One of the most important and well-known features of Stonehenge is its alignment on the midwinter sunset-midsummer sunrise solstitial axis. The prehistoric Stonehenge monument in Wiltshire, England is the site of the most famous winter solstice celebration, led by Druids.

HOLLY,  IVY AND MISTLETOE

To the Druids, Holly was one of the symbols most associated with the Solstice festival. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months and also of fertility (the reason we kiss under it).  Directly at the solstice sunset, Druid priests would cut and bless the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree. Later Pagan traditions spread by the Roman empire included bawdy partying, eating and drinking  in the festival of Saturnalia, the worship of Saturn the sun god. Romans covered their houses in ivy, decorating doors and windows in the belief it would ward off evil spirits.

GOATS AND REINDEER

In Sweden, people regarded the Yule goat as an invisible spirit that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were in place. Traditionally the yule goat was supposed to deliver presents, men dressed up as the Yule goat to give gifts to their families. The origins go back to ancient Pagan festivals, some believe the celebration of the goat is connected to worship of the Norse god, Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats. In time, the role of holiday gift giving was symbolised by  gnomelike, goat-riding Christmas elves who delivered gifts to sleeping children…the beginnings of the Santa story.

SAINT NICHOLAS TO SANTA CLAUSE

Christian concerns that the Christmas festivities reflected pagan traditions led to the transition from the yule goat to the reindeer who pull Santa’s sleigh. ‘Reindeer’ is an ancient Norse word believed to mean ‘horned animal.’ For centuries reindeer have been associated with Christmas and winter festivities, particularly in Scandinavia and across Eastern Europe, a more acceptable image to Christians than the goat with its demonic Christian interpretation.

Poets and writers of the 19th century  revived  the legend of St Nicholas in an effort to  create a family focussed festival. Saint Nicholas of Myra was an early Christian bishop of Greek descent born  in 270AD, the time of the Roman Empire in what is now modern day Turkey, . After his parents died, Nicholas is said to have distributed their wealth to the poor, his lifelong habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the ‘Santa Claus’ we know today.  St Nicholas was later cast into prison during the Christian persecution by the emperor Diocletian but was released after the emperor Constantine  declared Christianity the State religion. An early list makes him an attendee at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed, recited daily today in every Christian church in the world. Nicholas is reputed to have had a long white beard and wore red robes, he is the patron saint of children and of those suffering economic struggles, particularly relevant today.

In 1821 an anonymous illustrated poem entitled “The Children’s Friend” melded the generosity of the Christian saint Nicholas, stripping him of any religious characteristics and  dressing him in red suit with a grandfatherly beard.  In 1823 Clement Clarke Moore wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” for his six children. It described  a plump jolly grandfather figure and referred to a “miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.”  In 1939 ‘Rudolph’ became the ninth reindeer, first introduced in  a children’s book by Robert L. May.  Presents became a major focus, adding to the commercialisation of Christmas.

We do not need to accept the orthodox view of the life  of Jesus in order to believe in his words which are never more profoundly needed as we celebrate this Christmas.                

                         “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

They will assist us in deciding whether to place ourselves and others at risk for the brief, questionable pleasure of shared company with family and friends. Perhaps it will only be when we can consider the welfare of strangers as importantly as our friends that the pandemic will be over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARCHEOLOGY AND ANGELS

IS THIS THE NAZARETH HOME OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH ?

Historically churches have always been built on sacred sites to commemorate oral traditions, enabling archeologists to tie buildings to the events which shape history. A 14 year archaeological investigation, the largest ever carried out into Roman period Nazareth – has unearthed a house, complete with pottery fragments commonly used by Jewish families of the era, dating to the time in which Jesus lived. The house is located beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent where nuns lived from the 1st century AD.  Ken Dark, professor of archaeology and history at Reading University said Fieldwork has suggested that a cave church built directly adjacent to the house in the 4th century, corresponds to the time Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine.

Further excavation unearthed a 5th century church built over both the house and the cave church. This would have been the largest church in Nazareth, an elaborately decorated cathedral with marble and mosaics matching a 7th century description of the large Byzantine church that was said to have stood on the site of Jesus’ home. Nazareth was previously believed to have been a small hamlet but is now considered to have had a population of around a thousand.

In the time of Jesus, Nazareth was religiously very conservative and politically anti-Roman.  Religious values and practice differed greatly from the neighbouring town of Sepphoris. Jesus has long been identified with the Essene spiritual community of Nazareth who rejected the Jewish priesthood of the day as hypocrites.

This is the second time archeologists have announced significant findings prior to Christmas.  On December 22nd 2009, Israeli archeologists announced that they had unearthed for the first time, the remains of a 1st century dwelling from the Jewish village of Nazareth, officially confirming the previously disputed existence of the hamlet of Nazareth to the era in which Jesus lived. This excavation site is adjacent to the Church of the Annunciation seen in the background, built to commemorate the place where, according to tradition, the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would conceive a son by divine intervention. Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary when she was going to collect water from the well.  The site has uncovered a two roomed house with a courtyard in which there is ‘a rock hewn cistern into which rainwater was conveyed’ providing support for the historical account.

Each Christmas the words are read throughout the world: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary…..”

 “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you” (The words of the angel were later translated in the opening words of the Rosary prayer:  “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” in Latin: Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum) “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I know not a man?”  The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore  the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

A BELIEF IN ANGELS REQUIRES A LEAP OF FAITH AND A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TIME IN QUESTION  WHEN DIVINE INTERCESSION WAS NOT CONSIDERED UNCOMMON.

The biblical gospels are those approved by mainstream Christianity throughout the centuries, they represent a  remnant of numerous earlier accounts which were ruled unacceptable to the church hierarchy. The Protevangelium of James, believed to be written by James, a brother of Jesus, was disputed but describes the lineage of Mary as the daughter of Ann and Joachim, a wealthy man. The couple who were childless lived in Nazareth and Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee some 6 kilometres away. They went to the Temple of Jerusalem on a Feast Day to give offerings but were publicly humiliated by the priest for their infertility which was considered a reproach from God.  Bereft, they prayed and promised that any child born to them would be dedicated to God. An angel appeared to each of them separately, announcing the birth of a child “a daughter most blessed, by whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and through whom will come the salvation of the world.” 

A daughter, Mary, was born to them in Sepphoris and at the age of three they gave her into the keeping of the women of the Temple of Jerusalem who raised the daughters of those assigned as Temple Virgins. Eight years later, Joachim died, Ann died one year later, both are buried in The Valley of Josaphat not far from the Garden of Gethsemane.

At the age of puberty, Temple virgins were returned to their homes as cultural laws prohibited menstruating women from entering the temple complex. They remained in service to the Temple however and the text describes how, as part of her temple duties, Mary was called upon to help weave the curtain for the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Mary, one of seven virgins from the line of David, was working on this task in her Nazareth home when she went out to fetch some water from a well positioned over an underground spring. It was then, according to legend, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared with the message:

Following her return to Nazareth as a young girl of marriageable age, Mary was betrothed (promised in marriage).  In ancient Israel ‘betrothal’ was considered a sacred institution, young girls could be betrothed from the age of 12 but couples continued to live with their parents until the marriage took place two or three years later, at which time the young woman went to live with her husband and the marriage was consummated. Betrothal was more important than the marriage itself, the couple having agreed to the marriage contract which defined and protected tribal marriage rights and the rights of future children. During the period of betrothal, couples remained separated, forbidden from seeing one another, the punishment for adultery was therefore severe and included banishment or stoning.

The elders selected Joseph, an ageing widower with grown up sons, to be Mary’s betrothed. He initially objected saying  “I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl”  but accepted their ruling when a sign was received. When, following the visitation of the angel, Mary became pregnant and hid herself away and visited her cousin Elizabeth’s home in Aim Keram, south west of Jerusalem. Elizabeth confirmed that she too was pregnant, her son would become John the Baptist.  Mary returned to Nazareth but Joseph finding her now heavily pregnant believed she had been unfaithful and decided to divorce her privately to break the betrothal contract. This only required two witnesses and no grounds were needed to be given, rather than publicly going through the Jewish courts. An angel then appeared to Joseph in a dream saying:  “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph accepted the message but their marriage was delayed by the need to travel to Bethlehem to register for the Roman Census.

The belief in the birth of Jesus by divine intercession has provoked heated debate for centuries. Historians and linguists have argued whether the Hebrew term ‘almah’ was interpreted accurately as ‘virgin’, many stating that ‘almah’ could  mean ‘a maiden’ or ‘a young unmarried woman’. Biblical texts were repeatedly mistranslated over centuries and a Hebrew to Greek translation by Jewish scholars translated ‘almah’ as ‘pathenos’ meaning ‘a young woman’, this began the centuries old argument suggesting that ‘virgin’ was a mistranslation. Today there is academic agreement that the word ‘almah’ means virgin in the true sense. Almah’ the term for virgin means “the concealed one” or “the veiled one.” referring to the custom of betrothed girls wearing veils over their faces as a sign of seclusion, or concealment, during the time of betrothal.

  •  Robert Dick Wilson a celebrated Hebrew scholar, proficient in 45 biblically related languages declared that ‘almah” never meant ‘young married woman’ and that the presumption of common law is that every ‘almah’ is virtuous unless she can be proved not to be.
  • Professor William Beck a theologian who translated the Old Testament stated: ‘I have searched exhaustively for instances where ‘almah’ might mean a non virgin or a married woman. There is no passage  where ‘almah” is not a virgin, nowhere in the bible or elsewhere does ‘almah” mean anything but a virgin.’
  •  Cyrus Gordon a scholar of enormous range in linguistics and social history including Aramaic-Syriac-Mandaic and art and archeology of the near East, Assyriology, Egypto-Semitic studies and Hebrew inscriptions stated that ‘recent archeological evidence confirms that ‘almah’ means virgin.’

The Church of St. Gabriel built over “Mary’s Spring” has been rebuilt many times over the centuries. The spring feeds the well where villagers once congregated to share news and  fill their pitchers (pictured 1891).  William Rae Wilson describes “a well of the Virgin, which supplied the inhabitants of Nazareth with water” in his book, Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land.

The historical record details the life and times of the family into which Jesus was born. If untrue this is a compendium of lies and to what purpose? While divine intervention remains an impossible explanation for many, we cannot dismiss the fact that the  birth of Jesus Christ resulted in a global network of faithful followers to the present time. In addition to Christians millions more, including Buddhists, Muslims, agnostics and New Age followers see his life as an exemplary pattern for their own. Jesus Christ is persistently ranked as the most influential person who ever lived.

See:

Metaphysics of the Christmas Story

Star of Bethlehem -An Astrological Configuration

GIVING THANKS IN 2020

In the debacle of Donald Trumps refusal to concede power, American families ponder on whether to meet to celebrate Thanksgiving in the current pandemic. The date might provide a meaningful opportunity to consider what has been gained and what lost since 1776. When the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth in 1620 fleeing religous persecution, the only Americans were the indigenous peoples. The first Dutch fur traders who had arrived in Albany in 1613 had been welcomed by native Americans who stated  “We have a canoe, you have a boat,” suggesting they link the two vessels and ‘float down the river of Life together.’ The predictable difficulty arose when some wanted one foot in the canoe and one in the boat.

Benjamin Franklin attended the Lancaster Treaty of 1744, inviting the chiefs of 6 Indian nations to attend. Mr. Franklin was intrigued with the governmental structure of the Iroquois’ League of the Six Nations, six Indian tribes under one ruling government. They discussed  good governance, representation, peaceful transfer of power, 2 political houses – and the power of the people. The Indians advised colonial leaders on how to create a government modelled after the Iroquois League of nations. On 17th Dec 1988, the U.S. Senate paid tribute with a resolution that said:  “The confederation of the original 13 colonies into one republic was influenced by the political system developed by the Iroquois Confederacy, as were many of the democratic principles which were incorporated into the constitution itself.”

THE PEACE MAKER 

Native American tradition holds that mankind is  subject to a higher authority and that people and all Creation are intertwined.  In an unknown time of great conflict many hundreds of years ago, a spiritual being arrived to teach the tribes the ways of Peace through an observance of Natural Law.   The formula was Peace-Equity- Unity… Power of the Good Mind.. He warned them  “Do not challenge the laws – you will not prevailWhen you become weak, afraid, the spiritual law will stiffen your spine, then you will survive…”Be fair to the people – Justice comes with fairness”  He taught Unity, that everyone must be of the same mind. This became the Iroquois Confederacy.

Great Turtle Island  is the name given to the continent of America by the indigenous people. The Tree of Peace was  planted by the Peacemaker, a symbol of The Great Spiritual Law with an eagle, a sacred symbol to the Iroquois, placed above the tree. The fifty chiefs buried their weapons beneath it, a marker that fighting was over. Peacemaker then took one arrow from a quiver, then three, then five, snapping them easily, putting several arrows together he showed it was impossible to break them, that together the tribes too would be unbreakable.

Peacemaker said “You shall know your nation through your women. Because the Earth is female the women will be working with the earth”  he chose a woman as clan leader and made women clan mothers. Society followed matrilineal form, land was vested in the women, when a girl was born she was a  land holder, women held the dwellings, horses and farmed land, and a woman’s property before marriage stayed in her possession. Every child born had a nation, a name, an identity and inheritance.

‘IF A LEADER DOES NOT PROVE SOUND, BECOMES CORUPT OR DOES NOT LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE, CLAN MOTHERS HAVE THE POWER TO TO STRIP HIM OF HIS LEADERSHIP AND HE IS REMOVED BY THE PEOPLE.’

Animal names were given to the original 50 chiefs and Clan Mother, Chief, Sub Chief and a male and a female Faithkeeper were appointed. On the death of a tribal chief it is Clan Mother who chooses the next leader, this must be agreed upon by consensus. Clans gather at an appointed time to judge the man, who must be a family man in good standing, honest, courageous, patient and tolerant. In this lengthy process all the laws are recited as a reminder, if he passes scrutiny he is appointed. The people are then asked Does anyone know a reason why this man should not be appointed”A Grand Council, an assembly of fifty chiefs or sachems, each representing one of the clans of one of the nations is the governing body. Chiefs are accountable to the current 7th generation and to future generations.They are instructed “not to let your generation be the one to fail.”. None of these positions carries remuneration.

An English colonists observed: “such absolute notions of Liberty that they allow no kind of superiority of one over another, and banish all servitude from their territories”

On April 4th 1744, Chief Canassatego gave a speech urging the contentious 13 colonies to unite, as the Iroquois had. Benjamin Franklin printed his speech: “We heartily recommend Union and a good Agreement between you our Brethren,” Canassatego had said. “Never disagree, but preserve a strict Friendship for one another, thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger. Our wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighbouring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire such strength and power. Therefore, whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another”    He referenced the teaching that many arrows cannot be broken as easily as one. Native Americans believe this  inspired the bundle of 13 arrows held by the eagle incorporated into the Great Seal of the United States

Oren Lorens Jr, Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy has said of the Founding Fathers:

  “They took an ember and lighted their own fire … they  said they wanted peace – a great light of peace at that time but the embers died down”

Thanksgiving was part of native culture, to give thanks for what has been received from  the Source,  this was adopted by the Pilgrims as a celebration of their new life. There were however two major differences in the cultures. The Iroquois Confederacy honoured community and freedom through mutual support, common land and common water, the Europeans did not understand the concept of sharing  natural resources and coming from a patriarchal society were reluctant to accept matrilineal kinship. The American Constitution did not therefore reflect The Great Law. Like much of the world, America fell prey to corporate greed and materialism, seduced by secularism and technology. Capitalism like Communism is bereft of spirituality for the law is transgressed when profit is elevated beyond sharing.

The emphasis on personal freedom, so much a mark of American identity, is perhaps seen today in the refusal to place the wellbeing of others first, as millions of Americans travel to meet family and friends despite appeals to defer Thanksgiving dinners for the greater good.  We might use this day to pray that the empty chairs at next years table will be few.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTER – Science, Evidence and Faith

IT IS FOR EACH ONE OF US TO DECIDE WHAT TO BELIEVE  REGARDING THE LIFE OF JESUS. THE HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS PASSED DOWN TO US ARE A STARTING POINT FROM WHICH TO QUESTION.

In an increasingly secular and some might say selfish world it is perhaps surprising to note that 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. The Christian faith remains the largest religion in the world, with 31.2% of the global population of 7.3 billion. ‘No religious affiliation’ (6%)  does not indicate atheism, many in this group have a strong sense of spirituality or belief in God, gods or guiding forces. Jesus Christ is revered by many who do not adhere to Christianity or practise an organised religion.

Science and religion are not  incompatible. A survey of 3,000 science, medical, technical, and engineering professionals in the UK, Germany and France, commissioned by the Scientific and Medical Network, found that 25% described themselves as atheists, with 45%, a majority defining themselves as ‘religious or spiritual’. Continue reading

EASTER STORY – ‘Could you not watch with me one hour?’

HONOURING THE LIFE OF JESUS AT EASTER

For those who know the story and for those who don’t.

THE LAST SUPPER

On the Thursday at the end of the week of celebrations to mark the Jewish Feast of Passover the disciples met with Jesus to celebrate the feast together. This commemorated a historical event in Jewish history, still celebrated today which marks the end of 400 years of captivity of the Israelites in Egypt (1446 BCE) when Moses their leader was commanded by God to instruct the pharaoh to “Let my people go”. When Pharaoh refused, twelve consecutive plagues resulted, culminating in the death of the eldest son of each Egyptian family. Tradition holds that the Angel of Death ‘Passed over’ the houses of the Israelites and Pharaoh freed them.

As Jesus and the disciples ate a supper together he shocked the disciples by indicating that he would soon leave them. This became their ‘last supper’.

He broke the bread and said: “This is my body broken for you, eat in remembrance of me.” He gave them wine to drink saying: “This is my blood, drink in remembrance of me.”  This later became the sacred ritual performed by his followers in his memory, referred to today as taking Communion, as he asked.  Jesus talked to them of what was to come saying: “This night one of you will betray me,”  but they did not understand. Judas Iscariot one of the disciples, slipped away to meet with the High Priest, having arranged to betray Jesus to the authorities. Continue reading

EASTER WELCOME

EASTER  2020

IN THIS TIME OF EXCEPTIONAL CHALLENGE,

EASTER REMINDS US OF THE PROMISE OF HOPE AND RENEWAL

Easter is a time of celebration for all of us, the focus is different for different people.  For some it means Easter Eggs and holidays, for others, a time of celebration, acknowledging natural cycles and seasonal rituals. For Christians it is the most sacred part of the calendar, a time of renewal of faith through remembrance of the traditional story of the Trial and Resurrection of Jesus.

For millions of others who do not profess the Christian faith but have revered Jesus and his teaching it is an opportunity to honour his life and example as a foundation for living.

Whatever our beliefs the season brings a sense of hope and renewal.

We wish you all peace and joy this Easter. Continue reading

HALLOWEEN – TRICK OR TREAT?

On the 31st October each year the ritual of Halloween is celebrated with little or no thought for its origins which lie in the belief that at this time there is a thinning of the veils between the manifest and the astral worlds.  Many  continue to take advantage of this window of opportunity maintaining their traditions of communicating with the spirits of those who have departed this world.  For some this is a positive act of remembrance, for others an opportunity to interact with negative forces. In either case  we are engaging our psychic energy to create a connection, linking the physical and astral realms and should be aware of the inherent vulnerability and need for respect. Continue reading

‘Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’

A glance over the medieval shoulder reveals religious intolerance and a capacity for atrocity equalling anything seen today. When Henry Vlll, the English king, separated from the Church of Rome in 1534 to form the Church of England, Protestantism was forced upon the population and those who dissented were made to pay fines, thrown into prison, tortured  or killed. Elizabeth 1st  succeeded Henry and the Spanish Armada set sail to restore ‘the true religion’ at the popes behest. The Armada failed and centuries of division and religious persecution of Catholics followed.

Catholics were seen as potential traitors and required to deny their allegiance to the pope.The Jesuit priesthood entered the country on behalf of the papacy and laws were tightened.  In 1585, theAct Against Jesuits, Seminary Priests and other suchlike Disobedient Persons made it High Treason for a priest to reside anywhere in England or for anyone to hide or assist a priest.Harsh laws meant fines, imprisonment or forfeiture of property could be imposed on those who brought Catholic artefacts into the country, heard mass or sent children abroad to schools or seminaries. The Catholic population became increasingly estranged.  Elizabeth died childless in 1603 and was succeeded by James V1, King of Scotland who became James 1 of England.  The two Protestant kingdoms  became the United Kingdom in 1603, further alienating the Catholic minority. Continue reading

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GOOGLE ‘GOD’?

My intention in writing this article was to pose the question: Is technology driving us towards a godless society?  As a starting point I decided to google ‘God’ simply to obtain a definition, expecting of course that there would be several.  Of the the first 3  references: 2 referred to the release of the film Godzilla which grossed  $93 million dollars in its opening weekend and $518,369,590  within weeks. The third reference was to the web hosting giant ‘godaddy’. None of the remaining references related to a Creator, a Supreme Being  or a Deity.  God, whatever we assume that word to mean, would seem to have been supplanted in the mass consciousness by commercialism and entertainment; the question however remains – what part if any does technology play in this?. Continue reading

ISLAM AT CHRISTMAS

MORE SIMILARITIES THAN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY. 

The definition of a Muslim is ‘One who surrenders to the will of God’. Mohammed is acknowledged by the faithful as the final messenger sent from God; chosen to receive verbal communication from Archangel Gabriel, to guide mankind to the last days. This became the Quran.  Jesus is revered by Muslims as a prophet and and referred to under various titles, the most common being al-Masīḥ  (“the Messiah”). Muslims believe that Jesus will return to earth near The Day of Judgement to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal  (“the false messiah”. (also known as the Anti Christ). Jesus is named in the Quran more often than the patriarchs, Moses (136 times) or Abraham (69 times). His Islamic name is Isa ‘the word of truth’ and he is referred to as “Ibn Maryam” (son of Mary).  Muslims believe Jesus was  sent by God as a final prophet to guide the children of Israel; he is unique in being the only prophet in Islam who neither married nor had any children Continue reading

“Watch with Me” Easter Meditation

The aim of the Watch with me Meditation night is to reflect upon the experiences of Jesus on the last night he spent on Earth before he was arrested.

The Jewish people commemorate an event in their history, which marked the end of the 400 years of captivity of the Israelites in Egypt, when Moses was commanded by God to instruct the pharaoh to “Let my people go.”   When pharaoh refused Moses was told that the Angel of Death would pass over the land on the night in question but that  they would be spared. The Angel of Death ‘passed over’ their houses and the eldest sons of the Egyptian families mysteriously died, Pharaoh’s eldest son among them. Following this Pharaoh relented and allowed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to journey to ‘the promised land’.

Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 11.16.25The Last Supper On the Thursday at the end of the week of celebrations to mark the Passover, Jesus and the disciples ate a supper together.  He broke the bread and said: “This is my body broken for you, eat in remembrance of me.” He gave them wine to drink saying: This is my blood, drink in remembrance of me.”  This later became the sacred ritual performed by his followers in his memory, referred to today as taking Communion, commemorated as The Last Supper.  He talked to them of what was to come saying: “This night one of you will betray me,”  but they did not understand. Judas Iscariot slipped away to meet with the temple guards, having arranged to betray Jesus to the authorities.  In the cool of the evening Jesus and his disciples retired to the Garden of Gethsemane, a place where they often met together. Continue reading

Money as Power

                

                 “The love of money is the root of all evil”  Jesus Christ

Many might think that the wealth amassed by the Catholic Church is in conflict with the teachings of Jesus who advised his followers ‘If you have two shirts, give one to the man that has none’ and warned that ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’.

Where did the wealth of the church come from?

The medieval church had amassed its fortune over centuries of supremacy over the European monarchies. In more recent times during the Unification of Italy the Catholic Church was deprived of its papal states which included Rome itself and almost one third of the Italian peninsula. In order to a provide territorial  identity for the Holy See (the ecclesiastical governing body of the Catholic church) an agreement was made between the Kingdom of Italy represented by the fascist leader Benito Mussolini and the Holy See represented by Pope Pius XI . The Lateran Treaty of 1929 recognized the papal state under the name  ‘Vatican City’ as a full sovereign independent  state . A walled enclave located within the city of Rome, covering 110 acres, it is the smallest independent state in the world. Today Vatican City continues as an ecclesiastical monarchy ruled by the pope, the highest offices of State are all held by Catholic clergy.

Through this treaty Italy agreed to pay the Vatican State $39million dollars in cash  and $52 million in 5% government bonds as indemnity for the loss incurred when the papal states were incorporated into  Italy in 1870. In 1942 the Vatican was exempted from certain taxes on dividends however in 1962 the government placed a tax on all stock dividends. The Vatican refused to pay, citing the Lateran Treaty and threatened to sell its Italian stocks and shares which would have caused a financial collapse of an already shaky market and the fall of the government. They remained exempt.

Power is dependent upon networks: The Holy See is a separate and distinct sovereign entity recognized in international law since medieval times. It is the ecclesiastical governing body of the Catholic Church, operating from its home territory, Vatican City State.  Governance of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide  is by a  hierarchical structure of the pope, the College of Cardinals and the Curia ( a Latin term meaning ‘Court’ in the royal sense). The Holy See  maintains formal diplomatic relationships with 180 sovereign states, the European Union and others.

Power is defined in many ways, not least by money.  ‘Vatican Billions’ written in the 1980s by the late Avro Manhattan, revealed the vast wealth and influence of the Catholic Church around the world. He described  “the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner in existence. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe.’ Renowned for the secrecy of its operation, with no oversight, the Vatican Bank has been worryingly described as the perfect money laundering system 

The Wall Street Journal has said that the Vatican’s financial deals in the U.S. alone are so big that very often it sold or bought gold in lots of a million or more dollars at one time. “The Vatican’s treasure of solid gold has been estimated by the United Nations World Magazine to amount to several billion dollars. A large bulk of this is stored in gold ingots with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, while banks in England and Switzerland hold the rest.’

“The Vatican has billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations… “In a statement published in connection with a bond prospectus, the Boston archdiocese listed its assets at Six Hundred and Thirty-five Million ($635,891,004), which is 9.9 times its liabilities. This leaves a net worth of Five Hundred and Seventy-one million dollars ($571,704,953). It is not difficult to discover the truly astonishing wealth of the church, once we add the riches of the twenty-eight archdioceses and 122 dioceses of the U.S.A., some of which are even wealthier than that of Boston.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels 
 is known to the local people as the Taj Mahony after their cardinal who had oversight of the project. It cost almost $200 million to build. The altar alone was said to have cost $5 million, the main bronze doors cost $3 million, $2 million was budgeted for the wooden lectern and $1 million for the tabernacle. $1 million was budgeted for the cathedra (bishop’s chair), $250,000 for the presider’s chair, $250,000 for each deacon’s chair, and $150,000 for each visiting bishops’ chair, while pews cost an average of $50,000 each. The budget presumably does not cover community outreach services which are not provided. Parishioners in need of  housing, food or money are obliged to use the neighborhood parishes.

For a history of the papacy see: Jesus Chronicles – The Lost Teachings Published by Epiphany Press. Available through Amazon

 

 

Metaphysics of the Christmas Story

HOW REAL IS THE CHRISTMAS STORY?

For some Christmas means the tinsel and the tree, the shopping and the presents, the turkey and the treats; in short an opportunity for self indulgence and partying while others honour the sacred cycles. For millions it is  a time of deep significance, of reflection and spiritual renewal; the remembrance of a promise, angelic visitation and guidance, a merging of the celestial and the terrestrial. The rational mind rushes to dismiss what in the 21st century seems fanciful and deluded. The story however does not rest on superstitious belief but on the science of metaphysics and is worthy of investigation from that position.  If we take a few brief moments to consider the event we are commemorating, the birth of Jesus Christ, we are faced at once with the challenge of faith, for who now believes in miracles, angelic intercession, prophetic guidance or a pre-ordained, divinely inspired Incarnation? The answer of course is that the vast majority of the human race holds to these beliefs in one form or another. Figures for 2017 show Christianity has 2.1 billion followers while Islam (which shares a belief in Jesus and his divinely inspired origins) has 1.5 billion. These two groups alone represent  half of the 7 billion people alive today.  In addition there are 900 million Hindu’s and 394 million Chinese who practice their respective  religious traditions.  Buddhism has 376 million adherents while Sikhism and Judaism each have  23 million. These represent only the major world religions, there are numerous others with a further 376 million practising indigenous primal faiths. Only 16%  state no religious affiliation.

From this perspective we might conclude that most of us have a belief in something beyond the physical realm, suggesting that conscious communication exists between the physical and the non physical worlds. Religions simply regulate a specific belief system into an ordered pattern which we can choose to follow for as long as they serve our spiritual growth. All religions are born out of an awareness of divinely inspired events whether personal or impersonal. Initially these are recorded and crystallised as revealed wisdom, eventually to become fossilised as dogma at which point followers begin to seek elsewhere.

WHO WAS JESUS?

The question has been posed for 2,000 years, it is for each of us to find our own answer, for those who accept the life and teaching of Jesus he is the supreme pattern of spirituality. Spiritual teachers magnetise followers through the positive vibration of the electromagnetic field or aura, creating a resonance which is felt as a magnetic attraction. The greater the attainment the greater the acceleration of that field and the greater the momentum. An Avatar or world teacher carries a momentum of light within the auric field which has been accumulated through countless lives of service. The consciousness radiates light which is not only felt but seen, this is the origin of halo’s depicted by artists around the head of saints and mystics. .

THE BIRTH OF AN AVATAR IS PREDESTINED AND ALWAYS A HERALDED EVENT, PRECEDED BY PROPHECY, ACKNOWLEDGED BY ASTROLOGICAL CONFIGURATION AND CONFIRMED THROUGH CELESTIAL INTERCESSION.

According to ancient wisdom cosmic time is measured in Cycles or Ages. Avatars incarnate in every Age at significant points on the cosmic calendar, referred to as  ‘Transition Cusps’ their sole purpose is the advancement of humanity by reminding of our spiritual origins. At the culmination of a Cycle of Ages (known as The Grand Cycle)  we approach the threshold of a New Age and the supreme guide appears, to shepherd us through the doorway. The penultimate Cusp of the Piscean Age heralded the birth of Jesus Christ. (Christ meaning ‘anointed of God’).

The wheel symbol,  carved into marble  in the early Christian community of Ephesus,  this represents the Cycles and Ages, the foundation of the teaching given by Jesus and subsequently lost.

The word “ixoye” is an acronym comprised of the first letter of five Greek words: Iesous Xristos Theou Yios Sotare which means Jesus, Christ, Son of, God, Savior.The word is also the Greek word for “fish,” icthus, ἰχθύς which when spelled in capital letters in Greek is ΙΧΘΥΣ. The first followers of Jesus were persecuted and used the sign of the fish as a secret symbol to recognise each other. It is no coincidence that  the astrological symbol of Pisces the fish was the sign of  the early Christians and later of Christianity. Today we stand at the threshold of the Aquarian Age, unready to birth the new, the reason for the global chaos and upheaval.

Each of us is free to view Jesus in accordance with our own beliefs or prejudices. For some he is simply a great spiritual teacher, for others he is the pre-ordained Avatar guiding humanity through the closing of an Age. Christianity accords him the unique role of Saviour and Son of God. Whatever our belief his spiritual attainment is acknowledged and it is his message which is important.

As we celebrate his birth at Christmas it is an opportune moment for reflection and to question. Is the story true? Did the Angel Gabriel announce his birth to Mary?  Was Jesus born in Bethlehem and if so why? What of the star and the three kings who are said to have brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

  • Church of The Nativity

Excerpt from: Jesus Chronicles Author: Carol Lamb

The name Jesus is the English translation from the Greek Yesous translated from the Hebrew Aramaic the native tongue of Joseph and Mary. Yeshua is the abbreviated version of Joshua a name which predates the Christian era by several centuries and means deliverer or saviour. Among the many titles accorded to Jesus is ‘Emman-u-el’. The Jewish scripture foretold of a conception through divine agency. ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called  Emman-u-el’ which means ‘God is with us’.

Prophecies of past centuries had stated that the Messiah or Saviour was to be born in Bethlehem, a small town in Judaea. Since Mary lived in Nazareth some miles away her child could have been expected to have been born there. However, in the time preceding the birth, the emperor decreed a census in order to register those eligible for taxation: ‘In the days of Caesar Augustus a decree went out that all the world should be taxed’. In a very real sense all the world was Roman and despite Mary’s advanced state of pregnancy there was no choice but to obey the decree that the head of each household was to report to his home town to be registered.

Today if we require a copy of a birth or marriage certificate we are still required to apply to the Registrar in the town of our birth. Of course we have the luxury of filling in a form and applying by post. We can only sympathise with the plight of Mary on such a journey as she travelled by donkey to reach Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem. Once more the prophecy was fulfilled and the birth occurs where scripture had stated that it would. ‘And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judaea art not least among the princes of Judah, out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel.’ The name Bethlehem means ‘place of bread’.

The story of the nativity is known to us all, Mary and Joseph are forced to rest in a place described as a stable, the only place available because the town is teeming with visitors. The birth is marked by an angel who appears before shepherds in the fields to proclaim: ‘Be not afraid, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour who is Christ the Lord, and this will be a sign for you. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’, and the angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men, with whom he is pleased.’

At Christmas we sing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the words of the carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ a reminder that Bethlehem was also known as ‘the city of David’ a reference to the birth of another king in another time. King David born in the little town of Bethlehem a thousand years before Jesus, united the Jewish tribal peoples to become the nation of Israel and laid the foundations for the temple in Jerusalem in which Jesus himself would one day teach.