zenpundit.com » christianity

Archive for the ‘christianity’ Category

Realpolitik as if angels were real

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — I mean, are they or aren’t they? — really? — what do you believe? ]
.


St Michael, of the archangelic rank or choir

**

It’s just a thought I entertain from time to time. Because if they are, if angels are real — as bookloads by the dozens, popularly read, attest — why then they may know something, and they may surely accomplish something.

**

Thomas Aquinas asks and answers the Question, Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?. Along the way, he quotes St John Damascene:

an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance.

Angels are forms of intelligence — is the Intelligence Community listening?

**

When the boy’s eyes were opened, as per the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), he saw:

and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha

and the Lord speaking to Muhammad (Qur’an 8:9):

I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.

Angels are perhaps force-multipliers. Is DOD interested?

**

Angels may be beings of music and dance — gandharvas, apsarases — is theirs a language our intelligence recognizes?

**

But I digress. Intelligence has a long history with the invisibles. Abbot Trithemius may be called first among cryptologists. Elizabeth I’s John Dee would have been at home to Bletchley Park (though Walsingham might have tossed out his amanuensis, Edward Kelley). Talmudic scholrs would do well to teach at Quantico, Jesuits at Fort Meade. Their remit, from Ephesians 6.12:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

**

An aside: in his Himalayan attempt to fathom angels, Aquinas makes an instructive statement:

Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold

Left and right, how often do we get caught in that trap in these divisive times?

Devotion, modeled in magnet and iron filings

Friday, June 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — science and Islam, but not the creationist, the analogivcal approach — sufism and the nature of pilgrimage ]
.

I am apparenrly not alone in finding that iron filing surrounding a magnet resemble pilgrims cirucumambulating the Kaaba:

The upper photograph depicts the work of the artist Ahmed Mater. A note elsewhere on his work notes:

Ahmed Mater is a Saudi artist and qualified GP. Working in photography, calligraphy, painting, installation and video, Mater reflects his experiences as a doctor and the ways this has challenged his traditional background and beliefs, and explores wider issues about Islamic culture in an era of globalisation. In the series Magnetism, what at first appear to be pilgrims circling the Ka’ba, the sacred building at the heart of the sanctuary at Mecca, are in fact iron filings spiralling around a cube-shaped magnet. Mater refers to the spiritual force that Muslim believers feel during Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

**

The lower photograph, portraying actual pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba, is accompanied by the following tale of Junayd:

A man came to visit Junaid Baghdadi, whose life reflected no change, even after having performed Hajj.

Junaid asked him: “Where are you coming from?”

“Sir, I have returned after performing Hajj of the House of Allah”, was the reply.

“So, have you actually performed Hajj?”

“Yes, Sir, I have performed Hajj “, said the man.

“Did you pledge that you would give up sins when you left your home for Hajj?” asked Junaid.

“No, Sir, I never thought of that”, said the man.

“Then, in fact, you did not even step out for Hajj. While you were on the sacred journey and making halts at places during the nights, did you ever think of attaining nearness to Allah?”

“Sir, I had no such idea.”

“Then you did not at all travel to the Ka’bah, nor did ever visit it. When you put on the Ihram garments, and discarded your ordinary dress, did you make up your mind to abandon your evil ways and attitudes in life as well ?”

“No, Sir, I had no idea of that.”

“Then, you did not even don the Ihram garments!” said Junaid ruefully. Then he asked; “When you stood in the Plain of Arafat and were imploring Allah Almighty, did you have the feeling that you were standing in Divine Presence and having a vision of Him?”

“No, Sir, I had no such experience.

Junaid then became a liltle upset and asked: “Well, when you came to Muzdalifah, did you promise that you would give up vain desires of the flesh?”

“Sir, I paid no heed to this.”

“You did not then come to Muzdalifah at all.” Then he asked: 0?Tell me, did you happen to catch glimpses of Divine Beauty when youmoved round the House of Allah?”

“No, Sir, I caught no such glimpses.”

“Then, you did not move around the Ka’bah at all.” Then he said: “When you made Sa’i (running) between the Safa and the Marwa, did you realize the wisdom, significance and objective of your effort?”

“Sir, I was not at all conscious of this.”

“Then you did not make any Sa’i!” Then he asked: “When you slaughtered an animal at the place of sacrifice, did you sacrifice your selfish desires as well in the way of Allah?”

“Sir, I failed to give any attention to that!”

“Then, in fact you offered no sacrifice whatever.”

“Then when you cast stones at the Jamarahs, did you make a resolve to get rid of your evil companions and friends and desires?”

“No, Sir, I didn’t do that.”

“Then, you did not cast stones at all”, remarked Junaid regretfully, and said:

“Go back and perform Hajj once again, giving due thought and attention to all the requirements, so that your Hajj may bear some resemblance with Prophet Ibrahim’s Hajj, whose faith and sincerity has been confirmed by the Qur’an:

Ibrahim who carried out most faithfully the Commands (of his Lord).” (53:37)

**

A similar point is made by an anonymous Celtic source, who admonished pilgrims in his own time and circumstance:

Coming to Rome, much labor and little profit! The King whom you seek here, unless you bring Him with you will not find Him.

An eerie foreshadowing of Comey-Trump in the Gospel

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on the distinction between philo and agapo in Greek, loyalty and honesty in public service ]
.

If you are familiar with the Gospel of John, you may recall the passage in which Christ questions Peter (upper panel below) which is often rendered in English “Do you love me?” “You know that I love you” (thrice — but which is subtler in the Greek, since Christ twice asks Peter if he loves him (unselfishly, most deeply), to which Peter responds that he likes him (feels affectionate or friendy love for him) — and on the third occasion, Christ uses Peter’s choice of verb, “Do you feel friendoy towards me?” and Peter answers, “Yes, you know I do.”

There’s an eerie echo of that conversation in Jim Comey‘s prepared remarks for his tesimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tomorrow (lower panel, above).

Comey twice avoids giving his verbal assent to loyalty, which Trump each time asks for, ansd on the third occasion goes part way to meet him with an assurance of “honest loyalty.”

Comey goes on to testify:

As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

Both Christ and Comey strike me as attempting twice to hold their interlocutor to a higher standard than that which he proposes, while tactfully making a verbal concession on the third attempt…

Mindanao: Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — witnessing the darkness, and the light shining in darkness ]
.

Curse and blessing, simultaneously, might be termed a mized blessing, ne?

Our understanding of Islam in relation to Christianity may be enhanced by a telling of the cursed, blest hehavior of Muslims in Mindanao, during the evacuation of the city of Marawi: curse and blessing are inextricably intertwined, the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not, the light shineth in darkness..

**

Philippine sectarian bloodshed unites Muslims and Christians
Despite Islamist militants’ attempts to cause division, their violence has prompted selfless interfaith compassion

[ .. ] Islamist militants in black masks were stationed on bridges – the only way out of the besieged city of Marawi – looking for Christian hostages. A priest had already been kidnapped. Risking his own life, a local Muslim leader had hidden dozens of Christians in a rice mill.

“He was giving them an orientation,” said the city’s bishop, Edwin de la Peña. “How to respond to questions, to recite prayers, to wear their veils, how to say assalamu alaikum (peace be upon you).”

The plan worked, but others were not so fortunate, de la Peña said. “When they were asked if they were Christians, they said yes readily. So they were pulled out. And we just heard that they were killed and thrown down into a ravine.”

Residents of Marawi, on the Mindanao island of the Philippines, were fleeing a surprise takeover by fighters claiming to be Islamic State supporters. They left a burning cathedral and corpses in their wake.

Stories such as these of brutal sectarian bloodshed, but also selfless interfaith compassion, have rippled across the Philippines.

Muslims protect Christians under attack from Isis-linked group as they flee Marawi
“We had a tip from the general commander that we should go out,” said Leny Paccon, who gave refuge to 54 people in her home, including 44 Christians

More than 160 civilians walked out of the besieged Philippines city of Marawi just after dawn on Saturday, deceiving Islamist fighters they encountered by hiding the identity of the many Christians among them. [ .. ]

“We saved ourselves,” said Norodin Alonto Lucman, a well-known former politician and traditional clan leader who sheltered 71 people, including more than 50 Christians, in his home during the battle that erupted on 23 May in the town of more than 200,000 on the southern island of Mindanao. “There’s this plan to bomb the whole city if Isis don’t agree to the demands of the government,” he said, referring to local and foreign fighters who have sworn allegiance to the ultra-radical Islamic State. [ .. ]

“We had a tip from the general commander that we should go out,” said Leny Paccon, who gave refuge to 54 people in her home, including 44 Christians. “When I got the text, immediately we go out … about 7 o’clock.”

By then, Lucman and his guests had begun their escape march from another area, holding white flags and moving briskly.

“As we walked, others joined us,” he told reporters. “We had to pass through a lot of snipers.”

Some of the civilians were stopped and asked if there were any Christians among them, said Jaime Daligdig, a Christian construction worker.

“We shouted ‘Allahu akbar’,” he told Reuters, adding that thanks to that Muslim rallying cry they were allowed to pass. [ .. ]

Christians have been killed and taken hostage by the militants, a mix of local fighters from the Maute Group and other Islamist outfits, as well as foreigners who joined the cause under the Islamic State banner. [ .. ]

Lucman said that many of those trapped were on the verge of starvation, which also gave them the courage to leave.

**

many of those trapped were on the verge of starvation, which also gave them the courage to leave.

There’s a close and provocative analogy there to the idea that darkness brings out the light, ne?

More from the Forgiveness Chronicles

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — picking up from Some recent words from the Forgiveness Chronicles ]
.

Once again, I am amazed at the sheer Christianity to be found in Coptic responses to utterly horrific persecution.

Fr Boules George (left) and Bishop Angaelos (right)

**

It was Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, who delivered the remarkable sermon on forgiveness that I posted in my earlier report from the Forgiveness Chronicles..

It was also Angaelos who rebuked the Hungarian PM for saying refugee immigration should be limited to Christians:

Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims

Angaelos’ response:

As a Christian I could never justify a policy which only supported ‘our own’. The distinction should be based on people’s need, not their religion.

**

And here is Angaelos again:

Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

[ .. ]

What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.

**

I have long been prepping a book about religious violence, and in particular the way in which it can be triggered and viewed as sanctioned by the words of scriptures which elsewhere encourage peace, to be titled Landmines in the Garden — the garden being Pardes, Paradise..

Now that the specifically eschatological element of ISIS has been laid out in detail by WIll McCants in his brilliant The ISIS Apocalypse, however, I have felt a shift in emphasis, and the book as I now perceive it will view religious violence — and indeed other violence such as that which drove Dylann Roof to his Charleston killings — through th specific lense of forgiveness and love, as exemplified by Bishop Angaelos, and for the matter, the members of the Charleston congregation who testified to their forgiveness of Roof at his trial.

**

To accompany Bishop Angaelos’ words, here’s a Coptic priest from Cairo, Fr. Boules George delivering a recent and no less remarkable sermon:

A Message to Those Who Kill Us

What will we say to them?

THANK YOU

The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.


Switch to our mobile site