A strong contender for word of the year for 2018 is already ‘hate’.
Every day we hear about hate speech,
hate groups and numerous slogans along the line of ‘love trumps hate.’
I think this time of year, the lead up to Easter, is always a perfect time for those of us
who profess to be followers of the one true Savior, to stop, taking time to reexamine the
notion of both love and hate…that age-old polar opposite condition—
the duality of man.
That constant struggle and fight of the inner being as it is connected to its outer world.
Because if the truth be told, love and hate were, when the dust actually settles,
the true culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
It is the concept of ‘no greater Love’ versus the hate of Satan made manifest in man…
all of which actually goes back to the Fall of man…
of which brings us directly to the foot of the cross…
and will eventually bring us to the final coming again of Christ.
A continuum of the fractured nature…of which Jesus is the ultimate restorer.
And as man so often does, he ebbs and flows with this counter opposite nature of his…
that being hate.
Man spews out hate while shouting all about love…making totally no sense.
Our Wee Flea friend David Roberston points this out in an article written for Christian Today, The Power of Hate
David writes… “The relationship between love and hate is very close.
One of the observations I would make is the way so many people use ‘love’ as a badge that
justifies their hatred.
Go on an anti-hate march and feel the hate!
Dare to question any of the current shibboleths in our culture and watch how
the online mob expresses their hate for you, in the name of love.”
Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar,
because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the
Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:10-13
“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our
(the sad little cherub birdbath has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2017)
Reflecting back over this past and most chaotic year—chaotic on so many levels….
As it has been chaotic, yes, personally but perhaps the correct word there
would be difficult….
Yet chaotic is what it has been, none the less and more importantly, on
a National and Global level….
thus making it more acute because its a sort of chaotic which affects us all.
It has been a year which has seen its fair share of words and acronyms,
some tried and true, some new and biting…each having left us changed.
Words and letters such as BREXIT, Tweet, Trump, Merkel, May,
Hillary, Russia, Putin, LBTGQ, ISIS, snowflakes, cupcakes, harassment,
sexual, misogynist, tolerance, intolerance, conservative, media, fake news,
liberal, Socialist, Nazi, Communist, accept, Democrats, Homophobic, Republicans, e-mails,
leaks, white supremacist, racist, walls, migrants….
On and on the list has grown….
so perhaps the ending of this particular year is coming none too soon.
It has certainly been perplexing watching the shift in dynamics within our Nation
as well as within the world at large.
It has been disconcerting watching this shift in Culture—
particularly in and with what we thought we knew.
It is maddening to be called “phobic” when one simply disagrees with a sinful
In the latest posting of Anglican Unscripted, Bishop Ashenden was also opining
the same sorts of issues but with a more keen eye on the shift within Christian
Culture and the Church….
The good Bishop notes that there are all sorts of calls emanating from various pulpits,
all the way to Canterbury itself, the ancient seat of the Anglican Church—
Calls are being made for a total acceptance, absolute tolerance and drastic change….
Coupled by the actual accusations towards those who opt not to get on board with the
acceptance, the tolerance and the change….
Actually accusing those who cling to Scriptural Authority as being outdated,
out numbered and flat out wrong.
I can remember when words from various pulpits were words of God, Salvation, Fatih, Sacrifice, Obedience, Jesus, Love, Grace—
not this modern mantra of jumping on the culture train or else…….
Bishop Ashenden notes that it seems as if the majority of the English Clergy,
(and I would include their kissing cousins of the Episcopal Church), are
either outright socialists or of socialist leanings.
While frustratingly the more Orthodox remain silent for fear of reprisals.
As it appears that the majority of both clergy and laity have lost confidence in the Spiritual message of Salvation, that which calls for all humans to repent,
having rather “transferred their allegiance to a political solution.”
Because who wants to be told to repent from a lifestyle that society has
deemed worthy as God has succinctly and resoundingly deemed as sinful?
And what we the Faithful must note….is that within that notion of all things
of a political solution, there is absolutely no call to or for repentance.
And now we look to the paradoxical…
We look to the counter balance to all of the liberal heavy handed hullabaloo
with the story of the ancient Coptic Church in Egypt.
It is a church whose roots are found in St Mark who brought the Gospel to Egypt
during the reign of the Emperor Nero.
A long suffering church body of Believers who have suffered at the hands of Islam
since Muslims invaded their homeland in 641.
Believers who do not adhere to the cultural gods, but rather adhere only to the
Word of the One Almighty and Omnipotent God…
For there is no demand for change, or tolerance of the sinful, or acceptance of
(Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church of Egypt)
(The Amir Tadros coptic Church in Minya on Sunday.
The building was set ablaze on Aug. 14)
Consider the following comment….
What kind of faith makes people go back to church immediately after that
church was bombed?
What kind of faith makes people chant the Nicene Creed right after their church
What kind of faith makes a community continue liturgy outside because their church
wasn’t yet safe enough to be in?
What kind of faith makes one go on national TV and tell persecutors that they
are loved and forgiven after they just attacked and killed 28 Christians?
The unshakable faith of Christ.
We are in pain.
We are angry.
We have lost many brothers and sisters in Christ, and their blood continues to flow.
But many of us neglect to remember something –
the Coptic Christians remain undefeated.
They continue to grow.
They continue to inspire and strengthen the faith of Christians around the world.
And so will round out these thoughts with the words of the late Orthodox monk and saint,
“[St. Paisios responds to the question: ‘Geronda, what is this joy that I feel?
Can it be that I am not aware of my sinfulness?’]
No, my child!
God gives you a chocolate here and there, in order to give you joy.
For now, it’s chocolates; later, it will be wine —
like the wine they drink in Paradise.
Do you know how sweet is the wine they drink there?
If God sees a little philotimo (*), a bit of good disposition,
He offers His Grace abundantly, and it intoxicates you —
even from this life.
The spiritual delight one receives, and the transformation he feels in his heart
when the Grace of God visits him, cannot be given…
even by the best cardiologist in the world.
When you feel such joy, try to hold on to it for as long as you can.”
(*) – Philotimo, is the spontaneous, self-sacrificing love shown by humble people,
from whom every trace of self has been filtered out,
full of gratitude towards God and their fellow man.
Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God,
so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good,
right and honorable.
(Although this definition has been repeated many times during these teachings,
the last time was 5 months ago,
I feel it is never too often to remind us of its awesome meaning!)
From Discerning Thoughts
And so we end this year of the humanly chaotic being warned.
For we the faithful are being called.
Called not to be quiet, not to fear reprisals, not to accept that which is wrong
but to hold up to the world the Image of God incarnate in His only begotten son….
His duality is seen in the oldest documented Icon of Christ the Pantocrator.
One side of his face is the Christ who is benevolent, kind and loving,
the other side is of the Christ who sits in judgement….judgement of all mankind.
What those who clamor for all things cultural and accepting have chosen to ignore
that Jesus will indeed sit in judgement.
We are called to repent.
To be repentant.
For in that repentance and in that the turning away from sin is found
the true acceptance of Salvation.
(Christ Pantocrator, the oldest known Icon of Christ, 6th Century AD / St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai)
“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”
Pope Benedict XV
(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News, January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)
War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.
Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…
And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…
As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.
Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….
Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…
That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.
Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.
“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience.
It supercedes all other courts.
In war, truth is the first casualty.
(a bumblebee busily enjoys the sunny day / Julie Cook / 2016)
Truth and justice…
Two of the massive building blocks to man’s existence.
If this was a perfect world, a pre-fallen world, or rather a never fallen world, then truth and justice would be as commonplace as breathing. They would be woven into the everyday living of man and most likely never really contemplated or fretted over…
They would be nothing out of the ordinary.
As nothing could challenge such as each would simply just be part and parcel of man’s existence.
For if there were no fall of man, there would be no lies, no falsehoods, no injustices, no deceptions,
no fabrications, no misdeeds hidden under the pretense of false or half truths and no repercussions of such…
There would be no harm nor fouls.
No need for others to impose justice in defense of the truth…
no casualties of war as there would be no wars….
Yet sadly, for better or worse, we do live in a fallen, as well as broken, world.
We, both you and I, are victims of our own duality—the inner struggle between right and wrong…
With that duality being rooted in the very fall of man…
and in turn…a direct result of man’s sinfulness…
The duality of Good and Evil…
with “truth” being the first victim of that sinful nature.
There is the metaphysical and philosophical concept of dualism, or binary opposition, which addresses the concept of man being both good and bad.
There is also the Christian concept of dualism, or the inherent condition of man’s sinful nature, and the earthly battle of Good and Evil.
C. S. Lewis, the noted British academic, theologian and writer observed that “good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”
Lewis goes on at length about the concept of dualism and its relationship to Christianity… “But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.”
We fight a constant battle—within ourselves as well as without.
We are often victimized doubly—first by our own sinful nature, then as the direct result of the sinful nature of our fellow man.
Victims of crime, of war, of lies, of deciet…all attacks outside of ourselves, attacks that we are often helpless to defend.
6 million innocent lives taken in the death camps of World War II—-
…victims of the evil duality of man.
First that of Hitler, then of his commanders, then of his soldiers who carried out the arrests, the tortues and the deaths and finally to the culpability of their fellow countrymen who placed all blame for all things wrong with Germany upon their Jewish neighbor’s shoulders.
We face a constant barrage of attacks from outside of ourselves.
You can call it what you will, but Evil has claimed Earth as his own.
It happened that fateful day in the Garden…
And it has raged against us ever since.
Pope Emeritus Benedict continues this idea of duality and Good and Evil in his 2008 Advent catechesis on original sin “And finally, the last point, man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam, opposed the filthy river of evil with a river of light. And this river is present in history: We see the saints, the great saints but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present, is strong.
The dark night of evil is still strong. And that is why we pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: “Rorate caeli desuper.” And we pray with insistence: Come Jesus; come, give force to light and goodness; come where falsehood, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come, Lord Jesus, give force to the good of the world and help us to be bearers of your light, agents of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!”
So yes, come Lord Jesus….
Even in the duality of this Good and Evil and in our constant battle… we can rejoice…
As Pope Benedict reminds us, we have already been cured and healed…the hope is regenerated with each Advent, the healing began on Good Friday and the cure came Easter morning…
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
Pope John Paul II
Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality:
the finite is not the infinite.
Hans Urs von Balthasar
The spirit of man can endure only so much and
when it is broken only a miracle can mend it.
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)
Tis the season to be merry and bright, happy and light, warm and fuzzy…
Christmas and Santa.
It’s all neatly rolled into one within the wrappings of December.
The giddy frivolity of a season which gives way to making merry while paying homage to the birth of a child.
Yet let us look more closely at a single word…
Frivolity– a noun meaning lightness, gaiety, fun, the making of merriment
yet counter that with
Frivolous–an adjective–flippant, glib, lacking worth or merit
One word divided into two of its variations, its various grammatical formations and contexts–each with very different meanings…
Christmas–the olde English—Cristes Maesse–or Mass of Christ
The sacred celebration of the Nativity or birth of Christ…the birth of the One proclaimed as the savior of mankind.
And then there is Christmas of the ho ho ho, jolly ol’ St Nick, the giving of gifts kind of Christmas…
With the introduction of Saint Nicolas, who evolved over time from a 3rd century Greek Catholic saint whose real life story of giving and providing paved the foundation for today’s more secular jolly older bearded, reindeer driving, present giving, hero of both young and old…Christmas the holy joined with Christmas the worldly, as the two became synonymous, joining as one.
And sadly today we see that the world of consumerism has run away with the latter of the two….creating part of our problem.
One word’s united meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ, as well as the season of Santa and the giving of gifts….
Yet today the word is painfully becoming estranged, polarized and oh so sadly divided.
The Christian faithful throughout the ages have always had a wonderful way of melding traditions taken form the various seasons and times of the year from their various cultures and countries, coupled with the more traditional pagan / secular celebrations of those various countries and cultures, uniting and embracing all with their Christian teachings with the end result being those yearly holy observances which blend both the religious/ holy with secular celebrations.
Lest we forgot the story from the other week regarding the celtic cross…
As St Patrick used the circle around the traditional latin cross as a bridge between the Celtic worship of the sun–uniting both sun and Son together…in turn creating the iconic Celtic Cross.
Yet mankind frustratingly always has had a knack for messing up, distorting and even destroying good intentions.
What was once a time affording all a collective remembrance of the young and less fortunate during a time which was also witness to the faithful’s remembrance of the birth of the Savior—has now tragically morphed into a self consuming monster of advertising, marketing, consumerism and a big business feeding frenzy of madness.
Couple that with the now secular overt political correctness war of words of holiday and winter celebration with the keeping of Santa, as that’s good for the economy, while in turn booting the holy Christ Child totally out of the picture as that has nothing to so with the economy….
Seems as if we greatly prefer material gifts and presents verses the one true gift of a Savior….
It is indeed a truly sad kettle of fish we have going on as law suits now abound where once stockings were hung by the chimney with care—
As the word Christmas is no longer welcomed or allowed to be associated with this “special” time of year… especially in our public governmental sector, schools, colleges, etc—
If it receives any sort of federal funding or assistance, than you can forget Christmas and the whole birth of Christ associated with it.
Lest we offend the Atheists, the Jews, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Satanists, the Wickens….who if the truth be told, buy and gather to give those “christmas” gifts…
A long long time ago when I was in elementary school, way back in the early 1960s…My school had a healthy mix of both Jewish and “Christian” kids.
When it came to Christmas, with our teacher bringing in the small tree for our classroom, as we excitedly and joyously made ornaments in order to decorate the small tree— ornaments which now poignantly hang on my own tree today, the excitement of one and all was palpable.
Names were drawn for the classroom secret santa party which culminated on the last day of school before the Christmas break.
Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom, did something great.
In addition to our classroom Christmas tree, we also had a classroom menorah. Our Jewish classmates would, for the eight days of Hanukkah, share with us their
“holiday” along with its traditions.
Excitedly each day of Hanukah we’d ooo and ahhh, as only kids in the innocence of wonder do, over the lighting of a single candle—hardly able to contain the excitement until all 9 candles were lit.
It was a reverent event and we appreciated as well as respected the importance that the lighting of those 9 candles meant and what that 8 day observance represented to our Jewish classmates… just as they appreciated our reverence for our classroom’s small nativity scene.
A marvelous teaching tool and key to helping our young minds understand, tolerate, respect as well as allowing us to develop an appreciation for one another’s spiritual customs.
As the spirituality within man is a key component to being human.
We loved hearing our classmates excitement as they shared with the entire class the receiving of each gift on the night prior during their familiy’s observation of the Festival of Light.
We were taught the dreidle song and would play for the chocolate coins while we in turn shared the various customs of Christmases form around the world…
As we would buy our Jewish classmates their secret santa gifts as they, in turn, would buy us ours—
Never was there any resentment, no forbiddance to the right to observe, share or worship, no jealousies, not animosity….but rather a collective joy found in the frivolity of a season so merry and bright, yet sadly now seemingly steeped in what has become the frivolous, the polarized, the secular, the forgotten, the worldly and the empty….
(statue on the grounds of Christ Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”