an earthly perception of hell

“The Christian is not just to rage against the darkness…
we are to proclaim the light”.

David Robertson


(a lone sanderling at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2017)

In the course of the past two days I have read, in two vastly different places, the
notion of what hell actually is as it is perceived by those still earthly
bound mortals…

And as you know, I don’t believe in coincidence…but rather in the intervention
of the Holy Spirit.

Each of the two views has come from a member of the clergy, one being a former Church of England prelate who now hails as a Reformed Anglican Bishop and the other–
an Eastern Orthodox monk who passed away 24 years ago.

Each man relates a similar thought concerning hell…
that being an absence.
As in a permanent and perpetual void.

I can only think, for us humans, to be able to understand this concept of absence
and void is if, and only if, we have experienced the death of a loved one.
For in death there is a separation…an earthly permanent seperation.
As in a state of no more…as in no more—ever….
at least not on this earth.

If we are Believers, then we know that death is not a permanent situation…
perhaps on this earth yes, but in Heaven no.
And if we are not Believers of the Christian faith…
then there is perhaps even a keener awareness of this state of ‘no more.’

And in that state of emptiness, for both the Believing and unbelieving,
there is an almost unconsolable sorrow of loss.
And this utter cutting off and separation, for some, is often more
than can be borne by both soul and flesh.

Both of these clerics express this notion in very different ways.

Bishop Ashenden recently had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina.
He explained that the healing process is most arduous—
He had to lie very still on his right side, at a 45 degree angle for 10 days—
24 hours a day of laying very still in a particular position
with only a 10 minute break here and there to use the bathroom.

The pain, when using the drops which aggravated his wound, was as if someone was
taking a screwdriver and was constantly digging and twisting it in his eye with no
easing off or letting up.

This reminds me of cancer patients and those with severe nerve damage where the
pain is a constant state of the unbearable.

I saw this with my mother when the cancer had spread to her bones and later with my
dad who had developed a severe Kennedy ulcer the last two weeks of his life.
The wound developed a horrible infection and opened all the way to his bone…
The slightest movement for both my parents was excruciating and yes, unbearable.

Bishop Ashenden said that in his pain he got to the point that the pain was such a
constant persistency, that it was to the point that he could not even pray—
his prayer being simply “help me Lord”—the prayer of suffering and agony.

And in that pain there was a consuming sense of isolation—
For that’s how pain is—it is totally consuming to such an extent that there is
no sense of communion with God—rather there is no sense of God…only agony.

Be that a physical pain or emotional pain or spiritual pain….

And it is often in such moments that many a Believer and even non-believerer
will actually be to the point where they say “to hell with God”
“If He cannot help me, relieve me, then let Him just be damned.”

That is to the lowest we go as humans.
And it is a tragic state.

Archimandrite Sophrony (1896-1993) offers us a bit different vision
of a mortal’s interpretation of hell.
He shares what he has learned from those monks who have gone before him…
in the way of what is known as a “custom house”

The customs houses about which the Fathers write are symbols of a reality.
The Fathers understand them as follows: after the fall of man,
the soul is nourished by the body, in other words,
it finds refreshment in material pleasures.
After death, however, these bodily passions that used to divert the soul
no longer exist, because the soul has left the body,
and they choke and stifle the soul.
These are the customs houses and eternal torment.
Abba Dorotheos says that eternal torment is for someone to be shut up
for three days in a room without food, sleep or prayer.
Then he can understand what hell is.

Elder Sophrony of Essex. I Know a Man in Christ

Bishop Ashenden admonishes us all that it would behoove us to be of a constant
state of prayer—during those times in life when we are free to offer up our prayers…
be they of worship and praise, adulation and jubilation, thanksgiving and awe,
or simply intercession—
For we must do so with a fervency…because none of us are exempt from pain.

Just as it would behoove us to understand that hell is very real, very lasting
and it is not the sort of place we should want to or settle on going—
For if we find the early glimpse unbearable, what would eternity be….

For during each our lifetimes we will inevitably be faced with this glimpse of hell,
and when we are, we must know that we are ‘shored up’…
that during those times when all we can do is cry out “help, please” that we may rest
in knowing that He has heard us and we are not as we feel, alone and tormented…
For He has already walked our journey long before we were even conceived.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

Reasoning of the what ifs

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human
history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—
the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis


(a lone pigeon surveys the surf / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2017)

‎”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind.
In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking.
It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen,
for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way,
this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.
But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true?
It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself
will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking,
of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism,
and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else.
Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought:
so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

C.S. Lewis

In determining relationships we must begin somewhere.
There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured,
where the law of relativity does not enter and we can say “IS” and make no allowances.
Such a center is God. When God would make His Name known to mankind He could find
no better word than “I AM.”
When He speaks in the first person He says,
“I AM”; when we speak of Him we say, “He is”;
when we speak to Him we say, “Thou art.”
Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point.
“I am that I am,” says God,
“I change not.”

As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun,
so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God.
We are right when and only when we stand in a right position relative to God,
and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.

A. W. Towzer

diluted

“The holy hour for Germans will be at hand when the symbol of their reawakening–
the flag with the swastika—
has become the only true confession of faith in the Reich.”

Alfred Rosenberg


(a sanderling drips water from his bill / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

Always with the passing of time, words and thoughts that once had been pointed, hard, difficult and even monstrous…take on a softening, a smoothing and even entirely
different meanings then their original intent.

That is not necessarily a good thing but rather a result of time….
because time has a way of diluting truth and clouding the mind.

We see a lot of this sort of thing happening today in our own current time.
We hear words that once meant one thing now meaning something else entirely as
new generations decode a past into something else totally other than what was an
original intent.

We hear a lot of folks today throwing around words such as fascism, Nazi, swastika, tolerant, intolerant, socialist, ideology…to name but a few now oddly shapened words.
And chances are most of the folks throwing around these odd words aren’t old enough to
remember the time in which such words first came into being.

So with the passage of time these previous words, now oddly shapened, have become diluted…their meanings today are entirely different to a new generation who has added them to their current caustic vocabulary.

Our current history lessons, having grossly failed the original context of each word,
as well as the generations of the up and coming who are grasping blindly
and wildly at said words, risk being rewritten forever if those of us who know better and who know the Truth fail to tell it.

Ignorance has mingled with ego and bravado creating a toxic ill informed cocktail.
As sadly these current times do not seem to notice their mirrored image to that
of an equally caustic, angry and bravado laced time…

In his book The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell does an excellent job of laying out the historical facts more succinctly than any current US High School history book that
covers the rise of the NSDAP, or what is commonly
referred to as the Nazi party, in Germany pre WWII.

His numerical facts, while overwhelming and staggering, are painfully precise.
His timeline of events is pinpoint accurate.
Such precision, as is found in his tale, is both a wonder and a stalk reminder of the darkest days of the twentieth century yet is purely a tale recounting the
plundering of books.

With the very word plundered / plundering being far from today’s current vocabulary.

For in our current minds, it is hard to phantom the complete wiping out of
libraries or collections of books when we have grown accustomed to cheap paperback
romance novels being picked up at the corner drug store to the more recent vanguard of electronic books….

To our modern minds, books are basically an endless commodity…
for they are as far as the internet may reach.
Meaning that to this current generation, the notion of an entire book collection
being wiped from the planet, rendering various texts more or less extinct, is incomprehensible.

Because surely you can find it on the internet right?

Yet there was a time when books were investments, sacred, and treasured.
Numbers of various writings limited.
There was no endless supply.

It is difficult for our modern minds to comprehend authorities entering into our homes while carrying away our books.
Important papers, valuables…yes…but our books? No.

What if the books by your bedside table were suddenly gone, considered
contraband against the State?
Your family Bible being considered dangerous or even insubordinate against the State.
Impossible you say…but there was a time when that was more fact than fiction.
As it would behoove us to remember it is continuing to this very day…

“Until 1939 the Nazis had devoted themselves to fighting their internal enemies,
such as German Jews, socialists, Communists, liberal, Freemasons and Catholics.
This ideological war was now to fan out across Europe in the wake of the Wehrmacht’s
victorious armies.”

(p.104)

So we see that Nazi Germany was two things.

It was a military force as well as an ideological force.
There were generals and soldiers who fought with guns, plans and tanks
and there were those who fought with thoughts and ideas…

“The Nazis waged their war on two levels: first, by conventional means, with their
armies pitched against other in military conflict, and second, by war against the ideological opposition.
The latter was not a conflict that took place on the battlefield;
it was rather a silent war of disappearances, terror, torture, murder and
deportation, whose frontline soldiers were the Gestapo, the SD, and other parts of
the regime’s terror machine.
It was a war in which the intention was not to vanquish but to liquidate.”

(P 104)

“To form the generation that would lead the Third Reich into the future, the
traditional school system was not enough.
In order to create a fundamentally new human being, a new kind of school would be required.”

(p. 88)

“Under the Nazis, the classroom became a microcosm of the totalitarian state.”
(p. 88)

As I read Rydell’s meticulous tale I understood that the Nazi war machine was more than
Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler or Herman Goering and their insatiable appetites for apparently world domination, but rather there was a even a more sinister
individual involved.

One may even speculate that Alfred Rosenberg was just as instrumental in the
rise of the Nazi’s mania machine as much as Adolph Hiter.
Rosenberg was the father of the ideology and philosophy behind the National Socialist movement, whereas Hitler was the outward visionary.
It was Rosenberg who laid the structural foundation.
Yet with each man being equally as deranged in their desires for a new Germany.

However we of the modern world scratch our heads as we wonder as to how a Nation that
was considered to be the most culturally developed and brilliant of nations could
succumb to the grandiose vision of madmen.

“When the Nazis came to power, the German school and university system
was considered the best in the world.
No other school system had produced more Nobel Prize winners.
By 1933 Germany had won thirty three Nobel Prizes, while the United States had won
only eight”

(p.86)

I am reminded of the words of The Reverend Gavin Ashenden when he was recently
asked about the rising issue of transgenderism now seen taking place
in primary schools across Great Britain.
He noted that many people ask what is the big deal.
So what if a girl of 8 decides she shall be a boy…?
What is the big deal if a 6 year old boy decides he wants to be a girl?

Rev Ashenden quickly warns us that the big deal is when the human imagination
begins to be distorted.
When we create a world based on our narcissism and idolatry of self
we challenge what God has given us…challenging the Godly as being utterly wrong.
We are telling the God of all creation that what He created was a mistake and wrong.

So as we are left balancing the chasm of time,
keeping one foot in the past with one foot in the future,
wondering what the past has to do with the now, Rydell reminds us that
those who wish to dominate do so by convincing others what it is they are to
both think and believe to be truth….

But we must always remember from whence comes our Truth….

“The danger of taking a one-sided perspective on the Nazi’s relationship to
knowledge is that it risks obscuring something even more dangerous:
The desire of totalitarian ideology to rule not only over people but also their
thoughts.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

remnants of the day

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds;
our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The monster was forced onto its knees in agony.
Die, you beast, you symbol of the German Reich.
And Goethe?
To us, Goethe did not exist anymore, Himmler had exterminated him.

Diary of Prisoner 4935


(the remains of a day at the beach /Rosemary Beach, FL/ Julie Cook / 2017)

I don’t know what it is like to steal.
I don’t know what it is like to loot or even plunder.
But what I do know is that stealing, looting and plundering are all wrong and quite sinful…
in that the act of taking that which has not been ‘freely’ given to you…is wrong.

Yet have we not witnessed in most recent months that unrest, demonstrations, riots,
pogroms and even wars have each given way to some unspoken allowance or free license
for those so inclined to act upon the notion of stealing?

I suppose people steal for various reasons however I’ve noticed that human beings
try to, in turn, somehow justify and lessen the intent of those who steal…
giving excuses and passes to those who so choose to steal.

Feeding a starving child is about the only pass I can comprehend as a need to steal.

Yet during the early 1930’s most of the libraries and privately owned book collections
throughout the majority of Europe were plundered, looted and stolen.

“In France alone, the ERR (Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce, a Nazi Party organization dedicated to appropriating cultural property during the Second World War)
confiscated the collections of 723 libraries, containing 1.7 million scripts,
incunabula, and other valuable books and writings.

In Poland, probably the country that was hit harder, it is estimated that 90 percent
of the collections belongings to schools and public libraries were lost.
In addition, 80 percent of the country’s private and specialized libraries disappeared. More or less the entire collection of the polish national library, consisting of some 700,000 volumes, was scattered.
According to one estimate, 15 million of Poland’s 22.5 million books were lost.
(pp32-33)

“In the Soviet Union “one suggestion from UNESSCO lists as many as 100 million books that may have been destroyed or looted.”

“Germany “is believed to have lost between a third to a half of all its book collections,
as a consequence of fires, bombing, and plunder….
In 2008 it was estimated that there were at least one million plundered books in
Germany’s libraries.”
(pp33)

But what an odd thing to steal.
Books and periodicals…both ancient and current.
Items not essential to one’s survival.
Yet items highly prized and pinpointed as crucial in the game of
the spoils of war.

‘For the Nazis realized that if there was something that gave more power than
merely destroying the word, it was owning and controlling it.
There was a power in books.
Words could act as weapons, resounding long after the rumbling of artillery had stopped.
they are weapons not only as propaganda, but also in the form of memories.
(xiii)

Whereas stolen and looted artwork, priceless cultural treasures,
have garnered more world attention over the ensuring years,
it was however the written word that was considered to be the
greater prize.

Why that is, we will explore over the next couple of weeks…as we pursue the tale
of the lost, stolen and seldom reunited in Anders Rydell’s book The Book Thieves /
The Nazi Looting Of Europe’s Libraries And The Race To Return A Literary Inheritance.
Because German libraries are in a race against time as they wrestle with the origins of their current collections…

For “every book carries a story of theft, blackmail, and a tragic fate.
At best, it may be a story of flight, of bailing out on life–
but at worst a story of people who have left no trace behind except for their books.”
(pp58)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says.

James 1:22

we beseech thee…

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing.
It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness,
that God can fill you with Himself.
Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa


(a lone sanderling surveys the tide at dusk / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie cook / 2017)

In your still silence we come before you oh Lord….hear our prayers…..

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us an heart to love and fear thee,
and diligently to live after thy commandments;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred,
and are deceived;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand;
and to comfort and help the weak-hearted;
and to raise up those who fall;
and finally to beat down Satan under our feet;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort, all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to preserve all who travel by land,
by water, or by air, all women in child-birth, all sick persons,
and young children; and to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to defend, and provide for, the fatherless children,
and widows, and all who are desolate and oppressed;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers,
and to turn their hearts;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth,
so that in due time we may enjoy them;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us true repentance;
to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances;
and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives
according to thy holy Word;
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Grant us thy peace.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

(a potion of the Great Litany, prayers for General Supplications/
1928 Book of Common Prayer

daunting

‘Hope and change’ has become a cliche in our nation,
and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change
from what God has blessed.

Billy Graham

To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune;
to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it;
to go through intrigue spotless; to forego even ambition when the end is gained–
who can say this is not greatness?”

William Makepeace Thackeray


(seagull surveying the tide / Julie Cook / 2017)

The task, should we choose to accept it, is nothing less than daunting.
To grow neither weary nor faint in the face of all that stretches before us.

To conform, to forget, to be worldly wise…the siren calls are ever more shrill.

Can you stand while facing the maelstrom, fully aware that you will be knocked
down, caught in the swirling toxic mix,
unable to surface when absolutely necessary?

Can you remain resolute?
Can you insist on what is right when your’s is the only voice left crying above the
madness?

Are you willing to defend the Fatih—the Truth, the One True God along with His Word…
a word that is absolute despite the cultural allure crying above all other words…

Will you fight against a culture that denounces you, ridicules you
and scorns you?

Can you withstand the taunts, the ridicule, the defamatory attacks?

Because in the end, that is what it will be striped down to….
a time for the courageous of faith to stand up and resist…

And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may prove what the will of God is,
that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

sandcastles

“Without the hope of posterity, for our race if not for ourselves,
without the assurance that we being dead yet live, all pleasures of the mind
and senses sometimes seem to me no more than pathetic and crumbling defences
shored up against our ruin.”

P.D. James


(the remains of a day’s sandcastle /Julie Cook / 2017)

This nation of ours has ignorantly busied itself building sandcastles in the path
of a rising and raging tide.
Oh so certain that the ramparts will hold and the walls will never be breeched…
holding strong while staving off the ill perceived intrusion of lies.

Statues are removed, protests are mounted, while the glamorous raise their glasses in
triumph…
all the while ignorance is breeding contempt while violence is begetting violence…

Yet in the morning the castles will all be gone.
The tide of Truth will have leveled the pretense of man’s folly.

So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are
unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18