Oh really?

“Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God,
nor is He the best of several ways;
He is the only way.”

A. W. Tozer


(The Stoning of St Stephen by Rembrandt who just happens to make a small cameo appearance in the scene…the awkward face peeking out from just under the raised arm
of the man with the large stone / 1625 / Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon, France

Day before yesterday I wrote a post featuring a story about the first Christian
martyr– Stephen.

I gave a bit of the back story behind what led to Stephen’s martyrdom.
We learned that Stephen would not back down from his conviction of belief even
when faced with his own imminent demise.
He wasn’t about to start back peddling when he knew what the Truth of life
and living actually was all about…despite facing a horrific death.

That truth which was the chief cornerstone to Stephen’s very existence, was a living
and breathing knowledge of God as Father and Christ as Son
and the Spirit as mediator.

Stephen did not waiver or waffle nor did he mince his words to the those in authority
as to what his life’s choice would be…and that was to stand as a man who believed
in Jesus Christ as both his Lord and Savior….there was no thought of cost or hurt feelings or loss…

And yet the cost for him was pretty tremendous as far as the world was concerned..
It cost Stephen his earthly life.

Not his friends, not his job, not his security, not his comfort, but his life.

Conviction….a fixed or firm belief..

Stephen had such conviction.

So yesterday I came across a story in the news about a college in the Oxford
University system there in England that banned a campus Christian organization
from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming freshman class.

Another rampant example of waffling and wavering.

I can remember when I was a college freshman.
I recall that near ecstatic level of excitement of all that was new.
New faces, new places, new friends, new opportunities…
With some of those opportunities being right up my alley and some of them not…

And isn’t that what something like this is all about…the choices offered to us?
We pick and choose…what looks appealing while discarding that which does not.

Life is like that sort of endless buffet of picking and choosing is it not?
Yet what happens when that buffet is gravely limited due to others deciding options
should not be made available.
It is then that the buffet becomes something very different from
a buffet—it becomes more of a pre fixed plate of flavorless offerings.

The opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth becomes near stagnant
when the powers that be decide the masses might just become too dangerous if they
are given too much choice.

When only the few decide for the many that the freedom of choice and the ability
of personal decision should be a limited offering, then there is no true human growth.

A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions.

Yet did they opt to ban the Jewish organizations, perhaps b’nai b’rith?
What of the Muslim organizations?
Perhaps any sort of pagan organization?
What of the Buddhists?
What of any political organizations?

Here is the reasoning….if one can call such reasoning rational thought….

The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an
event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls
the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,”
The Times of London reported.

Potts added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has
been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice,
and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

At last check, there is a massive difference between something perceived as a
phobia, or irrational fear, verses simply following the tenants of one’s faith.

“Many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians,” Potts said, according to The Telegraph.

Ahh, so the issue here is now of overcompensation…
the act of apologizing, once again, on behalf of a past time period…
an act that is neither productive or even necessary as we are not them and they
were not us…as in days gone by….

A time period that is far removed from modern times—

So are those mutton chop young men of all things British Academia,
say the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reign of monarchs who were setting
sail in exporation in the name of the Crown, are those such young men still haunting the halls of places such as Oxford or Cambridge….I think not.

And last I checked, if I wanted to attend school in say Beijing or Riyadh,
I think I would be hard pressed in either city on finding an openly Christian place to
worship…and I would certainly not be surprised at such as neither of these cities
have a deep Christian heritage as say England—- quiet the contrary in fact.

So is this particular school spokesperson suggesting that a predominately historical Christian country, such as England, should now do away with its own heritage in order to bend over backwards…
doing away with Christian houses of worship in order to construct more mosques as a
form of overt appeasement or as some sort of welcome mat?

“A spokesperson with the Church of England told The Times that the ban was not
in line with “freedom of religion and belief,” and “is at odds with the kind of society
we are all seeking to promote.”

Finally is there actually a bit of clarity coming from the Church of England…
really???

“Leaders of the Balliol student body reportedly condemned the ban, and passed a motion calling the ban a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom,” according to The Daily Telegraph.

Maybe there does remain a few brave souls not afraid and who will not backdown or recant
the Word of God when push comes to shove….

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/11/christian-group-at-oxford-university-banned-from-fair-out-fear-it-would-alienate-students.html

Be on your guard;
stand firm in the faith;
be courageous;
be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

inviting and yet locked

“By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision
to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path
toward a spiritual life.”

Thomas More

As polarized as we have been,
we Americans are locked in a cultural war for the soul of our country.

Pat Buchanan


(an inviting, yet closed and obviously shuttered, secluded entrance way / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

There is a lovely Orthodox Christian blog that I follow…
Where I often find the most beautiful wisdom presented in the simplest of fashions.
This morning was no exception.

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/what-does-charismatic-despair-mean/

When I first read this morning’s posting’s title, with words such as Charismatic and despair…words that at first glance appear to be polar opposites of one another, I wasn’t prepared to find both a sweet reminder as well as an embracing
comfort all rolled into one.

I am reminded that as we each journey through this thing we call life,
we will each inevitably encounter times of great frustration, difficulty…
even overwhelming sorrow.

We will come to those places along on our walk where we find our pathway blocked
with the doorways, those apparent entrances beckoning us to continue forward, each shuttered and locked tight. There will be no obvious alternate path allowing for us
to continue onward, proceeding freely and unhindered.

It is at such a juncture on the path, where we are met by both doubt and despair.

Choice suddenly appears limited or even nonexistent.
Knowing we can’t progress forward and that we certainly can’t turn around,
going back from whence we came…for too much time has passed for turn arounds,
we are stymied. A rushing fear washes over us as we realize that we have
no other options, no choices.

And this is where we must look not obviously outward from ourselves
seeking our answers,
but rather we must look inward…traveling deeply within ourselves.

For it is in this very moment of inward verses outward, of how we will decide
to interact with the obstacles and locked doors,
which will eventually decide how we continue forward on our journey.

And so it is here, tucked gently away in this morning’s reading of simple words
offered by a simple monk, where we are gently yet profoundly reminded that
in our apparent despair, we are driven not by the seemingly overwhelmingness
of that very despair and its accompanying frustration, but rather by the divine interventions of the Spirit…
He who urges us, without our even being aware, to seek the only One who has
the key to unlocking those shattered doors, allowing for us to continue forward
on this odd little journey of ours.

It begins with a frustration or a pain or a sorrow and it ends with
an imploring prayer…


(the wisdom of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex from the book Remember Thy First Love)

the old shell of self

God’s means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger,
but by making us weaker and weaker.
That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say;
but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin,
not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him;
not by helping him to do anything, but by removing him from the scene of action.

Watchman Nee

We must die if we are to live.
There is no spiritual life for you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it.
Have you a fine-spun righteousness of your own?
It must die.
Have you any faith in yourself?
It must die.
The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you shall enter into life.
The withering power of the Spirit of God must be experienced before his
quickening influence can be known:
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.”
You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be made
alive by the breath of the Spirit.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(the shells of cicadas discarded on a pine tree / Julie Cook /2017)

Summer, to a young child growing up in the South, meant evenings spent
catching lighting bugs in an old mayonnaise jar or scouring the sides of pine trees
for the crunchy fragile brown leftover shells of cicadas.

These leftover exoskeletons often found on the sides of pine trees or fence posts
are simply the shedding of the old skin of an ever growing and ever changing cicada.
Cicadas being the creatures responsible for the loud raucous screeching heard
throughout the landscape of the waning days of a southern summer.

Finding a shell was akin to finding a small treasure…
of which was then joyfully and ceremoniously carried to the start of school,
nestled safely in a small cotton ball lined box,
all for the start of the new school year’s show and tell.

But the shell was always quickly beaten out for the coveted oohs and ahhs
when the shark tooth, that someone else brought in from their summer trip
to the beach,was triumphantly presented…

Science teaches us that there is a wealth of amazing creatures scattered
across this globe…all of which constantly shed their old shells or skins only to
emerge as something new, clean and fresh…

And the fact is… that we, that being you and I, are really no different.

Whereas we may not break out of our skin, leaving the old sloughed off
empty layer littered along the floor, we do however…and we must…
do away with our old selves.

For if we insist on keeping that which is old and bound to this world, refusing to
relinquish worldly flesh, then we are bound to death….
for all that is of the world’s will perish.
There will be no new birth, nothing fresh, nothing clean.

Yet if we are willing to die unto self, surrendering that which is earth bound,
yielding to the desire of the spirit to be reunited from whence it came,
then we will have life eternal…which is the treasure indeed.

So then…
Two choices…
life or death….
that should be an easy choice….
and yet oddly, it is not.

“Many, indeed, cry “Lord, Lord,” and make mention of him,
but honour him not at all.
How so?
They take his work out of his hands,
and ascribe it unto other things;
their repentance, their duties,
shall bear their iniquities.
They do not say so; but they do so.

The computation they make, if they make any, it is with themselves.
All their bartering about sin is in and with their own souls.
The work that Christ came to do in the world, was to “bear our iniquities,”
and lay down his life a ransom for our sins.

The cup he had to drink of was filled with our sins,
as to the punishment due to them.
What greater dishonour then, can be done to the Lord Jesus,
and to ascribe this work to anything else, –
to think to get rid of our sins by any other way or means?”

John Owen

splitting hairs, missing the knots

For while we say time marches forward,
all things in time move backward toward the middle and eventually to
the beginnings of history.
We are too vain; we think we are the summit of history.

Morris Bishop


(antique fishing balls encased in rope netting, Julie Cook / 2017)

I think we’d all agree that there’s a great deal happening in this world of ours.
Just as there’s a great deal happening in this country of ours.
And I’m pretty certain we’d each agree that we are all now standing at some sort
of a crossroads, a fork in the road, a diverging path.

Eney, meeny, miny, moe…
which is the path we now should go…?

Choices. Decisions. Options.
Yet are those choices, decisions and options really ours to make?

We’ve been inundated by protests, demands, demonstrations, violence,
disagreements, special interest groups, fake news, real news, marches,
angst, politics, policies, black lives matters, antifas, alt rights,
progressives, liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans,terrorists,
radicals, extremists, anarchists, LBGTs, atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and
anything else in between…

I recently read an article by The Rev. Gavin Ashenden.
Rev. Ashenden is that rather rebellious Anglican prelate I’ve referenced
previously in a past post or two.
My kind of priest actually.

Another clerical voice in the ever shrinking pool of the global faithful
who is opting to do something quite novel…that being sticking to his guns,
his vows, his belief in the face of those who cry foul. His beliefs that God’s
word is just that, God’s word…not man’s, not some theologian’s, not some
special interest group’s, but God’s and God’s alone.

Rev. Ashenden’s article,
“The Trans Dilemma–Human Dysphoria & the Life of Brian”
is a response to the very public growing battle and preoccupation with changing,
what now appears to be on a whim, one’s sexual orientation.

No longer do our legislatures want those seeking, or the parents who are seeking,
the option of changing ones sex to have to wait for some sort of legal process.
Rather it should be something that one should be able to do by the checking
of a box or the proclamation of a particular day.

Rev. Ashenden notes that it seems that “we have shifted as a society to
a place where we treasure and respect feelings more than most other factors.
It’s part of a growing self-preoccupation.

He continues,
“If I feel something, it must be true or real.”
It’s the under-side of an “I want” consumerist society where a whole range of
very sophisticated agencies play on our feelings of how we would like to look or
like to feel, or like to be seen.”

The Trans Dilemma – Human Dysphoria & the Life of Brian.

This issue is just one more in a litany of growing issues that are bombarding us
on a daily basis.

It is a never ending sea of society telling us all to accept,
get on board or be damned.
Forget choice, decision or option because it is all one-sided really.

Yet are these issues really just a lost population’s attempt at grasping
straws…just as a drowning man grasps at anything afloat to save him?
Or is there something much deeper and much more grave taking place?

Are we as a society merely preoccupied with the business of splitting hairs
when in actuality we’re really missing the giant tangled knots glaring us
in the face….

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire
and enticed.
Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;
and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived…
(James 1:13-16)

There are no accidents

“In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”
Pope John Paul II


(a two legged okra? / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tuesday I spent the day doing something that needed doing.
It needed doing ages ago.

I pulled out two step ladders along with a box of dusting clothes and proceeded
to take everything off my bookshelves—

These bookshelves were builtin cabinetry, on either side of the fireplace,
and it was the thing about the house that I loved most when we moved in
20 years ago…
Because I always wanted a place to properly put my books.
And did I mention my book collection, within that twenty year time, has
only grown.

But it wasn’t just books that had since found homes on the shelves.
Maybe it’s the art teacher in me but these where mini display shelves of
design and creativity….they held my “treasures” from trips,
they held memories.

However to the causal observer, I feared, they held chaos.
Hopefully organized chaos, but chaos none the less.
And as I age, I think I’m finally understanding…less is more.

I took down every last book, picture, knick knack, souvenir, treasure…
emptying all shelves as if preparing to pack up, box up and move…
which mind you I do consider constantly as I hear the ocean often call
my name..but then I’ll hear the mountains call out as well…
so to keep things quiet…
I just ignore them and stay put….

I climbed up and down, balancing precariously on the cabinet edge, in order to get
everything moved, off and down.

I next proceeded to dust.

Finally I had a clean slate.

I spent the remainder of the day sorting.

What should be boxed for Goodwill.
What should be boxed and stored.
What should be moved elsewhere.
What should be allowed to stay.

We had brought back 9 very old decoy ducks that had been Martha’s.
Beautifully old decoys of various species, sizes, shapes, ages and colors…
with one being a giant rustic fish and one being a giant sitting turkey hen.
All now having come home to roost with the 4 I already had.
My flock of 4 sits on the fireplace—
what would I now do with Martha’s flock of 9???

It all started for me when I inherited my grandmother’s very old wood carved decoy
of a male canvas back duck named Henry…Henry is now nearing 100.
In her last years of life, as the dementia set in, Mimi named the decoy Henry
and he sat at the foot of the bed as if it were a pet…and I believe
in Mimi’s mind, Henry was real and was indeed her pet….

Eventually I decided to strategically place the decoys up on my shelves—
sitting a couple on top of books, while others were flanked by a few books.
I threw in few antique plates, a framed photo or two…
Poked and placed until I got something that I think to be tastefully presentable…
rather than stuffed to the gills full.

But all of this rearranging is not the point of this post.
Nor are the ducks or books or dust or junk…

As I was sorting through the wealth of books that I’ve acquired over the years–
with the bulk being based on Christianity, the Saints, Monasticism, Prayer,
the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, European history and lots of Art history…
one little book literally fell out amongst the hoard…
resting at my feet on the floor.

Most of my books are hardback, some are large and lovely, some are old and rare..
but this little paperback book simply seemed to fall out of nowhere….

It’s a book I remember ordering years ago.

There Are No Accidents
In All Things Trust God

by Fr Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R
with John Bishop

I remember that I never finished reading the book for whatever reason,
which I do remember starting while I was still teaching.
Time then was never on my side…not that it is now,
but these days I try to be more diligent with both my time and reading.

The book is based on an interview with Fr. Benedict..
as he was known by his first name and not his last.
He was a Franciscan monk, teacher and retreat leader who died in 2014.

He was also a monk who was hit by a car while crossing the street at the
busy Orlando Airport in 2004.
His survival was very questionable.
He was an older gentleman who sustained some very serious injuries.
Both broken bones and severe head trauma.

There were surgeries, long stints in ICU, ventilators, physical therapy….
He never walked again without assistance nor could he raise his right arm
but yet he survived and he persevered.
For he had a mission.
And that was to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The doctors warned that if he lived, he’d never talk again,
never think again as he most likely would be severely brain damaged.
They also said he wouldn’t walk let alone dance…
but he was ok with not dancing
because he never liked to dance anyway.

I’m beginning the book anew.

For I too believe there are no accidents—
for behind every accident, every incident, be they minor or devastating…
it is there our Omnipotent God resides…

There are blessings to be wrestled over but we do not like nor do we
want to wrestle.

And therein lies our challenge…
our challenge to comprehend, to sort and to accept.

We stand as a lost child feeling overwhelmed and frozen by fear, pain
sorrow, horror, devastation, disbelief, greif.
Our thoughts, our faith, our being… rocked all to the foundation,
as we are left to rile with unbridled anger.

Because this God of ours is not reacting…
this God of ours is not playing the role…
this God of our is not doing things the way we would have Him do…
and therefore we decide we don’t need, don’t want, don’t like this God
as we assume ourselves to be the better god….

And there rests our trouble….

“There are no accidents.
Evil things occur because of bad will or stupidity or fatigue,
yet whatever the cause, God will bring good out of it if we let Him”

Fr Benedict

“even when we do not choose evil, we choose the good so half heartedly
and with so many qualifications that mediocrity becomes our canonized statis quo.”

Fr Benedict

dubious

Jove weighs affairs of earth in dubious scales,
And the good suffers while the bad prevails.

Homer,
The Odyssey, Book VI, line 229. Pope’s translation


(a problematic flock of geese, Mackinaw City / Julie Cook / 2017)

Last night, as I was fast asleep,
with sleep being a relative term at this stage of age in my life,
my credit card mysteriously crawled out of my wallet and teleported itself
miraculously to Europe…
And of course with a few jaunts back and forth between the US, the UK and greater
Europe…all for good measure and long before I ever woke up.

It even made a stop in Luxembourg—

I’ve always wanted to visit Luxembourg.
I’m so glad one of us has gotten to go.

I discovered this near mythical adventure upon getting up this morning.

Bleary eyed from my usual tossing and turning, I stumbled into the kitchen to
start the coffee.
I picked up my phone and noticed a copious amount of messages regarding my
credit card.

Huh?

Rubbing my eyes and adjusting my glasses I grabbed my computer and pulled up
my email.

Sure enough…24 messages reporting suspicious activity on my card with
purchase after purchase being declined,
thank goodness…

A dollar here, a pound there and even a euro or two …
all of which was a dead trigger…

But then it became bold and went onwards and upward of $300 bucks to such places
as Domino’s pizza somewhere in Austria, some sort of FaceBook virtual store in Germany, nintendo of Europe, netflix somewhere in the UK….

As it seems as if my credit card was having a mid-life crisis and was attempting to
live someone’s youthful abandon all on another continent…
or perhaps in reality it was something more inline with sorry wonton
wastefulness….

I’ve ridden this merry go round before—seems like I just wrote a similar post..
but that was my debit card—this is now my credit card…
so we are officially 2 for 2.

And no, I don’t buy a lot nor do I order all that much on-line….

I called the nice folks at the credit card company.
She ran me through the gauntlet of security before I delivered my
tale of woe. And from her end, she could see just how busy my card had
been in its jet set ways.

She verified my last purchase—three books from Amazon…hummm I now wonder…
Next it was to all the latest 24 bizarre or so “traveling” purchases,
all of which had been declined, and were now seen for what they truly were—
stealing.

She canceled the card and has issued me a new one which will be arriving
post haste.

After we hung up, I continued receiving notifications that whomever was
out there playing me, hadn’t given up yet…
I don’t know, maybe it would take 30 tries before this idiot figured
declined meant declined.

For good measure I called the credit card company back letting them know I
was still receiving their fraud notifications—
of which they told me not to fret–
the card was no more and the notifications would stop when our rocket scientist
friend figured such out…as he, she, it would then most likely move on to the
next stolen card number…

In all the gallows humor here, there is a seriousness that really leaves me
angry because I loath those who steal…
particularly information, numbers and identities…
because if the truth be told, all of that is really lazy man stealing.

Sit on your arse as it were, hiding behind a computer screen,
trolling and taking….

Nice and neat, or so it would all appear.
No one is physically hurt.
Or so our arse sitting thieves would assume.

What’s a little free Dominos pizza somewhere in Austria or
some Facebook virtual-store crap in Luxembourg??
Or things I don’t even know of in New York???

So before I had even had my first sip of morning coffee, I was mad.

Like you, I try to live life as I would expect others to live theirs…
work, earn, pay….

But life is not easy like that.
Not everyone buys into doing the right things in life.

There are bad people, lazy people, violent people, bad lazy people,
bad lazy violent people…
People who would only sneer at my desire that we all do what is right
by one another.
Think psychopaths, think gangs, think MS13…

As in there are dubious and nefarious individuals who do not consider life
to be a gift, who do not hold love nor honor in their hearts and
who prefer only to serve a darker and more sinister side of life.

And as we now que those out there who will sing the song of lamentation
that this behavior is due to a poor childhood, a less fortunate history,
a lack of this or that, an unbroken cycle…….

The bottom line is choice.

A choice to do what is right and decent
or
a choice to do what is wrong and bad.

And it is those more sinister and heartless out there who scare me.

They scare me because they remind me that darkness continues to walk this earth.
That there is indeed a deep spiritual battle that rages all around us—
whether we are awake or asleep…it rages.

For despite my best efforts at keeping my little world nice and neat,
tidy and safe…
Satan and those who do his work, are busy.

We either choose to serve Light or we choose to serve darkness
It’s as simple as that.

Others would disagree.
There will be excuses…
There are things like victimhood…
and cycles, and disadvantage…
but in the end…
none of that matters because when we choose one over the other…
that choice is on us and us alone.

For no one is telling us which to choose…for the choice,
despite our circumstances is still up to us….
so perhaps then such poor choosing just makes us all victims does it not..?

A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:12-19

heads of serpents

“The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage
and the family.
Do not be afraid,
because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be fought and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed his head.”

Sister Lucia


(Madonna and Child with St Anne / Caravaggio / 1605-1606 / Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Caravaggio was a masterful late Renaissance painter who seems to have been able to
capture the overwhelming importance of certain biblical moments with merely the tip
of a brush.
He mixed both arrangement, size, light and proportion to make both impressive,
as well as tremendous, visual impacts.

Yet for many art historians, this particular painting is not considered one of his better works.
However workmanship aside, the visual representation based on the verse from Genesis 3:15,

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

is indeed a powerful painted statement none the less.

A little history behind the painting, taken from the site Caravaggio.org

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne was painted between 1605 and 8 April 1606,
when a final payment to Caravaggio was recorded,
for the Confraternity of Sant’ Anna dei Palafrenieri, or Grooms, of the Vatican Palace.
The composition depicts Christ and the Virgin treading simultaneously on the serpent of heresy,
watched by the Virgin’s mother, St. Anne, who was the patron saint of the Palafrenieri.
It was an unusual although topical theme based on an ambiguous biblical passage, Genesis 3:15,
which does not make it clear whether it was Eve, the antetype of Mary, the ‘New Eve’,
or her offspring who was meant to strike at the serpent’s head.
What started as a theological dispute became caught up in the wider debate between
Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
with the Protestants not unnaturally arguing in favour of the offspring and, hence, Christ.
The issue was resolved on the Roman Catholic side, however, with commendable textual accuracy,
not to say religious tact,
by a Bull of Pius V which ruled that ‘the Virgin crushed the head of the serpent
with the aid of him to whom she had given birth.’
It is this interpretation which Caravaggio followed, possibly basing himself on a
slightly earlier picture by the Milanese artist Figino.

Yet Papal Bulls, Reformations and denominations aside…
Today’s faithful know that the head of the serpent was indeed crushed following that fateful
Friday afternoon outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem.
And if the truth be told, the vice hold on the head began that lone starry night
in Bethlehem 33 years prior.

The quote from above is offered by Sister Lucia, the oldest of the three shepherd children
who, while tending their sheep in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, were visited by a strange yet
lovely lady.

And yet it matters not where you are on your Christian journey as to whether you
take stock in the tale of the shepherd children or of the tale of the miraculous..
Just as it matters not as to whether you believe that there was indeed such a heavenly
encounter now 100 years passed…
The important thing here however is to understand that wisdom and warning both
come to us in a myriad of fashions.

There are many in today’s world, both believers and ardent non believers,
who wonder and even argue that those tales of miracles and those outspoken prophets of
the bible are found only there…
in between the pages of ancient texts…
and that our world has not been privy to such powerful and outspoken voices, with such
names as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, John, Peter, Paul and that we have not witnessed such
miraculous examples as to partings of seas, or to the raising of dead bodies,
or to waters that turn either to blood or wine…
but if truth be told,
both believers and non believers, yearn for that very thing.

It is a yearning for the tangible being found in the miraculous of that of the intangible.

Our current time is precarious at best…
Where persecution of the faithful becomes seemingly more elusive yet more sinister….
as it is an intellectual and spiritual suffocation.

While that which was once overt is no longer clearly visible but rather is now veiled in
the gossamer shadows of confusion.
It is a place where the notions of acceptance and approval pervasively reign for that
which is upside down.

What was once accepted as Truth has now been twisted into something other than
as we are being spoon fed a most palatable mix of half truths and lies…
all the while we continue to clamor for bite after tasty bite.

Yet the time has come…
shall the faithful speak up and speak out?

A final battle will eventually ensue..
there have been preparations, when he left us, he made certain we were well equipped.
As he has provided ample opportunities, all of which have been freely offered..
all the while as a holy foot has held the head of the serpent at bay…

So the choice is now clear, either we opt to crush the head of the serpent or
we become his prey…

He who commits sin is of the devil;
for the devil has sinned from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him,
and he cannot sin because he is born of God.
By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil:
whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:8-10